September 11, 2005

Chapter 22

"Stand up," said the raider.

Jacob struggled first to his knees and then to his feet. Finding his balance in the snow with his hands tied behind him was difficult.

"March," ordered the raider, "that way."

They headed deeper into the woods, on a mostly downhill course. Every now and then Jacob felt the raider's gun barrel prod him.

After a few minutes of walking Jacob heard water, and eventually he saw a small stream below them, running down the hill.

"That stream is our guide," said the raider. "Keep it to your left."

Did the raider know that the camp at the bottom of the hill was also captured? Was he assuming that he could use Jacob as a hostage to get him safely to the bottom and away? There was no point in asking, or telling the raider - Jacob's value as a hostage might suddenly diminish.

Jacob stumbled over a rock, landing face first on the ground, looking down at the stream below.

"Trying to kill yourself?" asked the raider. "I'm afraid that's my privilege. Get up." The raider's knife was out again.

Jacob eased back from the edge, kneeled, and stood.

"Don't try anything," said the raider. "Anything at all."


The front gate had opened, and the raiders' camp was halfway dismantled already. A group of farmers was preparing to leave for the nearest farmstead with a herd of cattle, clearing space for the prisoners in the barn. Citizens were hauling prisoners in on stretchers, walking them to the barn and turning them over to Miriam and her many helpers.

Isaac went into the city carrying some of the raiders' gear, which also was to go to Miriam. Prisoners were placed in individual stalls, given hay, blankets, and some food and water for when they woke up.

Miriam broke away from the work when she saw Isaac.

"Did it go as smoothly as it sounded?" she asked.

"It was amazing," said Isaac. "Jacob and I just watched for a few minutes and it was over."

"He hasn't been by - is he working with the citizens?"

"I haven't seen him since we took over the camp."

Miriam looked concerned.

"I'll go back and find him. Give me a radio, and let me know if he comes by here so I can stop looking if he does."

Miriam handed him a radio. "I've got to get back to work. If you see him, have him call me or come here immediately, all right?"


Jacob guessed they walked halfway down the hill. His captor was staying further behind, keeping an eye on Jacob's stumbling through the dark while watching carefully for pursuers. His gun was cocked, his knife out and ready for action.

"Stop," called the raider. Jacob halted. He could hear some noise on the trail, perhaps the citizens hauling prisoners and their wagons toward the top. The raider inched closer to the trail, then came back.

"Dead quiet," he said. "No falling and shouting, no breaking branches. Move."

Jacob trudged forward, moving even more slowly while trying to stay quiet.


Miriam's radio crackled. "I don't see him, Miriam," called Isaac's voice. "No one's seen him for fifteen minutes or more."

"Have you talked to James?"

"Yes, I'm here with him now. He's talking to the group at the bottom, which is on their way up."

"Was there any reason for him to go down there?"

"No, nothing we know of," replied Isaac. "We're just guessing. James is sending out a search party. He couldn't have gone far."

Miriam started walking toward the gate.


Jacob had fallen a few more times, and was getting cold rapidly. The raider was getting less careful with his knife, and had poked Jacob in the back once already. It wasn't deep, but it stung. The raider was staying back now, watching the forest more carefully for signs of movement from the trail. Every crackle of a branch or breeze through the trees made him turn around and search carefully with the night vision goggles.

"Stop," said the raider. "We're going to stay here for a few minutes." He walked up to Jacob. "You, stand here," said the raider, leaning Jacob against a tree. With the stream bed, now a small ravine behind him, and Jacob between him and the road, he paused to listen carefully to whatever was on the other side of woods, whatever was making light past the trees.


"We need an observer," said James. "Right now, that's you, Isaac. Go with this squad, and do whatever they tell you."

Five fully armed citizens headed down the hill with Isaac, looking along the edges of the trail for signs people had entered the woods. One of them raised his hand, and the others followed.


"Tell me," said the raider. "Did you and your friends go down the hill already?"

"I didn't," said Jacob. He felt a knifepoint at his back again.

"I can tell that," said the raider. "But what about your friends?"

Jacob thought for a moment, then felt the knifepoint harder.

"They raided the lower camp too."

"And how did they know about the lower camp?"

"You kept sending messengers," Jacob said. Why tell him about the cameras along the trail?

The raider shook his head and stood silent for a moment. "It looks like it's just you, me, and God out here then. I guess I'll try for a miracle."


Isaac followed the search team into the woods, following the trail that Jacob and his captor had left. Even at the end of the line Isaac could see areas flattened where Jacob had fallen, but at least he hadn't seen any blood.

Then the team stopped suddenly, as the lead tracker knelt.

"Blood," he said. "Not much, but it's not good."


Jacob's captor was cleaning and reloading his gun.

"Have to be ready," he said.

He still had Jacob leaning against the tree, facing uphill the way they'd come. Jacob couldn't see much in the woods, but could feel the raider's gun on his shoulder as the raider tested different angles. The wound on Jacob's back hurt and his feet were getting colder and colder and the snow melted into his shoes. He shifted his weight against the tree and felt the raider's knife once more.

"Don't you move," said the raider. "You move and you'll feel this knife quickly."

Jacob looked out for any signs of help. All he saw was snow and trees in the dark, a gentle breeze blowing through the forest.

The raider steadied his gun on Jacob's shoulder, tensing suddenly when he heard a sharp crack further up the hill. There were a few more cracks, and Jacob felt his captor pressing the rifle into his shoulder as he took aim.

"One more step and you and this guy both die," shouted the raider. The cracks stopped.

"Put down those guns. All of you. Now!" shouted the raider, his gun barrel pressing deeper into Jacob's shoulder. He heard the muffled clatter of guns dropping into the snow, and thought he could see the first of the citizens.

"You're all my prisoners now," said the raider. "You're going to get me off this hillside. Tie each other's hands - tie your hands with whatever you were using up there. That's it - good. No sudden moves. Take off those goggles. Now come down here, slowly."

The knife pressed shakily into Jacob's back, the gun pushing into his shoulder. Jacob felt the raiders' breath as he panted nervously.

"You're all going to join the Army of God," said the raider. "With me commanding."

Jacob pushed as hard as could off the tree and lurched backwards, into the knife and through the raider. They tumbled into the ravine.

Posted by simon at September 11, 2005 09:46 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

© 2004 Simon St.Laurent.
All Rights Reserved.