The Savior – Snippet 29
It was Abel’s goal to bring the ways of Treville to Cascade.
This was the right thing to do, first of all. And second, it advanced the cause of progress, although he was perhaps the only man living on this world who appreciated that fact.
His worries were resolved. The Treville Regulars hit the Blaskoye from behind. The attack was completely unexpected and devastating. Abel didn’t wait.
“Over those walls and at them, boys!” he called to his Scouts. To their credit, the tired Scouts didn’t hesitate for an instant. The front line of the Blaskoye, seeing a pack of screaming men brandishing rifles charging their positions behind the piles of dont bodies, wavered, and then leaped up and ran.
If it had only been one glorious charge, his Scouts would have run out of steam quickly and been exposed to a counterattack that would have obliterated them. Instead, the assault was the hammer to Joab’s Trevillian anvil. Abel charged along with his men. He fired first his rifle, then a pistol, and finally he was reduced to cutting a Blaskoye’s neck with the old cavalry sword his father had bequeathed him.
Through the smoke and fury, Abel could look over the heads of the fleeing Blaskoye and see the approaching dust cloud of marching Treville Regulars. The Blaskoye ran into its deadly volley full tilt, and fully exposed. Men, boys, women dropped — such close-range fire was indiscriminately horrific. Some fell crying out in pain and anguish, many threw down their weapons and begged for mercy, sheik and commoner alike. Some were silent, to move no more. Those that could streamed to the north and south and scattered across the wheat fields of eastern Cascade. They would find their way back to the Redlands, but not as a cohesive fighting unit.
By mid-afternoon, Abel’s Scouts linked up with the Treville Regulars.
He had won.
Five Blaskoye sheiks had either surrendered or been unseated from their mounts and roughly taken prisoner. Abel knew them from the double blue line hem to their otherwise white robes. He had these brought to the stockade’s main room.
From the rafters of the stockade’s barnlike interior, several bodies were hanging, ropes about their necks. These were older men, fatter men — men who were past their prime for physical labor.
The others were huddled into a clump in the center of the enclosure.
Staring up at the hanging men, the Blaskoye sheiks perhaps believed they were about to die as those others. They had begun to chant their death songs.
Abel had reed mats laid out for them.
“Please, sit,” he said to them. “We will bring refreshment.” True to his word, he personally doled out cups of wine and beer.
The Blaskoye stopped chanting and accepted the drinks — they were so thirsty after hours of fighting that anything would do, even Landish wine. They sat down warily, some prodded by the tip of a Scout bayonet.
Abel had his Scouts pull a First oligarch out of the clump of still surviving captives from town.
“Gentle sheiks,” he said, startling them by speaking in their own tongue. “What am I offered for this one? He will make a fine hand at cleaning stalls, I think. Or perhaps he can work the sulfur mines in your Table Lands?”
After an astonished moment, they realized what Abel was saying. The Blaskoye began to bid.
The remaining oligarchs and headmen were auctioned, one by one.
There was whining, begging, offers of immense wealth. Threats of eternal blood feud and retribution.
Abel just smiled his grim smile and sold another.
Eliot Eisenach was the last. He stood wearily, resigned to his fate, but seemingly determined to give Abel no satisfaction by flinching or begging.
By this time the Blaskoye sheiks were quite drunk, and the bidding had gotten sloppy and out of hand. They were beyond the meager chits they’d brought with them. There were solemn promises of donts and dak herds, mounds of Table Lands sulfur, and sacks of dates and figs from the gardens of the Great Oasis itself.
The woman entered the stockade.
As if a signal had been given, the drunken palaver died to silence. She was lovely. She was dressed in a diaphanous robe of fine linen, and the kohl around her eyes glistened black. She was accompanied by a retinue of four large men — men who looked quite dangerous. When she came to stand beside Abel, they took up positions around her that would cover attack from any quarter of the room.
“Good evening, your grace.”
“I would like to ask for your advice in a matter now before us.”
“I’ll be happy to be of service if I can.”
“This one,” Abel said, motioning to Eisenach, “tried to have me assassinated. Several times this year. When that didn’t work, he instigated armed insurrection. Got all those unfortunates involved.” He gestured toward the clump of former oligarchs, now bound together in a Blaskoye slave transport line. “He deserves to die. Do you agree?”
“Undoubtedly, if all you say is true.”
“Can there be any mercy?”
Mahaut turned and gazed at Eisenach. He glared hatred back at her.
“Well, you might end his line yet spare his life and sell him,” she finally said. Mahaut shrugged. “I know this is better than he deserves, but you did ask me what would be merciful.”
“Thank you, your grace. Your advice will become my command,” Abel said. He turned to the captain of the Cascade Scouts. “Castrate him,” he said. “Then throw him in with the other Blaskoye chattel as a bonus.”
Eisenach had begun to violently tremble. After a moment, his legs gave way and he dropped to his knees. He glared up at Mahaut.
She regarded him for a moment, then stepped close to him. He tried to strike out at her, bite her, but a Scout guarding him caught the movement and savagely yanked him back by the rope about his neck.
Mahaut bent low and whispered in Eisenach’s ear. Abel couldn’t make out all that she said, but Center reported her words: “This is for Abram Karas.”
When Eisenach heard her words, he cried out, gnashed his teeth, and beat his head against the stockade floor. It was soft dirt, however, so he wasn’t able to dash his brains out, if that had been his intention.
Abel turned to Mahaut. “Satisfied?” he asked.
“As soon as I send word to my pater.”
“I’ll see you tonight?”
Mahaut smiled, bowed, and made her way out.
After sending the amazed Blaskoye on their way east with their new acquisitions (and an armed escort back to the Rim), Abel wearily took up the task of burying his dead.
Cascade District was his now, but it was they who had paid the price in blood.