1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 13
Chapter 4: Raid
On the Road Again
Pavel trudged along next to his big sister Irina. Pavel was four and a half and very proud to be trusted to help pull the two-wheeled cart with Irina, who was seven. They pulled the cart every day for an hour or so at a time, then Mama would take over while they rested. Then they would pull some more. This was their third time pulling the wagon today. And though Pavel was proud to be helping, it was boring.
Suddenly Czar barked. Pavel looked around and tried to see what had the big dog upset.
“Pavel!” Irina complained. “Watch what you’re doing.”
Pavel turned his attention back to the cart, but answered, “What’s wrong with Czar Mikhail? He’s pulling a cart too.”
“Not as big as ours is.” The cart he and Irina were pulling was just under three feet wide at the wheels and by now, twenty days after they left Ruzuka, they were quite good at pulling it. It was heavy, though. There were just over three hundred pounds of household goods on the cart. “How should I know what has the stupid dog up — ” Irena stopped speaking as screaming men came out of the woods.
Pavel looked around, trying to figure out what was going on. Had the colonel’s men caught them? No. These men didn’t look like the soldiers. They were scruffy and though they had knives, and some of them had guns, they weren’t the new guns that the colonel was so proud of. Pavel stopped to look and Irena kept walking and that jerked Pavel off balance. He fell, and that made Irena fall.
The men came running out and got up to the wagons.
Irena screamed, “Mommie,” and tried to get up. Pavel was too busy trying to get himself straightened out to scream, but he was whimpering a little. He couldn’t help it, even if he was four.
One of the men came up to the cart and started pulling stuff out.
Irani started yelling at him. The man was in trouble now, and he backed away.
Then one of the other men laughed at him. “What’s the matter? You afraid of a kid?”
The first man got all red. Then he raised his knife and stabbed Irina. She screamed and fell.
That pulled Pavel down again. Irina was bleeding all over him and screaming.
The other man stepped back and the one with the bloody knife waved it at him and said something, but Pavel was never sure what it was.
Then everyone was running around. Pavel didn’t know what else to do, so he cried.
Dominika tried to get out of the wagon, but it was hard and she was scared. Then the knife moved. She scrambled out of the wagon and ran to the little cart that the children pulled . . . and was just in time to watch her little girl die. Dominika wanted to scream. She wanted to run away, she wanted to kill the arrogant little snot who had stabbed her baby girl for no other reason than to prove he could. But she had a little boy who was still alive. She struggled with the harness and tried to get little Pavel loose from the cart. As she did, disjointed thoughts raced through her mind.
The village of Ruzuka had not been large. It had had eight families of an average of eight people per family. The smith, Stefan, who had planned to run and been so vital to the preparations, along with his wife, Vera and their two children were a small family, generally. Vera’s widowed sister lived with them. That wasn’t unusual. Other families often had additional family members doing the same. The total when they started out was sixty-seven people, including Elena, Izabella, and their servants. Since Rogozhi, they had picked up a few more people every couple of days. Which made this all make even less sense. This was a really big target for a group of mostly poorly armed raiders to take on.
Unfortunately, several of the men were out scouting for routes that would let them travel through Russia without running into the boyars’ sons and service nobility who were more of a threat. Maybe the few men in the train had made them think it would be easy meat. That would fit with the sort who would stab a little girl who was just trying to protect her family’s goods.
She pulled Pavel up in her arms and looked around. Now the remaining men and the women were on the attack. They might not be good fighters, her neighbors, but Irina had been murdered. Clearly, rage had washed their fear away.
Dominika saw the arrow fly into the back of the little bastard who had stabbed Irina, and then she saw Vera running by with a hammer of some sort.
Vera, two wagons back from them, saw the whole thing. She squirmed into her wagon, looking for something to fight with. The guns were all out with the scouts, but she found Stefan’s hammers. She grabbed one of the smaller ones and one that had something of a point on the back side. Stefan used it to split wood into boards. She grabbed it up and went out the back of the wagon, then she turned and ran toward the murdering bastard who had killed little Irina.
She was a little late. One of the men from a wagon ahead had a bow. He had gotten it and strung it. The boy was dead when she got there, and the rest of the raiders were running. They had grabbed some stuff and several of the small person-pulled carts, injured two more people, killed Czar Mikhail, the dog that was pulling a small wagon, and a pony. Then they ran back into the woods.
Camped off the road that night
“We’ll never find them,” Stefan said looking into the fire. “We don’t know this forest. They do.”
“How could this have happened?” Dominika asked. She was sitting on a trunk, holding Pavel in her lap.
“We worried about the nobles and soldiers, not about being attacked by our own people,” Stefan said.
“We knew better,” Father Yulian added, “. . . or we should have.”
“We should have kept a watch,” Stefan said, “and the next place we stop, we need to make some sort of weapons. We have those three chamber-loading AKs that the colonel bought, and I can probably make extra chambers for them.”
“That will take time,” Father Yulian said. “We need to keep moving while the confusion lasts. You know that Sheremetev will try to stop us. He has to. All the land in the world is worthless without people to work it.”
“Well, we have to do something about making sure this doesn’t happen again. So what do you suggest?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps we can find an abandoned village and stop for a few days. What can you do in a few days?”
“Not much. I have some dies that might be useful, but the drop hammer itself was way too big to carry. It would take a couple of weeks to build a new one and that means I’m back to doing it the old-fashioned way. Which I can do, but it takes a lot of time to make each item. Worse, I don’t have any iron and I don’t know where to find ore around here.” There was a place near the village where Stefan had been able to gather bog iron for his smithy and that had worked well enough for most of his needs for the village. For the factory, the factory owner had provided the iron, apparently buying it and having it carted in from the river. Here, even if they found a village with a semi-intact smithy in it, he had no way of knowing where the local smith had gotten his ore to make iron. “We would have to buy iron and, in that case, why not just buy guns?”