With Honor, part 4

With Honor

by Leigh Townsend

Part 4

The little boy sat in a large chair, his legs swinging as he stared at the ceiling.  His face was wrinkled in the endearing fashion of a child thinking intensely.  When his quick negative answer had earned a response of “This is important, think hard,” he had taken the charge seriously.  The room had remained silently as he thought.  Finally, his face cleared and he turned toward Sergeant Graham.  He shook his head and said, “No, I haven’t seen anything like those in the camps.”

A sigh of relief echoed around the room.

Thomas had returned a week ago with his family’s flocks and exuberant stories of his new friends in the foothills.  His horrified mother had quickly sent a message to the army company.  Sergeant Graham, a big bear of a man with children of his own, had carefully befriended the boy and slowly coaxed him to share what he knew about the bandits.   The knowledge he had given them made sense out of some of the events that had seemed unusual when they had first arrived.  Normally, it would not take an entire company of the army to deter banditry in this area.  The need for more fighters became clear when they realized that these were not the typical ragtag mountain bandits. 

These outlaws had a leader. 

The man called himself the Golden Wolf, and from what Matthew had heard he was quite a formidable foe.  He was ruthless, relentless, and, most dangerous of all, intelligent.  He had gathered a group of men around him who were fiercely loyal and nearly as vicious as he.  They were known as the Wolf Pack.

Most bandits were driven by laziness and greed; it was easier to steal something than to acquire it themselves.  These criminals were driven partly by greed, but also by an unnatural desire to create fear.  The local people were terrified of them.  Incidents like the burning of the shed, senseless destruction of crops and property, and occasional molestation of young women had only furthered the fear of the villagers.  Unfortunately, this campaign of terror and the ferocity of the band made the soldiers’ jobs more difficult.

While the bandits had been more than willing to terrorize the villages and those farms nearby, they had left the scattered herders and shepherds alone.  There were paths that led into the foothills, worn by hooves and human feet, and the bandits used them freely.  The tales Thomas had told made it clear that the Wolf Pack had taken the time to befriend the boys that tended their families’ flocks in the foothills; a few older boys had even been recruited.

What Thomas had just shared was the best news they had gotten.  While the bandits were well armed, they lacked crossbows.  This meant that, even lightly armored, the skirmishers stood a chance against them.  Matthew pulled out a map as Sergeant Graham began asking the boy to describe where the camp was.  In the background, he could hear his Lieutenant and Captain discussing the information they had just been given.

Lieutenant Fisher’s troop of light cavalry would now be given the task of getting a definite location on the camp.  They were also to scout out possible means of entering the camp, in order to take the Golden Wolf into custody.  Matthew turned his attention back to Thomas’s words, knowing that the more detail they could get from him, the easier their task would be.

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