Read Infinite Blue Heaven - A King and A Queen Online

Authors: Lazlo Ferran

Tags: #erotic, #military, #history, #war, #russia, #princess, #incest, #king, #fortress, #sword, #palace, #asia, #shamanism, #royalty, #bow, #spear, #central asia, #cannon, #siege, #ghengis khan, #mongol

Infinite Blue Heaven - A King and A Queen (16 page)

BOOK: Infinite Blue Heaven - A King and A Queen
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It was painful to speak but I told them to take their camels and find the next station. Then they were to send one back, with word of how far it was. We had not a moment to lose but I could not lose the horses.

I gave orders that everybody should prepare to move but each Cavalry man should inspect his horse and decide whether it could survive a ride of five verst. If not, he should leave it tethered for now and we would come back for it.

We waited, ready, as the dust finally settled and clear blue sky, with a hot afternoon sun, appeared.

Then we saw him. The Camel rider, coming towards us. He was waving.

“Only three verst Sire. Maybe not even that!”

“Mount up.” I ordered. “Ride”

It was a mercifully short ride and those who had to leave their horses, quickly drank their fill and led Camels back for the horses. In a few cases, men set off on foot carrying skins of water themselves.

“We thought you would never come. We thought you had all perished!” cried the Brigade Captain.

“God. That first gulp of water tasted so good!” Soon we all felt as good as new and after a ration of dried meat, I felt strong enough to ride. Many or the horses were not so good, however. Should we lose another day, waiting for them to recover? In the end, I decided we had too and luckily the water troughs were full. The following day, many of the horses were still not able to walk properly and, reluctantly, I made the decision to wait one more day. There was very little water left now, in the troughs.
“Give all the remaining water, to the sick horses.”

We rose and left, just before dawn. To make the march to the next Station as easy as possible. It was soon obvious, however, that some of the horses would not make it. Their riders dismounted and, in some cases, even threw off the horse armour and carried their saddles but it would prove too much for the animals. There was great anguish when some of them had to be killed.

“Why are you pushing the men so hard?” asked Geb, pulling up alongside me. “By my calculation, we will still reach Korim’s camp eight days before Bulya!”

“Yes, that is true but we must get there, as soon as possible. I intend to make those eight days as hard for Korim as possible. To distract him from his rear. That is the only way to give Bulya a chance.”

“Oh, Yes. I see. I hadn’t thought of that.”

When Ahmed rode up to me later, I said to him, “When is this heat going to break? It is very unusual to have this heat this late in the year! I feel as if everything is against us. We seem to be fighting an invisible force!”

He just smiled but said nothing.

We reached the next, the fourth and second to last, Water Station much earlier than I had expected. Looking down from the crest of a slight rise, I saw a strange sight. There were the troughs and a few shelters but in the sand about half a verst further on, were the bodies of a few camels.

As we neared the camp, nobody rushed to meet us.

“Ho!” we called.

We heard movement inside one of the tents and shortly after, a face, and then a whole man, appeared. He straightened up and looked at us, bemused for a moment, and then recognition seemed to dawn on his face.

“The Army.” He said. And then, faintly, “King.”

“Yes, I am, your King. What has happened to the others?”

Suddenly the man started shaking violently and then started waving his arms like a maniac and shouting, a guttural and bestial non-syllabic series of sounds.

“Look inside the tents.” I ordered the men nearest me.

I got off Arstan and took the man firmly by the shoulders. I held him and whispered to him that everything would be all right. After a few moments, he stopped writhing and just started sobbing.

I glanced at the first two men to return from the tents. They looked grim.

“Dead, Sire?”

“Yes. Dead.”

“What? All of them?”

They both nodded and then the other two arrived.

“Dead?”

They nodded too.

The man in my arms had on, only a coarse vest.

“Were you the Captain?” He did not heed me.

“I recognise him, Sire.” One of the men spoke up. “He was the Captain.”

“Desert Madness. Must be. I doubt if we will get much sense out of him for some time.”

“Check that the sacks are alright and if they are, cut them open but don’t drink the water.”

Desert Madness was common with small groups of men, or individuals. Brought on by a lack of water and food, it started with hallucanations but this leads to increased stress and extreme sweating which leads to panic, more sweating and manic behavior. Then, if there is more than one man, it usually leads to violence. This Captain probably tried to maintain order and in the end had to resort to defending himself. The only thing that didn’t make sense was the position of the camel bodies. In fact, there were camels missing, which was even stranger.

“The skins are intact, Sire. We broke them open.”

“Alright. Bring up one of the weaker horses.”

A brown horse was brought and we allowed it to drink.

“Make camp. We will wait one hour to make sure the water is not contaminated.” There was no telling what these men had done, in their final hours of madness. I had no doubt the sand storm would have something to do with it.

After one hour, the horse was still fine so I gave the order for all the horses to be watered. I also gave orders for the dead men to be buried, after some prayers had been said.

The men still needed to rest so left nearly two hours later than we should have. The rest had done the horses good and at first we made good time but soon we were back to that slow trudge.

“Will this heat ever leave us?” I asked Ahmed, beside me.

“Look there.” He said, pointing to our right.

“Where?”

“Just this side of that dried wadi. By the bush. See it?”

I looked hard and tried to focus my eyes. The land was distorted in the heat haze but, yes I could see something. Then it moved. It was a wolf. They would not stray far into the desert and were usually less than a day from water.

“The mountains are getting closer.” Said Ahmed.

I looked ahead. Yes. It was true. The mountains could not be more than three or four days away now. This lifted my spirits somewhat.

The thought of water, somewhere less than a day away, was tantalising but I knew the scouts, now ranged on our left and right flanks, as before, would soon spot a water hole, if it was within easy marching distance. The foothills to our right, were about a day’s ride away. I speculated that this was where the wolf was from.

About an hour after I would have liked to stop, I finally, wearily, called a halt. The Water Station was nowhere in sight. What had happened to it?

We set up the shelters and crawled under them, to shelter from the boiling sun.

Late in the afternoon, we came across two more dead camels in the road and some torn skins. Was this the fate of the last Brigade? Had they too succumbed to the Madness and become scattered, or worse, fought each other in the desert? Until we had seen eighty burst skins, or rather seventy skins, as it must be now, we could not give up looking for them.

We marched on, until it was completely dark.

“What can I do Ahmed? We cannot delay anymore but it is getting dark and who knows what has happened to this Brigade. They may not be on the road. They may be scattered all over the place!” I paced up and down, waiting for him to tell me some way we could go on and still be sure to find the water. But he could not. He just held his hands out, palms upwards.

The road here started to twist among the undulations, which were the first signs that we were approaching the foothills, which stood beneath the mountains. Sometimes the road followed a dried wady, sometimes high ground and sometimes a gully. There was now no moon to see by and even the scouts could miss the camels, if they were dead.

No, we would have to stop for the night. The risk was too great.

“Make camp.” I told Yedigei, who had just walked up to me.

“Thank God!” he said. “I was about to plead with you. The men are exhausted.”

“It means losing one more night, Yedigei!”

“Better than losing all our lives!” Tawny haired and tall, his brown eyes boldly held my gaze as he stood there.

Without a moon, the stars were especially dazzling that night. They seemed to smother us. It was as if we were little children again, hiding under a black blanket, but one full of tiny holes.

I spent a long time looking at them, sitting on a log near my tent. The camp was especially quiet that night. There was a sense of calm. This was strange because we were desperately short of water and knew not from where the next drink would come or even if it would come. It was as if the desert had carved us into a new shape, to suit its purpose. It was as if the men had commended their souls to the desert.

In the almost absolute silence a few hours later, I heard the distant howl of a wolf. Soon after that I lay on my bed and slept.

We were moving, just as the Sun rose to our right, tinging the mountain tops in the distance with red.

The scouts coming in during the night, had reported seeing nothing. The ones going out, I had instructed to look for any signs of camels or men on foot. We should find something, if they were out there.

And then, finally, about mid-morning, we came upon the fifth temporary Water Station. A huge roar of appreciation rippled back through the lines as the first men saw the camp and spread the word. It was just as it should be. There was the line of shelters, to one side of the road, and a line of tied up camels, watching us approach. But I was not so sure.

As we neared the tents and I called a halt, the man who ran to us was not a Captain but a mere plain Quartermaster’s man.

“What has happened? Why were you so far from the last camp? Where is your Captain?”

The man stopped and saluted. “Sire.”

I could see other men, fastening clothing and tying on their swords, walking towards us.

“Well?”

The man seemed unable to make his mind up, what to say. He waited until a few of the other men, reached a point perhaps a sachine behind him and then stopped. This seemed to give him courage to speak.

“I have been elected Captain, Sire.”

“Hmm.” This was a tricky matter. Men in my Army were not conscripted and further, the ten men in each Brigade elected one of their number as Corporal. Our Brigade was often called a troop or section in the west. The three Corporals in each platoon elected a Lieutenant and each Lieutenant in three platoons elected a Captain. I chose the General in charge of ten Companies. Normally this would have been a Major, but with an Army one tenth its normal size, I had needed to promote most of my Majors to Generals.

If these men had elected this Captain, then the other must have deserted or been killed and these men respected their new Captain. Of course they may have killed the old one but then again, he may have deserved it.

“Order the men to water the horses first!”

I turned to the man again. “How many full skins are there?”

“Sixty-eight, Sire!” He looked proud, as he saluted.

“Sixty-eight! I was expecting Seventy-eight. What happened?”

The man look flustered so I pointed to the tent and bid him lead me there.

“Geb. Go and bring Adbil’khan.”

As I entered his tent, I saw what a chaotic muddle the men had been living in. It said something about their state of mind. It did not reflect well on the new Captain.

“Alright. Get me a drink and then, when the others come, you can explain.”

He returned just before the other two, with a leather mug of water.

I relished the cool liquid, as it slid down my throat. It felt like the water was washing sand off the side of my throat. I could feel its coolness all the way down into my gut and I closed my eyes for a moment to savour it.

I opened them and looked at the man. “Go on.”

“Hmm. I don’t know where to start. Err, fight, er, with the other Brigade, Number four. Their Captain, Sebin, wanted to stop too soon. Too lazy, our, er Captain said.”

The man was a bad speaker.

“Slow down and try to tell us slowly and clearly. You say there was a fight with the Fourth Brigade?”

“Yes. There was almost a fight with the third. Err. You see, they were all stopping too soon. Our, err Captain didn’t like it.” He looked down at his feet, when he mentioned his Captain, but held his hands out imploringly at the end of the sentence.

“Yes. We noticed the camps were too close together.”

Kabutzof tried to stop Sebin, grabbed his camel’s reins and dragged it along. Sebin drew his sword and there was a chase from the Fourth Camp. Several of the other men were killed but Sebin escaped, I think. Kabutzof ordered us on and said he would catch us up, which he did, just as the sandstorm came in. It was bad. He didn’t want to stop. We told him! We told him! He kept going until we were really tired.

It was worse after the storm. He kept going, much further than the correct distance. He said we must! We must correct for the last two camps, they had not gone far enough, he said! He would not stop and would not let us break open a skin, even though we were dying of thirst. And we had nothing to eat! Nothing.

BOOK: Infinite Blue Heaven - A King and A Queen
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