Fight at the RoundAbout

The First Battle of Glue Days and New Bread

 

The Do’s Series: Segment 21

 

© Grandpa Jim

 

 

“To the roundabout!” WhiteHands BakeMuch shouts to his ovenmates. “Weapons!” WhiteHands hefts a huge rolling pin. “Take weapons!”

Bakers and assistant bakers grab choppers, long forks, metal stirrers and wooden pounders.

The great baker swings around and bursts through the tent doors. “To Nurse Hoadie!” His booming voice carries down Penny Lane. “Save the Fair! To the RoundAbout!”

The cries of the bakefamily join their leader as they rush together out, to the right and down the lane toward the ruins.

Merchants and tradespeople lift their heads and listen, grab sharp points and pounding mallets, and follow in the wake of the white flapping aprons.

Yelled alerts pierce the quiet evening air: “To Nurse Hoadie!” “Save the Fair!”

Running feet and clanking metal resound through the tents and booths as the people of Glue Days and New Bread gather and converge to the center of the Fair where the tradeways circle the old Feria Ruins.

 

RoundAbout IMG_0948

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bright lightening flash rips the sky, followed by a distant muffled explosion and swirling brown smoke smudging the sky to the east.

WhiteHands BakeMuch breaks from Penny Lane into the circling tradeway. Ahead a short distance, enemy soldiers are surveying the ruins for a way into the Nurse’s shelter. With a numbing yell, WhiteHands launches himself at the invaders. The baker swings his massive roller in a mighty arc and flattens two Guppie pirates. Spinning, the prodigious bakemaster hammers an overhead blow to crumple a BentOne’s head. With a well-aimed uppercut between the legs, BakeMuch lifts a grimacing BlackFeather cheesemaker who slowly falls sideways off the rolling pin.

Fair defenders follow the bakers to push, slice and batter the ragtail mob of Guppie Pirates, BlackFeather cheesemakers and BentOne BrownOne field advisors who have been swarming ineffectually before the ruins attempting to organize a plan of assault.

From the entrance to the North Tradeway, the sounds of marching feet announce the arrival of a squadron of BentOnes. The BrownOnes enter the north end of the roundabout and spread out in a tight defensive alignment. At their center, an artillery piece is pushed into position and aimed up and at the ancient fortifications that are the home of the Vila Nurse, Hoadie Ilsalund Carmichael.

Above the melee, the pretty nurse can be seen swirling in her blue robe on a broken turret.

The cannon BOOMS!

A towertop beyond the nurse crumbles to dust.

Ilsalund Carmichael extends her right hand, cups the fingers and speaks a word in a clear strong voice. A white-hot ball gathers in the Nurse’s hand. She lifts, aims and hurls the glowing ball at the enemy cannon. The artillery piece lifts in a vapor of rainbow colors. The metal pieces of the cannon fracture, hang suspended for a moment, and rain on the scurrying BentOne crew who dive for cover.

The cheering crowd surges forward to the roundabout and their Lady. Bakers, merchants and traders cut and pound through the collapsing force of BlackFeathers, Guppie Pirates and BentOne advisors. Reaching the rim of the ruins and entering, the Fair defenders fan out and barricade the entrances to the Nurse’s shelter.

At her station on the height above, Ilsalund lifts her head and studies the tradeway to the south. No attackers are visible in that direction; the South Tradeway remains open. She glances down. The tradespeople have secured the perimeter and are organizing within the interior of the old fortress. The nurse pivots around to the north and raises a hand to shade her eyes. Rank upon rank of BrownOne troops hefting long sharp-pointed poles crowd the North Tradeway and have already entered the merchant boundaries of Glue Days and New Bread. Beyond them, farther up the tradeway, her farsight reveals another brown column. With them are short dark horses drawing artillery pieces like the one that shattered her tower. She takes a deep breath and steps to descend the open stone stairway to her troops below. A sound stops her.

A shrill staccato whistling echoes through the tents and booths from the desert side of the North Tradeway.

At the sound, the brown advance slows. The BentOne troops swivel their heads with worried concern and lower their poles. Officers yell and push into the midst of their charges to keep the column moving.

At that moment, SandRunners, FreeOnes of the BlindDesert and truefriends of the Fair peoples, leap from the cover of the tents and booths to land among the BrownOne soldiers. FreeOne staffs spin and smash. Desert blades flash and cut.

Startled brown-robed BentOne foot soldiers drop their poles, slump back, shove and squeeze to get away from the SandRunners who keep jumping at them. The advance of the BrownOne BentOnes stalls to a stop and breaks into disjointed parts as more sandsuited warriors explode into the tradeway.

On the turret steps above, Nurse Hoadie Ilsalund Carmichael nods to herself and leaps. Her blue robe spreads and billows The Vila nurse floats and lands next to the startled baker.

“Quickly, WhiteHands, send runners to the families of our fighters. Tell them all, everyone, to meet on the South Tradeway and to bring nothing but themselves. They must hurry. We have little time.”

The great Baker gestures and gathers a crowd who lean to hear him. Individuals break and run to the east, west and south to spread the Nurse’s message.

BakeMuch returns to the Nurse. “The message is sent, M’Lady.”

“Well done, old friend. Now, we join our friends, the SandRunners. To the North Tradeway. Fight at my side.”

The pretty nurse swirls in a ring of blue, a bright white sword lifted high in her bare right hand.

“Nurse Hoadie!” shouts the baker. “To the North Tradeway! Join the SandRunners! Fight for the Fair! Fight for our families!”

A thundering hue and cry issues from the defenders as they push out through the openings in the ruins onto the circle roadway and toward the guarded entrance of the North Tradeway.

The Pirate Guppies, BlackFeather cheesemakers and their BentOne handlers in the roundabout are taken off-guard by the sudden surge of defenders from the ruins and the strange BentOne cries echoing down the tradeway. The BrownOne advisors in the roundabout race to stand next to their colleagues guarding the entrance to the North TradeWay. The Pirate Guppies and BlackFeather cheesemakers are Sir Richard’s new mercenaries, recruited to strengthen the ranks of the Dark Count’s indentured BrownOne BentOnes. Their mercenary pay is good but only if it can be spent. Most of the recruits slink back and slip away between the tents. A few pirates and cheesemakers stand to fight and are overrun by the surging merchants.

Led by their Lady and the Baker, the Fair’s defenders advance and break the BrownOne defensive line at the entrance to the North Tradeway. The Nurse’s forces slash and hammer their way up the tradeway into the front of the confused BentOne column.

Farther up the North Tradeway, brown-robed officers work to rally their men who have been decimated by the flanking attack of the SandRunner warriors coming to the aid of Nurse Hoadie and the Fair. The BentOne footmen reel disoriented and push toward the roundabout where the renewed energy and fight of the bakers and their friends catch the brown fighters again by surprise. To their credit, many BrownOne soldiers stand and fight bravely. As their officers fall, however, the remnant can see that there is no hope of prevailing and little of escaping. In small groups, the BentOnes fall back and, with heavy losses, retreat up the North Tradeway.

Ilsalund’s bright blade drops three BentOnes who fall, silent, to the ground. She sidesteps, thrusts at one more and retrieves her sword. The enemy officer’s eyes open wide in surprise as he sinks to his knees and falls slowly forward, the brown robe draping to cover the twitching body.

A flash of tan jerks Nurse Hoadie to the ready position. She smiles. “LongLeap StarBreak! I did hope it was you.”

The tall dark-haired SandRunner smiles in return, moves his short blade to cover his heart and bows. “M’Lady.”

“How did you know, LongLeap? I hardly had time to alert our tradespeople.”

The SandRunner stretches to his full height and surveys that no BentOnes are nearby. “We have followed the gathering forces of the BrownOnes and their recruits, Nurse Hoadie. The thrust to Glue Days and New Bread surprised us. We did not expect such an open move or that it would occur so quickly.”

“Nor did I, StarBreak. Nor did I.”

“Because of the speed of their attack, good Nurse, I do not have with me the sandsuited warriors I would wish. The BrownOnes are at bay, but they regroup; and there are more behind these that we have stopped. More than we can hold with our present numbers.”

“I agree and I appreciate your assessment. The families of our fighters are gathering on the South Tradeway. The great baker has sent word for this to happen.”

“WhiteHands BakeMuch! Is it he?”

“It is.”

“A true fighter and a good friend.”

“Of you and your daughter’s.”

“DawnRunner? You have news of her?”

“She is safe and with friends. I will share more with you later. Now we have work to do. Can your SandRunner warriors guard our retreat to the South TradeWay?”

LongLeap lowers his head. “The Fair is lost then, M’Lady?”

“For now, LongLeap StarBreak. This is the time for flight, not for fight. That will come later. We must get these people to safety.”

“How can that be done? The BentOnes are many. They will follow and catch us on the road.”

“We will not be on the road.”

“M’Lady?”

“Just below the Fair, the South TradeWay runs near the sands. We will take those sands.”

“That way is not safe, M’Lady. Those are wildsands of the BlindDesert. We should not go there.”

“There is the way we must go, LongLeap StarBreak. And your warriors must lead the BrownOnes after us and onto to those sands.”

“But, the nightcrawls?”

“Yes, SandRunner, the nightcrawls.” Nurse Hoadie looks to the west. “Little day remains and night approaches. We must hurry. Instruct your. . . .”

A booming voice interrupts them. “LongLeap StarBreak, everfriend FreeOne of the BlindDesert, you and your SandRunners have saved us again! Well met, truefriend, well met, indeed.” The baker’s arms reach around the tall warrior and lift the SandRunner from the ground in a great rolling laughing hug.

“Please, old friend,” LongLeap chokes, “you crush your old friend.”

“Oh, sorry.” BakeMuch drops the SandRunner who bends to catch his breath and waves his hand in good meet.

“You two can wrestle later.” Ilsalund Carmichael laughs. “I need you both to listen.”

“Yes, M’Lady,” both speak together.

“BakeMuch, gather all the Fair peoples to the south where the tradeway runs beside the sands of the BlindDesert. Prepare the families and their fighters to enter the sands.”

“But, Nurse Hoadie, those sands cannot be crossed.” The baker’s eyes are wide.

“They must be crossed tonight, dear Baker.” She turns to the SandRunner. “LongLeap, have SandRunner scouts ready to guide our people onto the sands and to a safe and hidden place in the BlindDesert. Can that be done, NightRunner of the HomeRock Clan?”

“It can and it will be done, Nurse Hoadie. The scouts will be there and ready. But what of my warriors?”

“I am asking you to take your warriors up the North Tradeway and engage the BentOne column that approaches. With the arrival of their remnant from this fight, the BrownOne commanders will be alerted and will move their forces quickly. Move them even more quickly. Have them chase you to the south.”

“Chase us to our retreating peoples?”

“Yes. Do you have archers?”

“We do.”

“If you can, harass the BentOnes from a distance. Preserve your warriors. But keep the BrownOnes moving. Let them sense victory and forget that night is near. Let them be reckless in their pursuit.”

“Is there time for this to work, M’Lady?” the SandRunner asks.

“There must be. I will wait for you and your warriors at the sandedge. The baker will lead the merchant folk out under the direction of your scouts. One last thing, while there is time, dispatch two of your fastest runners up the East Tradeway to alert the dwarves at TopHouse. Now go to your warriors and may The Do’s be with you.”

“And with you, Lady.” LongLeap bows to the Vila Nurse and extends handpart to his friend who returns the signal.

Nurse Hoadie smiles at the baker. “Now, WhiteHands, you must act with speed to prepare our people for their night journey. Are the families gathering?”

“They are, my Lady.”

Vila Nurse Hoadie Ilsalund Carmichael glances up at the pink beginning to tinge the cloudless sky. “Sunset approaches. When the last fiery orange fades to red and disappears, you must be upon the sands of the BlindDesert. Gauge the distance so that our enemy can sight your column and will risk entering the wildsands to claim their victory and their prisoners.”

“Will this happen, good Nurse?” The baker’s face holds a worried look.

“I will see you soon on the South Tradeway, my concerned baker.” The Nurse gathers her blue robe. “Now, I must be off for a short time. A few extra SandDancers would be a help, don’t you think?”

“SandDancers, M’Lady?”

“If there is one thing we Vila enjoy doing and do well, it is dancing.” With that Nurse Hoadie spins in her blue robe and disappears.