Calums sword, p.1
Calum's Sword, p.1Leigh Barker
Copyright 2013 Leigh Barker
General William Richmond rode with his six best royal dragoons assigned as his bodyguard and thought what a beautiful morning it was, riding among the trees and shrubs in late bloom. Which is a bit like saying there isn’t an enemy within a hundred miles.
As they rode out into the small clearing in the woods as though they hadn’t a care in the world, the dragoons were ripped from their horses by a volley of musket fire from the cover of the trees barely twenty feet away. The ambushers couldn’t miss. And they didn’t.
By the time General Richmond regained control of his horse rearing from the deafening musket fire and the screams of dying men, a dozen highlanders were already running across the clearing, dropping their used muskets and drawing their broadswords.
He patted his horse’s neck gently and stepped down out of the saddle as the attackers formed a half-circle in front of him. For a moment he touched the hilt of his cavalry sabre, but let it be. Sir William’s rank of general was no rich man’s gift to some sycophant; he was a shrewd warrior, but he didn’t need his military skill to know that if he was supposed to be dead, he’d be dead. There was more to this.
His ambushers were clearly agitated, as if their complete success had come as a surprise, and they edged closer but withdrew again while they waited for something to happen.
One of the dragoons began to sit, stared at the blood spreading across his buff-coloured waistcoat, and groaned as he fought for breath. The nearest highlander stepped closer and swung his claymore in a wide arc that dropped the dragoon’s head in his lap. General Richmond took an involuntary step back.
James Campbell stepped forward out of the pack. A big, powerful man with masses of wild, orange hair hanging onto his shoulders and sticking out of the top of his tunic. He pointed his broadsword at the general and grinned, relishing the Englishman’s first sign of fear. “Well, lads, which piece of him shall we hack off first?”
Sir William’s assessment that if they’d wanted him dead, he’d be dead, took a dent. It was beginning to look as if his survival had been down to pure luck, and he thought about drawing his sabre and just wading into them, but hurrying things along did seem a little… impetuous. The devil with it. His hand closed on his sword hilt.
Two highlanders strolled out of the trees and into the clearing as if completely unaware of what was going on there. The two couldn’t have been less alike. Calum Maclean was slightly built, in his mid-twenties, and some would say good looking—the ‘some’ being just about any woman who saw him. He had wild, blond hair, striking blue eyes and an easy smile, and a light and easy way of moving that would have warned anyone who knew anything about fighters to beware.
John Mackintosh was a blacksmith, and it showed. Everyone called him Big John, for all the right reasons. A big block of a man with arms as thick as the branches on the trees around the quiet clearing, and a belly that told of a love of food and ale. John had a quick wit and a left hook that could fell a bull at full charge.
“You should have just told your woman that you were going to the inn,” Calum said, without seeming to notice the armed men staring at them in amazement. “You’re the man of the house, right?”
John nodded, though not very convincingly.
“Then next time, tell her to mind her tongue and care for the bairns.” Calum stopped and turned to face his friend. “You have to stand up to woman, or…” He raised his hands as if in surrender, then looked around as if seeing the dozen highlanders for the first time. His brow creased in a deep frown, and he turned back to John. “They’re trying to look like Clan Chattan, are they not?”
“Aye,” said John, “wearing boxwood in their bonnets, they are that.”
“Aye, their bonnets are Mackintosh,” said Calum, “but their kilt is Campbell.” He pointed at the nearest man.
The man grunted and started to walk towards the newcomers, but the man-mountain James Campbell held out his broadsword and stopped him. “Leave them be,” he said with a sneer. “Deal with the general here first; then we’ll chop up these two. First the one with the big mouth and the wee sword.”
He pointed at Calum, who glanced down at the hilt of the French small sword in his scabbard, which, unlike the double-handed claymore held by the ambushers, was barely three feet long, had a razor-sharp blade, and a beautifully engraved mahogany hilt with a silver guard. Any one of the broadswords would have snapped it like a twig. Given the chance.
Calum and John continued to stroll casually across the clearing, but John picked up his friend’s tiny gesture, yawned, and wandered off to the right, as if to skirt the group and be on his way. Most of the ambushers ignored him and turned their attention to James Campbell, waiting for his order to hack the Englishman to pieces.
“The way I see it, John,” said Calum casually, “there are only a few of them, and they’re Campbells, so it hardly seems fair and sporting.” He drew his sword slowly. “I was hoping for a little exercise this morning to warm the ol’ bones.”
“There’ll be no workout today, Calum,” said John, also drawing his sword, a beautiful claymore crafted by his own hand and balanced perfectly for his height and strength. “Not with just yon bunch of Campbells.”
Calum yawned loudly and waved the Campbells on. “You boys carry on with what you’re doing.” He pointed at the general. “But be careful. That’s an English officer and more than a match for cowardly ambushing crotch lice like you.”
Three of them seemed to take offence at the remark, turned, and charged straight at him, their swords raised in both hands above their heads. It wasn’t going to take long to silence this loud-mouth Maclean.
Calum watched them coming almost indifferently, his sword drawn but its tip resting on his boot. One of them was a little quicker than the others and arrived first. His sword was already arcing around to the right and down as Calum stepped to the side and put the tip of his fine sword into the attacker’s heart with barely a flick of his wrist. The weight of the man’s broadsword turned him and dropped him on his back with his eyes open and staring sightlessly at the pale sky.
The other two were too committed or too stupid to read what had just happened and charged in. Calum let the nearest attacker’s sword almost touch him as it flashed down to cleave him to his chin, before twisting just a little to the side. The broad blade flashed past his face with barely an inch to spare, the momentum carrying the blade into the soft ground. He was too close for Calum to use the sword effectively, but the nine-inch dirk that seemed to have appeared in his left hand did the trick just fine as it sank hilt-deep under his ribcage.
The last attacker stopped in his tracks and stared at the still-twitching body of his friend. It had happened so fast it didn’t seem possible. For him, a sword fight involved the clanging impact of heavy broadswords, grunting and sweating until one man weakened or made a mistake that ended the encounter with a massive wound or loss of a limb. But this little man had killed them both with barely any effort. He stepped back. Then took two more.
“Now you see what you’ve done, laddie,” said John with a slow shake of his head. “You’ve frightened the wee man.”
Calum gave an exaggerated shrug. “Aye, but that’s an easy thing to do to a Campbell.”
The rest of the ambushers rushed them, screaming and raising their broadswords. Clearly upset about something.
James Campbell grabbed two of them and pulled them back. “Watch the English… gentleman. Until we dispose of these two.” He pointed at Calum. “Then we can do what we are paid for and get home to our women.”
He strode over two where John was facing down three Campbells. “He’s mine,” he grunted and pointed at Calum. “Go and help them with the little one.” He turned back to John. “Well, Mackintosh,” he said and sheathed his broadsword, “you look like a man who thinks he can use his fists.” He smiled. “I have never met a Mackintosh I could no’ break in two without breathing heavily.”
John sheathed his sword. “You have now, Campbell.”
One of the problems with men who ambush people is their quality. One problem among many. The two men left to guard the general heard a noise and turned from watching the action to find him holding his sabre with the painful end pointing their way. A half step forward and a thrust and there was now only one left, and he died as he raised his sword above his head in a suicidal stroke against a man
Calum's Sword by Leigh Barker / Actions & Adventure have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on20 votes