Zack watched as the riders on horseback approached; he and his fellow archers had their bows taught in case his people, his son, were attacked. To his relief he saw the lead horseman, a tall solid black man dismount and approach with his hands open and outstretched; a universal sign of peace. Zack loosened the pull on his bowstring and nodded to his men to do the same. They watched as the village’s scouts talked to Charlotte. “Good boy my son,” he said quietly. “Let Charlotte set us up.” His men nodded, not that they agreed in particular with what he said, but when your leader speaks, you acknowledge it.
Zack saw the lead man lift one, then the other twin up onto his horse. He saw as the dark skinned man pointed to his son and then turn to one of the other riders who quickly dismounted. Zack pulled his bow back up and aimed far enough above this man’s head so that the arc would drop the arrow into his skull if he made a move to harm Charlie. Without a word his two men followed suit and had their arrows tethered and their strings taught. The Beachwood bows dark from years of oiling and care vibrated with their stored kinetic power. They watched carefully, eyes narrowed slits, all three projectiles aimed at an identical point in space above their target. They saw the man’s face smile; his hands and arms open identically to the way the first man’s had, watched as he pointed to Charlie and then the horse he had just dismounted. Zack and his men understood and again slowly released the tension and lowered their weapons.
Charlie was lifted up onto the saddle, the man holding the reins of the horse carrying the twins turned and led them all back up the hill towards the town. The plan was in motion. Was he right to let his oldest son take on this risk. In the eyes of the tribe he was a man, to Zack he was still his boy, his baby. He thought back to the meeting around the fire last night; how the team had agreed on the final plan.
Charlotte was tending the council meeting when Zackary called her, “Charlotte, we’ll need you and a seduction team for this raid. Small crew, from what our scouts have told us, it’s a well developed town.”
“Yes sir,” she said as she bowed her head in compliance. “May I suggest five plus myself?” He could see she was already picking through the candidates in her mind.
Zack looked down at his son, “Charlotte, this is Big Chuck’s mission. Son, share with us your plan.”
Charlie looked at his father and the men who had sheathed their weapons and reseated themselves on the logs that served as their benches. Squaring his shoulders he turned to Charlotte and spoke, his voice young but firm. “Three women plus yourself, we’ll bring the twins. The townsfolk won’t believe us capable of violence with just woman and children. We leave at dawn.”
As Charlie laid out the rest of the plan, what story they would tell just enough truth to make it believable and easily remembered. The truth was always easier to remember, weave the lies in properly and it won’t fall apart. The men nodded their acceptance, his father smiled in pride at the details of the plan his son had laid out. Occasionally Zack would interject a concern or suggestion, Charlie always worked these in. Although it was his plan, his father was still their leader.
Zack remembered how Charlie looked when the scheme was complete, he appeared nervous but excited. Zack could tell he relished the chance to prove himself. He watched as Charlie reached up and clutched the cross that had been passed on to him, closed his eyes and said in prayer, “Lord give me the strength to lead my father’s people, our people. Bless the soul of my uncle Big Chuck. Let him guide us. Keep us safe. Amen.” Charlie opened his eyes, Zack saw him look into the faces of the men he had watched and learned from. He could tell Charlie was ready to bring them a healer.
Now standing in the woods, hidden among the trees, he watched his son being lead away on horseback. Zack noticed something about the riders.
He turned to his men and asked, “Did you notice the man who engaged Charlotte? He tapped his ear and glanced in our direction” Both men nodded in agreement. Again more as a courtesy to their leader than fully understanding his meaning.
“This is a well developed village; they might have some of the old tack left.” The men continued to nod agreeing that whatever Zack saw was indeed there, and should be noted.
“Wait here until day’s end,” Zack commanded his men. “I’ll return to our people and await word from my son…” He broke off, stopping himself from making this raid personal. He continued, “…await word from the team to make the next move.” In his mind he thought, ‘and to add something even our people won’t expect.’
As he backed away from their position, never taking his eyes off the horses or people that walked up the hill towards that great tower, he ordered his men, “If anything develops, send word, otherwise stay and watch.”
Unfortunately for Zack, his men didn’t see when something did indeed ‘develop.’ They failed to notice the corn stalks moving barely perceptively as six men from the village took up positions to watch the men in the forest.