At long last here it is, part two of Miguel’s day on shore. Part one is here.
Enjoy and do let me know if you liked this.
Miguel carefully climbed down the ladder into the boat. The bosun called to Miguel, “Corporal, three of your men will row. You sit in the bow with the Padre and don’t jump on shore until I tell you this time.”
Looking back at the ladder Miguel saw not only his men descending into the long boat but also the Padre and the ship’s carpenter. He also saw the crew hoisting up a second boat.
“Bosun, is everyone coming hunting with us today?” Asked Miguel.
“We cracked a spar in that last storm. The carpenter needs to find a tree to make a new one.” Said the bosun.
The Padre stepped next to Miguel on the bow seat as Miguel sat down and placed his musket between himself and the priest. Looking over his shoulder, he watched his men climb down and take their places.
The bosun called out the order and they pushed away from the ship. The oars splashed into the water as the bosun cursed the clumsy rowing of the soldiers and they slowly started towards shore. The day was bright, clear and a gentle wind helped push the little craft towards the sand.
No one spoke as they rowed in. The only voice was the bosun barking orders and in the distance the call of coxswain of the second boat with the carpenter following them. Miguel reached for the bow rope as they got closer to the beach.
“Padre, would you hold my musket? Soon the bosun will order me to get my feet wet. I can hunt with wet feet, but not with a wet musket.” Said Miguel.
“Of course my son.” Replied the priest as he took a strong grip on the weapon.
“You’ve held a musket before, Padre?”
“Before I was called to the church, I too served our King with other skills. I will keep it safe for you, Corporal.”
As Miguel looked into the priest’s eyes the bosun called, “Corporal, get ready. And now!”
Miguel felt the boat hit sand. Then he jumped over the side and into the surf. Splashing his way up to dry sand he pulled the rope taut and held the boat in position as the sailors started jumping out to pull the boat further on shore. Miguel kept the rope taught by stepping further up the beach until he reached a fallen tree where he could tie the rope.
Once the boat was secured on dry sand, his men started unloading their gear and moved off the beach into the shade of the cypress trees. The priest stepped next to Miguel and held out the musket.
“Thank you Padre.” Said Miguel as he again looked into the priest’s face. “Tell me sir, why are you here?”
“Do you mean, why am on the expedition or why did I come ashore?” Said the priest.
“Ah. I came ashore to make drawings of the plants and animals and to make some notes on what we find here. That is part of my duty on this voyage. As to the other question, well we have no time to discuss that now. I have my notes to make and you have a hunting party to lead my son. Gather your men and I shall give you a blessing before you go.”
Miguel called his men over and they all knelt, listening politely to the priest. When the prayer was done, Miguel loosened the strap on his musket and slung it over his back. Looking towards the woods he say a faint trail leading away from shore.
“Juan, do you see?” Said Miguel.
“Yes, fresh tracks. Our quarry is there. Here is your crossbow and bolts.” Replied Juan as he handed over a small bundle.
“You don’t hunt with your musket?” The voice of the priest startled Miguel.
“Padre, muskets are for hunting men. Arrows are for hunting deer.” Replied Miguel.
“A wise man. The thunder of a musket will drive that second deer of yours away. Well, I see your path over there. I’ll make my drawings along the beach over there.” Said the priest and pointing in the opposite direction of the narrow trail.
Miguel turned to his men and said, “Juan take two men and scout up that path. I’ll take the others with muskets and follow in a few minutes.”
Juan slung a small quiver over his shoulder and pointed at two others who did the same. Without a sound the three men disappeared into the brush. The other men started loading muskets and leaning them against a tree.
“Two of you bring a loaded musket. I fear we may be turned into the hunted before the day is out. Jose, you stay here with the extra muskets. Let that bad leg of yours rest for a while.” Said Miguel.
The three men started down the little track into the grove of cypress trees. The ground was dry and hard, making it difficult to see fresh tracks. They saw signs of wolves, coyotes and heard the rustle of a small animal in nearby brush. The trail curved up to a low rise where through a break in the trees they could see a hill in the distance just beyond a small valley where no doubt a stream flowed. Below them the brush and trees cleared into grassland. On their right they could see Juan’s group making its way up the far slope. Miguel knew they were looking for a way over the hill and into the next valley.
Then Miguel saw it — knew that Juan had seen it first — as Juan was pointing to a place just to the right of Miguel. His men sensed it too as they quickly raised muskets. Before Miguel could turn the wolves charged from behind a tree and he was knocked to the ground.
The report of the muskets sent most of the attackers fleeing, but the one on Miguel was trying to get its mouth around Miguel’s arm. Miguel managed to roll partway over and caught the wolf in the leg with the butt of his crossbow. The wolf let out a yelp and then collapsed on top of Miguel.
Looking up, Miguel saw Diego striking the wolf with the butt of his musket as Gabriel was wiping his knife on the wolf’s back, his musket abandoned on the ground. Pushing the wolf off, Miguel saw the blood on his shirt shelve. Standing up, Miguel took his own musket off his back and fumbled for his power horn.
“Corporal, let me do that. I have my power ready. I think we’ve driven them off, but they’ll be back.” Said Gabriel.
“Yes. I am not sure if this is my blood or the wolf’s.” Said Miguel as he handed the musket to Gabriel.
“It’s the wolf’s blood, Corporal. I struck him before he could bite down.” Said Diego.
“How many?” Asked Miguel.
“Three or five. It is hard to say, but two lie dead here. I am sorry, but missed with my musket and had to finish the job with my knife. Here is your musket Corporal.” Said Gabriel.
Miguel took the musket and looked at his arm. It was cut, but it didn’t look like the wolf bit deep. Looking around he saw the other wolf with a musket wound. On the hill, Juan was gone from sight. No doubt on his way back to check on the rest of the hunting party, so Miguel decided to wait where he was.
They reloaded muskets and Diego dressed Miguel’s wounded arm. Then they sat down to wait. And they waited.
“Diego, they are taking too long. They should have come back here right after they heard the muskets. Something must be wrong. Perhaps there are more wolves over there. Let’s go find them.” Said Miguel.
Taking their weapons and leaving the dead wolves, the three men started up the hill where the last saw Juan. When they reached the spot, they saw trampled grass and a trail of tracks leading upwards.
They followed the trail for an hour. Clearly they were moving fast and did nothing to hide their tracks. What had Juan seen and why did not come back to the sound of the muskets? Miguel wondered. When they reached the top of the hill, Miguel heard the sound of a someone chopping wood with a hunting knife. Moving towards the sound, they saw Juan and his men cutting a pole. Two dead deer were lying nearby.
“Corporal, here are the two deer. We’ll have the poles cut and there will be deer tied soon. We should be back at the beach to catch the outgoing tide. That was a cleaver trick of yours to follow the wolves and steal their dinner. We could have been here all night trying to find these if you had not thought of that.” Said Juan.
“Yes, Juan. I knew it would work. After all the Captain said, where there are wolves, there are deer.” Replied Miguel as he turned and started walking back to the sea.
That’s what I wrote this week. Not sure I’ll write any more on this story line as I’ve got my poetry book to finish editing and other other novel to finish, but this was a nice diversion from my other work.
Till next week,