Warriors of Ameraulde
an excerpt from the recent novel.
1821; Saint Helena Island, off the western coast of Africa.
Colonel William Robe, of the British Army, more importantly of the Brennus of Ameraulde army, had slipped undetected onto this godforsaken island. His mission here had but one goal; to end forever the possibility that this French Emperor would return yet again, with an attempt to regain his power.
Brennus had told him this once brilliant general had been targeted by the powers of Ameraulde to become one of their own. They had failed and the little soldier had been ripe for Mastema to exploit. He was an extraordinary military officer but riddled with insecurities and complexes. He suffered from class inferiority, money insecurity, and intellectual envy. Coupled with a sexual anxiety, his social awkwardness, and an extreme hypersensitivity to criticism, he was the perfect candidate for Mastema to use. It was only through an alliance of nations he had been thwarted, and now Col. Robe was here to end this once and for all.
He had been cautioned that it would prove difficult to get close, and that Mastema would likely be near. He traveled aboard ship in disguise using an alias and had waited for the opportunity to slip away. Now he must be patient and be ready when the time was right. He grasped the cross in his hand, and he felt the surge of calmness as it grew warm. For many years now, he had served for good. He still remembered the dreams and how they started. He thought he was mad and how Brennus had come to him that day in the forest, as a shining circle of light and talked with him about his destiny. This time he was told to enter the doorway when it appeared and escape to Ameraulde. "I would be happy to escape the damned mosquitos and flies, and the aches in my kneebones," Robe thought to himself.
Col. Robe had learned of Napoleon's habits on the island. He took regular walks and went riding, but spent much time indoors reminiscing, playing cards, and dictating his memoirs. An English officer was required to accompany him everywhere he went. Robe thought "How they fear his cunning and possible escape." Catching him alone would not be possible without some extreme luck, but Robe had an idea. It was no secret that the Governor of the island, Sir Hudson Lowe and Napoleon disliked each other and had been adversaries in the war. Governor Lowe was a petty, cruel man that took some glee from tormenting his captive, and perhaps if Robe could slip a message to him that an assassination was coming, he would make arrangements for the escort's absence. There was a risk that Lowe would enact a search for him, and he would be captured. He also knew his ability to move about unnoticed would not last for long. He thought it worth the risk.
That night Robe's sleep was fitful. Brennus came to him in a dream and said, "Mastema lurks. He senses a danger." Then another voice, gruff and hoarse, like from someone who could not clear the grit from their airway, "I know you are here. Leave this place or die here." Col. Robe awakened with sweat dripping from his brow and he clasped the medallion tightly. It calmed him. He knew Mastema was stalking him and he felt the urgency of his task.
Morning came and he flagged down a boy on the street, "Son, do you know the Governor's house?" "Of course, it's up there," he pointed. "Can you deliver a message for me?" he held up a gold coin. The boy eyed the coin suspiciously. "I suppose I could," he offered. "Well then, take this letter and deliver it. You won't reach the Governor, but probably one of his soldiers will take it. That is fine, just so you do it immediately. This coin is for your trouble." The lad grabbed the coin and letter and headed off.
"Where do you think you're going, boy?" the English officer said as he grabbed him by the arm. "I have a letter for the Governor." "Is that so? And who is this letter from?" the soldiers all laughed. "I don't know sir. A man, he gave me this gold coin to deliver it." "Well, let's have a look at this letter. If the man paid you a sovereign to bring it, it must be quite important. Then I'll want to know about this man on Saint Helena handing out gold sovereigns to boys," the laughter continued. The officer looked at the crumpled letter. The outer sealed envelope said:
The Honourable Governor Sir Hudson Lowe
An Urgent Matter
Just then, Governor Lowe emerged from the doorway. "Captain, what is the ruckus out here?" "This boy, Governor. He has brought you a letter marked urgent. It seems a man gave him an English gold sovereign to bring it." "Is that so?" Sir Lowe questioned. He turned to the boy and said, "The Captain will have more questions about the gentleman, lad." Then to the Captain, "Find out who this man is. I would like to speak to him." Governor Lowe's interest was more in the gold coin than the letter. "I will be in my study. When you find him, bring him to me at once."
Seated in his study, Lowe opened the letter. He read it out loud to himself.
Dear Sir Lowe,
An urgent matter is at hand with regards to your esteemed prisoner guest. We have arrangements to dispatch with him at the earliest time. It would be of great benefit if your soldier guard could no longer shadow him on his daily jaunts. I regret I can offer no further explanation other than an assurance that this island burden placed upon you will permanently cease very soon. With many thanks for the Governor's service, I remain,
Colonel William Robe
Governor Lowe reread the note again. He had knowledge of this Col. Robe. He had heard of his war record and gallantry. How had he come to be on Saint Helena, and what was this letter about? It sounded like an assassination was planned. And he was being asked to play a part. Make no mistake, he welcomed the idea of disposing of this little, arrogant Frenchman but why was he not consulted? He worried it might be a ploy to rescue Napoleon and give him another attempt to regain his power. That would mean Col. Robe was a traitor. That seemed unlikely. He needed to wait for the guards to bring the man to him and find out more information.
The boy brought the Captain to where he had encountered the man, but he was nowhere about. The boy was useless in providing any information, so they released him and began inquiring to people about any strangers they had noticed. The Captain sent two men to the docks to interview any ship Captains there about missing sailors or passengers.
Robe observed. Although not close enough to hear, he knew it meant that at best Governor Lowe wanted to interrogate him about his mission, and at worst he was not willing to cooperate. He needed to move to a better hiding spot and headed to the high ground surrounding the settlement. From there he could see anyone approaching and keep an eye on the town below. He had little time to spare now that Sir Lowe knew he was here.
When the Governor learned there had been a passenger on one of the ships from Africa who paid his passage with gold English coins, he knew Robe was out there. Why was he staying in the shadows? Lowe trusted no one and ordered a search of the area. Always one to hedge his bets, he used the search as an excuse to remove Bonaparte's guard. He would find Col. Robe, but in case the Frenchman was assassinated he would have a plausible excuse why the guard was removed.
Napoleon would not miss such an opportunity. His assigned officer had been called away on some task for Governor Lowe, and for once he could enjoy a ride without the company of a boring Englishman. He ordered for his horse to be made ready as he readied himself.
During the night, the Colonel had moved in closer to Napoleon's Longwood House dwelling. He watched as a horse was saddled for a morning ride. Soon, the former Emperor came outside and mounted up. Robe ran to head him off when he realized the direction the Frenchman was going.
As Bonaparte's horse approached, Robe raised his hand to wave, and the rider stopped. "Good morning, sir," Robe said. "I have a message from France." Bonaparte dismounted. "What message?" he inquired suspiciously. "Just this," as he plunged a dagger into the chest of the former Emperor, then added, "You are finished and will lead no more."
A musket shot, then two more rang out. He turned and saw the mounted British soldiers riding toward him. He jumped on the horse and began racing to a nearby wooded area. They could not really see him through the tall grass and two of them stopped at the fallen former ruler, but he was dead with a dagger piercing his heart. Robe got to the wood's edge and dismounted, sending the horse in another direction. He heard a voice in his head, "Run soldier. Well done, now run to the doorway." As he ran, he grasped the cross around his neck and instinctively knew which way to run. He heard the riders behind him. They had not fallen for the horse trick. Up ahead, he saw the shimmering oval shape and ran toward it. They were gaining. He heard a voice, "Faster, through the portal." Then suddenly, a loud, raspy voice bellowed loudly, "NO!!" He felt the heat from the fireball before it reached him, burning his clothes. He saw the shimmering oval vanish and then he was no more.
The soldiers had seen the quivering reflection, like a liquid mirror. They had heard the loud voice bellow NO, but Robe was gone. Only a smoldering burned place on the ground. They had seen the fire leap at him, seemingly from nowhere. It was as if an invisible canon had been fired, but how could they explain this to the Governor?
The Captain tried to explain to Governor Lowe what they had witnessed. He was not interested in that. He had already begun to spin the narrative of the ailing Frenchman succumbing to a stomach ailment, a probable result of his affinity for fine champagne and rich foods.
Meanwhile, in Ameraulde, Brennus mourned his fallen warrior. He had carried out his mission to the best of his ability. As all good soldiers do, he adapted to conditions in the field and found a way to succeed. Unfortunately, he paid with his life when Mastema caught up to him. They were so close to bringing him through the portal to this world. It had happened before. Sometimes they succeeded and sometimes they failed. Brennus wondered why this task was even necessary. It had seemed apparent to him that Napoleon was finished, living in exile, and no longer a threat to the world. Obviously, the Council saw things differently, and that had cost him a soldier who could have brought more leadership to the Army of Ameraulde. He disliked these moments.
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