Chapter 01

The trumpet sounded loud and strong somewhere outside the barracks. Captain John Rawlings woke up with a sudden jerk. He should not have stayed up so late the night before in that poker game! A heavy sigh left his lips as he stood up and faced the round mirror on the wall. A bushy head with plenty of red hair on top peeked back at him. Although short in the neck, it stood up at the top, leaving him a long fringe and almost a mohawk on top. He brushed his hair quickly and got out his shaving cream and shaving knife. Warm water was put in a bowl in front of him, and he started soaping in his face. Major West came up on his right side, wearing a big, fat grin.

– Are you broke, captain? he asked cheerfully.

Rawlings opened up his shaving knife with a sharp click, facing the major. When major West’s smile disappeared, it was the captain’s turn to smile.

– You know, major, he laughed.

– I would never hurt you…. much!

They were both smiling now. They had become good friends although captain Rawlings was young and strong as well as red haired with a big fat mustache on his top lip, and major West was fat, old and practically bold. Still, they both enjoyed each other’s company, and they both had the same type of humor – the bad kind.

They were suddenly joined by a sergeant. Sergeant Cooper were also young, but he never smiled. He took everything seriously, and didn’t joke about anything. He was already dressed, and as his hairgrowth was almost nonexistent, he did not have to shave that morning. He did, however have a neat, short haircut under his hat.

– Where did you two get off to last night? he growled, washing his hands.

Rawlings tried to hide a smile.

– We went for a walk in the moonlight, he exclaimed.

Cooper’s eyes widened.

– Really? The two of you? I never would have thought…

Rawlings and West burst out laughing, and Cooper’s eyes got smaller again.

– Oh, grow up, he spat out.

– Oh, live a little, replied Rawlings.

All three got themselves ready. The sergeant went to drill some poor soldiers in the art of marching whilst the captain and the major went to the administration building where they would meet with some of the other officers. It was only a two minute walk, and they soon arrived to what they called the war room. Upon entering, general Towers was stood in the middle of the floor with everyone’s eyes on him.

– Captain Rawlings, the general almost shouted.

– Good of you to come so quickly! I have a job for you…

Captain Rawlings looked at major West, then back at the general.

– You are to lead our main attack on the northern nomads up in North Havilah.

Rawlings gasped.

– Why are we attacking the nomads? he managed to blurt out.

– As far as I know, they are peaceful people.

The general smiled slyly.

– That might be, mon capitan, he smiled,

– But the nomads have found oil, and we attend to aquire it all. After all, they don’t have any cars! We do! We need the oil, and our great leader, may his name be blessed, wants us to take it off their hands.

Rawlings couldn’t believe his ears.

– But, we can’t just take it! What kind of resistance can we expect from them?

The general made his way through the crowd, his voice now more quiet.

– That is your job to find out, captain, he grinned.

It was a frosty morning. As soon as Carter woke up, he went to get a fire going in the hearth, then he sneaked under the blankets again to try to stay warm a bit longer. Soon, the logs on the fire were burning, snapping and hissing at the cold living room. Carter got out of bed for the second time. He put a coffee pot on the stove and found himself some bread and cheese. Soon he was sitting at his living room table with a hot cup of coffee and bread with cheese. When he had finished eating, there was still more coffee in the pot. He took out his rifle, some oil and a dirty rag. Slowly but surely he started cleaning his Old Faithful as he called it. In spite of being several years old, it had not misfired once. The sun had just started to rise above the treetops when Carter put down the gun. He twirled his mustache, scratched his beard and pulled a black hat over his blond curls. His deep, blue eyes took a good look outside his tiny house before he put a backpack on his back and the rifle on his shoulder. Then he walked out the door with determined steps. Mount Pison was waiting bathed in misty clouds. Carter had seen bear tracks there, and he was about to track it down and kill it. That would mean a new fur coat to wear in the frosty mornings.

It took a couple of hours before he found the bear tracks. He took the rifle down from his shoulder and walked quietly, following the bear prints. After another hour, he found some water in a stream. He made sure his two canteens were filled  all the way up before he sat down and took some salted beef out of his backpack. Sitting on a big stone, he spied out the land as well as he could. Feeling a cold on his brow, he wiped his sweat. The sun was now high in the sky, and Carter’s hunting jacket was getting way too warm for wear. Finishing his beef and another swig of water, he took his jacket off and tied it around his waist. He picked up his backpack and started walking again. The tracks were going into a thick forest, and soon Carter disappeared amongst the trees.

Black smoke rose up in the middle of the little hut. The walls were made of hard packed dirt and moss, and it took off from the wind in a marvelous way. An old man were sitting on his knees with his eyes closed, humming an old melody he had heard in his childhood. A younger woman sat beside him, shaking a cup of old bones. With a quick movement she threw the bones over the dirt floor. The old man started swaying back and forth, still with his eyes closed.

– Is it bad? the old man said, almost in a whisper.

The young lady breathed heavily.

– I see death, she sighed.

– Many people are going to die! Evil men are coming up from the south, bringing violence and death…

The old man opened his eyes and turned towards the woman, his white eyes unable to see the beauty of the young woman or anything else in this physical world.

– Do you not see anything good in your bowl of bones?

The young woman touched a small bone on the ground and looked at it.

– Yes, she said slowly.

– A man of pure heart is coming to us. He has the power to save us, but I can not see if he will yet…

– Oh, Clara! Mrs. Irene Rawlings muttered.

– What would we do without you?

Mrs. Rawlings was a slim, beautiful young woman who made all the young men turn their heads when she walked past them. The maid Clara, however, was past her fourties and had the last ten years started growing sideways instead of up. She was a good worker, and always had a smile hidden away inside her rather rough interiour.

– Well, she started.

– I suppose you would be walking ’round hungry and naked, my lady!

Irene Rawlings laughed so hard she lost he breath for a while. Calming herself down, she sat herself down and regained her position.

– You sure know what to say, she puffed.

– What are you making for dinner today?

Clara rose from the table and waddled into the kitchen.

– A good, healthy broth with mutton!

Mrs. Rawlings looked starry eyed.

– Are we to enjoy some of your marvelous bread as well? she begged.

Clara smiled with her rosiest cheeks.

– Why not! she said.

– Will the master of the house be joining us as well?

Mrs. Rawlings nodded.

– I do believe he’s coming home tonight.

– Well then! I’ll just have to whisk up some of my special, home made bread for you…

Irene Rawlings clapped her hands eagerly.

– How lovely! I just can’t wait.

Mehu stood up with a jerk. He had short, black curly hair, black beard and black  skin.

– We can sell the black gold to Gihon or Tapasa!

Voices rose high for a while. Then Lan, one of the younger ones, shouted:

– Maybe we could get our own metal horses and use the black gold ourselves.

Mahalalal, one of the elders, shook his head.

– We don’t have what we need to build metal horses, he said with his head bowed.

– We have to sell some black gold before we can even get some building materials.

Many people nodded in agreement.

– Do we have the machines to pull the gold out of the ground?

Mehu still stood at the front.

– Yes! he said.

– The machines are called pumps.

Lan, the young man with dark brown eyes and green hair, laughed.

– Shoes? he asked.

A roar of laughter swept through the crowd. Then Mahalalal spoke again.

– Friends, he called.

– This black gold we found here at Methus Hill is ours! We must find a way to gather it, transport it and sell it! No one shall take it away from us. We will use it for the good of everybody! Do we have what we need? Mehu?

Mehu was thinking hard.

– We need some things for storage called barrels. There is no point in pumping up more gold till we have that.

Mahalalal nodded shortly.

– Then we have a plan! We need to get these barrels! Who is willing to go south to get some?

Carter took his hat off and wiped his forehead. That darn bear! He had really been on the move! Carter had followed it down the far side of Mount Pison, all the way down to where the river Ayila seperated North Havilah from South Havilah.  That stupid bear had arrived to the river, and there the footprints simply evaporated. That would mean that the bear had moved upstream or downstream. Only problem was that all that walking had taken time, and daylight was drawing to an end. Carter found himself a nice spot by the river. He got his blanket out along with some left over stew he had brought with him in a container. Moving slowly and quietly, he gathered himself some sticks and branches for a fire. He hung up a black pot as soon as the fire was sorted. Then, he emptied his stew inside the pot and stirred for a few minutes. Soon, he sat with his back against a tree right beside the fire, eating stew with his wooden spoon. The sun was sinking faster now, and a red glow in the horizon gave Carter a promise of nice weather in the morning. Carter gave a big yawn, threw his food bowl on the ground, and pulled his hat over his eyes. Soon he was sound asleep.

Captain Rawlings came staggering in the door, making Irene Rawlings and Clara jump.

– John! Irene exclaimed.

– You’re late!

John Rwawlings put his hat on a shelf and hung up his jacket.

– Sorry, my dear!

He turned to Clara.

– Sorry, Clara! I hope this hasn’t ruined supper!

Clara rose up, giving a smile.

– It’s in the oven, but don’t complain if it’s gone dry…

The young captain smiled.

– I am sure that your cooking can survive anything!

The table was already set, so John and Irene sat down whilst Clara got the pot of broth.

– There’s propper salted beef in the broth, she said proudly.

Then she turned towards the wall and picked up a long, white bread with black seeds on it.

– I baked this as well, but I’m afraid it’s no longer warm.

John Rawlings blew through his nose.

– That’s okay! he said.

– I’m lucky to still get any supper at all!

They all sat and ate. Clara looked back and forth from John to Irene, and they, in turn was steering at each other. Clara cleared her throat.

– I suppose I should be going, she said carefully. She had a small room behind the barn on the other side of the street. Captain Rawlings held his hand up.

– Clara, wait a bit!

He put his spoon down and a big slice of buttered bread.

– I would appreciate it if you could keep Irene company for a while, he said slowly.

– I need to go away on business, and I would hate for Irene to be alone.

Irene shot her eyebrows up.

– When are you leaving? And where to?

John Rawlings gave a big sigh.

– I need to go all the way to North Havilah and check something out. I’m leaving at first light in the morning.

– Oh no!

Irene Rawlings clasped her hands together, mouth wide open.

– But..but… Can’t anybody else go? What will you be doing there?

The captain bit his lips together.

– Gathering intel! It’s all classified!

Irene threw her spoon down and stood up.

– I just lost my appetite!

She marched into the bedroom in a sulk. John followed after, and soon low voices were humming softly. When they came back out gain, the young couple was arm in arm, Irene leaning her head on her husband’s chest.

– I am awfully sorry about this! captain Rawlings said to Clara.

– But I have no choice, I’m afraid! Will you keep Irene company? We will pay you for it.

Clara smiled sweetly.

– Of course, she said.

– You can always trust me!

The captain ran over to Clara and thanked her, hugged her, and lifted the big woman all the way up from the floor and swung her around. Then he gently put her down, went to his wife and kissed her so passionately  that Clara had to turn away with blushing cheeks.

– I’ve been promised some time off when I come home, John told his wife.

– Maybe a whole week…

He walked towards the door, giving Irene yet another kiss.

– Sorry it’s such a short visit, he said.

– I’ll be back as soon as I possibly can!

Irene followed him out the door as he walked out with jacket and hat in hand.

– Be careful, she shouted.

– Be safe!

Captain John Rawlings turned around.

– I promise! he called out.

– I don’t dare to do anything to upset you!

He turned and walked quickly round the corner, leaving Irene and Clara stood right outside the house. Then Irene started crying. She threw herself round Clara’s neck and wailed. Clara hugged her back, stroking her back slowly as she whispered calming words in Irene’s ear.

Darkness had decended on Methus Hill, but a streak of moonlight shone through white, empty clouds. Two digging machines were popping their ugly heads up and down, up and down. People were running to and fro, busy carrying messages back and forth. In the middle of the camp, a tall tower had been erected where the management were situated. Mehu was leaning over the railing at the top, looking at the stars, then out over the camp. Mehu’s clothes were dark, and because of his dark complexion, only his eyes were visible in the dark. He was weary to the bone after having to many long shifts, but finding the black gold was the most exciting thing that had happened in his entire life.

As he stood there resting, a rumbling sound came sweeping through the camp. The ground started shaking, and Mehu thought it was an earthquake. Then a loud swushing sound was heard, and black oil squirted our of the ground, covering all the people including Mehu with the black, sticky liquid. He grinned from ear to ear and roared the happiest noice he could as he got completely covered by the black gold. Mehu said to himself Now it’s time for the nomads to rise! We will not be trodden on anymore! World, here we come!

The moon disappeared behind a cloud, and everything was pitch dark. The oil was running down the hill, covering flowers, bushes and trees. Now Mehu was laughing out loud. He was convinced that he was the happiest man in the entire world.

To be continued…

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