February 1636, Travemünde
George Watson woke to the sound of a crying baby. His first thought was that he was stuck in a nightmare, but while crying babies had long been part of his nightmares, the smell he was getting wasn’t the usual burnt flesh. It was a more earthy smell. That was a real baby crying. He reached out for his bride of five months in the hope that Grietje had somehow managed to sleep through Matthew’s cries. But she wasn’t in the bed beside him. After a quick look around the room he realized she wasn’t even in the bedroom.
He slid across the cool sheets—which suggested Grietje had been up for a while—and glanced down into the crib. In the morning twilight through the curtains, he could just make out Matthew. Someone was going to have to pick him up and the cavalry still hadn’t arrived even with all the noise he was making, there seemed to be only one candidate for the job. It wasn’t that George wasn’t used to holding Matthew, or even cleaning him and changing his diapers. No, he was already an old hand at those skills. What was holding him back was his past association with crying babies. Already he could feel his stomach tying itself up in knots.
He swung his legs out of the bed and felt around for the sheepskin slippers that should be right by the bed. Once he found them, he pulled them on and moved toward the dark shape on the closet door in front of him. He grabbed the robe he’d hung from a doorknob the night before and slipped it on as protection against the cold that not even his up-time-inspired timber-framed house with nearly a foot of insulation in the walls, ceiling, and floor could stop seeping in overnight. He took his time, hoping that Grietje or the nursery maid would turn up before he was forced to pick up Matthew. There was just enough light for him to walk around the bed to Matthew’s crib without stubbing his toes on anything. George stood above Matthew and listened, hoping to hear the footsteps of Grietje or one of their staff, but there was nothing.
Perspiration beaded on his forehead. Crying babies brought back memories of one of his worst experiences in ‘Nam, when a medic had handed him a crying baby who’d been caught in a misdirected napalm strike. George reached down for Matthew, and carefully lifted him out of the crib. “Shush, little one, or you’ll wake everyone up!”
Unfortunately, that didn’t make much impression, and George resorted to some tricks he’d seen Grietje and the nursery maid adopt. He tried to lay Matthew’s head against his chest, so the baby could hear his heartbeat. Given the rate it was racing that probably wasn’t a sure-fire cure, and George pushed his little finger gently into his mouth. Matthew clamped down on George’s finger, and started sucking.
George knew this was only going to be a short reprieve, so he immediately started for the door in order to hunt down proper sustenance for Matthew. And discovered he didn’t have to look far, because there she was, standing in the doorway, watching. “You took your time.”
There was a self-satisfied smile on her face as Grietje walked over to the nursing chair, loosening her robe as she went.
George knew he’d been set up, and Grietje wouldn’t have the knowledge of psychology to think of leaving Matthew to cry like that to force him to confront his innermost demons. “Matt Tisdel, I’m going to kill you,” he muttered, placing the blame firmly where he believed it belonged. On Mathew’s namesake, the commander of the dive team George had been working with when he met Grietje in Husum.
Grietje put Matthew to her breast and made sure he was feeding before looking up at George. “Why would you want to do that? Matt’s my friend.”
“I used to think he was my friend too, until he put you up to pulling this trick.”
“Matt didn’t put me up to anything.”
Grietje’s smile was George’s undoing. She was not a great beauty, but when she smiled at him like that he thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. “If I have nightmares about Matthew . . .”
She reached out a hand and pulled George close so she could kiss him. “If that happens, then we know how to deal with it.”
George smiled back. Grietje in his bed was a proven cure for his nightmares. “If you’ve got Matthew, then I’ll head off for my morning swim.”
“It’s a lovely day for it,” Grietje said. “I hear the ice on the Trave is thick enough to walk on.”
George shuddered. Even though the water in the test tank the boat yard had built in an old rope-making shed didn’t usually freeze when the river and Lübeck Bay froze—by virtue of the artificially high salinity of the water—it still got just as cold. Hopefully, Jens Petersen would have the potbelly stove in the workroom going and the room warm by the time he got there.
Grietje Carstensdotter watched from the kitchen as George walked off for his morning swim. In the glass of the triple-glazed window she could see the reflection of Elisabeth Hardenack gently shaking her head. She hastened to preempt her tutor and business partner. “George says it’s only because he had conditioned his body to accept swimming in very cold water that he was able to save a father and baby when they fell into the harbor at Arendal last year.”
Elisabeth sniffed inelegantly. “As if that’s going to happen again.”
“I agree, but . . .”
“He’s a man, and men have their foibles. At least your husband’s foibles don’t include drinking to excess and gambling.”
Grietje just nodded in response. Poor Elisabeth’s husband had done both, reducing the family to a state of penury before he killed himself. Instead of being the wife of a well-to-do merchant, she’d been forced to find employment as a housekeeper to the interloper who’d married one of the richest bachelors in Lübeck. “I’m going over to Panacea’s Potions to check how they are doing with the navy’s order. Do you want to join me?”
George was working at his drawing board when his business partner’s wife poked her head around the door.
“George, there’s a man who says his name is Viktor to see you,” Anna Kierstead said. “He claims you know him and the people with him.”
“I do,” George said as he laid down his drawing instruments and got to his feet. “I met him while I was on Bornholm last year. Show them in.”
While Anna went to get Viktor and his party, George turned to his partner. “Viktor’s the guy with the guns I told you about.”
“So why’s he turned up here?” Ernst Köppe asked.
George shrugged. “That’s a good question, but I’m sure Viktor will let me know when he gets here.”
George recognized Viktor and his two bodyguards, Boris and Johann, but two members of his team were missing. “What have you done with Tat’yana and Katharina?” he asked. “Are they no longer with you?”
“Tat’yana wanted to have a look around Travemünde and Katharina decided to go with her,” Viktor said.
George’s eyes widened at the thought of those two females loose on the streets of Travemünde. “Is it safe for them to be out alone?”
“Tat’yana and Katharina are quite capable of looking after themselves,” Boris said.
George grinned. “It wasn’t them I was worried about.”
That inspired grins from Viktor, Boris, and Johann, who quickly got down to the reason for their visit.
Tat’yana kept the two youths, whom she was sure had found their courage in a bottle, in view as she and Katharina backed away. “You really don’t want to make us have to hurt you.”
That caused the two young men to laugh hysterically, but Tat’yana was serious. They didn’t know what they were dealing with. Katharina had a feral streak a mile wide when threatened and Tat’yana had survived on the back streets of Paris before she met Viktor.
The two young men continued to advance.
“Last warning,” Tat’yana said.
The youths barely had a chance to open their mouths to laugh at the warning before Katharina launched her attack. Tat’yana was only moments behind as she closed with her target and head-butted him in the nose. She followed that up with a knee to the groin, as hard as she possibly could. There was a satisfying squeal from her target and she let him collapse to the ground.
With her target taken care of, Tat’yana turned to check on how Katharina was coping. In addition to scratches around his eyes and the beginning of a black eye, the fool had had the misfortune to put his hand too close to Katharina’s mouth, and he was now desperately trying to shake her off. Tat’yana timed a grab for his free hand and managed to apply a handhold before he knew what was happening.
“Make her let go!” he implored as he continued to try and shake Katarina off.
“Hello, can we help you?”
Tat’yana almost loosened her hold in surprise. For a while there, she’d forgotten that there were other people in the world. She tightened her hold before glancing at the source of the query. Two young women were watching on with interest. “No, but thank you for offering.”
The older woman gestured towards the youth Tat’yana was holding. “What are you planning on doing with him?”
Tat’yana paused to consider her options, then Katharina, who’d released her grip on the youth’s hand piped up. “Over there. That’ll cool him down.”
Tat’yana’s eyes lit up when her eyes settled on the full watering trough Katharina was gesturing toward. “I like the way you’re thinking, Katharina,” she said as she forced the youth to walk to it.
“You can’t let her do this to me, Beth,” the youth protested.
Tat’yana stopped in her tracks. “Do you know this young man?”
“He’s my brother, but don’t let that stop you,” Beth said with a smile. “A cold bath is just what Jürgen needs.”
With Beth and her companion trailing along, Tat’yana not only led Beth’s brother to the trough, she also managed to drop him into the water without getting more than a few drops of the near freezing water on her.
Jürgen squealed when he hit the water, and the spectators who’d gathered to watch applauded.
Moments later, Beth’s soaking wet brother struggled out of the watering trough and, after sending Tat’yana and his sister a blistering glare, ran off in the same direction his companion had taken.
“That was glorious,” Beth said, tears of laughter running down her cheeks. “I’ve wanted to do something like that to Jürgen for years.”
“I was happy to oblige. We haven’t been introduced. I’m Tat’yana, and this bloodthirsty little monster is Katharina.”
“I’m Elisabeth Hardenack, and this is Grietje Carstensdotter Watson. It was a pleasure to see you both at work.”
Katharina wiped the blood from her face with a handkerchief as she stepped up to Grietje. “Watson? Are you George Watson’s wife?”
Grietje was obviously taken aback, but she answered. “Yes. Do you know my husband?”
“We met him when he was in Bornholm,” Katharina said as she rolled the now bloodstained handkerchief up and stuffed it into a pocket of her jacket. “He found some sub-machine guns that had been lost overboard for Victor.”
“Oh, George has spoken about you. But what are you doing in Travemünde? Have you come to see him?”
Katharina glanced over her shoulder at Tat’yana, who picked up her cue. “We managed to identify the crest on some of the items the body your husband found was wearing, and Viktor is hoping Herr Watson can arrange an introduction to the family.”
“George is probably not the best person to help you.” Grietje turned to introduce her companion. “But Elisabeth here might be able to help. She’s used to moving in the highest levels of Lübeck society.”
“Not the highest levels,” Elisabeth corrected. “But I can probably help. What’s the family?” Elisabeth asked.
“The crest is that of the von Krogh family, and as Bornholm was pawned to Lübeck when the man died, we thought he might be from the Lübeck branch of the family.”
Elisabeth nodded. “I know some of the von Krogh family. My late husband was distantly related. However, Frau Modi is probably your best bet. She moves in the highest circles.”
“Can you arrange an introduction to this Frau Modi?” Tat’yana asked.
“You’re in luck. She’s supposed to be coming round to the factory this afternoon,” Grietje said.
February 29, Lübeck
George was fidgeting in his brand-new dress clothes while he waited for Grietje in the living room of Derek and Paige Modi’s Lübeck home.
Derek Modi passed him a glass of whiskey. “It was a good move accepting that invitation to the von Krogh Leap Day Celebration.”
George accepted the drink and took a sip. It was a good single malt, suitably aged. “Your wife was just one of the people who informed me that attending the party would secure Grietje’s position in society,” George muttered. He so did not like attending parties where you had to dress up, but he owed Grietje a lot, and if attending this party would help her, he was willing to suffer, if not in silence.
“Here they come,” Derek announced as Paige and Grietje entered the room. “You look beautiful,” he said to his wife as he laid a light kiss on Paige’s cheek.
George took the hint and complimented Grietje, except they exchanged more than just a gentle kiss. He felt Grietje’s hands make contact with his pistol and spare magazines in the small of his back and suddenly there was a yard between them.
“You’re not taking a gun to the party!”
“Why not?” Derek asked. “I am,” he said, opening his jacket to show the shoulder holster he was wearing.
“Same here,” Paige said as she lifted the hem of her dress to show the thigh holster she was wearing.
George felt Grietje’s glare and smiled. “We’re Americans. We feel undressed if we aren’t packing.”
Grietje raised her face up to the heavens and sighed. Then she looked back at George. “Okay, but do you really need sixty rounds?”
George shrugged. “You know I’m a lousy shot, and anyway, it’s not sixty rounds, it’s only fifty-eight rounds.”
“Fifty-eight rounds? What’re you packing, George?” Derek asked.
George escaped the glare Grietje was sending his way by turning to answer Derek, drawing his pistol as he did so. “She’s a third-generation Glock 17 with the nineteen round mags and one in the chamber,” he said as he showed Derek his pistol. “I left the ‘happy sticks’ at home.”
Derek whistled. “You’ve got ‘happy sticks’? I wanted some of those, but they cost the earth.”
“I got my first Glock and a few extra high-capacity mags pre-ban.”
“Silly law,” Derek muttered. He turned to Grietje. “Don’t you shoot?”
“Oh, she shoots alright,”‘ George answered for her. “She’s a better shot than me with the Glock.”
“How good?” Derek asked.
“Better than five-inch groups at twenty-five yards with one hand,” George said proudly.
Derek turned back to Grietje. “So why don’t you carry?”
“I don’t feel a need to constantly carry a gun.”
“But that means you’re defenseless,” Paige protested.
“I said I don’t carry a gun, not that I don’t carry a weapon.” Grietje illustrated her point by producing a knife from the folds of her outfit. She held the knife up for them to admire before returning it to its sheath.
“Okay then, if we’re all properly dressed, I guess we can leave for the party,” Derek said.
George finally managed to slip away from the man who’d buttonholed him shortly after he arrived at the party. Andreas Buchwald hadn’t been all bad news. If he could be trusted to keep his word, he was going to place an order for a new motor launch with Köppe’s Boatyard. To celebrate his success, George hunted down a waiter. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a real drink on his tray, so George was forced to settle for a glass of wine. He searched the crowd for Grietje while he sipped his drink.
“You’re looking pleased with yourself,” Derek said as he joined George. “What did Andreas Buchwald want?”
“He wants a cruising boat similar to the Fair Value, but powered by one of the new engines Kitt and Cheng Engineering have developed.”
Derek nodded. “I’d heard they’ve started producing diesel engines.”
“They aren’t really diesel engines,” George said. “In fact, compared to the engines we had up-time they are outright primitive. But by using compressed air created by the engine to atomize the fuel as it’s injected into the cylinder, you get a much more powerful and fuel-efficient engine compared with the hot-bulb engines we’ve been using.”
“And you’ve just sold one to Andreas?” Derek asked.
“If he doesn’t change his mind.” George grinned as he remembered Andreas’ expression when he’d told him how much it would cost. “He felt the price was a little steep.”
Derek shrugged. “What can he expect when he wants to buy bleeding-edge technology?”
“That’s what I told him, except I called it ‘leading edge’ technology. I just hope Ernst will be suitably grateful for the ear-bashing I had to endure.”
“I’m sure he will be,” Derek said. “I guess with Andreas bashing your ears for so long you haven’t seen the company Grietje’s keeping?”
Derek was smiling, so George didn’t panic as he searched the room for his wife. “Where is she?”
Derek gestured towards a group of women huddled together near a table. “She’s holding court on the virtues of Panacea’s Potions product range.”
George took advantage of his full height of six foot two to study the half-dozen or so women gathered around Grietje. He was pleased to see that Paige was there with her. “Who’s the woman Grietje’s talking to?”
“That’s Alhed Pedersdotter’s mother,” Derek said.
“And if Frau von Krogh’s mother is willing to be seen talking to Grietje . . .” George’s eyes lit up. “That means the mission is accomplished. Can we go home now?” George asked hopefully.
“Sorry, George, but Grietje’s very success means you’re going to have to hang around a lot longer. In fact, right now, you need to walk over there and join in.”
George swallowed and ran a finger around under his suddenly too tight collar. He gestured tentatively towards the group of woman around Grietje. “Me join them?”
Derek nodded. “I’m afraid so. Everyone with Grietje, except for Paige, probably imagines that you created Panacea’s Potions as a toy to keep your wife occupied.”
“Panacea’s Potions is not a toy. It’s a business created to provide life-saving rehydration solutions and supplements to people whose diet may be lacking in essential vitamins and minerals.” George got a little heated as he said that. He was very proud of the little business Grietje had started up when she’d finally accepted that as his wife, she couldn’t work for someone else.
Derek slapped him on the back. “There’s no need to tell me that. Go over there and tell them that.”
A couple of days later, Travemünde
“How was the party?” Anna asked the moment George stepped into the office at Köppe’s Boatyard.
“I survived,” George said as he tried to escape the interrogation he was sure was coming. “I got buttonholed by Andreas Buchwald. He thinks he wants a Fair Value hull with one of the new KCE engines.”
“You made a sale?” Anna asked. “See. That’s why you should be going to these parties.”
“Grietje might not want to attend any more social events,” he suggested hopefully.
Anna’s raised brow suggested that would be a forlorn hope. “Did Grietje enjoy the evening?”
George shuddered. If he wasn’t careful he was going to find himself attending more of these social events.
“Well? Did Grietje enjoy herself?” Anna prompted.
George reluctantly nodded. “She spent most of the evening talking to Frau von Krogh and her mother about Panacea’s Potions. They’re supposed to be going round to visit the shop sometime today.”
“That’s good,” Anna said. “You’ll be able to take Grietje to the next event. I’ll check the social calendar to see which events you should go to.”
“Don’t you need to be invited to those things?” George said.
“Don’t worry, George. Once word gets out that the von Kroghs accepted you and Grietje, you’ll be on everyone’s guest list.”
George winced. It seemed he was going to be forced to attend more boring social occasions, unless he could find something better to do. He’d escaped last time by joining the dive team in Husum. All he needed to do was find somewhere he could run away to this time.
George was hard at work on a design when Anna announced that Viktor, Boris, and Johann were here to see him again. “How can I help you?” he asked when Anna showed them into the office.
“I would like to sell you some guns,” Viktor said.
George shook his head. “I’ve got all the guns I need, thank you. Although I wouldn’t mind an SMG like the one I fired back on Bornholm.”
“That could be arranged, but I want to sell you guns to protect your enterprise in Glomfjord.”
That was different. George put down the pencil he was holding and wandered over to his business desk. “Why does Glomfjord need to be protected?”
“ ’Why doesn’t it need to be protected’ would be a better question,” Johann Hering said. “You have a flourishing community, with stockpiles of food. There are millions of dollars worth of copper wire in the generators, and they’ll be shipping in a few hundred kilograms of aluminum pipe shortly for the nitric acid machines.”
George had been nodding his head as Johann ran through the usual valuables the Glomfjord settlement had, but the mention of aluminum caught him out. “Where are they getting the aluminum?”
Johann looked at him in surprise. “Surely you know?” He immediately corrected himself. “No, obviously you don’t know. HDG laboratories have a research and development facility in Arendal where they are developing the techniques to smelt aluminum. The generator you and the navy’s dive team rescued was for their mini-hydro facility.”
“Where are they getting the stuff?” George asked.
“If by ‘stuff” you mean the alumina, that is being imported from Hamburg, while the cryolite was mined in Greenland.” Johann paused long enough to snigger. “And wasn’t there a fuss raised about that.”
“I’m sorry,” George said, “but you’ve lost me. How are they importing alumina from Hamburg? I’m pretty sure they don’t have any bauxite there. And what’s the fuss about mining in Greenland?”
“Well,” Johann explained. “The alumina is refined from ore imported from some place in South America . . .”
“Suriname,” Viktor interjected.
“Thank you, Viktor.” Johann turned back to George. “And the problem with the mining in Greenland was that someone had been there before them.”
“So?” George asked. “I’m sure lots of places have been mined previously.”
“Sure,” Johann agreed, “but whoever was mining in Greenland did it without permission from Christian of Denmark. He was, as Matt Tisdel would say, mightily pissed off.”
The use of his friend’s name caught George’s attention. “You know Matt?”
Johann nodded. “The Marine advanced reconnaissance team he was working with a couple of years ago did a lot of their training in my old back yard—the Teufelsmoor. Has the little runt stopped growing yet?”
That brought a smile to George’s face. The little runt was easily a foot taller than Johann. “I think so. I haven’t seen him for a couple of months.”
“How tall is he now? He must be costing the navy a fortune in new dive suits.”
“Six seven.” George waved his hand about five inches above his head to indicate just how big Matt was.
“This is all very nice, but about you buying some of my guns . . .” Viktor said.
George smiled apologetically at Viktor. “Sorry. Well, about your guns. I don’t think I can commit the company to buying any.”
“Maybe if we were to show you what we have to offer,” Viktor suggested.
“What’ve you got?” George was a normal West Virginian male, so the question leapt out without any conscious thought.
“We’re running a special on modified Spanish light muskets,” Johann said. “But we also have a few upgraded SRG’s, Sharps clones, Winchester 1895 clones, cap and ball revolvers, cartridge revolvers and pistols. Oh, and a rifle that fires these.” He placed a large brass cartridge on George’s desk.
George stared at it for a few seconds before pouncing on it. It was a straight-cased cartridge with a jacketed bullet about six inches long and over half an inch in diameter. “What the heck is it?” he demanded as he examined it.
The numbers said that the bullet was half-inch in diameter and weighed in at eight hundred grains, or over a tenth of a pound. The three hundred described how much powder the brass cartridge case held. Which was a lot, considering the SRG used only seventy grains to send its five hundred-odd grain bullet out the muzzle at nearly a thousand feet per second. George fondled the cartridge. It was big, like a 50 BMG round. Back up time he’d dreamed of owning a 50 BMG rifle, but they’d been out of his reach before he won the lottery, and afterwards, well . . . wine, women, and the Outlaw had put paid to buying such an expensive rifle. Not that he’d been thinking of buying a Barret. Those had been way too expensive. But he could have picked up a L.A.R. Grizzly with a good quality scope for under three grand. Feeding it though, would have made running the Outlaw look cheap.
George was literally salivating over the chance of owning the rifle that could fire the cartridge he was holding. He looked up and saw the smug smiles on the faces of Viktor and his associates. “Here, little fishy,” George muttered to himself. Viktor had him hooked and they all knew it. “I want to see the rifle that shoots this,” he said as he placed the cartridge on his desk.
“Of course you do,” Viktor said. “If you’d like to follow us right now . . .”
It was a short walk to the wharf where Viktor’s ship was tied up and soon George was standing in the captain’s cabin while sailors carried in a number of packing cases. So far none of them looked like they could contain the rifle that fired the outsized cartridge. He said as much.
“All in good time,” Viktor said.
George folded his arms and glared at Viktor and his party. He knew what they were doing. They were going to show him everything they had to offer, keeping the rifle he was really interested in until last. “This is cruel and inhumane.”
Johann grinned. “We wouldn’t want you to lose interest too soon.”
George had his latest purchase disassembled and laid out on the kitchen table as he carefully examined every component for finish quality. So far he hadn’t been disappointed. He’d been so involved with the high-powered rifle that he didn’t hear Grietje and Elisabeth arrive.
“You haven’t disassembled another engine on the kitchen table, I hope?” Grietje asked from the kitchen door.
George’s immediate reaction was to drop what he was holding and try to cover the gun parts with the oilskin cloth he’d covered the table with and try to appear innocent. “Hi, Grietje. Did you have a good day?”
Grietje exchanged a look with Elisabeth. “He forgot.”
Elisabeth nodded her agreement. “What can you expect from a man?”
“What did I forget?” George asked.
“That Frau von Krogh and her mother were going to visit the workshop today,” Grietje said.
“I didn’t forget,” George protested.
While he was protesting his innocence to Grietje Elisabeth swept back the oilskin. “That’s not an engine,” she said.
“No,” Grietje agreed, “it looks like a rifle. A very big rifle. What is it?”
George released a sigh of relief. Grietje’s interest in the rifle had overcome her upset that he’d forgotten that the von Kroghs were visiting Panacea’s Potions today. “It’s a Beckworth Light 50,” he said. He found one of the drill cartridges and offered it to her. “It fires these.”
Grietje shook the cartridge and checked the base. “There’s no primer, and it feels empty.”
“That’s just a drill round,” George said. “For when you want to check the action without risking a live cartridge.”
Grietje nodded her understanding. “Where did you get the rifle?”
“Wouldn’t you rather talk about your day?” George asked. “What did the von Krogh’s think of Panacea’s Potions?”
Grietje’s smile blossomed again even as she continued to fondle the drill round. “Alhed thinks that my Brewer’s Bounty is just what they need to help feed the poor of Lübeck, and she has contacts in the other Hanseatic League cities who she thinks might be interested in buying some to feed to their poor.”
George wanted to ask what the poor had ever done to Alhed Pedersdotter, but he knew better than to voice the question. Brewer’s Bounty was a fortified yeast extract. It was supposed to contain all sorts of vitamins and minerals that were essential to a proper diet. It was also an acquired taste, and one which he hadn’t acquired. The best he could do was drink a light broth made using a quarter-teaspoon of the stuff dissolved in a cup of hot water that Grietje insisted that he drink, and even for her he could only drink it hot. Discretion being the better part of valor, he dissembled. “That’s nice.”
“Herr Watson is just trying to distract you, Grietje,” Elisabeth said. She turned to George. “What do you expect to hunt with that rifle?”
George waved at the disassembled rifle. “You don’t hunt with something like this.”
“Then what good is it?”
“It’s a toy. Just like his Glock,” Grietje said.
George was too incensed to notice Grietje’s smile. “My Glock is not a toy. It’s a deadly weapon.”
“Of course it is,” Grietje agreed. “And that’s why you’ve only ever fired it at targets.”
George waved a finger at Grietje. “Just you wait. One day you’re going to be glad I carry my Glock.”
“In the meantime, back to my earlier question, where did you get the gun?” Grietje asked.
“I bought it from Viktor.”
Grietje nodded. “And was that all you bought?”
George shuffled around a bit. “I also bought a hundred muskets and half a dozen Sharps clones.”
“What do you need with all those weapons?” Elisabeth asked. “That’s enough to arm your own company.”
“That’s sort of the idea,” George said. “Viktor pointed out that the development at Glomfjord might be attractive to raiders, and that they should be armed.”
“Does Inger Mogensdotter know you’ve bought these guns?” Grietje asked.
“Not yet. I was sort of thinking we might take a trip to Glomfjord. I’d like to see where my money is going, and on the way we could drop in on Inger and tell her.”
Copenhagen, two weeks later
Inger Mogensdotter, her niece, Kari Magnusdotter, and a young female George had no idea why was involved, were walking around the opened boxes of weapons. Kari and Gunhild Steinsdotter handled the Spanish light muskets as if they knew what they were doing while Inger fingered them with distain.
“If you had to buy guns why did you buy muskets?” Inger demanded. “No man alive can be sure of hitting anything more than eighty paces away with one.”
George disentangled himself from Grietje and walked over to a small barrel. He picked up a few of the bullets it contained and gave Inger, Kari, and Gunhild one each. “Those are nessler bullets. They’re a lot like minié bullets, but designed to be used in smoothbores. With a nessler, a reasonably good shot can hit a man-sized target over two hundred yards away.”
“How is that possible?” Gunhild demanded. “There is no rifling, and you need rifling for accuracy.”
“That’s not entirely true,” George said. “Back up-time they changed over from rifled cannon barrels on tanks to smoothbore barrels, and they were very accurate.”
“Really?” Inger asked at her most disdainful. “And back up-time did your gun makers also switch from rifled to smoothbore?”
“Noooooo.” He tried to drag it out as he struggled to find a way out of the hole he was rapidly digging for himself.
“So why did you insist on buying these inferior weapons?” Inger demanded.
“Because for the price of ten SRGs I was able to buy a hundred Spanish muskets, with bayonets.”
“And that is a good enough reason for you to arm our people with obsolete weapons?” Kari asked.
“Sure,” George said. “Unless you have telescopic sights, a man is a pretty small target at over two hundred yards. So why buy more gun than you need for the purpose?”
Gunhild chose that moment to discover the Beckworth Light 50. “And how do you justify buying this?” she asked as she lifted the heavy rifle out of a packing case.
“That’s mine,” George said. “I bought it for me, with my own money.”
“What do you hope to hunt with it?” she asked as she struggled to bring the nearly thirty pound weapon up to her shoulder.
“You don’t hunt with it, Gunhild,” Grietje said. “It’s just an expensive toy.”
George glared at Grietje. He’d managed to work out that she’d been laughing at him last time. And it was reassuring to know that she felt sufficiently secure in their relationship to laugh at him, but he’d rather she didn’t keep harping on about the Beckworth.
“How were you planning on getting to Glomfjord?” Inger asked. “Kari, Gunhild, and I are planning to join the Pride of Glimminge in Arendal and sailing there on her. You’re welcome to accompany us.”
“The Pride of Glimminge? You’re talking about the paddle steamer Peder Halvorson built for the late Lensmand of Bornholm?” George asked. “Why would she be heading for Glomfjord?”
Inger coughed delicately while Kari carefully looked anywhere but at George. He got the message. “You chartered her?”
Inger shook her head.
“Tante Inger purchased her,” Kari said.
“What? You bought a ship? And you have the gall to question me buying some guns to arm the people at Glomfjord?” George demanded.
“Tante Inger got a great deal,” Kari said. “The new Lensmand needs the cash.”
“And I got a good deal on the guns,” George said.
“Are we going to Glomfjord on a steamship?” Grietje asked.
There was a look in Grietje’s eye that suggested to George that he’d be wise to accept the change of topic. “Most of the trip will probably be under sail,” he told her. “She’s a hybrid. That means she has both steam engines and sails.”
“And we will be stopping in Arendal. Do you suppose they might be interested in some of my products?”
“It’s possible,” George said, although personally he doubted there would be much demand, as most of Panacea’s Potions were intended for people at the edge of civilization. “Although Glomfjord might be a better bet.”
The mention of Panacea’s Potions raised questions as to what it was and what it produced. George left the women to it and slipped out to check up on baby Matthew.
Arendal, early May
Thomas Ellefson saw the up-timer on board the Arendal Venturer and immediately started making inquiries. He quickly learned that he was the half-owner of the company, and that he was traveling to Glomfjord with his wife and son. A grin grew on Thomas’ face. The ransom for such a rich man would be enormous.
He also noticed all the barrels and packing cases being offloaded from the ship. A little investigation told him that the up-timer’s wife had a cottage industry in Travemünde and that the cargo contained a lot of the products they made. Some of it was left in Arendal, to be sold on consignment, but a good number of the containers went aboard the Pride of Glimminge. Maybe they had sold it to the power company to feed to the workers at Glomfjord.
He expected to see that the up-timer had some guns, and was happy to see a rifle bag join the baggage aboard the Pride of Glimminge—up-time rifles commanded good prices on the firearms market. That just left the cargo the ship was supposed to carry from Arendal.
Thomas salivated as he watched them load some copper wire for the generators up at Glomfjord and the transmission cables to carry power from the generator house to the industrial area at Glomfjord. His share, tiny as it was, would be worth over ten thousand dollars—more than most people earned in a year. And all he had to do was warn his principal when the shipment sailed, which if he was any judge, was going to be soon. Thomas finished his rough inventory of what had been put aboard the Pride of Glimminge and went looking for a vessel heading in the right direction.
Harold’s Wick, Unst, Shetland Islands, a few days later
Harold’s Wick lay in a small crescent moon bay on the northeast coast of the island of Unst. There was some grazing on the windswept land, but most households depended on the sea. It was a hard life, and a dangerous one.
Barbara Williamson held her baby tightly against her chest as she watched her husband pack his weapons. “Why do you have to go raiding?”
“It’s twenty pounds, Barb. Think of what we could do with all that money,” Malcolm said.
Barbara stared at her husband. Twenty pounds was more money than anybody on Unst would see at one time in their lifetime. It represented over two year’s wages for the likes of her Malcolm. “Why would anyone be wanting to pay you that much?” she asked
“It’s the skill with the yawl that they’ll be wanting, Barb. And they’ll be paying for the use of me and Andrew Jamieson’s yawls.”
Barbara didn’t like the sound of that. Yawls were inshore fishing boats no more than twenty-two feet long and five and a half feet at the widest point. They took a crew of four—three rowers and a man at the steering oar, and were used to fish in the inshore fishing grounds around Unst. “You’ll not be taking the yawls out to sea?” she demanded.
“Nay, Barb. We’re being paid to row from the ship to land.”
She shook her head in disbelief. “Nobody will pay you twenty pounds for just that.”
Malcolm smiled at her. “They already have,” he said as he pulled a purse from his belt and held it out for her.
Barbara grabbed the purse. It was heavy—more than two pounds if she was any judge. She emptied some of the coins into her hand and stared at them. Some of them were silver. “Twenty pounds?”
Malcolm shook his head. “That’s just ten pounds. I’ll be paid the other ten when we get the copper the captain wants.”
Barbara couldn’t take her eyes off the coins in her hand. It was more money than she’d ever seen. She took a deep breath and shoved the coins back in the purse. “You don’t have to do this.”
“I’ve accepted the money, lass.”
Barbara understood. Malcolm had given his word. She put baby James in his crib and flew into her husband’s arms. “Take care, Malcolm, and come back. We both need you.”
Malcolm kissed her. “You’ll hardly know I’m gone.”
“How long?” she asked.
Malcolm shrugged. “Depending on the winds, about two weeks.”
“We’ll be waiting for you.”
“I know you will, lass.” Malcolm tightened his arms around Barbara one last time before releasing her and collecting his gear. He stopped at the door. “You look after yourself while I’m gone.”
“I will,” Barbara said.
Meløya, a few days later
The Pride of Glimminge was traveling under power as she approached the island of Meløya. They had intended to head straight for the settlement of Glomfjord at the top of the fjord, but baby Matthew had forced a change of plans. Glomfjord was Norwegian for “noisy fjord” and, well, Matthew didn’t like the noise. And when Matthew didn’t like something, he had his own way of making his displeasure known.
George was standing on deck trying to make sense of the flashes coming from shore while all around him the other passengers chatted amongst themselves. He knew it had to be Morse code, but he couldn’t make head nor tail of what was being said. A soft body bumped into him and he glanced down into Grietje’s tired eyes. “How’s Matt?” he asked.
“He’s finally dropped off.”
Saying “good” probably wouldn’t go down well, especially as he’d abandoned Grietje and the nanny to look after Matt while he sought refuge on deck, so George didn’t comment. Not that he had to explain why he’d run. Grietje knew all about his terror of crying babies, while the nanny just knew he didn’t like being near Matthew when he was crying. “How are the others taking the change of plans?”
Grietje snorted. “Inger is jumping for joy. Her nephew lives on Meløya, and she wants Gunhild to see his home.’
“I assume Gunhild knows why she’s here?”
Grietje raised a brow. “What do you think?”
“She’s a smart girl, and Inger can be pretty obvious at times. But why would a girl with her prospects want to marry a nobody who lives way out here?”
“Inger’s nephew isn’t exactly a nobody.”
“Okay, so he owns a bit of land on Meløya and has an interest in the power station, but Gunhild’s the daughter of a fishing fleet owner.”
“You saw her with your guns. Do you really think she’d be happy doing the social rounds in Copenhagen?”
George had to concede that point. Back in Copenhagen Grietje, Kari, and Gunhild had insisted in trying out the guns he’d bought. It had turned into a bit of a competition. Kari won, with Gunhild a couple of points behind, closely followed by Grietje. George had been a distant fourth. He’d claimed their younger eyes gave them an unfair advantage. They’d pointed out that he hadn’t been much better using the telescopic sights on the sharps rifles. Of course, he had bested them firing the Beckworth. His greater muscle mass made it easier for him to absorb the recoil of the rifle the girls had christened The Little Cannon. “Still, Meløya is a long way from civilization.”
“Some people like living a long way from what constitutes civilization.”
George’s conscience cringed at that statement. He gently turned Grietje so she was looking at him. “Do you regret leaving Husum?”
She drew her fingers along his jaw before rising on tip-toes to kiss him. “No.”
Things might have progressed from there, but heavy footfalls warned George that they weren’t alone. He released Grietje and she took a step back, a smug smile on her face.
“I’ve just come from a chat with the captain. He’s been talking to someone on shore with a heliograph, and they’ll have a couple of boats ready to take us and the guns and powder ashore as soon as we drop anchor,” Inger said as she joined them.
“So you’ll soon see if your plan to marry Gunhild off to your nephew is going to pan out?” George asked.
“She is perfect for Nikulas,” Inger said.
“He might not be interested in her,” George said. That earned him raised brows from both Grietje and Inger. He got the message. Gunhild had plenty of what it took to attract a guy. “Just because he’s a guy doesn’t mean he’s only interested in her appearance,” George protested. That earned him more raised brows from both Inger and Grietje, but at least Grietje was also smiling.
“Do you think I’m stupid?” Inger asked. “Gunhild is educated, intelligent, and she likes the far north. She used to come up with her father’s fleet when they fished the waters off the Lofoten Islands.”
“Why did she stop?” George asked. The Lofoten Islands were a hundred miles north of Meløya. If she had been happy there, she’d probably have no trouble with Meløya.
“Her mother’s family insisted she had to learn to be a lady.”
There was obvious disgust in Inger’s voice as she said that, which surprised George. “I thought you enjoyed the social whirl?”
“I might, but Gunhild finds it boring.”
George saw the look in Inger’s eyes and took a stab in the dark. “She reminds you of your sister, Nikulas’ mother?”
Inger nodded. “Maren was happy here. And Gunhild could be too, if that is what she decides she wants.”
“She’s got a choice then?” George asked. That earned him a sharp elbow in the ribs from Grietje, but Inger just smiled at him.
“Of course. It wouldn’t do Nikulas any good to have a wife who wasn’t happy to live out here.” Inger punctuated the statement by waving an arm to encompass the whole landscape.
The next day George and Grietje were sitting outside Nikulas’ house. Grietje was feeding Matthew while they watched Nikulas guide Gunhild around the garden. Inger had taken Kari in hand and wandered into what constituted the town of Meløy to talk to whoever was in charge about the guns and ammunition they’d brought with them—twenty Spanish light muskets with cap-lock actions and bayonets, and two Sharps clones with telescopic sights. The rest of the guns had continued onto Glomfjord aboard the Pride of Glimminge and had no doubt already been shown to the local militia in Glomfjord before being put into storage.
“They make an attractive couple,” Grietje said.
George nodded. “It makes one wonder what she would have found for me if she’d had her way.”
“What do you mean?”
“Before I turned up with you, Inger had hopes of marrying me off to someone in her family.”
“Inger was trying to find you a wife?” Grietje looked outraged. “I didn’t know that. Is that why she was unfriendly when we first met?”
“I expect so.” George grinned. “Anna knows Inger from way back, and she says she wasn’t happy to hear I’d accompanied Matt and the dive team to Husum.”
“Is that why you ran away last summer, to get away from Inger and her matchmaking ways?”
George shook his head. “I didn’t know about Inger’s plans until Anna told me about Inger showing up wanting to invite me to accompany her to Glomfjord shortly after I left for Husum.”
“So why did you go to Husum?”
George blushed. “I was being hunted in Travemünde. Everyone seemed to have a daughter or granddaughter I should meet.”
“Seriously?” Grietje asked. There was a disbelieving look in her eyes.
“You ask Matt when he gets back. He thought it was a big joke.” A smile blossomed across Grietje’s face and George waved a finger at her. “Bad girl. A husband could get jealous when the mere mention of another guy evokes that kind of reaction in his wife.”
Grietje leaned forward and kissed George. “Poor thing. You know better.”
George did know better. Grietje and Matt Tisdel’s relationship was very brother and sisterly. In fact, he knew she’d been giving him advice on his relationship with his girlfriend back in Grantville.
A few minutes later Grietje removed Matthew from her breast and burped him. “All finished,” she announced as she looked around for the nanny, who appeared as if by magic and carried Matthew and the cloth Grietje had used to protect her clothes when she burped him.
“Are you sure you want to come with us?” Nikulas asked. “We’ll be gone a while, and I expect the baby will need to be fed again soon.”
“It’s not a problem,” Grietje said as she collected the day pack she was planning on carrying.
“Grietje’s company makes dried breast milk, and the nanny can give it to Matthew from a bottle if he gets hungry while we’re away,” George said.
“Dried breast milk?” Nikulas asked.
“Just add water and you have nutritious mother’s milk for the baby,” George said.
“But if you have this dried breast milk, why did we have to wait until Grietje had fed the baby before we could leave?” Nikulas asked, a confused look on his face.
Gunhild rolled her eyes. “Men,” she muttered. “What happens if you don’t milk the cows?”
“They have to be milked regularly, otherwise . . .” Nikulas ‘ face turned bright red as he shot a hesitant glance at Grietje’s breasts.
“Yes, oh,” Gunhild said. “Come on, let’s get a move on. I want to see this pond you say can provide you with electricity.”
Captain Christofer Pothorst turned to the group of Shetland islanders. “Your job is to stop anybody sending a warning to Glomfjord. They will have a signal fire ready to light on the highest point.” He pointed to the peak almost two thousand feet above them. “Go.”
A dozen men, two of them with muskets, three with bows, two with a pistol and a short sword apiece, and the rest with spears or axes scrambled down into the two clinker-built fishing yawls that the ship had been towing since the Shetland Islands. It was a tight fit, because the twenty-two foot long boats were built for a crew of four.
Christofer watched them rowing away for a few seconds before turning his attention to pacifying the island. There would be loot, but his main objective in attacking the island was to prevent them sending a warning to Glomfjord. It would take his ships more than two hours to get from Meløya to Glomfjord, and that was more than enough time for them to set up some kind of defense.
They were sitting on the edge of the Steinlivatnet, a large pond a thousand feet above Meløy, soaking their feet in the cold water when they heard a bell tolling.
“What’s going on?” George asked when Nikulas jumped to his feet and ran to the edge of the steep drop down to Meløy.
“Three ships have run aground close to shore,” Nikulas said as he shaded his eyes and stared into the distance. “They look like Haringbuis, but what are they doing way out here? They should be waiting around the Shetlands until June, when the herring season starts.
George hauled on his socks and boots and grabbed the binoculars from his day pack and hurried over to Nikulas. “There are men running ashore from the ships,” he reported as he watched through the binoculars.
“Raiders,” Grietje cried. “We need to get Matthew.”
Nikulas grabbed Grietje before she could take more than a couple of steps. “The servants will hear the bell and take him with them when they run for a place of safety.”
George looked down. He could see smoke coming from buildings close to the dock. “I should be down there,” he said.
“You’d never get there in time,” Nikulas said. “Besides, our first responsibility is to get to the top of Meløytinden and light the signal fire.”
George followed the direction Nikulas was looking. The highest point on Meløya was not much more than half a mile away, but it was about a thousand feet higher than their current location. “I’ve got a lighter,” he said, pulling it out of a pocket to show everyone.
“Keep it secure,” Nikulas said. “We might need it to start the fire. Now come on, let’s get moving.”
George was tiring fast. He was fifty-four and had been a smoker most of his life. In addition to that, he’d been a miner. Neither had been good for his lungs. It was one thing to swim regularly, and even walk everywhere as he did these days, but running up a steep hill was killing him. He pulled out his lighter and forced it into Grietje’s hand. “Here,” he puffed, “you take it. I’m only slowing you down.”
Grietje took the lighter and demonstrated how to use the Gribblezippo to Gunhild. “You go ahead. We’ll catch up with you,” she said as she placed it in Gunhild’s hand. Then she turned back to George and hauled him to his feet. “Lean on me,” she told him.
They were hurrying along the ridge line when they heard shouts from the slope below.
“What’s that?” George asked as he stopped to look down. He saw men emerge from the tree line a couple of hundred yards below. “Raiders?” George asked.
“Yes,” Grietje said.
George looked up to check on Gunhild and Nikulas’ progress. They were getting close to the top. “I need to stop them.”
“How?” Grietje demanded. “There are . . . one, two, three, four, . . . I see twelve men.”
George pulled back his jacket to reveal his Glock pistol in its small of the back holster. “With this.”
“But the range is too great.”
“It is now, but I think those men are heading for the signal fire. If we can find a suitable defensive position I can take them out before they know what hit them.”
Grietje had completely forgotten about George’s Glock. It gave them a chance. She started them moving again. “How much ammunition are you carrying?”
That meant he was carrying more than the single spare magazine she’d seen when he pulled back his jacket to show her the Glock. That was good. The usual was two spare magazines either side of the pistol giving a total of fifty-eight rounds. That should be more than sufficient to deal with a dozen men. She looked up, searching the barren rocky slope, trying to assess the ground for somewhere suitable, but she had no idea what to look for. “Where should we go?”
George pointed to a point on the ridge close to the peak but a little below it. “There. To get to the top they’ll have to go right past me. And they’ll be fully exposed.”
Grietje had other thoughts about the “me,” but now wasn’t the time to fight over it. “Then let’s get moving.”
As they hurried along the ridge line they could hear the men below shouting and one of them fired at them. She wasn’t worried that they’d be hit. She’d tried shooting George’s Spanish muskets with both standard ball and the new nessler bullets and quickly learned that a smoothbore musket couldn’t hit a man-sized target at much over fifty yards unless they were firing the new style bullets.
They made it to the cover George had picked out while the raiders were still over a hundred yards away and a hundred yards below them. George was breathing heavily and shaking with fatigue as he fumbled for the Glock. “Go. Join Nikulas and Gunhild.”
Grietje didn’t like George’s color, his labored breathing, or the way he was shaking. She pushed his hands away from the Glock and drew it and the two spare magazines. “Give me that. I’m not leaving you. Now tell me what to do.”
George looked for a moment like he was going to protest, but then he slumped back against the rocks, his breathing labored. “Find a comfortable position. Take a two-handed grip. Brace your arms. Wait until they’re really close, before you start shooting. They won’t be expecting the Glock. You’ll have the element of surprise. Don’t let them get away.”
Grietje shuffled into a comfortable position from where she could see the raiders. The ground immediately below was rock with maybe a little grass. There was nothing for the raiders to hide behind and not a lot to hold onto as they climbed the steep slope. She ran a finger over the chambered-round indicator to confirm the Glock was loaded and ready, braced her forearms on the rock and waited.
“They’ve got the signal fire going,” George informed her as he shuffled up beside her. The raiders must have seen the same tendrils of smoke that George had, because they increased their speed.
Grietje took aim on the front man and started to squeeze the trigger.
“Wait for it,” George said. “They’re still too far away.”
Grietje relaxed the pressure and glanced at George. His breathing was still heavy, but his color was more natural. Reassured that he wasn’t going to die on her just yet, she looked down at the approaching raiders. They were getting so close, but George had been a soldier, so she had to trust him. She swallowed and tried to relax her grip on the Glock.
“Just a little bit closer. Ready. Now!”
The range to the front man was less than twenty yards. He was in the open and moving slowly, struggling with the slope. The only way Grietje’s shot could have missed was if he’d suddenly slipped. He didn’t, and the 9mm defensive handgun bullet slammed into his chest. It did a lot of damage, but it didn’t kill him immediately.
The raiders knew they’d been shot at, but as was usual for fighters of the period, they didn’t let that bother them. The man Grietje had shot was still standing, so they assumed the shot had missed.
Grietje wanted to shoot the first man again, but George nudged her aim toward one of the musket-armed men. She took aim and fired. It was another center of mass hit, but this time the bullet exited through the man’s spine, causing him to drop immediately. That got the attention of the other raiders. Grietje fired at one of the bowmen just as he moved, catching him low in the gut.
The raiders must have spotted the muzzle flash, because now they were charging Grietje and George’s position. On anything vaguely approaching flat ground, they would have covered the ground in a couple of seconds and not even the Glock would have been able to stop them, but the slope was steep and their charge was more in the spirit than the speed as they advanced shouting battle cries.
Grietje cut loose, all but emptying the pistol into the tightly grouped men. The rapid fire broke the charge, if such a term could be applied to the pace the raiders had been advancing at. The surviving raiders turned and started running. Grietje leapt to her feet shooting at them as they ran until the Glock ran out of ammunition. She stared angrily at the gun. She’d had a perfect shot lined up, but now two of them were getting away.
The shouted instruction was accompanied by the presentation of the two spare magazines, breaking Grietje out of her daze. She took a spare magazine and replaced the spent one. She would have immediately run off in pursuit, but George still held her.
“Rack the slide.” He didn’t just say it; he also put his hands over hers and worked the slide. Then he let her go.
She edged her way down the hill, trying to catch the routing raiders, but it was obvious that they were more willing to take risks to get away than she was to catch them. They were going to get away, and there was nothing she could do about it other than shout abuse at them. That had an unexpected result when one of them looked back as he ran down the hill. It was a silly thing to do, as the ground he was running on was a steep slope pot-marked with small ankle-breaking holes. The inevitable happened and he lost his footing and went flying. He landed face first on the rough ground below and bounced and rolled another twenty or thirty feet before coming to a halt against a small outcrop of rock.
Grietje saw an opportunity and slid down the hill. He was starting to move when she arrived. She shoved the Glock against the base of his skull and fired. That was the closest she’d ever been to someone being shot, and it was messy—definitely not something to be repeated. Below her the last of the raiders she’d been chasing had made it to the trees. She wasn’t foolish enough to continue the chase. The Glock gave her a range advantage. She’d lose that going into the trees. She looked up hill to see how George and the others were getting on.
High up the hill she could see the tendrils of smoke had started to thicken. It looked like they’d succeeded in their objective. Glomfjord would be warned, and maybe they’d send a force to help them. And walking toward her, with a bow in one hand and an axe in the other was George. She headed towards him. George dropped the axe and bow and opened his arms.
A while later she leaned back in his arms and looked up at him. “I’m worried about Matthew.”
“So am I.” George looked beyond her to the man on the ground below them. “Is he dead?”
“I shot him in the head at pointblank range,” Grietje said.
“How do you feel?”
“Okay,” she said as she stared down at the dead man. A bright glint on the slopes attracted her attention and she pulled away from George so she could see what it was. It was a spent casing from the Glock. She picked it up and handed it to George. “That’s one.”
Things didn’t go according to plan for Captain Christofer Pothorst. Normally, a raid against a settlement was successful because you hit the population before they could rally together to resist. Unfortunately for Christofer and his men, Inger Mogensdotter had called together a meeting of the island’s militia for early that morning. Normally the men and women of Meløya might have ignored her call, but news of the new guns had leaked out, and so the turnout was one of the best ever on the island. Not just men, but also their wives turned up to see the new weapons demonstrated. Naturally, for a militia meeting, the men also brought their weapons. This meant that instead of being able to pick off the islanders piecemeal, the raiders ran into them while they were gathered together in a single cohesive and well-armed group. Worse still, the defenders had cover in the form of stone boundary walls and woods. What resulted was a drawn-out battle that lasted too long for the raiders.
The first reinforcements arrived from the small settlements across the fjord within half an hour, but the writing was really on the wall when the Pride of Glimminge turned up with reinforcements, including eighty men armed with the new Spanish muskets. It was a massacre. All one hundred and sixty-eight raiders died—one way or another. Unfortunately, the islanders paid a high price for their victory. Thirty-four men, eight women, and six children lost their lives, and about the same number were sufficiently badly injured to need medical attention. There was a somber mood amongst the survivors as they gathered to mourn the dead.
Unst, Shetland Islands, three weeks later
A single woman stood atop the windswept cliffs of Unst, her baby in her arms as she stared out across the sea in the direction her husband had taken over a month ago. Two weeks ago there had been twelve women, but slowly, as hope for the return of their men folk faded, the numbers had dwindled, until only Barbara Williamson remained. Tears ran down her face as she whispered prayers that Malcolm would return to her.