Someone to Lead Them
by Kelly F. Barr
The children loved to sit in the story circle across the fire from Marta, the storyteller, just after dark and listen as she wove stories—scary stories, funny stories, stories of the history of Pattock, their village, and sometimes, stories of things to come. Tonight as the children gathered round, the night air was cool and the moon was full. Many adults from the village—those with children and those without children—gathered outside the story circle.
Dobbin sat on the left side of the circle, close to Marta’s spot, so he could watch her face as she spoke without having to look through the fire’s dancing flames. His heart pounded in anticipation as he wondered what type of story she would tell tonight.
The door of her cottage opened and Tetra carried Marta’s worn wooden chair out. Marta followed, the hem of her black skirt dragging on the ground, her soft leather moccasins making a shuffling sound as she sloughed along. She flopped onto her chair and drew her tattered gray wool shawl up over her shoulders as her silver hair and black eyes glimmered in the firelight.
When Marta spoke, her voice crackled like the sticks that first caught flame when Tetra started the fire, “Good evening children. Tonight’s story is a special one. One of great importance.”
Her eyes met Dobbin’s as she spoke the words ‘of great importance’ and Dobbin’s heart skipped a beat. Could tonight’s story be one of things to come? Could it have something to do with him? He sat up straight, eyes glued to Marta, ears straining so as not to miss a single word.
“From our brave young men, a great leader will arise and several will follow him. He will lead this group to seek help from those willing to come from Sektur, the village to the east.
Several children gasped. Marta’s story held Dobbin in rapt attention. Marta swung her head and locked eyes with him. “Dobbin, you will be the one to lead Olan, Gad, Bartok, Jinya, Prayjes, and Zeficleez. You must be quick as the trouble will come from the southeast, swift on your heels during your return journey.”
The six young men Marta had named stood and moved to sit around Dobbin. The six each reached a hand to touch one of Dobbin’s shoulders—their pledge to follow him. Dobbin nodded, the weight of responsibility settling on his shoulders.
That night, Dobbin tossed and turned. This was his chance to prove he could be a good leader, and for those going with him, to show they were now truly men.
The next day residents of Pattock busied themselves preparing for the upcoming war as Dobbin and his followers sharpened their weapons, packed food and other supplies for their journey. They must be prepared for the possibility of the Hestanauts ambushing them as they journeyed back to Pattock. When all was ready, they gathered in the center of the village and Dobbin led them out.
As Dobbin and his men entered Sektur two days later, heads turned and people stepped out of doors to see the group. Soon many were gathered, and a white-haired old man wearing a white robe, stepped forward. “Who are you and why are you here?”
Dobbin answered, “Sir, we are from Pattock. Marta has seen a vision that the Hestanauts will attack and sent us to seek aid from you, our allies. We need willing Sekturians to travel back to Pattock with us to help defend our village. Marta says the Hestanauts will be swift on our heels during our return journey.”
Rumblings rose from the crowd around the old man. He raised his hand and the people fell silent. “Prepare the evening meal. After we eat, I will ask for volunteers to help our neighbors in Pattock.” He turned back to Dobbin and his men. “Come. You will sit with me in my hut until the food is prepared. I am Kerrick, leader of this village. You can share your plans with me.”
About an hour later, they followed Kerrick to a long house where they dined on roasted meat and vegetables. When their plates were empty, Kerrick rose. He spoke to a young man, “Go and bring the rest of the village men here.”
A few minutes later, a large number of strong, fit looking men filled the long house. The old man raised his hand and the room grew quiet. “Sektur and Pattock have been allies for many years. Some of our sons have married their daughters and some of their sons have married our daughters. If the Hestanauts were to attack us, the men of Pattock would come to our aid.” He paused, allowing his words to sink in. “How many of you will help defend Pattock against the evil Hestanauts?”
Dobbin held his breath and the muscles in his neck and shoulders tightened with tension as they waited. Two men stepped forward, then three more, then five. Soon, there were two hundred men standing in a line before Kerrick.
Kerrick smiled. “Good. This is good.” He waved his hand, drawing Dobbin to him. Dobbin quickly stepped up beside Kerrick, who placed a hand on Dobbin’s shoulder and faced the Sekturians standing before them. “This is Dobbin. He will lead you to Pattock. Prepare and get some sleep.” He turned to Dobbin and his men. “You can bed down in here.”
* * * * *
In the gray light of early morning 200 Sekturian warriors entered the long house. Dobbin called Bartok to him and approached the man who seemed to be in charge. He said, “My name is Roedan. I am a Sekturian leader.”
Dobbin charged Bartok and Roedan with leading the party, while he, Jinya and Olan formed the rear guard, watching for Hestanauts.
As they began ascending a rise, Bartok and Roedan heard Dobbin cry, “Hestanauts!”
The front half of the group hastened their pace, while the rear half fell back to battle the Hestanauts.
The Hestanauts–large meaty men–hit hard with clubs. But as Dobbin, Jinya, Olan, and several Sekturians shot arrows, numerous Hestanauts fell. When they fell, the Hestanauts began to retreat.
Dobbin and his men turned and raced to catch up with the group Bartok and Roedan led. But the Hestanauts weren’t finished yet. They ran toward Dobbin and the others, axes in their hands. With their long, muscular legs, they gained on Dobbin and the others quickly. Dobbin’s heart leapt into his throat as several Sekturians and Gad fell around him. The battle yells of the Hestanauts combined with the screams of pain from the injured were deafening.
The Hestanauts began losing steam. “Run!” Dobbin ordered his men as he began to run with all his might.
Soon Dobbin’s group had widened the gap, and Dobbin looked back over his shoulder to see the Hestanauts halted. Many were bent with hands on their knees, sucking in deep breaths.
When Dobbin led the group of men into Pattock, the village cheered. With the announcement of losses, the village grew solemn. Tetra clapped Dobbin on the shoulder. “Well done.”