The cart creaked and groaned as it trundled along the rutted track. The horse, a large black and white, skittered nervously, held in check on a tight rein. Aboard the cart Archie Lees, his wife, and their two small children jolted uncomfortably amongst the paltry pile of their possessions.
From the crest of the nearby hill a large band of heavily armed brigands watched the horse and cart approach the city gates. The same gates that had kept them separated from the spoils they had hungered after for so long.
As Archie pulled the horse to a standstill at the massive steel gates a small grille slid aside to reveal a pair of sharp eyes.
“What business do you have here?”
“We used to have a farm over in the valley.” Replied Archie. “The brigands stole just about everything we had, then burnt it to the ground. I brought my family here hoping to find sanctuary, and hopefully employment.”
“What skills do you have that the city can use?”
“I have a strong back, and a willing mind, I will be of use to someone.”
The grille slid shut with a loud clunk, and with the sound of powered pistons the massive gates cycled slowly sideways to reveal several soldiers armed with swords and crossbows.
“Bring your cart in here.”
Archie climbed down, grabbed the horse's bridle, and led it into the area between the inner and outer gates.
Two soldiers searched Archie, his family, and the cart for weapons whilst the others watched alertly. When nothing of danger was discovered the mood relaxed slightly.
The horse tossed its head nervously.
“Your horse seems a bit skittish, I hope he ain't going to run amok through the streets.”
“Don't worry, he'll be calm soon enough. He's a good horse, got real fire in his belly he has. Archie rubbed the muzzle. “It's okay Troy, be still, be still.”
The truth of the horse's unease was probably due to stomach ache. He hadn't wanted what was offered to him for breakfast today, he'd had to be force fed a special meal for the day ahead.
The soldier threw a lever, and the massive steel gates cycled closed behind the cart. As another soldier reached for the lever to cycle the inner gates Archie pressed the stud hidden in Troy's bridle.
Deep inside the horse's belly there was a minute blue spark as the contact was made.
The horse and cart, Archie, his wife and family, several soldiers, and both the inner and outer gates all disappeared in a white hot ball of vapour.
At the top of the hill the brigand leader vowed silently to himself that today's sacrifice would never be forgotten. Archie had given everything he owned for the cause. Having his family on the cart was the only way to give credibility to his story, and to gain them passage through the gate.
He raised his lance... The signal to attack.
A motley selection of powered vehicles built from parts scavenged from the contaminated land raced down the hill towards the city. On board, the brigands whooped their war cries. The weak soldiers and the soft inhabitants would soon be overrun. Archie's sacrifice had given them the city.
* * * * *
The gates have long since been replaced. Over the years the brigands and the captured inhabitants gradually integrated, until there was just a city again, just like before.
* * * * *
A group of five year old children attending their first day at school were gathered around a statue in the centre of the main square. The impressive marble sculpture of a horse and cart and four occupants, stood atop a plinth that bore the legend...
SO WE ALWAYS REMEMBER
As soon as they were old enough to understand, every child in the city was told the legendary story of Archie Lees and Troy the horse.
* * * * *
From the crest of the nearby hill, a large band of heavily armed brigands stared down at the city, at its high unclimbable walls and massive steel gates. They watched, and waited, and plotted.
©2011 Stephen. J. Green.