James struck Marion with a fist so hard against the side of her head she went flying into the trunk of a knob-thorn from where she slid down into oblivion.
“Gredin!” Jeremy shouted appalled and ran closer. “You mean, putride deserteur!” Filled with fury he lunged at the unscrupulous villain but dived straight through him and landed face down in the rotting, natural compost on the riverbank.
Hesitating for a second or two while suddenly shuddering with a cold blast that went through him, James brought himself up straight and bundled the unconscious woman onto the saddle of one of the nervous horses, jumped onto the other while holding both reins and silently trotted away into the night, going south.
Jeremy could only stare at the disappearing horses with mouth agape as he lifted himself into a sitting position.
He felt like crying of such was the hopelessness that filled his being, the helplessness. Dejected he remained sitting where he was for a while.
But wait! There was something he could do!
He scrambled to his feet and started running through the camp to the makeshift stables on the other side.
Horses were very sensitive animals. They invariably possessed a sixth sense and could detect the presence of an unseen force, like ghosts. And wasn’t he in a way a “ghost” albeit from the future?
He came to a standstill at the stables and wondered what a ghost was supposed to do to attract the attention of a horse. Jump up and down? Shout? Run around wildly? Try to rattle the doors or bang on a wall?
On the verge of trying out all these options, he realized he didn’t have to do much after all.
The horses were already neighing and stomping around, their eyes large and fearful in the sockets.
“Whaaaa!” shouted Jeremy and flung his arms out wide. “Come on, horses! Get a good, solid fright!” He jumped and ran around then and banged on doors without making a sound.
And oh, how they did! The two animals went crazy, bolting and rearing, pawing with their hooves in the air and letting out incessant, high pitched neighing.
“Good! Give me some more! Good Horsies!” Jeremy encouraged them.
The soldiers on guard came charging through the camp with shouts of alarm, waking all and sundry with their calls.
“There’s something by the horses! Maybe we have lions!”
In the chaos that followed Jeremy headed towards the sleeping quarters of Captain Peter Holden.
Yes! Yes! Yes! The man was coming down the wooden stairs still getting dressed. He promptly sped out to see what the commotion was about, grabbing his service revolver as he went and glancing around to see if Marion was somewhere out here.
“What’s the problem here?” he commanded. The soldiers already had the horses under control by now and were stroking them while talking softly to them.
“Two horses are gone, Captain! There are also saddles missing and…Sir, this is a mystery!”
“Where is Sergeant James Milner? Don’t tell me he is still asleep with all this noise and disturbance going on?”
“Haven’t seen him, Cap’!”
Peter turned around and searched through the gathered crowd with eyes filled with suspicion.
“Did anyone see my wife?” he asked. His voice was hoarse and breathless.
Silence met his anxious gaze.
“Saddle Champion for me!” he then ordered harshly. He turned on his heel and half ran to his quarters to go fetch his rifle and extra ammunition. The revolver he was already carrying in his hand.
To be continued.