The Elephant Gate Part 2 – Ch 51 to 55

CHAPTER 51

The popping noises at his joints sounded like gunshots when Kevin woke up and stretched the next day. The bed was a little too short for him to sleep out comfortably, but despite this, he felt happy. He was back in Pra’dee with his expanded adoptive family. And will a night’s sleep, he was ready to face the facts of this country’s destruction, and see what he could do to fix things.

Duchess lifted her head from the rug she was curled up on, and thumped her tail. He reached down and scratched her between the ears as she tried to lick his hands.

There was a fresh change of clothes on a rattan chair in his room. along with a basin of water and a towel. He scrubbed his face and neck with the bar of soap, splashing his face until it felt clean. The towel was rough but helped wake him up further. Since there wasn’t a razor, he left his chin alone, although it might feel itchy later. He carried the water basin and towel with him to the kitchen, and emptied it in the sink. The dog followed him.

“Good morning, Noy Kevin.” The housekeeper called out, stepping out of a side door in the kitchen. “I was just bringing up some vegetables from the cellar. It will be a little bit before breakfast is ready. Your parents are on the back porch.”

Kevin bowed, and then, deciding something different, walked over and hugged the older woman. She sputtered, embarrassed, before shooing him out of the kitchen.

The dog trotted down the steps into the backyard and disappeared around the corner. His parents stood and looked up at the mountain, their hands entwined. Khun Joy rested her head on her husband’s shoulder. “There’s a lot to do today, but I have faith in you and Kevin, my dear.”

“If my thoughts are accurate, a lot will be expected of all of us, but I’m confident that we can prevail. I’m just worried about the cost in lives. We don’t have a lot of people who are adept at the modern weaponry, and we only have a handful of rifles.”

“I might be able to help.” Kevin called out. The pair turned around. “I have training in firearms, so I can help explain proper safety and use, if I can look at what you have. Your guns may be different from what I’m familiar with, though.”

Thadchai walked over to him and put his hand on his son’s shoulder. “We are going to put you through your paces today to see what skills and abilities you have. So prepare yourself for a busy day.” He smiled, but it did not quite reach his eyes.

Together, the three of them went back inside for their meal.

* * *
By the time they were finished, there was a knock on the front door. Thadchai excused himself from the table to answer it, coming back a short time later with an older man carrying a suitcase in tow.

“Noy Kevin, this is Khun Pat. He’s going to get you registered with the local council.” At his puzzled face, the captain explained. “Everyone needs to carry identification on them at all times. If you don’t, your only option is go into hiding and try not to get captured.

“For what we need to do, we must be able to move about freely, and that includes you, too. So this is the first step.”

Kevin formally greeted the man. They all went into a small living room. The case turned out to hold the tools of his trade, and in short order, Kevin had a new identity and new credentials.

“You are now Khun Pongthep, an animal wrangler. That way it doesn’t seem unusual to be seen with the horses. Thank you for your services, Khun Pat.”

The man smiled and bowed. “He will be added to the town’s rolls today as a villager from Rayong. Since it was destroyed, there is no way of verifying everyone. He should be safe from most scrutiny.”

“My thanks, Khun Pat.” Kevin added his own as the man left.

Thadchai was now all business. “The first thing is to get to the training grounds and see your abilities. I imagine a writer is probably soft.” He poked Kevin in the belly. “Although it seems you still have a few muscles here and there.”

“Enough to take you on, old man,” Kevin mock-growled. They clapped each other on the back and together walked to the stables. Duchess came back and walked alongside, already much more spry with her beloved master around. Joy watched them disappear into the outbuilding before returning to the house.

CHAPTER 52

The two rode up a narrow deer trail; the horses surefooted and familiar with the trail. Kevin found that he was able to comfortably ride, knowing which way Smoke was going to move. For the first part of the trail, they silently rode, but when the town disappeared behind a ridge, Thadchai spoke.

“Both Khun Matt and I were there when you disappeared. One moment you were on the bed, and then there was nothing but your clothes and a space on the bed. We searched for you in the house, and then sent someone to the gazebo. When you didn’t show up there, we waited. I always hoped that you would return.

“The invasion started two years ago. The relationship before then was cordial at best. Anachak always pushed for industrialization, and ended up destroying their lands and resources in this pursuit. We were always happy to take things slowly, limiting the amount of minerals and gems quarried in our mines, and reducing petroleum exploration to a few outposts in the more rugged areas.”

He stopped for a moment before continuing.

“King Phuna never imagined they would covet us enough to attack, and we were unprepared for it. Their bullets decimated our troops, and it was decided to pull back to the mountains, where we could more easily defend ourselves, and where the heavier weaponry were unable to reach. By the time Anachak soldiers reached the palace, we had removed the majority of the valuable items and had hidden them in the mountains as well. Some were too big to move far, so we hid them under the palace and sealed the caves.

“Ever since then, Prince Antanum has been the nominal regent here. They have instituted curfews in our main cities, as well as the identification system. We have reached more or less a stalemate; they do not want to appear to be despots to the other countries of our world, so much of what they do has to be clandestine. And we are much better at it than them.” He gave a crooked grin.

Kevin absorbed this news. “So most of the population centers are intact?”

“Yes. And we have sent word through secret channels for the local populace to cooperate with the new laws. But underneath, we work to restore our country’s freedom.”

For a short time, there was no sound but the clop clopping of the horse hooves as they both were lost in their own thoughts. Kevin nervously wet his lips and asked a question he knew would bring pain to his heart.

“What happened to the elephants?”

Thadchai knew this subject would have to be broached soon, and he ached for the news he would have to tell his son.

“Several of the females were killed when they shelled the buildings and paddocks. The rest were herded across the border into Anachak. No one has heard anything since, but it’s a well-known fact that they use elephants as a workforce in logging and strip mining. So we can only guess that they are there somewhere, and what kind of conditions they are enduring.”

Kevin grew pale with shock and Smoke slowed down, sensing his rider’s distress. Thadchai rode closer and grabbed his shoulder.

“Noy Kevin. Kevin! Listen to me. Kandula is not one of the dead. Neither is her mother. We don’t know where they are, that’s true, but we believe they are still alive.”

Kevin tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. “They never had to work hard when they were with us. What is happening to them now?”

“I’m sorry, Kevin. Right now we have to focus on what we can accomplish now. I’m worried as well, but there is nothing we can do until we are in a better position to gather more intelligence. ”

They had finally reached a flat expanse of rock and scree. A short distance in front of them loomed another piece of the mountain, this time an almost vertical climb. Several evergreens dotted the area in front of the rock wall. When they approached it, Kevin saw a small gap between two of the trees that was dark. When they got closer, he realized it was a small cave.

They stopped and dismounted. Thadchai led his horse into the entrance and Kevin followed as it opened up into a much wider cave. The captain pulled out a flashlight; it’s weak light lighting up the path a short ways ahead. They reached an abrupt wall, but the older man turned left, and Kevin could see faint light coming from that direction. The light got brighter and brighter until they were again in the sunlight.

Kevin’s view was much different from before, and he almost forgot his sorrow as he looked around in wonder. They were standing above the surface of a long-extinct volcano, the flat surface of the old magma reflecting sunlight coming in from the open cone. It had become cold long enough to grow green with grasses and trees. The center was cleared and appeared to be dotted with buildings and fenced yards.

“Welcome to the true Safe Haven, Kevin.” Thadchai said proudly.

CHAPTER 53

The path was much easier; without the need for stealth, the path was broad and smooth. Tree branches hid most of the valley from their eyes until they reached the ground floor.
By then a crowd had gathered at the base of the trail. Thadchai called out greetings to several before they reached them. Individuals held the reins while they both dismounted. The crowd quieted when Kevin walked to where his father was talking to another well-remembered figure.

“Khun Preem!” He greeted him. They clasped hands, and Kevin winced a bit at the strength in the older man’s hands.

“Still soft, Noy Kevin. We will need to do something about that. I hope you are ready to sweat a little!”

Kevin laughed and looked around. “Are Khun Tae and Khun Wit here too?” The sudden sadness on their faces told him the answer was not positive.

“Khun Tae was killed in the fighting. Khun Wit disappeared the day the elephant pavilion was bombed. The buildings were too destroyed to search for bodies.”

Thad chimed in. “Let’s take care of the horses, and see what Noy Kevin has in him.” The three of them led the horses through the whispering men to one of the barns. There, they handed off their mounts to handlers, before continuing to a fenced field.

There were straw targets against the stone wall of the caldera, and a table with various bows resting on it.

“I haven’t touched a bow in fifteen years.” Kevin muttered as he look over the offerings. Preem reached past him and plucked a smaller bow. Expertly he stringed it before handing it to the young man.

“This is one of our lighter bows. We have been experimenting with composite wood, and this is one of the best so far.” Kevin tied on the wrist guard before giving the bow an experimental pull. His chest muscles protested a bit when he pulled back. He picked up an arrow and notched the flight against the string. Taking careful aim, he released the projectile.

The arrow flew towards the target, but fell some meters from the straw bale. Preem tutted. Kevin tried several times before his shoulder hurt too much to pull again. The closest was only a arrow’s length from the target, but still never struck it.

“I’m going to have to practice with this.” Kevin said ruefully.

The instructor nodded. “It seems your body remembers the stance and direction, it just needs to be stronger. Of course that’s what always takes the longest to develop. Let’s try the quarterstaff.”

This was always one of Kevin’s favorite weapons as a child. It seemed fun to use a simple stick to sweep people off their feet. This time, though, with the instructor as his sparring partner, he was sure he was the one ending up on the ground.

Sure enough, it didn’t take long before he was flat on his back, Khun Preem’s staff aimed at his throat. By the time they were done, Kevin was breathing raggedly, spent and covered with dust.

Finally, he had the wind knocked out of him too many times, and just laid there, wheezing. The instructor used a friendly arm to pull him upright, although he was still bent over, trying to catch his breath.

“For someone who is an entertainer in the other world, you aren’t bad, Noy Kevin,” the instructor said conversationally, “But for a warrior, you skills are far, far below where they should be.”

Kevin couldn’t agree more, but he was determined to live up to his father’s expectations. “I…I…I…just…need…more…conditioning.” He said between breaths. Both the instructor and the captain laughed.

“That’s what you used to say, too, when you first came to the training facility. And you made substantial progress in those two years. Determination is a key factor to reaching that potential. What’s say we take a break, and have some food before we continue?”

The meal consisted of a trencher of various steamed vegetables and rice, with a shared plate of meat. Kevin ate his fill, ravenous after the morning’s efforts.

“Don’t eat too much, Noy Kevin. We still have additional work to do.” Khun Preem jovially said as Kevin groaned, still sore from the morning’s exertions. “How are you with the horses? Can you still…um…?”

“Talk to them? I think it may actually be stronger than it was when I was a boy. Just a couple of days ago, I had a conversation with an elephant…”

His voice trailed off when he realized how much he missed that whisper in his head. He shook it off; it was no time to get maudlin. “Yes, I still have my abilities.”

The instructor slapped the table, making the dishes jump. “Good. I don’t want a demonstration now, but I wanted to know whether that survived to adulthood.” He took a final huge draught of water.

“Are we ready to try some hand-to-hand fighting?”

“‘We’ aren’t, but I guess I’ll have to be.” Kevin smiled tiredly and pushed away from the table.

CHAPTER 54

The close fighting wasn’t as bad as he had feared, although he ended up losing more than winning. After he rested, they walked over to a building all by itself at the far end of the complex.

“This is where we store the firearms. Most of our own stock, what little we had, was taken on the battlefield by those damned Anachak, but we’ve been taking them back from skirmishes.”

Kevin looked around. There were rows of rifles, propped up against the wall, barrels pointed up and a chain running through the trigger guards. At a nod, the guard unlocked the chain and pulled one out for Kevin to look at.

“Hmm, it looks like around a .308 bolt-action rifle.” He pulled back the bolt to make sure nothing was chambered before examining it closely. “Solid sight, built in cleaning kit. Are there any clips?” At their blank looks, he amended his question. “The piece that holds the bullets.”

The guard nodded and walked over to a large wooden box. It contained boxes of cartridges as well as the holders. Kevin talked almost to himself. “Ten-cartridge magazine, standard size.”

He looked up at the men watching him closely. “This is a pretty standard gun. How many experts do you have to train people?”

“We have some men that were trained as soldiers, but no instructor. They were also casualties during the fighting.” Thadchai responded. “We are hoping you could help us with some of the training as well.”

Kevin felt the pressure of those men in the room, but standing out among them all was the man who raised him despite knowing nothing except he was a strange boy from somewhere else.

Briskly, Kevin nodded. “Of course. Every rifle will need to be cleaned and inspected to make sure it is operational. Are there handguns, too?” Khun Preem nodded.

“Not as many, but we do have some. They appear to use different bullets than these, so they are housed in a different location. We have approximately five hundred of these, and some 50 handguns.”

Well, thought Kevin, it’s a start, for all of them.

* * *

They stayed overnight in one of the small cabins near the main barracks. Kevin was amazed at the organization. There were about a hundred men training in the complex, plus support staff to feed and house them. Supplies were brought in about once a week.

After the training, the men were sent back to their families and towns and the next batch was brought in. Slowly, every able-bodied man in the entire country was being trained for combat beneath the enemy’s very nose.

“We hope to have everyone cycle through by the end of this year. It has taken a long time to reach this point. With our rulers in hiding, we have to keep our spirits up as best as we can.”

Kevin voiced a question. “Where is the royal family? Are they all okay?” Thadchai answered.

“We have several safe houses, and they are moved every few months to avoid detection. And yes, although the king and queen are old, they are still hale and hearty.”

“And, Suri? Princess Surikitiyia?” he amended. The name brought a sharp bark of laughter from Khun Preem.

“That one will be the death of us. The princess has insisted on some of the combat training, and is our main liaison to the royal couple. As a female, she is able to roam through the cities and towns much more easily than us. In fact, most of our intelligence is gathered by our women, and she does most of the coordination.” Preem took a drink of his water. “But many of wish she would fulfill her other duties.”

“Such as?” Kevin asked.

“Marriage,” was the blunt response. “An alliance with a country friendly to our plight and with more resources can tip the scales in our favor. Plus, as the only child of the current monarchs, all our future hopes rest with her and her children. She needs to learn to rule”

Kevin realized with a jolt that his childhood best friend was, in fact, the Crown Princess.

In all their play, it had never been an issue. Now, as an adult, he wondered how she was. From the conversation, she certainly was no fussy princess, and he felt a burst of pride for that. Even when they were playing, she hadn’t worried about a dirty dress or a skinned knee.

“I would like to see her sometime.” He said pensively.

Thadchai nodded.

“Right now, they are working on a project and have gone underground. But within the next several weeks, we will be able introduce you to the royal family again.” He sounded anything but happy at the information, and Kevin wondered why.

CHAPTER 55

For the next week, Kevin stayed at the camp as Khun Preem ran a gauntlet of exercises. Every day he was up before the sky was more than a faint pink, and he continued until the entire caldera was cloaked in darkness.

At the end of seven days, he was able to strike the target with an arrow, and win seven out of ten times with the quarterstaff. Even his knife-work had improved. None of the training was at peak strength or agility, but the instructor was sure it was just a matter of practice. “After all, the muscles remember. They just need to be stronger.”

His facial hair had also grown in. That was problematic, though, since for most of the other native men, the hair was sparse and limited to lip and chin. Using a razor he could sculpt it somewhat, but it was never going to look like a typical Pra’dee man’s face.

He had also started to organize the weaponry. With the assistance of a soldier familiar with guns, they found oil that could be used as a proper cleaner, and together they had cleaned and inspected most of the guns at the training facility. The majority were stored off site, and he had discussed with Preem the efficacy of moving them back and forth versus an onsite inspection.

That decision would be made once the inspections were completed and he could train some instructors on them. The limited amount of bullets was a concern, so they decided to hand pick a few that had the highest accuracy on the crossbow and bow of the current class, to be their test subjects. They were getting efficient with the disassembly and cleaning of the weapons; soon they will be ready for live firing.

Kevin had just finished breakfast when there was flurry of activity outside. It was a supply train of about ten horses, with two riders to guide them. He assisted with the offloading and was happy to find several boxes of ammunition for the rifles.

Past the targets for the bow weaponry, he had set up a firing range, with the hay bales at a much farther distance. He had created paper silhouettes to use in lieu of a simple bulls eye. Today they were going to actually fire the rifles.

A cheer went up when he was coming out of the food cellar. His father must be here! He hurried outside, and sure enough, Thadchai was just dismounting from Smoke. He greeted his father formally. “Welcome Captain Thadchai. I hope your journey was safe.”

“As safe as to be expected, son. Khun Mattaya made some stew and fresh bread for you.”

Kevin beamed. The food at the facility was filling but hardly exciting.

After seeing to the horse, Thadchai, Preem, Kevin, and the two trainees were at the range; everyone else was kept at a distance for now. A table with several sandbags was set up across the firing line. Kevin selected on of the rifles and loaded a single cartridge.
Propping the fore-stock on the bags, he carefully lined up the sights with the paper target. Once he was satisfied, he pulled the trigger.

The noise of the firing ricocheted around the facility. Kevin put the safety on, and jogged over to the target. There was a neat hole punched in the upper chest close to the center.

The fixed sight appeared to be accurate. He jogged back to the waiting men.

“I’m going to try one from the shoulder next, to see what kind of recoil it has.” Kevin seated the rifle butt firmly against his shoulder and closed one eye to look down the barrel.

A finger squeeze later, he was back down at the end of the range, this time to remove the target and bring it back with him.

He showed the waiting me the two holes. The second one was higher and to the right.

“These have a good accuracy and not much kickback. The enemy has some pretty good rifles.”

Kevin gave each of the waiting men a rifle and a magazine with five cartridges. They each took turns at the available targets, with varying degrees of success. The guns were then checked and cleaned.

By then most of the morning had gone. The two trainees stayed to complete the inventory when Kevin and the two older men headed to his cabin to talk.

“I think it will be a simple matter to include firearms training for everybody,” Kevin said, “I would suggest an hour a day for a minimum of a week should do it. Are there any of the royal guard left? Since they were already trained, it could speed things up.” Thadchai shook his head.

“We actually scattered them among our people to act as our eyes and ears, so consolidating them here would be counterproductive. Nevertheless, we need to devise a plan to smuggle each guard a rifle and ammunition for the upcoming fighting.”

“I’m worried about Anachak personnel finding guns within the populace, especially since we had few of them prior to the invasion.” Preem added.

“They must know we are stockpiling them as we steal the guns from the Anachak soldiers and armories. I think we should cache them in strategic locations that are accessible by our trusted troops. That would reduce the chance of being caught carrying them.”

Kevin nodded. “I think that would be best. I’m too new here to know where those storage places could go. If we can hide them in groups of fifty or so, they would be safely scattered.”

After they finished their strategy meeting, it was time for lunch. Once they completed their meal, it was time for Kevin to pack up and head back to the house. Thadchai wanted Kevin to get used to the village and surroundings as part of his re-indoctrination.

He ended up riding one of the pack horses, but he made instant friends with Samson, and had no trouble navigating the trail back to the cluster of houses.

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About Shukmeister

I have a great fondness for chocolate chip cookie dough, 80's science fiction movies, and thunderstorms.

Posted on November 22, 2019, in My Fan-Fictions and Novels, The Elephant Gate Part 2 (NaNoWriMo 2019) and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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