#WritePhoto: Departure

I finally got a bit of inspiration again, and more or less on the right schedule, so we have another WritePhoto entry! It's been a long time since I last posted in this rambling on-going story of a few fierce defenders of human liberty in a ruined castle in Scotland. You can read the whole thing: Parts I to III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, and Part VII Or you can go with the simple summary: the castle's defenders have defeated and driven off the aliens with a combination of water balloons and dungball bombs, which required a lot of clean-up. Now they are faced with the necessity of moving on to find others equally unwilling to serve the alien masters.

The #WritePhoto challenge is a weekly bloghop challenge where KL Caley posts a photo on Thursday and you have until Tuesday to write and post a story. I got started on this one and can't seem to let go! Visit the challenge page to join in or to see what others  do with the prompt. 

I took inspiration from the #WritePhoto images from the last two weeks:

Photo by KL Caley


Photo by KL Caley

Without further ado, the next installment.

Part VIII: Departure


“You want us to sail out of here and go find other hold-outs?” Rory MacDonald looked horrified at the suggestion. James Campbell, the unofficial chief of the very unofficial clan hiding out in a half-ruined castle, had just explained their best hope for escape.


“We can’t just hide out here forever. We need to bring together all the anti-Bug forces and get rid of them, and the only way to do that is without technology, because they track that stuff.” James Campbell had explained this a number of times. There were limits to patience. “Or we can stay here and die when they decide to get serious.”


Silence. Rory’s Aunt Gertrude MacDonald had finally told them what had happened to a couple of places where the governments had refused to negotiate. Eventually they would get around to wiping out little groups like the castle crew, and they’d all be reduced to their atomic make-up.


“You’re right, Chief,” Claire Campbell told her cousin, or whatever he was. “But Rory’s right, too. Leaving aside the question of seasickness, and whether any of us knows how to sail a boat, or where we’d get one, what about the animals?”


They all turned to look out where the meadow was well-dotted with sheep and goats. The milk cow they kept in the keep, too valuable to risk in a sudden raid.


“And what if they decide to take revenge on the villagers for helping us?”


Everyone turned to look at Archibald. Archie Campbell seldom had anything to say. James sometimes wondered if it was because he hadn’t any thoughts. There was no denying that he had a point this time, though.


“See?” James followed up the advantage. “We need to get out of here.”


“Well, sure we do,” Rory said. “I never said we should stay here until the Bugs get us. I just don’t think we should go to sea.” He looked across the meadow towards the hills. “Wherever we end up, we’re going to need to animals, you know, Chief.”


Damned if he didn’t have a point. “So you think we should just walk away from here?”


Rory and Claire nodded together. “Herding our flocks.”


“Makes sense to me,” commented Bess, who was a Campbell on her mother’s side and a MacPherson on her father’s.


The whole crew had gathered around by this time, with a number of side debates happening.


Good lord. Should he split his “army”? Send half out by sea and half by land? Of course, there was the little problem that they didn’t have a boat.


“Feet are as free of technology as sailing ships,” Rory pointed out. “I don’t know about you, but I can’t build a sea-faring ship out of scrap lumber. We can make a few wagons for our supplies and anyone who can’t walk.”


“We can all walk,” Angus pointed out.


“If someone gets sick or hurt,” Claire pointed out.


“Oh. I’d take care of them.” The big man seldom had anything to say, and still less often anything useful to say, but he would be able to pull a wagon, and his heart was good.


James looked around, gathering the sense of the meeting. “I know I’m chief, but I think this calls for a vote.”


“Ship or feet, you mean?” Rory asked.


“One party or two,” James countered. “We can try to find a boat for those who want to take that route, and the rest can walk. But,” he added, to be sure everyone understood what was at stake, “there’s no promise that those who take different ways out of here will meet again.”


The clan fell silent at that reminder. Though the Bugs hadn’t yet succeeded in killing anyone at the castle, they’d come close a time or two.


People began looking around. Claire said it. “I’ll be sorry to leave this place. Never thought it would feel so much like home. But I’d be sorrier not to see you all again.”


Nods. Murmurs of agreement.


“Hands?” James asked. “Who wants to split up?”


No one raised a hand.


Should he call for a vote on how to leave?


This was his decision. He looked out again at the sheep. Some were already straying toward the hills. It was no choice, really.


“Start building wagons. We’re heading out as soon as we can be ready. I think there’s another group over on the west coast, and we are going to find them.”




The next week saw a flurry of activity at the castle. Rory’s Aunt Gertrude MacDonald appeared with a cart, left behind by one of the families that had vanished from the village.


James wondered about those families. Where had they gone? Did Gertrude know? More to the point, would she come with them when they went? He didn’t dare ask.


Supplies were sorted, packed, and loaded. Rory and Claire, along with the children and the dogs, practiced herding the sheep back and forth across the meadow, up and down the mountain until they were sure they could keep the flock together on the march.


They left under a bright sun, though James worried that they should have looked for clouds to hide them. There’d been no sign of Bugs in the neighborhood for weeks, so they started as soon as they were ready, not trying to be strategic about it.


He lined up his clan and waved an arm to move them out, Bess in the lead with a good map.


James waited to take up the sweep position at the rear of the column, and muttered, “I feel like shouting ‘Wagons, ho!’ or some such nonsense.”


“It does feel a bit Nineteenth-Century, doesn’t it, boy?”


Startled, he looked around.


There, next to him with a pack and a walking staff, stood Gertrude MacDonald. He felt the smile grow on his face.


“Round ‘em up and move ‘em out, ma’am.”


©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2023
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