The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 12 Excerpt

On the seventeenth of Festuary, the Windermere left port, sailing slowly out of Crescent Bay as the thick snow dropped down from the sky.  Though it had stayed a relatively short time, it was still three days behind schedule due to a boiler problem earlier in the journey. The very next day the S. S. Osprey sailed in to take its place.  The Osprey was a smaller, newer ship with sleek lines and a proud form.  The latest addition to the fleet of the Merchant and Shannon shipping lines, it carried relatively few immigrants but many visitors, particularly those who wanted to make business deals in the new colony.

Two days after the ship’s arrival, Corporal Saba Colbshallow had his last meeting with Archibald Brockton.  Brockton had given him assurances which he could pass on to the governor that she would be reimbursed for expenses incurred bringing immigrants from Freedonia. They had also discussed Streck, though Brockton had dismissed him as relatively unimportant.

“Unless he is significantly more capable as a spy than he is as a wizard, I don’t see him causing much trouble,” said Brockton.  “He struts around and makes himself the center of attention.  I don’t doubt that he is just what he says he is: a small time solicitor.  When and if the Freedonians decide to make a move in Birmisia, they won’t be so clumsy and they won’t be so easily detected.  You’ll have to keep your eyes open, young corporal.”

“I will sir,” promised Saba.

Brockton certainly seemed ready for an early departure, establishing himself in his cabin just five days later, a full week before the ship was scheduled for departure.  No doubt he was only too happy to be out of the drafty barracks building.  Saba knew that he was certainly looking forward to his last day in one.  He was already planning a cozy little house for himself, on which he intended to begin construction as soon as they snow went away.

Two days after that, on the twenty-seventh of the month, the sun came out. The stormy weather had lasted eleven days, almost all of those featuring measurable snowfall.  The people of Port Dechantagne dug themselves out and seemed giddy at the thought of a bright, cloudless day.  Saba made the most of it by walking down the hill to the dockyard, purchasing a sausage and a cup of tea and soaking up the sun while sitting on a half-barrel.

“Good morning.”

Saba turned around to find Eamon Shrubb.

“Oh, it’s you.”

“Well that’s a fine good morning.”

“Good morning then.  What do you want?”

“Sergeant Clark requires you.”

Saba quickly finished his meal and followed.  The two men walked past the warehouses and up Seventh and One Half Avenue to the militia base and into the office of Sergeant Clark.  Militiamen, like everyone else, were enjoying the sunshine, rolling around in the snow and building snowmen and snow forts.  A snowball narrowly missed Saba’s head as he walked into the building.

“What’s up,” asked Saba, brushing himself off inside.

Clark yawned and rubbed his eyes.

“I promised Mrs. Government that I would have someone meet with this hunter.”


“Yes, that’s him.  He’s anxious to go out and shoot a dinosaur, so she wants someone to make sure that he has everything that he needs.  And you know who her favorite soldier is.”


“Not me.”  Clark leaned back in his chair.  “You.”

“Alright.  Where is he? Building six?”


To say that Haarhoff was anxious was an understatement.  He and six other men were crowded into his room, leaning over a table with a large map spread across it.  Lined up along the wall was a mountain of packs and equipment, ready to be carried into the Birmisian wilderness.

“Ah, young Corporal Colbshallow,” he said.  “We are more than ready to set off.  Will you be coming with us?”

“That remains to be seen.  What I need to know right now is whether you have everything that you need.”

“We have tents, equipment, supplies, cold weather gear, and ammunition. All we need is a native guide to get us to this Iguanodon Heath, and of course some bearers to help carry all the equipment.”

“That won’t be any problem.  There are always plenty of lizzies ready to work.  Are you sure you wouldn’t rather wait until the snow is gone, at least.”

“We have been waiting long enough.  We have all been hunting in the snow before.  Collinghouse here was with me when we hunted gharhast apes in the Daglars.”

“That’s right,” said the man on the other side of the table.  “It was so cold that the bullets froze as they were coming out of the gun barrels.”

The other men in the room laughed.

“Alright,” said Saba.  I’m sure that I can have a guide and thirty bearers ready by tomorrow morning.  Will that be enough?”

“That will be enough,” said Harhoff.  “But we will want to leave at first light.”


Saba left the barracks apartment and crossed the militia base to find Private Woodrow Manring sitting at the admissions desk, waiting for new lizzies to be brought in and registered.  Standing near him was Private Willy Cornish.

“Hello boys.  Do we have any short timers standing around?”

“Sure,” replied Manring.  “You finally going to get started on your house?”

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