The pale light of dawn crept softly over the recumbent camps and the battlefield that divided them. The cool mist hovering over the open ground gradually burned away as the morning came on.
In the midst of Prince Carl’s camp, Turvy Karico sat on a stool in front of her tent, carefully polishing her weapons, a pair of large steel salad tongs. They had proven very useful in yesterday’s battle. On numerous occasions, she had pinioned an arm, a leg, or sometimes even the head of one of Jersey Mike’s men between the tongs until another obliging fighter would join in to finish the job.
Karico leaned back from her work and closed her eyes, enjoying the warmth of the sun on her face and the quiet of the still-slumbering camp. At times, it was hard to believe that she was in the middle of a war. Not that she was a stranger to fighting. She had grown up in the rougher parts of Holdermayo, relying on street smarts and quick fists to survive.
The sound of snuffling caused Karico to open her eyes and look down. Her little dog Pettigrew had wandered out of the tent and was closely exploring the ground. With a smile, Karico set down her tongs and polishing cloth and swept up her canine companion who nestled comfortably into her lap.
“You’re up early,” Karico said to the dog, giving her a pat on the head. Pettigrew responded with a yawn.
Something out of the corner of her eye caught Karico’s attention. She peered to the south. Off in the distance, there was a sense of movement. Setting Pettigrew down, Karico stood up for a better look. It appeared to be people, a lot of people, heading in the direction of the camp. She hurried over to the tent of the company captain.
“This better be good,” grumbled the captain as he stepped sleepily from his tent.
“Captain, we’ve got company,” replied Karico as she pointed to the approaching group. As they watched, other people came out of their tents to stare nervously at the newcomers. The captain and Karico were soon joined by Prince Carl and Colonel Sanders who were in the midst of a stroll about the camp.
My, my,” drawled Sanders, “things sure are happening early around here.”
The captain turned to the Prince.
“Sire, are we expecting reinforcements?”
“Not from the south,” Prince Carl replied gravely. He produced a spyglass and aimed it in that direction. “Someone in the group is waving a flag,” he continued after a moment of observation. “It’s black, and…is that an orange fish on it?”
Colonel Sanders let out a gasp.
“Good heavens! That’s Silver’s flag!”
“But I thought the pirates were in front of us!” cried Karico.
The captain turned to her.
“I don’t remember seeing any pirates during the battle. Do you?” Karico shook her head.
“No sir. All I saw were Jersey Mike’s men. I figured that the pirates were being kept in reserve.”
“The pickets on either side of our lines have reported nothing,” said Sanders. “The pirates must have traveled well out of their way to able to come around unnoticed. They may have reached the sea miles from here and sailed down behind us.” Sanders took off his hat and slapped it against his leg. “What a confounded fool I have been not to anticipate this!”
“Karico,” spoke the captain, notify the troops immediately.”
“Just a moment,” Prince Carl called out before she had a chance to move. He was still looking through his spyglass. “I don’t see Silver anywhere in that group.” After a pause, he added, “in fact, I’m not seeing anyone who even resembles a pirate.”
“Could it be your father’s army?” inquired Sanders.
“There are two men who seem to be heading up the procession,” continued the Prince. “I don’t recognize them, but one of the men has the largest forearms I’ve ever seen…”
“What?!” Sanders exclaimed in shock. He shot out a hand. “Sire, may I have the spyglass?” Upon receiving it, the Colonel immediately trained his gaze to the front of the crowd. Sure enough, there was a man in a grubby sailor’s suit, with a corncob pipe hanging jauntily from his mouth, his large arms swinging to and fro.
He slowly lowered the glass.
“Beauregard,” he whispered.
The same quiet, pleasing dawn broke over the camp of Little Caesar and Jersey Mike. However, neither man was in the mood to savor it. They had been up the entire night trying to come up with a suitable battle plan.
“You’ve heard nothing from Silver, then?” Asked Little Caesar, not for the first time as he paced in his tent.
“How many times I gotta tell ya ‘no?’” Yawned Jersey Mike grumpily as he slumped in a chair. “If I knew, I’d tell ya.”
Little Caesar stopped and rubbed his tired eyes.
“Look,” continued Jersey Mike, “it’s still early yet. He may be on his way now.”
“Why hasn’t he at least sent a messenger to inform us of his whereabouts?”
“Knowin’ the pirates, they probably cracked open the rum and threw a little party after the big win.”
“Oh that’s fine,” sneered Little Caesar, “and so we’re to expect a band of armed and hung-over pirates to arrive this morning?”
“That we can let loose on the battlefield,” concluded Jersey Mike with a weary grin. After a moment’s thought, Little Caesar allowed himself a small smile.
“I suppose there’s merit in that strategy.”
“Their breath alone could maybe win the whole war.”
Both men chuckled.
“So I ain’t heard squat about the Burger King,” said Jersey Mike with a grin, “is he comin’ or what?”
“As of last evening, there was heavy fighting reported in the woods north of us,” replied Little Caesar as he sat down. “I’ve heard nothing since then.”
“I guess if the King won, he’d be here by now, right?”
“You ain’t sure?”
Little Caesar sat back and crossed his arms.
“I’d rather not just assume he lost. I’ll be more at ease once my scout returns with news.”
Little Caesar’s scout, however, would not return. Taken by surprise by the turn of yesterday’s battle, the scout was quickly swept up by members of Burger King’s army. Now as the dawn changed to morning, the troops were assembled and the long-delayed march resumed.
“Do ya think we’re too late, Your Highness?” asked Portillo worriedly as he rode beside the King. The equally-anxious monarch shook his head.
“I hope not, son. I hope not.”