The sun was little more than a band of colour in the eastern sky. At the edge of the Balyarta campsite, two groups of four horsemen were assembled. Five men stood between them, and together, they all confirmed their plans for the day.
One group of riders comprised Arnold, Volkoff, Pasquale and the younger Buitrito. They were to follow the creek, heading west. The other quartet, riding east, was made up of Adhilasa, Micah, Chung, and an awkward-looking Asbul.
Guillermo Buitrito had his feet firmly planted on the ground, alongside Samuel, Magpie, Thonkumundil and Karumbari.
The Spaniard was reassuring Adhilasa. “Tomorrow it shall be my turn to ride and seek our fortune. Today I shall keep the guard here, and si, watch the ground for any unnoticed nuggets!”
Chung frowned. “Sure you don’t want to swap with Asbul now?” He cast a worried eye over the Makassar. “You don’t look real comfortable on that horse, my friend.”
It was a fair observation, but the fisherman gave as confident a smile as he could muster, and replied, “Eh - I learning. Always good to get new skills.”
James patted the neck of his own horse. “This old dog’s not much on new tricks, but I’ll give this gold-hunting lark a bit of a go. For now, at least…”
“Bueno!” exclaimed Cristiano. “We find gold, we make bigger and better team of horses, eh?”
Arnold’s reply was a non-committal grunt. Guillermo glanced thoughtfully at his son, but also said nothing.
Gregori looked at the sky. “The day escapes from us,” he warned.
“Indeed,” agreed Adhilasa. “Time we were going.”
The two groups of riders set off in their opposite directions. In theory, Samuel was responsible for determining who would be on sentry duty and where. But the elder had wisely given that task over to the shrewd Guillermo.
The musician pointed south-east and announced, “I’ll set up to watch that way.” He put a hand on Karumbari’s shoulder and pointed south-west. “You, that way. Senor Samuel, two more good pairs of eyes to the north, gracias. Magpie, Thonkumundil, relax a bit. I’ll signal in an hour or so. If we keep to short spells we all stay fresher and more alert on watch, si?”
Satisfied, he walked away, spinning the barrels on his two Colt revolvers, checking that they were loaded. Samuel watched him go. He did not know details of what the ‘old hawk’ had experienced, but recognized that he had become a wary and canny tactician as a result. He knew that was a valuable asset to his people, and their new allies.
But he couldn’t help but lament to himself that such an asset was necessary.
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