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Tales From The Mountain Hold Galt's Passage By Tyler Danann This is a work of fiction.* All the Characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental. * All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form. * COPYRIGHT-2013 Chapter 1 Prison Town Independent States And Republic Year 1 - Post USA Era Old Galt stood over six feet tall with beaming hazel-green eyes. A man born with the sign of the fiery pioneer in him but one who had been on the verge of melancholy. This day though did not see him take up his usual despondent manner at the ramparts of Gelstown. Instead, as evening moved to night-time he had the people loyal to him gather round. They were like children to him in some ways and he the aloof father, but he loved them in spite of their faults. For too long now the place of Gelstown had changed, not a change for the better. It had gone from comfortable confines, to smothering regulations and finally to a walled-prison. Like a sheperd guiding his flock he laid out his plan, a breakout of Gelstown. First the town’s leader, Ferdez had been accepting and friendly, especially appreciating the supplies and skills the newcomers had brought with them. In turn the newcomers found the sanctuary, with its walled perimeter and ditches ample defense against the nomadic raider bands who still preyed on folk. For Galt and his followers the first three months had been as much a relief as they were exciting. For the items that had seemed as much elusive as they had been a luxury were now much closer to hand and obtainable. Three times a band of tenacious raiders struck Gelstown. Three times they were repelled. The last time with heavy losses. Old Galt himself being slightly wounded at the last clash. It had been nearly a season after ‘The Fall’ and, as Galt had feared, the new-civilization that would rise out of the ashes of the old one was not altogether benevolent. The old mentalities and prejudices Galt had hoped would be burned away for fresher, more in-tune ways to blossom still lingered. For while Galt’s wounded shoulder mended, a cancer that would not die rotted at the heart of Gelstown. Ferdez, a likeable man was trusted by Galt’s people. As he was originally one of the surviving town’s council men he took the reluctant leadership of the town. Instead of being a commander first and decisive in the way Gelstown would go in this brave new world Ferdez instead took the softly approach. Commendable in winning favour but also instrumental in devolving powers to dozens of his favorites. These became known as Magistrates and Galt was quick to recognize the true power behind Gelstown. * Galt himself, before The Fall of Technology, was caught exposed on the highway, leading his few people to the mountain haven. He cursed himself for not organising a leaving a few weeks earlier, but last minute temptation’s for more this and that had delayed him. By the time they’d managed only fifty miles distance ‘The Changing’ occurred and their once reliable machines were powerless hunks of metal. Rocked to the core by his failure Galt squared his shoulders and shouldered his pack. It was too far to trek into the mountains, they being over a hundred miles away. The maps showed Gelstown was only ten miles distant and, fighting off raiders and marauders several times, his band of fifty survived to live another day. What they survived, Galt realised, was to swop the enemy without, for an enemy within. Much more secretive and insidious, ideologically opposed to the spirit of freedom and the flame of insight. His first fear was realised when several ‘covenants’ were passed by order of the ‘Magistrates Council’. Inwardly Galt had hoped they were 'in name only', but while preparing a simple breakfast of cold oat meal, Galt heard a strange noise at the door. Kind of a scratching noise, then a sharp thump. It didn't sound like someone was trying to break in, but it didn't sound like a curious animal either. He pulled his revolver out of the holster at his side, cocked the hammer, and moved slowly to the door. He paused, listening for further sounds. When he heard nothing else he unlatched the door, edged it open an inch, and peaked out. There was something fluttering against the door. He pulled the door open further, revealing a piece of rough paper nailed to his door with a rusty, obviously salvaged, nail. Scrawled on it in rough Anglish was the covenant. It read that all short weapons and side-arms were to be centrally pooled in the town armoury. Galt himself, although no master of arms, knew to be wrong and argued bitterly argued with the Magistrates. All attempts to speak directly with Ferdez were prevented. Few saw much of him after a mystery illness left him weak and near-bedridden. By force of will and his arguing Galt won a compromise to have a handful of designated folk as ‘trusted-armsmen’ but the rest had to comply. Some of the wily ones did not and craftily kept any future arms-carrying either out of sight or within their shed-houses. They had to be careful though, as a Magistrate would present a ‘door paper’, ‘allowing’ entry into their dwelling to ‘second check’ for anything that might have been ‘missed’. Two months after that another covenant was nailed to Galt’s door. This time they wanted any extra food-supply’s, tools or ‘useful items’ depositing in the central warehouse. A warehouse ran and organised by The Magistrates. All of whom tended to be armed, some gallingly with side-arms meant for the central armoury. The Magistrates themselves did not look like thugs or tyrants for the most part, at least not by their appearance. Fellow Europeans for the most part it was that which drove them from within that was dangerous. For it seemed that the notion of self-determination, responsibility along with rugged individualism rattled and worried the Magistrates. Even the various tales told of Galt and his folk promoted undue criticism. Free-talk was outlawed, or at least disapproved of here in Gelstown. Galt was to remark during one exchange between a Magistrate and some of his folk. “Are you even ready for freedom the way you cower within these rules and walls Mag-man?” He snapped back, for the Magistrate was attempting a justification for their lusting covenants. He would not back down and this caused the Magistrate to stomp away, knowing the argument was lost. There was no changing them, whether they’d inherently become anti-freedom through poor upbringing, deranged teachings and association he’d no cause to identify. Only that they posed a serious oppression and threat to those who’d joined him long ago vexed him. For a dormant seed within Galt and many of his people had taken root since they’d been separated from their mountain hold. While a handful had gotten comfortable in Gelstown, most now yearned for their mountain freedom. Homes and workshops, stores and safety awaited them there. A handful of his advanced scouts had gone ahead of Galt before ‘The Fall’. Hopefully they’d of set up the Gulch and at least guarded the way in by now. It would be winter soon and the way into The Gulch impassable once the snow fell heavy. This place of concrete and unyielding regulations was grinding them into slow servitude. Once free to come and go as they pleased, entry-restrictions were imposed at the town gates. Gelstown was now becoming like a prison. Safe from harm outside, as long as they acted the slave inside. They willingly performed the duties required of them to allow Gelstown to function, but the loss of their freedoms, like the death of a thousand cuts, was intolerable. Especially to Galt, who’d often bitterly regretted deciding Gelstown was a safer bet than trailblazing to the Gulch on foot. Secretly, Galt would visit them in the night and soon they’d manage to plot a way out of Gelstown and the way to the Gulch was opened once more. A few weeks passed and yet another ‘covenant’ was nailed to the door. This time all long-guns were to be handed in, leaving them completely unarmed. With a seven-day deadline looming any chance at making a breakout was critical now. Without rifles for protection they’d be sitting ducks on the northward road. It was nearly twenty miles of flatland before the Rocky Hills started. Then fifty or more beyond to the outlying village of Tonswater. Then twelve more beyond that to the safety of the Gulch. No vehicles would get them there for any that were left in operable condition were jealously guarded. Also the scouting force he’d sent north months before were under orders to block the Gulch entrance with several fallen trees, making it passable only on foot. During the night Galt laid out his plans. Young-May, the most alluring and unmarried of them did the distracting of the gate guard. Once he was knocked out the way out was clear. Then they were away, a bold one of their number managed to retrieve some small-arms from the town armoury before he too ran pell-mell into the night. By the morning’s light the tyrannical magistrates found Galt and nearly all his people had gone. With no bloodshed aside from a dazed guard they did not feel compelled to chase after them. Besides which, the magistrates and their people were not the fighters like Galt’s folk were and they secretly knew it. “Let them be gone then, it’s much safer here, they’ll come back begging to be allowed back in.” Proclaimed the Master Magistrate to the assembled townsfolk. But Galt’s people marched on and soon they neared the Mountain Hold.