The keeler came towards the shore slowly, depth sounders in the bow watching keenly for submerged ruins or other means to run afoul. The oars dipped slowly into the water in the familiar rhythm, and the mate could be heard shouting orders to the crew. With an audible heave from the slaves the boat leapt forward to beach itself, and some of the crew jumped overboard into the shallow and cold water to haul it ashore with heavy hemp ropes.
“Hoy!” Kevvo shouted to the skipper when he appeared in the bow, “Bin fishin’?!”
Jacko waved his arm dismissively, “Nuttin’! Them Herders stupid, an them women ugly!”
Kevvo barked a laugh, “Them fight?!”
“No more! Took two for slave. Some women, children in the lock-up!” He laughed viciously, “All quiet now!”
Kevvo jumped down from his keeler and walked over to Jacko as the captain walked amidships, climbed into the cold water, continued to shout orders at his crew, and waded ashore. They shook hands gruffly. Jacko made admiring noises about the speed of Kevvo’s crew in building the palisade, and shouted back to his men to join the work when they had tethered the keeler.
“What them fires up there?” He asked, pointing south.
“Scout says a mob of Herders, all sit up there.” Replied Kevvo.
“Big Man think what?”
“Them come down, get theyself killed tomorrow, maybe day after?”
“Hah! Bet them even fights like sheep…”
Kevvo paused, “That bet, no-one is taking’.” Jacko looked at him sideways before gaffawing, then paused as the Big Man approached.
“Jacko! Liking this new huntin’ ground!”
“Dunno? Them grounds rich?”
“Fair few Herders up with them fires,” said the Big Man, indicating towards the smoke from the cooking fires blowing gently over the trees to the south, “all them fuckers gotta hearth somewhere.”
Jacko nodded. “Wanna go up, kill before them come down?’
“Nah, no hurry. Today, tomorrow… wait, an more get scared, more run, less killing. Then slaves them all become.”
Jacko nodded again, “Put all them working looking for metal an this gold?”
“Yup. Maybe that storm in Tasman did us favours after all.”
“Maybe,” muttered Kevvo, “if this be Wellton.”
The Big Man’s eyes slowly moved to look at Kevvo sideways.