Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chapter 38


“Should we be out this far Yulee?” 

“Do you want to eat?” 

“Huh?” 

“Jasmine you’ve seen how everything is picked over closer to the cabin.  It is either go further out or give up anything fresh for the munch and meals.  And with so many to cook for …” 

The young girl groaned.  “Why do they have to stay here?” 

I thought that some were finally beginning to realize what work a crowd really took to take care of.  “Because if they didn’t some would surely die.  Which of the ones that you’ve come to know would you sentence to death?  Which of your brothers and sisters would you sentence to death by sending away the extra protectors?” 

“I’d never …” 

“But that is what you were saying.  If they leave here of their own free will that is one thing … and I think soon they may just do that very thing.  Gerry has heartburn over all the lost business.  But Gid and Jace can’t guard the rest of us alone – even with help from the rest of the older brothers.  So when Gerry and his men go we may very well be digging graves for our own.” 

“No.  That’s … that’s just not fair.” 

“Nothing in life ever is.  One of my aunt’s men used to call it being damned whether you do or don’t.  Now we should stop speaking and remain quiet.  We are out to gather greens but I wouldn’t mind bringing in a hare or two to lighten the men’s load.” 

The girl fell silent.  In truth it wasn’t a hare so much I wanted to catch but raiders that I wanted to avoid.  She was right that we were further from the cabin than normal and were taking a chance.  It was a necessary chance however because I hadn’t been understating how difficult it was becoming to find edibles nearer the cabin.  We were out an hour when I caught a sour smell on the air.  I pulled Jasmine to me and showed her how to hide in the briers like a jackthumper.  Putting my finger to my lips I hushed the questions that wanted to spill out. 

I smelled sickness.  The kind that comes from a festering wound or puke that’s not been buried and left to rot in the open.  Then I heard them.  They were seasoned raiders and knew their trade well but my father had taught me his trade as well.  I’ll never be as good at it as he but life had made sure I was better at it than I should have needed to be. 

Jasmine’s quivering let me know she’d spotted them as well.  It was a test of my will against hers but she didn’t try and run or squeak and give our position away.   The three raiders angled away from us heading toward the cabin.  I wondered if there were more or if they were setting to make an assault until I caught their garbled speech. 

“I’m hungry.” 

“We all are.  Supplies are running low.  I’m done listening to Novak.  He says we wait ‘em out or take ‘em one by one.  Well time for that is over.  Yesterday there was only Bonner that was sick.  Today five more joined him.  I told the fools not to eat that bear, that sompin’ was off about it.  If ever man that did eat of it comes down with the bloody runs like these have we need to take what we can get and be gone from here.” 

“I only got a few bites but I ain’t sickening.”

The other two looked at him sideways and as the third man turned away in fear I could see he lied.  He held himself like one that had to go to the outhouse but who was afraid to let go.  The man’s facial tattoo stood out from his gray coloring almost like it was freshly done though with a healed scar running through it I knew that couldn’t be so. 

The one acting as a leader shook his head, “Don’t matter.  We all gotta die sometime.  Would you rather die a puking coward or as a man in battle.” 

The sick man did stand a bit straighter though I could tell it cost him.  “If it be my time I won’t be going alone.” 

And the three then commenced building themselves up for what I knew they planned to be a deadly attack on our home.  But they were overconfident.  I’d have to hit them just right to get penetration with my arrows.  Their furs and other bits and pieces they wore were thick like armor.  It also had to be done quiet just in case these three weren’t the only ones about. 

I made Jasmine stay put and close to the ground while I changed position quietly and followed them down the trail a bit.  I got two before they could turn a bend in the trail and the third immediately after the bend.  I ran forward and cut the throat of the one still thrashing and then also the other two just to make certain.  A quick turn to get Jasmine I snatched my arrows and we ran for the cabin. 

I expected a lecture and a lecture I got. 

“What were you thinking woman?!” 

I kept my quiet as I knew I deserved the tongue lashing for worrying Gid.  It didn’t matter that Jasmine and I had brought back enough provision for a couple of days of fresh munches.  I hadn’t asked him first. 

“And you just sit there saying nothing!” 

“There’s nothing that I can say Gid.  I knew what I was doing.  We need the fresh.  You men can only do so much and still keep us safe.” 

Almost like he hadn’t heard my admission he said, “And three … THREE … raiders?!!!” 

“I couldn’t risk them getting through our line and cutting off our return.” 

Gid went on for a bit more but eventually he calmed but couldn’t or wouldn’t let me far from him for the rest of the day.  That night in front of the fire we all spoke more calmly about what I’d heard that day. 

Gerry scratched his chin and said, “There’s sickness in their camp.  Would that we could take advantage of that but we don’t know their numbers.” 

Tad nodded, “A small recee would be good.  Even if we didn’t attack the camp at least we could know their strength.” 

Gid looked at me and then sighed.  “Tell again what you think.” 

I shrugged.  “The same thing that happens during a siege when a commander can’t provide for his men.  They’re getting dissatisfied with their lot.  I couldn’t tell if this Novak was a strong man or not but I didn’t hear any fear in the voice of the man who mentioned him.  He could be weak, sick, or not in the area but only having his orders followed through messengers.” 

Jace said, “If he isn’t about that means there will be at least one raider group at some distance.  If they don’t share the illness they will be a force to be reckoned with.” 

Ern grumped, “There’s a pleasant thought to go with all the others.” 

I let the men do their men talking but I knew what I would do if I wore their boots.  Knowledge is power.  Even if we only knew about some of the raiders in the area it would still be better than the blindness we currently suffered from. 

It was frustrating not to have my say and keep my counsel.  Gid and I went off to our bed and he insisted on helping me undress.  He kissed the nape of my neck and said, “I yelled ‘cause you caused me worry.” 

“I know.  I’m sorry for you feeling worry.” 

“But not for the deed which caused it.” 

I was silent for a bit then said since his hands were still being gentle, “We’ve needs.  The family can’t keep going like it is.  The youngest are already showing signs of missing foods that keep them healthy.  I’m doing my best to save them from the scurvy and rickets but I can’t do it without going further afield.” 

“The littles are in danger?” he asked with quiet concentration on the problem. 

“Some.  All the worry and fear they see on the faces of the rest of us does not help.  Ned does his best but he said their attention and ability to concentrate is being affected.  The Sisters always knew when a sickness was brewing in the village children just from monitoring the school.  And another cow has gone dry.”   

“This siege needs to end,” he said with finality.  “Need to go have some words with the others.” 

I sat and took time with my Creator.  I’d nearly sweated through my blouse trying to keep my words behind my teeth and needed a bit of quiet to compose myself.  Slowly in my mind’s eye a memory formed.  I must have been very small because I sensed my grandfather was sitting in a corner rocking and smoking his pipe.  My grandmother and Old Annie sat with my mother on a bench near the door. 

“Will it work?” Mam asked her Mam. 

In her correct speech she said, “It has never failed to work with your father.  A kind word turns away wrath and a quiet word can lead a conversation in the way you wish it to go.” 

“I don’t want to tell him what to do.” 

“And you won’t.  You are simply leading him to the same conclusion that you have come to.  Let him choose dear.  He needs to be the man.  Do not nag him.  The men know what needs to be done, it is merely taking them longer to make the decision than it did for us women.” 

And then it clicked.  There had been some sort of scandal, one children were not privy to, but in hindsight I believe it was between one of the Brothers and Sisters and that enough people suspected but the men didn’t want to touch it and the women wanted it dealt with.  I can’t remember the exact trail of events but I do remember that there was a wedding not long afterwards that was much remarked on. 

I must have dozed because I woke with a start when I heard something outside the shutters.

Chapter 37


“Thir … thirs … thirst …” 

I almost thought I was imagining it at first, but when I lifted my head Gid’s eyes were beseeching me.  I could die of shame. Just die of it.  I knew he was parched from sweating out the poison.  I knew how urgent it was that I follow my hope with the action of keeping him watered.  But despite all that I fell asleep.  Did he not need me I think I could find a hole and crawl in and just wait for the angels to carry me off rather than bear it. 

Even now when I’ve confessed to Gid and he threaten to tie me to him if I ever say such a thing again I can’t let go the idea that I’ve let him down.  But never again.  Never.  God has been merciful and I’ll not take it for granted. 

“Yulee, ease up.  I’m a grown man, not a sprat that needs all my parts to be washed like I don’t know how to.  Just scrub my back.  I don’t seem to have the stretch in my arm like I should.” 

I stopped and tried not to fuss so much.  I know he doesn’t like it but I can’t seem to stop myself.  “It’s the new skin over the worst of the knife wounds.  It is still pink and tender and tight the way such things are.  Just let me do the doing for a while yet and you’ll be well and able to stretch to your heart’s content.  I’ll see to it if it is the last thing I do.” 

“And there you go again woman.  How many times do I have to tell you not to be so hard on yourself?  If anyone needs a flogging it is me.  I vowed to protect you and you wound up having to do the deed for both of us … against corrupted raiders no less.” 

“You’ve lost your memory.  Have you forgotten you took out two raiders so fast I never even heard it happen and wounded a third?  All I did was pop out of a mouse hole and finish what little bit you left me to do, and I couldn’t even do that right.  I forgot Papa taught me to always make sure the demons have drug off the enemy, so what did you have to do?  You had to go and save me again and crack your head on top of all the other injuries you’d already suffered.  I swear Gid I could just …” 

“Say it and I’ll pop you on your seat even if it means breaking a promise to never raise a hand to youlost your memory still a bit t amongst each other even more than they work to keep the siege going.   or there would be serio,” he said menacingly.  “I mean it Yulee, I’ll not stand for it.  Now let it go and let it be that we saved each other.  There’s no need for you to be so hard on yourself.  I didn’t die.  Neither did you.  There’s a mess but we’re facing it together.” 

I shut my mouth as I knew the arguing wore on him almost as bad as his injuries still did.  But that doesn’t mean I can just get rid of the feelings.  I nearly lost him.  The most precious thing that God has sent me besides Himself.  I feel so undeserving.  I am undeserving.  But I must work at it, let him and Him know how I appreciate it. 

“You gonna worry at it forever and again or you going to help me finish this bath before I turn into a raisin?” 

“Oh … oh I’m sorry I …” 

He sighed and said, “Yulee?” 

“Yes Gid?” 

“When I get my strength back and enough patience not to rush it … I’ll chase you around the cabin so much you’ll never have to wonder if I’m still interested.” 

“Huh?” 

“I saw your face,” he said morosely.  I didn’t know what he was talking about and I was going to check his forehead for a fever when he said, “When I didn’t come down after you … that day the raiders got in.  I saw your face and … and I don’t ever want to disappoint you again.” 

It took me a moment to even remember and when I did I was almost angry.  “Gid!  You never disappoint me!  Never … never ever.  I just thought … well … it isn’t worth repeating.  Now let me put some lotion on that spot that keeps trying to dry out and crack and cause you to …” 

He reached over and grabbed my arm.  “I mean it Yulee.  It’s not that I didn’t want to play and pay some attention to you … I was just … worried.  You got so … so frail.  You looked almost like you did when you came out of the cage … all sharp angles and a face set so that the rest of the world couldn’t know what was going on inside you.  I didn’t know what was going on inside you and that worried me most.  I didn’t know if you were keeping something from me.  Every time I tried to ask Lurna all I got was woman speak and I didn’t understand any of it.” 

Rinsing the soap from his back and starting on his hair I told him, “It indeed was all just woman speak Gid.  Some of it was … was my womanlies … stuff the old time doctors called hormones … going back to where they belonged.  Some of it was … I was just grieving.  And scared that you’d be disappointed.  It got better.  It … it is better.” 

“That voice you’re using don’t sound like it’s better.” 

I sighed.  “It is better.  Truly Gid.  It … it is something that has marked my heart but … but it is better.  There is nothing I can do to change what happened so I have to accept it.  I just was trying to … to get over it, not make it worse for either one of us.  I know you hurt as well.  I just wanted to find some way to bridge it so that we could be more comfortable, like we were.” 

We were both quiet a moment with the only noise the sound the suds made as I scrub them into his scalp.  Then he said, “Try and look at what is happening with the raiders the same way.  Can’t change what has happened … the bad or the good of it.  We accept it.  Learn from it.  Then move forward.  Live better for it even if it was from grief.  If we constantly look back and blame ourselves that isn’t living, much less living better.  Or aren’t you the one that used to forever talk about God sending lessons your way and not always liking the form they took?” 

I finished helping Gid then helped him out of the bath.  He no longer needs my help dressing.  He has healed up a lot faster than any of us expected.  Tad’s uncle said that Gid has an iron constitution and that since none of the knife wounds were as deep as they could have been that it must have been the drug that affected him so strongly.  As soon as that passed through his body his recovery was lightning fast.  Only the few punctures near his shoulders from the initial fight still give him trouble.  It hasn’t even been half a moon’s cycle and he’s nearly back to full strength and God be praised he is of sound mind rather than a lack wit because of the drug and torture. 

His words have given me a lot to think about.  I still feel so guilty yet perhaps he is right.  Maybe it is trusting God once again to bring us what we need that I need to do more of.  I’d come to depend only on Gid.  It’s not that I didn’t still do my daily speaking with God but I almost put Gid ahead of Him … that it was Gid that provided what I needed rather than God providing what both Gid and I need.  If that was the lesson I was to learn it has been a harsh and terrifying one.  I don’t want to think of life without Gid and maybe I shouldn’t.  Maybe it is that I need to trust God will take care of Gid as much as Gid takes care of me.  I don’t know.  This is something the Brothers and Sisters would have been so much better at contemplating.  It makes my stomach turn inside out. 

Certainly it only adds to the other troubles we have still to face.  There are groups of raiders tromping the forest; not too thick now that the main force has been taken out but still enough to cause trouble.  From those that Gerry and his men have caught and questioned before sending them off with the demons sacking Riverside only got enough to last them through the cold months.  For some reason – most likely the drought – a lot of bad men have been congregating in the valley looking for food and such since it is so scarce other places.  The mining and lumber outposts have not been cracked yet which is a blessing and put Lurna’s heart at ease as she has been worried about all of the older, married girls in the family.  But Shale and Yellow Rock have been breached twice; however both attacks were quickly repelled and the towns are now under siege.  As a result the raiders are laying waste to the countryside trying to wait them out.  It is why they were putting spies in the trading caravans, looking for a way to get in or a new place to work their mischief. 

For some unknown reason the raiders think Shale and Yellow Rock is full to the top of gold and other treasures.  Makes no sense.  The mines in the area are for coal, stones, and minerals; not for spending metals like gold or silver.  There’s a small marble quarry and another for limestone.  Tad said that aside from the coal mines the most profitable one is owned by a family that keeps to themselves most of the time and they mine sodium bicarbonate.  This finally explained the mystery of how Gid had such a supply of the rarity here at be cabin.  It has meant I didn’t have to skimp on the things that need baking soda like the rising bread or the toothpowder. 

Blessed are we that the leaders of the various raider groups are too full of themselves to pull together or there would be more serious problems.  They feud and fight amongst each other even more than they work to keep the siege going.  But if this continues we will truly be hurting.  Gid already balks at the time lost to get crops in the fields.  I’ve started seedlings for a kitchen garden but I don’t wish to build a temptation to call the raiders to fight us more directly.  Gid and the other men hate to see any of us women beyond the cabin’s yard but there is no help for it if we expect our supplies to outlast the raiders’ attention span.  As it is Gerry has lost a great deal in silverweight as he cannot charge us for what we use from his supplies as we are providing a place for he and his men to hole up. 

We are all courting disaster and something must break soon.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Chapter 36


“Please God, don’t send the angels after him and keep the demons at bay.  If you just have to have a price then let it be me.  I’ll go, perhaps not so gladly as I once would have as I have started to look forward to life again, but none of this will be worth living if he’s gone out of it.  Please God …” 

I looked around at the injured spread everywhere on the floor.  I knew there was a pile of dead being burned in a pyre … none of the dead were ours except for a few chickens whose cages were crushed when a wagon tipped … and could smell the rancid and oily smoke despite the cabin being closed up. 

“Mistress Yulee?  My man Coe is finally wakening.  Can you check to make sure his brain ‘s not more scrambled than normal?” 

I knew there wasn’t a thing more I could do for Gid but it still tore me to leave his side.  But I did it; I had a responsibility to see to those who could use my help.  I also began to understand why the Sisters took vows that kept them from marriage and an outside family.  It was terribly hard to share your attention with strangers when those you love are suffering; or in the case of the raiders that yet lived and were tied up outside under guard not to make their passing more painful. 

I stood and looked around.  The injured included the oldest to the youngest.  Lurna sat nearly insensible as all her chicks lay about with varying levels of injury.  Hank refused to leave Hiram’s side and did in fact hold his brother’s hand; there’d never be any more tricks in that quarter as one now bore a wound that was sure to leave a fierce scar and the other had lost the small finger on his left hand.  Ned mopped the brow of Ern who was in pain from a badly wrenched leg.  I’d managed to put it back in the socket but all of the muscle and connective tissues were badly bruised and stretched. 

Tad and Jace were taking their turns keeping a lookout and refused to even consider letting me go get some more willow for the pain relieving tea that I was running out of.  “People will just have to bare the pain Yulee,” Jace said tiredly.  “Gid will have my hide should I let you go, especially in the dark.”  Tad was no better and I knew it was a waste of time to argue. 

I’d ordered Vaniece to a pallet.  She was pale as ash but so far no pains or spotting to say her catch was going to be taken.  Her side was the only place that Jace went to when he left his post.  If nothing good comes of this, at least there is that. 

As I once again did the rounds of checking the wounded over, starting with the daffy-acting man named Coe who apparently wasn’t all that sound of mind to begin with, I once again remembered the sequence of events that had gotten us here.  I’d finally gotten Gid to his bed and on it – no small feat that – and bathed his wounds and done what I could to make him comfortable.  He would try and regain consciousness but he only seemed to be able to for short moments.  That’s when I began to suspect it hadn’t just been salt and gunpowder he’d had rubbed into his wounds but some type of drug as well.  I still don’t know what it is but he’s sweated profusely and it has been a challenge to keep him from drying out. 

I knew I couldn’t leave the bodies of the raiders to fester in the house and had managed to dump one out the backdoor and roll the four that had surprised Gid down the stairs like old, broken scarecrows.  I stripped their bodies and laid all aside for Gid’s inspection and then started to drag them out the front.  I had two and was dragging a third out when there was a whistle from the road. 

I jumped up and looked, tried to whistle in return but my mouth was cut and swollen and then said loudly, “I … I can’t whistle.  My mouth is …” 

I grabbed my knife when I saw Tad creep from the bushes.  “Where’s Gid?” he asked cautiously looking around. 

I nearly burst into tears but only shook my head.  “Wounded.” 

From that point it was a worse mad house than when Jace had brought the family so many months before.  Tad’s Uncle Gerry had picked up a couple of new workers in the place where he had over-wintered only it turns out they were raiders in disguise.  One thing led to another.  They’d told their raider compatriots a wealthy trader convoy was on their way and then as they were followed, they found us from the outrider who’d been picked off and tortured for information.  It was the man Coe, a mostly harmless soul, and if I understand it he refused to reveal much until they started cutting on his manlies.  He’ll live if no infection sets in but he’ll need watching to make sure his despair doesn’t lead him to suicide or deathly foolishness.  Men are sensitive about their manlies and the Sisters and Brothers always had a special watch on those that came in after that kind of torturing. 

Tad’s uncle’s convoy was a harder nut to crack than expected as it had been in lock down due to Coe’s failure to return even with the ones on the inside trying to make mischief and hinder the defense.  What the raiders also hadn’t been prepared for was Jace outfitting the whole family with guns.  Most convoys only have the one or two well-armed men as guards, not so this time.  Gid and I were hit because the cabin was thought to be the hidey home of some rich merchant and because it would make a good base of operations. 

I stepped into the kitchen to find Vaniece and Lolly brewing.  “Vaniece, you need to be abed and off your feet.” 

Lolly nodded tiredly and said, “I’ve already tried to tell her.  She refuses to until Jace comes back in from his watch.” 

“Jace.  Food.” 

I nodded understanding that her fatigue was interfering with her speech more than usual.  “Then at least sit down.  You can chop greens just as well that way as standing.” 

Acquiescing with more grace than I expected she said, “Gid?” 

“The same.” 

“Always hope,” Vaniece said with too much understanding. 

“Yes Yulee,” Lolly agreed.  “There’s always hope and Gid is as tough as old shoe leather.  What of the dog and cat?” 

I shrugged.  “They’ll live but don’t let the children near them.  You know how animals act when they’ve been injured.  And the cat is near impossible when even I go near Horse.  She’s worse than a mother bear about that dog.” 

“Why you let Gid play such a trick and call the dog Horse I don’t know.  It makes for awful confusion.” 

Suddenly I had to sit down or fall down.  I come to myself to find Lurna patting my back.  “Go lay down a bit beside Gid.  If nothing else because Gid would want it and will want to know why we didn’t do our duty by you when he wakes.” 

I slowly sat up and shook my head.  “You’ve done your duty.  I’ll simply tell him that I’m too stubborn to let it get in the way of what I must do.” 

Lurna just looked at me then said, “Oh aye … and it is going to take a woman as stubborn as you to deal with him when he awakens and finds out he is not to leave that bed until given leave to do so.  He’ll make more noise than the children do when they are up to tricks.  See if he doesn’t.  There’s been a time or two when we’ve all but had to tie him to bed to keep him there.  And you can remind him of that too.”
 
I made my way back to Gid’s side and here I still sit.  I’m not sure if they truly have hope or if they only act like they do for my sake.  But hope is all I have right now.  His breathing is so shallow and his skin feels damp but cool.  I would give much to take his place but for whatever reason God has left me on this side of the Gates thus far.  Hope.  I have to maintain it.  This hole in my heart this time would swallow me up and leave nothing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chapter 35


The man who grabbed me quickly let go and had to grab himself as my stone knife had jumped into my hand as soon as I realized it wasn’t Gid.  The next second I had stabbed him in the leg as close to the big blood-letting artery as I could get.  I stumbled away and when I saw the tattoo on his face I didn’t even hesitate but sliced his throat.  The cut was deep enough that it only took him a moment to fall and expire.  I’d traveled with Aunt long enough to know a raider tattoo when I saw one and I recognized this particular tattoo from stories at the Buy n’ Sells as belonging to a group that skirted the corrupted lands looking for old weapons to use against militias and villages.  They were vicious and took more joy than a sane man ever would in torture and mayhem of all types. 

I ran to the back door and threw the bar to keep anyone else from coming up behind us and then carefully picked my way through the house.  I wanted to run, to scream for Gid, but I didn’t dare.  If there were raiders about I needed to keep my head.  The front bar was harder for me to work but I got it in place.  The bar on the door to the old barn stayed secured since the brothers had built the detached barn so I knew I didn’t need to take the time to check it.  It always made so much racket that we would have heard it had anyone messed with it.  

There was still no sign of Gid and it terrified me.  Realizing someone would have had to take the back stairs because we had been on the front I carefully made me way over to that set of stairs.  I was hoping they’d be looking towards the front and I could come up behind them if there was anyone up there that shouldn’t be.  I dredged up every lesson Papa ever gave me and stealthily crept towards the second floor. 

And surely, that is exactly what they were doing … when they weren’t poking holes in Gid they were staring down the front stairs or out the windows on that side of the house.  I could see from the way his neck tendons stood out from around the gag they had on him Gid still lived.  There were only two … two more lay on the floor dead.  One of the two still standing was badly injured.  How’d he gotten as far as he did and me not hear them I still don’t know.  What I found when I got there was that Gid was trussed up and I wasn’t going to have much of a chance but one. 

I briefly slipped into the room used by the younger boys as their sleeping chamber and, as I remembered, the bows that I had made for them to practice with still hung on pegs by the door.  The arrows were dull and wouldn’t take a big animal but they’d do some damage if I could score a hit from up close in soft tissue.  I got in place; the angle was awkward but still sufficed.  The one that had been poking at Gid went down with an arrow buried in his eye.  The other one continued to look down the stairs but hissed, “Quiet Dug.  Jed should be getting the woman if he ain’t sampling her and makin’ us wait.”  He finally turned when Gid kicked out at him and the raider’s last expression was one of surprise when he noticed an arrow sprout from his throat. 

I ran to Gid to remove the dirty rag shoved in his mouth but he shook his head and then his eyes widened.  He pushed me out of the way with his upper body and knocked into the raider that had been coming behind me with his knife drawn causing them both to tumble down the front staircase.  I grabbed the mace dropped by one of the raiders and looked all around before running down the stair case.  I didn’t stop but brought the mace down on the head of the raider that Gid had saved me from so hard that it stuck. 

I rolled Gid over only his eyes were closed and he was as pale as I had ever seen him, even paler than he’d been the night I’d lost our catch.  There was blood everywhere and his clothes were torn where the raider had been torturing him with shallow punctures.  Remembering some of the tortures a raider could do to a captive I slowly opened Gid’s mouth and checked to make sure there weren’t hooks or barbs in the rag or down his throat before removing it.  I noticed black and white granules on Gid’s clothes and realized that the raider had been rubbing salt and black powder into the cuts.  Had the beast in the shape of a man not already gotten drug off by the demons I would have gladly made his passing as hard as I could. 

When a trickle of blood ran out of Gid’s ear I was ready to scream.  “God please oh please don’t do this.  I swear I’ll learn whatever lesson you need me to learn but don’t teach me by taking the one that you sent to save me.  If someone has to fly away to the angels let it be me …” 
I tried to pull Gid but for all his whipcord leanness he was as heavy and stiff as a boulder at the bottom of a lake.  I had to run and get a quilt, roll him onto it, and then drag him just to get him a few feet at a time.  I had barely managed to get him half way to our sleeping quarters when I heard an explosion in the distance.  It was loud enough that it rattled the doors and windows in their frames.  Suddenly I thought of the family’s caravan and what it might mean. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Chapter 34


“Are you sure Yulee?  I could try and talk Mother around.” 

I shook my head at Lolly.  “I keep telling you there’s no need.  Besides, you’re the only one Vaniece seems to want at times.  And Jace listens to you more than Lurna.  Not to mention you’ll need to be there to make sure Verna gets the truth and not some mish mash of the truth.” 

“But …” 

“As Gid would say, but me no buts.  I’ve turned the corner.  Truly,” I added when she gave me a suspicious look.  “I think my blood was just low.  I should have thought but … well that’s the way that leads you some times.  It wasn’t until Vaniece insisted that I share the liver with her that night that I realized perhaps I’d lost more than I’d realized when … when …” 

She gave me a hug and my moment of weakness passed.  “You’re really sure?” 

I gave a smile … a real one I didn’t have to work at.  “I’m sure.  And besides, I don’t need both you and Gid watching me like a hawk.  One is more than plenty.” 

She gurgled a laugh and hugged me again before climbing into the wagon and taking her place.  She was the last of the good-byes to make and soon enough Gid and I were no longer able to see them after they’d turned the corner on their way to meet Tad’s Uncle Gerry who’d sent an outrider the day before to say it was time to return to Riverside if they wished his escort.   

“Whew … don’t know if I should dance and jig and sing at their leaving,” Gid said with a sorrowful look on his face that quickly turned into a wicked wink.  “Maybe I’ll give it another few minutes so they don’t hear me.” 

I couldn’t help but laugh.  “You’ll miss them.” 

“I’ll miss the help with the work, but not the extra work that the help made.”  He put his arm around me and we walked back to the now very empty house.  “What of you.  Did you get used to having someone to do the women speak with?” 

I shrugged.  “I’ll miss Lolly … and Jasmine and Gladys … and even Vaniece.  I’ll miss Ned and Tad and Ern … but …” 

“But?” 

“But I think we … we need to go back to it being just the two of us … for a bit.  They were so anxious to get back to Riverside and to set things back to right that it made it seem they couldn’t wait to be rid of us.  It got to be … be …” 

Gid nodded in understanding.  “Aye, it did.  But ask me if I care.  Let ‘em go back to the town and rebuild it, the place serves its purpose so I suppose it is only right that there are those that like living there.  My only hope is that they can keep the children from going back to being as bad as they were.” 

“I don’t think Jace will let that happen.  He’s gotten nearly as strict as you when they start to get out of line.” 

Gid too carefully pulled me into his arms and said, “’Bout time someone besides me gets called a meany.” 

I sighed realizing that regardless of what he said that sometimes he grew weary of always being considered the sour old man.  “As they get older, and if they are blessed with any offspring, they’ll appreciate you all the more because you cared enough to do the necessary and were consistent about it.” 

“Will they?” he asked walking us back inside since the morning was still full of chill despite the snow all melted and the mud dried.  “I know I have the right of it but still …” 

“Still?” I asked when he trailed off. 

“Sometimes I wonder if they were mine for true instead of just my father’s younger children could I bring myself to do it.” 

I put my arm around his waist as we walked back to the kitchen that was finally clean enough to serve as its title.  “You’d probably be pulled to do it even more.  When God gives us a responsibility it isn’t to make us look a better person but to be a better person.  For whatever reason Jace is finally seeing what you’ve always seen.” 

“And that is?” 

“It isn’t about being liked, it is about doing what’s right.” 

“Seemed more like he just finally got as tired of all their noise as I have when it is for no good purpose.  My ears are going to take some time to recover.” 

I smiled and then had a thought.  I poked him lightly in a place I knew him to be ticklish. 

“What?  Did I trod on your foot?” Gid asked concerned. 

I rolled my eyes and poked him again but said nothing.  “Did I say something?” Gid asked still perplexed and wondering what I meant. 

Finally I sighed, poked him one more time and stepped out of his reach.  “I’m just a naughty sprat that needs lessoning.” 

“Huh?  You haven’t done a thing …”   

I took two steps backwards, caught his eye and grinned and then ran up to the first landing. 

“Yulee!  That’s not bright.  You’ve barely been yourself and there’s no need to run up the stairs.  What if you trip or fall or …” 

I put my hands on my hips and stomped my foot in a fair imitation of what I’d seen some of the youngest girls do when they got frustrated.  “Stop treating me like I’m going to fall aparr …. !  Ahhhh!!!” 

Gid had caught on and taken a running leap up the stairs and I squealed and had to take off in a hurry least I be caught too quickly.  He caught me at the attic door.  “Ok, fun’s over.  No more running up and down the stairs.  You want some attention I’ll give it to you but …” 

I sighed in disappointment.  “Gid …” 

“Don’t Gid me woman.  You’re still not …” 

“Am too.”  I poked him again and he squawk but was unable to hold on to me. 

Down the stairs I ran but he refused to follow me and play.  I stood there and stood there at the bottom of the stairs but he never came down.  I felt like crying and all the sun seemed to go out of the day.  I turned and to go to the kitchen to get my cloak and a basket so I could go gather some fresh greens.  I stepped into the room and was grabbed from behind but I could tell by the smell that it wasn’t Gid.