He was “helping” me to dress again which is to say he wasn’t being very helpful at all. I finally brushed his hands away and he only reluctantly let me.
“You’re wanting to know what happened?”
“If they’ve told you,” I said admitting to my curiosity.
He nodded and then mischievously reached out and untied a string that had me undoing several more so I could retie the one he’d loosed and get myself fixed and covered. But that seemed to be the last trick he had the energy for pulling as he finally started to explain.
“A small raider group sent ahead to soften things up got beyond the town gates by bribery under the guise of getting to the market early to scope out their competition, but then they jumped the gun and outed themselves too early. They were defeated but had black powder and blew up several places in the wall so that it couldn’t be repaired before the main body of raiders showed up. Shale and Yellow Rock took as many Riverside residents as they could safely hold before shutting their gates against the larger raider party that had been spotted heading their way but that still left several large family groups to fend for themselves. Some went to the mines as it is already hardened off against attacks. Some had family in the logging outpost and went that way, for refuge and to warn them. Tad said Jace almost sent the youngest children there with Heather and the other older girls but then Lurna became nearly hysterical at the idea of being parted from them so in addition to packing all of the house goods that their wagons could hold, the kids were packed up and loaded as well … after Jace nearly killed himself making sure that he’d filled every order for shot and powder that he’d promised between now and next Spring. He also repaired all the guns that were brought to him. The damned fool. If he had left sooner they wouldn’t have gotten knocked about so much. But he’s just like Father … too much loyalty to friends who think nothing of what it costs him.”
I drew Gid to the bathing chamber and had him sit while I unwrapped his hornet stung hand and put a new poultice on it. One swell was oozing puss bit which made me realize he hadn’t been completely truthful about the stingers. They may not have been fully corrupted but they’d cross bred with some. I checked the stings over well but found none of their larva burrowing under the skin however decided to lance them and wash them well with berberine – a decoction of Oregon grape root – since it was the only thing I knew that would treat the parasitic worms and kill them before they could do serious damage by destroying the tissue around the sting area.
Tensely Gid said, “They’re here for the winter Yulee. The town was being sacked as they escaped. Even if the raiders leave right now it is too late in the season to make the repairs needed to secure things.”
“It shall be as you say.”
“Not as I say,” he muttered. “We were to have a season or two to ourselves. We had plans.”
I put some scented oil on a small cloth and rubbed his neck and felt him relax against me as the pleasing odor eased his stress. I told him quietly, “Papa said the fastest way to make God laugh is to tell Him you have plans.”
“Hmmm. I’ll have to remember that and just keep it to myself from here on out.”
I shook my head. “God knows everything.” At Gid’s snort I said, “He isn’t against people having plans, He just expects to be included in any plans we make.”
Gid shook his head wearily at that and said, “Well next time I’ll know better. All that’s happened today just reminds me I’m not overly fond of surprises and this was a wicked one on top of me playing the ass. Tell me again you don’t hold it against me.”
I tried to show him, not just tell him, but I could feel him becoming stressed with his thoughts and guessed rightly he was thinking of supplies. “With all the hands to work, and a willingness in them as well, we’ll do fine. Just …”
“Just what?” he asked.
“Just … well how much experience do they have preparing for the seasons? I saw a garden from the kitchen window when I was there but it was too small to feed your family.”
He reached up and patted my hand where I had begun to massage his shoulders. “They have enough. Not as much as you but enough they won’t be a nuisance … or I’ll know why. I’ve smoothed things over with Jace and Tad and Ern just laughed and said they were grateful they’d not have to sleep in tents all winter.”
He shook his head. “Haven’t really had too many words with her. We both shot our wad after that business with the ants. If she has something to say she can come to me … and keep a civil tongue in her head while she is about it. You’re queen of my kingdom and I won’t have you treated ill.”
I blinked at his unexpected words but added nothing. I could feel the muscles bunching and unbunching under my hands which told me it would be best to leave him be and try and smooth things out with Lurna on my own as we went along.
“Vaniece is a real piece.”
I had been admiring what I was handling and barely answered with, “Hmmm?”
Gid glanced back and caught me looking and grinned once again. “Enough of that woman or I’ll be too wore out to even sleep tonight.”
I could feel the blood rush to my face and jerked my hands away from where they had started to wander his chest but he chuckled and brought me around to sit in his lap once again. More seriously he said, “I had no cause to take my foulness out on you Yulee.”
Carefully I told him, “You were hurting worse than I knew. I should have bided my tongue and spoken to you at a different time.”
“No. I’ll not go down that path. I know I’m bad but I never want to be tempted to turn into the tyrant some men are. I promised you I’d never treat you that way.” He sighed. “I was hurting but more from the worry of the snow I see already advancing on the tallest peeks than the stings. Every bit of wasted time is like a burr in my tail. Now we have this to deal with too. I want us to be united to face it, not you worrying and running around trying to find ways to keep me from raising my hand to you.”
He started nuzzling my neck and I sat quietly letting him do what seemed to bring him comfort. “Gid?”
“If you’ve nothing against it I’ll speak with Lurna … or perhaps start with Lolly … and ask what they brought and how much of it can be thrown in for winter provisions and how much needs to be set aside for spring planting. And perhaps you can speak with Tad and Ern – and Jace if you feel he is able – and set a time to go down towards one of the meadows to cut more feed to dry and stack for all of the extra animals. You said we would need more than what we have already. Once we know what we have to work with we can formulate a plan.”
He nodded all the while his kisses and nuzzles were becoming more insistent but then a knock on the door interrupted his druthers. A look of resignation crossed his face and he told me, “Cover those us while I see what is needed.”