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.