Blood Was Only For Bleeding

Chapter Fourteen

Kentucky, 1776

  

            The young Scot opened his eyes and groaned.  If the rent skin over his ribs had complained before, now it literally screamed.  Finlay Dougal MacKirdy gasped as he leaned his head back against the rocky wall and willingly let the tears roll down his filthy cheeks.  At first his vision had been blurred, but now as the world about him came into focus, he realized he was no longer in the open, but had been placed in a cave.  Somewhere nearby a stream rushed—he could hear its forceful voice as well as a woman’s lilting song rising above it.  Shifting his weary body gingerly he attempted to stand, but changed his mind as the sheltered space about him began to spin like a top released from a child’s fingers.  He closed his eyes and held very still as a wave of nausea rolled from his toes to the roots of his shining black hair and forced a second groan from him.  The moment the sound escaped his lips, the singing stopped.  Seconds later light footsteps approached the cave.  Finlay quickly closed his eyes and feigned unconsciousness as their owner paused on the stony threshold, and then cautiously made their way to his side.  He waited as they methodically checked his bandage and then leaned over to touch his forehead.  The moment he felt hot breath on his cheek and knew they were close enough to catch, his deep brown eyes popped open and he struck out with his hand, grabbing the intruder by the wrist. 

It was a young native woman.  He held her tightly as she tried to pull away.  She looked to be in her mid-twenties and was bonnie, though there was something in her eyes that spoke of a sorrow which never left her, and it made her seem much older.  As his gaze traveled the length of her slender frame, he noticed her white blouse was cut in a European style, and that she wore her hair piled high on her head and fixed with a comb like a fine lady.  Her skirt and moccasins were of native origin, but the silver she wore about her throat was not.  It had to have been purchased or given to her; there were several thick silver chains, including one from which a crucifix dangled.  As he wondered about the presence of the Christian cross, his attention wandered.  It was all the opening she needed.  Without warning, she lashed out and struck him with her free hand, scratching his cheek.  Startled he let her go.  Her black eyes went wide as she backed off a few feet, but curiously didn’t flee.  Instead she crouched nearby and continued to watch him.

            The young Scot touched his jaw.  It was bleeding.  He stared at the blood on his fingertip for a moment and then lifted his eyes to her face.  In a gentle tone,  he apologized.  “Forgife me.  I dinnae mean tae scar’ ye.  I wasnae certain who ye waur, ur whot ye wonted.” 

The woman cocked her dark head and frowned.  “Naksok?  Aatintaata?”

            Finlay shook his head.  “I am sorry.  I dinnae ken yer tongue.”  He gritted his teeth as he straightened his injured form against the wall.  “Mah nam’ is Finlay.  Finlay Dougal MacKirdy.”  He smiled and held out his hand.  “An’ ye might be?”

            The woman’s fingers went to the silver cross that glistened on her brown skin.  “Mac-Kir-dy?” she repeated.  “Fin-lay?”

            “Aye.”  He extended his hand further, hoping she would take it in friendship.  “Did ye brin’ me haur?  I thank ye if ye did.”

            She touched his fingers briefly and then did a strange thing; she leaned forward and fingered a lock of his long straight hair.  It was hanging loose about his shoulders.  He had lost the golden ribbon Aileen had given him somewhere on the arduous journey through the forest.  Finlay held very still as she moved her hand to his face.  A moment later, she rocked back on her heels and said softly, “Not Alex-an-der.”

            “Alexander?”  The young man frowned.  “How coulds ye...?  Thot’s mah brither’s nam’,” he said at last.  “Did ye ken him?”  It would have been possible.  She was old enough to have known his brother when he lived among the Cherokee.

            Tears rolled down the woman’s cheeks.  She closed her eyes and looked away.  “U- yo-hu-sv.”  She began to mutter to herself, switching with maddening regularity from English to her native tongue.  “Dead.  Nah-i u-yo-hu-sv.  He is dead.”  

Finlay reached out and caught her arm again.  She jumped and reared back, but he kept a firm grip on her.  “Alec isnae dead.  I dinnae ken whot—”  He paused as the possibility that she knew something he didn’t struck him hard.  “Hae ye seen him?  Dae ye ken ought?”

She looked very frightened.  “Tla.  Tla.”

He frowned.  “Dae ye mean ‘nae’, lass?”

Her dark head shook.  “No.”

Finlay breathed a sigh of relief.  “Well, he waur in fin’ fettle when last I saw him  puckle days afore this.”  The woman was not looking at him, but into the distance.  He shook her arm.  “Lass, can ye tell me?  Did ye ken mah brither?”

She looked back at him.  There were tears in her eyes.  Her fingers found the silver cross and she nodded.  “Aatinataa,” she said firmly.  “U-ya-hi.”

Finlay eyes were on the crucifix, but at that word they flicked to her face.  “Uyahi?” he whispered, startled.

The woman frowned.  She hesitated and then pointed at him.  “U-ya-hi?”

“Nae, I dinna hae a guidwife.”  He shook his head and drew a deep breath, wincing as pain shot through it.  A moment later he asked, “Was Alexander yer ‘uyahi’?”

She blinked.  More tears fell.  Then she nodded again. 

“God’s woonds,” the young man breathed.  “May I?”  He indicated the silver cross.  Her frown deepened, but she permitted him to take it in his fingers.  It was finely wrought;  just the sort of thing a devout young Scotsman might have made a present of to his beloved.  His eyes went to her face again.  When he had agreed to accompany Alec to the Colonies, he had pressed him to teach him some words in the Cherokee tongue, knowing eventually they would visit the people his brother had lived among, and the place where, so long ago, he had lost so much.  One day they had been playing at it when their parents had walked by.  ‘A-da-li-i,’ Alec had said, pointing at their dark-skinned mother, and ‘u-ya-hi,’ when their father turned his disapproving face their way.

‘U-ya-hi’ was the Cherokee word for ‘husband’.

“I dinnae beliefe it,” Finlay Dougal whispered as he let go of the cross and sank back against the cavern wall.

Unexpectedly the woman jumped to her feet, startling him, and turned towards the mouth of the cave.  He watched her listen intently and then seem to relax.  A moment later a shadow fell across the threshold, quickly followed by a small white-haired boy carrying a flintlock rifle twice his size and two fat rabbits bound together at the feet with a piece of twine. 

He grinned from ear to ear when he saw the young Scot was awake.  “Criminetly!  You sure had us scared.  You’ve been out for hours.”

Finlay frowned.  “Israel, whot aur ye doin’ haur?  Did ye follaw me?”

“Never mind that,” the boy said as he laid the animal carcasses near his feet and took the native woman’s hand. “You two ain’t been introduced, proper-like.  This is Finlay,” he said inclining his head towards the wounded man, “and Finlay, this is— ”

“I ken.  I ken who she is,” the young man whispered, still not quite believing it.

Israel frowned.  “Tarnation, how would you know?  All right then, if you are so all-

fired smart, you tell me who she is.”
            Finlay had trouble finding his voice.   He cleared his throat and shook his head as he continued to stare at the ghost before him. 

“Spicewood,” he said at last, “mah brither’s guidwife.”

 

                                                                                            ###

 

“Tis nae safe.  We dinnae ken whot is oot thaur.  Arrowkeeper,” Alexander caught

the tall man by the arm and pulled him back, “ye cannae go.”

            “I will go.  It is the only path to the village.  We must warn Cara-Mingo’s people....”

            “They waur mah folk as well.  I means tae warn them, boot nae noo.  Someain is comin’ throogh th’ trees.  Can ye nae hear them?”

            As the Creek crouched beside him Alexander fell silent.  He grasped a thick branch wet with dew and drew it close so it concealed them where they hid.  A moment later a quartet of smartly-outfitted British soldiers marched past escorting a prisoner.  The man was a native.  He wore a raven skin about his bare shoulders and his face was painted black so he could not easily be seen.  They both knew the garment marked him as a Cherokee scout, but why he had been captured and what mission he had been on, they had no way of knowing.  As the Scot nodded to his companion, the two of them parted; one circling west and the other east.  In this way, they would skirt the soldiers’ camp and meet up again without taking the risk of both of them being captured and their mission lost. 

            Alexander moved stealthily through the green leaves for something like a quarter of an hour before he became aware of the fact that he was being followed.  When he did, he slowed his step, uncertain of what to do.  Then, when the opportunity presented itself, he ducked behind the thick trunk of an old oak tree and waited; his Scottish flintlock in his hand.  He could tell by the sound of his pursuer’s approach that it was not Arrowkeeper.  On the one hand they made entirely too much noise, as if whoever they were, they moved in haste heedless of the consequences.  On the other hand, he or she made too little noise; as if they were small or slight like a woman.  Holding his breath the Scot waited until they drew very close and then, at the last second, leapt out from behind the tree and planted himself in the middle of the moonlit path.

            “An’ whot woulds it be ye might be wantin’?” he asked, brandishing the weapon.  A moment later he fell silent.  A young man stood before him, half-masked by the shadows of the rustling leaves.  No, not a young man; a boy of ten or eleven years at the most.  He was bare-chested; dressed only in buck-skin boots and a short patterned breech-cloth.  His skin was coppery and tanned from constant exposure to the sun, but it was light for a native.  By that and his features Alexander could tell he had white blood.  The Scot kept the flintlock trained on the boy so he would not feel free to run and took a step forward.  “I dinnae intend ye harm, lad.  Whot aur ye doin’ haur?  Waur ye wi’ th’ mon th’ sodgers took?”

            The boy was wary.  Deep blue eyes shone from a framework of straight brown hair, dancing with keen intelligence and cunning.  He quickly took the measure of the man before him; decided he was not about to shoot an unarmed youth, and turned tail and ran.

            Straight into Arrowkeeper.

            The tall Creek caught him.  Holding him tightly by the shoulders, he gazed down at the squirming boy and smiled.  “And where is your father, Adohi?” he asked softly.

            The boy’s head came up.  When he saw who it was that held him, he grew quiet.  Then, in well-schooled English, he answered, “He is with the British soldiers.  Their leader has taken him captive.”  He pivoted sharply and pointed at the gaping Scot.  “The one who speaks like him!”

 

                                                                                                ###

 

            At least four hours had passed since he had parted with Alexander and Arrowkeeper and he had used the time to scout out the Creek camp, trying to determine where the madmen who had taken Becky might be holding her.  As he paused in the concealing embrace of the shadows that ringed the talofa, Dan closed his eyes and offered a quick prayer of thanksgiving.  The tall Creek had told him that neither Israel nor the Scot’s brother had been with her when they had brought her in.  God willing, they were both safe within the fort.  He tipped his head back and glanced at the retreating stars overhead.  It was nearly dawn.  All too soon the sun would rise and, once it did, he would be forced to wait until nightfall to act—that or take the chance of being seen if he attempted a rescue during daylight hours.  Of course, if he waited, Alexander and Arrowkeeper might have time to find and return with reinforcements.  Still, considering what was at stake, that didn’t seem to him to be the wisest course.  He had no idea what these men would do to Becky if he failed to make it known he had come to collect her as ‘requested.’

            Dan pursed his lips.  He removed his coonskin cap and ran a hand through his tousled brown hair.  He believed he had identified the structure they were using as a jail.  It was a temporary building made of branches and mud, with a woven mat that served as a door and two fierce-looking Red Hearts in front of that door who served as a deterrent.  During the time he had hugged the tall grasses, watching, several important-looking men had come and gone.  One had been a native, not too tall but stocky, and dressed in a long feathered cape.  Two others he had taken for white men to begin with, but as they lingered outside he had come to realize they were only half-white like Mingo.  By their bearing and manner, like him too, they had obviously been educated in the white man’s world.  He had wondered at the time if one of them had been this James McInnery the MacKirdy brothers had spoken of; the one Dungan MacDougall had sent them to warn him about.  If so—if he had indeed arrived—then things were bound to escalate quickly.  Before they knew it, they might be in the middle of an out and out war.

            His green eyes narrowed as they followed the men and women of the Creek village who were busily going about the tasks of living. Many of the men were warriors, but some were laborers, and still others, priests and medicine men.  The women had to be their daughters, wives and mothers, come to cook and clean and care for them as they prepared to do battle.  He wondered again what it was about man that kept him from making peace with his brother.  Why couldn’t the white and the red man find some way to coexist?  After all, he wanted the same thing they did; a parcel of land to call his own—enough to feed and cloth his kin—and a safe haven from the elements.  Surely this great land had room for them all.  Surely there was some way they could come to an agreement that would satisfy everyone.  As he continued to stare, disheartened, one of the two men he had seen earlier returned.  He exchanged a few words with the painted warriors who guarded the lodge and then turned and proceeded to walk his way.  He was of an average height with deep copper skin and broad strong features; his garments those of a wealthy Englishman or Scot, with the exception of the patterned blanket that covered his broad shoulders.  Rising up on his knees, Dan peered through the long blades of grass and watched him approach.  The native’s hands were linked behind his back and his chin was on his chest.  He had the appearance of a leader of men deeply troubled by the role fate had chosen to assign him.  Dan chewed his lip and considered his options, as he knew the other man must be doing.  He had no way of knowing when—or even if—Alexander and Arrowkeeper would return.  No one at the fort knew what was happening.  Mingo was missing, and there were at least two hundred angry young braves making camp one hundred yards in front of him, ready and willing to kill whoever might try to stand in their way— 

And only one Becky.

            Only one.

            Drawing a deep breath he stood up and calmly stepped into the open.  A moment later, with a twinge of regret that nearly made him reconsider his plan, he tossed Tick Licker to the ground, making certain the gesture was obvious.  “James McInnery?” he called.

            The well-dressed man started.  He stopped in place and turned towards the sound.  When he spotted him, he began to move forward again.  As he drew near, Dan saw recognition dawn in his black eyes.  After all, there weren’t too many men in Kentucky who were over six and a half feet, who dressed in buckskins and wore a cap made of coonskin on their heads.  As the other man came to rest not five feet in front of him, he planted his English riding boot on the barrel of the flintlock that lay gleaming in the grass and inclined his head towards the weapon. 

            “I assume this means you intend to surrender without a fight,” he remarked.

            Dan nodded.  “And I assume you are McInnery.”  He watched the two warriors who guarded the lodge note his appearance.  One of them approached with his weapon drawn while the other ran into the common.  Soon, the news of his arrival would spread like wildfire.  If Mingo was anywhere near, hopefully he would hear.

            If he was alive—that was.

            “Yes.  I am James McInnery.”  Lines creased the man’s dark forehead as he attempted to puzzle out what the big frontiersman was up to.  “And you must be Daniel Boone.”

            “The same.”  Dan smiled his crooked smile and inclined his head towards the lodge.  “Now, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to see my wife.”

 

                                                                                                ###

           

            “Adohi?”

            The boy frowned.  He glanced back at Arrowkeeper who nodded, before turning and walking towards the strange man with the tanned skin and short curly black hair who had called him.  “Do I know you?” he asked.

            The man laughed.  “Aye.  Th’ last tim’ I spied ye, ye waur a wee laddie, boot knee-high tae this grea’ tall giant o’ a mon.”  Alexander shook his head.  “Ye hae groon mor’ like yer mither.  I woulds nae hae kent ye.”

            The young Cherokee screwed up his face.  He continued to frown and then suddenly, like the sun breaking through on a storm-tossed day, a smile lit his striking face.  “Uncle Alec?”

            “Aye, lad.  Sae ye dae remember me?”

            The boy grew sober.  A loss only vaguely recalled colored his dark eyes.  “It has been many years.”

            Alexander nodded.  “Aye.  It has.  Ye aur almoost a mon noo.”

            Adohi smiled at that.  “My father says that I....”  His face fell as he remembered why he had begun to follow this man whom he had taken to be one of the party of soldiers who had mysteriously appeared several hours before in the woods.  “He brought me along to learn.  He was scouting for the tribe.  The ones in uniform....  They took him.”  The boy paused and his eyes sought those of the man before him.  “You are not with them?”

            Alexander shook his head.  “Nae, lad.  Arrowkeeper an’ I waur wi’ Daniel Boone.  Why was yer faither haur?  Dae th’ Cherokee ken thaur is trooble afoot?”

            “Not only the Cherokee, but all the chiefs who are wise.  They would be fools not to know,” he added, repeating words his father had spoken.  “Many men move through the trees.  Some are Muskogee Creek from the far south.  Some Creek from not so far away.  There are Shawnee, Miami and Wyandot among them—young angry men, so the chiefs say—and there are others, like you,” Adohi paused, gazing at Alexander’s pistol and the colonial garments he wore, “who are not white but wear the white men’s clothing.  These men mean trouble.  They mean to bring war.”  The boy shifted and wrapped his arms about his chest.  “Then there are others, British soldiers, with braid on their sleeves and golden wings on their shoulders.  Among them are men,” the boy paused, obviously puzzled, “who wear skirts.  I did not think white men wore skirts.” 

            “Skirts?”  Alexander’s black eyebrows winged towards his curly bangs.  “Ye mean th’ plaid?  Kilts?”

            Adohi shrugged.  “I do not know what a ‘kilt’ is.”

            Alexander met Arrowkeeper’s eyes.  “Ye ken whot this means?”

            The tall Creek shook his head.  “I do not....”

            “Highlanders.  Regimental Highlanders.”  He drew a breath and whispered a silent prayer that the next answer the boy gave would be the right one.  “Was ain o’ them a big bawd mon; wi’ a beard, an’ a laugh thot coulds startle a fox frae his den ur rattle th’ cones off a tree?  His kilt,” he stopped himself and began again, “his ‘skirt’ woulds be red an’ green, an’ he woulds hae a grea’ deal o’ gold on his sleeves.”

            Adohi nodded.  “He is their leader.  The men who took my father follow him.”  Suddenly, the boy fell silent. 

            Alexander stepped forward to lay a hand on his shoulder.  “Laddie?”

Adohi’s great blue eyes fixed him.  “Will they....  Will they kill him?”

The Scot placed his arm about the boy’s shoulders. “Nae.  I dinnae thin’ they woulds, e’en if we waurn’t here.  Boot we aur, an’ fur sure Uncle Dungan will release Copperhead aince I speak tae him.” 

            Arrowkeeper came to stand beside them.  Uncle Dungan?”

Alexander met the tall Creek’s eyes. “Aye. Uncle Dungan.  He moost hae com’ wi’ his regiment tae check oot th’ rumors himself.”

“You are certain he will listen to you?”

            “He’s a fair mon an’ ain who kens th’ truth when ‘tis spoken.”  As Alexander started to lead Adohi forward, he added quietly, “Oh, an’ Arrowkeeper?”

“Yes?”

            The Scot’s smile was chagrinned.  “If onie ain shoulds ask ye yer nam’ afore I speak wi’ mah uncle, I woulds nae say whot ‘tis.”

            “No?  And why is that?”

            “I am afraid yer past is hauntin’ ye afresh.”

 

                                                                                                    $$$

 

            The Cherokee stood with his back stiff and his head held high.  He was very sure of himself and not in the least bit intimidated by tactics that had made other men break. General Dungan MacDougall of the Queen’s Highlanders watched quietly from the sidelines as his men continued to interrogate him.  He did not really suspect the man of spying on them—after all, the Crown was at peace with his people—but the timing of his appearance had been suspicious and one could never be too careful.  Obviously the native was dressed as a war scout and painted so as to be rendered invisible, and no matter what his chief might ordain, a man’s loyalties were always subject to his own character and need.  Running short thick fingers over his sabled beard, MacDougall narrowed his pale blue eyes and studied the man.  There was something about him; something that did not set quite right.  He appeared to speak very little English, and yet his sharp brown-black eyes seemed to take in everything about him with a keen understanding.  Intrigued, he listened for the space of several heartbeats and then left the shadows to approach the warrior.

            Dismissing his second-in-command with a wave of his hand, MacDougall planted himself firmly in front of the man and met his defiant stare.  “Whot is yer nam’?”

            The Cherokee shook his head.  He had been stripped of his raven’s cloak and left to stand bare-chested in the growing light.  The general’s eyes inspected him from head to toe.  His hair was more brown than black, typical of some Cherokee, and almost waist-length.  It was parted and braided many times, and decorated liberally with gold and silver bands.  He wore glass beads about his throat; a sure sign that he had, at some time, been in contact with Europeans.  His clothing was atypical.  He did not wear buckskins or a breechcloth with moccasins, but broadcloth trousers and black riding boots.  General MacDougall chewed his lip a moment and then pinned him with his piercing blue eyes.  “Sae ye dinnae speak onie  English, mah Cherokee friend?”

            The native gazed at him as if puzzled.  “A tla-i-go-li-ga,” he said as he shrugged.

            “An’ ye dinnae ken whot I am sayin’?”  MacDougall watched as it dawned on the man that even if he didn’t speak English, he obviously knew some Cherokee.  The general locked his hands together behind his back and rested his thumbs on the chain that supported his badger-head sporran. “How aboot this then?  Ga-do de-tsa-do-a?”

            The Cherokee stiffened.  The frown deepened.  “Gado?”

            “Aye, ye bold heathen, I speak yer tongue.  Noo whot hae ye got tae say?”

            The handsome native was silent a moment and then a smile broke across his face.  “Wodi giasgoli.”

            It was the older man’s turn to frown.  He thought about the words a moment and then he said, “Yer nam’ is Copperhead?  Like th’ snake?  An’ aur ye pure dangeroos then, Copperhead?”

            The Cherokee laughed.  “That depends on whose side you are on.”

            MacDougall’s answering laugh was more of a bark.  “Sae, ye dee speak English then.”

            Copperhead’s dark eyes lit with mischief.  “And a ‘muckle’ of Gaelic as well.”

            The general’s salt and pepper eyebrows peaked.  He fingered his beard as was his habit and straightened a few of the pleats on his kilt.  “Well, haur’s hopin’ we aur on th’ same side then.  It seems, Copperhead, ye woulds mak’ a formidable enemy.  So, ye aur an educated mon?”

            “He is more than thot, Uncle Dungan.  He is a mon o’ honor, an’ a cherished friend.”

            The general pivoted on the heels of his well-polished boots.  Near the edge of the clearing where they had made camp half a dozen figures stood; three of his own guard, two strangers and a boy.  He took a step towards them and then his breath caught in his throat. A genuine smile of delight lit his aged features as he recognized his nephew.  Throwing his arms wide, he cried out, “Alexander!  Mah lad, ye aur alife!”

            As the soldiers who had come across them walking in the woods and escorted them to the camp looked on in surprise, Alexander bounded from their midst and fell into the older man’s arms.  Dungan hugged him hard, actually lifting him from the ground, and then backed off and held him at arm’s length to look at him.  “I hads heard nothin’ o’ ye, lad, ur yer brither.”  He looked at his nephew’s traveling companions, a tall imposing native and a slender Indian boy, and wondered who they were.   He noted the boy’s eyes were fastened on the man being held in the center of the camp.  Clamping Alexander on the shoulder, he asked, “Whaur is Finlay?  Is he nae wi’ ye?”

            The young man shook his head.  “Nae.  He stayed behin’ in Boonesboroogh tae guard Daniel’s guidwife.  Th’ Muskogee cam’ tae th’ cabin.  McInnery, I fear.  They took Mrs. Boone...”

            “God’s body!”  His uncle was deeply pained.  He could sense by Alexander’s demeanor that something was wrong.  “He is nae...?”

            “I dinnae ken.”  The Scot swallowed hard.  “Mah friend,” he glanced at Arrowkeeper, “says he was nae wi’ Mrs. Boone when they brooght her in....”

            “Alexander.”

            The raven-haired man swung about.  It was Arrowkeeper who had spoken.  As he watched, the tall man nodded towards Copperhead’s son.  The boy was like a young colt champing at the bit. 

            Alexander grinned.  He nodded and then turned and looked at Copperhead.  The Cherokee had watched the exchange between him and his uncle with interest.  “Forgife me,” he offered, “fur nae greetin’ ye.  ‘Tis guid tae see ye ag’in, Copperhead.”

            The handsome native nodded.  “Yes.  You have returned, when you swore you would not.”

“Aye, eatin’ mah own words, I am.”  Alexander sighed.  “I brooght mah brither haur tae keep him frae trooble, an’ then led him intae it.  I was afraid fur Cara as well,” he added with a glance at his uncle.

            Copperhead stiffened.  “Cara? Why?”

            Alexander ran a hand through his hair.  He resisted the urge to look at Arrowkeeper.  “I’ll gi’e it ye in a moment.  Boot first...  Adohi,” he turned and called to the boy, “com’ haur.”

            The soldiers who restrained the young native looked to their general.  MacDougall nodded his head and signaled they should let both the Cherokee youth and the tall man who stood with him advance.  As the boy came abreast them, he stopped him with a hand to his chest.  Glancing from the anxious child to the man who remained captive in a circle of his men, he asked, “Your son?”

            Copperhead nodded as he masked a proud smile.  Still, his love and approval shone in his dark eyes.  “Yes.  Adohi.”

            The general turned back to the boy.  He stared at him a moment, noting his rich blue eyes and light tanned skin.  “Adohi?  Thot means ‘forever’, does it nae?”

            Adohi’s father spoke from behind him.  “It seems you had an able teacher, General.”  Copperhead’s eyes flicked to Alexander.  “Anyone I might know?”

            MacDougall laughed.  “It woulds seem sae.”  Keeping his hand on the boy’s shoulder so he had to remain where he was, he turned back to his nephew.  As he spoke, his face sobered.  “Since it seems we needs nae worry aboot uir ‘spy’ haur,  will ye nae tell me whot brin’s ye oot intae th’ wilderness—an’ withoot Daniel Boone at yer side?” 

            Alexander swallowed.  He glanced at his tall companion and then said, “First off, Uncle, ye shoulds ken thot this is Arrowkeeper.”

            Dungan MacDougall’s demeanor changed instantly.  Once again he was all military.  He stared at the imposing native, attempting to take his measure.  “Is it noo?” he said slowly. “An’ ye com’ haur as....?”

            “A man who has made mistakes, General, and one who wishes to right them if he can.  I come with knowledge of your enemies and of the men who lead them.”  Arrowkeeper stared at Copperhead’s young son who was biding his time as best he could, anxious to join his father.  “I come as uncle to Kamassa Chafaaka.”  He avoided both of his friend’s astonished stares and finished, “And as a man who loves him, and who would not see him used in such a way.”

            MacDougall’s blue eyes narrowed as he stroked his chin.  “Sae this Kamassa is yoong as hae been rumored?”

            “Not much older than this one.”  Arrowkeeper sighed.  “And in some ways, much younger.”

            The Highland general stared hard at Adohi.  The boy had been doing his level best to act grown up; to remain where he was and appear unafraid.  His behavior said much for the man who had raised him.  Still, his deep blue eyes kept darting to his captive father.  Finally taking pity on him, MacDougall turned to the men who held the Cherokee and dismissed them with a gesture.  Then he lifted his hand and said, “Gae tae yer faither, lad.”  The young boy met the general’s eyes briefly and then, after receiving a nod from his father, ran to his side.  As Copperhead knelt and caught him, pulling him into the circle of his arms, Alexander’s uncle turned back towards his nephew and the tall Creek he had heard so much about. 

“An’ ye twa, com’ wi’ me,” he commanded.  “We hae mooch tae talk aboot.”

 

                                                                                                ###

           

            Becky stumbled as the native thrust her through the door.  They had taken her from the lodge she shared with Mingo and, dragging her through the common at the center of the talofa, deposited her in yet another larger one.  She was filthy, hungry, exhausted, and more than a little bit infuriated.  As a hand caught her elbow, she swung at its owner, only to have her other arm captured as well.  She started to hammer at the man’s chest but then, suddenly, realized who it was.  That realization stopped her dead in her tracks.  She lifted her hand to his face, touched his cheek, and promptly fainted.

            Some time later she opened her eyes to the touch of a wet cloth on her forehead.  She blinked several times and then focused on the man who held it.  Her fingers found his face and traveled the familiar hills and valleys worn into it by love and loss and the inestimable cost of blazing a trail through the wilderness. 

It was him.  It was her man.

            “Oh, Dan,” she whispered, hugging him hard.  “I’d like to say I’m glad to see you, but....”

            “But you’re not?”  His grin was as usual lop-sided.  “Now there’s a fine ‘how’d ya do.’”

            “You know what I mean.”  Becky struggled to sit up.  He helped with a hand to her back and then held her as she leaned into his embrace.  “How did they catch you?  And where is Mr. MacKirdy?  Is he—?”

            “Alexander’s fine.”  Dan glanced about, wondering if the walls might not have ears as well as eyes.  He leaned close to her, as if he were attempting to help her, and whispered, “He’s gone for help.”  Shifting back, he raised his voice and said clearly, “You won’t feel dizzy in a minute.  Just sit there a mite until you feel better.”

Becky frowned.  “What...?”

“And since you asked, no one caught me.  I gave myself up.”

            His red-headed wife was startled.  “Dan!  You didn’t!”

            “Yep, I did.  Walked right into camp and handed over my rifle.”  He shrugged. “No use fightin’ the odds, Becky.  These men are bound to win.”

            “Daniel Boone!”  She pushed her small frame away from his.  “What kind of talk is that?”

            “Your husband is being reasonable, Mrs. Boone.  I would advise you to do the same.”

            Becky jumped.  She pivoted in Dan’s arms to find the man who had recently come to haunt not only her dreams, but all her waking hours.  “Only men who have something to hide choose to lurk in the shadows, Mr. McInnery,” she growled.

            “Now, Becky,” Dan warned.

The elegantly dressed man stepped into the beam of light that fell through the smoke-hole in the ceiling and inclined his head in greeting.  “Gracious as ever, I see, Mrs. Boone.”

“Why, you...” She bit her lip, ready to hurl an Irish insult at the man, but her husband’s voice stopped her.

“Rebecca,” he said quietly.

The redhead turned and looked at her husband.  He only called her Rebecca when he was very, very upset with her, or when something was of the utmost importance.  She bit her lip and shut her mouth.

Dan smiled.  He stood and drew her up after him.  Wrapping his arm about her waist, he addressed their captor.  “Don’t you think it’s about time you let my wife go?  That was the plan, wasn’t it?  You take her.  I come get her.  You keep me, and then let her go.... ”

“She will be released, Mr. Boone.  In time.  After this is over and you have played your part in the ‘plan’ you mentioned.”  McInnery cleared his throat.  “While your reputation is spotless and your word above question....”

“You’d like to have a little insurance, so you know I will cooperate.”

“Yes.”  The other man locked his hands behind his back.  “Your craft and cunning are also legend.  So long as we hold her and the boy...”

Becky frowned.  She looked at Dan who shook his head imperceptibly.  Turning back to the other man, she asked softly, “You have Israel?”

“Oh, yes,” The English-bred native lied. 

“But....”

“He was taken shortly after you, Mrs. Boone.  I am afraid you were unaware of what was happening...having fainted as you did.”

Becky’s hand went to the blackened skin on her cheek.  She felt her husband stiffen as he noticed the bruises.  It was unmistakable what had put them there.  She almost laughed as she had to shoot him a warning.  ‘Not now’, her blue eyes pleaded, ‘later.  Later, God will see that this man pays.’

“The boy is nearby.  You may see him before you return to the lodge you were being held in.”  His eyes met Dan’s angry ones.  “Your husband has other duties to attend to.”

Becky didn’t know whether to believe him or not.  It was possible.  They might have caught Israel coming out of the bolt-hole, or escaping through the woods.  Or McInnery could be lying. 

“Finlay?” she asked at last.

“The young Scotsman?”  The man shrugged.  “Dead, no doubt.  You took so long opening the door, he lost a good amount of blood.”

Becky gritted her teeth.  She had never met Mingo’s Creek brother, but she had heard him described as a devil.  This one, McInnery, was either his mirror-image or the man come back to life.   “If a man kicked you in the heart, he’d break his toe,” she flung at him, her Irish temper flaring.  “And when you die, I am sure the devil will be standing at the gateway to Hell, waiting to escort you in.”

Dan grabbed his wife and clamped his hand over her mouth as she opened it to add another curse.  He raised one brown eyebrow and shrugged.  “Can’t say she isn’t spirited....”

James McInnery frowned.  He straightened his sword-belt and fixed the redhead with his black eyes.  “I would, perhaps, have used another word.  But enough of this.”  The elegant man clapped his hands and instantly, four well-muscled warriors stepped into the room.  “Horse Dance,” he said, addressing the youngest of them, “you will keep Mrs. Boone...company.  The rest of you, escort Mr. Boone to the ceremonial lodge.  Kamassa will be waiting.”

“Dan,” she turned and placed her hands on her husband’s chest.  “He’s just a boy.  These men,” she glanced at McInnery who was speaking to one of the braves, “they are using him.  I know they are.”

He shook his head.  “It’s worse than that, Becky.” 

Her eyes went wide.  “Worse?  Dan, what do you mean?”

He shook his head as the other man turned back towards them.  She knew that expression.  It meant she was to forget what she had heard. 

“Have you seen Mingo?” he asked, changing the subject.

Becky nodded.  “He was all right when I left him, Dan, but they mean to kill him.

Like they do you....”

“Oh no, Mrs. Boone, I assure you I intend nothing so banal.”  McInnery stopped a few feet away from them. “Your husband and his Cherokee friend are going to help me with a certain...plan.  Aren’t you, Mr. Boone?”

As the English-bred native spoke, the one called Horse Dance approached and pulled a knife and laid it across Rebecca’s white throat.  

Dan sighed.  Much as he wanted to sweep up the floor with the lot of them, it would do him, Mingo, and Becky no good to let them know that right now.  “Well, now,” he said, forcing his lips into a smile, “it would hardly be neighbor-like if I was to do anythin’ less.”   

 

                                                                                ###

 

“Gosh Almighty,” Israel whispered, his blue eyes wide with wonder, “she’s married to your brother?”

Finlay was leaning against the cave wall.  He was holding his side and breathing heavily, but he was on his feet.  The Boone’s small son had told him how Spicewood had returned for them with a pair of horses.  After helping Israel onto the back of one, she had then placed him on its mate and mounting behind him, led them quickly through the woods, following paths known only to those native to the land.  He had no memory of the journey, but from the way he felt, it seemed more likely he had been slung over the animal than sat on it.  Still, here they were.

Wherever here was.

 “Aye.  Alec married her when he was aboot mah age.  Boot he told me she died th’ same night as Cara-Mingo’s brither.  I dinnae understan’ how she can be alife.”

“Your brother doesn’t know then?”

“Nae.  He dinna ken.”  Finlay frowned as he straightened up and attempted to stand without support.  “An’ someain told her th’ same aboot him.  She beliefes Alec is dead.  I dinnae thin’ she troosted me when I said he was alife.”

“She’s mighty jumpy.”  The little boy shook his head solemnly.  “I think she’s scared of someone.”

“An’ whot make’s ye thin’ thot, lad?”

“Well, while you were sleepin’, some other Indian women came lookin’ for her.  I listened to them from inside the cave.  They mentioned someone.  Polla....  Poll-ee-choo?”  Israel frowned.  “Somethin’ like that.”

“Policha?”

“Yep.  That’s it.  She pert near fainted.”

Finlay pressed off the wall and moved to the mouth of the cave.  “Whaur is Spicewood noo?”

The boy shook his head.  “She went off with the other ladies.  She said we was to wait here until she came back.”

The Scot glanced back at him.  “Ye mean she spoke in English?”

“It’s funny, Finlay.  When I first met her, she didn’t seem to know none.  I thought she was speakin’ Creek.  Then she started usin’ Cherokee.  And now, she’s speakin’ English like you and me.”  Israel laughed.  “Well, more like me.”

The young Scot grinned at him.  “Dae ye ken whaur she went?”

Israel came to stand beside him.  Together they gazed at the growing morning light that lit the trees and the hills beyond.  In his best imitation of the Scottish brogue, the little boy emitted a sober, “Nae.”

Finlay wondered briefly what the new day might bring as he knelt by the boy’s side.  Laying his hand on his shoulder, he asked, “Did ye see th’ direction she took?”

Israel started to nod, but then it dawned on him why the young man was asking.  “Finlay, no.  You can’t go after her.  You’ll start bleeding again.  Anyway, she might just have gone to her village.”

The Scot stared at him a moment and then nodded.  “Aye, yer richt.  Besides, I cannae leafe ye haur alone.”

The little boy planted one hand on his hip and wagged his finger in the young man’s face.  “You leave me alone?” he protested.  “I can’t leave you alone.  Do you know how easy it was to follow your trail through the woods?  Didn’t your Pa learn you nothin’?”

Finlay Dougal laughed and held up his hands.  “I fear th’ huntin’ skills I learned in Scotlain’ wiltnae serve me well haur.  Thoogh when I am nae woonded, I can hide as well as  th’ best o’ men.  Ask mah brither.”

“You need me to look after you,” Israel said solemnly.

The young Scot stared at the boy.  Even if he could convince Spicewood to lead him to this Policha, wherever he was, he couldn’t leave the boy behind.  They would have to go together and he would have to hope he could convince her to look out for Israel while he sought the boy’s mother and father.  And, God willing, Alexander. 

“Aye, thot I dee, laddie.  It seems we twa aur in this taegether, nae matter whot.”

 

                                                                                    ###

 

Spicewood stood on the threshold of the lodge that rested beneath the trees.  Like the man who occupied it, it was separated from the People.  She shuddered at the thought of his touch, but knew if she stayed away any longer he would grow suspicious, and she did not want him to grow suspicious; not now.  She prayed to Yowa he would not sense the joy that filled her heart to the point of bursting, or see it blazing in the depths of her deep brown eyes. 

Alexander.  Alexander, alive. 

Was it possible?

She closed her eyes and allowed her mind to return to that horrible day, the one when Tara-Mingo and his men had come to their village and carried her away.  It had marked the beginning of the end of so many things: the end of her life among the Cherokee, and the end of her marriage.  She had thought it had also marked the end of her young husband’s life.  Policha had shown her the sash.  It had been covered with blood. 

He had the claymore still.

She hugged her arms about her thin frame.  Why had she not guessed?  Why had she believed him?  All these years she had believed him, and he had lied.

About so many things.

“Istaasa Itto?”

It was him, using the Creek form of her name.  “Yama.  Ana atta.”  ‘Yes’, she answered, ‘I am here’.  A moment later the thick mat that covered the door was pulled aside and the slender sandy-haired man gazed at her.  His glasses were off and his short hair tousled as if he had been asleep.  He was dressed only in buckskin pants.  He glanced at the sky, noting the hour, and then said in English, “The new day has come.  Where have you been?”

“With the women,” she answered quickly, ducking past him.  “Chakosi and Nanni.  We hunted fish and gathered grain.”

He caught her hand and pulled her to him.  Gently he placed his hand on her hair and lifted the comb from it.  She shied away from him and her hand went to her temple, pulling the black waves forward in a practiced fashion.  He held her tight and kissing her forehead, whispered, “Shh.  It doesn’t show.  I’ve told you that before.”  He took his fingers then and fanned the black tresses over her shoulders.  “There.  You are beautiful.  You know that?  The most beautiful woman in the world.  And you are mine.”

As he pulled her into a kiss, she fought the urge to resist.  If it was true—if Alexander was alive—it didn’t matter anymore.  The young man, the one who claimed to be his brother, had told her he was on his way here with Daniel Boone, and that they sought  Cara-Mingo.  As Policha straightened, she sought to prove the validity of that claim.

“What is it?” he asked her.  “Spicewood?”

She forced a smile and laid her head on his bare chest.  “I heard the woman talking.... Boone is here?”

“Yes.”

Her eyes found his.  “And Cara-Mingo?”

He was silent a moment.  “Yes.  Why do you care?”

She flinched at his tone.  He was not rough with her or unkind as the other had been, but in some ways, his kindness was harder to bear.  There were times when a kind of madness seized him and then, she was very afraid.  “Only so I know what happens with you.  Tomorrow then is the day....”

“Aye.  Tomorrow we will make our move.”  He released her and went to sit on the edge of the bed.  “McInnery is being difficult.”

“Yes?”

“He doesn’t trust Kamassa.”  Policha laughed bitterly as he ran a hand through his sandy hair.  “Kamassa doesn’t trust him as well.”

“Do you?”

He sobered instantly and his hazel eyes sought her face.  “No, but I need him.  Together we can make this happen.  Separately....” 

Spicewood moved to stand before him.  “May I see Cara-Mingo?”

He frowned.  “Why?”

“He was my friend.  He knew my father.”

Policha stood and took her chin in his hand.  “You are not thinking of helping him, now are you, my love?”

She met his eyes; the thoughts behind her own carefully masked.  “Does he need my help?”

He let her go and lay back down on the bed.  “No.  We are merely keeping him... confined until this is all over.  You know we don’t intend to hurt our own.  This is for all of us, for every native whose land has been stolen; whose life has been destroyed.  Still,” he glanced at her, “I don’t think it would be wise for you to see him.”

Spicewood began to turn away.  “As you will.  I will leave you now.  There is much food to prepare— ”  She fell silent as he caught her hand and drew her down towards him.

“There will be time for that later.”

 

                                                                                ### 

“You understand, Mr. Boone, that you are to say nothing.”

Dan looked at the man beside him.  McInnery stood at attention like a well-trained soldier, even when there was no one to see.  He wondered what the man’s background was and what he might have experienced that could have filled him with such hatred for a race of men of which he was part.  “And what would you do if I did,” he drew a breath, “let it ‘slip’ to the boy?”

The black eyes found his quickly.  “Kill your wife and your son. Order the men to burn your settlement.”

The big frontiersman chewed his lip.  He was fairly certain McInnery didn’t really have Israel and that that part of it was an empty threat.  Still, he had to consider the possibility.  Even though Arrowkeeper had only seen Becky brought into the talofa, that didn’t mean both his son and Alexander’s young brother might not be here.  Then again, the man beside him was perfectly capable of lying.  In fact, when the elegantly attired native had first explained why he had brought him here, he had hoped he was lying.  And at that time he had still believed Kamassa Chafaaka to be a full grown man, capable of defending himself.  Now that he knew he was only a child, McInnery’s scheme was even more reprehensible.  “Tell me again” he began, “just why you want the boy dead.  I thought he was your people’s savior...”

McInnery laughed.  “If I did not know better, I would say you had been speaking to Policha.” He straightened his sword-belt.  “Mr. Boone, Kamassa is a gifted child.  But that is all he is; a child.  He has been coddled by that madman, and is capricious and unpredictable.  And while today Kamassa supports our cause, it has never been my intention to turn the fate of our people over to a child....”

“Because that child, given the right word in his ear, might decide to rebel tomorrow and make friends with those you consider your enemies?”

The native sighed.  “Yes.  His foster father’s reappearance upset him enough.  But this friend of yours—the uncle—he was one factor I had not counted on.”

“What disturbs you the most, Mr. McInnery, the fact that Mingo’s presence upset the equation, or the fact that you miscalculated?”  Dan was still reeling from finding out that Mingo had a nephew.  Still it explained many things, especially his friend’s odd behavior the night they had rescued Israel, and his running off without a word with Arrowkeeper.  Driving home the point, he finished, “You had to know Mingo was Kamassa’s kin and that he was bound to show up.”

“Yes.  I knew he was his ‘kin’, but there should have been no way he would have known it.  We labored hard to preserve the boy’s anonymity.”  The dark-skinned man practically growled.  “If not for Arrowkeeper betraying our trust....”

Dan shrugged. “That’s what you get for expectin’ honor among thieves.”

McInnery’s dark eyes crackled.  “You dare to call me a thief.  You are the thief, Mr. Boone; you and your kind.  Why, the land your fort rests on is native land.”

“I bought it, fair and square.”

“For a few dollars or a handful of beads?”  The man’s voice had risen in pitch.  “What did you give the people for the land you pilfered?  What could you give them that would replace the grass and the water, the wild game, and the birds that wheel overhead?  What could you possibly offer that would recompense them for the loss of their way of life?”

The tall frontiersman stared hard at him.  “How come you hate me so much, Mr. McInnery?”

The native glanced away, towards the dais where Kamassa would soon appear.  “Like the boy, you are an icon.  Your success...your advancement into the wilderness has inspired more white men to follow you.  If all things remain as they are, more will come, and in a short time all the land will be lost.  Soon, there will be no ‘Indian’ nation.”

“I was told you meant to make a different kind of ‘symbol’ out of me; one of the red man’s ability to triumph over the long knives.  Is that what this is all about?”

McInnery turned to face him.  “My people are, as a whole, superstitious and childlike.  They still believe that spirits and gods inhabit the trees and the animals, and affect their daily lives.”

“While you do not....”

The man’s scarred upper lip curled.  “No.  Thanks to the one who stole me from my people, and a rather extensive and expensive education in Europe, I do not; though my father’s people, the Scots, are superstitious as well.  It is the nature of man.  It does not mean the natives are either pagan or primitive; merely uneducated.”

Dan nodded.  “Go on.”

McInnery laughed.  “You know history, Mr. Boone.  You are not a stupid man.  Which are the names we remember?  Those of the remarkable men who died in their cups at a ripe old age, or those of the young ones who are cut down in their prime, with their missions as yet unfulfilled?”

“Now you are talking about Kamassa, not me.”

“Yes.  It is a shame to have to choose so radical a course, but the boy is uncontrollable.”  He pursed his lips.  “He will serve us better dead.”

Dan was silent a moment.  The full impact of this man’s scheme had just struck him.  It was brilliant in a way, and frightening.  “Then you will have a martyr, and hundreds of angry young men prepared to avenge his death.  And by having it seem like I killed him....”

“By having you kill him, the blame will be laid squarely where it belongs; at the white man’s feet.  You will have taken their ‘savior’ away, Mr. Boone.”  McInnery paused to draw a breath.  “How does it feel to be cast in the role of Judas?”

The big man cocked his head and lifted an eyebrow.  “You might try askin’ yourself that question, Mr. McInnery; seems to me you’ve been playin’ it a mite longer than me.”

The native’s dark eyes remained fixed on his prisoner’s face as he drew a deep breath and his fingers closed on the basket-hilt of his claymore.  “There was a purpose to Judas Iscariot’s life, Mr. Boone.  And, after all, we must all play the roles we are assigned.”  With that he held his hand out and directed the frontiersman forward. 

As Dan followed him, eyeing the half dozen warriors who guarded the great hall, he wondered one more time just what plan he had had in mind when he gave himself up.

Oh well, it would come to him in time.

 

                                                                                    ### 

“Th’ bone-headed coof!  Ye mean tae say he went intae thot lion’s den alone?”

Alexander nodded.  “Aye.  Boot he coulds be waitin’ fur us.  Bidin’ his tim’ ....”

General MacDougall eyed his young nephew.  His look might have been described as skeptical.  “How lang hae ye kent Daniel Boone?”

“Puckle days.”  The young Scot frowned.  “Still, I kens whot ye aur sayin’.  Daniel will be in th’ thick o’ it.”

The commander of the Highland regiment straightened and looked at the tall Creek who had accompanied his nephew.  The three of them had retired to his field tent to talk as the morning sun crested over the ocean of trees that surrounded them, heralding the new day.  After telling him all he knew of Policha’s plans, the native had fallen silent.  He did not know if that silence was an indication of remorse, or if the man was simply hiding something.

“An’ ye.... Ye hae nae more tae share aboot McInnery?”

Arrowkeeper looked up when he realized the general was addressing him.  He shook his head.  “I have not met the man.  Policha is using him.  McInnery has powerful backers; men who can clothe and feed the ‘disciples’ who flock to New Chewa.  That is all he wants from him. ”

“Sae I gathered.”  MacDougall stroked his beard.   “Noo, this Policha...”

“Yes?”  The tall Creek turned towards him.
            “He pure beliefes th’ lad is a ‘messiah’?  A savior fur his folk?”

Arrowkeeper met Alexander’s eyes and nodded as he looked away.  “Long ago,” he began, “Policha walked with another man—Kamassa’s true father.  His name was Tara-Mingo.  Policha was convinced he was the one who would do this thing; who would free their people.  It was his intention to groom Tara-Mingo—to school him or use him—to  lead the Creek nation out from under the bondage of the white man.”

The general was intrigued.  “Boot this nae happened.  Why is thot?”

“Because th’ mon whot Preacher chose was ungovernable,” Alexander growled.  “A savage monster wi’ oot a heart ur a conscience.”

MacDougall eyed his nephew, knowing there was something more.  “Gae on.”

Arrowkeeper advanced into the light thrown by the lantern on the general’s field desk.  “After he was exiled from the Cherokee fires for Star’s murder and the plot against their War Chief, Menewa; Tara-Mingo went with Policha to the south.  There he bided, growing in power; groomed by his silent shadow to seek power and wield it mercilessly.  In time the lands they commanded grew, as did their legend.”

“An’ how dae ye ken this?  Waur ye thaur?”

“Not with them, but I was in the south.”  The tall man drew a deep breath.  Some months after Star’s death he had returned to Georgia and sought out his family.  He had found his sister alive and, among her children, a small boy named Kamassa.

Dungan nodded.  The man had already explained about his connection with the lad.  “Gae on.”

“All was going as planned.  Then, one day, many years later, word was brought to Tara-Mingo that made him go blind with rage.  He no longer cared what power he might have, what position he might hold.  Though he was chief in many ways—and of many men—he left it all behind and returned to Ken-tah-ten to seek his brother to kill him.”

The general’s blue eyes sought out his nephew.  Alexander had paled and fallen silent.  “An’ this woulds be when yer guidwife died, Alec?”

“When she waur murdered, Uncle.  Thot day left a grea’ mony guid folk dead.  An’ those who waur nae dead, grievin’.”

MacDougall straightened his sash and moved around the table to stare past the two men.  Outside the tent their friend, Copperhead, sat quietly with his arm about his son, gazing pensively towards the horizon.

“An’ whot was this news thot caused th’ mon tae run amok?”

Alexander glanced at Arrowkeeper.  The tall Creek answered for him.  “He was told that John Murray, his brother’s English father, was the man who had killed his own.”

                                                                                ### 

 

Becky was still in the lodge where she had talked with Dan.  It seemed like a dream now, and there were moments when she was not certain she had really touched and spoken to him.  Still, when she began to doubt, she held her hands to her face and breathed in his scent—the whisper of pine mixed with leather well-tanned and well-worn—and that grounded her.  It was hard to keep her head in the midst of such madness.  What had Dan been hinting at?  She tried to think back through all of the things she had seen; through everything the man McInnery had said, and the words of the one called Preacher.  It seemed to her that their goals were not the same.  The slender sandy-haired man seemed to genuinely care about the boy.  James McInnery had no such feelings.  He was a hard man, and everything about him spoke of steel and stone.  He claimed to care for his people and yet seemed willing to sacrifice this child on the altar of his ambition.

She moved away from the door where the painted warrior kept watch, towards the back of the mud and branch lodge.  Once there, she knelt and closed her eyes.  As her lips began to move in silent prayer she asked God to protect her husband and to safe-guard  Alexander MacKirdy and bless his mission to seek and return with help.  She asked as well for Mingo, that angels would walk with him and keep him well.  And finally, she prayed for the young native, Kamassa.  She remembered Jemima at that age.  Growing into an adult was difficult enough when you had both parents and the safe harbor of a loving home; this poor child was all alone in the world, with the exception of his uncle whom he had been turned against.  Perhaps if she could talk to him....  If she could make him see that everything was not as he thought it was.... Perhaps then....

A whisper of soft leather on the hard earth brought her head up.  She opened her eyes and rose to her feet.  The mat was still in place.  The man McInnery left behind had not entered, and yet she knew someone was in the room with her.  Becky placed her hand on her heart and whispered, “Who is it?  Who’s there?”

No one answered, but a slender shadow disengaged itself from the collective darkness that blanketed the chamber.  A few steps brought it to her side.  She gasped as she realized it was the boy.

And he was alone.

“Kamassa,” she whispered.

He gazed at her.  He opened his mouth, but closed it again without saying anything.

Becky knew he wanted something, but wouldn’t—or couldn’t bring himself to ask.  When she spoke, her voice was soft.  “How can I help you?”

The young native frowned.  He looked away and sighed, and then after a moment, turned back to meet her eyes.  “My uncle,” he said at last, “tell me about him.”

“Mingo?”  The redhead shoved a lock of hair back from her forehead and shook her head in wonder.  Was this an answer to her prayer?  So soon?  “What would you like to know?”

“I would know,” the words came hard to him, “what sort of man he is.”

Becky bit her lip.  She tried to restrain her temper, but failed miserably.  “I thought you knew that already.  According to you, he’s a murderer and a fiend.”

Kamassa’s jaw tightened.  He was not used to being spoken to in that way.  Still, he didn’t want to leave.  Squaring his uneven shoulders, he lifted his dark head and commanded her.  “You will tell me.”

Becky crossed her arms.  “Yes, I will.   Not because you demand it, but because I want you to know that Mingo is nothing like what these men have told you.  He is a dear man; kind, generous and loving....”

“To his white brethren.”

“No.  To everyone,” she corrected him.  “Mingo sees no color when he looks at a man; he sees his heart.  And he doesn’t live among whites.  He lives with, and as, a Cherokee.  He wants nothing else.”

Kamassa’s face twitched.  “He killed my father.”

So they had come to the crux of it.  She wondered what he had been told of his father.  Most likely nothing having to do with the truth.  “Yes.  He did.”

The youth seemed surprised.  “You do not deny this?”

“No.”  She hesitated.  How should she put it?  Uncrossing her arms, she planted her hands on her hips and faced him squarely.  “Kamassa?”

His eyes never left her.  “Yes?”

“My God, my Master of Breath, has a saying.  ‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.’  Are you strong enough for the truth?”

“I do not fear words.”

“Or the pictures they paint?”

He touched his forehead.  “I see pictures that are true, for which there are no words.  I do not fear them either.

“Well, then,” she began, “hear this; your father was an evil man.”

He frowned and dismissed her words.  “How would you know this?  You did not

know him.”
            “No.”  She shook her head.  “But I know of him.  If not for Mingo, he would have 

killed my husband.  He destroyed villages and killed innocent people simply to take revenge on his brother— ”

            “Who had tried to kill him.  Who left him to die!”  The boy started to turn away.  “If he did these things, there was a reason.  He was chosen by the Master of Breath.  What he did against the white man was justified.”

            “Kamassa, they were not white.  He destroyed Indian villages.  He killed his own people; his mother’s people!”  Her voice rose as she tried desperately to penetrate the web of lies that had been woven about him.  “Dan told me about the Cherokee women and children....”

            “Cherokee?”

            She nodded as he turned back towards her, his face half-hidden in shadow.  “Yes.  Mingo’s mother—your father’s mother was Cherokee.  Didn’t you know that?”

            The boy’s seemed stunned.  “Policha did not tell me....”

            “Kamassa.”  Becky kept her voice level as she drew close to him.  “There is a great deal this man has not told you.  Don’t you see?  They are using you, both this ‘Preacher’ and McInnery.”

            “No!  I will not listen to you.”  Kamassa lifted his hands to his ears and covered them like a little boy.  “You do not speak the truth!” he shouted.  “You are against me.  All whites are against me and my mission! ”

            Becky said nothing.  She simply stared at him and waited for him to grow quiet.  As his black eyes sought hers again, she asked him, “What is your mission, Kamassa?”

            “To save my people from their oppressors.”  He had lowered his hands and  regained some of his former composure.  The words he spoke came quickly, as if they were well-rehearsed.  “To drive the white man from this land and make it our own.”

            “And how do you plan to do this?”

            He frowned.  “What do you mean?”

            “How do you plan to save your people?”  Becky drew a deep breath.  “By killing them?  By sending countless fathers and brothers and sons out to die?  By dooming other  children to the life you have had, without their fathers and mothers?”  At his warning look she added, “Don’t fool yourself, Kamassa.  It won’t only be the men who die.  You know that.  It will be their wives and daughters, sisters and mothers.  And in the end it won’t matter whether their faces are white or red, they will be dead just the same.”

            “No,” he shook his head violently, “you are wrong!”  His fist struck his chest. “I will help my people live!”
            “You will not.  You will cause them to die.”  Becky drew a deep breath and plunged ahead while she had his attention. “Even if you win this battle, more white men will come.  And the ones who come will be very angry, and there will be more killing and more killing, until there is no one left to work or till or love this land.  Is that what you want?”  Her voice broke as her eyes flooded with tears.  “Well, is it?”

            The boy stumbled back.  “No. I....”

            “Do you know what a ‘messiah’ is, Kamassa?” she asked as her voice softened.

            He nodded.  He was almost completely hidden by shadow now.  “Yes.  One who saves his people.”

            “And do you know how a Messiah ‘saves’ his people?  Has this Policha told you that?”

            “He knows the talking leaves.  He gives me their magic....”

            “All about prophecy and glory no doubt,” Becky growled.  “Has he mentioned First John three-sixteen, by chance?”

            Kamassa remained very still.  “I do not know.”

            “ ‘Hereby perceive we the love of God because he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren,’” she quoted.  As his eyes went wide, she added, “You see, your Preacher is not the only one who knows what the talking leaves say.  Are you ready to die to save your people, Kamassa?  Would you willingly sacrifice yourself before you would sacrifice even the least of them?”  She drew a deep breath. “If not, you are no ‘messiah’.  You are a fraud and a charlatan.”

            He took a step forward, challenging her, but there was no fire in his words.  “No one dares to say such things to me.”

            She met his dark stare.  “I do.  Because you came here to me.  Oh, Kamassa, I know you want to make the world pay for all the things that hurt; for the loss of your mother, for never knowing your father; for the times you were rejected because you are different....  But you are only hurting yourself and helping these evil men to hurt the only one who would love you as you are; your uncle....”

            The boy’s dark eyes clouded.  Before the tears could fall, he looked away.  “My uncle does not know me,” he said softly.

            She reached out and caught his arm.  He stiffened but did not move away.  “Allow him to.”

            Kamassa glanced at her and then pulled free.  He retreated until the shadows took him.  “I am going now.”

            “Where?” Becky hadn’t meant to say such things to him, but they had poured out of  their own volition, as if a flood gate had been opened.  She could only pray it had been God at work.

            His voice shook and he began to tremble. 

“I do not know.”

 

                                                                                                ###

 

The painted warrior who stood before James McInnery tried not to flinch as the man’s harshly whispered words struck him like the back of a hand. “It will be your head!  What do you mean you cannot find him?”   

“He is not sleeping.  The boy is not in this place, Aatinataa.”

            The well-dressed native glanced at the white man, Daniel Boone, where he waited,  captive within a circle of his men.  It would not do to let the frontiersman see anything was amiss.  He sighed and ran a hand over his brow. 

He should have seen this coming.

“Blindfold him and inform him that Kamassa Chafaaka has been detained.  I am going to seek Policha.”  His eyes flicked to the uneasy warrior.  “You do know where he is, do you not?”

            The man nodded.  “He is in his lodge, with his woman.”

            McInnery frowned.  He didn’t trust her any more than he trusted the Bible-quoting fanatic.  She was Cherokee, and not only were her loyalties to the man who had stolen her years before suspect; most of the time she was a mad as he.

            “See to it that Boone does not manage to vanish into thin air,” he replied at last, making certain the man noticed his fingers playing with the hilt of his ornate claymore.

            “I will be back.”

 

                                                                                        ###

 

            It had been several minutes and the boy still had not left the lodge.  Becky  remained silent, hesitant to say anything more for fear she might undo any good she had done.  Finally, unable to keep her curiosity in check, she asked him softly, “Kamassa, why are you here?”

            At first he said nothing.  After a moment, he moved towards her and as he stepped into the light, she was surprised to find his face was wet with tears.  “I did not tell you everything before,” he said.

            “No?”  Fear struck her hard.  “About what?  Mingo?  Or about what they intend to do with Dan....”

            “No.  That is as I have said.”  His voice faltered and when he went on, he sounded—not like a symbol of men’s hopes or a would-be ‘messiah’—but like the young boy he was.  “You know I see things?”

Becky nodded. In Ireland the ‘Sight’, as it was called, was common. “Yes.  And I believe God speaks to man through such visions.  It is a very special gift; one not to be taken lightly or wasted.”  She hesitated as she met his black eyes.  There was fear in them.   “What?  What is it?”

“I did not tell you all concerning my vision.”

            She frowned.  “The one I was in?”  She remembered he said he had seen her, running and weeping.  “There was more?”

            “Yes.”

            She waited but he remained silent.  “Kamassa, what is it you didn’t tell me?”

            His gaze never wavered.  “I know why you were weeping.”

            Becky’s hand went to her breast.  “You do?”

            “Yes.”

            She wondered briefly if she really wanted to know.  Then she whispered, “Will you tell me?”  

            Kamassa closed his eyes and as she watched, his young face went slack, like a sail  waiting for the wind to fill it.  His fingers clenched and then relaxed as his arms went limp at his side.  Then he began to speak. 

            “There is a river running red beneath a golden sky.  A man stands by it; another silent behind him.  And you are running, running....  There is a noise; a crack of thunder from a clear sky.  I see the light strike your hair as you kneel and clasp the one who has fallen and pull him from the water.  Your tears flow as the river, without ceasing.”

            “Dear God,” she breathed, “is it Dan?  Can you see who it is?”  Becky reached out and touched his shoulder.  “Won’t you tell me?”

            Kamassa slowly opened his eyes and met her wide blue ones. 

            “It is me.”

 

                                                                                                ###

 

            Spicewood slipped out the rear of the lodge the moment James McInnery made his appearance at the door.  She listened as he asked if Kamassa was within and heard the voice of the man who owned her waken into rage as he realized something had happened in the time he had been otherwise occupied, and that the boy might be in danger.  Knowing her very existence would—for a time—be forgotten, she hastened across the darkened corridor created by the trees that lined the camp and headed for the area where they commonly kept prisoners and malcontents.  She intended to find and free Cara-Mingo and then leave with him.  Sooner or later, if Alexander was truly alive, Cara would lead her to him.  She knew he would.  Hesitating before sprinting the short sunlit distance between the two lodges, she suddenly frowned.  There was something else; something she needed to do.  Touching her temple, she fingered the deep scar beneath the black bangs and tried to remember what she had forgotten.  Sometimes the wound pained her.  Sometimes, when it pounded as it did now, it made her forget; forget little things.

            Forget important things.

            A moment later she shook herself and dashed for the next bank of shadows. Experience had taught her that she could not make the memories come.  When the Great Spirit was willing, the right words would be whispered in her ear and she would remember.   Until then she simply had to press on. 

            As she rounded the back of the largest of the lodges, she stopped, confused.  Someone was sitting in the darkness, curled up in a ball, rocking slowly back and forth; his arms wrapped tightly about his legs.  She knelt beside him and with a start realized it was the one called Kamassa; the very one Policha and McInnery were looking for.  As she heard one of them call his name from close by, she glanced at the boy.  He did not notice but seemed to be lost in another world.

            Spicewood rose to her feet and peered about the corner of the lodge.  The two men were headed her way.  It was best she not be seen.  Stepping lightly over his form, she worked her way about the structure, hugging its side.  The guard had moved away from the door and was approaching the anxious pair.  With a whispered word, she shifted the mat that covered it slightly and ducked within.  As her eyes adjusted to the meager light, she realized she was not alone.  Someone waited in the shadows.  Startled, she froze like the deer and remained where she was as a beautiful white woman appeared. 

            Becky gasped.  She gazed at the dark-skinned native and whispered, “Who are you?”

 

                                                                                                ###

 

            Policha passed his hands in front of Kamassa’s face.  When there was no response he rose and turned on McInnery; his hazel eyes blazing with righteous anger.  “This is your doing!  I told you to leave him to me.”  His fingers were clenched and he was shaking with rage.  “He doesn’t trust you.”

            McInnery’s dark eyebrows danced and his scarred lip curled.  “Doesn’t he now?”

            “No.  Nor do I.”  Policha drew a deep calming breath.  “I can take him and walk away from this.  He will do as I say.”

            The other man curled his fingers about the hilt of his claymore.  “You could.  But if you choose to do so, you and your ‘messiah’ will be exposed for the charlatans you are and hunted down by his betrayed followers.”

            Policha was silent a moment.  He met the other man’s black eyes. “And even thus says the Lord, ‘I will punish the world for their evil and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.’ ”

            The elegantly attired man in the eagle-feather turban scoffed.  “Save it for the masses, Harper.  I don’t fear either of your ‘gods’; this boy,” he gestured towards Kamassa, ‘or the white man who died seventeen centuries ago at the instigation of those who had followed him.”

            “ ‘Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously, for I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe, though it be told you.’ ”

            McInnery sneered.  “A madman and a little boy.  Hardly the tools of the salvation of the world.”

            “No more so than a babe in a cradle or a star in the sky.”

            Quick as a viper, the dark-skinned man caught the other man’s collar and pulled the fabric tight, choking him.  “I don’t care what rubbish you fill these men’s head with.  I don’t care what you believe or what you tell that child.”  He glanced at Kamassa who was still rocking back and forth quietly, making certain the boy was not listening.  Even so, he kept his voice carefully controlled.  “I care about setting our people free, once and for all.  And for now, he is the symbol both I and they need.”  He released the other man and pointed at Kamassa.  “Now, get him on his feet and bring him to the lodge, and make sure that the young man Daniel Boone meets is the one we have presented to the world; Kamassa Chafaaka, the Creek ‘messiah’, and not this weak, mewling, spoiled brat.  Is that clear?”

            Policha fingered his throat.  He coughed and then nodded, and remained silent as McInnery disappeared into the trees.  Then he shook himself and went to kneel beside the boy. Gently laying his hand on his shoulder, he said, “Kamassa?”

            Tara-Mingo’s young son rocked a moment longer and then seemed to wake.  His dark head lifted and he blinked as if emerging from a dream.  “Policha?”

            “Yes.  It is me.”  He took him by the arm and helped him to his feet.  “Come on, now.  We need to clean you up.  You have an appearance to make, and I need to think.”

            Kamassa nodded but didn’t move.  Instead he glanced at the lodge, an odd expression on his face.  “What was it, Policha, you once said to me about being ‘set’ free?”

            The sandy-haired man’s eyes sought the boy’s dark face.  “About freeing our people, you mean?”

            “No.  Not that.”  Kamassa turned towards him.  He raised his eyes and met the  other man’s puzzled gaze.  “Words from the talking leaves, from the one you call ‘God’.  ‘And ye shall know the truth,’ you said, ‘and the truth shall set you free.’ ”

Policha frowned.  “Yes?  What about it?”

Kamassa stared at him a moment.  Then he shook off the other man’s hand and standing straight and tall, walked alone towards the ceremonial lodge without uttering another word.

 

 - Continued in Fifteen -