Rachel stirred and opened her eyes. She shifted her body and moaned as a dark shadow eclipsed her. Looking up she found Daniel Boone standing over her; a worried expression on his generous face.
She winced as she inclined her head in his direction. "Mr. Boone."
He squatted beside her and leaned forward to check her bandage. "Daniel," he said.
Her bright blue eyes found his green ones. "Daniel."
The big man smiled. "You sound just like Mingo when you say it like that - Dan-yel." Then he laughed. "Maybe we better just make it 'Dan'."
She drew a breath as he shifted the moss on her shoulder. "You and Kerr.... You are close friends?"
He nodded, noting that once again she refused to call Mingo by anything other than his English name. "More than close friends; brothers."
The young woman gazed about them, seeing the flickering firelight and the rough stone walls for the first time. "We are in a cave?"
"I thought it would be the safest place for you. Warm and dry." Dan rose and turned toward the cave mouth. "The sun's just about up. I think we lost the soldiers in the dark."
"Is the fire wise?" she asked as she pulled her skirts free and tucked her feet under her.
Dan quickly hid his smile. "Well, Miss Rachel, as you were bleedin' and I was soaked to the skin, I thought maybe we should take the chance. I don't think dyin' of a chill or infection is that much easier than being hanged or shot. Besides, I needed to clean that wound and - "
"I'm sorry, Mr. Boone, " she hesitated, "Daniel, I didn't mean to criticize." She hugged her arms about her and stared out the opening into the dawning world beyond. "I remember Uncle Hugh telling me stories of your wilderness when I was little, on his rare visits to France. He was quite impressed with your 'savages'. In fact, he said they weren't savages at all. Still, the stories of painted men and secret ceremonies were enough to give this small girl nightmares."
Dan knelt by the fire to stir it and glanced up to watch what direction the smoke was taking. "Some are and some aren't. Just like other men."
"Yes...." The Englishwoman fell silent for a moment. "Daniel?"
"I would like to apologize for all the trouble I have brought upon you and yours. I suppose I didn't think of anyone but myself." She bit her lip and looked away from him. "It is just, I have missed him so all these years...."
The big man stared at her. Her face was turned towards the cave mouth and the dawn light crept in to strike her patrician features. She was lovely. He shook his head as he recalled the conversation he had had with Mingo only a few days before. "I think he's missed you too, Rachel."
Her head snapped towards him. "What?"
"Well, you met my wife - "
Her expression was puzzled. "Yes...."
"She was giving me quite a tongue-lashin' the other day and Mingo was enjoyin' himself. I mentioned the fact that I thought he ought to get married and gain his own perspective on the situation."
Her voice was small. "And...."
"I got the distinct feelin' - after I got past him lettin' me know in no uncertain terms that it was none of my business - that there was someone in his past; someone he had never let go of." Dan shifted and stretched his long legs before him. "Mingo feels things deeply. He isn't the kind of man to be one thing one day and something else the next. Everything he is - every choice he makes - is well thought out, and when he makes a decision, movin' him from it is like movin' a mountain. It's his strength," he leaned back on his elbows, "and his weakness."
"He is fortunate to have someone like you for a friend." She sighed. "At least now I know that he is well-looked after and happy...." As she spoke the frontiersman lifted his head and turned towards the opening. "What? What is it?"
He shook his head. "I think I heard a noise. Could just be a bobcat or bear."
Her golden eyebrows arched. "Just?"
Dan laughed. He handed her Tick Licker. "Can you shoot one of these?"
She glanced at the rifle and then shook her head, "No. But I can look very fierce while I try."
"Miss, you constantly surprise me." He loaded the rifle and placed it in her hands correctly, cocking the hammer. "Just point it and pull this if you need to. But be sure of what you're aimin' at, cause its likely to wind up dead if you do."
She swallowed and nodded. "Take care, Daniel."
He placed his coonskin cap on his head as he kicked dirt into the fire to extinguish it. "Be back in a minute, Miss."
Rachel watched him disappear through the opening and into the trees. She drew a breath and held it as she balanced the heavy weapon against her hip. Her shoulder was pounding and she felt curiously light and disassociated from her body. So many thoughts, so many emotions were flooding through her. If she and Kerr both survived John's machinations, was there any hope for them? Any future? Could she live in this wilderness? Or would he be willing to compromise? Could they perhaps live in a town? Say Boston or Philadelphia?
She wrapped her fingers about the cold barrel and leaned her head back against the stone. Closing her eyes, she recalled the lines of a poem she had learned in school. "...and dreamed a dream that could not be; The waves that plunged along the shore said only: Dreamer, dream no more!"
A moment later she heard the sound of cloth rustling against stone and opened her eyes. "Was there nothing there?" she asked as she sat up. Then she gasped. A figure stood in the mouth of the cave, but it was not Daniel Boone. The man's complexion was red and rich as the earth. He was powerfully built and there were tattoos on his exposed skin. His black hair was pulled tight against his head and decorated with feathers. He had to duck to enter the cave and once inside, halted a dozen feet away from her and pinned her with his keen black eyes. There was a rifle in his hands. As he continued to advance, she pointed Tick Licker at him and her finger hovered dangerously close to the trigger.
Dan knelt in the brittle brown grass and listened. He had made a quick circuit of the area, and though he had found nothing, he was sure something was there. Call it gut instinct, or the sense one predator has for being stalked by another, but something told him he was not alone. Gripping his hunting knife tightly in his fingers, he turned to go back to the cave, but then he stopped. He had heard a footfall. Shifting back into the shadows of the leaves, he held his breath and waited.
A moment later a man emerged. In the dim morning light he was little more than a silhouette, but he could tell he had short black hair and was dressed in buckskins. As he drew closer he saw the jacket he wore had Indian markings. Familiar Indian markings. Dan frowned and crouched low. The sunlight glinted from the gun the man carried. There were feathers on it. There was also a bullwhip on his hip. It looked like the one Mingo had given him.
The one that had been in the cabin.
Shadowing the stranger's movements, he passed swiftly through the underbrush until he came to an outcropping of rock. Lying in wait behind it, he counted the man's footsteps and then leapt out, catching him by the throat and pressing the knife-blade into his skin.
"I don't know who you are, Mister, but you got a fair amount of explainin' to do. I recognize those clothes and that whip, but I don't recognize you. Now just what - "
The man held very still and then a cultured voice said softly, "If you will kindly remove the blade from my jugular, Daniel, I will be more than happy to explain what I am doing wearing your trousers."
Dan started but he didn't let go. As he spoke, he noticed the feathers in the short hair. "Mingo?"
The other man nodded and as his friend released him, he turned around. He looked into the big man's green eyes, making sure he recognized him, and then added wryly, "If it hadn't been for these blasted English boots, you would never have heard me." Mingo shuddered then as a spasm of pain passed through his dark brown eyes and a moment later fell to his knees.
Dan knelt beside him. He placed his hand on his friend's shoulder. "And they call me 'bull-headed'. What are you doing on your feet?" He stared at this stranger with the short hair, his keen eyes not missing the tell-tale marks of the beating he had taken and the shadow of sickness in his eyes. "And how did you get here? I thought you were at the British fort...."
Mingo's face was puzzled. "How did you know - ?" The sharp report of a rifle firing brought both their heads up. "What was that?"
"I left Tick Licker with Rachel." He grabbed the other man by the arm and hauled him to his feet. "Someone must have - "
Mingo's fingers closed on his flesh.
"Do you think you can do it?"
Becky smiled at Cincinnatus. "I didn't catch Daniel Boone by baking apple pies, you know."
The older man laughed. He glanced out the window at the two French soldiers who stood near the gate. "Well, there's only the two of them. If we can get them out, we can seal the gates and be prepared for whatever's comin'." He turned back to her. "You still have no idea what this In'jun came here to warn you about?"
She shook her head. "No."
"And yet you think you can trust him?"
Becky shifted the neckline of her dress so it rode low on her shoulders, exposing her soft white flesh. "Yes."
"Friend of Mingo's?"
Dan's wife frowned. "Something more, I think, Cincinnatus - and maybe something less."
She shook her red head. "Never mind. Now, once I get their attention, will Jericho and the others know what to do?"
The tavern-keeper gripped his broom. "We'll shoo them out of here like the unwanted vermin they are."
Becky laughed as she arranged her curls on her shoulders. She picked up the basket of freshly baked bread and slung it over her arm. Then, as she headed for the door, she suddenly grew sober. She was staring at a fur cap one of his customers had left on the bar.
Cincinnatus approached her and said softly, "Thinkin' about Dan?"
She nodded. "He might be halfway to Ohio by now. Or...."
"Not Dan. He's probably got them Frenchies tied up and stewin' in their own juices." Cincinnatus touched her arm. "If there's any man who can take care of himself, Becky, it's Dan."
She smiled and kissed him quick on the cheek. "Well, I had best get to it then." As she twirled about, showing off her figure and flaming red hair, she asked, "Will I do?"
"They'd have to be dead not to follow," he said soberly.
Rebecca nodded again. "Too bad Dan isn't here; I'm sure he could arrange that."
Dan gripped Mingo about the waist and helped him up the slope that led to the cave. He was concerned with his friend's weakness, but he was even more worried about what had happened in the cavern. If Rachel had awakened to find a brave standing over her or panicked when the Indian approached her, Mingo's friend might well be dead or mortally wounded.
Contrary-wise, if this Arrowkeeper had caught her off-guard....
Mingo had assured him the Creek would not have harmed her, but Dan wasn't so sure. From his description, he was certain he had seen him before, leading war parties against neighboring settlements. He had a reputation for hating white men, though from what little his friend had the time to tell, a lot of that hate was justified. Apparently the man had lost his family to whites.
He ducked his head and entered the small space first. "Rachel? Miss Cornell....?" Once inside, he stopped. The girl was slumped against the side of the cave and the tall brave stood over her with Tick Licker in his hand. Dan pulled his knife and held it before him. A second later he felt Mingo's fingers wrap around his wrist.
"Daniel, put the knife down."
He nodded toward the tall warrior. "This your friend?"
Mingo was silent for a moment, his eyes on Rachel's quiet form. "Yes."
Arrowkeeper leveled Tick Licker at them and strode forward. He halted several feet from the pair and stood with his head held high. The morning light struck the tattoos on his skin and made his appearance fierce.
Dan nodded to him. "Arrowkeeper."
The Creek's eyes flicked to Cara-Mingo. "So this is the Boone."
"My friend, yes." Mingo's voice was quiet. "Daniel Boone. My brother."
The native stared into Daniel's eyes for a moment and then flipped the rifle around and handed it to him, butt first. "I have not harmed her."
Dan's eyebrows rose. "Glad to see she didn't harm you."
"We heard the rifle shot," Mingo shifted past him and headed for the young Englishwoman.
"It is not that she did not try." Arrowkeeper's black eyes went to the ceiling and then returned to the floor. Dan toed the loose gravel and looked up to see the powder burns.
"The backlash must have made her strike her head," Mingo's voice was soft as he lifted her and placed her in his arms, "I think she's coming around." He touched her face tenderly. "Rachel?"
She murmured and shifted so her gown fell away to reveal the moss and the bandage on her shoulder which was stained with red.
"Daniel? She's been shot!"
"It's a clean wound. As to how she got it, I'll let her tell you," Dan hid his grin, knowing it would seem inappropriate. "Mingo, you sure know how to pick 'em."
He glanced down to find her eyes had opened. "Rachel, are you - ?"
She touched his face and ran her fingers over his lips. "Shh." For a moment, she just stared at him, and then she pulled him down into a kiss.
Dan shifted uncomfortably. He turned to the tall man beside him. "Well, Arrowkeeper, how 'bout you and I go out and keep watch?"
The Creek looked at him. He retrieved Cara-Mingo's rifle from the floor and nodded. "Lead the way, white-eyes."
Mingo heard the slur and looked up to find his native friend smiling as he exited the cave.
The day was dawning and growing hot for late autumn. Arrowkeeper had shed his buckskin top and stood shirtless, his rich red skin shining in the mid-morning light. He nodded in answer to Daniel's question. "I have known Cara-Mingo many years."
Dan frowned and leaned on Tick Licker. The two of them had taken up a post some ways off from the cave, where they could watch its mouth and the surrounding land. "And still you've never seen me before?"
"From a distance. But before you were only a name. Now I see the man."
"And what do you think of the 'man'?"
The native turned toward him. "I have looked in your eyes. I see no hate."
Dan shifted and placed his rifle over his shoulder. "I wish I could say the same of you."
Arrowkeeper laughed. "You are honest, Boone."
"Doesn't pay a man to be anything else." Dan moved then and took a seat on a rock, looking towards the cave. For a moment he pondered his friend down there, and what this moment might mean in the course of his life; then he turned back to the Creek. "How about you?"
"Will you be honest? Why do you hate the white man so?" He decided to play dumb. Mingo had only spoken a line or two. "Did he kill your family?"
The Creek's jaw tightened. "You ask that...."
"Because it is most often true. Many braves, and more of their women and children have died at the hands of evil men who know only hate. Many have been white."
Arrowkeeper smiled. "And others have been red-skinned. I hear your unspoken words, Boone."
Dan nodded. "Will you give me your story?"
The tall Creek stared at him. "Long ago there were no words. Now there is nothing else. If I do not speak of them, they are not remembered."
"They?" Dan rested Tick Licker beside him and circled his knee with his hands.
"Oe Kiwa. Tutka. Atchina and Pah gee."
The tall man sighed and closed his eyes as the tale of his former life flashed before his eyes, its end written in flames. "Yes."
"All dead. Oe Kiwa; Spring Water, my wife. My son, Tutka. He who was called 'Fire'." He moved to stand at the edge of the hill and stared at the sea of leaves which surrounded them as the sun set it on fire. "Atchina and Pah gee. 'Cedar' and 'Little Pigeon' in your language. Daughters. The youngest was suckling still."
Dan said nothing. He knew the Creek did not expect it.
A moment later the man stirred and asked, "Have you heard of Tuskaya-hinana?"
Dan shook his head. "Can't say as I have."
"My village was O-sun-nup-pau - 'Moss Creek' in your words - a place of red oak, pine and hickory trees, on the banks of a river below a falls in the colony called Georgia. We were ten families." His black gaze flicked to Daniel as his anger grew. "We lived much as you. We fenced our fields and tended our cattle, planted seed and harvested wheat, rye and barley."
"And this Tuskaya-hinana?"
"Was our chief. An old man. Wise. And strong in that wisdom."
As the other man once again fell silent, Dan waited, knowing the Creek did him honor by his words. Mingo must have impressed upon him the depth of their friendship for him to have spoken so openly.
"I have met your wife, Boone," he said suddenly. "She does you honor."
Dan swallowed his surprise. "You met Becky?"
Arrowkeeper nodded. "In your cabin when I sought Cara-Mingo. She is a strong woman. Unafraid."
Dan smiled. "Well, they broke the mold when they made Rebecca. She is one of a kind."
The Creek nodded. "As was Oe Kiwa. She was the second daughter of Tuskaya-hinana. She was at her father's lodge that day, with our children. I was in the fields." Arrowkeeper paused. He had been a young man then, barely twenty-one, and life had been good. "We had not heard, but there had been several raids by renegade Creeks in nearby towns. A white-eye named Wright, who came from the East and did not know us, decided that it was our chief who was leading them. He said Tuskaya-hinana told them to steal cattle and scalp the settlers. Wright raised an army of over two hundred from nearby counties to attack us. He found no help at the local fort because the commander there did know us and would not give him any men." He turned toward Daniel. "All were killed. It is my shame I did not die with them."
"I have heard many stories," Dan said at last, "like yours. The shame is on the head of the man Wright - not on yours."
"I live. That is my shame." Arrowkeeper gripped the rifle he carried and looked him in the eye. "You did not ask how Cara-Mingo and I met."
The big frontiersman shrugged. "You will tell me if you want me to know."
He laughed. "You do not think like a white-eye."
"I take that as a compliment, Arrowkeeper," Dan said with a smile.
The Creek nodded. "I saw them coming - these men. I was outside the village tending to our herds. There were no more than ten at first. They spoke to me as if they were friends. Then, two of them took hold of me and beat me, and while they did, others fired irons and marked the cattle with the brand of the massacred white-eyes."
"They did wrong then."
"They were like the coyote, laughing as they brought death. They left me in my own blood, unable to stand, and then they burned the village. As I crawled behind them, they set fire to Oe Kiwa's father's house. I tried to go to her but they held me back as it burned; as the screams of my children reached my ears and Oe Kiwa's face appeared in the door...." A moment later he added, "There were stores of gunpowder in the lodge. The flames ignited it...."
"Your pain has no words. There is no need to speak."
Arrowkeeper looked at him and his dark eyes danced. "Cara-Mingo has taught me about words. Between him and me - between brothers born to the forest and the earth - there is no need. But for the white eye, words are power. I have learned them well."
"Yes. You have." Dan shifted and stood. He came to rest beside the other man and looked out over the virgin forests of Kentucky. "You never said how you met Mingo."
"The road was long from the land of Georgia to the pit of London, but that is where we first met. After my people were dead, I was taken and held at the fort to testify against my chief; to give these efv efes an excuse for their slaughter. One of the men there who knew me - a trader named Marshall - freed me. I left the fort and followed Wright as he headed for his home, and I killed him."
Dan shifted. He nodded but said nothing.
"His men shot me. I did not care. I wanted only to return to bury my family and to die, but even this was not allowed. I escaped and was found by some trappers who healed me enough to sell me to other men who wanted Indian slaves; more white-eyes who took me from my land and left the bones of my children and wife to bleach in the sun." Arrowkeeper drew a breath and then fell silent.
The frontiersman stood very still. He thought of his own and tried to imagine watching them die. Then he tried to imagine resisting the urge to hate. "Arrowkeeper, you have every right to hate. But hate is a hard thing. It is like the vines on the trees that grow in abundance, but feed off the life beneath the bark until there is nothing left but death." He deliberately sought the other man's eyes. "I could tell you tales of white families killed for the very fact that they were white - and for no other reason - but I will not dishonor your pain in that way. All I will say, is that one bad apple doesn't mean you throw out the whole barrel."
"But one apple that is bad will make rotten all the others it touches." The Creek's anger was barely contained. "There is a madness in you; in your kind. A lust for the land. You will not stop until it is all yours."
"That may be true of some. But for me, I only want what I own; what I worked and paid for with my own sweat and blood. And I respect any other man - white or red - who wants the same."
Arrowkeeper drew a deep breath and looked towards the cave. "This one has taught me it is possible for two who are different to live as one. But it is an uneasy peace."
Dan held out his hand. "Then for Mingo. Can we call our own truce? Until this is over?"
The tall Creek sighed. He took his hand and then spoke softly, "Yes. And there is something I must tell you, Boone...."
Mingo sat holding Rachel in the circle of his arms. Both were silent. Outside the cave the daylight was breaking and birds were beginning to sing. As the light crept across the floor, she stirred at last and twisted within his embrace to look at him. Then her fingers reached up to touch the feathers tied in his hair.
"What do these mean?" she asked.
"They confer the power of the animal or bird to the one who wears them."
The young woman smiled. "Do you really believe that?"
"Can wearing a uniform make a man more brave? Or pinning a medal on his chest?" he answered.
She was still for a moment. "Perhaps. If it makes him think he is more courageous."
"Then it is much the same. What we admire about the bird - its tenaciousness, its speed and keen intelligence - these things we wish to 'own', to make a part of us."
"And you make them a 'part' of you by wearing its feathers?"
This time he smiled. "Yes."
She pressed against him and pulled his arms tight about her. "Would you take me to your village?"
Mingo was silent a moment. "I would."
She turned to look at him again. "What's wrong?"
He sighed. "Unfortunately prejudice knows no color boundary. There are those among my brothers who would not welcome you."
"Did they welcome you when you came back?"
Mingo nodded. "Yes."
"And they were not angry that you chose to leave them?"
He felt her small fingers tremble in his. "Were you angry that I chose to leave you, Rachel?"
She was silent.
A moment later the golden head nodded. "Yes."
He drew a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. "I was not able to tell you why then. Will you listen now?"
"It doesn't matter. That was ten years ago...."
"It matters. A thousand yesterdays ago or now, it matters." He shifted his hold on her so she faced him, careful not to cause her pain. "What I did was right for me - and in the end, for you - but you had no voice in the decision and that was wrong."
Rachel turned away from him. She ran her fingers over the fresh cut on his arm. "What is this?" she asked quietly.
He hesitated a moment. Then his face lit with a wry smile. "A wound which has not healed."
A tear slipped down the young woman's cheek and fell on his flesh. "Why did you leave? Why didn't you tell me the truth?" Another tear followed close after it. "Why didn't you ever come back?"
Mingo held her close and began to speak softly, telling her all he knew; of his mother, Talota, and his father, the English Earl, and of their love which fate denied. He spoke of the journey her uncle had taken him on, of Hugh's kindness and caring, and of the callous youth he had become in spite of his good intentions; a youth imprisoned in his own flesh - a wild heart caged, that was bound to wither and die. He talked then of John and of how what he had intended for evil had been turned to the good, and of the pain it had brought him when he realized that meant he would have to leave her behind. Her cheek rested on his hand as he spoke at last of that final day, explaining that after he had left her, he had crossed the grounds of her father's estate and arrived at the iron gate to find Star and Arrowkeeper waiting.
"Why do we not leave by a ship in this town of London?" Arrowkeeper asked as Cara-Mingo hailed the carriage that he had hired. "There are many ships here. Why travel overland and remain in this country one hour more?"
"If John has been found they will be scouring the docks for us, expecting us to try to escape. Southampton is only about eighty miles southwest of here. Southampton Water is a deep channel close to the Isle of Wight. A great many ships come and go there, and booking passage should not be hard. Also, because of the long-established trade route with Venice, it is not unusual to see dark-skinned people in exotic costumes. I am hoping we will be less conspicuous there." He drew a breath as the carriage rolled into view. "Step back into the shadows. I will tell him where we are going and then help you aboard."
"And what will you tell him?" Star was leaning on the tall Creek's arm, breathing hard.
"That you are my servants."
"And how will you explain me?" the Cherokee smiled grimly.
Cara-Mingo laid a hand on his shoulder. "Leave that to me." A moment later he stepped into the waxing light and addressed the driver. "I need you to take me to Southampton."
The fellow pulled his muff down from his face. He eyed him, taking in his expensive waistcoat with the gold embroidery and his fine dress coat. "That's a long ride, milord."
"I have money."
"Just you then, sir?"
"No. My servants as well." He gestured behind him. "One of them is in need of care."
The man squinted but could discern nothing more than two shapes. "Should you not then, milord, get him to a physician?"
Cara-Mingo put on his most practiced face and appeared chagrined. "I am afraid I was dueling. My servant was struck by mistake. If my father finds out..." He paused and smiled, playing the part of the callow youth to the hilt. "I would have had him attended here, but you know how news travels. I have promised to see him home."
The carriage driver shook his head. "It will take several days..."
Cara-Mingo stepped onto the rail and held out his hand. In it several gold crowns lay gleaming. "Will this be enough?"
The man's pale blue eyes grew round. He snatched the coins and placed them in his pocket. "Will you want to stop for lodging, milord?"
"No. We need to hurry." He gestured to the two in the shadows as he added in a stage whisper, "There will be another pair of crowns in it for you if we make it before nightfall the day after tomorrow. I wouldn't want my friend here to expire before I fulfilled my promise, now would I?"
"Very well, milord."
A few minutes later he watched as Arrowkeeper climbed into the cab. He had already secured Star in one corner and wrapped several warm blankets about him. He sat down then beside the older man and noticed he was frowning. He looked at Arrowkeeper and saw much the same expression in his hard black eyes. "What? What is it?"
"There is much you have to learn, Cara-Mingo," the Cherokee whispered, "but even more to un-learn."
"What are you talking about?"
"You lie well."
His brown eyes returned to Arrowkeeper's face. "What?"
"What you told this man. It was all lies."
"A fabrication." He spread his hands wide. "A necessary deception to achieve the ends I needed."
The Creek's smile was dark. "Spoken like a true white-eye."
Cara-Mingo sat back in the carriage. He felt as if he had been struck in the face.
"Do not worry. Your heart has not forgotten." It was Star. The older man reached out and touched his arm. "And in time, it will teach your head."
After a short layover to attain fresh horses, they arrived in Southampton on the last day of the week, just as the sun was setting and casting its golden light over the calm waters of the channel. Cara-Mingo and Arrowkeeper carried Star into a darkened alley and he left them there while he went to secure the needed supplies to tend to the wounded man. When he returned just after dark, the natives were nowhere to be found.
The young man turned in a circle, at a loss. He wandered down the filthy back alley, searching the shadows behind the various shops where merchants had tossed their unwanted and damaged wares. Just as he was about to abandon hope, a strong hand caught his arm and pulled him down, drawing him back behind a pile of rubbish. He drew a breath to speak, but fell silent as fingers were clamped over his mouth. He glanced sideways and saw Star. The Cherokee gave him a weak smile and nodded towards the narrow avenue. Four men were walking down it. He squinted and stared as Arrowkeeper released him and then turned his dark eyes on the Creek.
"Who is it? Someone you know?"
"The man who owns us."
A shudder ran through him at the word. He raised up on his knees and peered over the piles of refuse and abandoned furniture. The man in the front was stout, not corpulent or obese, but obviously well-fed and well-provided for. He wore an expensive dress coat and wig and as he stepped into the ring of pale light cast by a nearby street-lamp, attended by three evil-looking thugs, Cara-Mingo gasped.
"I know him."
He nodded as his stomach grew sick and he swallowed bile. It was John Gerard's father.
Several minutes later they emerged from the shadows. Cara-Mingo had followed the merchant and his henchmen to the end of the avenue and watched as they entered a nearby tavern. Then he had returned and stood now supporting Star. "It all makes sense at last. How John knew about you...and me. He said one of the soldiers from his father's regiment told him about the show." He closed his eyes, "Dear God, by all that is holy, how could he grow rich on other men's pain...."
"We are not people. We have no souls; no hearts." Arrowkeeper met his eyes. " We know no pain."
The young man shook his dark head. "I swear. If we survive this, I will have nothing to do with the white man again. I want nothing of this world; it is evil - its very heart rooted in avarice and greed."
The tall Creek nodded. "They are dogs. All of them."
Star looked from one to the other. "If you condemn all for the actions of a few, you are no better than they. And you, Cara-Mingo, can you leave behind half of what is in you? How can you renounce what is in your blood? "
The Lord's son paused and then a smile broke upon his face. "I could not have asked for two better teachers." He placed his hand on Arrowkeeper's arm. "You remind me of what I was - of the warrior, of the proud spirit of my people." He turned to Star, "And you, dear friend, will teach me to walk in balance between the Old World and the New. Now come," he took the older man's arm, "I have found lodgings where we can stay until I can secure passage."
"Lodgings? For your servants as well?" the tall Creek scoffed.
Cara-Mingo laughed. "It is in the theatre district. They will merely think we are in costume - if they care at all. I doubt they will be sober enough to notice. The room is cheap and I can tend Star's injuries there."
As it turned out, fortune had smiled on them at last. Cara-Mingo frequented the pubs that night and found a troop of actors that was set to sail for the New World in less than a week. He bought a few rounds of drinks and began to sing and in no time they had asked him to join them. He pretended to hesitate and debate the offer, but when they insisted he bring his two foreign friends as well, he gratefully accepted. In this way he would be able to care for Star, and neither the Cherokee nor Arrowkeeper would be forced to make the passage in the hold of the ship. Instead, they would be housed in a large common room with the lesser players and workers. Star soon became endeared to the company and, to his everlasting surprise, Arrowkeeper managed to remain civil. Silent and observant the warrior used the time to gather knowledge and to learn more of the white man's culture and language. Though to what purpose Cara-Mingo was not certain, for a fire for revenge burned in the tall Creek's eyes that it seemed no amount of time or words could extinguish.
"And so you came back to your mother's people?"
Mingo kissed the top of her hair. "Yes. The passage was not entirely without its ...amusements and difficulties. It is a long story. Best kept for another day. Let it suffice for now to say that by joining the actors, in the end - we were saved."
"And you never saw John's father again?"
"No. They either gave up or were misled by someone. I asked about, but it seemed that one night was the only one they spent in Southampton." He drew a breath. "Once, when returning late from a rehearsal shortly before we left, I did see some of my father's men. They were looking for me, no doubt." Mingo sighed. "Poor Lord Dunsmore...I don't know to this day whether my leaving brought him pain - or joy."
Rachel was silent a moment. "He was very sad for a very long time."
"I went to him." She turned in his arms to look at him. "I thought perhaps he knew more than you said. I told him what you had told me."
Mingo was shocked. "About my mother's people coming for me?"
She nodded. "Yes."
"And what did he say?"
"Very little," she leaned her head on his arm. "He stood before the window with his hands behind his back, looking towards the water, and he said, 'The glories of our blood and state are shadows, not substantial things; there is no armor against fate.'"
The dark-haired man looked up. Daniel Boone had entered the cave, followed close by Arrowkeeper. His friend's face was grim.
"We have to talk."
Cincinnatus and Jericho slammed the gate shut and shoved the boards into place locking it behind Becky as she scampered back into the fort, her red hair flying and fresh bread trailing in her wake. The two French soldiers were lying near the edge of the woods having been overpowered by several of the settlers who had lain in wait for them and then withdrawn into the cover of the trees to keep watch. She glanced at the tavern-keeper and the crowd that had gathered behind him as she drew a breath. "Dulac isn't going to like this," she said quietly.
"Well, he doesn't have to!" Jericho was breathing hard from pushing the heavy door to. "His men had no right to be here in the first place."
Becky shoved her hair back from her eyes. She had lured the men out of the fort with the promise of something more than a chance to finger fresh bread and she was still trembling with the deception. "I just wish Dan was here. I hope we haven't handed them a reason to come back in force."
"Don't you worry Becky. Dan'l will be here soon," Cincinnatus leaned on his musket. "I feel it in my bones. And these old bones are pretty sharp, I can tell you that."
She nodded and looked at the gate and at the two-man guard patrolling the escarpment. "Well, at least all the trouble is outside now, and we are safe inside. Though I worry how Dan will get in if he makes it back."
Rebecca Boone smiled at her old friend and nodded as she began to push through the crowd, "When. Come on then," she wrapped her arms about the empty basket, 'there's more of this bread in the tavern. Someone might as well enjoy it."
Lingering in the shadows near the closed gate were two men. They exchanged looks and one of them smiled. The other tipped his hat and glanced at the sky.
A moment later, they parted and disappeared into the crowd of frightened settlers intent on keeping their appointed rendezvous.
Continued in Chapter Twelve