Authors: B. J. McMinn
OUT OF THE DARKNESS
THE PRESCOTT SERIES
B. J. McMINN
OUT OF THE DARKNESS
Copyright 2011 by B. J. McMinn
This book is a work of fiction
. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead is coincidental.
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OUT OF THE DARKNESS
Early fall somewhere in Eastern Kansas Territory 1856
The Indian camp lay sleeping peacefully in the hours after midnight. Campfires, died to ashes, emitted whiffs of smoke to drift on the still night air. A dog barked. A baby whimpered; then hushed, soothed by a mother’s soft croon. Sounds of the night stilled to a tense silence as if the night creatures knew death had drawn near. The old woman lay dead on a fur and straw pallet, her eyes staring blankly into the netherworld of her ancestors. Her spirit gone, leaving Jade alone. Alone as the day she’d walked into the encampment, starved, injured, afraid, and worst of all with no memory and silent.
The day she stumbled into the village, the chief called a meeting to determine her fate. The village elders wanted her
killed. Three Feathers, the chief’s son, saw no reason to kill her when she could serve Bird Song, his wife’s mother.
Bird Song had been helping
her daughter, Morning Dove, during her pregnancy. But when Bird Song became ill, the responsibility fell to Jade to care for her and Three Feather’s wife. She’d toiled from early daylight until after sunset.
Dove delivered a strong baby boy last week and Bird Song lay dead. Jade served no useful purpose now.
It was no longer safe for her in the village.
Recently the People had grumbled that troops might come and destroy their shelters while searching for a white woman. The clan felt vulnerable.
’d planned to escape. So without being obvious, she’d observed while the young boys learned the skills of tracking and covering a trail. Little did she realize she would require the information long before she felt qualified to use it. She prayed what she’d memorized so far, would be enough to secure her escape.
Leaving was her only option. Birds Song
’s death left her no choice. The best time to slip away was while the village people grieved for their dead. She’d have at least one-day’s head start.
After Bird Song’
s relatives mourned her passing, they would pick over her belongings like a pack of ravenous wolves–the People left nothing to ruin in the vast wilderness, especially with winter closing in.
Then they would come for her.
After stuffing as much food as she could in a small leather pouch she hurried to gather what she could before anyone woke. The tattered brown dress she’d worn since coming to the Indian village, she tossed aside and slipped into Bird Song’s leather dress and soft doeskin leggings. She peered out the small opening used for a door and scanned the village for movement. No one stirred.
were too well guarded to sneak one out of camp, undetected; not only that, if she stole a horse, she’d tarnish some warrior’s pride. He’d not give up until he’d regained his property, and her scalp along with it.
Panic welled in her throat as she
edged quietly into the night, praying her escape would go unnoticed. A light fog danced playfully on the ground and swirled around her feet as she tiptoed around twigs and loose rocks. She maneuvered her way through the trees and emerged into a clearing. She lifted her gaze to the stars to determine the direction she’d take. North? No, northeast.
Heart jumping in her chest, she paused to glance
over her shoulder at the place she’d called home for the last five months. Her stay in the Indian village had given her body time to heal. Now it was time to go home. Wherever, home was. All she had left of her memory was the name Jade, and a man’s voice imploring, “Come out of the darkness my children. Come into the light of His love.”
She must find the
voice. Find the man.
Crouched over, she darted across the clearing and ran
into the forest, weaving between trees until she’d gained enough distance to set a moderate pace.
In the distance, lightning flashed and the sound of thunder rolled over the land. With luck,
rain would wash away her tracks. By mid-afternoon, the storm had evaporated. The tempest had blessed the land further north with its life saving deluge.
n her third day of travel, she sensed pursuit. The silence in the forest had turned ominous. That evening, after dark, she saw the faint glow of a campfire. Fear soared along her spine. Huddled under a rock overhang, she tried to rest. From now on, she’d have to move faster, sleep less. All that thrummed through her head was she had to put distance between herself and the hunters. She could no longer take time to cover the signs of her passing.
The next morning, she rose early and traveled fast.
She felt weary, drained, lifeless, as she rested against a giant oak lying on the forest floor, its majestic presence in the wilderness brought low by a bolt of lightning from the night’s intense storm. A white tailed deer munched on the tender, slightly wilted leaves swaying in the soft breeze.
squirrel sat in the now crushed limbs, chattering at other forest creatures bewailing the outcome of his now homeless state. A grimace etched her weary features. She must smell worse than she realized if her human scent didn’t give the wild animals a reason for concern.
ed around. The green canopy overhead fought to withhold the sunlight from penetrating its shadowy depths. Nevertheless, stray sunbeams wormed their way past leaves and darkened limbs and tossed their light indiscriminately upon the damp ground at her feet.
once, the deer’s ears pricked, nose lifted. The animal had caught the scent of danger. A danger it felt, rather than heard; sensed, more than saw.
he sound of hushed voices drifted closer. She paused to gauge from what direction the threat came.
The white tailed deer was the first to react. With its ears pricked
and tail lifted in the air, it charged into the underbrush. Birds took to the air in a blast of raucous twitter. At last, the squirrel dashed up a neighboring tree.
Jade tried to control her labored breathing. The tree, though hollow, offered no respite from what followed her.
She stood and swung her head one direction then the other trying to decide which way to go. If she went the wrong direction, she could come face to face with the Indians. Her decision had to be the right one, she had too much to lose, her freedom. And more to fear, death.
t, she darted in the direction the deer had taken. Then hearing the trickle of water, she changed directions, hoping the animal path would lead to a stream. Water would cover her tracks.
through the dense foliage, she recognized the three shadowy figures in the distance. They were silent, deadly hunters. They walked at a steady pace, examining the ground for signs.
hey weren’t hunting game. Today, she was their prey. During the last few months, she had seen these same hunters work together with great success. The summer had been dry and hard, making game scarce. The hunters behind her always came back with food when other hunting parties returned empty handed.
s body convulsed in fear. She quickened her pace along the path. Hoping to lose her footprints among the various animal tracks, she moved toward the sound of splashing water. There might be somewhere to hide along its banks.
rightened, alone, and tired, she felt near collapse. Two days and three nights of little rest had exacted a great toll on her strength. The braves would thoroughly scrutinize the trail she left behind. Slight as they were, she had to have left her mark upon the soil, or amid the brambles lining the path, and these hunters missed nothing.
Fear, stark and vivid raced through her mind.
She couldn’t go back. Determined not to let her one chance to escape slip away, she scrambled over a fallen log and fled down the path. She didn’t know where she was going, or in what direction this small animal trail led, she only knew that it led her away from the warriors who tracked her.
How could she hope to lose t
he natives who had lived here for centuries? They knew this land. It was their home.
Sounds of p
ursuit drew closer. Her captors were gaining ground.
marked her direction by the sun’s location. Thrust into this unrelenting and unfamiliar land, she didn’t know where the nearest settlement lay. They had traveled from the east and were going west when it all happened. A shudder rippled over her. There was no way she was going back in that direction. She didn’t know what she might find.
Too terrified to think about the incident
, she had blotted it from her mind. She’d held herself together by shutting it out, acting as if nothing had ever happened. If she dwelled on the past, she would shatter into a thousand pieces and she had no one to pick up the pieces.
he distant chatter of the squirrel stopped. Had it grown silent from fear? Were the hunters that close?
She picked up the pace, running in her haste.
If caught, it would not be like before. Her owner had died. Her future, if she had one, would not be as good as it had been with Bird Song. Fear drove her. The kind of fear she had known only one other time.
No don’t think, run.
There it was. The sound of water trickling over rocks. The water pouch she’d grabbed from the teepee’s floor in her hurried escape had been nearly empty. The sound of water reminded her of how thirsty she was.