Disclaimer: The boys are the property of MGM, Mirisch, and Trilogy Entertainment. I do not own them or make money from them but if I did own them I promise I would share.
Author's Notes:Why did Ella Gaines wait years before sending men to kill Chris and his family? Maybe she didn't. Perhaps she had tried years before.
I would be eternally grateful for even the slightest sliver of feedback as I sincerely want to improve!
Sarah Larabee rocked Adam's wooden cradle with her foot. She liked to sit outside on the porch with Adam in the fresh clean air. Chris and Buck had been gone two days now. Two days there and less than two days back. She knew that sounded as Irish as she was but the journey back would hopefully be without the horses her husband was taking to sell. Only the money in his pockets to slow him down.
She had not heard a single footfall. He hadn't even stirred the air. He was just, there.
Sarah was afraid. Why was he here? He looked so out of place. She had seen a few Indians before but not one like this, one that must have traveled miles. She took in the knee-high buffalo-hide boots, the two long braids of darkish hair tied with leather thongs, the scalp lock that was decorated with bits of colored cloth, brightly colored beads and a single feather.
His was a particularly fine Eagle feather. He had pierced ears with dangling earrings made from pieces of shell on loops of silver wire and a silver turquoise ring on a thong about his neck. He wore bands of leather on his arms.
He wasn't particularly tall. He was clean shaved and very young. Not an ounce of fat on him but he was wiry and athletically muscular. His skin was smooth and tanned except for a deep graze on his knee. Sarah had seen a few Indians before but no not one like this, this one had the most startling pair of azure eyes she had ever seen.
He walked up to the porch and motioned her inside. She reached down into the cradle and picked up Adam. She wasn't sure it was wise to go inside with him but she was sure she could not out run him. Besides inside were knives she could defend her self and Adam with. The Indian appeared unarmed except for a big hunting knife at his belt.
Once inside he seemed to be struggling to speak. Finally he dredged up the words he needed and when he did speak to Sarah's surprise it was in English.
'Ain't no call ta be afraid a me ma'am,' he drawled in what Sarah took to be a Texan accent.'Ain't meanin' ya or the babe no harm. How far yonder be yer menfolk?'
Sarah was absolutely certain she should not tell him her husband Chris Larabee and Buck Wilmington were still two days away. Yet she said,'Two days ride away.'
He seemed to take this as bad news. Was he simply looking for Chris and Buck she wondered? Perhaps he had horses to trade. Adam started to grizzle. It was time for his feed. The Indian seemed to realize this.
'Bar the door after me an' ya ain't ta open it ag 'in fer anyone but me ya understan'?'
She nodded as he slipped out of the door and she ran to put the heavy wooden bar across it. She quickly fed Adam then laid him down on the bed. Placing the pillows and bolster around him so he could not roll off the quilt she hurried to the kitchen table. Pulling open the drawer she searched the contents for a small but very sharp knife and slid it in to her apron pocket.
He rapped on the door and she opened it. He hadn't wasted his time either and he laid two rabbits across the kitchen table.
'Fresh food,' he said his voice hoarse and sort of raspy.
'You're hurt,' she pointed out noticing the dried blood on his elbow.
'Ain't nuthin' more than a scratch ma'am had worse shavin',' he smiled his teeth white and even in his tanned face.
'Sit down,' she firmly said collecting what she needed from the cabinet on the wall.
She sat at the kitchen table and gently cleaned the dried blood away. It was a graze several layers of skin deep. He didn't flinch though it must have stung when she dabbed the carbolic on it. He let her dress it and she suspected he was allowing it more to reassure her than for his own wellbeing. She reached down to tend the graze on his knee and he stopped her.
'Kin do it,' he said shyly and swiftly cleaned the graze up.'I's a mite hungry ma'am.'
Sarah was pretty sure he wasn't all that hungry but she was and somehow he had known it. So she prepared the rabbits.'Stew?' she asked.
'Fine thank ya ma'am.'
She had all the makings for a good stew. Sarah wondered if she should include dumplings in the dish. Usually Sarah saved dumplings for Sundays but she had gained the impression she might not see another Sunday. She made the dumplings. They were light and fluffy. Chris loved her dumplings he had told her so in their bed only a few night ago. She blushed at the thought and glanced up. He quickly looked away and he was blushing too. Surely he hadn't known what she was thinking?
Adam awoke and began to cry. Sarah dried her hands on her apron and turned to go to him but he had reached him first. He picked him up and Sarah took a step forward protectively but he cradled the baby in away that made Sarah think he was no stranger to babies. He carefully supported Adam's head and slid his hand under the little body. Sarah noticed he had long slender fingers and very dirty fingernails.
Adam immediately stopped crying and looked at the stranger. The baby pulled hard on one of the shell earrings with a pink dimpled hand and it must have hurt but the Indian only smiled.
'Hush tuinéhpua ya want ta see yer Pia little one?' he asked soothingly.'She's makin' tábo stew. See?' he said as he carried Adam over to the table then walked over to the stove.'Smells right good don't it?
Sarah relaxed. As he turned away she noticed there was something amiss with his back. A slight curve to the spine. She wondered if it pained him, realizing she was staring she turned back to her work. The stew was good, the dumplings perfect and he did justice to two large helpings.
'What do they call you?' she asked.
'The Medicine Man calls me Walks Again. He say that I's bin ta Mother Earth many times an' will walk on Mother Earth many times again sometimes with a brother. Ya don't have ta dwell on it ma'am. I's sure yer as puzzled as I's bin.'
'Why are you here?'
'There's bad men on their way here ma'am. Don't be afeared I's here now.'
'How do you know? Who sent them?'
He shrugged.'Ya best get some sleep ma'am. I'll take a last look around out there.'
He rose from the table and went outside. Then he collected the green painted cradle from the porch before barring the door. Sarah lay down on the bed with Adam sure she would not sleep as Walks Again lay down on the floor and appeared to fall asleep straight away.
Sarah screamed as the four men burst into the room. The tallest one spoke,'Looky boys it's Larabee's whore and the bastard whelp.'
They beat her and used her before finally throttling the life out of her broken body. Her sightless eyes stared at them as they put the pillow over Adam's face. Sarah awoke screaming.
'Hush ma'am. It were only a nightmare. Hush now ya 'll wake the babe,' he said softly.
She saw his blue eyes glittering in the dim light.
'Are they here?' she asked.
'What are you going to do?'
'I's figurin' on takin' the fight ta'em ma'am. It's the only way I's knows.'
'No! Perhaps we can hold them off somehow until my husband arrives.'
'Reckon not ma'am.'
'Please. Don't go I can't stand it if you get hurt!
They would hurt you worse ma'am.
We could hide.
Too late fer that. It were always too late fer that.
There are four of them!
They'll kill you!
Iffen they do I's gits a chance ta see if the Medicine Man were right.
'Bar the door an' don't open it fer anythin' ya hear? Not even fer me. Keep it barred 'til yer husband is back.'
She waited as long as she could before opening the door again. He was hurt she knew it. Sarah stepped outside and looked for him. She gathered Adam more tightly to her and tried to think where he would go. She hurried to the waters edge.
He was squatting down bathing an ugly knife slash that went across his belly. The water swirled away bright red and Sarah felt faint with relief that he was safe.
'Come back inside,' she said.
'Ya gave yer promise,' he scolded.
'Back inside,' she said firmly and he saw she would brook no argument.
'Yes, ma'am,' he said thinking a beautiful woman with a will of iron was a dangerous mix he wasn't brave enough to tangle with.
She cleaned and treated the wound.
He caught hold of her hand as she made to empty the bowl of bloody water,'They won't be botherin' ya ma'am. Ya can rest easy now.'Cept I reckon fer the future ya should ask yer man fer a rifle an' fer him ta learn ya ta use it.'
'Ya promise?' he laughed.
'I promise,' she laughed turning away to empty the bowl.
He was gone.
She hurried down to the water but there was no sign of him. Even the tracks in the soft mud by the river were gone. Then she realized there was nothing to show he had ever been there. Perhaps somewhere were four dead bodies but how could she know for sure? He had gone without a trace. There was nothing at left all. What could she tell Chris? That an Indian brave who moved soundlessly killed four men she never actually saw, for her and Adam's sakes?
Chris would think she had suffered a fever and conjured it all up in her imagination. Chris would insist there would be a sign, a single clue. Tracks of some kind had to be left. No one alive could move across the land without leaving traces.
She needed to tell Chris, to make him believe. Sarah felt it was vitally important Chris know about the Indian brave that somehow she was meant to act as a link between them.
She went back inside. Sitting down to think she rocked the cradle with her foot. Adam gurgled happily and waved a particularly fine Eagle feather at her.
The Brave II