Thanks to Ms. T for allowing me space on her blog today. I'm excited to announce the coming release of White Heart, Lakota Spirit from Moongypsy Press in April. If that seems far off, just take a minute and consider it feels like yesterday that we took down our holiday decorations. Some people still have up their lights. *smile*
Here's a short blurb to help you understand the story before I post the excerpt:
A normal morning turns to disaster when a small war party attacks Grace Cummings’ family and slaughters everyone but her. She's dragged to the Indian's camp filled with hatred, anger and fear, but through the help of another white woman in camp, learns the Lakota way. When white soldiers invade the camp and presume to rescue Grace, she must decide where her heart lies.
Papa scraped the last speck of egg from his plate and set it aside. “I s’pect Kev and me’ll find gold any day now. People are discoverin’ it all around us. When we make our strike, we can find some land and build a real house. It’s sure to happen soon… afore summer is past and the weather turns cold. In fact, Sassy, you and yer ma might want to start gatherin’ fair-sized stones and rocks for our fireplace.”
He pointed to the lean-to, still in progress. “In the meantime, Kev and I will finish our temporary shelter, so we can spread out a bit.”
No more climbing in and out of a wagon to sleep. Grace clapped. “Oh, Papa, that sounds so good.”
She sobered and flashed the look that always won him over…the half-pout, wistful gaze. “When we finally settle in our real house, it will be near a town, won’t it? Otherwise, how do you expect me to be courted out here in the middle of nowhere?”
“I’m not so sure I want you to be cour...” He jerked around and looked over his shoulder. “Do you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Kevin asked.
“I hear it, Papa,” Grace chimed in. “Sounds like yelling.”
Her father stood and scanned the horizon. He pointed. “Look. There!”
A group of riders emerged from a dust cloud in the distance. The yelling grew louder as they came closer.
The furrows in her father’s brow frightened Grace. “What is it, Papa?”
He darted for the wagon. “It’s Injuns! Hurry! You two women get inside and keep low. Kevin, get yer rifle!”
Grace’s heartbeat quickened and fear clutched her chest, making it hard to breathe. She’d heard about savages, but never saw one up close. She didn’t want to.
Her mother stood frozen in place. Grace grabbed her hand and pulled. “C’mon, Mama, we’d better do as Papa says.”
They ran around to the back of the wagon, and her mother boosted her up and over the closed tailgate. Grace dove inside, her mind filled with horrible thoughts. Would she get scalped or worse…were they all going to die? All the while, piercing yells sliced the air while thundering hooves pounded the ground.
Realizing her mother hadn’t followed, Grace rose up on her knees and peeked outside. A pack of whooping Indians rode round and round the wagon, their voices creating a din of eerie screams while bullets exploded. The hair on Grace’s arms stood on end. She covered her ears, crouched against the sidewall and prayed the savages would go away.
Shots rang out from beneath the wagon when Papa and Kevin returned fire. Fretting over her mother, Grace peeked out again. Mama shrieked and grabbed for the gate, but a mounted marauder pumped a bullet into her shoulder. She fell, silenced for the moment, but tried to struggle to her feet. The Indian shot her again.
Grace’s screams echoed in her own head. “No! Oh God, Mama,” she yelled at the top of her lungs. “Mamaaaa...”
Overpowered by hopelessness, Grace looked on as the painted rider stopped next to Mama’s fallen body and emptied another round into her. A stream of bright red trickled through the dry dirt, and her beloved mother lay motionless. Bile rose in Grace’s throat. She collapsed into a cowering heap, silenced her sobs with her hands, and clenched her teeth to keep from screaming. God hadn’t intervened so maybe the ordeal was all a bad dream and Mama wasn’t really dead. But, the shooting and whooping continued. Pounding hooves sent dust seeping into the wagon and Grace sputtered. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t awaken from the terror.
The gunfire suddenly ceased. She listened for the awful war cries but heard nothing but stony silence. Terror brought her breathing in ragged gasps. Were her brother and father still alive? And what about Mama?
Grace wanted to look, but feared what she’d see. Were the Indians gone? Summoning courage, she forced her eyes open and lifted her gaze even with the edge of the tailgate. Her heart seized when she found herself nose to nose with a scarred face covered with paint. Hate-filled eyes glared at her, and in his hand, a wooden club with dangling feathers loomed directly over her head. In fear for her life, she recoiled and covered her mouth to stop the scream rising in her throat.
A second face, not as old or menacing, peered in at her. The younger Indian grabbed the arm of the other and said something indistinguishable. They both stared at her.
Tears stung her eyes then drizzled down her cheeks. “Please, don’t kill me, please.”
The angry one grabbed her arm and dragged her over the splintered tailgate. A piece of wood pierced her side. She grimaced, scrunched her eyes closed, then hit the ground with a painful thud. Was this the end for her?
The savage stood over her, burning her with his hateful glare. Why? She didn’t know, although she’d heard stories about the Indians’ anger over the miners being in the Black Hills. But to kill over gold? That couldn’t be why. It just couldn’t.
Looking past him, she noticed others still mounted; beyond them the body of her mother. Through blurred eyes, she glanced back to the younger man then scanned beneath the wagon, searching for her papa and brother. Their lifeless bodies lay sprawled next to one another. Her heart ached at the needless loss. She no longer had a family.
She glared up at the Indian whose bright, lightning-bolt markings did little to hide the evidence of his encounter with a sharp blade—a jagged scar ran from his ear to his chin. Well-deserved, she supposed. Despite her grief and trembling legs, rage overcame her. She jumped to her feet and pummeled the chest of the one she believed responsible. He reeked of death.
“You...you savage. I hate you, I hate you,” she yelled.
The younger man grabbed her wrists; the look in his eyes warned her to stop. She lowered her head and stared at the ground. Her falling tears sprinkled the sparse grass and glistened in the sun.
Again, in a language she didn’t comprehend, the two men spoke in raised voices. The older one shoved the younger one away, grabbed Grace’s hands and trussed them together with a long piece of rawhide. Yanking hard on her tether, he pulled her toward his horse. Once mounted, he glowered at her with piercing eyes beneath a brow creased from years of frowning. He nudged his horse forward and led her like a pack mule, slow and steady at first.
She flashed a pleading look back at the younger one, but he mounted his horse and averted his gaze. Why didn’t they just kill her and get it over?
She quickened her pace to keep from falling. Her bare toes struck an occasional rock, and she winced in pain. Now she wished she’d listened to Mama and worn her shoes. Mama! Her wonderful, beautiful Mama. Through tears, Grace forced herself to glance back for one last look at the loved ones she’d never see again.
Again, thanks to my hostess for allowing me to post here today, and consider yourself invited to drop over to my blog. Tiranth is a welcome guest there, along with a wide array of authors writing in all genres. We're "Dishin' it Out."
3 years ago