Poster: Evan Quinn
Post # 51
Jacob still woke with a grin from what Mercy told him of giggling
blushing girls. The fact she said the words, as he told her last
evening, had flattered him deeply. No, he had not blushed but he was
sure pleased with the words. Such fleeting thoughts before he was up and
dressed meeting the rest of them down at breakfast. The story of how he
and Mercy got the flatboat told of course, much to his manly chagrin,
but there was humor in it too and certainly not really a gauge of his
manliness. The flatboat was big enough to take their horses as they
would be needed for the ride into their village and to the other fort.
They were finally that close. The boat came with two trained men, one at
each end to guide the boat down the river with log poles that were used.
There were extra poles in case needed with a few pairs of hands to be
made use of. Anything needed, including food, was packed in the
Liam was anxious, up early and wide awake. Breakfast seen to long before
the others as well coffee. He was out on the porch with a fag pressed
between his fingers, leaving the smoke to trail as he watched the sky
streak with the morning light. A gradual steady process. The butt
flicked out into the street as lights came on in various homes and
business, people getting up and ready to face the new day. A day that he
and his brothers had been waiting for, fought their way to and now were
here. A great anticipation swelled for what he knew he had planned.
Something long overdo. His horse ready, he waited on the others and
joined them in heading for the dock with the flatboat and getting his
horse aboard along with himself.
Mercy had enjoyed the little adventure last evening, even if it wasn't
as exciting as finding a bear. She had gone back to collect the material
as promised too, and was given a basket of bread and cheese for them to
enjoy on the journey down the river. She was back in buckskin as she
made her way downstairs, her pack carried by its straps and over her
shoulder, the basket on her arm.
Ciarán was awake early enough but he didn't head right downstairs. He
cleaned up again, dressed, tied back his hair and finally went down,
carrying his saddle pack. Not too hungry again, and blaming it on
nerves, he settled for coffee and bread with blackberry preserves and a
bowl of oatmeal, far from his usual fare. Of course he greeted Mercy and
Jacob and asked the expected question, "Where's Liam and
Evan?" They were soon all heading for the flatboat, himself a
bundle of nerves.
The Battle of the Bear yesterday had been a somewhat disorienting
distraction... but now that the day of their arrival in Hunt's Landing
had dawned, his former thoughts returned like a punch to the stomach. He
couldn't eat a thing at breakfast and didn't bother trying, instead
slurped some coffee to keep him going and went outside. Liam was there
early too, and he nodded greeting to his blood brother. The pack over
his shoulder was stowed, and his horse led aboard, the nervous animal
hushed with a murmur and pat to the neck. The horse was tied securely to
prevent him moving too much for the voyage, and then he went to join
Liam where he stood waiting for the others. Not a word said or exchanged
but the warfare of emotion was written across his tight features.
Once they parted ways after the bear incident, nothing was to be seen
nor heard of Naniko. They would eventually find that as nothing new, but
it probably didn't concern them in the least. She'd gone about her
normal morning ritual and routine, which was a short distance away from
the fort, but was here now, expecting that the group would be gathering
to continue the journey shortly, if they weren't already. Reins in hand,
she came approaching the inn they were staying at, nodding to those
already outside once close enough, in greeting.
"I think we can find them down at the boat," in reply to
Ciaran, who probably got the best rest of them all. He noticed Nan had
not joined them for dinner last night nor seen of until outside heading
for the boat, those left to do so. "Good morning Nan," quietly
as seemed befitting this early in the morning or the fact what the day
would entail. He had lingered to be one of the last down in making sure
everyone was there and everything needed on the boat before they set
sail. Being the last to board behind the others. "Let us be
off." The trip should not take long for the current was with them
Eye contact was made with Evan as he joined him on the boat perhaps ten
minutes before the others. "How's the chest?" His arm was
wrapped up and the cuts tended to last evening by one grateful doctor
who would not be needed to attend to anyone else being mauled by that
bear. There was something about him that spoke on being anxious of one
with an ace up his sleeve and not really trying to hide that emotion.
Eyes were bright with that light of anticipation.
"Morning, Nan." She greeted the woman with her usual smile
then did the same with the others. Though it was hidden, Jacob would
know she was feeling a bit of nerves herself, perhaps picked up by the
others. Once her horse was tended to, she settled in for the ride.
Studying the boat, she made a face but would trust in the two men who
would guide it.
Ciar gave everyone a nod instead of talking this morning. He stayed by
his horse as they waited to start on this last leg of their journey to
Hunt's Landing. It wasn't that he didn't want to be around anyone. He
just wasn't much in the mood to talk.
"It's fine." His chest was wound with fresh bandages, the
wounds not horrible but the kind that could get infected easily, so
there was a salve the Doctor had spread on as well. Evan glanced to
Liam, noting the near gleeful anticipation on his face. Evan didn't
understand it, not a bit, and he could almost hate that expression Liam
bore. His own stomach was in knots of dread. He went to stand off on his
own by the railing, hands wrapping round it as they got underway.
Another nod given to Liam and the others, she quietly followed the lead
of the others for this ride and just took a place somewhere by herself
with her own thoughts and scanning of the landscape.
At least the trip was scenic, the river a clear blue with steady
currents and waves though not rough in this part. He stood by Mercy at
the rail, tucking an arm around her shoulders to keep her warm for even
if the sun shone down brightly as it rose higher in the sky, the air
still had a chill left over from winter. The trees were
budding and the grass was getting greener, a few early flowers were in
bloom. He didn't say anything for to do so would be to interrupt this
Liam was doing his hardest not to be overflowing with enthusiasm around
his brothers or get beaten up for it like he had when kids. 'What's
that grin for? Wipe it off your face, Liam.' Which of course he not
only couldn't but made it worse, so young fists went flying even with
two on him they could not best him for his natural talent. Still, he
remembered in a fond way the ruckus that taught him how to fight well.
He separated himself as well for he knew Evan wanted to stew and Ciaran
to brood. He to plan over and over in his mind until it could be
Mercy took the time to enjoy the quiet and the beauty as it passed by.
Of course the fact the brothers were so quiet wasn't missed and she
wondered briefly how long it would last. Still, for a little while, she
could forget they were traveling down a river to a place that could only
remind everyone of how dangerous life could be.
Ciar wasn't brooding exactly. More he was wondering if it was possible
to get sick on the river and where he had put the potion that Alex had
given him. So far, it wasn't bothering him and he had to snort out a
laugh when his horse suddenly nudged him hard enough to make him move a
step. "I get it, I get it. I'm crowding you." He moved to the
railing and leaned there, glancing at Liam and shaking his head, though
the smile remained. How could his brother keep his secret for this
Evan didn't glance at his brothers, knowing it would only make him angry
to see their smiling faces. True, this trip didn't hold quite the same
intensity of emotion for them as it did for him, but still. In his mind
there was nothing to smile about where Hunt's Landing was concerned. So
he kept his eyes on the landscape, oblivious to its beauty, fingers
tight around the railing as each moment brought them closer.
The trip went smoothly and Jacob was grateful for that. Very few things
went smoothly so something to be mentally praised and thank god above.
Certainly there could easily have been some disaster when on water like
this. The two men guided the flatboat into a slip along the dock that
had been left here at this landing even if not much else remained as
far as human life was around. Eventually it would be resettled for it
was in a good spot. Settling was at a standstill for all the Indian
raids. They helped those aboard to disembark, getting the horses on land
without spooking them too much. There was some rebellion as horses
tended to do but no disaster resulted from any balking. "How far
inland is your village and in which direction?" Although he had an
idea, he was sure the Brothers knew every inch of this place by heart.
Liam had some trouble with his steed, having to hold tightly onto the
reins as he doubled stepped trying to pull at the bit for the horse being
scared of getting onto the dock from the boat. One thing to get in it,
another to get out. It was managed and soon both were on land, letting
the horse settle before he would mount him again. By that time everyone
was off the boat. He pointed in the direction where their village use to
be, "just up there over the knoll." From here nothing could be
seen of any ruins of what was their small port.
Mercy's horse was a bit skittish until her feet touched ground. The dock
had bothered her apparently but the filly settled immediately as soon as
she was off it. Mercy mounted and looked at Liam then in the direction
he pointed. It was quiet except for the normal sounds of birds, and
maybe a squirrel or two chattering away in the budding trees.
He wasn't quite sure where he expected for them to put to shore but to
be honest, he was glad it wasn't right at the landing. He mounted his
horse and patted his neck, thanking him for behaving. A mixture of fear
and excitement filled him now as he recognized one of the places where
they used to go swimming and fishing. It all seemed unreal now.
Evan was close to shaking as he stepped from the boat and went through
the motions of retrieving and calming his horse, checking his pack, all
done mechanically. He didn't look up at Liam's gesture towards the knoll
but rather swung up into his saddle, jaw twitching where it set firmly.
The easiest thing to do seemed to be blocking all of the emotional
whirlwind that filled him, which he attempted to do as they rode towards
the Landing. Easier said than done.
Naniko had kept to herself for the journey this far. She and her horse
until everything came to a stop and she was once more looking around
while listening to the brothers. Unlike the others, her horse was calm
enough to walk off the flatboat without much more than just a light pat
and a few words of her native tongue to the animal, and then she was
mounting and taking up the reins with a glance to the group.
He noted where the ruins were of what was home once to these lads. A
look given Mercy with lowered words. "See if there is anything here
while I see to another place I was told of." Which then he
was over to Naniko, "help me find a church between here and two
other villages that I'm told existed. Although the one was not sure of
its location or if still standing. It would be a few miles inland,"
as he mounted his horse and would first head up over the knoll to where
the ruins were.
The time was here as he mounted up and started for their village and a
certain mound that would be called a Fairy Fort in time.
"Brothers, can I have your help?" Loud enough for both of them
to hear as he rode ahead to the mound that all were buried beneath whom
perished those six years ago. Though he and his brothers had not
been able to stay to help see to this task, to give chase immediately
after sister, he had found out later on exactly where everyone had
been placed. A group grave had been chosen for so many had died and many
not recognized for the massacre and burning of the village. In life they
had lived together and that day they had died together so
befitting to be buried together. There was not the usual wake in sending
off a loved one and .traditions skipped for they had to be. That is
what weighed on Liam as he dismounted near the large mound, flat on top
and extended a good twelve feet around. He first unfasten the ropes
holding the items of curiosity. Now was the moment of discovery as they
were unveiled. Two sturdy beautifully carved crosses that were five feet
tall made of thick cedar that would survive the climate for countless
years to come. On one was carved their father's name along with Evan's
family for they had always been that close. On the other was carved all
the known names of those that had died that day. He carried each up onto
the grassy flat top of the mound to place the Crosses side by side and
waited to see if his brothers would help him to erect the crosses
securely into the ground. He had a sledge hammer.
Mercy nodded as Jacob spoke, then dismounted. "Be careful."
Was all she said before she was looking around. Of the wooden buildings
that had been burned, little was left except rubble. Saplings had taken
root among the boards, and brush and vines were covering them. The
buildings that had been spared were slowly being torn down it seemed,
perhaps by those that were passing through to other places. Mercy peered
through windows, and stepped inside opened doors to find little. A
couple of the buildings were stone, and though the walls stood, most
also had been burned, leaving only shells. While Liam called to his
brothers, she rooted through ashes and rubble, collecting bits of
jewelry, a small box that contained letters, a Bible that had been
tucked into a small niche and was untouched by weather or fire.
Ciar dismounted as they rode into the village and just stood there for a
moment. He wasn't remembering the bodies or the smell of burning wood,
but a place where children laughed, and adults talked and gossip. The
town square had been a meeting place of sorts. Liam's call startled him
and he jumped before turning. He was over to see what his brother was up
to and followed him up the knoll. Touching one cross reverently, he
looked at his brother. "They're ..." That was all he managed
to get out. Too much emotion and he had to remain quiet while he gave
Liam his help.
His feet felt as if they were made of lead and his heart was pounding as
he slowly dismounted and followed Liam and Ciaran over towards the
mound. Not recognizing it, he was about to ask, then watched Liam reveal
what he'd been carting all along: crosses. The realization fell
into place heavily as he looked back at the mound. It had to be the mass
grave, created by the survivors after he and the Quinns had fled. His
mother, father, brothers, sisters, all were buried here not five feet in
front of him. It had been so much easier, all these years to deny what
had happened but now it was staring him in the face. For a long moment
he didn't move but just stood there, staring at it. The hardness of his
features dissolved for once into sheer, sharp grief as he fought for
composure. Eventually he found it and climbed the mound gingerly to join
his brothers. Only then could he read what was written on the crosses...
one of which was a tribute to his own family, the founders of this
ill-fated village. Emotion clogged his throat to choke his voice as he
managed two words. "Thank you." A hand clasped Liam's
shoulder, in gratitude, and for his own strength. Holding there for a
Naniko got settled in her saddle with a glance around to where they
were, noting too the expression and seeming moods of those of the group.
It made her curious, but she wasn't going to ask. It wasn't her place.
This place though, rippled with sorrow and grief. It was very...
consuming. Hearing Jacob, she snapped out of her own thoughts and
watching the others with a quiet snap of the reins to send her horse in
motion, following after Jacob with a nod of agreement to the
request, then she was off for the search of this church that may or may
not, be there.
He had things to say but right now they would not get past the lump in
his throat as they secured the crosses in place, side by side. His hand
first going over Evan's shoulder in a good grip then released. Once
done, he crouched down as he dug a hole and finally getting his voice
beyond the lump there which he swallowed away first. "There is
enough coin to see to paying all your passage from the Underworld,"
dumping the coins into it that would have been placed on their eyes had
they a proper funeral at the time. Once done covering it back over he
stood for a time not saying a word before finally breaking his silence
again. "Death should be the celebration of one's life, and for each
of you that have touched mine I will remember and speak kindly of you if
not proudly. I have been honored to have known you all to some
degree and some to a far deeper degree. I celebrate your
life," his words somewhat choked upon for the emotions welled up
inside, "until the day we meet again on the other
side." Taking out a bottle of Kilbeggan from inside his cloak
before holding it up in salute, one of his father's favorites. Liam
first pour some onto the ground before taking a good slug of it then
held it out for his brothers to take and say anything needed to be said
in closure. Though they would always be kept in his heart.
Jacob lingered a few minutes to note what the brothers were doing. A
slight smile touched with an approving nod more to himself before they
continued on. There was a trail leading from the village that would span
off into different directions. At such an intersection he paused to
leave Naniko to her expertise. He sat there listening to the world
around them, all of nature that was coming alive in a rebirth.
Mercy came out of one of the buildings and saw what the brothers were
doing. There might still be other things to be found but she remained
where she was, watching. When they were finished, if nothing she found
was of value to them, they could add it to the mound.
Ciar bowed his head as he listened to his brother, eyes misting over. He
accepted the Kilbeggan and took a drink but shook his head as he offered
it to Evan. He couldn't find the words but before they finished here,
his voice would return and he might surprise his brothers as he recited
the 23rd Psalm: The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me
to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He
restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His
name' sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
death, I will fear no evil: For thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff,
they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of
mine enemies; Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I
will dwell in the House of the Lord forever, just before they
retreated down the hill.
His chest was swelling to the point of pain as he listened to Liam's
brief but eloquent eulogy, and then Ciaran's own tribute. He accepted
the Kilbeggan and took a swig but he could barely swallow it, handing it
back to Liam. He was barely holding it together, far from the ability to
speak so he didn't add his own comments. Not yet. When the others turned
to leave he managed to speak, quietly in a voice roughened by his
swollen throat. "You two go on. I'll catch up." He needed a
moment here, alone.
Naniko came up behind Jacob and stopped at his side. Attention moved
over each of the paths, taking in finer details of the nature that had
grown here, and smaller things such as animal tracks, the way branches
grew and other such things. A couple of moments of studying everything
and taking it all in consideration, and allow the nature around them
speak to her. The moments passed quietly before she tilted the reins and
directed the horse to one of the paths that forked out from there.
"This way, I believe it is." She was confident enough in her
skills that she had the right path according to the indications she'd
had seen and was then in motion.
He understood and at least his brothers had agreed with his words or
they would have said something. See, Liam had been just as much affected
by all that happened but he dealt with it in his own way. He did
something about it, what he was able to do. There was one last thing
before he left the mound, "I have not forgotten me promise
father," one he had made that day and continued to pursue. Putting
the bottle away for later, he was down from the mound carefully, it was
up in a sloping five feet from the rest of the ground, so one made their
way down from it. He was over to sit on the wall of their home, one of
the stone ones and let the tears fall. Finally. A grown man could cry
under certain circumstances and this was a long time coming. He didn't
try to hide it either.
He discreetly studied Naniko as she tuned into nature which had him
asking a question. "Have you ever stayed with a druid or
shaman?" The method was similar and hence the curiosity. He turned
his horse onto the path she directed which became overgrown after a
while. Most likely the others would to or perhaps the fact the ruined
church was not a place most would try and get to anymore. It wasn't
long, a mile or so, that they came upon a stone wall half crumbled away.
He dismounted and walked the horse closer, that was until he heard the
rattling sound, his horse rearing up out of fear and nearly knocking him
into its path. One lucky thing for him was it was this early and
such snakes were not quite awake, sluggish.
She would give them time to themselves as they finished and mourned.
Into another building to look around, but there was little left. She
moved to an empty hole where a window had been and stared out over the
river. As she turned away, a glint of metal caught her eye and she was
over to pick up a small gold necklace, its chain broken. It was tucked
away with the rest of the things.
Ciar nodded when Evan asked for more time. He needed the same but not up
here. While Liam sought out one place, the younger Quinn walked to
the water's edge. He hadn't cried even that day, but he was now.
Squatting down, he picked up rocks and tossed them into the water. He
knew where his ma was buried and would walk there soon. When he was
ready, with tears still in his eyes, he walked to her grave.
Spring flowers, planted there long ago were starting to grow and he
pulled away the dead remains of weeds. The flowers would be seen
by any who passed.
Once the others had trailed away he went to kneel before the crosses. A
hand reached out to trace along the one bearing his family's name,
fingers moving slowly and tenderly across the etchings. "I miss
you." He whispered it. All the old anger was powerless to stop the
tears that finally came then. His head bowed as the first sob ripped
from him almost like a gasp. Hand closing around the cross to hold
himself upright, his shoulders shook with the expulsion of grief and
anger that had waited so long to be released.
Blinking out of her moment, she looked to Jacob and shook her head.
"No. Have not I." The rest of the mile or so was ridden in
silence until the reached their seeming destination. She didn't
dismount. She was keeping an eye on their surroundings while Jacob went
to investigate. Or so she assumed. Until the rattle sounded off, causing
both horses to rear and Jacob to land on the path. forward lean to keep
from sliding off backwards, she quickly snapped the reins into the far
direction from Jacob to make sure that her horse didn't come landing too
close -or directly on- the man. The sound paused then started up again,
free hand went around her back to grab one of her knives, which was sent
ailing to the ground with a flick of her wrist to pin the serpent to the
ground. More rattling, it wasn't an instant kill sort of hit, but it
wasn't going anywhere. She actually didn't intend to kill it. Down off
her horse, who moved further way, she went over to where the rattler was
pinned and crouched down next to it but out of bite range. Her hand
followed over its head, tossed back and forth, until she just snatched
and closed her hand around just behind the jaw to hold it, then pulled
the knife out and stood up, letting it wiggle and squirm.