Musings of a Legacy
Written by: Mikami
The cool spectacle of the black and blue darkness of twilight betrayed the humid and muggy air amongst the tall grass. Sweat gathered at his neck and chest and Uncas could feel the dirt sticking easily to his skin. The smell of the earth was most prominent at this time of night and he was no stranger to the surrounding spirits of the wee hours. His eyes weren't heavy but fixated on the star field blanket that stretched above him like a glorious canopy. The only sounds he heard were the comforting sway of tall grass and tree branches and the air's peace even made him forget about the burial ground just a few feet away.
A soft rustling sound echoed to his right and out of the corner of his eye, Uncas spotted his brother Hawkeye, ever vigilant in his turn to keep watch. It was a habit of the young Mohican to stay awake even if his father or adopted brother had the task of sentry. It was not that he didn't trust them to keep conscious, but more for his own comfort level. In the event he did nod off to slumber, Uncas was a light sleeper. Living as a warrior kept him on edge and prepared for anything.
Yet, in all the years a warrior could make, it did not prepare him for the cards he was dealt. It was hard to believe that this morning they were headed to Can-tuck-ee so he could fulfill his lifelong role to spawn the Mohican clan anew. And now he was lying in the clammy air, on the ground next to a sleeping English girl. Uncas always possessed an appreciation for the unexpected but for some reason the sudden upheaval of events sent a riveting tremor through his consciousness.
She was the younger of the Munro women and couldn't be older than eighteen. Uncas heard her older sister call her Alice. Her colonial garments were muddled and darkened by the elements of the wilderness, making her once fine appearance scrubby. However, with the kiss of moonlight in her hair, she seemed more childlike—delicate, afraid and shaken. Uncas couldn't blame her for the horrors she'd seen earlier in the day. He may not have known too much about the lifestyle she'd been living until yesterday, but it didn't include the viciousness of the Frontier. Her breath came out ragged and uneven; signs of a fitful sleep and possible nightmares.
He shifted slightly on the ground and peered at her with a sideways glance. She was faced toward him in a tightly bound fetal position, hands clutched together and tucked under her chin. Even in slumber her expression was a face full of fright and Uncas couldn't help but feel bad for her. She certainly never asked for this situation to abound and any damn fool could tell she didn't belong in the wilderness.
Uncas sighed quietly and relocated his vision toward the stars again. In the days leading up to now, he noticed his father and brother weren't the only ones expecting him to find a Delaware woman but Alexandria, John Cameron's wife, also anticipated he would have a family already. The first of her words were that if Uncas was there at the cabin it meant he hadn't settled down yet. Uncas let a thought slide—were they beginning to think he was getting too old? He had only seen twenty-five summers.
In his earlier youth when the Mohican tribe still had numbers, Uncas' interests lay with the hunt rather than with women. He was good friends with many of them but there were none to keep him genuinely rooted. He watched the others take on spouses and they seemed happy. Being married was never at the forefront of a younger Uncas' mind. Though as fate would have it, the responsibility fell to him and once he, Hawkeye and Chingachgook reached Fort William Henry, Uncas knew they'd be resuming their original path.
It wasn't until that night Uncas found himself questioning between what he needed to do versus what he wanted to do. Being the Mohican people's last hope as a surviving tribe never made him doubt but as he searched the stars for shapes and patterns, he drew on other choices—other lives. Maybe he should have felt shameful for questioning but remorse was the last thing on his mind.
His eyes trailed down once again and landed on the sleeping Alice beside him.
There are other things…aren't there?, Uncas thought fleetingly as his eyes stole over her form.
In the midst of her restless sleep, Alice's shoulders hunched upward and she shivered slightly with the whisper of a cooler breeze. The corner of Uncas' mouth turned upward a fraction. This was probably her first time sleeping outside and for a moment he tried to imagine himself in her position. He remembered seeing women of her stature every time he and his companions passed through an English colonial settlement to barter or sell skins. Although those wealthy English women were rarely seen outside, Uncas spied them in carriages finely dressed from head to toe. They would either ignore the surroundings or scoff and complain how dreadful the new world was. Some would stare, fascinated by his native brothers but others seemed apprehensive.
Uncas wondered on what ground Alice Munro stood in regards to Chingachgook, Hawkeye and himself. Fear and distrust were presumably at the top of the list, as was helplessness because she, her sister and that pigheaded Redcoat had been stranded on the George Road. Homesickness, exhaustion…hate? Perhaps she had good reason to, what with seeing men butchered in the crossfire of a Huron battle. Maybe she'd already given way to the conclusion that all red men were the same, including him—a brutal, dangerous savage. But the helpful actions of the Mohican trio probably puzzled her, if she was not too traumatized to notice.
Earlier, Uncas found himself glancing in her direction considerably so as the day wore on, surveying her movements and trying to read her. He'd only seen her hysterical once and the aftermath of her annoyance with him after setting their horses loose. Once they embarked on their journey, the young woman appeared to shrink into an introverted state. Alice hardly spoke to her sister or anyone else the rest of the day and concentrated on the expanse of scenery instead. He suddenly felt unsure whether or not to help her up the small rock face at the river. Uncas never reached out but unconsciously followed at her heels in case she slipped.
A few hours before Alice nodded off to a fitful sleep, the travelers were almost discovered by a French war party and their Ottawa allies. With tension rising like the heat, Hawkeye had taken station a few feet away next to the older Munro woman and his father, Chingachgook, some few steps behind a tree. The Redcoat had dropped quickly to his stomach, cocking his rifle and preparing to take aim. Propping up on his elbows, Uncas held his breath when two of the Ottawa came within three feet from the entangled foliage that concealed him. With his finger firmly on the trigger, he suddenly heard erratic breathing to his right and found Alice peering through the undergrowth with terror manifesting on her pale face. Afraid she would give them all away, Uncas dropped his rifle and grabbed her, rapidly placing a hand over her mouth to stifle her fear. Her body went rigid and for the first couple of seconds he thought she was going to struggle. Instead, she began to tremble minimally before her body sagged against him.
Uncas had kept his eyes firmly ahead, scrutinizing the proximity of their enemy. He only let his eyes flicker down once or twice to eye his rifle. The decision of what to do with the ball of tension squirming in his arms remained vague in the likely event of discovery. Uncas could feel her slender form through the bulky skirts of her dress and the heated palpitations of her frightened heart. The side of Alice's head fell into the crook of his neck and shoulder, her hair sliding against the skin of his collarbone and golden wisps tickling his cheek. Her moonlight locks possessed a heady aroma of flowers and perfume—the scent of a wealthy English woman that had the world of the white man at her feet. With her scent infiltrating his nostrils, Uncas had inhaled her in, filling his lungs to the brim with every following breath. Her essence was suddenly all around him—her panting was louder in his ears than any sound of the night and her body was more visceral than any sear of a bullet. Uncas felt his chest tighten for reasons unbeknownst to his danger-wary mind. The feeling took hold of his stomach and crept up his throat, to where his mouth was becoming dry. Alice then let out a barely audible whimper against his hand and it irked him at how it flooded into his bloodstream like a tremor.
"Non. Pas possible," the voice of the enemy had said, cutting into the thickness of the night.
"Pourquoi?" came the demanding reply. It was followed by a firmer refusal to advance.
Amongst the undergrowth, the six companions slowly relaxed when they realized the war party was retreating. One by one the enemy disappeared into the black ink of night and once again all was quiet with a rush of relief.
The close call with the French war party happened only a couple of hours ago and Uncas exhaled heavily but silently, reflecting with discomfort on the situation if they had been caught. No matter how many times danger brought itself above his head, one could never get accustomed to the stomach churning.
Uncas glanced at Alice once again and saw her turn over to face away from him. He remembered when the war party had gone, he carefully extracted himself from her and sat back to give her room.
"Are you alright?" he had asked softly.
Alice caught his intent eyes but averted her blue ones quickly with a nod.
"Yes. Thank you," she managed out. It was almost a whisper. Her gaze flitted from her fiddling fingers to his face a few times before curling up on the ground. Not a word more was spoken.
Now, as Uncas let his eyes wander over Alice's back, he wondered if he scared her by his offhanded decision to silence her. Then again, she had thanked him if only to be polite.
A few golden strands from her failing up-do fell over her back and touched the ground. For a moment Uncas almost reached out a hand to rescue them. The moonlit locks themselves were like silk to his calloused hands—silk that framed a pair of cerulean blue pools under a worried brow, a slender nose and petal-kissed lips. The supple terrain of her fair skin rounded along a delicate jaw line and extended its reaches down her throat and into the collared neckline of her dress. Uncas had never seen her smile but she was already quite beautiful when she didn't. There was a haunting touch of sadness in Alice's watery irises. It was a sign that she was robbed of her innocence and her naivety shattered.
Unable to muster up his boldness to offer even a few words of comfort, let alone a reassuring hand, Uncas forced himself on his other side to turn completely away from her. Sleeplessness was creating a ridiculous train of thought inside his head and Uncas shut his eyes. He'd never been a stranger to inner turmoil but the last twenty-four hours planted within him something anew. It was outlandish and unsettling. Hearing his own breathing become in sync with his beating heart, Uncas sensed a different sort of danger. He was being led blindly into uncharted territory and he felt powerless to stop it.