I do not own the rights to the characters in this story, well, except for the characters I've created. I will confess that it is a bit mushy, and after having seen an interview with Mr. Fess Parker, I feel a little guilty about that. (He was commenting on a script he once read that was "too modern" for the characters and "too much like a romance novel"). So I offer my apologies for this one. Some of the characters (the extra children) are ones I've created in my other stories. Please read and review at your leisure. I keep promising my laundry pile, and my husband, that I'm going to quit the fan fiction addiction . . .
Rebecca paused at the rise of the hill. She drew in great breaths of air. Looking ahead, she forced herself to pick up her feet and run again. She had been running for hours. Her lungs screamed for air and her legs ached, but she pushed forward. At times when she felt like stopping, she would slow to a walk but then she would remember the sound of them crying and she would run again. The way was uneven and several times she fell, but rising, without hesitation, she drove herself on.
She was a strong woman; healthy, but running was not part of her daily life and so it was a struggle. She began to think of the path before her in small pieces: just to the next tree, just until the rise of this hill, just to the edge of this meadow. It would have been easier to run to the fort. They could have sent a messenger and she could have sat and waited. But she knew it would have taken time and time was not something they could afford.
Darkness had fallen. She knew she would have to stop. She pushed forward until she could no longer see the earth in front of her feet. Getting lost and winding up miles off track would only waste time. She collapsed on the earth and slept.
She rose long before the sun and while the air was still grey, she ran on. She had only one thought, one goal, one destination in mind: Daniel.
They had stopped to eat. The sun was bright, but the air was crisp and cold. He had turned to reposition some of the pelts on the horse when something in the distance caught his eye.
"I don't really think that qualifies as coffee." Mingo was saying to him.
Ignoring him, he straightened to his full height and straining he said, "Rebecca?" She was running and seeing him she leaned in and ran harder. He dropped the ropes in his hands. He felt his heart sink and terror gripped him. Even from a distance he could see she was terrified. He broke into a run and met her as she tumbled exhausted to the ground. Looking behind him as he lifted her into his arms he said, "Bring her some water!"
"They came . . . while I . . .was at the . . . river." She gasped out.
"Wait." He said. "Catch your breath first."
"There's . . . no . . . time." Each word burst out from her between ragged breaths. Mingo handed him some water his eyes wide with shock.
"Drink Becky." He put it to her lips, but she pushed it away.
"The girls!" She said "Choctaw!" He sank down into the field still holding her.
"When?" He asked.
"Yesterday." Her hair was loose and her dress torn. She gasped for air.
"You ran from the cabin?" Mingo asked stunned. He looked from her to Daniel.
"Go!" She said pushing herself away from Daniel. "Go!"
He looked at her. "Drink, Becky." He handed the water again. She drank and managed to sit up.
"Where's Israel?" He asked.
"He and Thomas were fishing. He wasn't home. I left a note. Dan, you can track them. Hurry, you need to go now!"
"They'll take them back to the village." Mingo said. Daniel nodded.
"Daniel, there's no time." She stood on unsteady feet. "You have to find them before they take them to the village. Katie is twelve! They won't see her as a child!"
He had already turned and ran to where the horses stood; Mingo, a step behind him. Loosening the ropes that held the pelts they dropped their season's work to the ground. They mounted quickly and rode to where she still stood. As he came alongside her, he reached out with his strong arm and pulled her up onto the horse behind him.