a/n – sorry for the lateness, this one was a big one. As usual, rate the chapter, story, not the spelling or grammar XD as keep whatever political, historical, ethnic issues opinions you have to your-self! Enjoy ! chapter 4 ! -
Magua had left in such anger the previous night; he had foolishly left behind the blade used to feed Robin. She couldn't believe her luck. Her words of insight surely must have spooked him; otherwise he wouldn't have been so careless. Or maybe…it was trick, a test to see what she would do with it. Would she use it on him, next time he came? Perhaps leave it untouched as sign of submission. Neither seemed like the best choice. One surely meant death, the other a life of slavery. With most options exhausted, only one path remained. Escape. All odds screamed against it, and yet Robin's unruly nature flared at the thought.
'Better to die free, then live as a slave' It was the last thing her grandmother had said her, before they took her away to the gallows. Escape seemed liked the most rational answer, even if it truly wasn't. But she had to at least try, better than sitting in the dark, day by day, counting down the hours until her captor finally grew too bored to keep her. It would only be a matter of time till Magua came to reclaim the knife. Minutes, seconds, he could be walking towards the wigwam now as she thought rapidly!
Why did she feel so feverish? Was it fear? She felt as if her skin was on fire, and yet she shivered. Had sickness taken her? Her vision blurred and double, she could barely sit let alone stand steadily on her own accord. And yet escape still seemed possible. Her hands still free, took the knife shakily, and slowly, as silent as possible, inched and jabbed through the bottom of the wigwam leather, vertically, so it could not be so easily spotted. The nearby pots, aligned up beside the wall would cover it enough, should anyone come. Which they did. Heavy feet stumbled towards her wigwam. Quickly robin placed the knife aside and faux sleep. It was Magua, but not as she had seen him before. He too seemed to stagger, but not from sickness. From the rancid odour on his breath she smelt alcohol; it laced the air so thickly Robin's stomach almost turned. Magua seemed tipsy, but still vaguely alert, as one might expect. It seemed Robin's hunch was right; he had come for the knife, delighted that to find it where he had expected, not hidden on her person.
"Smart, little bird. You are learning" he groggily praised, roughly palming her hair as if she was some prized bitch. He senses seemed dull, enough to not sense she wasn't truly asleep. Through the slit of her eye lids, she watched him, apprehensively. Men were unpredictable at times but more or less creatures of habit, when sober. Drunkards were not. Yet he seemed fairly content, taking a seat and watching her with glassy narrowed eyes. "Magua swore never drink firewater again." He mumbled, as if confessing to her in confidence. "Rots the mind, soils the spirit…but warms the belly. And eases the pain" he trailed off, his mind drifting elsewhere, just as Robin peeked opened one of eyes, the uncommon lapse of emotion in his voice made her curious. Her thundering heart faltered. He sat there, still as stone, the light of the moon on his conflicted face. The jagged sharp planes of his face, taunt with ridged tension, whilst his eyes half lidded and heavy. His jaw clenched and unclenched, almost ritualistically, whilst the rest of his body was numbingly still.
"What Magua do with you, Little Bird?" the question seemed to perplex him. She spied him, waving the knife sluggishly while he thought. Anxiously she listened as he continued. "Maybe Magua trade you. Get good hides for white children. But Magua could just kill you. Little Bird light many fires in men's hearts. But Magua's heart must stay cold." His hands were soon on her, dragged her up roughly to sit beside him, purposely stirring her from her 'sleep'. She heard him drunkenly mutter as he fidgeted around with her wrists. "Maybe Magua keep you alive, for a little longer" He clumsily tied her wrists once more, tightly constricting the circulation. The angle was awkward, bound behind her back, one arm twisted adjacent to the other, but he took no notice. Wrenching her to his side, he softly spoke, resting her head on shoulder, forcefully. "Sing, Little Bird. Entertain Magua".
Robin was so stunned by the situation, he barked at her, "Sing!"
Licking her lips, Robin shakily started, with whatever song came to mind. Not her personal favourite, but it seemed fitting. "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see…"
She stilled for a moment, listening quietly. His chest was raising steadily, his breath even as his eyes fluttered closed. She waited for a moment, until it seemed he was well and truly asleep in his drunken state. His body was lucid, only supported by the wall of the wigwam. With cat like, adrenaline stealth Robin pried her-self from Magua's grasp, inching ever so slowly away until finally she slipped through the escape flap. Unconsciously she took a moment to stare at her drunken captor, who now himself was a captive of his own vices. She was taken by the lapse of character. Her grandmother was right. Men were victims of their own demons. "You poor creature…" she mumbled softly, before finally slipping out of the wigwam, darting for the cover of the forest nearby. It was pitch black, the Lenape camp silent. Only a few braves walked the night, patrolling most likely, watchful of any attack. Once Robin crept deep into the forest, she bolted to life, running through the darkness, struggling to free her hands as she did so. She had to get as far away as possible, before her escape was discovered.
Apparently, it did not go undiscovered as long as she had hoped. After half an hour of running, she heard him, bellowing in rage. "Little Bird! You witch!"
He already seemed close. His battle ready body fit to cover twice as much ground as her, in half as much time. Robin could already picture the anger raging in his eyes. Swallowing her fear, and her exhaustion, she ran again, blindly through the trees, looking for an opening out of the forest. It would be light soon, easier for them to spot her. She had to find cover. The thundering chorus of the footsteps were growing closer. What did they do to captives who tried to escape?
"When Magua gets his hands on you, you will beg for mercy!"
She didn't want to find out. She kept running, having finally broken her restraints through constantly wrist rubbing. Blood ran from her wrists and speckled the ground, but now she could run better, even if her legs were already tiring from exhaustion. She broke through the tree line, expecting open fields of long grass to bushes to hide in. she was dead wrong. The thundering cascades of water drummed down on the rocks below. She had run her-self right towards a waterfall, with devastating cliffs on either side. Her back almost broke in defeat, but the nearby hollering of her pursuers drove her to desperation. She clambered up the rocks, briefly contemplating trending through the waters to reach the other side. There was no chance in the hell. The waters with dark with unknown depths, jagged rocks lined the banks and the rapids thundered over the falls, promising death if anything should followed. It was literally a dead end.
The growl invoked a yelp of fear from Robin as she clambered further to the edge. Magua had indeed followed, and now had her cornered, with his Huron party hanging back, but none the less nearby. He looked feral; the shame of having his captive fled wand the flames of his rage. He looked ready to drag her back by her hair. He said nothing, but merely extended his reach, grasping at her bleeding wrists. The sight momentarily halted him, but only for a second. That was all she needed.
"One more step Huron, and I jump", despite her wariness, her voice never sounded so stern.
His gaze reverted to her footing. One step and she would be over the edge of the waterfall, lost to the thundering torrents of the water below. Jagged rocks would surely break her slender body into bits. Biting back his rage, Magua calmed his tone, offering his hand in appeal. "Do not be foolish, Little Bird…Magua knows you should not die today" the sweetest in his tone could sicken any.
"But Magua will decide, regardless?" she mocked his speech slightly. Adrenaline was pumping through her veins. This was the final confrontation. Win or lose, this was the end. At least that's what it felt it. Robin's heart was in her throat. She had only given her-self two options. Jump, or surrender. Neither outcome promised life.
Magua responded automatically, clenching his fist in power. "Is Magua's right! Magua captured you. Magua keeps you. Magua decides when he is done with you!" temporarily his control slipped, causing him to curse as Robin daggled one foot over the edge. Quickly he recomposed him-self. How embarrassing. To submit to his captive's demands. He was going to throttle her. His eyes blazing, promised that much. "Surrender, Little Bird, and Magua will forgive this foolish flight."
Liar... Robin thought bitterly.
Robin was shaking, the adrenaline was wearing off. She had to decide, do, or die. Or in this case, it meant both. Tauntingly, she cocked her head aside. "Ask your-self. If you were me, on the edge, faced down by the enemy…what would you do?"
He knew the answer, they both knew and it spurred him to lunge. The foolish girl really meant to jump, taken by a moment of madness. If Magua was facing a brave, he would have found it admirable, but for Robin to do so, it enraged him to no end. Despite his skill, his years and experience, she slipped away, merely leaning back to avoid his grasp. Everything slowed to a stop. Every fibre of Magua's being tensed in that one moment. He knew he had lost her. The bitter taste of defeat and failed stung his tongue. The sight of Robin's large fearful, yet determined eyes, staring at him as she fell, shook his core on an uncomprehendable level. As slow as it seemed to have happened, it was over just as fast. Her small form, dwarfed by the sheer magnitude of the falls, disappeared into the water, long before she could hit rocks. The Huron braves clambered to the edge, peering to sight her, and muttering in shock at the crazy white girl who had flung her-self over, to escape capture. They seemed certain she was dead. The pressure of the waters would certainly crush her wallflower like body. And if the rapids didn't crush her, the rocks and floating debris would. Branches, trees, rocks all floated down river, uprooted by recent rainstorms. All they wanted for now, was s body to resurface, blood to stain the murky water. But there wasn't any, not for some time. The Hurons had begun to turn back, when the heavens opened and water rained down upon them. Magua chest was heavy, his besotted gaze surveying the waters bellows almost silently willing them to return what was his. His cry of anguish defeat bellowed into rage. Against all odds the whelp resurfaced, coughing and gasping for air below, clutching onto a nearby piece of driftwood to keep her body up. Magua had half a mind to dive in after her…just so he could drag her out of the waters, to kill her him-self. As she travelled with the current, she grew smaller, the distance between them growing, though Magua's voice spanned far.
"You will not escape me, Little Bird! I will find you! And when I do, you will regret the day you ran from me!" His voice echoed throughout the forests, but for once, the Huron could do little else but watch in defeat as his captive floated down river, further and further out of reach.
Robin always hated water. It was often cold and wet, murky and lurking with unknown dangers. Since the day she was born in water, she hated it. Following tradition's Robin had a water birth, away from the camp. She had caused her mother such distress, coming a month earlier than expected. Yet as her mother fretted and worried, Grandmother Willow sat at the water bed, chuckling, easing her worries with comforting gestures of the hand, "She is just eager to see the new world, dear Summer. You your-self came than expected"
It was tradition amongst the clan, to have multiple names. Only a mother knows the true birth name of her child, and never would she utter it, until death, out of fear ill spirits would come and claim that child, while still vulnerable and pure. Instead generic names were given, nicknames of character and features. Grandmother Willow was aged and now wilting, with hair as white as snow framing her gently withered features. She was the wise woman of the clan, and if not for her own daughter's impairment, would have surely taught her the ways of wisdom. Silently, she hoped Summer's daughter would be healthy. More so, she was certain it was going to be a girl. The omens were all there. Summer had craved sweet confectionaries during her pregnancy, she had slept on her right side more than her left and finally, the last conformation Willow needed, were the birds which had now gathered. In the trees nearby sat three magpies, chattering away as content as they could be, despite the pains of labour the soon to be mother was going through. The rule of thumb was, one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy. And old wives tale Willow was sure to pass on to her new granddaughter. Anxious she already pondered on names for the child. They had to cautious though. Names had power behind them. They could not give her name of a dead relative, in case the child too would die. Another fear was a stranger knowing the child's true. If anyone, outside the family knew one's true name, easily they could enslave your soul and bind you to them, for all eternity. Such a fate was shameful and depressing. Luckily there had not be a case such as that for many years. The isolated clan remained safe in the well secluded forest cover. Gypsies travelled with the wind, constantly moving to find better ground and avoid any confrontation. Willow heard the rumours of tensions already rising between neighbouring natives and the invading white men. Her clan had picked a sore time to venture to the new world. But now they were here, they could do little else but make due and stay alive. If anything Willow feared the persecution of the whites, more than the suspicions of the natives. At least they had more open minds to their way of life. Her clan were the famous 'scavengers'. Always travelling, taking a piece something with them when they left. Cultural practices were especially adaptable. But not even adopted customs could save them from the growing wrath of the war. They would soon pack up camp and move on.
All they had to do now, was wait. She may be early, but it seemed her new granddaughter was either too stubborn to leave the warmth of her mother's womb, or simply too troublesome to leave when expected, making them wait. The birthing was always a private matter. Only close, female relatives helped with the birth. The men stayed back, in camp, away from all the excitement. And would avoid the new mother and child until it was certain there was no underling threat of death or disease. Summer had her equally aged aunt, and elder cousin there to help her, supporting her as she stood waist deep in the water, waiting for the time to come. Summer's laboured groans grew, the time was close. Wading into the water Willow waited, her hands cupped under the water to retrieve the beloved babe. The natural water would cleanse the baby, and hopefully, startle air into her new lungs. The birth was a beautiful as it was painful. The cycle of nature. Summer was left exhausted, supported in the arms of her of relatives, but none the less proud, gasping for air as she stared lovely at her baby. Indeed she had given birth a baby girl, a healthy pale pink baby girl, who wailed and cried like nobody's business. It was a good sign. Willow paddled to shore cradling the new born in her arms. Wrapping her new granddaughter in the thickest blanket she could spare, she soon became aware they were not as alone as they thought.
On the far side of the lake sat Manoj, the medicine man of the near Mohawk tribe, and one of Willow's close friends. He was a kindred spirit, a character of refreshing quality. Had it been any other, Willow would have flown into a fit of rage. But Manoj was different, he too lived by the law of nature, and he had known to keep his distance until the birthing was complete. While Summer was helped to the water bed to rest, Willow began to walk over to her friend, eager to show off her new noisy granddaughter. The child certainly had a fine pair of lungs on her. It took all of Willow's cooing to sooth her crying. Manoj had walked to meet them, smiling at the small bundle in Willow's arms.
Manoj softly gestured to the child, caressing a finger over the child's plump pale cheeks. "She is so small"
"Her mouth is not, she screams like banshee" Willow softly shook her head, only just born and her granddaughter had already given her a headache.
They both chuckled heartily, and settled down once more to speak. Gently she handed the baby girl over for Manoj to hold, certain he meant her no harm. It was then she noticed the few braves which had hidden them-selves amongst the forest border, no doubt having accompanied their beloved healer on his journey. They had turned their backs to the birth but now were curiously stealing glances as the new born. Some seemed warmed by the new born's presence, others seemed less than interested. Manoj was bewitched by the child in his lap, so full of life. And such vibrant eyes, now peeking open to gaze at him. Such innocence. They were mystifying. He could see this child growing into powerful medicine. Just like her grandmother.
Willow broke the silence, staring out at the lake, with the sun now high up in midday, "I am certain you did not come all this way to greet my new granddaughter. Speak your mind Manoj, my friend"
Manoj nodded, forgetful of his friend's intuition. Only she could ever sense his troubles. "There are growing troubles. The white man continues to plague these lands. Other tribes are growing angry with their presence". It was frightening situation. Tribes were pitted against each other, joining either the English or French, with promises of rewards and riches. Those who stayed neutral, were caught in the cross fire.
Willow regretfully nodded, pondering their options. "I though as much…these are not good times"
"We can no longer offer your clan protection" his disappointment was evident. But Willow placed her hand on his shoulder, comfortingly smiling. "Your tribe has done more than enough, my friend. I only wished we could have repaid your kindness better. But do not worry yourself. The winds are changing, now that troublesome granddaughter has been born, we may travel"
Manoj could only offer his best wishes. "May the spirits protect you, and your little one"
Willow softly patted her granddaughter's head. "She will be strong like her father, beautiful like her mother, and wise like her grandmother". Willow had many hopes and dreams for her granddaughter. She was looking forward to seeing her grow. To teaching her the old ways of which her people have lived for generations.
"Wise like a fox!" they erupted in laughter.
Once they quietened, Manoj sighed, staring down at the child as she grasped at his large copper brown finger. "If your people came instead of the white man, life would have be good"
"Would have. Could have. Didn't." Willow shrugged. There was use dwelling on the past. What could have been done. "We are all one people, Manoj. Only our paths are divided. Greed, laziness and hate have clouded their eyes to the other paths. But so easily we too could be blinded. Are we not also white, my granddaughter and I? Could we not one day also become enemies?"
The old warrior in Manoj surfaced. "For your sake, I pray not" Willow understood, like any, their loyalty is to their people first. She respected that.
There was silence between them. It was grim topic to discuss while the new born wiggled and chimed in Manoj's lap. He softly fingered the small red tuff of hair on her little head. Pausing for a moment, He wondered aloud, "Why is she not with her mother?"
Willow waved her hand dismissively, seeing that her daughter and relatives had gone, back to the seclusion of the wagon to rest and recover. The isolation period was often the time of most anxiety. It was when the mother and child were most vulnerable. "Clan custom. Mother and child must be kept apart for small time. If one dies, we fear the other will surely follow. When all is good, they are reunited"
Manoj nodded in understanding and took a small amulet from his neck, tying the red cord loosely around the baby's neck. "Blessed tooth of brother wolf. Will protect her like his own pup" The moment of serene seriousness passed as the pair watched the small girl curiously finger the tooth with her small dainty digits. She giggled, before proceeding to suck on the strange item, earning a slightly chuckled from the aged Mohawk.
"She still needs a name" Willow smiled. It was first on her list as a new grandmother, right before spoiling the child silly with kisses and affection.
"Indeed she does. But what name to give such a strange child" Manoj pondered, beginning to slowly rock the child on his knee for her amusement.
They ran through a list, whatever came to mind, or from whatever they saw. Names were chosen carefully, for it was believed the child would live up to whatever name they were given. It was a lesson Willow planned to teacher her granddaughter carefully. Names held power, over the heart, the mind and the soul, and should never be taken lightly. Hence why it was considered rude in her clan to ask for a person's name. Instead, in time they would give you whatever name they preferred to be called. One man in the clan went by many names, because he knew so many people.
"Vixen, maybe?" Manoj queried, gesturing to a nearby precarious red fox, lapping at the water's edge. Willow quickly chased away the thought.
"Wise woman must be woman of wisdom, not temptation. No granddaughter of mine will be a fancy flirt" Manoj chuckled and continued to ponder. They took their time. After all, this most likely would be their last time together. The Mohawk village was far, and by morning, Willow's clan would be gone.
They would have remained for there for some time, before the giggles and squeals of the baby caught their attention. The baby's arms stretched upwards, grasping at the air. They looked up to see what had her innocent interest. In the trees above them sat a small cluster of red breasted robins, chirping away merrily in peaceful joy. Willow and Manoj then looked at each other.
"She is small…red hair like the robin's breast. Their eggs blue like her eyes." Almost poetically the Mohawk listed.
Pondering for a moment, Willow nodded, taking the newly christened robin into her arms. "Then that is her name. Robin. A good humble name"
With slightly reluctance Manoj rose. "It grows late. We must return to our people"
"I hope, my friend, we meet again"
"As do I. I hope one day to see this little robin grown" Manoj took one last look at small bundle in Willow's arms, gently patting the girl's head with fond affections.
The two friends parted ways, the gypsy wise woman carrying her baby granddaughter, and the Mohican medicine man, accompanied by his braves. Little did either know, that would be the last time they ever saw each other again.
Things did not get better for the gypsy tribe as they hoped. The constant fighting made them enemies on both sides. Nowhere could they find peace, make camp and live their life. Hostilities came more from the white man, their resentment to the gypsy people having festered since the dawn of time. They were an eyesore. They saw gypsies as fellow 'whites' who did not act as they did. By that logic they were social outcasts, somehow inferior to those who raged pointless wars and stole from those innocent. When they were not raiding against natives, the gypsy camps were periodically attacked, people killed and what little treasures they had, looted. The men were taken and drafted into the armies, sentence to die in a war that was never their own. Women and children, were lost and separated, left defenceless and without a home. And those who resisted were killed. They branded Grandmother Willow a witch. Without a trial, she was hanged. And yet, in the face of death, she smiled, knowing her knowledge and linage were now passed on and safe. Her family had adapted and hidden them-selves away in a white community settlement. Ready to leave when the time was right. When once more her people rose from the ashes of destruction. They always did, and every time, they would come back stronger. In the next life, their suffering would be rewarded. It was the only hope they could cling to, while the wounds of the past healed.
Robin's father, a good and simple man, had grown accustomed to the life of white farmer. That was until soldiers dragged him away in the middle of the night, as every other able man in the community was. They called it national serivce. The soldiers said it was an honour, to fight and die for your country. Not that it even was...Robin remembered the bitter tears her mother swept every night, until final the letter came, their beloved husband and father had been killed in action. 'He died a man, with a rifle in his hand'. That was the only solace the messenger gave them, before turning on his heels to deliver the other fourteen letters in his hand. Everyone wept that night. And it was only a matter of time until Summer succumbed to her sorrow, withering away in sickness. There was some kind of epidemic. Robin remembered many had died, and those who survived now intended to move else where. Abandon the fort and the dead to try and make a new life somewhere else. It was the only other option. There was no one to care for Robin; she was an orphan, another mouth to feed for whatever family took her in. Life was hard, stealing scraps to survive. She soon learned life was kinder to boys. A strange struggling mountain man had once snatched her away from the convoy to sell to the Seneca. At the time, they seemed interested enough, the commodity of a white girl in their camp, until they saw the wolf tooth hanging from her neck. They suddenly turned on the mountain man, killing him, and setting her free without so much as an explanation, not that she stayed long enough to ask. Since then Robin had dressed as a boy, cropping her hair and binding her chest, which grew harder over time. The bindings always left bruises. Sometimes it made it even hard to breathe.
Like now….stupid binding… No…
She wasn't wearing binding anymore. The Huron cut it from her. So why was it hard to breathe?
She gasped, coughing profusely. There was pain in her chest. A blinding, searing, throbbing pain. She was cold, soaking wet, and soon shivering. She remembered now. She had jumped over the waterfall. The rapids had slammed into her. She almost went under. It was getting so dark, the fingers numb, reaching for the surface until they finally grasped a drifting log. Vaguely in the distance she had heard Magua's cries of anger, promises of vengeance fading into black as she fell unconscious on the log, drifting down the river. Now she found her-self barely away, run aground by the water bedk, still clutching onto the log for dear life. It hurt to move. No doubt she had at least fractured a rib or two. Her hands badly cut and splintered from the wood, her arms and, no doubt rest of her body, bruised from the fall. She felt weak, her head pounding madly, she didn't even notice the blood as it dripped and merged with her hair. In that brief moment, she closed her eyes, waiting to die. It seemed so easy to just slip away, and sleep forever, drifting back into the water she hated so much.
Except there was an annoying poking sensation, jagging into her arm. Was some animal scavenging her soon to be dead corpse? How fitting. There was another sharp jab.
"Ow!" robin swatted blindly at the source, peeping out of one eye, surprised to find a copper skinned child there, holding a stick ever so innocently, as he looked at her, with big round doe like eyes. He was clearly a native, dressed in a little breechcloth, and moccasins, beaded with small colourful patterns, no doubt crafted for him by an affectionate mother. Robin must have drifted close to a village. Just her luck. She couldn't tell what tribe, from the look of the boy alone, nor did she have the strength to ask. She was just feeling tired, too tired to fight off anymore of the boy's inquisitive poking. Her head dropped down against, and the sound of little footsteps faded. It seemed he had run off. Soon came more sounds, chattering, heavy footsteps. Someone, with a large hand on her head, shook her softly, enticing Robin to look up again. A very aged face of wisdom greeted her. Another native man, with hair grey and white and leathery rich skin peered down at her, his eyes squinting as if to focus his vision. He was old, perhaps his vision wasn't to best, but his English was.
"I am Manoj, of the Mohawk clan. You are safe here. We will help you" He spoke with such kindness. It was comforting.
Robin's breath wheezed as she tried to speak. Her throat was raw; she must have ingested some of the water, as when she tried to speak she coughed out small portions of it.
"Ro…Rob…in…" she managed to mumble. If she could not thank them for their efforts, at least they could know her name before she died. "My…name…is….Ro-bin". She did not stay awake long enough to see the elder's surprise.
a/n – taadaa ! hoped you liked it ! so intense ! stay tuned ! rate and review !