A little taste of Ghost Dance. For those who have read the Time Walkers series, you know I tend to cross over with characters in my books. Ghost Dance is the first book in the Time Dance series, so be prepared for a lot of new characters and adventures…oh, and of course, a hefty dose of romance thrown in there.
The Battle of Bloody Run
James River Falls, 1656
HAD HE KNOWN what was to come, would he still have traveled that same path? Not only for knowing that it would end, as all lives do, but for the when and how of it? For truth, it was a tricky question since he was privy to the history of time before it happened, yet despite that unfair advantage, Daniel knew the answer in his heart.
Even as his face pressed into the sodden earth and he tasted the muddy grit on his tongue, his answer remained unchanged. The trickle of warm blood seeping into the corner of his eye would not sway him, nor the scent of his enemy’s rancid breath upon his cheek.
Yes. I would do it again, he thought. For what am I, if not a spawn of two worlds, a man beholden at once to all and to none?
Blows from a club rained down on his back, taking the last of the breath from his lungs. Beneath his ribs, down deep in his belly, his muscles spasmed and he could no longer draw air when he gasped. He could not see his enemy but he could still feel the presence of the man with the club, and although the attack had ceased, Daniel knew there was little time to catch his breath before it would resume.
Totopomoi – the Pamukey Chief – was dead. Their English allies deserted them like cowards, fleeing from the battlefield as the bodies of Pamukey warriors fell to the muddy earth. Had Colonel Hill ever meant to stand beside the Pamukey, or was it his plan all along to run, leaving the Pamukey to fight the Ricaheerians alone?
It no longer mattered. The Ricaheerian with the club standing above him would not spare him, and Daniel knew he would soon join his companions.
“Is he dead?” one of his enemies asked.
Daniel winced when the tip of a foot jabbed into his ribs.
“Not yet,” another man answered. “Leave him. This is the one Wicawa Ni Tu wants. Let our Chief have the honor of ending his life.”
The men laughed to each other as they walked away, their voices echoing through Daniel’s skull and pounding in his ears. When he was certain they were gone, he buried his fingers in the damp ground and moved to raise his head. With all the damage done to his body it was no easy task, and it took a few moments before he could lift himself enough to look around.
By the tears of the Creator, he had never seen such a sight. Was this the Hell the Christian Englishmen spoke of? Only a few paces to his side lay dozens of fallen Pamukey braves. Limbs were twisted, heads bloodied. A man Daniel had stood with at Colonel Hill’s side was propped up, run through with a spear that impaled him to the tree at his back. A lanyard of eagle feathers around his neck fluttered in the wisp of a breeze, tangled in long dark strands of the warrior’s hair. Daniel did not want to look at him, yet he could not look away. The man’s eyes stared straight ahead, an empty chasm, and for a moment Daniel swore his dead lips moved.
“Run,” the dead man whispered. “Hurry.”
So he did. Daniel forced the remnants of his strength into his limbs, clawing at the dirt until he started to move. He darted a glance over the bodies of the dead and saw no enemy near, yet he could hear them in the distance and he knew they would return for him. When he gathered enough purchase to rise, he crouched on one knee with his hand over his belly, the burning taste of bile searing his throat. The river was close; he could smell the dampness in the air and hear the rush of the water nearby.
It called to him, and he obeyed.
A Ricaheerian bellowed a joyful war cry, and it was then that Daniel knew he was the last one left alive. He scrambled down the steep sandy bank and slid into the cold water, stumbling through the shallow stream bed until he reached a deeper spot. He tried to steady himself but when he waded deeper the force of the current struck him like a barrel in the chest, and for a long moment he clutched the slippery root of a tree.
Death was assured if he stayed, yet fleeing could give him no certainty of survival. The sounds of war cries echoing through the trees drew closer and Daniel looked down at his fingers entwined in the tree root.
He let go.
The frigid water took what was left from him, welcoming him, and he did not object this time as the current pulled him away from shore.
It was not long before numbness settled deep into his bones. Even in his dreams, he had never felt so peaceful, so weightless. The gentle lapping of the current rocked him and washed over his wounds, licking them clean and taking away his pain.
If this is the afterlife, he thought, then perhaps I have nothing to fear.
Every few moments he reminded himself to raise his head and open his mouth, taking a breath of air into his bruised lungs as he was carried downstream. A part of him realized he could not stay submerged for too long and that he must make an effort to float, but another part of him wished to simply give in. Let the water take me, wherever I am meant to be.
Water flowed over his open mouth and filled his lungs. He choked it up by pure reflex, past caring to fight it any longer. In the murky depths of his scattered thoughts, visions of his fallen companions spoke to him, taunting him as he drifted farther away from the carnage. He could hear the voices of the dead call to him over the sound of his own ragged breaths.
“Go,” the ghosts commanded. “Live!”
He listened to them as best he could until the current slowed and his legs found purchase in shallow water once more. Although he much preferred to remain floating, the Creator had a different plan for him. It was with that assurance that he left the water and made his way onto a quiet sandy bank where the only sign of life was a pair of spotted-back turtles resting on a patch of tuckahoe. Loose pebbles shifted beneath him when he crawled out of the creek and he felt the quick rush of a cold breeze take the air from his lungs as he gasped and coughed.
The panicked cries of sand gulls protested his intrusion and he could hear the flutter of their wings above him in the trees. His breath left him in a groan as he pushed himself up on one arm. He stilled for a moment, cocking his head slightly to the side. He was not yet too far gone to ignore the new sound coming towards him, the creeping echo of something walking through the brush that he was certain was no animal.
Yet when he raised his eyes and the last glimmers of amber rays from the fading sunset blinded him, the shadowed outline of a woman breached his weary sight. There, in front of him, she stood like a messenger from the Creator, her illuminated form taking the very breath from his weary chest.
Daniel squinted, raising his hand to shield his gaze. Was this the one meant to take him from this time, sent to guide him on his final path? She was not as he expected. Not with her honey-colored hair streaming free over her shoulders, nor with her pale face defined by the glow of the setting sun. Perhaps the Christians were right about death, and this was one of their angels sent to gather his soul. He shook his head as if the motion might clear his vision, but when he opened his eyes again and she remained, he knew what to he must do.
He reached for her, his hand slipping down past her dress to settle around one bared ankle.
“Take me home,” he said, his voice hoarse. “I am ready now.”
Instead of the comforting embrace he expected, she leaned forward and peered down at him. In her hands was an odd shaped flintlock pistol, smaller than those the English used, and as she raised it up in her fisted hand he wondered why a spirit guide might have need of such a weapon.
“Christ!” she hissed. “Not today. I am not doing this bullshit today!”
He had no time to wonder over her strange reply before she struck him with the weapon, smashing it into the side of his head. Darkness exploded around him. His hold on her ankle slipped away, and he sighed as the blessed sanctuary of the afterlife swallowed him whole.
~ end excerpt ~