Preview: RISE

RISE: A TIME WALKERS WORLD NOVEL
Hope you enjoy this sneak peek of RISE, an upcoming Time Walkers World Novel.
~ EB


1

Pamunkey Neck, Virginia Colony

1656

COCKACOESKE LOOKED DOWN upon the infant in her arms. He was strong and healthy, for which she was grateful, yet with his swatch of thick dark hair curling in ringlets on his head like a proud banner of his descent, she knew that there was no mistaking where he came from. Her husband, Totopotomoi, was graced with the straight black hair of his mother, and since he was her cousin and from the same lineage, she was well aware the twisted-haired blood did not come from her son’s Pamunkey heritage.

Her child had sprouted from the seed of the Englishman John West –  of that, there was no doubt.

“Shh, nechaun,” she murmured, pressing her lips gently to the child’s forehead. The boy squirmed and reached for her with one chubby arm, grasping at her long hair. She let him clutch it for a moment, smiling when his fist relaxed and released to lay upon her breast. He stared up at her with his bright blue eyes as she parted her tunic and allowed him to latch on, his tiny fingers curling and uncurling in a rhythmic motion as he settled in to suck.

“Weroansqua,” a timid voice interrupted. Cockacoeske looked up to see her cousin, Betty, waiting by the door.

“Yes, cousin?” Cockacoeske replied.

“He is here. He asks to speak with you, at your will,” Betty said. Betty was short and petite, her round face creased with worry. Cockacoeske sighed. If Betty was concerned about what consequence John West’s son might bring down upon their people, then others in the village surely felt the same. Although the Pamunkey accepted Cockacoeske as their ruler after the death of her husband, her control over the people she ruled was tenuous at best.

As much as she longed to see John, she hardened her heart to what she must do.

“I will grant him his request,” she said. Betty dipped her head in respect and quickly stepped away from the door, for John was not a man to be swayed even if Cockacoeske had denied him. When John came inside, Betty closed the door quietly and left them alone.

Cockacoeske took him in for a long moment before she spoke, choosing to hold her traitorous tongue as she considered what to say to him.  It had been at least a full moon since he last visited, but she was accustomed to seeing him infrequently, considering his current circumstances.

She supposed she had always felt tender towards John, recalling how she had often followed him around the village as a child when he visited. Although he was older, he never minded her presence, and they shared an easy familiarity with each other. When John and Toby were young men and sent away for training under the English militia, she had been devastated, pining away in lovesick heartache for the next year.  Yet by the next summer when they returned she had grown into a woman, and it was twenty-two year old John who was suddenly enamored by her and she reveled in his affection.

When John first noticed her as a woman in the summer of her sixteenth year, it seemed there was nothing that could keep him away from the Pamunkey village, despite the fact that she was of the ruling bloodlines and considered untouchable by many of the tribal men. John called often on his cousin, the young Weroance Totopomoi, who the English called Toby West, using him as an excuse to spend time with her. John was a constant fixture in the Pamunkey village that summer as he accompanied his father, Governor John West, or sometimes his uncle, Thomas, Lord de la Warr, who was Totopomoi’s father, each time they had business with the Pamunkey.

Neither of them saw any harm in their relationship then, and in all fairness, she would not have cared even if her elders found out and objected. Yet rule of the Pamunkey descended through the matrilineal lines, and Toby West ensured a strong succession by taking her as a wife. Governor West was of the same mind to strengthen ties between the Pamunkey and English, solidifying that bond by arranging the marriage of his son John to Toby’s half-sister, Unity Croshaw. Once Cockacoeske learned of John’s betrothal, she accepted her union to Totopotomoi without argument.

On the eve of their marriage ceremony, Toby confessed he knew she shared his cousin’s bed, yet he still asked her to stand by his side as his wife. He never mentioned the matter again, and neither did she.

John attended her wedding ceremony, standing stoically beside the Governor and Lord de la Warr. He stopped visiting the village, and she never thought she would see him again, until after the Battle of Bloody Run when he came to her to express his grief over Totopotomoi’s death. It was too easy to let him comfort her in that moment, and although she regretted what they had done, she did not regret their son, and would thank the Great Creator for all of her days for the gift of the child born from their love.

Now as John stood before her and she studied him, she felt her heart skip and her chest tighten as if the very hand of the Creator squeezed her ribs in his fist. In that moment he looked at her as he had that day when he came to her after Toby’s death, his concern obscured beneath a mask of confident indifference. His dark hair was pulled back with a ribbon at his nape, curling tendrils escaping at his temples. He wore the uniform of a militia Captain, his dark grey jacket unbuttoned and his white shirt loosened at the neck. Bright blue-grey eyes met hers, searching her gaze for even the slightest inclination that she shared his thoughts. Nine months before she had welcomed him, taking his offer of comfort in the shadow of that horrific loss at Bloody Run, and they came together as if they had never been parted.  It pained her to relive those memories, and even more so because she knew what she must do.

“Are ye well, Anne?” John asked, addressing her by the secret name he gave her when she was sixteen. He stepped forward, closing the distance between them.

“Yes, I am,” she replied. “As is your son.”

She could smell the scent of thick sulfur gun smoke on his jacket when he reached for the child. It clung to him, and she wondered for what reason he had fired his weapon so close to the village.  She pushed the tip of her finger into the edge of the babe’s mouth to break his suck, unsurprised when the child uttered a sharp cry in objection.

John took him despite the clatter, holding their son firmly in the cradle of his arms. John was a large man, taller than most, with wide shoulders that always seemed too snug beneath the constraints of his uniform. She had known him in every way that a woman can know a man, through the vulnerable innocence of his youth to the commandeering leader that stood in front of her. He swayed gently on his wide-set legs, patting the child’s bottom in a rhythmic motion until the boy quieted. The hard lines of his face softened, his eyes locked on his son. The sight of such gentle carefulness caused an ache down deep in her chest, sending her back to that sacred place where they had once been so happy.

“I’ve come for ye every week and your guards send me away. You have borne my son, yet ye did not send for me,” he said. “Why?”

“You know why,” she replied. Her response was swift and short, spoken with more bitter discord than she intended.

“Did ye mean to keep him from me? He is mine with no doubt, even if his eyes did not blaze blue in my image and that of my father before me.”

She met his steely gaze. His accusation stung her, for he knew her much better than that. “Of course not,” she said. “I would not deny you your son – just as I know you will never deny that he is yours.”

His skin was flushed at his neckline, showing slightly pink despite his tanned skin. He knew the implication of her statement; she could see how he considered it in his mind. The babe stirred, snoring softly in the arms of his father.

“Is he named yet?” John asked.

She shook her head. “No.”

“Then his name shall be John West,” he replied. She took the babe from his arms, closing her eyes briefly when his hands touched hers. It felt like home to her, yet she could not surrender to the primitive urge that drew her to him, even when his hand slipped up to cup her cheek.

“He is mine, and I claim him,” he said, his voice low and hoarse. She swallowed hard as she looked into his searching eyes and he bent his head, resting his forehead against hers with their son between them.

“Even if that displeases your wife?” she whispered. She felt his fingers tighten, sliding into her hair as he clutched her. Jealousy was a trait unbefitting of a Weroansqua, and she hated that he could still stir that feeling in her bones with a simple touch.

“You are the wife of my heart,” he said. She did not wish to bait him, but the reality of their situation was too fresh. The man she loved was married to another woman, bound to her by the laws of the English King and Church, and their son was only what the English called a bastard.

“Yet now I am a Queen, and that is no longer enough,” she replied. She disengaged from his arms and placed their son on her bedding platform between two thick velvet covered pillows the Governor had gifted her. When she did not turn to face him, John placed his hands on her shoulders. She sighed when he pulled her into his embrace, their bodies fitting together perfectly as if they had been created to spend eternity as one.

“Anne,” he said softly. “Do not ask me to stay away any longer. Surely it is time.”

“No,” she insisted, pulling away from him. She stepped back to widen the space, unable to think or reason or make the right choice when he held her and soothed the burning in her soul.

She must be stronger than that for her son, for her people – and for the memory of the proud leaders that came before her. She was no longer that simple girl who chased her own desires and courted the delicious temptation of the unknown in the arms of an Englishman. The fate of the Pamunkey people was her duty, and by the blood of the Great Weroances who died fighting for the lands of Tsenacommacah, she would rule them wisely.

It was that which she told herself as she stared at John.

“Tell me what you need of me,” John demanded, stepping towards her. “For I cannot abide what has become of us, and I will do what I must to set it right. We have lived this lie too long. I care not for the consequence, even if my father, the Governor himself, sanctions me. Give me the word, and it is done.”

She did not waver, her feet remaining firmly planted as she tilted her chin upward and looked into his face.

“I know your wife has given you a child,” she said, refusing to let her voice waver despite the way that truth tore at her heart. “And by virtue of your family and marriage, you have great standing with the Governor’s Council. You are a Captain who leads the New Kent Militia. You have your place in this world, as do I. Our paths are no longer entwined.”

Creases edged his eyes and his lips pursed into a thin line.

Good, she thought. He is angry now. He will stop with his foolish talk and see reason.

“Because you say it, does that make it so?” he asked, his voice low. His hands clenched at his sides, the fine muscles in his arms raised like corded leather on his skin as he looked down at her.

“Yes,” she replied. “There is no cause to abandon our alliance over this matter. And I have need of your continued loyalty.  I need your support when I speak with your father and the General Assembly in three days time.”

“Oh, do ye? ‘Tis that all that you need of me?”

The bitterness from him was clear, she could nearly taste the sting of it on her lips when he leaned close to her. He took her in his arms once more, his hands slipping up to cup her face. She tried to stop shaking and failed, afraid he would press his lips to hers yet longing for it all the same.

“Yes,” she whispered. “That is all I need of you.”

His fingers twisted into the hair at her nape and his head lowered, his lips resting against her ear as he spoke, the warmth of his breath and the heat of his touch singing her deeper than any flame ever could.

“I stayed away once when I learned of your marriage. I stayed away again when Toby still lived because you asked me to,” he whispered. “Yet I will stay away no longer. Be damned my duty or the laws of man. My son will know me as his father, and he will know me as a man that loves his mother, even if you never share my bed again.”

He released her and turned away. She straightened her back as if impaled on a spike, and although she feared her words would betray her, she called out to him when he picked up his flint-lock musket by the door and slung it over his shoulder.

“The Governor made a promise to Totopotomoi,” she said. John paused, his back to her and his hand resting on his belt. “He promised the Pamunkey the rights to this land. The Council has summoned me to break that promise. I will demand that they honor our treaty and abandon their plan to take this land from us. I sent a runner to your father to ask for his support, but I have yet to have his response.”

John turned slightly to the side, his sharp profile outlined in the flicker of amber firelight streaming from the hearth. He nodded slightly, as if to himself, and stiffened his back.

“You will have my support to the Council and the Assembly,” he said. “And I assure you of the continued good intent and support of Governor West to your cause.”

“I thank you,” she replied. He was gone before she finished the words, letting the door of the yehakin swing closed behind him.

It was because of her own actions that he left, yet the sight of his broad back turned away from her in such formality was a gesture that she never wished to see. He was a man with the reputation of even temperament among his peers, gifted with raw strength that he rarely saw fit to use, and she could recall only one or two times that she witnessed him stirred to anger. She did not know how difficult it would be to see him that way until it happened, yet there was no way for her to take it back.

She laid down beside her son on the bedding platform, lying on her side so she could look at his peaceful sleeping face. As she watched him, memories of the past rushed down upon her with the strength of a raging waterfall, crushing what remained of her resolve and bringing a swell of tears to her eyes as she drifted off to sleep.

John was twenty-two and a full grown man when he returned to the village that summer, and she eagerly accepted his offer to accompany him on a walk…

They took a path away from the village, out along the river where it widened and the tree line grew dense.  He proudly showed off the trappings of his new position with the New Kent Militia, flashing her a wide smile as she admired his new coat and boots.

“It suits you quite fine, Captain,” she said.

“You think so, Anne?” he replied, using the affectionate nickname he had given her years before. A surge of heat rushed to her face as she smiled back at him and nodded.

“Surely you have the eyes of all those English women,” she added. He turned to her then, his bright eyes soft and alight with mischievous curiosity.

“But do I have the eye of this maid before me?” he asked. “For she is the only one I care to seek attention from.”

His whispered words left her breathless as she stared back at him, her tongue twisted and dry and suddenly unable to reply to his declaration. His gentle smile changed, his gaze fastened on her in the most unsettling manner.

“John …” she said as a sprinkle of warm summer rain dampened her face. They looked up at the same time, taking in the wonder of the sunshine streaming through the tree tops while the tears of the Creator showered down upon them. He kissed her then, as she had never been kissed by another, his hands tangled in her damp hair and their skin slick from the summer shower.  She let him wrap his fine wool coat around her shoulders, and later, when the rain had stopped but they were not yet ready to return to the village, they laid together beneath the shelter of the trees. He was persistent, yet patient to her inexperience, his attention to her leaving no doubt where his heart resided.

She was foolish enough to believe it could last – and so was he.

Waking in the cocoon of warm furs, she opened her eyes and nestled her son closer to her breast. He sleepily nuzzled her and rooted to feed, latching on in a greedy manner despite his attempt to fight the comfort of sleep. As he sucked, the remnants of her dreams echoed in her head. She pushed the memories down, burying them in that place where she was just a girl, and John was just the young man she loved.

The warmth of early morning sunshine streamed down upon her from the smoke hole above, and she knew then that the Weroances of old waited for her to lead.

She was the leader of what was left of the Pamunkey people, those who had once been the core of the Powhatan Confederacy and who lived proudly in the lands of Tsenacommacah. It was her duty to see her people prosper, and she would allow no tender feelings she held for an Englishman to sway her course.

She was stronger than that. She was Weroansqua – and she would honor those that came before her.

~end preview~

Rise.jpg

 

Rise

Release Date: September 20, 2017

PRE-ORDER IT NOW ON

 

 

 

Also available on pre-order:

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The Five Northmen (A Time Walkers World Novel)
Release Date: January 22, 2018
AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE
GOOGLE PLAY
* coming soon to additional vendors *

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Through the Valley (Time Dance #3)
Release Date: September 26, 2017
AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE
GOOGLE PLAY

Song of Sunrise (Time Dance #4)
Release Date: November 28, 2017
AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE
GOOGLE PLAY

A Perfect time to …

… snatch up some books!!

512fbicw2bql-_sy346_Ok, if you’re a subscriber to Kindle Unlimited & haven’t read the Time Walkers series yet, the entire series is now available in KU. (Yes, I made the switch, so far so good!)

Check it out on Amazon HERE

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Also available is GHOST DANCE, the first book in the Time Dance series. Hurry up & read this one before the second book in the series, SEASON OF EXILE, comes out!51id2mkkohl-_sy346_

Happy Holidays & Happy Reading!

xoxo EB

New Promo options for authors, new website, new releases, oh my!

Whew! It’s been a ton of work, but I finally have the new dedicated website set up for the RR Books Promos (AKA EB’s MML Promos)! The currently running promos are up and running & are merging together without any interruption. I expect to be fully working from the new website (www.rrbookdeals.com) by January 1. For the new website I’ve also started a dedicated Facebook page HERE(so stop over & give it a LIKE, and a Twitter page here (follow us!) however I will still be promoting and sharing from my Fan Page HERE. Please bear with me as new features are being added & upgraded daily. As always, shoot me any suggestions or questions at admin@rrbookdeals.com. Many thanks to all the Participating Authors & Happy Holiday Season to you all!

Submit your books HERE: RR Books Author Promotions Check Out Page

 OUR NEW PROMOS STARTING DECEMBER/JANUARY 2017

** 3 Month Book Listing Submissions in 7 categories:

  • Free with Kindle Unlimited
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** Featured Deal of the Week Listing

  • featured for one week (Monday – Sunday)
  • Book Deal of the Week or Free Book Deal of the Week
  • Book rating on Amazon must be 4.3 or above with a minimum of 25 reviews
  • Promoted in RR Books newsletter and posted to Facebook and Twitter
  • Submissions subject to approval
  • Subject to availability. Submissions will received follow up info and invoice if approved. $25 Payment is due upon approval.

** NEW ** The Facebook group membership requirement has been eliminated. Authors are strongly encouraged to join the Facebook Group FOUND HERE.
An email will be sent to all participating authors and the promo docs & instructions will be also posted in the group. Although FB group membership is now longer required, I highly recommend that you join the group. Group members can access the Participating Author list and many other documents that are NOT available anywhere else, and can also ask questions and brainstorm with other authors.

OUR ORIGINAL PROMOS
The Mega Mailing List Promo (MML)
The goal is to reward the current readers on our mailing lists & attract new readers. We want to target it to our list members & fans because they are already readers and are more likely to stick around after the giveaway ends. You get mailing list sign ups directly from readers who choose to sign up for your list.

WHAT YOU GET:

  • New fans get eyes on your books
  • New direct mailing list sign ups from hungry readers (You are NOT sent a list of every participant; readers choose to sign up directly to your list)
  • Freebie downloads, KU downloads, & sales
  • New content for your readers to keep them interested, especially if you only send a few emails per year
  • Reward your fans with a giveaway & cool content

HOW IT WORKS: updated 12/10/16
1. I will send the MAILER blast to the RR Books mailing list of 75K+ readers on the day of the promo & I will promote it to my Facebook Page of 52K+ fans. Inside the email mailer will be info on the promo and a link to the LANDING PAGE (FOUND HERE).
2. ALL authors will send out the MAILER to their lists on the promo day. This is required, unless you have contacted me & made other arrangements such as a Facebook blast, Twitter blast, or activity to share the promo. (The MAILER is prepared for you. Two days prior to the promo, I will email a reminder to participating authors with a link to the mailer template/instructions.) You can also choose to send your own email & simply link to the Landing Page is your prefer.
3. Featured on the LANDING PAGE are the books with the links you provide where readers can either download or purchase your book.
4. Readers scroll down to the end of the LANDING PAGE to click on the link for the GIVEAWAY. Each author provides ONE link to use as an entry for the GIVEAWAY. All MML books are also posted to individual category pages.
5. The GIVEAWAY runs until the 20th of the month; the MML Landing Page stays live for the entire month. Books stay on the Category Pages for at least 3 months, so books continue to get  exposure even after your promo ends. (Readers definitely browse through much more than the most recent promo; one of my free books from a promo 3 months ago is still getting downloads.)

INVITE as many authors as you like, the more authors who participate, the better the response.
Books at any price are allowed in the MML, but if your book is discounted or free or on promotion it will work better. Books that are FREE or FREE w/KU definitely do better in this promo.
Entry is $20 for 1 book; if you want to list multiple books, each subsequent book is $5.
Entries may close before the stated date at the discretion of the admin.
All authors must provide a valid email address to receive the Promo docs & instructions. All the documents will additionally be posted in the Facebook Group under the files menu.
For the Facebook Group and more info, head over HERE private Facebook group.

THE FACEBOOK FREEBIE PROMO (FFP): FREE, FREE w/KU, Any FREE book (closes on the 12th/runs on the 15th of the month)
(For Free book downloads — now with instaFreebie link option)

– Books must be FREE, FREE with Kindle Unlimited, FREE on your website/newsletter sign up, or FREE w/instaFreebie
– Each book is $15
– Targeted for free book downloads & borrows (now also including your instaFreebie links!)
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The Page Banner Promo: Current Deals Page/MML Page (closes on the 25th/runs on the 1st) or the FFP/Free Deals Page (closes on the 12th/runs on the 15th)

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  • Your book featured in the banner header for the FREE DEALS page during the FFP Promo(runs on the 15th of each month for 1 full month) in rotation (changes every 30 seconds)
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Sign up for the MML/FFP or any of the new RR BOOKS PROMOS HERE: RR BOOKS AUTHOR PROMOTIONS Check Out Page

Ghost Dance_TD1In other exciting news, GHOST DANCE is out and is bringing in some lovely reviews. If you haven’t read GHOST DANCE yet, you can get it HERE ON AMAZON and it is also FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

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The second volume in the series, Season of Exile, is available on preorder HERE ON AMAZON and it will also be FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

New Releases & Kindle Countdown Deals!

November is looking to be a busy month! A few tidbits of news …

Ghost Dance_TD1Ghost Dance (Time Dance Book 1) is now available in the Kindle store. It’s a Kindle exclusive (for now) and can also be borrowed for FREE through the Kindle Unlimited program. (See GHOST DANCE on Amazon)
For the first time ever, the Time Walkers Complete Collection is on sale. If61vujplyisl you haven’t read the Time Walkers series yet, now’s your chance to grab the entire series at a great price – $0.99 (Reg price $6.99). It’s on a Kindle Countdown Deal that ends 11/3 at 8am EST, so grab it now. It is also FREE on Kindle Unlimited. (See the Time Walkers Complete Collection on Amazon)

Upcoming Releases now on pre-order: Continue reading

Sneak Peek at GHOST DANCE

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.

Enjoy!


The Battle of Bloody Run

James River Falls, 1656

Daniel

Continue reading

Sneak peek: Ghost Dance

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 and tops out at 120K words, so be prepared for a lot of new characters and adventures…oh, and of course, a hefty dose of romance thrown in there.

Enjoy!


 

The Battle of Bloody Run

James River Falls, 1656

Daniel

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.

Yes.

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 ~


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