“Run, my love, run. It is you they are coming for, I see their lights, searching, searching everywhere. Oh, darling hurry please before they get to the door. I cannot fathom the fear you must feel, or the pain, so go. Go now. I will be alright. They will not hurt me. They dare not.
A farewell kiss, the flow of tears as the intense pain invaded my heart. I hurt. I hurt so badly but I knew my heartache was nothing as compared to my lovers.
The echo of thundering hoof beats into the night and he was gone. Be safe my lover, be safe. And my tears could not stop now, they would not ease. I felt as if a hole opened wide my heart, laying bare my emotions.
To the cabin they approached now, oh and aye what dredges of the earth. But no, this was wrong. It should be soldiers, it should be... What? Oh my gosh what is happening? I felt the blow that connected with my jaw. Now I felt intense fear. Who were these men and what were they after?
I was grabbed from behind and thrown against the wall. I could no longer stand. I slid helplessly to the floor and watched as they tore the cabin apart piece by piece. Smoke. I smelled smoke and through my painful haze I saw the trees of the forest burning, then my cozy little cabin was set ablaze.
“Let’s go men and bring her.” I fought the hands that grabbed for me. I really did. But all it got me was a bloody lip and bruised arms. He had a nasty scar running the length of his face and long matted hair. His smell was extremely rank. (I found out later he was Crane) I should hope I did not have to ride with him for the smell alone would make me gag and perhaps lose my meal.
And off in the distance several shots rang out, and in a matter of minutes four horsemen came through the burning woods. “We got him, he’s as good as dead,” “Where’s the body?” “Well sir, the horse was still moving but they was blood everywhere. He was doubled over.” “Well for your sake you better hope so. I aint quite ready to go after his pa yet. Yep ole Lonesome Bill is a tough one, and y’all just killed Ben his baby boy. Least you better hope he is dead, cause if he makes it home... There was no need to complete the sentence, they all knew.
Blood poured. He had been shot in the leg, the arm, and shoulder. He hit the ground hard after Nightmare was shot. The best horse he ever owned, in fact probably his best friend. It hurt to move. Raising his head up a bit he could see the smoke. He had smelled it first, had not wanted to believe it, but there was the truth.
What had happened to his love? He should go back, he needed to go back. Her safety meant so much to him......yet why did he leave her behind? Simply put, he thought she would be safer. They would not dare hurt her, would they? Her father was the richest banker this side of Kelso. They would not, but then why did they take her? Or did they kill her? Nooo, that cannot happen. He tried to rise, but his strength had deserted him.
A thunderous roar and a huge bear rambled towards him. This was it then. There was no way he could stop this massive beast. A sharp whistle tore through the air followed by a softly whispered “Realia,” The bear froze in her tracks and through the air a mightly flapping of what sounded like thousands of wings. Eagles, no, it could not be. He was a legend. Pa had told his tale many times. He ran with the eagles of the morning and kept up. The bear, the eagles, it had to be. It wasn’t just a legend it was truth Benauwea was real.
Ben woke in a cave on the side of a rock cliff. He did not remember arriving here. Did he walk? Was he carried? The last thing that was clear in his mind was Benauwea running his darkened hands over his horse and chanting in a whisper. It was as if the words traveled on the wind carrying his horses spirit away.
There was a fire going in the center of the cave and the smell of meat cooking. He could see the sun peeking through the entrance. Ben tried to rise and though he did not hurt near as bad he could not move. What? He was tied up. How in the...or better yet why? And then he remembered Benauwea hated the white man.
It was dark in here. Where they had taken me, I had no idea. I just knew it was dark and cold, and so damp. Oh, Ben my lover, are you safe? Did death find you? I hurt. Oh, my bruises had healed, I no longer ailed from the rough treatment, but my heart hurt. It was not for me, but for my lover, my Ben. I thought it was him they were after, but no, nor I, but Ben’s father Lonesome Bill. Bits and pieces of conversation gave truth to the fact that many years ago he had been a hired gun, ruffled a few feathers. There was something mentioned of a mail order bride, Ben’s mother, and the punishment meted out by Lonesome Bill when he saved her. And that was part of this whole affair; revenge.
Escape was an impossibility for me. I knew not where I was other than in a dark, damp cell. Underground? In the middle of nowhere? It must be. I could not hear any noises other than rats scurrying back and forth. I’m not even sure how long I have been here only that I am. I wish it were a dream, or even a nightmare that I could wake from, but no it is all too real. And as the rains fell somewhere so did these tears.
Ben was healed now and though he would not laugh out loud he was relieved. Benauwea only had him tied to protect him. The cliff was extremely narrow and one wrong move there would be no hope of survival. In his unhealthy state it was possible to stagger about. Now though, he was healed and ready to rescue his woman, and in so saying found Benauwea and Realia roaming the forest.
Ben would not say they had become friends, but they had a mutual respect for each other. And as he departed the forest he watched the eagles gather. A smile appeared on Ben’s face. Benauwea had sent some of his eagles to watch over him on his trip home. First to pa’s where he would get help to find his woman. Find her he would.
Anna was hanging out the wash when a fierce wind began to blow. Oh, shoot a dust storm now she would have to wash over again. What in the world? She ran to the backyard where Bill was Fixing the fence. “Bill, Bill, look what’s happening?” “In the house Anna, get in the house. Don’t know what’s going on, but I can’t shoot no eagles.” Both ran into the house and Bill grabbed his gun. He did not want to shoot an eagle, but if he had too he would.
“Well I’ll be dog gone, look Anna, it’s our boy done come home.” Amid the hugs and kisses, talk of things that happened, the eagles departed. Bill was amazed that Benauwea was actually real and was everything legend had him to be. The most amazing thing was Realia and Benauwea raised their arms to the sky and asked for rain. In a matter of minutes, the fire was out, the forest was safe, and some of the cabin survived.
In an unknown destination Lonesome Bill and Ben headed out. Soon the Eagles could be seen flying in the sky, and every now and again Realia would let out a thunderous roar. Benauwea was going to lend a hand though he was unseen. With Eagles flying high in the sky the trail was soon found.
They come for me. I still don’t know the why of things or my part in all of this but soon I will find out I am sure. The light burns my eyes and I must shield them. The sun, tis been so long since I have seen it. I have been in the darkness for too long. No. No, they cannot do this. I don’t understand the cruelty that humans can have.
The town had been abandoned many years before that is why the lack of noise. The one thing it did have was a hangman’s noose in the middle of the town and this is where they led me. I struggled, I fought, and I got knocked to my knees. Who was to stop my hanging? And why me? Why did they choose me?
We stopped some feet away and of a sudden a cold rain, began to fall. I could not tell where the rain ended, and my tears began. I had forgotten the vial of poison I carried around my neck and they never found it, or perhaps they thought it was unimportant. Which would be preferable, hanging or poison?
“Well little gal you have been convicted of many things and death awaits. Ah I see that you are puzzled. Perhaps I should enlighten you. Ben loves you. Ben’s father Lonesome Bill stole my woman. Yes, Anna. She was mine. Mail order bride my foot. We fought, and she ran away. I got her back and he stole her again. He took what was mine, so he will be punished by knowing I killed his son, and now his son’s woman. I will see that he finds you, though it will be too late.”
I cried. All this for revenge that had naught to do with me nor Ben. So many lives destroyed for people I did not even know.
They backed me towards the steps, no, no I would not willingly end my life. I would indeed fight with my very last breath.
Crows gathered, so many crows, watching, waiting, but for what. Their eyes were upon me, staring intently, almost human.
And then we heard it, the flapping of many wings, eagles filled the sky circling, never landing, just circling.
I was grabbed from behind and forced up the rickety stairs. I felt the noose tighten around my neck. Ben, my lover, he had come for me. I could not scream, I could not cry. Tighter and tighter became the noose. I could not breath. I felt, I felt.... I was losing all feeling.
Ben rescued his love while the battle ensued. It was over quickly for several reasons. You did not mess with anything belonging to Lonesome Bill especially since he was a former hired gun. The eagles soared in the sky eventually heading back to the mountains. Benauwea smiled. Okay maybe all white men are not bad. “Come Realia,” Their beloved mountains beckoned them until another time called.
All was quiet on this moonlit night and Anna’s story was finally told. No, he had not been her man though he had wanted to be, and yes, she became a mail order bride to get away from him. She wanted safety, love, and a home. Lonesome Bill put his arms around his wife and kissed her gently. He hadn’t been Lonesome in a long time. No, he loved his Anna.
Ben and I were married in the mountains, witnessed by Benauwea, Realia, and hundreds of eagles. Of course, Bill and Anna were there too. Through all things love conquers.
© Cynthia Clark