Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chapter Forty-Six




April Linder and I put the girls in her gas carriage and I boosted Tosha in.  I am no fool, and had no desire to get caught up in the mess and hysterics on all side but I felt compelled to make sure that all of the staff had reached safety.  I was counting heads when I was rudely picked up and tossed over someone's shoulder who then began to jog into the crowd.

Even had it been a Linder I would not have tolerated the treatment and certainly was not enjoying the sensation of having the air driven from my lungs by the man’s shoulder where it kept slamming into my stomach.

For a moment I was tempted to simply vomit down his back but instead I unsnapped the fang on my wrist and plunged it into the most easily reachable body part of my kidnapper and that was his left buttock.

He screamed and I found myself on the ground and nearly trampled.  I scrambled up and away from the howling man only to find that I was too short to see over all of the streaming humanity running this way and that.  Another shot and the crowd became truly frenzied.

Holding tight to my fang, unwilling to use it to make a space for myself no matter the temptation, I slowly waded back in the direction I knew the carriages and wagons had been in.  Then I heard a scream only this one wasn't human.  Some poor deluded soul had made the mistake of messing with the hall's mules.  They were bred for war and that had not been a bray but a battle cry.

I saw a lamp post and climbed the first block up to get a better view of what was going on and sure enough the Hall's mules and horses were bucking and twisting and taking down any that came near them.  I saw my Nanny kick out and send a man flying a good fifteen feet.  I turned and saw just in time a man take aim at the steeds with a rifle.  I leapt and my fang made sure it would be a long time, if ever, that he'd hold a rifle again.

I was done being mishish.  I used the hilt of the fang when I could to make the crowd move but I wasn't above giving an unfriendly poke if someone turned towards me in violence.

Then I smelled smoke.  Something was afire.  That only made the hysteria worse.  I was knocked to and fro and was eventually pitched upon the sidewalk and saw men and women both running to the water tower.  Fire is the demon beast that ruins lives and the Region had been dry.  Good for harvesting and drying the grains for storage, bad for nearly everything else.

"Put your back into it men!! It's getting out of control!!" I heard one man yell.

He was right and I remembered my 8th summer when a fire not much different from this one had threatened Harper.  And I remembered what my father and his men had done.

I gave the undulating cry of the woodsmen and shouted.  "Bring it down.  Grab your axes and bring it down. Flush the fire before it takes the town!!!!!"

I ran towards the larger fire tower that stood beside the medium water tower nearest the blaze.  I hitched my skirt ran up the stairs and grabbed an axe and ran back down and started attacking the leg of the tower closest to the flames.  I was soon joined by many others.  The boy across from me and I set a healthy rhythm and though the leg was good and thick we soon had it whittled and then there was a crack.

A large, beefy man shouted, "Timber!!!" and then with a mighty swing took a support out and the tower began to tip.

It was just like in my memories.  The tower tilted and water sloshed over the top and then more and more as the tower tipped further and further and then the weight of the water brought the tower down in a crash that shattered the tank and a tidal wave rushed at the fire and ate it up.  People ran in behind the water with shovels and other tools and started putting out the small blazes that remained.

"Ye've messed up yer fine dress Ma'am."

I turned to look and the boy was pointing to a rip in the over skirt that when clear to my petticoat.

"Botheration," I muttered.  "So I have.  At least it was on a seam and should mend easily enough."

"Me Da's waving us over Ma'am if you'd please come."

I turned to see an older man dressed in Woodsmen gear and allowed the boy to lead me over.  The man crossed his arms and asked, "Now where the blazes did a lady learn to wield an axe like that?"

I couldn't help it.  I laughed.  "At my father's, brothers', and cousins' behest.  And I do believe I now recognize you though it has been a few years.  You are Mr. Karl George, the Head Woodsman of Elizabethtown.  You were at my family's memorial.  My cousin Nat pointed you out when you blew the Hunting Horn."

He looked down at me and then drew back.  "By the martyrs ... you're a Harper."

"Aye Sir though now I go by Leeda Harper Linder ... or simply the Widow if you'd prefer.  And I must congratulate you Sir.  Your son is a superb axeman.  His timing was impeccable."

The boy turned the color of ripe strawberries and bunched up his hat before making his escape.  Mr. George looked at me and smiled.  "Now ye've done it.  I'll likely not get anything of sense out of him for hours."

Stomping on the sidewalk boards and a growl had me sighing as I turned.  I put up my hand to stop what was likely to be a lengthy sermon and said, "I promise that I will stand still for the lecture you are no doubt dying to give me if you will but hold it a while and allow me to introduce you to this worthy gentleman.  He blew the Horn at my family's memorial and helped lead the saving of Little Linderton.  And I am sure that there are other men here that would like to meet the Sheriff of Tentuckia as well."

"Fine," he said in a fractious tone.  "But I'm holding you to your word that you will stand still for the lecture.  I've absolutely no patience for chasing you down to light into you in the way you fully deserve.  Running this way and that ..."

"I was not running.  I assure you it wasn't a lark I was on.  I had no more desire to get tossed about than anyone else.  But when one is summarily tossed over a shoulder it is not like I had a lot of say in the matter."

"What?!"

"Lecture comes later.  Introductions come first," I reminded him.  "Besides, you did return my fang you know.  If you are so exercised that you need to manhandle the miscreant simply look for a man dressed in smelly hides that has a hole in his left buttock."

The woodsmen all around laughed like it was the funniest joke they'd heard all day.  The Sheriff was less amused.  He looked at a couple of Guardsmen and they quickly hustled off, presumably to find the culprit that I had described.  After all, how many men in hides with a knife wound in their left buttock could there be?

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