Maia continues to determine her own choices and sets in motion a life that influences others. Can their actions even help the end of slavery outside the safety of their region?
THE HUNT, Chapter 6: A COMING STORM
We are told by the seamstress that the clothes that Tupac requested for me would be ready in a couple days. I had to laugh at the reaction from the guys. If getting the new clothes meant I was going to be wearing clothes more often, they were all in favor of leaving the village immediately and returning for them at some undefined future date. When I assured them that these new clothes did not change my attitude to when I was dressed, they were fine with remaining in the village for a few more days.
But even so, there was only so much we could accomplish while in the village and the consensus was now that even I was capable of getting into fights with the village men. And that suggested that we were better off spending a good part of each day away from the village where we could be more comfortable, stay out of trouble, and even expand on some new experiences. And, some of those experiences we never grew tired of trying to expand upon were sexual in nature.
After discovering that anal sex was enjoyable for all of us, the options that seemed possible became exciting. While being mated by one of the dogs or Wolf, I might suck one of the men. Sometimes it would be to his climax, while other times it was purposefully to just keep one of them aroused for him to fuck me after the dog. The same thing could happen with them, allowing me to fuck one of them and suck another. The guys seemed to like the combinations as much as the single times. So did I. That’s when I began to envision a time for all three of them to be involved with me at the same time, a cock in my pussy, asshole, plus my mouth. The only times we have done anal was singular, just one man involved, but my mind was certainly considering other potentials.
We left the village to be alone and it seemed to me to be as good an opportunity as any to put another idea into motion. When we reached a quiet spot along a fast moving stream running from the mountains to the lake below, Herve gave me his arm and I swung down from behind him from the horse. It would be nice to have my own horse.
Once my feet hit the ground, I scanned around us, removed my bow and quiver of arrows, laid them all against a fallen tree near the edge of the water, and pulled my dress over my head, then removed my moccasins. The guys were still on their horses, bemused by my deliberation.
Herve laughed as he looked down at me, “In a hurry, Maia?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact. We’ve been in the village for two days and generally behaving ourselves. And I am not used to abstinence, any longer.”
Tupac chuckled, “Generally behaving except for that altercation in the bar, you mean.”
“Okay, to put an exact point on it, behaving ourselves sexually. Satisfied? Now, if you guys aren’t interested, I am sure the dogs will be.”
That got them away from teasing. If the dogs got going with me first, it would be a longer wait for them. Despite the teasing, they were just as anxious as I was to put an end to our days without. It was peculiar to me how quickly all this changed for me. I haven’t been with these men that long, and already sex was a daily occurrence for us. If all of us weren’t fucked every day, at least I was. So, going without for two days seemed a sudden sacrifice.
Without any more teasing or hesitation, the men were off their horses, they were tied securely to trees, and were now standing before me. I stood before them, strong and self-assured. I was no longer timid or indecisive around them. They had fully accepted me as an integral part of the group. And, when it came to the sexual activities we regularly were engaged in, my imagination seemed to frequently trump theirs. They were always interested in what my mind might come up with for us to try. This idea I was pretty sure would be the same and figuratively blow their minds. As I thought about it, though, it might actually blow my mind, if we accomplished it.
Tupac could see it in my eyes and my posture, standing before them, straight, shoulders back, breasts thrust out, feet parted, and my hands on my hips. “We can see you have something in mind, Maia. We all know you have dreamed up some wonderful positions and combinations for us to try and enjoy. Don’t keep us waiting; we can see you have another idea.”
I smiled at them, dropped my hands to my sides and walked to each one, kissing each in turn deeply and heartfelt. “I love you guys. You’ve made me the happiest I could have ever imagined as an adult sharing my life. And, you’re right. Of course, you are. If I have come to know you three, you have certainly come to know me and the way my mind and heart works. But, you might think this is the most bizarre so far.”
They laughed. “Maybe, dear Maia. Maybe. But, at some point we have faith you’ll exceed even whatever this is?” That made me laugh, too. I really did love these guys. I couldn’t be more comfortable and at ease. And, I couldn’t have more trust and respect than I had for these three. Except, how I felt about my parents. This relationship had quickly passed the point of comfort with sex and being a part of a team. It had evolved well beyond that, becoming much deeper for me and in a way tying them even together closer, as a result. I appeared to be a bond that brought all of us together and held us together. Tupac was the leader, without question, but I was the one who provided that something else outside of the command decision needs.
I told them what I had in mind and their mouths gaped open. We had done parts of it but not all together. “I want to try it. Can you imagine, all of us at the same time, together in one activity, being satisfied together?” They had never imagined it, but now they were just as anxious as I was. In moments, they had their clothes stripped off and their cocks were growing as I watched. And, as they realized that I was just fixated on watching their cock grow, they were hard, standing ready for whatever sequence I directed them into. I told them they needed to decide who would use which of my holes this time. Assuming it was as good as I imagined we have more opportunities to rotate positions. That brought smiles to them. They thought this sounded perverse and thrilling, and that I was already looking to experience it more times just reinforced to them how fortunate they were to be in such a relationship.
I was a little surprised as they started moving into initial positions. But, I don’t know why I would be, really. One of the reasons Tupac was such a good leader who held the respect of the others was his willingness to give to the others. This was one of those situations. He elected to be the third man and get my mouth, letting the other two to enjoy the first pleasures of my two holes being used at the same moment, the extra tightness, and stimulation that I expected that to produce. I smiled at him in recognition of his act. I was going to make sure he didn’t miss anything as a result. I had some practice at sucking cock and I was now determined that this would be my very best effort.
Herve lay on his back on the grass and I went to my knees over his mid-section. I knew I was already wet inside and that would help Dreng so I called him up behind me to stick his cock into my pussy before I sat down on Herve’s. They had all enjoyed my holes separately so they understood the intentions I was directing. Dreng came up behind me, slipped his hard cock into my wet and ready pussy, pumped several times and coated himself well with my juices before pulling completely out, moving a little higher to my puckered asshole, moved the head of his cock over it, wetting the outside, before applying pressure. I had him stop so I could sit down on Herve, first. Dreng sat back a little, giving me more room to maneuver and to watch. I reached between my legs, found Herve’s hard cock, held it up, and poked it into my hole and sitting down slowly onto it. I then turned to look over my shoulder at Dreng.
“Now Dreng, fill my ass with your wonderful cock. You might have to press harder this time, though. Herve and you at the same time should make it very tight back there. Don’t worry about me, I want this as much as you.” I then leaned onto Herve, feeling his cock slide inside me as I shifted. Once I was lying on his chest, I smiled at him and stared into his eyes, “God, I love you three. You let me feel so … complete, maybe. You let me feel like a warrior, like the rest of you. But, you also let me feel like a wanton woman and you don’t hold that against me.”
“Hold it against you?!? We think we have to be the luckiest three guys in the whole world.” All the while, I feel Dreng pushing at my asshole. With a push back of my own, he is inside me, past my sphincter and he stops, letting my body adjust to his presence there as we have learned to do in previous efforts at this. As we are all relaxing our bodies, allowing time for adjustment, mostly my adjustment, I kiss Herve, deeply and meaningfully.
I lift my mouth off his and sigh deeply as I push back against the two cocks buried in my body. After a long moan, “Ohhhhhhh … yessssssss … okay, guys … hmmmmmmmmm … fuck me good now.” I look before me and see Tupac on his knees, his hard cock in his hand, slowly stroking it. I smile up at him, “Your turn, good sir. Put that wonderful cock in my mouth and let me pleasure it for you.” He groaned immediately as my mouth closed around it.
It was every bit as good as I had imagined! I came twice as their cocks drove into my three available openings. We ended with all three of them climaxing in the respective holes: my ass, my pussy, and my mouth. I came so hard at the end that I lost hold of Tupac’s cock in my mouth and collapsed onto Herve, Dreng still buried in my ass.
Tupac feels it is time for all us to go back to the East side of the mountains and get a better evaluation of what is occurring there. A few times in the recent past, we have split up to cover more territory. He and Dreng have gone to the other side while Herve and I have roamed to the South investigating any movements there. When we reached the Western entrance to the tunnel, we tied the horses at the mouth of the tunnel, which would take us to the other side of the mountain. Once on the other side, the men were surprised by what they saw in a clearing of the forest below. At the far edge of the clearing were five female slaves gathering kindling and piling it. Standing to the side was a single guard, a single horse tied nearby. I feel their eyes on me and when I turn to look at them, they sit back against the rocks near the mouth of the tight opening to the tunnel.
“You’re the girl we met with your father on this side several years ago, aren’t you? Your father was Rayner.”
“You know that.” I get defensive; I knew what my father did before he changed. Before he took my mother for his wife and created a family after I was born. I also knew that he took as his penance to leave my mother and me to the safety and protection of the village and to try to help other slaves escape, and to lead slavers away from searching along the mountains by creating a route for runaways to the East beyond the river. “Yes, and I am proud that he is my father. So, what?”
“No offense, Maia, I am just piecing it all together. Your abilities in the wild, hunting and tracking skills. But you need to know some things before we go further.” Tupac tells of the stories they have heard about slaves escaping to the East. The escapes are more and more daring, as if they are receiving assistance from others to make their way from the plantations and then seemingly disappear. There is open talk among people that it is a non-slave who has rallied a group of escaped slaves to accomplish this. There is also speculation that this non-slave is Rayner, my father. They have periodically watched from this very location and have encountered virtually no slaves in this section trying to escape. If they are running, they must be going to the East. The last group that was brought through the tunnel talked about a small battle between the closest plantation and a small band of others. In the chaos, slaves scattered in all directions. The group that was brought to the village happened to wander out of the forest, apparently being separated from the others, and becoming confused and lost. I felt a sense of pride and relief. Pride that my father was able to accomplish his promise to divert running slaves away from us. And, relief that my father appeared to still be alive.
They were quiet as I reflected on those two emotions. Staring down at the slaves below as I did. Coming from my reverie, I wondered what else they had for me. I didn’t have long to ponder that.
“Maia, you should also know that the closest plantation, where those slaves are likely to be from, would be the same plantation your mother would have been from.” I am surprised by the strong emotions that rose within me. I fall back against a boulder and stared straight ahead, not truly focused on anything. I am surprised at the anger, even rage, welling up inside me. I wanted to do something, to strike out at that plantation and the owner. Dreng, sometimes very perceptive in his quiet, offered in support, “We could take the five slaves, and kill the guard in the process.”
Tupac and Herve are calmer, more thoughtful about the ramifications. “Yes, that would be something. But, to strike and endanger the others in the village would be pointless.”
Herve adds, “If the guard is found dead when the group does not return, it will raise suspicion about this region, again. And, that may lead to a more thorough search. Maia, your father has sacrificed much and endured much to create a zone of safety for you and the village. Tupac is right; it could lead to endangering the village.”
Dreng, however, is still watching me. He wants to find a solution that will also provide me some satisfaction. “What if the guard’s body disappears?”
At first, I sense that Tupac isn’t amused by Dreng continuing along this line of encouragement. But, one of the strengths of the group is the ability to discuss options until a decision has to be made and then everyone falls in-line with one common focus. But, he allows the discussion to take place. How would that be accomplished? Bury it? That could be opened by animals or the disturbed ground of the grave discovered. I look at Dreng. There has to be an answer and be a win-win for all considerations. We can free more females for the village. I can have some measure of revenge against the owner of the plantation, even if he doesn’t understand the significance of the events. Am I proud of my reaction? Yes and no. I am proud that I have the courage and strength to avenge my mother. On the other hand, I didn’t know I was capable of such reactions. The solution, though, lies in the area of land where father built our cabin. Specifically, the canyon.
I look up at them and I am smiling. They stop their discussion when they see it. My voice is quiet, but my commitment to the idea I have comes through in it, “The body would never be found, if it is dropped into the canyon.”
Tupac is watching me, and then looks off into the horizon in the direction of where the canyon would be, in the direction of the cabin he visited only once. “The canyon … that was just beyond where your cabin was.”
“Yes. Okay, forget my revenge reaction, that isn’t honorable. But the reaction was real and honest. Consider instead the village from a different perspective. The village needs more females, Tupac. The village will become whole only after more families are created. There are many men; they need more women. And, be honest, if it was you, can you say you wouldn’t have reacted the same way?”
He considers me and my words, and then shakes his head. “I would have reacted with even more rage and need for retaliation. You are also correct about the village. But, we don’t gain anything if one of us is hurt in the process.”
I am used as bait. The other three work their way around the small group with the dogs. If the guard hears something, the dogs can be used as a diversion. When they are in place, I wander, stumbling, like I am completely confused and disoriented, from the trees in front of the clearing. I am naked and dirty to give the added impression of having been in the wild for some time. When I am sure, I have been seen by the guard, I fall backward into the edge of forest, where I get up and fall, again. I stay down and wait for the guard. I have my bow and quiver of arrows ready at the location I fall. I wait for the guard as he yells a warning to the women, then turns to approach me. I have never done anything like this. I have killed numerous animals with little emotional response; they were food for our survival. But, this will be different. This was a man, perhaps with a family of his own. I know nothing about him, if he was even a bad man by nature or merely by whom he decided to be employed by.
I do kill him, however. Just like that. I waited and watched him, unafraid if he saw me watching him. I was nothing to him, just a lost slave to be taken control of, again. When he was separated from the women, his line to me away from the women, I stood up steady and determined with the bow and an arrow strung. That alone seemed to confuse him, certainly not what he was expecting. Before he could bring his rifle from his back, I had pulled the arrow, completed my firing routine, and released it. I was surprised how easy and unemotional I was about taking his life from him. I stood over him to make sure he was dead. I have ended the life of many animals with the sharp blade of my knife across the throat. I now was sure this would have been just as simple. But, it was unnecessary.
Tupac brought the horse, loaded the guard onto its back, and tied him with rope found already on the horse. Tupac insists on coming with me to canyon. I initially refused, but he continued, as do I in my objection. I insist that Wolf and I would be fine. Besides, I plan to spend a little time at the cabin after I am done disposing of the guard. I point to a spot to the North in the mountains.
“Father and I always felt that the pass there could be a way over the mountains. Mother got much worse before we could investigate it. The height of summer is the only possible time to try and that is now.”
“Why try? Use the tunnel.”
I laugh, “I want the horse, and you don’t know of another way over.”
“You’re nuts. But, we won’t change your mind, will we?”
“Then, at least let me join you. Herve and Dreng will take the women through the tunnel and watch for us on the other side.” He calls them together and sets the plan. “When we get over the top, we’ll build a fire so you can see where we are coming from so you can meet us. It may take us several days.” He turned to me, “Are you sure it is worth it?”
“It will be when it’s done.”
The women are led up to the tunnel hidden behind the rockslide. Tupac and I lead the horse carrying the dead guard to the North along the mountain slope, through the forest and to the edge of the canyon. I don’t even ask for or wait for assistance from Tupac, but rather unceremoniously untie the ropes holding the body and letting him drop to the ground. I pull him by his foot to the edge of the drop and push it over the edge. I watch the body drop twenty feet to the steep slope below, then tumble and slide down the slope before getting hung up on the trunk of a tree.
It seems almost anticlimactic to me as I stand on the edge of the cliff looking down at the body. Tupac joins me quietly, taking a position alongside me but not intruding on my thoughts or mood, simply there and available. When I turn to him and put my face into his chest, his arms are immediately and tenderly around me, supporting me and comforting me as sobs come from deep inside me and finally wash out through me.
“It’s hard, Maia. Taking another’s life, ending what was once living and interactive … now, nothing … ended, no longer existing. It is hard for soldiers who are killing at a distance, even harder like for you at close range with a more restricted weapon.”
“I was so angry, Tupac. I felt I had to do something … something to extract some measure of retribution, revenge for my mother and all the others who suffered at that plantation. It was a feeling that was overwhelming.”
“And … do you feel better after having done that?”
“No … no, I don’t. I don’t regret it because we were also able to save five women and deliver them to freedom and safety. Acting on revenge doesn’t salve your wounds.”
“Good, that’s a good lesson. And, to be honest, I would have been disappointed if you responded differently. I understand completely the response you had, but the Maia we know is not like that by nature.”
I sank back into his body and let myself be protected and comforted by him as the last of the sobs washed over me. Then he moved us apart slightly and lifted my chin to look me in the eyes, “You wanted to go to the old cabin for the night. I understand the need for memory and a way to pay respects to your mother and the life you were given. Do you want that time to be private? I can wait for you in the forest in the morning.”
I smiled up at him, stretched up, and kissed him on the lips, “Thank you. You are such a dear man for such a rough man.” I smiled at him and returned my face to his chest, but continued softly, “I thought that was what I would want. To quietly feel their presence in that place and feel some amount of satisfaction in having exacted some punishment in their name. But, now I know that’s not what they would have wanted from me. I do want to go there and feel the place for perhaps the last time, but not alone. If you don’t mind, I want your company and support. I would like to be in your arms tonight.” I looked back up into his face, “Thank you, Tupac, for insisting on accompanying me. I am glad you are here with me.”
That night we spent the time in quiet conversation, a dinner of wild turkey that mistakenly crossed our path. I had remained naked but I did clean-up at the creek near the cabin. I was in Tupac’s arms on the bed, a fire in the fireplace. We were kissing and simply being gentle and tender. He was not pushing anything sexual, responding only to my initiation. Wolf, however, had other ideas. I felt his licks on the back of my knee that was stretched along the edge of the bed. The licks moved up my thigh progressively to my ass. My kisses with Tupac were becoming increasingly passionate as I was stimulated by the licking until I felt Wolf put his weight on the edge of the bed to get high enough to reach between my legs. I groaned into Tupac’s mouth.
I rolled over onto my back and Wolf’s tongue found my mound, snaked between my legs, and wound itself onto my pussy. I moaned as my hand roamed over Tupac’s body and settled onto the spot where I felt his stiffening cock under his trousers.
Tupac kissed the side of my face, “That wasn’t what you were planning for tonight, was it?”
“Hmmmmmm …. Noooooooooo … but, I guess …. wolves don’t have the same … sensitivities to emotions as we do. But … hmmmmmmm … it does feel so … so goodddddddddd. Maybe … he knows even better … even better what I need.”
“So, what do you want to do, Maia?”
“Mmmmmmm, I want you two to fuck my brains out. Can you do that for me?”
He laughed loudly enough to cause Wolf to raise his head from my crotch. “Yes, I think we might be able to manage that …”
And they did, too. And this time it was Tupac who came up with a way new to us for attempting it. He had me get onto my hands and knees while he got up and went to the remains of dinner. I watched from my position, obediently still in the position he had me get into, and saw him gather some grease from the remains and approach me. I didn’t have a clue what was happening until I felt him put his fingers to my asshole, spreading the grease around the opening, then poking fingers inside to grease my hole.
“Hmmmmmm … you’re going to me anal …”
“No, no, I am not.” He then took my hands, led me off the bed to a cleared section of the floor where he lay on his back, pulling me with him. I was confused but followed his lead. He held up his cock and I sat down on it, sighing as I did. Then he pulled me to his chest, reached behind me, patted my ass and with both hands he spread my ass cheeks. I looked up sharply at him but he only smiled back at me. “You’ve done us anally; have you ever taken Wolf there?”
“Oh, god … that’s what you have in mind?!?”
There was no time for further conversation as I felt Wolf straddle the two of us, his exposed cock poking my ass. After several bumps, it landed in my crack and slid up until it hit Tupac’s hands holding my cheeks apart and it lodged just into my asshole. I gasped and pushed back against it, now wanting this perverse idea to happen as much as they did. It seemed to take forever, but finally the narrow tip was inside and that was followed by the rest going in, as well. Wolf pumped and pressed until he had almost all of his cock inside my ass. All the while Tupac was groaning at the increasing tightness and movement along his cock as Wolf pulled and thrust his cock into me. I was nearly delirious with the sensations until I felt something new bumping onto my asshole and panic set in as I realized it was the knot. I was sure I could never take the knot at the same time that I had cock in my pussy. But I had nothing to fear, as it turned out, because it couldn’t physically happen and my body was not conditioned to allow such stretching. But the tightness, pressure, and tension derived from the two cocks inside me was extraordinary, and apparently for all of us. I started my orgasm, which sent my entire body into a spasm that resulted in my ass and pussy clamping hard onto the cocks in each. That set them into their own climaxes and I was suddenly filled with cum in both holes.
Without the knot attaching us, Wolf pulled away soon after, very much like he generally tried to do but was restricted by the knot. With him gone from me, I felt his cum oozing from my asshole but I didn’t move from Tupac. I relished the feel of him still inside me as I settled onto his body, gently kissing his chest, shoulder, neck, and chin. I was asleep on top of him before his cock had softened enough to slip out of me.
The next morning we made our way up the mountain in the direction my father had speculated could possibly lead to a serviceable pass to the other side. The climb was uneventful for much of the way except for the effects of altitude and the steadily climbing. Near the top it became more difficult, made more so by leading the horse. But we were successful and found ourselves on the other side and well over the top by the time the sun was lowering on the far horizon. As planned, we built a bigger than necessary campfire to alert Herve and Dreng to our general location. The plan, then, was for them to meet us with Tupac’s horse somewhere on the downslope the following day. Tupac and I agreed after that experience that the route was possible but not a preferred.
A year later, we learned there was increasing rebellion of slaves on the other side of the mountain. We were uncertain if open conflict could bring the army. If the army got involved, could it lead to discovery of our life? Do we help the rebellion? Or, do we let it run its course independent of us?
On one of our scouting trips to the South, we found a single man on horseback with a pack horse in tow crossing far to the South from the mountains on the East heading in the direction of the mountains to the West. We tracked him to see his intent. We don’t do it close but at some distance. I recounted instruction from my father not to follow directly in the tracks of the one you are following. If he doubled back, he may discover the extra tracks and become wary. He did in fact cross the wide valley, directly to a pass in the mountain range to the West of us.
Months later, we spot him, again. This time returning to the East. The pack horse was loaded with hides and furs. He was apparently a trapper or hunter. We followed him again to the Eastern mountains and saw him take a narrow path into the mountains. He got off his horse and walked both up a narrow and treacherous path. There apparently was a Southern way through the mountains, too.
We debate what to make of this man passing through the valley that we had always considered ours. We were split on what his presence might mean and, more to the point, what to do about him, if anything. I wanted to talk to him, see if he had useful information about the other side. Tupac was nervous about showing ourselves. And he had a good point to his concern, of course. Making our presence known, clearly appearing to be slaves but not living as slaves, could lead to a lot of curiosity and questions that might need to be answered.
But, a couple weeks later he was back, moving from the East to the West, again. In the meantime, we had made our decision regarding him. If he had found his way to our valley, certainly others might who are similarly adventurous. Or, he could simply mention this land to others. We decided we needed to know more about him and his intentions. So, when we found him, again, we had laid a trap to surprise him. We took him in the forest, the four of us coming in from all around him. But, he made no menacing moves despite having a pistol in his belt and a rifle in his pack behind him.
After some wary discussion of a general, non-threatening nature to size each other up, it began to move in the direction of what was happening on the other side of the mountains. He indicated that he only wanted to transverse this land between the two mountain ranges. He was now more interested in avoiding people than dealing with people. He returned to towns for the purpose of selling hides and furs from his hunting and trapping for supplies that he needed. This gave us some reassurance and we found we even wanted to trust him, he seemed to be a very honest and genuine man seeking a way to escape people. There was too much at stake, though, for the village and we kept its existence to ourselves.
But, he seemed quite forthcoming on his part. I was sure it was a combination of our appearing like slaves but living free and independent and our interest in events on the other side, that moved his comments specifically to the most unusual activity occurring. He started talking about the trouble and turmoil that a non-slave was making for slave owners in the region nearest the mountains. From his accounts, he said this man had formed a small army of runaway slaves and was causing all manner of problems. The number of slaves running and not being found had increased dramatically. Supply wagons to the plantations had been hijacked, the supplies, animals and wagons never to be seen, again. Caravans transporting new slaves north to the plantations had been intercepted and the slaves disappearing, while the slavers for the most part were killed.
By this time, we were comfortably grouped on the ground around a fire keeping coffee warm as we talk. His coffee was something that is not commonly consumed by us, but we share with him mostly for politeness. He acted as if we would certainly like some coffee. I found I don’t like the bitter taste but sipped it the same way to show hospitality. We learned a little more about him in the casual moments during his making the coffee. His name was Jona, just Jona he said. He appeared to be between 45 and 50 years old and the life he was now leading appeared to be hard on him, but he also appeared at peace.
His mood shifted suddenly and he laughed, shaking his head, “Boy, does that bring back memories!”
Tupac looked bewildered by the change and comment. “Memories? You know the man causing this trouble?”
He looked at the four of us, as if suddenly wondering what he had been telling us and if he should have. But, he continued, “Know him? He was the best man I ever knew. That is until his family was killed. A shame, too. It was as if his mind snapped. I tried to find him after that, but he just quit the army and disappeared. I heard some nasty things about him after that. Then, this started. The same man, I am sure of it. Something changed in him, again.”
I was staring at him and the guys all know why. The similarities about the man seemed too close to be true. I cautiously pursue it, though, “Were you in the army, too?”
He looked at me, as if maybe it was the first time he really looked at me or considered my age and being out here with these three. “Yes, I commanded a company. We were very good, well disciplined, and non-political. This man was fearless, the best single fighting man I have ever come across. That’s why it was a shock when he seemed to just snap.”
“Wait, so you really knew this man very well? What is the name you knew him by?”
“Rayner. I suppose he had a last name, but I just called him Rayner for so long I think I forgot it. Why?”
“He’s my father …”
“You? No. You’re a …”
“Slave? NO! No, I am not and never have been. But my mother was, yes.”
He looked at the men with me, and then focused his attention again on me. “So, you must be the reason he changed, again. When the hate finally left him.”
“No, that was my mother. I was the bi-product of that.”
“I don’t understand. The man he became was irrational when it came to slaves. How could that have happened?”
I sighed and shook my head, “It’s a long story.”
Jona looked to the others, again. Perhaps he was checking that he wasn’t overstaying his welcome. But, at this point, they were gaging everything by my interest and consideration. “Well, young lady, time I have and I would love to hear this story. Rayner was a good man and I respected him tremendously; well, up to when he snapped at least. I would like to hear how he regained his equilibrium. In fact, I will trade you information. I want to hear more about my old friend and I have a lot more information about the other side.”
I stand up and touched Tupac’s shoulder for him to follow me. “What do you think, Tupac? I feel like I can trust this man. But, I don’t want it to be because he knew my father in the past. What should I do?”
“Your insight is as good as mine here, Maia. He wants to know about your father and that will require you to talk about your mother. This could be very good for you. And, he may have good information about the other side. Information we might need or can use.” He started to turn to return but stopped, “But, just to be sure, let’s not mention the others or the village. Let’s keep that private until we need to share it, if ever.”
We returned to the fire and decided to proceed with sharing but first established that it would take some time so we set out to find some food and prepare it for a meal, expecting to share the camp with him tonight.
Then the stories started. I gave him a fairly complete story of my parents and my childhood as I remembered it from my parent’s stories to me. He asked question periodically, especially around what happened to my mother when her foot was amputated crudely. He seemed concerned if Rayner had been involved in that in any way. He then seemed very relieved that father wasn’t. “And that’s pretty much it. I never saw him again after he left mother and me with these men.”
He studied us for a time. He was hesitating, deliberating on what was still on his mind and I sensed what it was. Finally, he asked, “But, once your mother died ... you just lived with these men? In the wilderness all by yourself?”
With all my strength, I kept from looking at any of the three. “Yes. They were very kind and have allowed me to continue with them.” I didn’t even look at Jona; I knew he suspected something else, suspected there was still more, but that it had nothing to do with my father.
Then he started. He did indeed have much more to tell. He talked well into the night and Tupac asked many questions about the general happenings. I tended to ask more details about my father. I was intrigue that he was apparently still alive and still creating havoc with the slave owners. There wasn’t just turmoil over there. He said it almost seemed like a powder keg with a fuse burning to it. That it was only a matter of time and it was going to blow. He said there was open conflict but at the present, the slave side of the conflict was focused on guerrilla type of hit-and-run attacks.
That was when he smiled, again, “That was what Rayner, your father, was an expert in. Taking a small group of fighters and stopping a much larger force.”
We parted ways but we stayed watchful after that for him and any others that might also follow him or also discover the route through the mountains. We finally spotted him crossing the valley to the East a number of full moons later. Interestingly, halfway across a wide open plain, he stopped, looked to the North, and raised his hand in an apparent salute. I smiled and commented to the others, “He knew we’d be keeping tabs on him and he isn’t trying to pretend, otherwise.
Tupac moved his horse in front of mine, “You’re thinking about going to the other side and joining Rayner aren’t you?”
I frowned; I was that transparent to these guys? Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised; we had committed and practiced being fully open and honest with each other. Our sharing and intimacy demanded and resulted from that very kind of openness and transparency.
“The thought crossed my mind, yes. But, I would not have acted on it without a discussion with you three. I couldn’t make a decision like that without getting your council. But, yes, I have thought about it.”
“You’ll wait on making a decision then until we have another opportunity to speak with Jona?”
It was another full moon before we again found Jona coming out of the mountain gap and down the slope. I point him out to the others and as I am about to ride hard to him, Herve reminds me to put clothes on. I know he is already wondering about a young woman riding with three men and that would take a lot of the mystery out of it. We met him at the bottom of the slope as he came out of the trees. He doesn’t have his pack animal with him this time and we know this was a different visit.
He waved and came to us at a gallop, “I was hoping you’d be watching. I wasn’t sure how I would find you, otherwise.”
Tupac was still the leader, “What wrong?”
“I told you before that the events on the other side was like a powder keg just waiting for a light. Well, the freed slaves lit it. The region to the East has exploded into violence and open conflict.”
He went on to inform us about the conflict on the other side. There were apparently some retaliations against the slaves for the actions of Rayner and his group but it didn’t have the intended result. Slaves at several plantations were publicly hung and left as warnings to the others. It was a gruesome demonstration, a desperate demonstration. Instead of striking fear and breaking resolve, however, Rayner’s group attacked the lead plantation and the slaves there rose up to join them. The plantation was routed and the main house and housing of the non-slaves burned to the ground. The plantation men were killed in the fighting, but the women and children were allowed to leave as long as they headed East. The slaves gave them free, unharmed passage through their ranks. As a group, they then moved North to the next plantation. The fighting grew more intense as they moved North.
Tupac looked at me, then again to Jona, “And, what now? I assume you were with them?”
“Yes, I gather up a couple dozen of the old group from our company and went to fight with Rayner. We joined up with them at the second plantation and onto the third. By now they should be heading for the fourth and final plantation, the one your mother was from, Maia.”
I turned to Tupac, “I want to go, Tupac. You don’t have to, but I want to fight with my father.”
“No.” It was Jona, not Tupac. “No, Maia, that’s why I came. Your … your father …”
“Dead? He’s dead?”
“I’m sorry, Maia, but, yes. You have to understand, he died the way he wanted to. He died fulfilling his promise.”
I turned away from them and walked twenty steps away, stopped and sank to my knees in the tall grass. And wept. Then, I wailed out my grief and frustration.
Back in the group of men, though, “I’m sorry, Tupac. I thought she should know.”
“It was right, Jona. Thank you. She’ll thank you, too, but after. She never thought her father would have survived in his quest to free slaves and, as such, the loss of her father was eased by the memory of his promise. But then you gave her hope. He was still alive and she yearned to once again be with him, to ride with him, to help him, to avenge the wrongs together. Now, suddenly, she has lost him, again. But, she’s strong, she’ll come back.”
All four were very patient. It took quite some time for me to calm myself and regain the perspective on life that I had come to know and own. I walked back into the group, Tupac asked, “Maia?”
“I’m okay. Greatly disappointed at being so close to see my father, to let him know that I was good and happy.”
Jona stepped up to me and put his hands on my shoulders, “That’s why I came back, Maia. To tell you about your father, but to also tell you that before he died I was able to tell him about you. That you are in fact well, strong, independent, and your own person. I told him that you travel the wilderness with three strong men, as an equal to them. He asked many questions with the last breaths he had. All were about you. I only wish I knew more about you, but he was smiling when he died. He was at peace, Maia. Can anyone ask for more than that?”
“Thank you, Jona. That helps to know. Then it is done?”
“No, he also said something else that is puzzling. There are many, many slaves wandering the region, displaced by the fighting, and having nothing after the dismantling of the plantations. He said to tell you that. To tell you that these people need a safe home like the others. What did he mean?”
So we told him. It took only a shared look among us to know that we all agreed that Jona could be trusted with the knowledge of the village’s existence. Jona became only the second non-slave to know of the existence of our sanctuary on this side of the mountains.
“So it is true. I thought it was just a fantasy, something the slaves held as a hope, like heaven after death. You wouldn’t believe how many slaves are wandering the slopes in some unfathomed faith that there is a better life waiting for them. I don’t know how many. But there are men, women, and children, entire families, and extended families perhaps. They just don’t know how to reach it. Faith alone hasn’t been enough, they need someone to lead them to it, and they need to be gathered from the misery, humiliation, blood, and death of slavery and fighting.”
I looked at the other three and none of us said a word. The words kept spinning through our brains, ‘You wouldn’t believe how many slaves are wandering the slopes’ and ‘men, women, and children’. But, I knew now what I wanted to do, what I needed to do.
“Jona, can you lead us through the route you know? Can you lead us to these people?”
He smiled, took the single step separating us, and hugged me to him. He put me at arms distance and looked directly into my eyes with a smile that felt so good and warm, “That’s what your father said you would do. He just knew it in his heart. His last words expressed that.”
In all we ended up bring back nearly a hundred freed slaves. The new slaves completely overwhelmed the village and drastic changes were needed immediately. But, if there was anything about slaves, hard and long hours of work was not a problem. New housing and enlarged structures were designed and built with almost non-stop dedication and effort. Growing fields were expanded and canoes were soon crafted for fishing. The village thrived despite the chaos that might be expected from such an influx of new people. But, there wasn’t chaos and there was minimal conflict as those who had lived in the village eagerly welcomed the new.
One of the casualties of the change, though, was The Hunt. Suddenly there was no place for it. For one thing, there were now too many new people. For another, there were more families and more women, existing men quickly asked women, and women just as quickly accepted the opportunity to create new families with their new found freedom and security.
If we, the Warriors, had trouble with being in the village before, it was nearly impossible now. The village turned into a town, even if it didn’t yet have the structure to show for it. But even that wasn’t far behind, trees were cut at an increasing rate and wood planks made for fashioning homes and community buildings.
Our reaction to all of this, though, was to roam the South slopes of the range, particularly the area around the access that Jona took us through twice. Once to go over to assemble the freed slaves and the second time to bring them to safety. Over the next three to four full moons, we encountered Jona several times. He no longer was traversing the valley for furs and hides. He came to see us and inform us on the events on the other side. As quickly as the conflict had exploded, it seemed to also burn itself out. All the plantations along the mountains had been burned out. Politically, the Commonwealth seemed to lack the resolve to do anything about it. A popular opinion among the people was that slavery might have seen its time and that time may be past. Slavery was not banished, there were no laws passed to abolish it, or to free the slaves. But, also, there was no heart in enforcing it. Jona believed that it might be years, maybe an entire generation, before slavery could die away. But, for now the slaves who took over the plantations, growing the crops and moving them with the aid of sympathetic people, seemed safe enough. We said goodbye, perhaps for the last time to this very good man.
So, what of us? What are Warriors to do when they are no longer needed?