Part One: March 21st, 1622 -August 1st, 1622
The weather was frigid when Alice awoke that morning and as she dragged herself out of bed and put her bare feet on the cold floor boards she wanted nothing more than curl up under the warmth of the thick wool blankets. She moved over to stoke the fire, adding another two logs to the cabin would be warm enough when it was time for William to rise. Still rubbing the sleep from her even she padded over to the table and looked through what was left of their food. It would prove to be a difficult spring. The wait for the harvest would be trying for all, but Alice put her faith in God and said a silent prayer as she prepared the best meal she could for her husband and young son. The lord had provided for them through a harsh winter and though the loss of one child had left her hallow for some time, it was through God's will and the joyous sound of William's laughter that she had survived it. When she got on the boat four years ago in Liverpool, married to a man she had met the day before, she could not have hoped for a better provider and a kinder man.
Cold air rushed into the cabin as the front door flung open. It was shut softly, as to not wake the child, and Alice smiled over at Lawrence. He was rubbing his hands together and shaking off the cold. His boots left heavy thuds on the ground as he moved to the fire for warmth, peeling off his gloves and holding them out to the flickering flames. Alice picked up the jug of ale and brought him tin cup, accepting a soft kiss to the mouth as she put it into his hands. She shivered at the feel of his cold skin and found her earlier silent complaints about having to leave the warmth of her bed to be quite selfish. Her husband always rose an hour or so before she did, setting off to make sure she would have everything she needed for her daily chores and the caring for their little boy.
"The earth is still soft," he spoke softly, his voice a low rumble, and finished the tin of ale in a single gulp.
"The planting was not too early?" she asked hopefully. He shook his head and gave a smile.
"We will survive the spring," he answered, placing the tin down beside her and touching her waist. He tugged her closer and bent down to place a kiss to her lips. She leaned into him, searching for his warmth amongst his cold clothes, and let her eyes flutter closed. He wrapped her in his arms, large and strong from the hours of chopping wood, the days of harvesting tobacco and corn, and the long days walking to the lake to try and find fish beneath the ice. He moved away from her gently and walked over to their bed. He crawled on top of the blankets, lying down briefly beside their son, gently stroking his little brown locks. Alice smiled and returned to the doe, kneading her fingers hard and continuing her prayers for a warm spring. She still missed English winters. Cold, dark, and rainy, but nothing like she had experienced since coming to these shores. Once the breakfast was ready Lawrence crawled from bed, scratching his scruffy beard with a sigh. He sat down and ate quickly, leaving a quarter of his meal to be added to his wife and son's portions for the day. He was sent off with a wrapped loaf of bread, a kiss to his black beard, and a promise for a visit from his son by mid-morning. As he walked into the forest with his knapsack slung over his shoulder, the sun was just beginning to creep up over the horizon.
Alice had the floor swept, the linen ready for washing, and had gathered enough materials to spend the morning making candles by the time she went to wake William. She hoped that with the summer approaching, this next batch might last longer than the last. He pouted, tried to roll over to go back to sleep, but Alice did not relent and with gentle force got the boy from his sleep and into his morning clothes.
"You do not wish to see, daddy?" she asked him as she pulled his coat on over his little shoulders, the remnants of his breakfast still on his lips. He was skinnier than he was when the summer began, but her spirits were brightened by her husband's words. She had faith that the spring would bring a bountiful harvest and William could look like the healthy little man he was when the weather first began to turn cold.
"I do," he relented with a little whine, letting her put on his mittens. When she had returned from their little barn, gathering what milk their aging cow had to offer, the sun had risen some and there was the promise of a warmer day, but she was unwilling to risk William catching even the littlest of coughs. She could still hear the sound of her daughter's cough, rattling and painful. Every sound of it had ripped out her heart. It had been like a dagger, twisting with every little rattle. The night she died the cabin had been full of silence. She had almost been thankful for it. It only made her cry all the harder the next morning when her husband wrapped the tiny body in a sheet and set out to build her coffin. She had not let him build one until she had actually passed.
"He wants to see you," she told him, tying a little string around each wrist so there would be no separation between his coat and mittens. He waited, blinking sleepily. She smiled softly as she wiped down the corner of his mouth with her apron. "William will you help mummy get ready?"
William nodded excitedly. Lawrence had started early teaching his son how to be a proper man, just as his father had done with him. Helping his mother was something William took great pride in. On the mornings William would awaken as Lawrence crawled out of bed, he would wave goodbye to his father, promising to take care of mummy while he was away.
"Will you bring in a few logs and stack them very neatly by the fire place?" she asked, brushing his hair back and placing the little knit cap on his head, making sure his ears were covered. "Now remember, one at a time and stack them very neatly."
The little boy ran off to collect the logs from the wood shed. Alice cleaned the dining area and had retrieved her cloak by the time William had managed to stack five logs by the hearth. He was panting, red cheeked, and Alice thanked him heartily as they set off for town. His energy had returned. He was a difficult little thing to wake up, but a single chore and he would be up and bounding around for hours. It would not be until late afternoon that he would need to lie down for a small sleep. He ran across the little dirt road as they walked and Alice watched with a happy smile, her basket tucked firmly beneath her arm. She called for him to halt when they arrived by Sarah Thatcher's little plot of land. He had a tendency to wander. His lack of direction, even at the young age of four, bothered Alice. Lawrence assured her it was something he would outgrow. It was normal with children of his age, but too many times Lawrence and Alice had to search the surrounding wood for him because he wandered off past the boundary allotted to him by his mother and got himself terribly lost.
Sarah came out of the front door immediately, a smile on her flushed face and a look of terror in her eyes. Alice smiled at the girl as the girl hurried down the steps. Very soon her mother's head came out of the door, yelling at her about the pig feed. Sarah ignored her mostly and called back dismissively, pushing Alice along down the path.
"You might think she'd let papa slaughter is already," Sarah told her with a shake of the head. "We've spent so much on feed, but the thing is fat and ready to slaughter. I know not for what we wait."
"She wishes to push it out as far as possible, until the harvest."
"If you but saw the thing, Alice," Sarah disagreed. "It will last us the summer if done correctly."
Sarah was seventeen and still unmarried, and although she was a bright girl with a stubborn character and an ability to think things through when she truly desired, she was ruled by her naivete. If she had but a slight better understanding of how the world and those who inhabited it worked, she had the potential to be quite a force. Unfortunately, or perhaps, Alice mused silently, fortunately, she had no suffered the losses many others her age had. By the time Alice was seventeen she'd seen the death of four of her siblings, had suffered the loss of her father, and had been sent across the country alone to marry a man she did not know so he could take her across the ocean. Sarah had spent much of her childhood had Jamestown. This world was more her home than England had ever been, and she was blessed with an important relative at the fort.
"Oh!" Sarah said with excitement. "Look what I made little William!"
She pulled out a pair of gloves from her basket.
"Henry sent us wool just arrived from England. I've lined it with rabbit fur, so to not itch his little fingers. A bit late for the season, I know, but next year surely," she said and handed them to Alice. Alice thanked her and looked up to put her eyes on the boy in question. She was struck with equal parts annoyance, equal parts fear when she ran her eyes along the path and the immediately forest around them and found him nowhere.
"William!" she called angrily.
"Boo!" the little boy shouted, jumping out from behind a tree just a few feet ahead to their left. Sarah jumped in surprise and Alice simply shook her head at the child.
"Oh, sweet Lord in heaven, I thought it might be a savage attack," Sarah smiled, patting the top of his head as he giggled and ran up to latch onto his mother's skirts.
"William, what is my rule?" she asked him. He turned very severe.
"Always in sight," he repeated.
"If you hide, you scare mummy, understand?" she asked. He nodded. "Go on now. In sight!"
He released her skirts and ran ahead, jumping over rocks and logs, picking up sticks twice the size of himself and swinging them at trees with a mighty warrior's cry.
"There I see the future governor of the colony," Sarah said. Alice only smiled. Sarah bean speaking to Alice of the woes of courtship. Her parents wanted her to marry her cousin at the fort, who she met but twice since she had reached womanhood and found him to be rather distasteful. She would much rather marry Timothy Macafoos, but her parents had already informed her that was not to be.
"Love comes after marriage, Sarah," Alice cautioned. "Remember that the most important thing is a strong provider and a hard worker. Do not make the mistake of thinking love will fill your children's bellies."
"You say that having married Lawrence," Sarah lamented. "We will not all be that lucky."
They reached the clearing to the plantation and walked up the little path toward the main gate. A few people were milling about but the majority of the souls present were clustered about by the gate that lead to the plantation. Alice frowned and called William closer. The little boy ran to his mother and walked along side of her, happily swinging their hands together between them, looking around with curious eyes and a tongue pressed to the corner of his mouth.
"What might it be?" Sarah whispered excitedly. Alice was unsure and she said as much, but as they got closer she halted and her came to an abrupt stop. William's mouth opened wide at the sight of them, but Alice's blood ran cold. She did not distrust them because she did not like them, as seemed to be the case with her many of her fellow countrymen. She disliked them because she did not trust them. Her first month in the new world had seen her brother-in-law killed by a vicious savage. She'd not seen the act but she had found the body, hacked and mutilated, the scalp missing from his head, soaked in his own blood. Since then she swore she would never go near a savage if she could help it. They were frightening beings. Many liked to call hem noble but Alice knew better. Not evil by nature perhaps, all beasts had the capability for good, but just as one might not suspect a loving family dog to strike out at the face of a child, so must one be warry with these Indians.
Her father, when he sent her on her way to London to meet her husband and catch her ship, had told her that the savages were not to be feared. Noble savages. Unspoiled by the vices of civilization, but more capable of higher thought than the negro. Alice was not so convinced. She had the opportunity to meet a negro servant in England. They seemed very much the same as white men to her. But these savages…. She saw a propensity for violence within them more akin to beast than man. The neatly dressed and well-spoken negro boy belonging to Judge Condon had been as polite as any Englishman.
"Mummy, mummy," William whispered in harsh excitement, pulling on her hand. Excitement he may be, but still wisely frightened.
"A moment William," she answered, looking around for Lawrence. Sarah's lips parted as she looked them over, some half naked even in this cool weather. Lawrence once told her, after he had buried his brother and they retired to grieve in their newly built home, that they did not feel the cold the way Englishman did. They did not experience many things the way the English did.
They walked up closer slowly, eyes widening and lips parting as she looked over the abundance of food overflowing from Indian baskets. Fruits, fish and meats, all the one hundred and forty-three of them could need to get through to the next harvest. Martin was outside, trying to speak to the one that seemed in charge, but they communicated with some difficulty. Only a very small number of savages had desired to spend enough time with a settler to learn their tongue, and no white man felt the need to speak savage. The savage, a tall lean man with a wrap around his middle and a beaver pelt shawl around his shoulders pressed a finger beneath a dark eye and then circled it in the air. His voice was low and slow, the words so strange to the ear that Alice found herself mesmerized just listening to it. She had heard a man speaking French once. An Englishman who knew German had spoken the language within her ear shot, but even those languages did not possess such a foreign sound.
Martin, a short and kind, if grumpy, man, frowned in confused a moment before realization dawned on him. He happily agreed to let the savages look around their little town, mingle with the workers and servants and even observe their farming techniques. To befriend them now, when they seemed to come bringing gifts would spare them a lot of pain this coming season. Both from raids, attacks on their fields, and hunter's going missing, only to show up weeks later on the shore of the river, scalped and mutilated. Alice was not so convinced by their act of food faith. Even as she accepted a wrap of salted fish, a stack of dried meats and a small pottery bowl of fruit and berries, she looked upon them suspiciously, wondering why now, after years of tense relations and killings on both sides, they would look to befriend them.
"William," she called in a panic when she looked over from her basket to see the little boy pulling on a long braid of one of the Indians. The Indian had a smile on his brown face, not at all fazed by the curious little boy. The braid stretched down from the center of a bald head, the savages body was covered with buckskin leggings and a long dark shirt. "William stop it," she scolded and took hold of his wrist. She did not pull his hand away until she was sure he had released the man's hair.
"Forgive my son," she told the man. He smiled at her and shook his head. He tried to speak to her but she shook her head, pulling her son away in hopes of getting away from him. She spotted Lawrence down by the blacksmith, standing amongst a group of savages, arms folded over their chests, watching him work. They had frowns on their faces, unsure exactly what it was they were watching.
"Husband," she called. She kept a distance from the savages, holding William close, despite his wriggling attempts to break free an examine a savage more closely. Lawrence looked up and upon seeing her, extricated himself from the group. A few of the savages kept their eyes on her a few moments longer than she would have cared for and she lowered her head, trying to shield herself from their gaze. She pushed Lawrence in front of her and turned her face upward.
"Bring me home," she told him.
"Alice, I am busy –"
"You are not in the fields and so you are not working. Bring me home," she again, more forcefully this time. Lawrence glanced over his shoulder at the Indians and then reached out to take the bundles from her. He handed the little basket of fruit to William and told him to carry it carefully for his mother. They were just at the end of the town when Alice came to a stop and spun around, looking for Sarah. She scanned the crowed for her and found her up at the top of the little hill speaking to Martin and a number of savages, an excited smile on her lips. "Martin will be sure she arrives home safely?"
"He will," Lawrence assured her and Alice turned to resume their walk.
"I do not like it," she murmured to him, checking over her shoulder and pulling her cloak more tightly around her.
"We cannot survive another spring of hostility."
"I just think it would be foolish to trust them," Alice replied. William was a ways ahead but stopped at the curve in the path and turned back to face them, waiting for them arrive so he would not creep out of eyeshot.
"Would you have us meet a show of friendship with hostility?" he asked. Alice fell silent. She was not in the mood to argue with her husband and she knew better than to bring up his dead brother. The one and only time he had ever struck her she tried to bring it up as a means of preventing him from going out hunting so close to darkness. Not only might he get lost, fall and hurt himself, but savages might be out there lingering. He had not liked his wife using the death of his brother against him. It was an open-handed slap to the face, one that did not knock her from her feet or bring a bruise to her skin, but it had been hard enough to shock her. He left, equally as stunned by his action, and they never spoke of it again. Even in some of their more heated arguments he had never made to hit her since, but she still refused to test those waters.
"I merely hope that you use your better judgement," she mused. "I do not like them."
"I promise," he said. She turned to look at him and he was smiling from beneath his overgrown beard.
"I trust you, husband," she sighed, looking back toward William. "Wil you return to the fields once I am home?"
"Must you?" she asked. "I would feel safer if you remained."
"I'll make sure the rifle is loaded and leave it by the door for you, but you won't need it," he informed her. "I'll tell William he needs to stay inside with you until I arrive home."
She nodded slowly, unhappy with the news but unwilling to press. If he did not work, they got no money, if they got no money, they could not reap the benefits of the Martin's harvest.
"With the spring weather, do you think it is time to try for another baby?" she asked, softly. She looked up at him. "I feel strong again and she would be born before the cold months."
Lawrence smiled at her.
"We'll start once I get home," he said and leaned down to place his scruffy beard to her neck and nip her skin playfully. She giggled and ran a few steps ahead. Spinning back to look at him with a smile on her face.
"Wicked man," she teased. She turned back around and continued to walk, a smile still on her lips.
That night Alice was able to provide her husband and son with a fine meal. She prayed to God to give her the strength to find thanks in her hearts for the bountiful gifts they had received from the Indians. It was far more than they ever would have been able to hope for and she was struck with some shame as she realized how unchristian she was behaving toward them. She was in a fine mood as she kissed the top of her husband's head, pouring him a healthy cup full of ale after his long day in the fields. William was chattering on happily to his father, informing him about the passage of the bible he had read with mummy today. He chewed on a piece of tough fish cheerily, gulping down his tin of ale. He gasped loudly when he came up for ale and then dipped his fish inside, twirling it in the liquid and bringing it back to his lips.
"Did they stay long?" Alice asked, crouching down to wipe William's face. She spoke to William severely before Lawrence could answer, "Stop making a mess."
William frowned at his mother, a pout on his lips, but he was more careful as he continued to eat.
"Most of the day, just milling about," Lawrence answered. He spooned a heaping of beans into his mouth. Alice went to stoke the fire before taking her seat. "Martin spent most of the day trying to communicate with the one in charge there but none of them spoke English."
"Why do you think they chose now?" she asked, sitting down and eating her first bite of food since breakfast.
"Well, that leader there gave us permission to move east last summer. I think he knows it'll be beneficial for us to live together peacefully. His interest in Christianity is hopeful."
Lawrence leaned forward and moved William's cup away from the edge of the table. The little boy slid from his chair and moved across the floor. Both mother and father called him back to the table but he was already crawling beneath the bed in pursuit of some toy or other. Alice sighed and put her face in her hands.
"I am too tired right now," she said, but Lawrence was already up and crossing the floor. Lawrence grabbed him by the legs and dragged him out from under the bed to the loud protest of the kicking boy.
"William!" Lawrence boomed and the child fell silent, looking up to his father with wide eyes. "I'll take my belt to your bottom if you don't get back up in that chair."
William scurried back to the table and pushed his chair closer to Alice, pouting at his father as he retook his seat. He went back to eating silently, nibbling at a piece of stale bread.
"We do not mope in this house," Lawrence scolded. William looked at his mother for help and she reached out and patted his cheek.
It took some doing getting William to sleep that night. He was restless and wanted his mother to stay with him until he fell asleep. She sang to him, told him stories of home, but it was not until Lawrence gave him a sip of scotch that the little boy fell asleep. Alice moved quietly over to the hearth and sat down beside her husband, leaning back in the chair with a tired smile.
"I think I am more tired than he was today," she whispered. He reached out to take her hand in his.
"Summer is coming my love," he answered softly. "My days get longer, your days will get shorter."
"A woman's work never ends," she told him.
"This is a good thing, Alice," Lawrence said. She looked away from the flames and back to him.
"It is just…" she looked back into the flames. Something seems wrong. She shook her head and smiled at him. "I trust you."
He smiled and raised her hand in his, bringing her knuckles to his lips to kiss warmly. Gently he lowered it, their hands still entwined between them. They fell silent and both stared into the flames before them. The crackling lulled Alice off to sleep her eyes too heavy to keep open, but still, a feeling of apprehension was nestled deep between her ribcage.
He pressed the tip of the dagger to his thumb, listening to the crackling fire as he sought refuge from the frigid spring air beneath his mass of beaver pelts. Those around him were silent, readying themselves for the morning that lay ahead. In just a short few hours the slaughter would begin. Screams would pierce the crisp spring air and blood was soak the ground.
A hum started in his throat and he swirled the knife with a gentle force. He felt the little prick of pain but continued. He breathed in deeply, eyes closed, and tried to focus on the sound of the owl in distance, cooing softly to those who took the time to listen. A little breeze wafted by and he pulled his beaver pelt more tightly around himself.
It was the manner of it that he found distasteful. To kill in battle was no great horror. He longed to reach the status of Megedagik. Those that had perished beneath the force of his club or the cut of his blade never kept his eyes from closing at night. They had never haunted his thoughts. But he had never before been asked to know his enemy. He had never before been asked to gain their trust, to kill them with their own weapons. He hoped when the time came, it would be like any other battle.
These white men were dangerous. They took what was not there's and reacted with force when pushed. The well-being of his people was at stake and he trusted Powhatan to see them through this. The color of their skin did not matter to him. Their strange tongue did little more than amuse him and their odd means of living was interesting, but not something to despise. It was their unwillingness to leave that aroused their ire.
Kill many now and spare more later,Powhatan had said. He took a deep breath and gave a nod. Pressing his chin to his chest he took in a deep breath. When he looked up his eyes opened and he turned his head to look around the little camp.
Only a few fires burned still. Many had fallen to sleep. Other's had slipped off into the woods to find strength and guidance from the great spirit. Most remained awake, speaking softly to one another, careful not to make too much noise. But these white men were ignorant. There would be none coming to find them this night.
"You look troubled."
He looked up to Samoset.
"I am not troubled," he responded. "I am preparing."
He looked down to the knife and twirled it, inching it a bit further into his skin.
"Megedagik is right," he added and looked to his right. He found the proud warrior by a dim fire, staring into the flames silently. His brothers sat on either side of him, all sharing a different mother, and his cousin before him. The three spoke softly to one another. One made a wrenching motion with his blade, bringing a smile to the other's lips. All but Megedagik smiled. He envied their excitement. They had not been tasked to go into the town and offer gifts of peace. They would know no life that they would be ending tomorrow.
They were ready for battle already. Megedagik sat bare chested before the flames, his bear pelt draped across his shoulders. Their shaved heads and roached hair, painted faces and ornate bodies marked them for they were. A wave of awe washed over him as he looked to Megedagik. He who kills many.A name given to him by Powhatan himself. He was everything Ahanu hoped to be one day.
He looked back to Samoset. He raised his bleeding thumb.
"Do white men bleed red?" he asked.
"Of course they do," Samoset responded. He looked down to his blade. This was a chance to prove himself. He looked back into the flames. His closed eyes once more. A deep breath was sucked into his lungs. His grip tightened around the handle of the blade. His bones tingled and his blood grew hot. He was ready.