Authors: Rachel Hanna
By: Rachel Hanna
CONNECT WITH RACHEL ON FACEBOOK!
Other books by Rachel Hanna:
Get updates on NEW RELEASES and promotions by signing up for Rachel Hanna's “Loyal Reader Update List”!
An Indian Prayer
I give you this one thought to keep,
I'm with you still. I do no sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush,
Of quiet birds in circled flight
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone
I am with you still, in each new dawn.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand there at my grave an cry
I am not there, I did not die.
A woman's highest calling
is to lead a man
to his soul so as to
unite him with Source.
A man's highest calling
is to protect woman
so she is free to walk
the earth unharmed.
December, 1837 - Georgia
“Will you stop making so much damn noise? It’s like you want us to be caught.”
Hell, maybe I do…
Private Jonathan Wilson kept his profile low to the ground as he moved forwards with the small group of men. He was a soldier and proud to serve his country but an uneasiness had settled over him ever since he’d been informed about their current mission. Sergeant James Jefferies had told him to prepare for a small reconnaissance trip regarding the Cherokee that lived about two days’ ride from their army camp. For the past year the United States government had been overseeing the removal of various native Indian tribes to new lands. It was ostensibly voluntary removal at present but a treaty had been drawn up that would initiate forced removal in five months.
Jonathan had not signed up for this. He was against the removals and now he was expected to spy on a village of Cherokee to verify whether they were complying and making preparations to leave. There was still almost half a year to go, why the hell did they need to be doing this now? Was this a suitable use of army resources? He sure as hell didn’t think so.
At a silent gesture from the sergeant, the men came to an abrupt halt. There were ten of them in total, varying in age and experience, though all fell under the rank of Private apart from Sergeant Jefferies. Daniel Haville was the youngest at eighteen, with no battle experience, whereas Jonas Merks was nearing thirty-four and had been in the army for fifteen years, with the scars to prove it. Jonathan was twenty-five and had seen his fair share of violence, a fact that he didn’t like to dwell on. Each time he’d fought, he had believed himself to be morally correct but that didn’t mean he enjoyed it. Not like the sergeant, who seemed to take a perverse pleasure in killing. Perhaps that was why he’d progressed to the rank of Sergeant after a year of service and rumor was he was soon going to be promoted again. He was ruthless and could be relied on to get the job done, though Jonathan didn’t always agree with his methods.
“Right, boys. We’re getting close.” The Sergeant’s voice was barely above a whisper as he turned to face the group. “Now these Indians are bloody sly, so keep your eyes and ears open. Half a mile to go.”
Jefferies indicated for them to follow him as he advanced forwards stealthily on foot. The horses had been left tied up a few miles away for fear that they would make too much noise and be easy to spot. As the men crept forward Jonathan caught sight of a flame in the distance. It was too far away to make out distinctly but the orange glow stark against the pitch black was unmistakable. Entering a forested area the soldiers tried to tread as carefully as possible, using the trees for cover. A loud thud sounded suddenly behind them, causing the soldiers to halt and turn around quickly, scanning the darkness for any sign of what might have made the noise. They remained silent and unmoving for about a minute but when nothing happened the sergeant indicated his eyes and ears in a warning to remain alert and they resumed their stealthy approach.
The warning might as well not have been issued, as three Cherokee stepped out suddenly from behind the trees in front of them. Holding tomahawks, they faced the soldiers, each one powerfully built. The middle man stepped forward and addressed the soldiers in Cherokee but nobody responded as none of them could understand the language. In hindsight, Jonathan thought it would have been a good idea to bring along someone who could speak Cherokee, but then the whole point of a reconnaissance mission was to remain undetected. Still, it would have come in damn handy for such a situation as this.
Receiving no answer, the Cherokee who has addressed them tried again, this time in broken English. Jonathan had to admit he was surprised that the warrior could speak English but it wasn’t unheard of for traders and missionaries to teach English to some of the Indians they interacted with.
“This Cherokee land. Why you here?”
The sergeant smiled condescendingly before replying. “Maybe for now, but not much longer. We’re here on behalf of the United States government to ensure you’re complying with the Indian Removal Act.” The last part of the sentence was uttered with a sneer and it was evident to all present that Sergeant Jefferies did not hold the native Indians in high regard.
“United States government has no power over Cherokee.” The warrior surveyed the sergeant and the rest of the soldiers with distaste. “Leave now.”
“You’re a cocky one, aren’t you?” The sergeant smiled coldly and withdrew his pistol from the holster at his hip, aiming it at the speaker. “How about I show you just how much power we have over you.”
The warriors on either side of the Cherokee speaker tensed, readying themselves for an attack. However they were not the soldiers’ primary concern. High above on the branches of the trees around them, a group of Cherokee revealed themselves, bows drawn as they aimed at the soldiers below them.
The Cherokee warrior who seemed to be in charge addressed the soldiers again. “Leave now.”
Several tense seconds passed and Jonathan thought the sergeant appeared to be seriously considering shooting the warrior. Unwilling to risk the men and himself for the sergeant’s bloodlust, he spoke out sternly. “Sir, we’re outnumbered.”
“I’ve had worse odds.” The sergeant surveyed the Indians in disdain.
“Sir, this is a reconnaissance mission only.”
The sergeant continued to stare long and hard at the Cherokee speaker before finally lowering his pistol and placing it back in its holster. With a snide smile he addressed his men without turning around. “Well, boys, looks like we’re going back early. Head back to the horses.”
The soldiers turned around and retreated back the way they had come, keeping an eye on the Cherokee in the trees as they did so. After a few seconds had passed, the sergeant turned his back on the Cherokee in charge and followed his men. They made their way to the horses which were grazing contentedly in the cool night air. Mounting his horse, the sergeant pulled out a map from his pocket and perused it for a minute before storing it again. Then he turned his horse and led the way back towards their camp. After a few minutes had passed however, Jonathan realized they were taking a different route to the one they had followed in getting to the Cherokee village.
“Sir, are we going the right way?” Jonathan looked around at the unfamiliar landscape they passed.
“Don’t worry, Private, this is another route. We’re going the right way.” The sergeant’s face was impassive as they made their way along the banks of a small stream for about a mile before crossing over the water and heading up a gently sloping hill. Jonathan could swear they were headed in the wrong direction but kept his thoughts to himself. After all, the sergeant had the map and perhaps he was leading them on a short cut that would get them back to the army camp faster.
The soldiers continued onwards at an easy canter, the sounds of the horses’ hooves mingling with the sounds of the night. After half an hour of maintaining this pace the sergeant slowed his horse as a ridge came into sight. Following his lead, the rest of the soldiers slowed their horses too, falling into step behind the sergeant as he directed his horse to the edge of a collection of trees that led to the base of the ridge. Moving his horse at a walk through the trees, glancing up occasionally as he did so, Sergeant Jefferies led the way to the ridge base. Convinced they must be lost, Jonathan urged his horse forward until he was almost level with the sergeant.
“Sir, I think we took a wrong turn somewhere.”
Jefferies ignored him as his horse began to ascend the ridge, careful to avoid the rocks as much as possible. Only when his horse had crested the ridge did the sergeant deign to reply. “No, we’re exactly where we need to be.”
Coming up behind the sergeant a few seconds later, Jonathan paused, a sense of uneasiness settling over him. As the other soldiers joined them, they looked down to behold the Cherokee village nestled at the base of a valley.
“I thought we were going back, sir.” Merks observed the village from their vantage point as he lent forward in the saddle to stroke his horse’s neck gently. Though he had been offered promotions in the past, Merks had declined, content to remain in the rank of Private. Jonathan had asked him once why he had refused promotions and his answer had simply been “I know my place in this world, Jon.” Personally Jonathan was inclined to believe that Merks chose to stay as a private in order to look out for the fellow men around him; the ones who got shot at, who were the first into the charge and the most likely to end up dying in the mud so that some inexperienced, egotistical idiot could gain a petty victory that would be forgotten in a year. He’d never cared for the politics of war. Besides, he had nothing to go back to, having lost his wife and child due to complications after childbirth.
Jonathan detected the look which Merks directed at the sergeant while Jefferies focused on the village below. It was a look of suspicious resignation. Merks knew what Jefferies had in mind and he didn’t like it, but he wasn’t going to directly disobey an order if the sergeant issued one. Jonathan had been around Jefferies long enough to recognize the look as well.
“We came here to do a job, boys.” The sergeant turned his horse around to face the men behind him. “We have a mission and it is not complete yet. We go back when the mission is done.”
Jonathan attempted to reason with the sergeant. “Sir, with all due respect, our cover is blown. Those warriors aren’t going to be happy if they find us still on their land. Anyway, I think it’s safe to assume they aren’t getting ready to leave yet. They still have five months, after all.”
“Now you listen to me, Private. This isn’t their land anymore. They’re as good as gone, or will be once I’m done. We’re going down there to assess the situation; find out how many warriors they have, what their weapon store is like, defense positions, escape routes. They have officially become a threat and we need to know what we’re dealing with.”
Dismissing Jonathan with a glare, Jefferies turned his attention to Merks as the most experienced out of the soldiers. “This is how we’re going to do it. You take half the men, I’ll take the other half. We make our way down this route,” he took out the map and indicated a part of it, “and then we split up. You take left, I’ll go right. Work your way around the village, observing where you can, and we’ll regroup here in two hours. Clear?”