The Dividing Tide – Episode 22

“What’s going on?” Thomas called out in as friendly a voice as he could muster.

“What’s it to you?” the soldier who had kicked the door demanded. He seemed to be in charge.

Thomas faced him, returning his gaze steadily. It wouldn’t do to let them see he was afraid.

“Those are my friends.”

“Your friends?” The soldier laughed.

Ahyoka stepped out, closing the door firmly behind her.

“My grandfather is sick. He cannot be moved.”

“Ma’am, that ain’t my problem,” the soldier drawled, looking her up and down. Then he seemed to grow thoughtful.

“Look, I’m not heartless. I’ve a sick father at home myself. But orders are orders. Best I can do is to give you till the end of the week to clear out. You should think yourself lucky at that, little lady.”

“Lucky?” Thomas moved to stand beside her, hating the way the soldiers were staring at Ahyoka.

“Lucky to be forced from their home? Lucky that they must leave everything they know, to go a thousand miles away?” His voice rose and he felt Ahyoka’s hand on his arm, restraining him.

The officer took a step towards him.

“Reckon you’d do well to keep a civil tongue in your head,” he told him, all signs of softness now gone. “If you know what’s good for you, that is. Eh, boys?”

“Yes, sarge,” they chorused.

“The end of the week,” he repeated. “If your friends here haven’t got themselves to Ross Landing by then, we’ll come back and make ’em go. And we won’t be as forgiving as we are now.”

He strode across to his horse, and dragged the reins from the rail.

“Ride out!” he called as he swung himself on to his horse’s back. “Ride out!”

Thomas and Ahyoka stood silent until the thud of the horses’ hooves on the frozen ground had faded into the distance.

“All right?” he asked gently.

“We knew they would come.” She turned, opened the door and beckoned him in.

“Grandfather very sick. Is his heart, I think.”

Indoors, Thomas waited a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dark. Across the room was a wooden pallet where Kanuna lay beneath a fur skin.

The old man’s eyes were closed, his cheeks sunken. Ahyoka was right. He was very sick indeed.

“Soldiers?” Kanuna murmured, his breathing low and laboured.

“Yes, sir,” Thomas said.

“They tell us leave?”

“They say you have until the end of the week to get to Ross Landing, or they’ll come and make you go. We must think what to do, sir.”

The old man shook his head slowly.

“Not problem for me. Soon I join the Great Spirit. But my Ahyoka, aiee, what will happen to her? Her foot will not carry her on such a journey.” He tried to sit up, but it was too much for him and he sank back down.

Ahyoka came forward and took his hand in hers.

“Rest now, Grandfather,” she said gently.

“Cherokee peaceful people,” he murmured, closing his eyes again. “Not our way to fight.”

When he had fallen asleep again, Ahyoka drew a stool towards the fire.

“Will you eat with us, Thomas?” she asked shyly. “Perhaps if you are here Grandfather will eat, too. He has taken nothing for three days.”

“I’d be glad to,” he replied, but he knew his presence would make little difference to the old man.

He’d seen many men die in the mountains, from accidents and disease alike, and he knew it would not be long before Kanuna passed from this world.

Ahyoka took some roots from a basket beside the door and began preparing them for the pot. Then she reached for some herbs she had gathered, and soon the room was filled with a fragrant aroma.

He sat beside the fire as she worked, racking his brains for an answer to the problem. As he did so, he felt his plans to go home begin to fade. He couldn’t abandon his friends now that Kanuna was so ill. He had to do something.

The problem was, what?

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.