Authors: Aaron Galvin
Vengeance Trilogy: Book Two
Copyright 2015 by Aaron Galvin
Published by Aames & Abernathy Publishing, Chino Hills, CA USA
Edited by Annetta Ribken. You can find her at
Copy Edits by Jennifer Wingard.
Cover Design by Greg Sidelnik.
Ebook formatting by Valerie Bellamy.
Cover photo by villorejo/Shutterstock
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either figments of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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for my daughters
- October, 1727 -
My freedom hails with the wild.
Today, it finds me riding a birch-bark canoe down the river my people name Wah-Bah-Shik-Ka, the water over white stones.
I ignore the taunt from the neighboring canoe.
Like the braves in our tribe, the boy who calls my attention bears the tattoos of our people upon his chest, arms, and face—all of them marking him for a Miamiak tribesman.
But Ciquenackqua is no brave yet.
“I see no girl among us,” I say to him. “Only hunters. And one boy.”
My response draws laughter from our menfolk. The boy’s face reddens.
“My father and I would race you and Deep River to the beaver dam,” he says.
I look ahead, gathering the distance and watching the head of our canoe dip and rise with the current.
“What say you, girl?” Ciquenackqua asks me. “We brought many pelts for the trade, but I would gladly take half of yours as winnings.”
I glance to the seat behind me where sits my friend, Deep River. He signals he will follow my lead.
“And if you lose, Ciquenackqua?” I ask the boy. “What then?”
“The son of Whistling Hare does not lose,” he says.
Our shaman, Creek Jumper, announces the race to cheers from the menfolk. I clutch my oar tight when he signals our start with a war cry.
The front position grants me the best view of our race and, for a time, the tips of our canoe and Ciquenackqua’s pace one another.
I glance over and observe Ciquenackqua’s confidence. He crows when they pull ahead.
At my whistle, Deep River and I dip our oars low into the water, near to the hilt, coaxing more speed with powerful strokes.
Our canoe pulls ahead.
Ciquenackqua paddles quick and shallow.
“Deeper, son!” His father roars. “The river rewards skill, not panic.”
I tune out their voices, losing myself to the twin sounds of my oar paddling in unison with my partner’s as we pull away.
Deep River and I pass the dam first. Along with more cheers from the men, a smack echoes behind us. I think it a beaver, slapping its tail, at first, but it is only Ciquenackqua striking his oar upon the water.
I think to laugh at him, yet keep my silence in humble victory.
Ciquenackqua says little the remainder of the morning, though our party offers me congratulations.
My excitement blooms near noon when we drift around the familiar river bend. Smoke rises from the chimneys of several cabins. A few wagons sit next to a barn. Horses whinny, and cows and sheep graze together. Two men work beside a stack of timber, the pair of them sawing back and forth through a felled tree.
A pack of dogs bark and alert both men to our presence.
I recognize my brother’s build even before he turns.
Our sister, Sarah, often says her god made George in the same mold as our father. Broad-shouldered and taller than any brave, he bears the look of a woodland man, his face bearded and full, body hardened by the days spent lumbering in the wilderness and attending the many tasks his trade post demands.
George drops his end of the saw and whistles. His wife, Hannah, emerges from the largest cabin, wiping her hands on her apron, and hurries to join him.
The sight of both coming down the hill to greet us makes me eager to reach the shore first.
George wades into the water, lifts his hand in acknowledgment.
The moment we close on him, I leap from our canoe and into his arms, my weight knocking him backward. Enveloped by the frigid water, my body questions the sanity of such an act. It vanishes when I rise for air and hear my brother’s laughter. He drenches me anew by placing his worn, floppy hat upon my head.
“You’ve grown, little sister,” George says.
“And you,” I say. “But not wiser, I see.”
He dunks me again.
I rise from the water sputtering. My attempt at dunking him again fails when he throws me over his shoulder. I rise to his laughter.
“Care to try again?” George asks.
“No,” I say. “Peace between us…for now.”
We wade back to shore, but my brother keeps his distance, too smart to fall for my ruse.
“Rebecca!” Hannah embraces me, heedless of my wet buckskin breeches and top. “We hoped Priest would bring you when next he came.”
George barks a laugh. “Had he ordered her to stay, no doubt she would have discovered a means of arriving first.”
“My brother knows me well,” I say. “Perhaps as well as Father.”
George’s face sours a bit at my naming Priest as Father. Yet, unlike our sister, he speaks naught of it. Instead, he watches the many braves beaching their canoes alongside mine, squinting at each canoe beached.
“Where is Priest?” he asks.
“Home,” I say. “Gathering more skins for you to trade.”
George frowns. “Keeping peace with our sister you mean.”
“Come now, husband.” Hannah places her arm through the crook of his. “What good is a husband if he does not keep his wife happy?”
“Aye,” says George. “But I should like to have spoken with him.”
My brother’s jaw clenches at my question.
“I hear rumor of rogue war parties ranging further west.” He sighs. “Some say the Iroquois will be upon our doorstep before long.”
“Must you always be so dour, good husband?” says Hannah. “Your guests and sister have only just arrived. Let you attend them now. And pleasantly.”
My brother’s smile draws one from me also. He goes from man to man, calling each by name, shaking their hands, jesting with them.
In my soul, I wish that Sarah had come. I know it would do her well to witness our brother prosperous and happy. His post be a three-day journey by river though, and Sarah has oft claimed her body cannot bear the land route home.
I turn my attention up the hill where Andrew Martin watches us. He does not come down, even when I raise my hand to him.
He walks into the barn, never acknowledging me.
I find the ill will he yet bears me unsettling, and wonder if I might alter his negative view or if I should bother in the attempt.
“He will be at this all day now.” Hannah chuckles and points to my brother.
“Aye,” I say. “He has a mind for the trade.”
“Indeed,” she says to me. “Will you help me with the cooking, sister?”
“Aye. But first I would meet with the old bear.”
“He will be most happy to see you,” Hannah says. “Today has been among the better in a long while for him. No doubt your presence will cheer him further.”
She takes my arm in hers as we journey up the hill, leaving the men to talk and trade. One of the older dogs follows us, licking at my hand along the walk. We pass a smokehouse, a carpentry shed, and even a newly built trade cabin, full of goods—powder and shot, cloth, whiskey, and the like.
“You have prospered much since my last visit,” I say upon weaving around the side of one cabin.
“Aye,” says Hannah. “I swear God made it that your brother requires no sleep. He works at the post day and night, come rain or snow. Always he finds something to set his hand to.”
I look on the new constructions again and shake my head. “But he and Andrew could not have done this alone.”
“No,” she says. “The last winter’s snow forced not a few French traders to shelter among us. They repaid their debt by aiding us build and helping grow the post as partners. One yet remains with his wife, Mary. A shy creature, she is, but female company I have been most fortunate to have among all these men.”
I laugh. “No doubt my brother is happy as well then.”
“Aye,” Hannah says. “It saddens me Mary leaves soon. Her husband’s partners journeyed south in the spring to build another post. They recently sent word back all is prepared for Jacque and Mary to join them in time for winter. Would that word had not come until spring.”
Her tone beckons me think on Sarah, alone in our hut. My thoughts return to the good it would have done her spirit to visit, perhaps even winter with George and Hannah, and I remind myself to insist Sarah think on it upon my return.
We stop in front of a cabin I well remember, the first build of the post. Small traps that some might believe laid for rodents clutter outside its door and yard.
The sight reminds me of the many days I spent checking each trap in my youth. No small part of me yet wishes to discover a leprechaun and present the devious creature to the equally devious man who taught me of them.
“I shall leave you to him,” Hannah says, drawing her arm from mine. “My presence would only draw his ire.”
She frowns. “His mind wanders more each passing season. Most days he asks if I am a banshee, come to sing the final song and take him home. Others he runs me off, naming me a witch desiring to poison him with Devil’s powder.”
I laugh at imagining him in just such a way, and harder still when I question whether Bishop’s wits have truly left him, or if he does all for show. A trick pleasing to himself, no doubt, and one I know from which he takes great enjoyment.
Hannah pats my hand before taking her leave of me.
I step to the porch and knock on the door, hardly able to contain my excitement.
Receiving no answer, I knock again.
“Grandfather,” I call.
When no answer comes, I try the latch and discover it barred.
“Grandfather. It is I, your favored one, Rebecca.”
A third time I knock upon the door, harder.
Fear swells in my gut as I leave the door to peer through the open window.
My eyes settle on a lumpy figure, lain on the floor near the hearth, his body covered by a bearskin, his hand outstretched, unmoving.
I crawl through the window and tumble into the room. Hurrying to Bishop’s side, I pull back the bearskin hide from his face.
The years have turned his once dark and grey hair near all white, while discolored blotches mar his wrinkled skin. He wheezes as I roll him to his back, and his unscarred right eye flutters open.
“Are ye the banshee?” Bishop asks me, his voice weak and withered. “Come at last to sing me home?”
“Hmm. Thought not. Too pretty.” He groans as he sits up then hacks up phlegm and spits it into a chamber pot. “No. An old hag and ugly to boot, that’s the sort of banshee I’d have come for me. A wailin’ bitch to fright these bones awake. Make me fight for life.”
“I do not doubt you will fight to the end,” I say.
Bishop coughs in a grievous fit I like not at all, hacking more phlegm the color of earth. He looks around the room as one lost to his surroundings then glances at me. “How did I end up on the floor, then?”
I shake my head. “I only just arrived and found you here.”
“Ah. Me damned legs gave out on me again, I’ll warrant.” He struggles to stand, leaning heavy on a tipped chair. “That or one of the little people tripped me and stole me wits away. They prey on old folk, or so me father claimed once.”
I help him to a bench beside his table and attempt to guide him down.
He sits harder than I like, wincing upon his landing. “I’ll get me one o’ the wee bastards yet though, lass. Squeeze me three wishes out of him, I would.”
“What would you wish for?”
He perks at my question, his bushy eyebrows rising. “Me first would be that the little man exile me to the isle o’ Pago-Pago.”
“The island where only women live,” I say.
“Told you before, eh?”
“Aye,” I say. “Many times over, but I would hear it again gladly. What good would you do there?”
“Ah, nuthin’ good, lass,” he says. “And that be the reason for me second wish—to make me a young man again so I could chase them women ‘round me island and they could ne’er escape me.”
“You would not wish for your wife to live again?”
Bishop waves me off. “I’ve the rest of eternity to hear me poor Annie blather on. Why not enjoy meself a bit o’ peace and quiet yet?”
I chuckle at the familiar stories. “And the third wish?”
“Augh,” he says. “Ye know I can’t be tellin’ ye that, lass. An old man’s gotta save off some secrets to hisself, else there’d be nuthin’ to keep a pretty lass like ye comin’ round to visit. Come for the trade, did ye?”
“And how is that jabberin’ bastard in black ye follow around, eh?” Bishop asks. “Have ye learned him to keep his tongue yet?”
I grin. “I believe Sarah keeps it in a jar.”
Bishop’s laugh devolves into another coughing fit.
I near wish I had not made the jest, until he gains control of his breath again.
“Tried to warn him, I did,” Bishop says. “But it’s not many men what can turn from a pretty face. How is yer sister? Didn’t happen to bring her, did ye?”