Joel’s Trouble; Jason’s Worry

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Joel sat at the bar drinking his sarsaparilla and watching the men at the poker table. Toby, the undertaker, sat next to him.

“Ain’t seen you around much lately.” Toby sipped his beer.

“Nope. Been busy visiting a young lady.”

“Yep. I heered ‘bout that. It’s that copper-headed girl that thinks she’s Injun, right?” He elbowed Joel in the rib.

“Don’t know anything about that, but if you’re referring to the young woman that lives up in the holler near the Bluestone River, that’d be her.”

“Whatcha want with a white girl that ain’t right in the head?”

Joel came off his stool and pulled Toby off of his. “I’ll hear no more of that talk from you or anyone else.” He looked around the room and was met with laughter.

“You’re crazy.” Toby paid his tab and left.

Joel walked to the poker area and stood between the tables. “I’ll brook no slander against the lady. Anybody here got a problem with that?”

Most of the men ignored him, everyone but Kyle Gordon. Kyle stood at six feet, three inches tall, wore bib overalls, a plaid shirt, two weeks of beard growth, and a dusty slouch hat. If he had stood up Joel would have had to strain his neck to look up at the man.

Kyle looked at Joel, nodded toward him, then looked at his cards. He had three aces and two kings, a full house. He studied his opponents briefly. Two of the others had folded. Only T.J. and David were still in the game besides him. T.J. was good at bluffing; David wasn’t. David had raised T.J.’s bet by ten dollars. Kyle called the bet and finished out the hand before he acknowledged Joel.

“Way I hear it,” Kyle began, took a drink of whatever he had on the table, and resumed, “she’s just a decoy. Way I hear it, the senator’s girl is the one you’re really after. So why are you so fired up about that Jackson girl?”

Joel’s eyes narrowed. “Who have you been talking to?”

“Don’t matter who I been talkin’ to. Fact is you’re lyin’ to one of ‘em.” Kyle turned back to the table. David was dealing.

Joel pointed his finger at Kyle’s face. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t I?” Kyle took another swallow of his drink. “You come home a few nights ago strapped to your horse’s back. Saw someone carry you into the roomin’ house, then put your horse in the barn out back.”

Joel backed up two steps, thought better of it, and stepped right next to Kyle’s chair. His face had turned crimson, then paled to ash gray. “What else have you heard?” His voice was barely a whisper.

Kyle turned directly toward Joel. “I hear lots of things. Then I ponder on ‘em and decide if they’re any of my business. So far I ain’t heard nothin’ that affects me, but if I do, you’ll be the first to know.”

Joel could feel the blood pounding in his head, his heart hammering in his chest. Obviously he had not been as careful and discreet as he had thought. How close were things to unraveling? How could he protect himself from whatever was coming?

#

Jason rode his paint gelding first to the Jackson place, thinking Fawn may have gone back to her barn, a place of familiarity. He dismounted, dropped the reins so Nomad could graze, and opened the barn door. It was dark inside. There was no smell of manure or fresh hay so she obviously had not been there in a while. Midnight Sun came from behind the barn where he had been grazing. He nickered as he approached Nomad and rubbed noses with him.

Jason came out of the barn and rubbed Sun’s neck. He was dirty and had leaves and twigs stuck in his mane. So, if Sun was home, where was Fawn? And why was the halter still hanging from Sun’s neck? It wasn’t like Fawn to leave her horse unattended. His pulse quickened. His heart disquieted.

He walked to the creek to see if there were any fresh hoof prints or footprints. There were none. He scratched his head, perplexed. Where could she be?

The house was nearly finished. All that was needed was the inside walls, doors, windows, and furnishings. Jason smiled as he considered how all of the neighbors were working hard on making new furniture. A couple of the men were even buying paint to make the place homey and appealing once it was done. He and his father were making the kitchen table and chairs.

He reeled his thoughts back to finding Fawn. Where could she be? He prayed. “Lord, You know where she is. Please help me find her,and please let her be okay. Most of all, please show her that You are the answer she’s been looking for all of her life. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

He mucked out Sun’s stall, removed the horse’s halter and hung it on its peg. Then he went back outside and swung his leg up and over the saddle and turned his horse toward the river. “Lord, I’m depending on you to guide me.”

The First Skirmish For Fawn’s Soul

Fawn awakened to the sound of thunder. She arose and stretched out the kinks in her legs and back. Sleeping on the ground with nothing but pine needles and leaves from the previous autumn did not create a comfortable bed. She brushed the dirt and debris from her clothing and combed her fingers through her hair, trying to get out the tangles and leaves. Midnight Sun grazed nearby.

A flash of lightning near the opposite bank told her the rain was not far off. She dashed to the water to see her reflection. The paint from the day before was still evident. Good.

Midnight Sun began to prance as the thunder clapped overhead. Fawn grabbed his lead to keep him from running off. “It’s alright, Sun,” she spoke gently as she stroked his head. “We will go home now. This is not a good place to be.”

The sky dumped its buckets as large drops of rain pummeled Fawn and her horse. She led him to a thicket where some maple and tulip trees made a canopy overhead. “Thank you, earth spirit for providing shelter.” She shivered in her wet clothing while worshiping her ancestors and their gods. She knew they would take care of her.

Lightning struck a tree a few yards away. Midnight Sun spooked, jerked his lead free from her hand, and bolted. He galloped off, leaving Fawn alone under the tree.

She ran after him. “Sun, Sun. Come back.” She couldn’t keep up. She dropped to her knees and wept. Great Spirit, where are you? Earth spirit, why have you left me? Despair gripped her soul, the demon squeezing tight. He whispered in her ear. “Your gods have left you. You’re all alone. We have you.”

She shook her head. Was she losing her mind? Where did that evil voice come from? Why is this happening to me? Why are my ancestors abandoning me? Have I not done what they wanted? Did I not fast, and pray, and worship them? There is no kiva anywhere near here. Our tribe is scattered. What else could I do? What else could I do? She wailed.

The rain slackened and slowed to a drizzle. A gentle breeze sloughed through the trees. Fawn did not see nor hear the battle between Despair, Slither, and God’s warriors Toth and Kenya.

Cryer and Morror sat each one on a shoulder, hissing in her ears. Cryer was the smallest demon. He could almost squeeze one tiny wing into Fawn’s left ear. “You’re all alone. No one knows where you are.”

Morror moaned in Fawn’s right ear. “Your ancestors have left you. You don’t fit into their world. You could just…”

A gleaming gold sword slashed at him. He tumbled to the ground in fright but was not harmed. He was brushing himself off when a giant silver being stood over him with its sword drawn and pointed right at Morror’s throat. “What is your name?” the being demanded.

Morror rose to his full height of two feet and found when he stretched forth his wing, ever so slowly, he still could not quite reach the giant’s knee. His voice quavered though he tried to sound tough. “Morror. What’s yours?” He tried to laugh but it came out as a squeak.

“I am Kenya.” He continued to point the sword scant inches from the demon’s throat.

Morror laughed. “You are called after the great warrior who led the children of Israel into the battle of Jericho. I thought you had been beaten there.”

Kenya moved his sword a fraction of inch closer to its opponent. “You were obviously misinformed. You have two choices here. You can leave this young woman alone, or you can be killed and cast into outer darkness. Which shall it be?”

Morror squeaked, “You may be a giant but you cannot kill me.”

Kenya’s sword touched the demon’s throat. “I’ll happy to demonstrate my skills, little morose one.”

“Don’t call me that.” Morror shrieked. Cryer landed beside him at the same instant.

“No,” Cryer wailed. He looked at Morror. “Let’s go. We’ll report back to Ashtaroth. He will send the troops to take care of this one and the other. It isn’t our job.”

Morror leaned over to help Cryer to a standing position. Toth arrived at that moment.

“What took you so long?” Kenya asked him.

“I was watching to see if our enemy had any other minions enroute to the girl. She must be pretty special to the Master if Ashtaroth is sending these two. They’re supposed to wear her down so the next antagonizers can destroy her. That’s why our Master sent us.”

Cryer and Morror were whispering. The sky turned an eerie blackish green with darker splotches swirling in it. Toth and Kenya turned their attention to the imps before them. Toth used his sword to bat Cryer through the air while Kenya slashed Morror’s leg, disabling him. Morror limped away, wailing as he went, seeking to hide in a tree.

The two angels then stood ready to fight as they sent out a signal for reinforcements.