Western Fiction posted January 27, 2021 Chapters:  ...26 27 -28- 29... 

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Jane and her Indian friend seek a way out from the cave

A chapter in the book The Spirit of the Wind

Let there Be Light

by forestport12

Jane, a once widowed homesteader fights to keep her land, despite the doubts of men and an Indian uprising. As time goes on, she finds herself held captive by Indians in the mountains far from home.

Little Deer's knife sliced into his arm. His torch fell in front of me. Before she could thrust the knife again, the shadowy man had her arm, lifting her from our hole as if his hands were a claw trap. She kicked and screamed, it having no effect on the ruthless Indian.

I picked up the torch and tried to scorch his naked legs. He dropped her and stumbled backward. In the glowing light, I saw who it was. "Standing Bear!"

His look changed from anger to the kind of pain that comes from within. It was then I realized, he must have suspected our plan to escape and followed us.

I aimed the torch toward the black hole that was beside of us. I watched fiery flakes from the bark fall off into what seemed like a bottomless pit where the stray flames disappeared into the darkness. I could scarcely breathe.

Little Deer turned toward me, almost falling. I placed my free hand in front of her. Standing Bear seized her and held her in his arms, ignoring his flesh wound.

Hope of a hole to escape fell away like a stone to a well. I reckoned we were to be taken back and face a savage trial with the Brule tribe. Then I wasn't sure what he would do, as he held Little Deer by her arms, knowing he could throw her into the black hole beside me on the ledge. We could disappear without a track or trace. Little Deer held her knife, but he had her arms in a death grip.

I expected his brown eyes to turn a fiery read. Instead there was the glint of tears in his eyes. He looked at her with pleading eyes. "You leave me. You no love Standing Bear."

I thought to myself. He had to ask why? She'd been captured, her family slaughtered. She'd been led away, raped, until adopted. She was only fourteen, a tender delicate flower of the prairie in Minnesota. But at the same time, as I held the torch up like Joan of Arc in a cave, I detected Standing Bear may not have the heart to kill us, after all. Despite his savagery, he loved her. And it might just save us.

In my own shadow, and in that moment, I realized his humanity among a village of warrior savages had been my only protection. Little Deer looked at him, as if to scold him while the knife glistened in the half-dark. "My love for the Great Spirit is greater. I told you this. You could not have my whole heart, until the Great Spirit changes yours. I never really belonged to you."

I thought then that it was over for us. I questioned her timing with our life on a razors edge. But her faith was deeper than the hole before us. I froze with the torch, waiting for his brown eyes to spark anger. Instead, he released Little Deer from his grip and his shoulders sagged.

"You hate me and shame me?"

Little Deer looked at me then back at Standing Bear. "I do not hate you. And I do not wish to bring shame to your people. But you cannot just treat me like the spoil of war."

The tension fear tightened my backside and made my legs tremble. I feared falling off the edge.

Standing Bear held her shoulders. Her hand was free. She could have thrust it into his heart. I reckoned he wanted to see if she would. It was a savage test of love.

Little Deer wisely put the knife in her sheath but said nothing.
"I no go back to my people," Said Standing Bear. "I kill Stomping Bull by cave, son of Brule chief. Me no go back way I came."

The knot in my heart loosened. But we didn't have anymore time for chit chat. The one good torch would not last more than several minutes.

I watched Little Deer breathe in the air around her, as if she could use her nose to follow the scent of a fresh air pocket. We followed her while Standing Bear took the torch from me and used it to cast the light where we sometimes crouched or crawled along a side wall and ledge.

Gravel and dirt spilled over the shrinking ledge. I thought for sure it would be a dead end and soon we'd be lost in the pitch-black dark. We crouched and slipped along the side wall until it opened into what a natural chamber. Standing Bear flooded the space with light.

Little Deer followed her nose and held out her hands searching for a change in the air. She spotted a patch of moss in a wedge of rock wall. She took her knife and poked it until a pinprick of light met our starving eyes.

Standing Bear helped Little Deer pry away the moss until the size of a gopher hole. Natural light spread across our faces. Warm air claimed space with the cold, damp cave. I shook off the rattling cold in my bones. "Sweet Jesus," I said. "It be good as a light from heaven."

The pair were having trouble making the hole much bigger. I held the fading torch, as Standing Bear grappled with the dirt and stone. He flexed his muscles and with all of his strength and managed to loosen one of the large stones. The rest of rocks around him threatened to bury us back inside.

Little Deer slipped herself through the hole first where she popped her head up and took a look around, deeming it safe. "I see the mountain stream that leads into the canyon."

Standing Bear used his hands for a stirrup and boosted me into the opening. I didn't mind that he shoved me from my backside, so long as I was moving into the free world.

Little Deer was right. You could taste the fresh air. As a half breed, she had tracking senses beyond any Indian scout I'd known. I wasn't sure how her marriage with Standing Bear would play out, but I knew we all had to help each other in order to survive.

As Little Deer sat on a stone and surveyed the craggy and mossy green rifts around her, I put my hand out to help pull her husband through the hole that seemed too small for his frame. I feared him getting buried back inside.

Standing Bear looked at me with anxious eyes. "I no want to be left in here with spirit of Stomping Buffalo."

Little Deer rolled her eyes. "You see, these men of the village, they would sooner fight a grizzly with bare hands than be in a cave with dark spirits."

I nodded, pulling Standing Bear through the hole, as rocks fell around him from inside. I slipped from his hands and fell backwards rolling down a grassy patch toward the mountain creek. I found my feet quick enough and laughed to see Standing Bear covered in a plume of smokey dirt.

I looked a Little Deer who searched her satchel. "I reckon I've seen my first ghost." Standing Bear wasn't laughing.

Little Deer pulled out some Buffalo jerk and offered me a piece and then one to her husband who sat down beside her. He snapped a piece into his mouth, chewed hard. It seemed his mind churned away for what to say to the wife who took flight.

It was a heavy silence between them. She looked at me. "We need to go west until it is safe to turn south."

I knew it meant we would circle the mountain, taking several more days before we dared plot a course for home.

Standing Bear was quiet. He could have left us in the lurch. He kept up a poker face.

Little Deer put her finger to her mouth. The hair on the back of my neck stiffened. We all got down behind the mossy rocks and watched, tribal braves combing up stream for us. We cut the moss and used it to cover us to blend in with the craggy landscape.

We listened and heard the horses neigh and the splash of water across the mountains stream toward us.

Cast of characters:
Jane McCord: a captive homesteader from Nebraska taken by the Indians
Little Deer: a former captive who married into the tribe
Standing Bear: Little Deer's wife who searches for them
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