I haven’t been able to write in my journal for the past few days. I know I’ve said before that this fur trapping job doesn’t allow me to get a lot of journaling in, but this is different. I almost died this time. After I finish up here I’m going to tell Captain Erikssen that I’m leaving. I’m fed up with this job. I lived through the black plague and that was better than this. Let me explain.
About two and a half weeks ago, the team left the main Fort to head off for what was planned to be five days of trapping and getting furs. That’s it. We were supposed to be back in five days. The team was Corporal Diggs, Fitz, Murphy, Lagrange, O’Shea and myself. Just six of us. We set out on the 8th of October to travel through the valley to this river, which I think was called Grand or Grand River. Lots of great beaver and elk out there, but the problem with the amount of animalsis that there’s also a lot of natives in that area (everyone on the team called them Indians, but I’ve been to India many times now and I know for a fact that these are not Indians, but I don’t have a word for them so I’m calling them natives). It wasn’t a smart move, looking back. But then again, taking this job was not a smart move either.
Diggs is a young guy. Mid-to-late twenties is my guess. He was in the army, technically he still is. He’s about the same height as me. He’s the only one of us without some sort of beard. He’s got blonde hair which he keeps long. He looks like he came from a rich family. Fitz is shorter than I am and has a gut on him. He’s strong so he’s useful to have on hunts. He doesn’t talk a lot but he seems to know a lot about the animals we hunt. I think he’s older than most of us (excluding me, of course), my guess would be about forty-six. Murphy is the loudest and dumbest hunter I’ve ever had to work with. In all the years I’ve hunted, which is a lot, he is one of the worst. Everything he does is loud. Breathing, eating, talking, thinking. Despite this, he’s somewhat nice. I mean that he’s got a sense of duty about him. If something has to be done, he’ll do it. He’s best kept around the camp to cook or to build things or to get wood. Having him out on a hunt is the worst thing you can do; he scares the animals before you can kill them. Lagrange is from Montreal in Quebec. He and I joined under Captain Erikssen’s company back in 1818, just over a year ago. I like Lagrange, he’s got a family back in Montreal, and he is the nicest of the group to me. O’Shea is an Irish immigrant who escaped jail in Ireland. He likes to drink and fight, but when he’s sober he’s a very accurate shooter. Him and I have scuffled in the past. I’ve been alive long enough to know to avoid people like that, but I’ve also learned how to knock people on their asses quickly. O’Shea doesn’t pick fights with me anymore. The whole team, with the exception of Lagrange, don’t like natives. They believe they’re all savages. I’m indifferent. I don’t actively hate them, nor do I even dislike them. I just don’t know them so I can’t exactly make a judgment on how they are. I’ve met very helpful ones in the past. It probably helps that they think I look native so they treat me a lot nicer than they would any of these guys.
It was a day’s journey to the hunting ground, and once we were at the location we planned to get to, we were to spend five days trapping. Really it was a seven day journey - they don’t tell you that when you start. They say it’s a five day trip and you think the time starts the minute you leave the camp but it’s actually when you get to your hunting location. So we get to the hunting location after our trek through the mountains and we set up camp. Most of the team doesn’t like me already because I’ve got slightly darker skin and different facial features than them. They all think I’m native (I’m obviously not - I’ve been alive longer than the natives have been here) and this being the wild west of America, the hate is very apparent - they all call me “Hit” because Hayat is too “Indian” for them. I’m put on tree chopping duty when we get there so we can get wood to build fire, and anything that needs wood. This is normally a two man job but I do it alone. Diggs and Fitz were scouting the area for when we go to hunt, Murphy was filling up the flasks with water from the river, Lagrange was out with O’Shea hunting for food. I walked back to the camp with a few bundles of smaller trees I’d cut down and called to Murphy for help building some bases to sleep on. He finished up with the water and came to help me.
“I heard this was Indian land. Lakota or something,” Murphy said as he started helping me with the wood.
“Those your people?”
I sighed, “No, I’m not native.”
“You sure as hell look like one.”
“They just look like me.”
“I’m,” I paused to think, “Ottoman.”
“I knew you were an Indian. Where’s the Ottoman tribe then? You come from near Boston?”
“Ottomans are from Europe. You’ve never heard of the Ottoman Empire?”
“They got Indians in Europe too?”
“No I’m not Indian. I’m Ottoman. Do you know much history?”
“Not really, I know a bit about America, but not much else.”
“You’re from America?”
“Born in Pennsylvania, you?”
“I was born in the mountains in Anatolia”
“Aren’t those near Boston?” Murphy asked.
“No that’s the Appalachians.”
“Isn’t that what you said?”
“No, I said Anatolia.”
“Europe. The Ottoman Empire.”
“So you’re not Indian?”
“No,” I stood up to grab the next bundle of wood.
“Still look Indian to me,” Murphy said getting back to building shelters. We didn’t talk much until Diggs and Fitz came back.
They said there looked to be some tracks by the Lakotas in the area. They found a marking on the tree that Fitz swore was from them. Diggs agreed and said we’d have to be careful when we were out hunting. Later on, we set beaver traps. That was the main prize, the beavers, but if we got any elk, moose, or deer those were okay too. They were meatier so we’d be eating better than if we caught beavers, but beavers were still the main goal. We ate the deer that Lagrange and O’Shea caught.
The next four days were pretty uneventful besides the note that we caught a lot of animals. We stacked our pelts thirty per bale, and by the end of the fourth day we already had four full bales and we were just starting to fill up our fifth. We all ended up all back at the camp to cook some of the meat we’d taken off the beavers in the morning. Beaver meat is okay. I’ve been eating it a lot lately, and you get used to it. They’re small animals so there isn’t a whole lot on them. Anyway, Murphy was loudly eating by the fire, and I’d gotten up to grab my canteen of water, which I marked with with a circle with a dot in the middle of it. It’s a symbol I’ve used for a while now. Anyway, as I bent down by my bag, I heard a rustle in the woods about thirty yards away. I stood up to get a better look but couldn’t make out anything. I stopped moving and just tried to listen, but couldn’t hear much because the Murphy was telling a story about how he had to eat his horse once. Something felt wrong; different. Lagrange saw me fixated on the distance and turned to look in the direction I was looking. He started moving his hand telling the group to keep quiet. Most of them noticed. Murphy kept talking. The tall trees were waving in the wind, but one tree’s branches moved. Birds? I’ve seen porcupines climb trees before. Maybe it was one of them?
Murphy finally caught on that nobody was listening. Everyone was crouching and looking into the forest. The became silent. There were no birds, no animals making noise. The wind in the trees was doing its best efforts to make no noise. I slowly crouched down to grab my rifle and pistol, which I’d loaded before eating. As I grabbed my pistol, an arrow whizzed by my head and planted itself in the tree right next to me.
“INDIANS!” Diggs yelled as he scrambled to grab his rifle. All the men hit the floor and scrambled to the weapons. I started tossing rifles to them because I was the closest. Arrows were flying through the air. I had my hand on a tree to brace myself as I was grabbing rifles and an arrow pierced my sleeve and pinned it to a tree. I slipped out of the coat and dashed back into some bushes.
“Save the bales!” Fitz yelled as he picked up a bale of pelts and started running towards the river. Two arrows quickly took our his legs and he was face down on the ground where another arrow caught him in the back. Then the scariest sound I’ve ever heard in my life arose out of the woods. The shrieks of the natives as they rushed into battle. High pitched and wild, they came running with axes, some jumped out of trees and knelt down with arrows, on fire now, and aimed at us. One shot at Lagrange as he struggled to make it to the river with Fitz, piercing his back and setting his shirt on fire. He struggled to roll around to put the fire out but it drove the arrow deeper into him, killing him. I peeked out from behind the bush and took aim at one of the natives that was rushing towards Diggs with his axe held high and shot him dead in the forehead. Diggs pulled out his pistol and took aim at one of the bowmen towards the back of the pack and got him in the arm with his bullet. Then another bowman shot at Diggs and caught him in his right eye. I had to drop my rifle, because it was empty after the one shot. I grabbed at one of my pistols in my belt but my hand was shaking so I dropped it. As I scrambled around to find it, an arrow found its way straight into my knee. I screamed in pain which the natives answered back with their own battle shrieks. I rolled around after finally picking the pistol up again and saw that back by the fire, O’Shea had his throat slit. Blood sprayed everywhere. The native who did it looked up and started running towards me. I whipped my arm around and shot him, and I guess I caught him in the chest because he dropped like a bag of bricks. I rolled back over and sat against the tree with my last pistol ready; waiting for more.
More didn’t come. The noise stopped. Then all of a sudden I heard Murphy crying for help. I looked around the tree to see him surrounded by four natives. They had their weapons aimed right at him. He was crying, begging to be spared. He swore up and down that he’d quit trapping in this area and leave immediately. None of them seemed to understand. I leaned to far over and the arrow in my knee sent a rush of pain through me and made a noise which alerted one of the natives to my little hiding place. One said something in a language I don’t think I’ll ever learn to the group and put his bow around his shoulder, picked up a spear and headed over to the tree. I turned and leaned back against the tree. I planned to shoot him but as I raised my pistol, I felt a second spear press against my back. I put both my arms up and slowly put my pistol on the ground and slid it towards the native in front of me. I saw the man in front of me nod and then felt the spear come off my back. The man in front kept his spear pointed at me but moved it upwards and said something in his language. He wanted me to stand up so I tried. The arrow in my knee hurt and my knee gave out. I yelled in pain as I felt blood run down my leg. The two natives seemed to be annoyed at this and they yelled at me in their language but I pointed to my knee and they saw the blood. They picked me up and dragged me over to where Murphy was. He was being tied to a tree near our fire. They sat me against the tree and began to tie me to it. They had a long rope around the tree which they secured around the wrists. Murphy was tied up the same way. I put my hands up asking them to wait. I pulled out a roll of cloth that I keep around for situations like this. I tied a tight knot around my leg above where the arrow pierced me. I broke the arrow off at one end and pulled it out of my knee. I had done this in the past but it seemed to hurt just a little more every time. Blood ran down my leg and soaked through my trousers. The wound would heal in a few days; part of the benefits of being immortal is your body heals itself a lot faster than normal. I caught the black plague but survived it. I was actually only sick for a few hours. I tied more cloth around my knee to stop the bleeding. The natives tied me to the tree.
Four of them gathered by the fire to, presumably, discuss what to do. It looked like they decided on their plan. Two of them began to round up our four bales and assemble our equipment in a pile on the other side of the fire. They split the fourth bale we had into three piles of ten, and added them to the other bales we had. They left the nearly empty bale. One of them began dragging the bodies of Diggs, Fitz, Lagrange and O’Shea to the river. He tied them up to logs and sent them downstream. Then the three of them picked up the bales, said something to the fourth man, and left. The fourth man was sitting by the fire facing us and sharpening his spear. Murphy was muttering to himself, and I wasn’t interested in talking to him. I figured I’d try to get to know our captor and guard. I waved my arms to get his attention. He saw me and jumped up spear ready for attack. He slowly made his way over to me. I put my hands on my chest and said, “Me Hayat.” He looked confused so I said it again. Then I pointed at Murphy and said “He Murphy”. Murphy looked up and saw the man with the spear and he whimpered and looked at me. I tried again as the man came closer. “Me Hayat. Me Hayat.” I said patting my chest with both hands. Then I extended my hands to him.
“Me Roan,” he said, relaxing. I smiled and leaned back against the tree.
I patted at my stomach and said “Hungry”. Roan stood still and looked at me. I did it again. Murphy was just sitting there so I nudged him, “Murphy help me ask him for food. I’m starving.” He helped me ask for food. Roan eventually understood us and looked through our packs until he found some fish. After cooking it, he gave us the food which we took no time to eat. Roan went back down to sit by the fire. Murphy leaned over to me.
“I’m going to try to escape.”
“I’ve got a knife in my boot. I’m going to wait until he goes to sleep, and then I’m cutting myself free and running back to the Fort.”
I looked over at Roan. He wasn’t looking towards us. He probably didn’t understand us anyway. “I’d join you, but I can barely stand let alone walk or run. I don’t think it’s worth it just yet Murphy.”
“They’re going to kill you, Hit.”
“Eventually, probably, but not right now. You don’t even know if they’ll kill you.”
“What are they keeping us here for then? They’re waiting until we heal, and then we’ll be taken back to their tribe where we’ll be sacrificed or something.”
“You’re injured too?” I asked. I didn’t even notice.
“Arrow grazed my arm,” he said.
The arrow barely made a cut in his arm.
“How are you so calm in all this?” he asked.
“I’ve got faith in myself to make it out alive.”
“How’s that? They teach you to speak Indian in your mountains? Ask him if he’ll let us go.”
“I don’t speak his language, Murphy.”
“Fine, I’ll try.” He stood up and looked over to Roan, “Hey you dumb Indian let us go! You can kill this guy over here just let me go. I have a family.”
Roan jumped up and started yelling at Murphy in his native language. Murphy started yelling back. They were yelling over top each other. Roan started walking towards us. Murphy continued yelling, and then Roan punched him in the nose which shut Murphy up immediately. He staggered back towards the tree, nose bleeding now, and sat back down. Roan stood there and looked at us until he was satisfied we weren’t going to cause any more trouble.
“You’re going to get yourself killed faster than you know,” I whispered to Murphy as Roan made his way back to the fire. The sun was starting to go down.
Roan walked out towards the pile of supplies which was further back beyond the bushes. We couldn’t see him for a while. Murphy told me to keep watch while he started sawing at his rope with this little knife he pulled out of his boot. I told him it wasn’t worth it. Once we’re both healed up, we can try to negotiate with the tribe. Murphy assured me the Lakota tribe doesn’t negotiate because he once heard a story about a man who tried to negotiate but was scalped instead. I said it sounded made up. I saw Roan come back out from behind the bush a few minutes later and I warned Murphy. I told him it wasn’t worth risking the escape and the trip home without any supplies. Murphy said he was going to grab his supplies and make a run for it. I told him again that we should just let nature do its work and we’d be able to make it out alive. Murphy told me I was too naive, that he’d had more experience. Sure.
We watched Roan rearrange the pelts on the lean-to we had built. He took some of the skins off and gave them to us so we could at least cover ourselves. I was given the bigger of the two. I tried to relax as best as I could but my knee kept me up most of the night. After the sun had been down for a while, I heard the rope drop. Murphy had broken loose.
“See you in Hell, Hit” he whispered as he ran off past the fire towards the supplies. All of a sudden I heard a snap and Murphy began screaming. Roan woke up and ran over to the fire. He grabbed a torch from the fire and went towards Murphy with his spear. I couldn’t see much because I was farther away, but the screaming stopped. I didn’t see Roan come back for a while so I decided to close my eyes again. I heard something being dragged which woke me up from my light sleep. I didn’t catch much, but then I heard a splash like a body being dropped in the river. Then the fire was dimmed and I heard sizzling. I squinted to get a better look but all I saw was smoke coming up from the fire. Was Roan sending a smoke signal? Or was Murphy? I calmed myself down by checking on my wound, which was slowly healing. I should be able to walk like normal again within a few days. I fell back asleep.
In the morning, I saw Roan by the fire in Murphy’s coat and hat. Roan must’ve set a trap around the supplies. How would he know that Murphy was going to escape? Roan came over and offered me some fish.
“How did you know?” I asked.
Roan just stared at me. He nodded his head.
“How did you know Murphy was going to go for the supplies?”
He continued to stare.
“How did you know he was going to escape? I know you understand me.”
He turned and walked away.
“Roan means weakling in French,” I called after him. He stopped in his tracks and turned to look at me.
“I knew you understood me,” I said.
“It doesn’t mean that in French,” he said in near perfect English.
“What does it mean then?”
“I don’t know French.”
“Then how do you know Roan doesn’t mean weakling in French?” I asked.
He came up to me and put his knife against my neck, “What does it mean then?”
“Nothing. It isn’t a word in French,” I gulped. I could tell he was just angry. He wasn’t going to kill me.
“Why did you say it was then?” he shouted. Birds scattered.
“To see if you knew English.”
“What made you think I could?”
I sighed. “My partner Murphy was talking to me about escaping yesterday. He mentioned specifically getting his equipment from the supply pile you made. Suddenly in the middle of the night, a trap happens to catch him right in front of his supplies in the pile. It only made sense that you knew all along.”
Roan paused and lowered his knife. His face flushed red for a moment. “You’re smart.”
“It makes sense your tribe brought you alone to attack us, you knew English,” I said. “You’re the smart one, I didn’t know for sure you knew English until you spoke it. I would’ve pinned it as luck or just a safety measure you take.”
Roan went back to the fire to get his fish. He sat on a log nearby. We ate in silence for a minute. I asked for water and he brought me my canteen, refilled.
“Are you Chippewa?” he asked, breaking the silence.
“Chippewa. Ojibwe. Part of the Northern Tribes.”
“Oh. No. I’m not from a tribe. I’m from Anatolia.”
“Where is A-na-tol-ya,” he asked.
“Across the big ocean to the east.”
“You don’t look like you’re from there.”
“Farther east,” I said.
“The marking on your canteen means Spirit to the Ojibwe people. It is a symbol of their creator.”
“It means something like that for me too. Listen, how do you know English so well?” I asked.
Roan became silent. He looked across the river. “When I was a boy, I was captured by men from England. They were settlers. They took me from my home and made me go with them across the plains to live and work for them. The father of the family was a preacher and he taught me English and other things about the world. Enough questions. I’m going to hunt for food for later.” He got up and started heading into the forest. He turned back and said, “Don’t go anywhere.” What a joker.
I leaned back against the tree and looked up at the sky. It was a cloudy day. Roan had been gone for over an hour now. My wrists were aching. They had tied the rope too tightly. There was a wrote around my wrists, and another around my waist. Both ropes were tied to a large tree. Not much chance of escaping. I rotated my wrists to try to ease the aching and I felt the knot loosen. I continued to wiggle in the rope and I felt the knot loosen more. I managed to squeeze one of my hands out. From there I untied the knot. I was almost free! In the distance I heard something moving and thought it might be Roan so I tied a different knot around my wrist. This knot was easy for me to loosen by myself if I needed to. Roan came back to the camp dragging a small deer. Tied in a bundle was various herbs. I couldn’t pick out all of them but I managed to spot some valerian in the mix. Maybe he has trouble sleeping. My knee was healing and I was able to bend it a little more. I can stand up, but walking is still difficult. Roan skinned and cooked the deer. He put the skin along with the pile of skins that were left by his tribe. He brought me some cooked deer.
“Tell me about the men you were with,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“Why were you trapping on our land?”
“I didn’t choose it. Our captain back at the fort told us to hunt here.”
“Why did he do that?”
“We didn’t know at the time but it has good hunting. We filled a bale per day. We would have filled the fifth bale but were attacked before we could get out and hunt more,” I said.
“I have to fill that bale before I go back to our home,” he said.
“Is that where we’re going after?”
“Yes. You should be able to walk by then too.”
“Hopefully.” I began to eat the deer. He cooked it too much. “What are you going to do with me when we return to your tribe?” I asked after some silence.
“The others had said we would keep you as a slave because you look like you came from a different tribe.”
“Do you usually do that with people you take captive?”
“Sure,” he said.
“Can I buy my freedom?”
“I know a lot of the medicinal herbs around here. I can help guard your tribe against some ailments.”
“We already have a medicine man,” Roan got up and walked to the fire. He had one of our pots sitting over the fire. He came back with two bowls of brownish green liquid with leaves still inside. “Drink. It will help you sleep.”
“I’m fine,” I said.
“It’s not poison,” he took a drink from both cups.
“Why’d you make me this?”
“Because I have so much. It would be wasteful to throw this away after only having some myself.”
I drank the tea. “Is there mint in this?”
Roan nodded and we drank the tea. Shortly after, he went to sleep, and I fell asleep as well. The tea did really put you out.
The next day, Roan went out hunting again. I sat by the tree I was tied to and thought about my escape. Roan must trust me a little, I thought. Otherwise he would not leave me alone like this. It was probably when I told Murphy to let things happen as they happen. I saw Roan come back with two beavers. He set them by the fire, came over to me and checked that the ropes were still tight and left again. I could start planning an escape. I undid the rope around my wrists, untied my waist from the tree, and redid that knot so I could slip in and out easily. Standing up, I could feel that my knee was healing well. It slowed me down as I walked, and was still very stiff. I would need a day or two more to be able to run and jump again. Then I crept over to the pile of supplies. I grabbed some twigs along the way and tossed them onto the ground around the supply pile to check for traps. There was none this time. I went through the pile and took out one of Diggs’ pistols, O’Shea’s knife, and my bag. My bag still had the rope and rolls of cloth so I put the knife and gun inside it as well and walked back towards the tree. I walked past the tree, in the direction of our fort about a hundred yards and buried my bag in the woods. I marked it with my symbol, the circle and dot, and then covered it with tree branches and leaves from the area. I made my way back to the camp and tied myself back to the tree. I wanted to keepRoan’s trust until just before I make my escape.
Roan came back dragging another deer and a beaver. He checked the traps he set in the river for fish. He said nothing to me. I sat, watching him skin the animals and thought about my escape. I’d have to continue looting the supply pile until I had everything. I only had my regular clothes, but the mountains between here and the fort were cold. I might be able to carry the remaining pelts that Roan gets in the next few days. That was the way our hunting tours were designed. One bail per man, and another carries the supplies. I’d have to keep my supplies down to the bare essentials in order to make the trip back.
As a few more days went on, I continued to move small quantities of supplies out of the pile to my stash spot. I also watched Roan. He was showing his routine. After he woke up, he took two fish out of the trap, cooked them, ate one, gave me the other Then he went out for a long hunt in the morning. He’d come back, skin any animals he caught, ate the meat off one, took a rest, and went out again for more hunting. He slowly filled up a bail of pelts. As the sun went down, he would come back and we would eat the bigger of the animals he caught during the day. Then we would talk and have his tea. He began to trust me more throughout our conversations. I told him about my time here in America and where I came from before that. I didn’t tell him I’d lived for thousands of years, that would be ridiculous. He told me how he was often not included in hunting, how the others always called him weak. He said he was sick when he was younger and he didn’t grow up to be as strong as the others. He ended up becoming a good navigator because the others brought him along to help them find their ways around but while they went out to hunt, he would stay back and build the campsites. Arguably a good set of skills. His job was to wait until I was able to walk and he had filled a bale with pelts and then he could come back. It was his sort of initiation to the circle of hunters in his tribe.
My wound had nearly healed. It had stopped bleeding through the cloth I was wrapping around it, and I could walk normally. Running was still not possible. I think I’d been captive for about five days at this point when the wound had fully closed. I decided that I would re-use the bloody rags to make it look like I was still bleeding, and some days Roan would ask how my leg was. I faked a limp, and used a stick for support. He seemed pleased that I was still not able to walk. My time was running out though. I had to make my escape. I’d stopped looting the supply pile because I had everything I’d need to make my way home. I couldn’t decide how to get past Roan though. He slept lightly and woke up often when I moved around at night. I imagine I could put more valerian in his tea, but it would make me tired too. There was conium maculatum (Edit: Hemlock) growing just outside of the area I was able to walk from the tree while tied. I wonder if I could somehow get him to drink it. The thing is, I don’t want to kill him, I just want him to be out for long enough for me to escape. I could use some of the larger rocks to knock him out while he’s asleep, but that too might kill him. But it also just knock him out. I didn’t know which to do. I could always wait until he’s out hunting and make a run for it but I don’t know where he goes to hunt and I could easily cross paths with him while he’s armed. I needed to make sure he wouldn’t interfere. I could always wait and see how this goes and bargain for my life in front of the tribe. I’d end up being a slave for them for a while but they may let me go.
“How’s your leg?” Roan asked while we were eating some more deer. The sun was going down.
“It’s getting better but I’ve got rotting flesh around the wound.” I lied.
“Let me see,” he came over to me.
“It hurts some. I’ll see how it gets in the morning,” I covered up the wound.
“Do you know any herbs you could use?”
This might be it, I thought. I could at least get him to give me them so he’d think they’re safe.
“Yes, actually. I noticed on the other side of the tree there are some maculatum leaves. They’re small, fern-like and the flowers grow in small bunches. Together they look white and round. I need a few of the leaves. I can press them into the wound to help stop the dead flesh,” I said. Roan got up and looked around. He found the right leaves and brought them to me. I put them between layers of cloth because I didn’t want to accidentally poison myself.
“I’ve walked past those flowers hundreds of times. They’re good for fighting dead flesh?” he asked.
“They cure a lot of ailments,” I lied. We ate in silence for a while.
“What do you think I’ll be doing when we get back to your tribe?” I asked.
“What do you think is going to happen?”
“Do you trust me?” I asked.
“You haven’t tried to kill me or escape, yes I trust you.”
“Do you think I’ll be able to get my freedom once we make it back to your tribe?”
Roan sighed and looked at the river. “You won’t be a slave.”
“What do you mean?”
“You won’t be a slave. We’re not going to keep you as a slave when we get back.”
“You’re going to carry the pelts back to the camp, and I’ll look like a hero because I managed to bring back pelts, and someone for our ritual.”
“What are you talking about Roan?”
“Every year when the days grow short, we hold a ritual when everyone is in the camp and we have a sacrifice to the gods. It gives us a safe winter.”
My face suddenly felt very warm. I couldn’t find the words to describe what I felt. Betrayed, stupid for having trusted this weak savage, angry. Whatever I was feeling, I decided that tonight was the night I escaped. No more waiting, no more preparation. Everything was tinted red. I had reservations about seriously harming Roan before, but I’m absolutely prepared to do it now. I try to kill as few people as I can in my life, which is why I’ve always avoided directly fighting in armies, but right now, my life depends on it.
“But you said I was going to work as a slave.”
“I didn’t exactly-”
“You said ‘sure’ when I asked.”
“I should have known. I should have known not to trust you.”
“Listen Hayat, you’re a good hunter, and a smart man but I need this right now. I need you to sacrifice yourself for me. The tribe already thinks low of me. They already call me a weakling. They haunt my dreams, all the taunting. They don’t let me hunt with them, they make me stay back and build camps like the women of the tribe. They make jokes about me. This is going to redeem me and make me stronger in their eyes. I was able to capture someone from a different tribe and keep them captive, and then bring them to death all while bringing in pelts for trading! You have to let this happen. In your next life you will be rewarded for your sacrifice,” he was in tears.
I stayed silent. I had to plan things out the right way. I needed to get Roan to drink the hemlock, then I would tie him up and send him to his tribe down the river. But how? I still need him to trust me just a little bit more.
“I know you’re angry, Hayat. I’m sorry. That’s just how it is.”
Time to play the game.
I sighed. “I guess I don’t have any other option.”
He smiled. “I’m happy you understand my situation. I’ll give you some of the medicine man’s herbs to make you not feel anything. It will be quick.”
“I never pictured I’d die like this,” I said.
“What did you expect when you were captured?” he asked sitting up straight.
I slouched over and touched bandages concealing the hemlock, “I don’t know I thought I would have been able to make some sort of deal.”
I sat back against the tree and finished my food in silence. Roan went back over to fill the pot with water from the river. He added his herbs and let the water boil. He brought two bowls of the tea back. There were many leaves in the brownish-green liquid. It was still hot. I drank it quickly.
“That was fast,” Roan commented as he blew on his tea.
“If I’m going to die, I might as well get a good sleep.” I wiped my mouth with my sleeve, “Can I have some more?”
Roan nodded and set is bowl down. He walked over to the fire which was maybe twenty yards away. As he made his way over, I quickly pulled the hemlock leaves out from between the bandages, squished them in my hands and tossed them into his tea. They sank to the bottom. He didn’t see a thing. I began touching my knee as Roan was coming back.
“Do you think you’ll be able to walk well soon?” he asked as he passed me the second bowl of tea.
“I might be able to, yes. Is it far to your tribe?”
“Maybe half a day’s journey, but it’s all along the river.”
I drank the tea a little more slowly this time. I was trying to not stare at Roan as he drank his tea.
Roan tried to make more conversation, but I didn’t respond much. Later on, he stood up and began to walk over to where he slept, but after the first few steps he began to wobble with each step, as if his legs were giving out. He fell down after a few steps. He looked back and said he must have stood up too fast. I asked if he was okay, and he said yes but he was feeling dizzy. I told him to sit there until it went away. He sat up, with his arms out behind him for support.
“The dizziness isn’t going away. Are you feeling different?” he asked.
“I feel fine.”
“You’re not dizzy? My legs feel numb, do yours?”
“I feel fine.”
“I think it might be the tea. You’re sure you don’t feel different?”
“I feel fine.”
His arms began to shake and they suddenly gave out. He fell onto the ground. Satisfied that he couldn’t get up and attack me, I slipped my wrists out of the rope, untied my waist from the tree and walked over to him. He lay on the ground breathing quickly, eyes darting around. I stood over him and watched until he stopped breathing. I didn’t plan on killing him, but in a choice of him or me, I choose me every time. I dragged him to the river, tied him to a log, and sent him downstream. My anger went away as he floated downstream. I don’t want to be a killer; I didn’t even plan on it in the first place. It’s just something that happened through the course of events.
I went back to the fire and sat by it. I didn’t know how long it would take for Roan’s tribe to find his body but I wanted to get a move on back to the fort as soon as I could. I gathered the pelts that Roan had caught through our time here, went to the supply pile to see if there was anything else of use, and then headed to my secret supply pile, which I didn’t end up needing. I lit a torch and began my journey back to the fort. When I returned, Captain Erikssen was upset that the hunting party did not go well, but after telling him what happened, he was more understanding of the situation. I returned to my room to begin gathering my things. I’m going to leave.
I hear there’s a expedition being planned to search for land south of Africa. The anti-arctic, they’re saying. I’ll likely head back to England to see if I can land a spot on the journey. I’ve always liked sailing.