Manchaug love and loss.., p.1

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Manchaug - Love and Loss during King Philip's War
 

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Manchaug - Love and Loss during King Philip's War


  Manchaug

  Love and Loss during the King Philip’s War

  Nipmuc Praying Village Short Stories

  Book 1

  Lisa Shea

  Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Shea / Minerva Webworks LLC

  All rights reserved.

  Cover design by Lisa Shea.

  Book design by Lisa Shea

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  - v1 -

  Manchaug

  That the Heathen People amongst whom we live, and whose Land the Lord God of our Fathers hath given to us for a rightfull Possession, have at sundry times been plotting mischievous devices against [Massachusetts colonists], no man that is an Inhabitant of any considerable standing, can be ignorant.

  ~ Increase Mather, 1676

  Sutton, Massachusetts. 1675.

  Prudence fanned her face, the humid August air steaming her through both her black cotton dress and the white cotton shift beneath. The wagon seat pressed hard beneath her bottom and the jostling of the past five hours wearied her beyond measure. Her father often boasted that she had been accompanying him on his missionary trips from the moment she left the cradle some seventeen years ago. Still, her body ached all the same by the end of a long day.

  A few tendrils of her light brown hair had come loose; she absently tucked them back beneath her white cap. Then she looked over to her father with fondness. His shoulders were hunched; his fingers thin where they clutched the reins leading to Arah, their trusty oak-brown steed. Minister Lockwood’s black wool jacket with its white bib-collar were both impeccably clean. His dark hair was streaking to grey and was trimmed close in a neat bowl shape.

  He caught her gaze and turned to nod at her. His voice was gentle, with the melodious lilt which had drawn so many non-believers to his sermons of salvation everlasting. “Not much further, Prudence. The praying village is just up around the corner. We will be safe there.”

  Prudence forced a smile on her lips, although tension wrapped her thin frame. When her parents had first begun ministering there was relative peace in central Massachusetts. Husband, wife, and young daughter had been warmly welcomed by the Nipmuc tribe which peppered their settlements throughout the rolling hills and shimmering lakes. Through persistence her father had even converted a few of the bands into praying villages – groups of Christianized natives who often adopted English-style clothing and language.

  Her eyes moved over the shadows of dense oak and birch, pine and maple which edged the thin wagon trail. Fear crept in to her tone. “It is not the Nipmuc I am worried about, Father.”

  He nodded, his lips dropping. “The Wampanoag are indeed in a state of fury. I do not know what those fools at Plymouth Colony were thinking. They treated the great sachem Metacomet as a child, chipping away at his land and passing it around like maple-candy sweets to his rival tribes. Of course Metacomet’s honor would not allow this to continue. And when his father mysteriously fell ill after a negotiation, and died …”

  Minister Lockwood shook his head. “War. Brutal war. Just when we were making good progress with bringing these heathens into God’s light.”

  Prudence nodded. “Mother would always say, Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the Earth; For I am God, and there is no other.”

  Her father’s eyes gleamed bright for a moment, and she could almost see the years rewinding. Back to when her mother was alive, a full six years ago, and they were happy, so happy …

  The shine faded and his gaze dropped to the weathered reins. “Some may now be beyond saving,” he murmured. “The Wampanoag are enraged and have drawn many other tribes in to support them. They burned Swansea and killed innocents. They attacked Mendon. Dartmouth. Other colonists who once supported the natives have no choice but to defend themselves. There is no middle ground any more.”

  The wagon came up over a rise in the hill.

  The trees opened up before them, revealing the clearing.

  Prudence’s mouth gaped open in horror.

  The last time they had visited, in the bright promise of spring, this land had held a beautiful village. The structures had presented a medley of traditional and new. There had been serene dome-shaped wigwams layered with bark alongside a collection of sturdy log cabins. Children had sprawled in the grass, reaching for speckled caterpillars or grabbing up handfuls of clover. Women clustered in the shade of tassel-strewn maple, weaving beautiful blankets. A central fire pit crackled with life, a wild pig turning slowly above it, the luscious scent making her stomach rumble. And Askuwheteau’s dark eyes had risen to hers –

  Her throat went dry and she leapt from the wagon to the ground. She called out in panic, “Askuwheteau!”

  She had practically grown up with him. As youth they had fished in the lake, bringing up pumpkinseed and bass. Askuwheteau had taught her archery; how to remain stock-still while a stag tentatively sniffed the air. In return she had patiently trained him in English, even teaching him how to write.

  And as they grew toward adulthood –

  Her legs could barely hold her up. Her desperate cry carried high over the destroyed village. “Askuwheteau!”

  Her father’s voice was hoarse. “Prudence, no –”

  She raced down toward the blackened ruins, her heart hammering against her ribs. There was no smoke rising from the charred remains of the nearest wigwam. No sign that the blackened heap which had once been a cabin had been ferreted through either by attacker or survivor. It was just a wasteland … a wasteland …

  She stumbled to a stop before the cacophony of wood and ash which had once been Askuwheteau’s new home. She still remembered the pride which shone in his dark eyes as he presented it to her, only a few months ago –

  She desperately dove into the rubble, throwing aside crisped bark and handfuls of soot. There was nothing … no bodies …

  Wild relief filled her, and she spun to stride out toward the central fire pit. “It’s empty! He’s not there!”

  Her father carefully guided Arah down the slope and pulled up at the center of the ruin. He took up his staff and walked over to another burnt-out shell. He somberly swept through it and then nodded. “Nothing here, either. Our friends may have been fortunate. Perhaps the raiding party was spotted at a distance and there was enough time to flee.”

  Prudence’s heart lifted. “There is a reason Askuwheteau has his name. He keeps watch. His father boasts he can hear a hawk from a mile away. I imagine Askuwheteau was the one who sounded the alarm.”

  There was a noise from the woods, and they froze.

  Nothing … nothing …

  A shape emerged from the shadows.

  Prudence’s heart overflowed with joy. “Askuwheteau!”

  He stood there, tall and lean, dressed in a tan cotton tunic over buckskin leggings. Finely embroidered moccasins, made by his late mother, were on his feet. His dark hair fell past his shoulders.

  But it was his eyes which held her. Eyes that were dark, deep, and steady on her own.

  She ran to him, laughing, and he drew her close into his arms. She could barely get the words out. “You’re all right! Oh, Askuwheteau, you’re all right!”

  “Yes, we are all safe,
dear Prudence,” he reassured her, his head coming down to rest on her forehead for a long moment. “It is you and your father I have been concerned about. It is not safe for you to be on the road.”

  Her father clutched his staff with pride. “I am an ordained minister. None would dare to harm me!”

  The shadowed look in Askuwheteau’s eyes showed his lack of matching belief. He stepped apart from Prudence and waved a hand toward the destruction. “I have heard that within your own colonies men – and women – are flogged or imprisoned for even minor infractions against the will of the community. What if those leaders now feel that helping the Nipmuc is treason?”

  Her father’s gaze flared at the suggestion. “Nonsense! Of course we can help you. You are Christians!”

  “And yet we are still not English,” pointed out Askuwheteau. “There are many who would have us all killed outright so that your continued expansion meets no resistance.”

  Her father’s eyes sharpened. “Those fools at Plymouth Colony who hung those Wampanoag started this whole mess. They’ll send us all to the very gates of Hell.”

  Askuwheteau glanced around the destroyed village. His voice was rough. “We may already have arrived.”

  He looked again to her father. “We must get to safety. But we cannot take the wagon. You must leave it here for the night.”

  Her father’s mouth pursed, but Prudence knew well that there was no way to
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