I'm sorry. I get bored so easily. Already I've lost my enthusiasm for BattleBow (which will be undergoing a name change when I get interested again). I'm currently "obsessed" with one of my three "main" series (is there a plural word for that?), When the Earth Quakes. I have a trilogy "planned" so far, which may go further if I don't get bored. The story starts out in Harmonie, Indiana, summer of 1824. Here's the first chapter. If you like it, please let me know; I might actually continue this one.
(By the way, the "parenthesis" mark loosely-termed words.)
Israel jerked awake with her chest heaving in panic, her vision of darkness quickly replaced by the soft gray of morning. Rubbing her head in frustration, she groped for the reins and found that they had fallen from the wagon, catching under the eight muddy hooves that trotted choppily before her. “Whoa,” she called softly, trying to gain the horses’ attention without waking her four siblings strewn about the wagon behind her.
Fighting against her pounding headache, she weighed her options. She might reach out and touch Canyon’s dark chestnut rump, but that would frighten her. So instead, Israel swung down to the left of the horses, landing lightly on her booted feet. She gathered her maroon skirts, sprinted after the horses, and snatched the tired Canyon’s halter. The horse lurched abruptly to a halt, pulling Twister to a stop beside her.
Israel ran her hand along Canyon’s neck, sweat-saturated hair coming away on her palm. “Sorry, girl,” she murmured. “I’m so stupid. I got up extra early to get a head start, only to fall asleep and let you two run amok. It’s a good thing you’re so smart and stuck to the path. Where are we, do ya think?”
Canyon stood patiently, her eyes half closed and her tail flicking from side to side. Israel had a habit of talking to herself, so the horse had long ago decided to listen to her hands instead of her mouth.
“Well, whether we’re still in Indiana or turned around and headed to New York, you two need water.” Israel slipped the harnesses off of Canyon’s shoulders, then Twister. Quickly taking up their halters – knowing full well that they could overpower her effortlessly and yet would choose not to – she let them lead. Twister was bred, born, and raised on the Churchill’s ranch, but Canyon was caught and tamed at the age of five. She could find water if she had to walk miles for it.
Israel really did not feel like walking miles, and lucky for her, when they stopped at a small pond, the dusty canvas top of the wagon was still in sight. She released the horses and sat a ways away, yanking off her boots and sinking her feet into the cool water. The instant she sat down, her dream came back to her.
She’d had no idea where she was. There was only green grass, stretched out in rolling hills as far as the eye could see. Then the ground behind her opened up, swallowing itself as it grew larger. As she ran, a horse galloped beside her, urging her to run faster. And then she had jumped on the horse’s back a few seconds too late; they both fell into the chasm, left to watch helplessly as they neared their deaths, falling….
One dream might have meant a warped memory; two might have been a desperate attempt to recall something. But this was the third time she had dreamt that dream. Was it a warning?
Israel’s arms rested across her knees, holding her skirt away from the water’s surface. Her fingers absently traced a mud stain across the richly colored cotton. Several months ago, she might have feigned obliviousness, trying to convince her mother that it didn’t matter. But out here in the wild Indiana territory, things were different. Dirt was unavoidable. Especially when traveling without a man to do the harder work.
Twister tossed his speckled head high with a spirited whinny, watching Israel through one eye. Canyon plodded gently over and snuffled Israel’s shoulder, dripping excess water onto the sleeve of her dress. Without even a smile to acknowledge her silly antics, the young woman slipped her boots back on and reclaimed her horse friends’ halters.
A girl of seventeen years, wearing a lavender dress every bit as filthy as Israel’s, was waiting for Israel on the front bench of the wagon, a white shawl around her shoulders and a small frown on her delicate face. She waited patiently while her elder sister tethered the horses back to the wagon, her large, watchful brown eyes scanning Canyon for signs of injury.
“Is everything alright?” she asked softly when Israel climbed onto the bench beside her.
Israel nodded absently, her long bangs floating slightly before coming to rest over her eyes. “Just watering the horses,” she said, flipping the hair deftly out of her face with her index finger.
Jordon unconsciously mimicked the older girl, though her blonde bangs had grown out and were now tucked behind her ears. “How long have we been moving?”
Israel consulted a silver pocket watch that had been fastened to her belt. “About three hours. I got the horses going at four.”
“Good heavens, why?” Jordon fought to keep the frown from reaching her face again. “And why didn’t you wake me?”
She simply shrugged. “I know that Korah wouldn’t last another night without someone to talk to.”
Jordon sighed. “Would you like to stop for breakfast, or eat something cold?”
“Cold’s fine,” Israel said, but she shot a look over her shoulder at her eleven-year-old brother. “But Laban might not be happy.”
Instantly, his head shot up. “Somebody call me?”
“No.” Fifteen-year-old Korah sat up, her green eyes sparkling through her curtain of auburn hair. “They were talking about breakfast.”
Which is basically calling Laban, Israel thought blankly. At the same time, Laban said, “Really? What’re we having?”
“Sumfin’ cold,” Moses murmured, his five-year-old voice high pitched and sleepy, his head still buried against Korah’s shoulder.
Israel looked around in disgust. “Can’t you all tell somebody when you wake up?”
“Sorry, mother,” Laban mumbled.
She barely had time to feel her face go white before she whirled around to face the horses, but the abrupt movement gave it away all the same. An awkward silence settled over the lone wagon, the middle three children exchanging meaningful glances that were, to them, louder than words. “Sorry,” Laban finally whispered.
“Don’t be,” Israel said stiffly, still turned away. She slid her fingers over the rough leather reins and snapped them to get the horses moving, anything to chase away the memories of her mother.
Jordon was often forced to be the peacemaker in the Churchill family. Such an instance was now, and as she slid into the back, she suggested lightly, “Laban, why don’t you take over driving and let Israel rest?”
Laban bobbed his head in a curt nod and climbed up beside Israel. She wordlessly handed him the reins without glancing away from the horizon.
“Hey, Izzy?” Moses asked softly, pushing his brown hair away from his matching brown eyes. “How much longer ‘till we stop for dinner? My legs hurt.”
“Soon,” she answered. “Unless you don’t want to. If we keep going, we might make it to Harmonie before supper.”
“Really?” Korah cried, jerking so violently that Moses’ head snapped upward. “Where are we, Jordon?” she asked, so anxious to reach the little town that she didn’t notice her little brother.
Jordon held back her hair with one hand as she studied a worn butcher paper map. “Right about here.”
Korah, unable to read maps, had no idea what Jordon’s slender fingertip was pointing to. “Yeah, but where are we?” she asked again.
“’Bout twelve, thirteen miles away.”
“I can run ahead and find us some good land after dinner, Izzy,” Laban suggested, looking hesitantly to Israel.
Israel knew it was an apology, but she said no more than, “Fine.”
Laban’s face fell and he shot a forlorn glance over his shoulder at Jordan. She glanced at her sister, the constant concern surfacing once again, but she turned away and folded up the map. She just needs time, she told herself for what seemed like the hundredth time. But she’d had time, nearly a year. Jordon sighed inwardly, breathing a silent prayer. Israel was a mystery that only the Lord knew how to solve.