Unspoken Ch. 06

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**Content Warning and Spoiler Alert: You can skip this warning if you want to avoid spoilers. The content warning is for sensitive folks that are easily triggered or may have had past trauma. With that said, there is an instance of non-consent that is interrupted. There is also an instance of intense violence and blood. Happy reading!**

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Friend or Foe?

“How can you think Nasir is a pirate after he risked his life to help us?” I asked.

Sky was pacing the dining room of the Flint Arrow Inn with his fingers in his hair. He looked angry, stressed, and panicked. Eagle, Rain, Wolf, Ayita, and the Monet family were watching him from the dining table. Sky sighed in frustration before he returned to the table. He grabbed his notebook and scribbled down a long story before handing it to me. He wrote, “Please read it out loud, Snow,” on the first page, so I did.

“Nasir knows my family name, meaning he met or heard of my grandfather. The only Middle Eastern men my grandfather met during his travels were pirates. They were rich and powerful. Grandpa said the pirate captain owned an entire fleet. Grandpa’s ship was damaged in a storm, and they signaled the fleet for help, thinking they were friendly merchants. The pirates boarded my grandpa’s ship and escorted him off. They took him to their captain’s cabin. He said it was fit for a king. The pirate captain told Grandpa they were planning to plunder his ship and drown his crew if they proved to be ‘classless, unnameable British whelps.’ But, since they were fellow sailors down on their luck, he would give them a chance to gain his admiration and their freedom.

Grandpa noticed a remarkable gold chess set on a table in the center of the room and asked the captain if he played. He smiled and said it was just for decoration since no one could beat him. Grandpa knew the pirate was baiting him at that point. So, Grandpa smiled, pulled a cigar from his pocket, and lit it. He enjoyed it while he considered his precarious situation. He asked the pirate if he would like to make a wager. The pirate smiled and agreed. Grandpa said, ‘After I beat you at chess, you’ll give me that fancy board, repair my ship, and send us on our way. If you win, you can take our goods and drown us without a fight.’

The pirate laughed at his confidence. He said it rivaled his own. He agreed to honor the wager if Grandpa had another cigar for him to enjoy while they played. Thankfully, he did. They played, and grandpa won. The pirate was shocked by his loss, but he honored his word. That shocked my grandpa. He fully expected the pirate to betray him, but he let Grandpa go with a warning. He said the chess set was a priceless family heirloom, and he would allow my grandpa to keep it for twenty years. After that, it could be reclaimed at any time. If it couldn’t be found, Rosemoor blood would be taken as payment. More than thirty years have passed since that day. Grandpa’s debt is overdue.”

My heart sank as I read the last few lines.

“Sky, do your uncles know this story?” I asked.

He looked at me and nodded.

“Oh my God… is that why you hid the chess set from them? Were you hoping the pirates would come and kill them for not having it?” I asked in shock.

Sky’s brow furrowed as he shook his head at my accusation. He took the notebook from me and wrote another note before handing it back.

“I hid it because I didn’t want them to sell it and get us all killed by the pirates. Grandpa and Father wanted me to keep it safe, so I did. I didn’t know Oliver and Curtis would try to kill me to get it back. They called me stupid for believing Grandpa’s stories. When Father unexpectedly died, there was no one sane left to look after the treasure or the plantation. I was too young, and they wouldn’t let Mother control the family business. Our tobacco plantation was small, but it was profitable.”

“Is there a chance Nasir won’t be able to find the plantation?” I asked and gave the notebook back.

Sky sighed and scribbled another note.

“He’s already too close. He probably asked the East India Company record-holders for information about my grandpa and who he sailed with. All of Grandpa’s shipmates knew he was on his last voyage when he met the pirate. They knew he would retire afterward and move overseas. A year earlier, my grandmother sailed with my father and uncles to the New World. Grandpa sent them to purchase a small tobacco plantation northwest of Charleston at the edge of the mountains. The same plantation that produced his favorite cigars. The house was renamed Rosemoor Manor after my family moved in. Grandfather came to the colonies the following year with enough money to support our family for generations to come. The gold chess set was a trophy that he took great pride in. It was truly fit for a king. The pieces and the board were exquisitely crafted and studded with precious stones. My uncles constantly fought over who would get it when Grandpa died. He, of course, left it to my father to spite them. My father actually knew how to play chess, unlike my uncles. I spent gaziantep eskort many hours playing on that board with Father and Grandpa. It was our family treasure too. Now the pirates want it back.”

I met Sky’s gaze for a moment. He looked exhausted.

“Sky, do your uncles even know you’re alive?”

He shook his head and shrugged. I assumed that meant he didn’t know.

“I believe they think Sky is dead,” Eagle began. “They left him bleeding out in the snow next to our settlement. He was as good as dead. It was a miracle my father saved him.”

“Oh no,” I breathed, “Nasir will go straight to Rosemoor Manor and tell Sky’s uncles about the pale-eyed, mute ghost with a scarred throat that saved his life in Hartwell. They’ll realize Nasir is talking about Sky, especially when he tells them he’s friends with a group of natives. Then they’ll tell Nasir his ‘ghost’ stole and hid their family treasure! Making Sky out to be the bad guy!”

Sky pointed at me and nodded, confirming why he looked exhausted. Ten years of secrecy and planning had been erased in one terrifying night.

“My God, Sky, we have to talk to Nasir before he leaves. We have to see what he wants and warn him about your uncles. He saved your life last night. He can’t be that bad.”

Sky “pfft” and took his notebook from me. We all patiently watched as he scribbled another note before handing it back.

“I think Nasir knew the marauders were coming, and he was in cahoots with them. Why do you think he tried to mark you ladies with pretty hairpins? I think he intended to take you three home with him if the pirate attack was successful. He switched sides when he realized they were losing. Pirates stab each other in the back if they can gain from it. You’re also assuming Nasir came here alone. A man like that does not travel without friends or an army. You saw his gem-studded daggers. If we confront him about the treasure, he’ll probably take us all hostage.”

I looked at Sky in shock for a moment. He was always four steps ahead of everyone when it came to planning or guessing someone’s plans.

“What should we do then?”

He took the notebook from me and hesitated for a moment. Then he wrote a short note and showed it to me.

“I want to meet Nasir alone while the rest of you leave for the settlement.”

“NO! I’m going with you,” I protested.

He sighed in frustration and wrote a longer note.

“Snow, please do this for me. I would rather be captured alone than have all of us captured and abused by pirates. The less Nasir knows about us, the better. I’ll tell Nasir all of you returned to our tribe to gather an army. If I’m not allowed to return home, he and his men will be massacred. We have the element of surprise on our side if we hurry. I’ve been mentally and physically preparing for this for many years. You need to trust me. If I don’t speak to Nasir before he meets my uncles, God knows what they’ll tell him. They might join Nasir in hunting me and our tribe. Oliver and Curtis have been looking for an excuse to stir up trouble with the natives. They think I hid the treasure on Cherokee land. What if they convince Nasir to attack the tribe? I need to guide Nasir in the right direction and earn his trust. If that doesn’t work, I’ll kill him. But I can’t do any of that if I have to worry about someone hurting you, Snow. If I fail, you all need to be ready for an attack. I’ll send word as soon as I can. Give me a week to sort things out with Nasir and my uncles. In the meantime, I need you to go home and gather an army.”

I was gritting my teeth and fighting back tears as I read the note. I wanted to argue and demand he come home with us, but I knew that wouldn’t fix anything. It could make things more dangerous. Sky was too clever for his own good, and he was too good to run from his responsibilities. I had to relent.

“Fine. I hate all of this, but I trust you.”

Sky pulled me into his arms and kissed me deeply for many heartbreaking seconds. It was a goodbye kiss, and it was as painful as it was wonderful. He pulled away and gazed into my eyes for a moment. He touched his fist to his heart, then brought it to his lips and kissed it.

“You’re my treasure too,” I wept and repeated the sign.

Then he backed away and signed, “Ride home now. Don’t wait.”

My chest hurt as I watched him pull on his coat and rush out the door. He had a tomahawk and two daggers on his belt, a notebook and pencil in his pocket, and a stubborn head full of cleverness. That’s how Sky, or Aimon Rosemoor, went into battle.

Eagle, Rain, Wolf, and Ayita rushed upstairs with me to collect our things as Flint brought the horses out of the stable. We thanked the Monet family and bid them a fond farewell before racing back to Grandma Yona’s settlement. The weather was good, aiding our speed. We arrived at sunset and called for everyone to prepare for war. Sparrow spoke with Eagle and Rain about the events in Hartwell and how they could lead to an invasion. Sparrow immediately sent messengers eskort gaziantep upriver to alert Rain and Ayita’s settlement to prepare for war.

“What are we going to do?” I asked, interrupting the war council.

“Sorry, Snow,” Eagle began as he turned to me, “I forget you cannot understand us. We plan to send our fastest scouts south, east, and north. If Nasir has an army, we will find it. We also hope to find Sky and Nasir on the road. They will have another day of travel before reaching Sky’s kinsmen.”

“What will you do if you find them?”

“When we find them, we will stay hidden and try to discover if Nasir is hostile towards Sky. If he is hostile and leading a band of marauders, we will plan an ambush to rescue Sky. If they are on friendly terms, we will fall back and keep watch. Sky knows our signs. He can speak to us from a distance. We will take our cues from him.”

After the war council, I returned to Sparrow’s hut to eat and rest. I cried on Grandma Yona’s shoulder as I told her how brave Sky was in Hartwell. None of it surprised her. She said Sky had more character and kindness than anyone she had ever met. She told me she helped take care of him after his uncles tried to kill him. She would bring him water and food and help him eat. She said he often choked from the swelling in his throat. She would steady him until he stopped coughing and made sure his wound didn’t open. Then she would hold him as he wet her shoulder with tears of pain and frustration.

“Sky was a boy then,” Yona whispered as she stroked my hair. “His silent tears were utterly heartbreaking, but he wouldn’t stay defeated for long. He kept pushing himself. When he was finally well enough to get out of bed, he would go out of his way to help me. He knew I could barely see and loved to talk. I enjoyed our conversations even though he couldn’t talk back. He found ways to communicate with me. He would hold my hands and make motions with them until I guessed what he was trying to tell me. He kept both of us laughing. His breathy laughs were the delight of my day. I couldn’t see him smile, but I knew he was recovering physically and mentally from the attack. That was a tremendous relief.”

“Thank you for helping him. He did the same for me after he found me dying in a stream. I wish I could do more to help him now,” I grumbled.

“Get some rest, Snow. Sky is clever and charming. He’s not a boy anymore. He can take care of himself in a tight spot, and the rest of us will be there when he needs us,” Yona whispered.

I hugged her and kissed her cheek before climbing into my hammock for the night.

“Are you alright, Snow?” Rain asked.

She and Ayita were in the hammocks closest to me. Eagle and Wolf had left the settlement with a scouting group after the war council.

“Not really, but it doesn’t matter. I’m not the one in danger.”

“Here, chew this. It help you relax,” Ayita said.

She reached down from her hammock above me and handed me a few dry leaves that smelled familiar.

“Thanks, Ayita, but I don’t feel like using fun tea right now.”

“Snow, you need rest. We have a busy scouting day tomorrow. Chew them and go to sleep,” Rain ordered.

“You’re letting me go with you tomorrow?” I asked in excited surprise.

“Of course, Snow. You’re a warrior too. You can ride, climb, shoot, and fight. You do not need to run if you stay close to Daisy. Fighting in the woods is not like fighting in a village. We plan to go north and spy on the road close to the house. It is a long ride. Get some rest.”

I ate the leaves and let them work their magic. I slept without dreams. Ayita woke me before dawn. I felt surprisingly refreshed. We gathered weapons and supplies and kissed Grandma Yona goodbye before heading north. Rain and Ayita rode together on Mint while I galloped behind them on Daisy. The weather was sunny and warm, forcing us to shed our coats. Spring was finally pushing the cold weather back, making the forest fragrant and the birds happy. We passed a returning scouting party and stopped for news and a quick lunch. They had spotted Sky and Nasir on horseback on the road. The relief that washed over me brought tears to my eyes, but my dread returned when they reported Sky’s hands were bound.

“He’s a prisoner?” I gulped.

“It looks that way,” Rain said as she listened to the report. “Mounted warriors are traveling with Nasir. There are eight of them, and a small army is following them on foot a few miles back. They’re all foreign.”

“Oh my God, Sky was right about everything. They’re going to kill the Rosemoor family.”

“Don’t assume too much,” Rain warned. “They said Sky wasn’t bound earlier on. He also changed his clothes. They said he looks like an Englishman now. Nasir caught him signing to our scouts in the woods, so they tied his hands in front of him. Sky told the scouts not to attack under any circumstances. That is strange. Sky also signed that he was working on something. I think that means he has a new plan.”

“That sounds like gaziantep bayan eskort Sky.”

“We need to hurry north and spy on Rosemoor Manor. The servants live with young children in the houses on the grounds. We should warn them if we can.”

We mounted and rushed north, eager to keep our lead on Nasir and his men. It was well into the afternoon when we reached the edge of the plantation. We stayed hidden in the woods as we dismounted and surveyed the sprawling estate. Sky had said it was a small plantation. It made me wonder what he thought a large plantation looked like if he considered that one small.

Rosemoor Manor was a handsome Georgian-style home with a facade of dark brick and orderly windows trimmed in white. It crowned a hill in front of the mountains. It was a declaration of wealth and dignity, but I knew the villainy that lived within. The kitchen and smokehouse were detached from the main house and connected by covered walkways. The layout created a protected courtyard for the front garden. The tobacco fields stretched out to the east between the river and smokehouse. The servant quarters hugged the western treeline down the hill from the stables and barn. A well-kept driveway encircled the grounds before it led into the courtyard in front of the manor. It broke my heart to think Sky could be living in that beautiful house with his mother if it weren’t for his wretched uncles.

“Snow, your white home look like this?” Ayita whispered.

“No. My father’s estate isn’t worth a quarter of this.”

“Snow, you should sneak into the yard by the servant houses and speak to those children. They will not be afraid of you,” Rain whispered as she pointed left.

Two little girls, one black and one white, were breaking up the soil with short shovels to start a spring garden. They wore simple wool dresses and bonnets. Neither looked older than ten.

“What should I say?”

“Ask for news of their masters. See if Sky’s kinsmen are home. Ask them other things, too, things that children might lie about for fun if they talk about you. Here, give them Nasir’s hairpins. Children love shiny things,” Rain instructed.

Rain and Ayita gave me their gold gem-studded hairpins before I crept into the yard. I approached the children from the corner of the closest servant’s house, staying in the shadows until I was out of view of the manor. The little black girl was the first to see me. She gasped and pulled the other little girl close in a protective manner. The white girl looked much younger up close. I doubted she was older than eight. Her nose and cheeks were dark with freckles from working in the sun all day. My heart broke for them. They were too small and too young to be working hard soil. Their arms were thinner than the shovel handles.

“Don’t be afraid. I just want to talk. I’ve lost my way in the woods. Who owns that big house? Are they friendly?” I asked softly.

“They not friendly, mam,” said the little black girl. “The masters mean to folks that don’t got money. They prod’ly like you though. You pretty like them Charleston girls.”

“Charleston girls? What do you mean?”

“Harlots, mam,” squeaked the little white girl with a blush on her cheeks. “They visits for parties sometimes. They not as pretty as you, though. They paint their faces to look fancy, but they not. Mama says they trashy.”

“Oh, I see. So your masters aren’t married?”

“Nope, they party, drink, hunt, and make trouble. Lord help’em,” sighed the little black girl, shaking her head.

“Lord, help’em,” repeated the youngest, making me smile.

“You both are very sweet. What are your names?”

“I’m Hanna, and this my best friend, Maggie,” said the little black girl.

Well, Hanna and Maggie, it’s lovely to meet you both. My name is Snow. Please don’t tell anybody about me. I wouldn’t want your masters trying to find me. Thanks for warning me about them. I almost went to the house to ask for help. I’m glad I found you two instead. Are you sure you’re not angels here to protect me?”

They both smiled and bashfully shook their heads. Then Hanna gasped as if she remembered something important.

“You should leave, Miss Snow. The masters go hunting in the mornings and before supper if the weather nice. It heaven out here today. They might be out soon.”

“Oh, you are little angels. Here, I want you to have these. I’m sure they’re worth a lot. Keep them hidden. You might need them someday,” I said and offered them the gold hairpins.

Their eyes went wide as their mouths dropped open.

“Wow, a princess might wear that. Are you a princess, Miss Snow?” Maggie asked as she looked at me in wonder.

“Uh, yes. I’m a princess from beyond the mountains. I hope we meet again someday. You two take care of each other. By the way, do you know where your masters start their hunt?”

“At the waterfall west of here. Deer drink there. I heard the masters talk about bait’n em with corn.”

“Thank you, Hanna. You too, Maggie. Farewell.”

I put the gold hairpins in their little hands before I hurried back into the woods. I told Rain and Ayita everything I had learned. They wanted to circle around the rest of the plantation before falling back to locate the waterfall. We kept a watch on the manor for anyone leaving as we spied the rifleman’s barracks north of the servant quarters and counted the heads of the field managers and workers.

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