Love and Loss during the King
Village Short Stories
Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Shea / Minerva
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
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 -
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
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
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
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 reach any other settlement before full dark fell.
Marlborough, another praying village which held a mix of colonists
and Pennacook natives, was a full twenty-five miles to the northeast.
And to remain out alone while raiders were near was sheer folly.
At last her father reluctantly nodded.
Together the two men unhitched Arah and saddled him. Her
father turned to Prudence. “Up you go, my dear.”
She shook her head. She searched for phrasing which
would let her worn-down father mount without hurting his pride. “I’m
afraid I am quite sore from sitting throughout our long journey,
Father. I am not as sturdy as you are. Please allow me to walk with
Askuwheteau, to give my legs a chance to stretch.”
To her relief he did not argue further. “Of course, my
dear,” he agreed, and climbed up.
Askuwheteau took one last look around the remnants of
his village. Then he headed into the forest, leading the way for his
two English friends.
The woods closed in around them, dark and somber. But
Prudence’s heart lifted. Askuwheteau was at her side – she was
safe. The soothing sound of crickets echoed in her ears as streaks of
moonlight dappled through the leaves.
Askuwheteau’s gaze was shadowed and she was reminded
again of the desolate scene they had just left. She drew close to
Askuwheteau and softly asked, “Who attacked your village? Surely
the militia would not have burned a praying village.”
His eyes continually scanned the depths of the forest as
they walked. “No. It was a neighboring tribe. One which had been
jealous of our fine fields and our access to the lake.”
Prudence nodded. Tussling between the various tribes and
sub-tribes was a constant in the region. It was how they made their
claim on the best hunting grounds and planting fields.
Askuwheteau’s eyes were steady. “I am sure that part
of the attack on us was, indeed, due to Metacomet’s war against the
English. The raiders were upset that we have left the true way
of our ancestors. They turn on us because we have chosen to
understand that Great Spirit is equally named God and that there are
ways to respect him which we did not previously know of.”
His shoulders lifted in a soft shrug. “But I think
they were equally motivated by a desire to clear us off our
traditional summer grounds. This chaos gave them an excuse to ensure,
in the years to come, that they had control over the lush
fields and fertile soil.”
Prudence could barely put breath to her question. “Was
He shook his head. “No. I spotted the raiders when
they were on the far side of Lake Manchaug. There was ample time to
gather the children and to move all to safety.” His eyes shadowed.
“But not all are now with us. Several of the men have gone south to
join up with Metacomet. They fear this fighting of
tribe-against-tribe will doom us all. They feel the only way to
ensure our survival is to drive the English out for good.”
Prudence’s heart fell. “The English will never
leave,” she told him. “We are not like you. You create a camp for
winter hunting, then leave that behind to set up fresh homes by your
summer fields. You are used to moving across the landscape in tune
He chuckled and turned to look at her. “And do you not
travel in that wagon of yours, from craggy hill to forest clearing,
sharing your stories?”
She blushed. “I’m not like other women,” she
murmured. “When we stop in at taverns I’m often treated as if I’m
a half-wild heathen, despite my family’s ministry.”
He raised an eyebrow at that. “And at the same time
there are some in my tribe who feel you are a pressed-tight outsider
looking to erase our past.”
She gave a wry smile. “I suppose I do not fit well
into either culture. I never have. I’ve always been kept at a
distance by everyone.”
His hand brushed against hers, and his voice was low.
“Not by me.”
Her throat closed up and she looked out into the woods.
Just two weeks ago her father had brought her to the town of Dedham,
south of Boston. A widowed accountant, about her father’s age, had
made clear his interest in her. It had taken every skill in diplomacy
she could draw on to put him off. For her heart had been caught long
ago, on the banks of Manchaug, as securely as any pumpkinseed …
He glanced over, concern in his eyes. “I apologize; I
did not mean to upset you.”
She kept her gaze averted. “No, no, it is all right. I
have always treasured our friendship.”
Saying the word brought tightness to her throat, but
there was no other way. She knew what her father would say to even
the hint of an idea that she marry a native. As much as her father
dedicated his life to bringing them into the fold, there was still a
sharp distinction in his mind between them and us.
Between the natives and a true, proper Englishman.
She gave a small smile. “I am at peace with being
something of a mystery to those colonists who hide for security
behind their town walls. My father’s traveling ministry means I can
understand the way your tribes move across the landscape.” She
sighed. “But the Nipmuc, the Wampanoag, and the other tribes are
butting against colonists who treasure strong walls and sturdy
houses. The English are taught that all land exists to be owned and
His brow creased. “How can anyone lay claim to a tree?
To the grass? These things come and go. They are swept away and
renewed. They are part of the world around us. Can one man claim any
of this? Claim all deer; all boars? Is not our world created by God
for the use of whoever needs it?”
“And yet that clearing which was burned held your
traditional planting grounds,” she pointed out. “You expected to
be able to return there with each new spring. In a way you think of
that space as yours to return to. You said yourself the other tribe
drove you out, in part, to claim it for themselves. So that they
could reap the benefits of its fertile soil.”
He pursed his lips. “I suppose that is true. But that
is a matter between the members of the Nipmuc tribe. The stronger
will stake its claim. That is our way.” His gaze shadowed. “Who
are these English to come in from across the great ocean and push us
She gave a soft shrug. “You call us English, but it’s
the year of our Lord 1675. The first settlers fled from England back
in 1620. Many of those colonists fighting now are the grandchildren
who know no other life. This is their home. Our allegiance in our
mind may be with England, but our home – our heart - our life –
She glanced back at her father, riding contently on
Arah. Her gaze swept to the serenity of the woods around her.
To the strong, brave warrior who walked by her side.
Twining emotion rose within her, mixing anguish and
Her heart, truly, was here.
He lifted his head, looking ahead. His voice eased out
of him with relief. “We are home.”
Prudence blinked. She could see it now. The faintest
flicker of the glow of a campfire shone between the trees. Their
steps quickened and in a few minutes they were within the shadows of
Gentle warmth swept through her.
There were the tribe members she had come to know so
well. Eight-year-old Boy-who-laughs with his lopsided grin, dark
shock of hair, and deerskin britches. The wise Morning-Dove in her
crimson cotton dress and long gray hair braided down her back.
Askuwheteau’s father, the sachem Machk, came forward
with his young wife, Sokw. Before Machk could speak, Sokw’s eyes
flashed sharp at Askuwheteau. “You should not have risked the
tribe’s safety to go for them. Your job is here. To watch
Machk serenely waved a hand toward the lake. “There
was no cause for concern. My elder brother, Manchaug, drowned in this
lake. His spirit remains here and watches over us all.”
Her mouth turned down. “And now you are sachem,
my husband, and we must put the needs of our tribe above all else.”
Her eyes shot to Prudence and Minister Lockwood. “Certainly above
Machk turned to the minister. “You must excuse my
wife. The attack on our village has been quite stressful, as you can
imagine.” His face took on a glow. “And we have only just learned
that she is with child.”
Her hand went possessively to her abdomen, and her eyes
swept challengingly to Askuwheteau.
His face went still. It was a long moment before he
spoke. “So soon? But my mother was only laid in the sacred soil at
the Catching Fish moon.”
Prudence wrapped her arms around herself. She remembered
that chilly March day with clarity. The men had to work hard to dig
out the hole to lay Askuwheteau’s mother to rest. Given how
tenaciously the woman had fought to live, all through the long months
of her illness, it had seemed a fitting tribute.
Machk nodded, his eyes shining with pride. “Great
Spirit has blessed our new family.”
Prudence’s father spoke. “You mean God, of course.”
Machk’s gaze was peaceful. “Great Spirit is
Her father opened his mouth –
Prudence gently took her father by the arm. “These
people have just been through a great scare, and they are probably
exhausted from having to build a fresh set of wigwams from scratch.
Come, let us find a place to hobble Arah. And you must be starving.”
He relented and followed along behind her as she brought
the horse to the far edge of the clearing. Prudence brushed Arah down
while her father removed the saddle and bridle. Together they cleaned
those in the lake. At last those chores were settled and they moved
back to the edge of the campfire.
Morning-Dove made a place for them and handed across two
wooden bowls with beans. “Thanks to Askuwheteau’s warning we were
able to bring nearly all of our supplies with us. Thank God that we
had finished much of the harvest before the attack. We will be able
to move to our winter hunting grounds and be safe there.”
Prudence took a spoonful of her beans. They were
delicious, seasoned with sage and pine nuts. She trusted in
Morning-Dove’s wisdom and put voice to her fears. “But will
anywhere be safe? Your winter grounds are a mere thirty miles west.
This war is not just one of Plymouth Colony or Boston. In June the
militia of those two areas swarmed all the way down to Bristol, in
Rhode Island, to destroy the Wampanoag town there. Given the
escalation since then, I worry that nowhere is safe.”
Morning-Dove gently waved a hand. “The issue is
between those two tribes. The English of the coastline and the
Wampanoags. They will resolve it through raids, as is always done,
and then we will have a new peace.”
Prudence looked down at her beans. “That is not the
way the English think,” she murmured. “Many who live in fine
houses in Boston or Plymouth do not see you as equal rivals for land,
as they might the French. They see you as …” She struggled to
find words for it. “As lesser beings. As unintelligent, uneducated,
inferior creatures who do not belong in the company of proper folk.
They would exile you to swamplands to the far west.”
Morning-Dove stared at her for a long moment.
Then she burst out in bright laughter. The smile
wreathed her face, drawing a brightness to her eyes. At last she
found her breath. “But how could they think such a thing! Have they
not seen our fine beadwork and our elegant weaving? Have they not
heard the rich tales of our ancestors? We have been in these lands a
full five hundred years, traveling up from the warmer regions to our
South along a great river. We build sturdy canoes which many acclaim
to be the best in the land.”
Prudence nodded. “You have good reason to be proud of
your culture. Sadly, many English do not see it that way. When you
talk of canoes they look at their own great sailing ships, capable of
crossing large oceans. At their mirrors and magnets which allow them
to navigate vast distances.”
Morning-Dove’s eyes twinkled. “What need have we for
mirrors and giant ships? What would we use them for in Lake Manchaug?
We have no need to sail away. Our fields of maize and bean are here.
Our flocks of turkeys and herd of deer are here.”
Prudence gave a soft smile. “That is where the two
cultures are so different. You have found contentment with what you
have. You take only what you need and you are full of gratitude for
that.” Her eyes drifted to the east, and her gaze shadowed. “The
English have a different mentality. They see possession of land as a
sign of power. They take in as much as they can to build up their
position in their society. A wealthy merchant’s wife doesn’t want
just one fine dress to wear on Sunday. She wants an entire wardrobe
stuffed with fine dresses so each day she can be envied by those
around her. So she can showcase how she is better than the others and
take pride in her status.”
Morning-Dove’s gaze twinkled. “I hear Sokw is busily
adding beads to yet another dress. She claims she needs a new one to
handle her growing girth in the winter months. But I have a sense she
would be working on it regardless of her condition. So perhaps our
two cultures are not that different.”
Askuwheteau came over, and Morning-Dove slid so there
was room between her and Prudence. “Come, lad, take a seat. You
have done well these past few days. Our tribe owes you great thanks.”
His eyes shadowed as he settled himself between the two
women. “I only wish we could have saved our village.”
Morning-Dove shook her head. “We would have been
leaving it soon enough in any case. And we were able to save our
tribe as well as our supplies. That is all that matters. Wigwams are
rebuilt each year. Summer growing grounds are left; winter wigwams
are renewed. It is the cycle.”
“But now the other tribe will feel that our summer
grounds belong to them,” pointed out Askuwheteau. “What shall we
do when spring comes around again?”
“When spring comes, we will discuss it in council
then,” Morning-Dove calmly pointed out. “That will be for Great
Spirit to decide.”
Prudence glanced over at her father, but he had not
caught the mention of Great Spirit. Indeed, his head was drooping and
his empty bowl was at an angle in his lap.
She gently took the bowl and laid it on the ground.
“Father, you should get some rest. It’s been a long day.”
He blinked awake. “Yes, yes, I’ll just go prepare
the wagon –”
Askuwheteau spoke up. “You and Prudence will have my
wigwam for the night. In the morning I will escort you back to your
wagon and you can head to Marlborough. You will be safe there.”
Her father’s brow creased. “But we have only just
arrived. We are here to minister to you.”
Askuwheteau shook his head. “Now is not the time for
ministering. You need to get to safety, and I need to bring my people
to our winter grounds. Perhaps when the snows come it will cool the
flames and bring peace again.”
He pointed to a well-built wigwam tucked at the edge of
the clearing. “It is right there. Enjoy your rest.”
Minister Lockwood wearily pushed himself to standing and
nodded to the group. “Rest well. Maybe God be with you.”
Murmurs and nods swept the circle, and then the older
man moved off toward his shelter.
Prudence turned to Askuwheteau. “But where will you
His gaze was shadowed. “Tonight is not a night for me
to sleep, Prudence. Our tribe is now in a precarious position. The
other Nipmuc seek to drive us out because we are Christians. The
colonists seek to drive us out because we are Nipmuc. No, I will not
rest well until we are safely nestled into our winter grounds and
deep snow has blanketed the earth. Maybe then there will be peace.”
He glanced at the rising moon. “But I must head out to
start my rounds. You go and be with your father. We can talk more in
the morning, when I escort you back to your wagon.”
Prudence’s heart twisted. She wanted to stay with
Askuwheteau, to talk with him long in the night as they used to do.
But she knew he had greater responsibilities. The safety of the
entire tribe depended on his sharp eye.
She bit her lip. “I just wish …”
He took her hand, his gaze holding hers. “You wish
A figure loomed above them. It was Sokw, her dark hair
glistening in the firelight. “Askuwheteau. What are you doing still
here? It is your duty to protect our tribe.” Her hand lowered to
rest protectively over her abdomen. “Now more than ever.”
He nodded and drew to his feet. “Of course.” His
gaze moved to Prudence and softened. “Rest well, chickadee.”
She blushed at the endearment. He had given her that
name when they were children, when her black-and-white outfit stood
out so clearly against the browns of the tribe.
Her voice was hoarse. “And you – stay safe.”
He nodded. Then he turned and slipped into the shadows.
A heartbeat later and it was as if he’d never been there.
Sokw glowered down at Prudence. “You do him harm, you
know,” she snapped. “He is of the age to find a wife of his own.
To bolster our tribe’s numbers with more children. And yet no
potential mate is ever found to be suitable. Have you any guess as to
Prudence’s cheeks flared red. It had been her deepest
fear, on the wagon ride here, that she would arrive to find
Askuwheteau married. Tied to another with bonds which could not be
To hear instead that he, like her, was resisting …
Sokw’s gaze sharpened. “The sooner you are back with
your kind, the better. For your sake – and for ours.”
She turned and strode back toward her husband.
Prudence glanced around. It seemed every member of the
community was now watching her. Some faces held compassion, others
amusement – and some held a sterner emotion.
She awkwardly gathered up the empty bowls and brought
them over to the cleaning area. That task done, she added them to the
stack and slipped into Askuwheteau’s wigwam. Her father was already
snoring in one corner, his thin face peaceful. Undoubtedly his
prayers had brought him solace.
Prudence moved to the other side of the wigwam where
Askuwheteau’s blanket was spread. She still remembered his tenth
birthday when his mother had presented it to him. The pattern had
faded over the years, but Askuwheteau’s good care of it had done
her efforts justice.
She knelt down before it, bringing her hands to her
chest. She strove to fill her thoughts with gratitude. Gratitude that
the village was safe and unharmed. Gratitude that she and her father
had not been caught up in the growing chaos.
Gratitude that Askuwheteau was unmarried.
She fought off the wild thought. She could not do that!
Askuwheteau deserved a fine wife. One who would adore him. One who
would give him strong, healthy sons and daughters –
Tears slipped down her cheeks.
She quickly brushed them away and finished her prayers.
Then she lay down on her side, nestling into the blanket.
It carried the scent of him. His muskiness and leather;
his pine and moss. If she could but curl up in this forever …
* * *
Someone was urgently shaking her by the arm. “Wake up,
She blinked her eyes open – but still she did not see
anything. The wigwam was pitch black. Only the faintest outlines of
shapes presented themselves to her.
Morning-Dove’s voice resolved into recognition. “You
must get up. The tribe is moving.”
Prudence wearily pushed herself to sitting. “Father?”
“He is outside talking with Machk. He is trying to
convince our sachem to stay.”
Prudence could now hear the murmur of voices outside.
She quickly found her feet and strode out, Morning-Dove right behind
The entire tribe was gathered in a shifting mass around
the campfire, bags packed and carriers loaded. At the center was her
father and Machk, with Sokw and Askuwheteau close at hand.
Machk shook his head. “I have heard your words of
recommendation. And I appreciate the depths of your feeling. But my
decision is final. We are leaving now. If you wish, you are welcome
to join us.”
Sokw’s mouth turned down. “They cannot move quietly
as we do! They will endanger our entire community.”
Askuwheteau’s lips pressed together. “No more than
our carriers will, traversing the trail in pitch dark. And having
them with us might do us well should we be encountered by the
Sokw’s tone turned sharp. “We wouldn’t have this
problem at all if the English had stayed where they belonged! If they
had never cursed our lands with their presence!”
Machk shook his head. “It no longer matters how we
have reached this point. What matters is the survival of our tribe.”
He looked out across the group. “We go.”
A wave of nods followed this statement, and the gathered
turned toward the west, forming into a line and delving into the
Minister Lockwood pressed his staff into the ground.
“Then I shall stay. I will talk with the English once they arrive
here. If nothing else I can assure them that you are peaceful and
should not be chased down. It will help ensure you reach your winter
grounds without trouble.”
Askuwheteau’s gaze was shadowed. “The English did
not seem as if they were in the mood to talk,” he warned the
minister. “I believe they are on the warpath.”
Lockwood’s eyes blazed. “We do not go on the
warpath! We are civilized folk.”
Askuwheteau turned to Prudence. “At least you should
come with us, as your father attempts his negotiation. He can then
catch up to us when he is done.”
She shook her head, moving to stand alongside her
father. “I have been a part of my father’s ministry from the
moment I could crawl. I will not leave his side now.”
Askuwheteau’s shoulders tensed. “If you two are
going to remain –”
His father spoke over him. His voice held the tone of
command. “Then, Askuwheteau, it is time you help the elderly with
their packs. I want not one villager within sight or earshot by the
time the English arrive here.”
Deep emotion billowed behind Askuwheteau’s dark eyes,
but he nodded. “Of course, Father.”
He turned to Prudence, his jaw tight. “Be careful,
Prudence. The English seem out for blood. They may not care whose it
Minister Lockwood raised his staff. “I am a minister!
I will talk with them and we will get this all sorted out. Just you
wait and see.”
Askuwheteau gave one last, long look to Prudence. Then
he turned and set into motion. It seemed a heartbeat before the last
of the praying village had slipped into the deep shadows of the
woods, lost wholly to sight.
The silence pressed in on Prudence. Usually in the woods
there were the soft calls of the crickets; the occasional cry of a
coyote. But it was as if the very Earth held its breath. The darkness
lay on her like a heavy blanket, and she was suffocated …
There. A noise.
It came from the direction of the summer grounds. Where
now only the burnt-out husks of wigwams and cabins remained.
The party moved like a herd of buffalo crashing through
the forest. As they approached she saw the occasional glimmer of
lantern and heard the sharp swears as someone tumbled over a root or
was hit by a branch. The group grew closer … louder …
A party of about fifteen stumbled into the clearing,
their faces bright with satisfaction. They appeared to be farmers and
shopkeeps, armed with pitchforks, knives, and a few guns. Their
clothing was rough and well worn. The red-headed one spoke up. “See!
I told you we’d track them down. Now we torch their homes while
Minister Lockwood stepped forward, his hands raised in a
sign of peace. “The tribe which traveled through here is a praying
village. Manchaug. They are good Christians and have not caused any
Red rounded on him. “And who are you, injun lover?”
Prudence’s father serenely nodded. He added richness
to his tone, as if he were giving a Sunday sermon on brotherly love.
“I am the Minister Lockwood, and these lands you travel are my
pastures. I tend to my sheep here. The Manchaug are good, fine
Christians. My daughter and I have been visiting them for nigh on
seventeen years now. They study the Bible and believe in the Word.”
Red’s brow creased. “Those injuns are tricky folk.
They claim to do this or that to lure you in. And then when your back
is turned – wham! They drive a hatchet deep into your heart.”
Minister Lockwood shook his head. “My Nipmuc are not
like that,” he promised. “They have good souls. They are a
Red nudged his head toward a greasy-haired, thin man
with long, dark hair. “Josiah here says several of your peaceable
group headed south to join up with Metacomet. They were seen at
Prudence’s heart hammered against her ribs. Indeed,
Askuwheteau had mentioned that several of the warriors had decided
that fighting was the only solution.
Minister Lockwood was not perturbed. “There will
always be a small divisive element in any community,” he pointed
out. “That is why they are no longer with the praying village. For
the village promotes peace.”
Red barked out a laugh. “Peace? From the Nipmuc? Tell
that to the slaughtered at Brookfield.”
Prudence gasped. Brookfield was a regular stop for them
in their travels. The tavern keeper’s wife had always been
especially kind to her.
She stepped forward. “What happened in Brookfield?”
Red leered. “After the Wampanoag heathens attacked
Swansea, Boston sent Curtis and his men west to meet with Muttawmp of
the Nipmuc. To make sure our peace with them still held
strong.” His eyes narrowed. “But Muttawmp was a lying cheat.”
Prudence could barely breathe.
Red seemed to enjoy the attention he now had. He strode
forward and spread his arms, much as her father often did during his
sermons. “Muttawmp deceived Curtis and said he would maintain the
peace. But when Captain Hutchinson journeyed to New Norwich just two
weeks later, the heathens had deserted their village. Captain
Hutchinson pressed forward to where he thought the Nipmucs were.”
He paused for effect, his smile wide.
“Without warning, without cause, our forces were
Prudence staggered back and shook her head. “Maybe it
wasn’t by Muttawmp’s tribe.”
Red grinned. “You would say that, you injun-lover. But
those who survived the ambush retreated to Brookfield. They gathered
up the townsfolk and took shelter in the strongest building in the
town. It wasn’t long before Muttawmp and his gang arrived. They
burned the entire town. Tried to break into the building, too, but
thank God the colonists held strong. Muttawmp lay his siege for four
long days before help finally arrived and scared him off.”
Prudence wrapped her arms around herself. “Was anybody
in Brookfield killed?”
His teeth shone in the lamplight. “A few of ours, and
more of theirs.” His gaze darkened. “We’ll make sure they learn
their lesson. They’ll learn that decent, honorable folk will rise
to band together and wipe them off the face of the earth.”
Her father’s face shone red. “No! We must come
together in peace! This madness must stop.”
Josiah shook his gun. “This here’s the only thing
those heathens understand. And we’re gonna teach them that lesson
until it gets through!”
Minister Lockwood shook his head. “No. The Manchaug
are Christians! They are innocent in this!”
Josiah’s eyes turned dark. “As innocent as those
townsfolk in Brookfield who were under siege for four long days? As
innocent as those who were slain in Swansea? There’s only one
language these wolves understand, and it’s the language of blood.”
Minister Lockwood stepped forward. “I won’t let you
harm my flock.”
Josiah’s rifle came up to bear. “You injun lover –
what are you playing at? Are the warriors surrounding us for an
ambush? Have you been stalling us for time?”
Red turned his head. “Josiah, calm down –”
Minister Lockwood’s gaze was sharp. “They are
Christians, I say! They would never ambush anyone!”
Josiah’s growl filled the clearing. “Tell that to
the dead in Brookfield.”
Minister Lockwood took another step forward. “As a man
of the cloth, I tell you –”
There was a crunching of foot-on-branch behind the men.
Josiah spun, firing his rifle.
Panic filled Prudence’s soul. “Askuwheteau!”
Minister Lockwood staggered forward. “My God! What
have you done?”
He grabbed at Josiah’s arm.
Josiah threw down his rifle and drew a hunting knife
from his hip.
He drove it deep into Minister Lockwood’s chest.
Prudence’s vision became a blur of unbelieving tears.
A shape staggered from the forest. It was large …
It was Arah. Blood followed a gash in his side where the
bullet had grazed him.
Her father slid to the ground, blood bubbling from
around the knife. She raced to his side, dropping to her knees.
His gaze was glazed, and with one glance at the wound
she knew there was no hope. He would soon be in the loving arms of
his beloved wife.
Her voice cracked. “Father!”
Focus came back to his gaze. His breath eased out of
him, guttural, clear, every ounce of energy behind his word.
She looked up at the men who approached her. At the
darkness in their eyes.
Thank you for reading Manchaug. The next book in
this series will be released soon.
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About the Author
Lisa Shea was born in Maryland during the Vietnam War to
a father in the Air Force and a mother who worked as a journalist.
She grew up in various towns along the eastern seaboard, raised in an
environment where writing and researching the past were as natural as
spending weekends tromping through old-growth woods looking for stone
wall foundations. Her concept of art focused on cemetery stone
rubbings and photos of old homesteads.
When Lisa moved to Sutton, Massachusetts in 1995, she
finally found her true home. Sutton's rustic charm, dense forests,
and bucolic farmland all resonated with her creative spirit. The
stories she had been writing since she was young now had a fertile
ground in which to flourish.
Manchaug is a village within Sutton, and its history
arises from that Nipmuch praying village. Lake Manchaug is a place of
beauty and serenity.
Half of all proceeds from this series benefit battered
Lisa has published over 300 books. You can read over
thirty of them for free – start here –
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Lisa Shea in Purgatory Chasm, Sutton