THE HUNT, Chapter 2: COMING OF AGE
After two weeks on the mountains she thought she had found it, she was sure. She saw a landslide of rocks and what appeared to be an opening in the rock face, a cave perhaps that led to an escape. But, it wasn’t. It was a small cave, but not an entrance to a new, safe, and free world. She stayed at the cave for the remainder of the day and the night, but there was no nourishment available there, no water. In the morning, she had to abandon the cave and move to food and water and that meant the forest below.
But she didn’t know if she could go any further. She was still sick, malnourished, and dehydrated. She looked at her options and immediately became depressed; but, she, also, quickly came to some critical decisions: first, she had to make her way to the forest and a small stream she had seen, get her fill of water, and maybe sleep in the protection of some rocks by the stream; and, second, if she died now, she would be happy knowing she found a peaceful place and she that she was free. That last part took an immense amount of pressure off her as she had the sense of accomplishment, already. This might not be the long lost world of freedom and independence she had only imagined, but she was free and making each new decision regarding her actions and life of her free will. As she settled in among the protection of the rocks, wrapped in her heavy blanket, she suddenly became aware of a tremendous fatigue, almost a deadening quality to the fatigue. She sank into a steady loss of senses, her mind seeming to be aware as her muscles relaxed; her body sinking into a complete lack of tension, her senses of hearing and feeling slipping away until she was utterly almost comatose. The sensation wasn’t scary or pleasant, it just was.
It was days before she regained consciousness, not that she immediately comprehended that. But, when she did come to, she was well covered in more than a smelly, old, heavy wool blanket and she was apparently being cared for. She felt cleaner, like she had been washed, the scratches over her legs and arms were cleaned and the larger cuts were bandaged. There was a lean-to over her and the remains of a fire nearby. But she was still alone. No, some movement to the left caught her eye … Dog! It was Dog, but … how? … why would Dog be there, unless … dare she hope? But, why? How?
She gazed around her new surroundings, for she is not where she had been; she finds a cache of dried food, containers of water and … apples. Apples! She devours several, savoring their juicy sweet, but also tart taste. And, her moving gives her more input. Her body feels different, she feels swollen, achy around her midsection. At first, she wonders how she could have been injured so, not remembering falling in such a way. She looks around and shifts her weight to allow pulling her dress up past her hips and stomach. She looks and feels herself. It isn’t a generalized achy and swollen feeling like bloating or specific like an injury. She rubs her belly and then her sides and legs and hips. It is her belly. Can it really be? But the more she considers everything, she is becoming convinced; she is also pregnant. And, with that realization, she immediately knows that has to be reason for her being sick and weakened. And, she also knows it has to be Rayner’s. Their fucking from that first night became loving, making love to each other. Despite her continued mating with Dog, their nights were filled with loving each other’s bodies and … yes, their very souls. Leaving her was one of the hardest things he had had to do, but he could divert attention from her escape. Her hands are on her early baby belly, just a bump now, and she smiles. That is when she hears a crashing behind her, turning in fright, but seeing Dog wagging his tail wildly … Rayner!
She quickly tried to get up, but moaned as she tried using muscles that hadn’t been used for some days. “Sarah, stay down and rest.”
She held out her arms to him, “No, please, I’ve been down too long and … I want to hold you.”
He helped her up to her feet and took her into his arms before she could stumble or lose her balance. She sunk into his strong, powerful, and all-consuming arms, just content to be completely enveloped by him. “We did you come back? I thought we decided …”
“You decided and I thought I knew what I wanted. But all I could think about was you up here hobbling around the mountain on one leg and a peg, and how miserable it must be for you. When Dog and I returned, I thought I would never be able to find you, but Dog did. With you curled into those rocks, I wasn’t sure what Dog was so fascinated with until he barked insistently and I saw what he was so excited about. A little longer and you might have been lost.”
“But, what about making a new life? That was your chance to start a new life.”
He looked at her intently and smiled. He then separated them slightly, slipped his hand between them and placed it on her belly. “No, that might have been escaping. When I found you, warmed you, tended to your injuries, and cleaned you … I knew where my new life was. It was with you, Sarah. Then, tending to your injuries each day, I saw what my new life really was, where it really was. Here, Sarah. Right here.” He was patting her belly, smiling hugely.
She put her head to his chest and sank back into his arms, “Are you sure? I’m a runaway slave and you will become wanted too if we are caught.”
“I thought that made a difference, but it doesn’t. Life will be harder this way certainly, but we can be out here in this part of the forest between the mountain slope and the canyon. It appears to go nowhere and should attract few others. It will mean living in the wild and roughly, but we can make it a good life, if not an easy one. Besides, can you imagine a more exciting and free life to bring a child into?”
She pulled her head back and looked up into his face and eyes. All she saw was seriousness. She put her face back onto his broad chest, “Rayner, can I ask you something?”
“Wait, I want to ask you something, first. All the while since we parted, to the time I found you again, okay, until Dog found you, and all the time that you slept and recovered, I have debated with myself how I would express this or ask this or however it might come out. Sarah, I know there is no place or anyone to make it legal, but … well … would you be my wife? Even if we can’t really be married, would you be my wife?”
She didn’t just pull back slightly this time. She pulled back and stepped back, looking at him straight on. “Why would you want that? I am a broken, runaway slave with one leg and an abused body. On top of that, I think I am pregnant. You could have better.”
He put his hands on the sides of her face, “No, I could have different, but not better. You’re a woman who never gives up, who knows what she wants, and who is never afraid to do anything that needs to be done to get it. And … you love me … and my dog.” He smiled broadly and the intention wasn’t lost on her. It made her smile, too.
“I do? You sound pretty sure of yourself.” Her attitude was playful and flirty, even if her body wasn’t completely up to it, yet.
“Yes, I am. And I love you.” Just like that, her life was completely different. Everything she could have hope for, everything she could have EVER hoped for was suddenly in front of her. All she had to do now was make it happen with this man.
“Then I will expect you to prove it frequently, nightly … wait, we’ll be completely alone, deep in the forest?”
“Yes, completely alone.”
She seemed to blush and he smiled, she was indeed returning to the playful woman she was before they ran. “Alone … so, I could be naked for you … and Dog … our love could be expressed anytime … whenever we were moved to it …”
“Hmmmmmm, I like that … I was afraid you might find the life lonely.”
She wiggled in his arms, pressing her body to his and feeling him become aroused as she pressed her hips and stomach into him. “Hmmmmm, no worries my husband.”
In the days and weeks to come they moved steadily North along the mountain range, between it and the canyon, deep into the forest, and further into the wedge of the two contrary geographic formations. The mountains jutting up from the ground and the canyon disappearing below the ground. He found a meadow completely surrounded by forest. The ground could be turned for planting, the wildlife was abundant, and they would be well sheltered. There he builds the first makeshift hut for the coming cold season. It was there that I was born. They repeatedly told me years later that it was immediately obvious as a newborn that I was an equal to the beauty of my mother, at least the beauty she once had. She knew, even without a mirror, that she had aged beyond her years. I am named, Maia, meaning brave warrior. It was given to me as a sign of my mother’s hope for my life and destiny. From a brave, fiercely independent, and strong woman as my mother, and a celebrated and fearless soldier as my father.
When spring and warmer weather returns after my birth, my mother returns to being naked as much as it is comfortable and that is merely a temperature factor. She may be in a simple dress early in the morning or the evening if outside, then as the sun warms the air she removes her dress for comfort and in hopes of enjoying one of the males of the household. It is still years before I have any inkling of what is going on among my parents and Dog, or that it is even unusual.
On this particular day, I have been wrapped in a blanket and nestled in another blanket as a nest on the ground near where she is turning the soil for a small vegetable patch. Father, as I would come to call him, had acquired various seeds and gardening implements during a visit to a town very early one day to avoid much contact with local people. The money was the last of what he had saved from his earnings from the slave owners. This day he was off in the forest on the horse in search of meat. He had left the day before and wasn’t expected back until sometime tomorrow. And, like anytime he left for longer than a few hours, Dog stayed behind to be with mother and me.
And so it was that mother was on her hands and knees, making depressions in the turned soil and carefully placing seeds into them when Dog came up behind her and licked her butt cheeks. She merely wiggled her ass at him and smiled, only glancing at where I lay not ten feet from her. Dog put his tongue between her cheeks and licked from below to the top, covering her pussy and her asshole in one long licking action. She sighed at the touch of his tongue as it slid along her pussy and flicked over her asshole. She opened her knees and softly call back to the dog, encouraging him, not that he needed it. Dog was nearly as familiar with Sarah’s body as Rayner was, the difference perhaps being the man’s ability to use his fingers for feeling and probing her body and openings.
After some time of enjoying the tongue on her opening and now very wet pussy, she moved from side to side, breaking his contact with her. She patted her ass cheek, which was their signal for mating. Dog, well aware of the purpose and result, jump up onto her back, clamped his front legs around her waist, and thrust his hips into her. His protruding cock missed and hit her left cheek. She had long ago learned little tricks that made mating with Dog more pleasurable for both of them. Sometimes, particularly when she was the aggressor, she spent time using her lips and mouth on his sheath and emerging cock before encouraging him to mate. Then, other times, like now when he was the aggressor, he was already far enough emerged from the sheath, but by using her hand to guide him into her pussy hole, made the effort and chance of penetration much more enjoyable. And that is what happened now, his cock sliding along her palm, touching one side of her ass cheek and slipping inside her. The penetration was immediate, forceful, and deep as always. Very much unlike Rayner who often liked to slowly and lovingly ease his cock into what would be her dripping and hungry pussy.
I was told later that I squealed with delight at seeing Dog mount mother. To my eyes, they were playing like they played with me, all of us in a mix of limbs and touching, non-sexual, but never any embarrassment or shyness of our naked bodies.
This day, like most times, brought a shriek followed by moans and gasps as she came on his cock and knot, while he spurted time and again inside her. And the truly beautiful thing to Sarah was that it didn’t change or matter if Rayner was home or away as far as the dog enjoying her. Rayner, from those first nights in the dark of his cabin on the plantation, realized the unusual connection between his dog and the woman who became his wife. And he enjoyed and marveled at the comfortable life they all shared together like that.
That freedom and openness was never more evident than the next day when Rayner returned from his very successful hunting trip. He was able to kill a deer at the edge of the forest and an antelope on the slope up the mountain. Although he still had rifles and a pistol, he rarely used them. He preferred the use of bow and arrow and had honed his skill in working and making better and stronger of each. He felt the rifle might be heard for miles and might draw attention from others.
He stopped the horse at the front of the small cabin, tied it to a tree there, seeing his wife standing in the small plot of the new garden. With a hoe in hand, he marveled at this woman, one good leg planted firmly for support and control and the other, a wooden peg strapped to her shortened leg for balance, driving the pointed hoe into the ground and pulling the dirt. He watched closely as he made his way toward her. Her breasts bounced and swayed as she worked. He never tired of seeing her like this. Despite her amputated leg, he found her naked form stunning. Yes, her abuse, punishments, and survival in the wild had aged her some, but she was still beautiful and full of the enjoyment of life. As he came up behind the concentrating Sarah, he looked to the side at the little naked baby squirming on the bed of blankets shared by his dog. Seeing him after his couple day absence she wiggled and kicked her legs and swung her arms wildly, a big smile on her face. The dog looked up at the fuss and licked the head of the baby, distracting it to now grab the dog’s snout.
When Sarah was grabbed from behind, she sharply reacted as one hand wrapped around her chest taking hold of her left breast. Another arm wrapped around her waist and she was lifted off the ground, her legs kicking, while she squealed. She could never figure out how he could sneak up on her so effectively, but as he carried her out of the garden plot, she spotted the horse tied to the tree and his clothes scattered along a line from the horse to her. He set her gently onto the ground on her foot, turned her around in his arms, and took her again into a hug, devouring her mouth in kisses. When they came out for air, she clung to his neck as he pulled her off the ground. She felt his naked, hard, and throbbing cock pressed into her belly, her breasts and nipples flattened against his chest.
She smiled at him, enjoying the feeling of young love as if she were a girl experiencing it for the first time. “I need you, husband. I need to feel you inside me. But, your daughter is just as anxious to be picked up by her father. Then we can play near her and she will laugh at our fun like she always does.” Being five months old, she was aware and loved the interaction of their little group. When Rayner picked her up, she squealed for joy just like her mother had. And when he held her up to his face and blew into her bare belly, she squealed even louder, her legs and arms kicking and flailing. Sarah loved watching this big, tough man being playful and gentle with their daughter.
After playing with her for several moments, he knelt down and gently placed her back in the nest with the dog who put his snout to the child and flicked his tongue over her belly causing her to pull up her legs and laugh. Rayner smiled and stroked the dogs head, “Thank you, Dog. You love her, too, don’t you?”
He stood up and turned to Sarah. The look in his eyes was instantly different, reflecting his body’s need. She gazed into his eyes, recognizing the lustful look in them, then down his strong, taut, muscled body to his hard, rigid cock. She smiled her own wicked smile, “I like that look in your eyes, but I like the look of your body even more.”
“That’s good, but I intend for you to enjoy more than just the look of it.” He took her hand and helped her down to the grassy ground, following her and covering her body with his. He kissed her and ran his big hands over her body as they kissed. He moved his mouth off hers and kissed his way to her breast, then sucking and nibbling on the nobs of her nipples. In this position, he could stroke down her sides, over her hip, down her thighs and further down her legs. He purposely stroked down her leg, over the straps to the wooden peg. Then, using the one hand, he unbuckled the straps and removed her false leg, caressing the end of her leg before returning up her legs, but this time on the inside, finally caressing her hair covered pussy. He felt her wetness and looked up at her. She smiled in return. Gone, long gone, were the days when she couldn’t get wet or orgasm, now both he and Dog only needed to begin playing with her for her to become wet in anticipation.
Also gone were the times of being self-conscious of her naked, shortened leg. The first time he touched her there in love, she reacted and flinched away. But, he insisted and persisted in his caresses. While kissing her breasts and nipples, stroking her leg and the stump, he explained between kisses that she was beautiful and her leg did nothing to diminish that for him. He gloried in her body completely and this was part of her. She initially felt he was just being nice, but she quickly learned that it wasn’t the only thing. He really did love her entire body and he showered love and kisses on that leg as much as the other. He liked her completely naked but knew she needed the wooden appendage in order to walk, but sometimes he would carry her around the cabin or outside so she could be without it, especially with the baby.
As he penetrated her, her legs came up to wrap around him even if it didn’t quite get accomplished. She still loved moving her legs along his side as he moved in and out of her. And as their arousal reached the point of imminent orgasm, their actions becoming more active and thrashing, their moans and gasps more vocal, the baby also got more active. She seemed to love that her whole family played together.
As they recovered from their mutual, shared orgasms, Sarah asked the question she had been thinking about lately, “What are we going to do when little Maia is aware of what is happening around her? When she is really aware and understands that this isn’t just playing like we do with her?”
“Do you think we should stop? Maybe restrict it to nights and when she is asleep?”
“Not now, but some day she will know the difference, especially with Dog. Do you think a child can be aware, know what is happening, understand the significance of the act, but not participate? To understand that it is a timing, a maturity of age such things?”
“We’ll have to see as time comes. Perhaps if there is discretion, she can know it is happening but it is not in front of her and she knowingly gives us space and opportunity.”
“I think she is going to be a very bright and aware girl and woman. I think it might be possible. I hope so, husband. I enjoy this very much.”
“And … with Dog, also, I believe.”
“Yes, oh yes.” She blushed, visible despite the flush of their love making. “Being with Dog seems like it should be so wrong, but instead it just feels so right to give myself to both of you.”
He leaned into her and kissed her, “I understand, but I am glad you still like having us both. I confess that it is very arousing to see you with him and that you enjoy it so much.”
And that was the way of their life. That summer, Rayner built a more permanent cabin with fireplace, table, chairs, and bed. Several chairs were also crafted for outside in good weather. This final location had a large stream behind with a pool of quiet water that was perfect for bathing and playing as a family. This is where Rayner would teach the girl to swim and fish. The surrounding area of mountain slop, forest, and water contained abundant food source and protection from weather and, hopefully, from outsiders.
For years, we live with the uncertainty of being found out, but nothing comes of it. In time, we come to accept that our home is safe from outsiders but father never completely is satisfied and he makes regular trips surrounding us to be sure. Although my mother is strong willed and determined, her condition, her leg, the pregnancy, and he effects on her health from the experience of running away, have all taken its toll. As I grow older, my time and upbringing is split between helping with my mother and learning from my father. I have a propensity for the wilds, for hunting, stealth, and managing myself alone. My father teaches me the ways of survival, hunting, fire, and shelter. He also shows me how to track and to avoid leaving tracks. He is always nervous about being tracked down by slavers but also recognizes that is increasingly unlikely. His fear, a lesson he repeatedly instructs me, is that complacency leads to carelessness and unwanted surprises. My love and devotion to my mother produces a conflict with that, keeping me at the cabin, helping her, learning the skills of being a woman, especially as her leg restricts her movements and keeps her from ever joining us on hunts and exploration.
Their concern about their love making and me never materializes. In what might otherwise seem like a strange situation for a child, I am brought up in an environment where we are nearly always naked when we are around the cabin. When father, and later me, go off on hunts and exploration, clothes are either worn or brought along in case of encountering someone. So, the weather allowing it, we were naked and I grew up without shyness about my body or seeing the bodies of my parents. And, I was encouraged to just ask any question as part of my education and growing. So, early questions about my mother’s missing foot, why she had hair between her legs and I didn’t, and why she had those breasts and I didn’t, were common and handled naturally. I grew up with them making love in bed and sometimes I would wake up. I could tell they were doing something but in the darkness, not see it. It was just a natural thing. And, as I had been watched over by Dog since being a baby and we frequently lay together, I would also sometimes sleep with him on his bed and continued to as I grew up. It was a warm place as I curled into his body and pulled a blanket over us and that provided my parents even more freedom to enjoy their love making.
But, eventually, as was inevitable, the toughest questions surfaced that made them wonder about our open family life. Why did father have that ‘thing’ hanging between his legs and mother and I had holes? It had been clear and obvious to me from the youngest of ages that boys and girls were different, but now it was ‘why’. And that explanation was the concern for them. So, when I finally asked the questions, we were outside along the pool at the stream. We had been swimming and playing, splashing each other, and now lying on the grass to allow the sun to dry us. I was sitting up between my parents looking from one to the other as they were on their backs. They looked to each other and seemed to come to some decision without hardly speaking. Mother took a deep breath and went into the subject, father coming to be beside her for easy comparison. She described the difference in the groins in detail and I checked myself as she described her body, then I watched intently as she pointed out the differences on father’s.
She took a deeper breath as she began the description of why they are different and how it is done. It was explained as for making babies but they soon admitted that for adults it is also fun and feels good. But, I grew up with it stressed that even though we were very casual about our bodies and their enjoyment of their bodies, the act was only for adults. That was quite a day for me. I was a little over ten years old and the discussion had taken hours with all my questions and the discussion about the answers. Being the kind of child I was, I couldn’t let it go. There was always another question that seemed to lead to another question.
Finally, it came out of my mouth, “Can I see you do it?” They were shocked by the question but in the interest of honesty, they recovered and asked me to go for another swim while they talked about it. When they called me back to shore, I wasn’t sure what they might have decided but they didn’t seem unhappy with me. And there was something else, father’s penis was not hanging like it usually did, it was standing up on its own. That was interesting, too. And, it helped explain how it could get into the hole in mother. I had wondered how that soft, short thing could go up into her body. It was not short or soft, now. It was a fascinating thing to experience for my parents to have the trust in me to explain and show me the wonders of love making. All the while, they performed their love, my mother explained and the sounds of pleasure and joy coming from both were memories I carried and treasured. From that time, I knew that was an experience I wanted to share in my life once I was an adult.
A couple years later, our family suffered a setback. It was one of those learning opportunities for me, though. I couldn’t find Dog one afternoon. He had been slowed for some time and father guessed that his age had given him joint issues and we had noticed that his sight didn’t seem to be what it had been. There were times when a rabbit would hop right passed the front of cabin with Dog lying there in sun. When Dog raised his head at a sound or smell, the rabbit would take off in fright at the sudden realization of the dog being near. But, we doubted that Dog even saw it, perhaps a blur. So, his hunting days with father and I were over and spent his days dozing in the sun. This afternoon he wasn’t to be found. I went into the surrounding forest, making an expanding circle around the cabin until, finally, I found him. I saw him curled in a sun spot in the woods about 300 feet from the cabin. I chastised him as I approached but he didn’t raise his head like he usually did at my voice. I stopped, hesitant, but continued talking to him, but as I got nearer, my voice softened, my words remembering the past. I wasn’t even aware of my change. I sat at his head and put a hand on his still, unmoving chest, one and then many tears running down my cheeks. I lifted his head and placed it into my bare lap, very gently stroking his head, neck, and side. I talked to him about my memories of him, the fun we had, the earliest memories of him lying with me while mother worked the garden. Was that a memory or me remembering what mother and father told me in stories? It didn’t matter, the words weren’t going anywhere, they weren’t intended for an answer or response, they were merely filling the air, a vain attempt at connecting us one last time.
Father found me like this. He insisted that he had been calling for me for an hour. I’m sure he was if he said so, but I didn’t hear him. My mind was off, way off, to a different time not in the present. Dog was the first family I was to lose and I couldn’t imagine a worse pain. He wasn’t going to be the last, not in my short life. And, the pain would be worse, much worse.
About half a year later, my father said it had to be destiny. My love of Dog had been too great to be withheld from another animal. We were hunting on foot rather than horse this time. There was a meadow over the next ridge to the North that usually attracted elk this time of year and we were intent on that. When we got there, we were surprised to find only one, but it was a monster. It was standing at the edge of the meadow, not moving and father said it was mine. We worked our way in stealth to just within my range with the bow. Father had his ready, just in case. I didn’t really mind, I knew he had trained me well and he had faith in my abilities but this was a long shot, but this elk represented a good supply of meat. My shot was true, though. The arrow struck him just behind the front leg and penetrated his heart. He went down within twenty feet. The rush was amazing, the shot was difficult. I think father was almost as excited and proud for me, as I was myself.
Destiny, though, was near the fallen bull elk. Approaching the kill, my eye was first drawn to the serrations on the side of the animal. He had been in a fight with something and it was very recent. Then, my attention was taken away by some soft yelping in the weeds not far away. There in the tall grass was a small wolf pup and next to it was its dead mother. She had deep and ragged wounds where she had been gored by the elk’s antlers. We returned to our meat and cleaned the dead elk carcass, salvaging what we needed and leaving the rest for the animals in the forest. The carcass was likely to be cleaned to bone quickly. When the parts were loaded onto the travois, an A-shaped frame for carrying things, the wolf pup was still at his mother.
“Father, I know wild animals are wild, but he won’t survive here by himself. Can I take him? I’ll do everything myself. You and mother won’t have to do anything. I miss Dog. Can I, please?”
“He’s a wild animal, Maia.” I just looked at him, though, with that look that I had long since learned turned him into mush and he relented. “Okay. Oh, Maia, your mother is liable to be very unhappy. But, remember this, at the first indication that he becomes aggressive to any of us, he goes.”
I jumped into him, “Thank you, thank you.” I walked to the little wolf and tied a lead around his neck and he followed with little struggle. I eventually put him on the travois but with the antlers between him and the meat. But father was wrong, mother wasn’t unhappy at all. She seemed to have the same reaction as me. But returning home after a couple days made me ask, “Father, why has mother been wearing dresses so much lately? It is still warm.”
Apparently, he had been wondering the same thing. She was sitting in a chair outside near the door. She didn’t bother trying to get up. I saw that her crutches were near her and her peg was not on. We put the meat in the cooler cellar and laid out the hide for the sun the dry. Later we would tan it and make it ready for cutting into pieces for whatever we needed. Then, father approached her, “Sarah, you’ve been avoiding this and putting me off, but you need to tell me. Is there something wrong with your leg? You have been wearing dresses on warm days, you have been suggesting that Maia sleep between us which is fine, but unusual for so many nights in a row.”
She pulled the hem of the dress up to her thighs. The stump was inflamed and swollen. “I fell and the peg jammed up. It will be okay, it just needs to rest.”
“Are you sure? Maybe we should try to get you to a doctor.”
“A doctor? Go to a town? That would be great, and then we would all be killed. My third run and you assisting me.” I could tell that father wasn’t convince but that mother was also right that there wasn’t much choice. But the pup running up to us changed mother’s attention. We weren’t sure if had been weaned or not so we tried some milk from the cow for several days. He lapped it up each time so we guessed that he was. His presence changed the cabin life, giving us some mischievousness once again. And, as simple as Dog’s name was, this one became known simply as ‘Wolf’. He became a constant companion, refusing to leave my side. Mother was concerned and insisted that I also commit to waiting with him until I was an adult. We established among us that it would be eighteen years old.
Years later when father and I were out hunting, an interesting thing happened. He had been showing me how to approach a lookout location for wild game, maintain secrecy, and watch for the right opportunity for a kill. We had approached this spot up on the slope just before sunlight. Several animals had come along the trail, but not the big elk we had spotted on other trips. An animal like that would be a bounty of uses. Not only the meat and hide that could be cured for covering, moccasins or hats, but the sinew could be used for bow strings and general cordage, and the antlers for arrow points, needles, and piercing tools. We hunt mostly by bow and arrow, which we have learned to craft ourselves. But, this day, something else caught our eye; men came out of the very rocks of the mountain below us and to the right. We watched closely and remained hidden, while having a clear view of them. When they appeared, they crouched down and carefully scanned the land below. They seemed very concerned with the land below and only casually glanced up the mountain.
Father mumbled softly, “Slaves, interesting.” Slaves? My parents had never spoken of that in the past, what slaves are or that my mother was once one. I whisper my questions and he puts his finger to his lips, but he promises we will talk with my mother when we return to the cabin. Once there, it becomes a topic of repeated discussions and stories. They are initially afraid of telling me everything, but I want to know. I argue, I am nearly an adult and deserve to know everything that it is a factor in what makes me who I am. There relent, of course, because everything has been open to discussion. If they can be open about their love making, why not the past? Why not also about the terrible cruelty that exists in the world, the terrible things that one person can do to another?
Over months, we watch the location. Men exit the mountain and make their way into the forest and eventually return to the same location and disappear back into the mountain. Even I could resolve that there must be a cave there. Sometimes they bring along another slave or two. Sometimes ‘other livestock’, which sounds peculiar to me when I hear it expressed that way. He says it is that way, ‘other livestock’, and that it is dangerous for them to take them. More questions. I learn a more horrible truth; slaves are simply livestock, working livestock. The stories at the cabin with mother become more graphic, but I ask to hear them over and over. To me they are life lessons as valuable as the wilderness survival lessons my father has given me. And, of course, it finally comes out who my father was, what he had done. But, mother is quick to also recount the story of his family being killed, that anyone can lose their perspective with such a loss. I learn that everyone has a past. Sometimes that past isn’t what we may be the proudest of, but the really important thing is what we do with the rest of our lives. And a girl couldn’t possibly have a better father for herself or a partner for her mother.
Eventually, when I am fifteen, we make contact with these men coming out of the cave. There is heavy suspicion on both sides. They are slaves, he is definitely not, but I would appear to possibly be a slave, but he refers to me as his daughter. And this is further confusion. After some time they finally visit the cabin. Mother is dying. We know that now. Her stump wasn’t just injured in the fall but has begun to rot on the inside. The ordeal over her life was extreme and it has caught up with her. Her body just isn’t strong enough to fight off the infection inside her. Father wants her to have a more comfortable remaining time and for me a more stable, secure future. I rebel, of course, but he is insistent. Mother is saddened but understands the wisdom. The men agree to take mother and me to the other side and their free village there. Father argues that the cave entrance should be covered by a landslide so only a wiggling path through the rocks can provide access. Sooner or later, such a large opening will be found.
Father says he will stay behind. Despite the meetings with the men, he knows the village on the other side could not accept him. I argue but I don’t still understand the strength of the feelings. Some of those slaves would certainly know Rayner as the hunter. It just wouldn’t work. He remains firm. The slave men gain even more respect for him. The sacrifice he is making for his wife is huge and they recognize that. They commit their efforts to our safety and care. My father in turn commits to leading slaves to the East, across the river, and changing the slave escape focus in that direction and away from us. Years later, I learn just how successful he was. But will I ever see him, again. Would he be proud if he did? In a way, it feels like the loss my mother must have felt at being separated from her parents. At least in our case there was choice involved.
On the other side, we are acclimated into the village. After my mother gains some strength, she is instructed in the ways of the village for newcomers. It is modelled after ‘the hunt’ pursuing running slaves. When a newcomer arrives, after they have recovered their strength (usually very weak on arrival), male or female, they run into the forest within prescribed boundaries of the mountains, the rivers and the lake. The mountains are an obvious limitation; nobody would want to go back over them. The rivers cannot be crossed and the lake is to be avoided but it is exposed and near the village, anyway. ‘The Hunt’ occurs periodically through the year. All who are eligible for a particular time would go together into the chase. The more that are involved in ‘The Hunt’, the more men from the village would participate. The people get a two hour head start. The result of The Hunt is a preliminary indicator of the person’s assignment in the community. The people are a commune of shared effort. No one person is solely in charge, a council of elected people govern with town meetings. There are four basic groups with the village:
‘Farmers’ who are responsible for growing, harvesting, and distributing foods, caring for livestock (horses, cows, pigs, chickens – all stolen from the plantations on the other side).
‘Caretakers’ who are responsible for children and common activities such as cooking for non-family groups, nursing, building cabins and community structures, etc.
‘Hunters’ who are responsible for killing game for the village, collecting fire wood, and locating good stands of trees for building cabins, etc.
And, finally, ‘Warriors’ who are responsible for protecting the entrance to the sanctuary. The warriors are few. Many have died. They are made up of only the bravest, strongest, most cunny and fierce. Only men have been in this group.
Within each group, except the warriors, are family groups and singles. There are mostly men in the village; they have been the ones strong enough to find their way or to escape at all.
The Hunt is a maximum of three days, but only one woman and six or seven men have made it into the second day. It is designed, like the name sake from the plantations, to test the person. So, the hunted is forced to survive by wits and cunning and physical ability. Nobody has lasted into the afternoon of the second day much less the third. After the two hour head start, men from the ‘Farmers’ and ‘Caretakers’ pursue them. They can take their dogs but they are not trained for tracking but they can cover more terrain. If the hunted lasts to the second day, the ‘Hunters’ are sent out also. Their dogs are trained to track. If someone were to make it to the third day, the ‘Warriors’ would be sent out. It has never happened. But, if it did, the ‘Warriors’ have made it known that they would not allow any others in the chase on the third day, fearing it would only confuse the scent trail for their dogs who are highly trained. And, at the end, once captured, they alone will dictate who uses the hunted. If the hunted were to last through the third day, considered impossible with the ‘Warriors’ in final pursuit, the hunted decides who would be allowed to use them for their pleasure, if anyone.
The premise of The Hunt, again, is to identify likely vocations for the person to start in. If someone shows a propensity for a different group later, that group might select them or allow a trial period. Mostly the village community needs ‘Caretakers’ and ‘Farmers’ as they are the most labor intensive. Also, the longer a hunted survives in the Hunt the more options of choice they have. A woman who is caught early on the first day may be taken as a wife by a single male of age. A woman who is caught late in the first day or later can veto that if she wishes. Also, she has the ability to choose between ‘Farmer’, ‘Caretaker’, or ‘Hunter’ if she goes into the second day.
There is one very important part of the ending of The Hunt. The hunted submits to sexual use, male or female. Males are used for the pleasure of the single females until he is unable to remain or regain hardness. Females are used for the pleasure of the single males, all the single males who wish to participate. And, they usually do. That is, unless the hunted goes into the later days.
The community commune share everything. That includes the singles sharing their bodies for pleasure and making babies. Since escaping slavery is likely only to be successful for strong adults, new young are a necessity for the long term survival of the community and expansion into the lands to the West. All women, married or single are expected to have babies. It might seem strange at first, but it is a necessary lifeblood for the future.
The Hunt is primarily established for new escaped slaves entering the community. But, in anticipation of the future, it was also established to be used for males and females coming of age at 18 years old. At that age, they would take an occupational grouping and begin their sexual participation in the commune.
Hearing all this had an element of the bizarre to Sarah. But, she had largely existed in an isolated and somewhat pampered life until she started trying to escape. These were all former slaves, people who were used to physical and sexual abuse and use. In that light, the idea of sharing themselves as well as their labors for the common good and prosperity really didn’t seem so strange.
But, for mother, a run with her peg instead of a foot was intolerable after her ordeal. She begged to be spared and to be allowed to be in the ‘Caretakers’ group where she could care for the young, including me, but I am well past that stage. She had no problem making herself available to any male, but her ill health does not make that necessary. Although I assist my mother and others in ‘Caretaker’ duties, I often escape into the forest and the wilderness surrounding the village. I not only practice my father’s training, but I prepare myself for my eventual time for ‘The Hunt’. I am now focused on my goal in life. A goal that was destined to be mine.
Only a year after our arrival in the village, mother dies, her body too weakened and depleted to fight off the infections of her leg. I experience my second loss. And the pain that I thought couldn’t be any worse at the loss of Dog … is much worse. Much, much worse. Maybe having Wolf at this time was what they meant by destiny. That I would have someone to help me through this time of pain and loss. I would lie awake at night, Wolf next me, wondering what my father was doing, how I could possibly get word to him about his Sarah. Or, maybe I shouldn’t. Would that devastate him? Make him crazy with rage? I wondered if I would be able to see him ever again.
To be continued in Chapter 3: The Hunt