Published by Mark Early at Smashwords
Copyright 2011 Mark Early
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Finneas Ca’houn looked up from his mending, smelling fear on the soft spring breeze. The afternoon sun warmed his face and hands, but that unmistakable scent of rotten onions drenched with sour milk cast a chill down his spine. A moment later he heard footsteps pounding up the pathway leading from his door down through the forest to the foothills and on to the distant valley beyond.
“Uncle Finneas! Uncle Finneas!” A young boy surged into view from behind an ancient oak in the crook of the path. He raced towards Finneas, his clothing torn, bloodied, sweat-soaked, and dirty. Finneas leapt to his feet and ran to meet the lad. Halfway across the wide swath of green surrounding the cabin, Finneas caught the boy as he collapsed.
“James, what has happened to you?” Finneas pulled the boy to his feet and guided him to a log bench at the front of the cabin. James’ pants were shredded from the knees down and the left half of his shirt had been ripped nearly completely away. The right sleeve was torn as well. Dark smears of blood lurked amidst the dirt and grass stains.
“Are you injured, boy? What has happened?” Finneas searched his nephew for injuries while he waited for the boy to catch his breath.
“It’s Ma and Pa! They’re dead, Uncle Finneas! They’re dead.” James released a long wail of grief and fresh tears poured over his cheeks, muddying his face even more.