Huntress


A tale of Apache attacks, a young woman searching for her captured family and a murderer fleeing from the law throughout the Pacific Northwest

Sarah was orphaned as a child when a band of rogue Apaches attacked her family’s wagon during the California goldrush, killing her father and brother and abducting her mother and sister. Her subsequent rescue by an elderly couple of Miwoks led to a decade of servitude as their slave. When the old couple were banished from their village, they sought refuge each winter in a thermal cave. On their last visit they discovered the cave was occupied by an escaped murderer, recovering from a near-death attempt on his life and the resultant loss of his memory. With his help, Sarah broke free from old woman’s control.
She was now liberated to search for her missing family members and help her companion recover his memory. When she discovered the true nature of his crimes, she could no longer tolerate his company, and sought the assistance of her childhood friends from the village. Continual practice made her skilled in the use of her weapons. Accompanied by her native friends, who had also lost a sister captured by these marauders, they set out to find and rescue their kin with only a vague plan to guide them. From Central California to Fort Yuma, all their skills and courage were needed to survive the human and physical dangers of the quest.

Preview - Chapter 1

Tenny
After the fall, his body had been momentarily caught in a bush, which clung to life along the steep side of the rock wall. He was conscious and struggled to work his fingers into the crevice anchoring the plant. His movements broke his body free from the plant's grip, and he plunged to the bottom of the cliff.
When he regained consciousness, he had no idea where he was or what had happened. At that moment, his memory was a big black void. He had an inkling of who he was, but even of that, he was unsure. He lay stretched out in deep brush on the body of a dead horse. He tried to get to his feet, but the sharp, intense pain brought forth a scream that echoed throughout the small canyon. His change in position caused him to slide off the belly of the animal into the alder thicket below and onto the body of a smaller mare, whose mangled corpse had been crushed by the larger horse. He tried to pull himself away from the carcasses, but he was unable to break free. As he pulled harder to extricate himself, he grew weaker, and consciousness escaped him again.
The next time when he awoke, it was dark. Memories began to filter through the haze, but they were only the old memories. He was Tenny Woods as a boy, young and strong, with few cares in the world except caring for his aging parents, but the whole picture became confusing as he looked at his body. It was that of a man, not a boy. What had happened? His mind could not process the conflicting pictures. And, where had these two dead horses come from, and why was he lying at the bottom of a steep cliff with so much pain in his body?
Slowly he pulled himself up on his hands and knees. The pain in his leg was intense, and his head throbbed. His left arm was useless, and his chest felt tight every time he took a breath. He looked at the horses and caught sight of a piece of canvas hidden beneath the body of the smaller horse. He crawled over and pulled on the scrap until a packsack came free. He dug around in the pack and found some biscuits and a knife to cut the straps that bound the pack to the animals. As these came free, he saw a bedroll had come off the big horse. He hooked both parcels under his good arm and dragged himself away from the bodies. For some reason, he couldn't explain; he felt an urgency to get out of the area. He crawled slowly through the alder and salal to a damp depression, where the brush wasn't as thick, and progress was less painful. He followed this low area up to a slight slope where it opened into a marshy area with traces of standing water. The water was considerably warmer than the air and was moving slowly down until it disappeared into the ground. He followed the flow upstream for what seemed to be hours as it grew stronger and warmer until it made a turn into a stretch of loose alder, which ran along the base of the cliff. The water was much warmer as it emerged from the brush. Tenny rested while he tried to focus on what to do next. He felt the heat radiating from the area above the stream. The cold from the night air encouraged him to seek the source of this warmth. He slithered through the alders into the mouth of a cave, which led into a tunnel running back into the rock.
Tenny pulled the two packs in behind him and dragged his body along the tunnel floor through the white sand that bordered the stream. He was totally exhausted from the effort, and the pain had increased, but he kept moving until he came to a pool at a sharp bend in the tunnel. The water in the pool was almost hot, and a thin mist of steam rose from the surface to the tunnel roof. He let his body slide into the pool, which allowed him to stand with his head above the surface. The heat from the water brought some relief from the pain to the point where the confusion troubling his mind was replaced by total exhaustion. He pulled his body onshore, slowly stretched out on the bedroll and immediately fell asleep.
It was still dark when he regained consciousness, but tiny streams of light filtered through from the mouth of the cave. He submerged himself in the pool again. The pain was still there, but it was easing as the heat enveloped his body. After a couple of hours, he pulled his body out of the pool and crawled toward the front of the cave. He planned to clear away the brush at the entrance so that more light could penetrate the interior, but as he came close to the opening he heard the faint murmur of voices outside. He stopped and listened carefully. They sounded so far away, but he hesitated to venture out. He waited patiently as the voices came closer, and he could make out what they were saying. He considered calling out to them until he heard his name mentioned a number of times. It was obvious there were at least two men out there, and they were looking for him. He couldn't understand why they wanted to find him, but the little voice in his head told him to stay hidden. These men did not sound friendly. He waited at the entrance as the voices grew fainter until he could no longer hear them.
The next few days were spent in the cave alternatively using the heat of the pool and sleep to heal the damage to his body. By the end of the second week, he was able to hobble around without crawling. There had been just enough food in the form of biscuits and dried meat in the pack to keep his hunger at bay. He had heard no more voices, so he decided it was safe to clear away the brush from the entrance and venture outside, where he found autumn had taken over the land, stripping the leaves from the foliage and bringing a chill to the air. He realized his meager food supply was running out, and it would be necessary to hunt and forage if he was to survive the winter. He also explored the interior of the cave beyond the pool. He found the much narrower tunnel extended back with numerous twists and turns to the source of the heated water, where it emerged from a large gap in the rock floor. The water at the source was hot and emitted a dense cloud of steam.
His memory was fragmented and slowly returning, but it was still focused on his early life in Appalachia. His thoughts dwelled on those happy days of roaming the mountains and living off the land when he needed food. Now he had no rifle or other means of bringing down large game, but he was able to dredge up memories of setting snares for the smaller animals. There were many rabbit trails through the valley, but although Tenny's supplies of useful material were limited, he found the fishing line in the pack. During the following week, he kept half a dozen snares set in the area outside the cave entrance and was rewarded with a supply of plump rabbits, which he skinned and roasted over an open fire. By the time the first flakes of snow drifted into the valley in early November, he had his winter supply of meat hanging to dry along the cave wall. He had also collected blackberries, chokecherries, wild grapes, acorns and pine nuts, which grew in profusion along the valley slopes.
Tenny was anxious to venture out and explore his world. With a few more memories coming to the forefront of his mind, his thoughts continued to dwell on people and events of his early life and the trip west. He remembered Rachel as a young woman, his first and only love, and her brother, Scud, and finally his daughter, Melissa. Where were they? What had happened to them? Why was he not with them? The answers to these questions still eluded him, but on some level, he felt that if these memories returned, they might not be pleasant. On that same level was the feeling that he would be in danger if it was known that he was alive.
He made one trip back to the site of the horse carcasses, where he retrieved the bridles and remnants of a weather-worn saddle from the smaller mare. He probed his mind to recall the events, which had delivered him to this valley and these two creatures to their death. They must have fallen from the top of the vertical cliff above, but he had no recollection of what had happened. He longed to make the journey to the top to see if it would trigger his recall, but he knew he would not be able to scale the rock face, and a possible longer way around would take too much time and expose him to unknown dangers He could only hope that this memory would eventually emerge. Tenny's existence for the remaining days of autumn weather fell into a pattern of trapping small animals and gathering edible products of the forest. His foraging kept him close to the cave until the day he wandered up the gentler east slope of the valley to a stand of black oak trees, where the acorns were plentiful. He returned daily to collect these delicacies until the snow cover prevented easy access to the area.
As he became accustomed to living in the cave, he became more aware of evidence that it had been used before, by humans and other large creatures. Small animal bones were scattered throughout the tunnel, especially in the area where the remnants of old fires could be found. The soft limestone sand was imprinted with bear and cougar tracks as well as human footprints. Near the back of the cave, he counted three platforms of willow poles, which were supported by cross pieces attached to stakes embedded in the floor. The platforms were covered with willow branches and pine needles. The larger of the three structures was covered with a finely woven tule mat. Tenny assumed these were beds and appeared to be put together for regular use. He wondered who had made them and when they would be returning.
The morning after the first light snowfall, Tenny discovered cougar tracks near the entrance. The cat had approached the cave, where the greatest number of prints appeared. It seemed the animal wanted to enter but was hesitating. Further out in the marshy area, where most of the snares had been set, he found three of the traps had been destroyed and blood splattered in the snow. The cat was obviously hungry, prompting Tenny to pull the rest of the snares so as to not tempt the cougar to return for another meal. As a further precaution for a few days, he pulled the pile of brush back to the front of the entrance, although he sensed this would not stop the cat if it wanted to get in. Recollections of his past life were slow in returning from the depths of his mind. In most cases, they came in the form of disjointed dreams, just a series of images with no apparent connection. Rachel was the one constant in all of them. Incidents in their journey west across the land flashed back more frequently as the days passed until the memory of the attack by the Cheyenne braves on his family emerged. He awoke suddenly, sweating and shivering and had to lower himself into the pool to calm down. It was so vivid, the one Cheyenne warrior attacking Rachel while the other held his daughter. He had stabbed the young warrior and thrown him in the fire, where his dying screams had echoed through the night. Tenny was unable to go back to sleep and lay in his bedroll searching his subconscious for the events that followed as a result of this incident, but part of him had a strong feeling that he really didn't want to know.

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