Once again, the marvellous Helen Hollick has organised a blog hop just around Christmas. Where Helen gets her energy from is an open question – personally I think she is connected to a substation somewhere. Anyway, the theme this time round is a Christmas celebration, and as you can see at the bottom of the post, there’s a whole company of authors wanting to welcome you to their particular celebrations.
Please take the time to hop around and visit with the various participants. there are giveaways (like here), there are posts about pre-Christmas Christmas celebrations (I know: sounds quite impossible), there are glimpses of Christmases past and present. So sit back and accompany us!
Christmas is very much about people. The ones we have around us, the ones we love – and also the ones we miss, at times so much it feels our heart will break. For various reasons, presently I’m very much in the “missing” mode, and so I’ve chosen to invite you to accompany me to Maryland on Christmas Eve 1684. Alex Graham has recently lived through the abduction of one of her sons by the Susquehannock Indians, and not one day goes by without her longing for him. And on this bright winter day….
The day before Christmas, Alex saw David walk off in the direction of the river, and wrapping herself in a cloak, she hurried after him. David had been very silent since they had returned home, or maybe it was because she had been away that she noticed just how often he snuck away to be alone, and almost always to the graveyard or the river.
The snowfall of a week back had melted away, but two nights of freezing cold covered the ground and trees with hoar frost, and David’s footprints stood black against the glittering surface. Not that she needed to track him: he was still visible where he walked dejectedly in front of her, scuffing at the ground. His wooden sword dragged behind him, and Alex wept inside, realising just how much this d’Artagnan was missing Buckingham – royalist or not. David walked all the way down to the water’s edge, pausing by the flat rock where Samuel had left his folded clothes.
Alex wrapped her arm round his shoulders. He leaned his weight against her. “I don’t think he’s coming today.”
“Nay,” David sighed. “I don’t think so either. But I hoped, on account of it being Christmas.”
“Indians don’t hold with Christmas, honey. I don’t think Samuel will be celebrating the birth of Our Lord this year.”
“Aye, he will.” David tilted his head back to meet her eyes. “In here, he will.” He clapped his chest with his hand.
“You think?” Alex felt strangely heartened by David’s conviction.
“He says our names every night,” David whispered. “Slowly, slowly, he says them – all of them. And then he prays as you’ve taught us.”
“I’m not sure,” Alex said. “He’s not yet eleven. It’s easy to forget when you’re that young.”
“Not Samuel, not my brother.”
They sat down together on the fallen log, and David rested his head against her.
“Will he ever forgive us?” Alex asked, regretting the words the moment she uttered them out loud. Not a question to ask a child, she reprimanded herself severely.
“Forgive you?” David sat up straight. “And what were you to do? Fight the Indians when they came in force?”
“We could have done something.”
“It wouldn’t have helped.” David hugged her. “Samuel knows it.”
They lapsed into a comfortable silence, watching as the sun transformed the frosted trees into prisms of magical colour. It was very quiet, the migrating birds long gone, and the remaining sparrows and thrushes keeping low to the ground, or at least going about their business without expending energy on making noise. A crow cawed, it cawed again, and then it was all absolute stillness.
David shifted closer to her. The frost on the log had melted under her, dampening her skirts, but she was reluctant to move, and so, apparently, was he. There was a far-off rustling, and the crow called again. The shrubs on the other side of the river parted; a group of men stepped out on the further shore.
“Indians!” David breathed.
“Samuel,” Alex groaned simultaneously, and now she was on her feet, because he was there, her son, standing only fifty feet from her, side by side with Qaachow. Oh God, my boy, he’s brought my boy home, she thought, and her arms went out in an embracing gesture. Samuel took a tentative step in her direction, but Qaachow said something to him, and he ducked his head and stepped back into the forest.
“No!” Alex was already wading through the shallows, ignoring the iciness of the water. “No! Goddamn you, Qaachow! Give me my boy back!” Her eyes burnt into the Indian chief, but he didn’t reply, gesturing to his men to deposit the sorry bundle they were carrying by the water’s edge. Alex slipped, and had to swim furiously against the ice-cold current.
“Mama!” David was shrieking in fear behind her, but Alex didn’t care. She was going after her boy; she had to fetch him home. She slipped again, and the waters closed over her head. Jesus! It was cold!
She resurfaced, spitting like a drowning cat. Samuel was rushing towards the water, and before he could be stopped, he had thrown himself in, buckskins and all, to come to her aid.
“Samuel! Oh God, Samuel! Get back, son.” Alex had her head over the water, wiping at her hair with an arm that was unbearably heavy. Her fingers, she couldn’t feel her fingers. But her eyes locked into Samuel’s, and she smiled. Down she went again, her mouth filling with water. A weak kick, and her head broke the surface.
“I love you, Samuel,” she gargled, before being tugged under by the current, and once again she heard David’s frantic ‘Mama’ from somewhere behind her. But she was almost there, only yards separated her from her son, and then there were arms around Samuel and he was being carried away.
“Mama!” he screamed. “Mama!”
Alex sank, her legs useless in the cold. Other hands took hold of her, and she was half carried, half dragged to lie panting and shivering on the shore. By her nose were a pair of moccasins, and, following them up, she found the legs, the torso and then, finally, the face of Qaachow.
“My son,” she croaked. “I want my son back. You’ve had him long enough, and I die, you hear. Every day without him, I die!”
“A year,” Qaachow reminded her, backing away.
“Curse you, Qaachow!” Alex managed to get up on her knees. “May your seed fail; may your children and grandchildren wither and die; may your people fall into sickness and suffer iniquity and pain. All of this until my son is returned to me.”
Qaachow looked completely taken aback, staring at her with something like fear in his eyes. She rose, tried to wipe her face free of the tendrils of hair that were plastered across it. From the forest came Samuel’s voice, calling for her, for his brothers, his da. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the other shore where Matthew was standing surrounded by their sons, Jacob already stripping off his clothes.
“I love you, Samuel!” she bellowed. “I love you, son, you hear?”
“Mama!” he yelled back, and then there was the distinctive sound of a slap. Alex stumbled towards the sound, but was rudely shoved to land on the ground. Before she had managed to get back on her feet, the Indians were gone.
“Mama?” Jacob materialised by her side. “We have to get you across and inside.” Alex was shivering so hard she could barely walk, but followed him, dazed and obedient, to the water’s edge.
“They left something,” she mumbled through a mouth too stiff to talk properly with.
“Aye,” Jacob answered. “Mark and John are taking care of it.” Alex inhaled loudly when she re-entered the water. This cold? The current curled itself round her legs, but she managed to keep her footing a good way out, and Jacob was there to help her. Somehow, she was back on their side where Matthew swept her into a cloak and led her back home, David tagging after.
“I saw him,” she said. “Our boy, Matthew. I saw him, and he was tall and strong.” And then she burst into tears.
The above excerpt was from Revenge and Retribution, the sixth book in The Graham Saga. I can assure you that for Alex, seeing Samuel was the best present ever, the single most important ingredient in her Christmas celebration.After all, not all celebrations are loud parties, some are quiet moments of private joy. Like when you’ve seen your lost son, alive and well, if only for an instant!
As it is Christmas, I am giving away TWO copies – one paperback, one e-book – of Revenge and Retribution. If you want to enter the giveaway, please leave a comment and tell me who you miss this Christmas.
And now on to the rest of the hop:
- Helen Hollick : “You are Cordially Invited to aBall”(plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/nsodv78
- Alison Morton :“Saturnalia surprise – a winter party tale” (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/op8fz57
- Andrea Zuvich : No Christmas For You! The Holiday Under Cromwell – http://tinyurl.com/pb9fh3m
- Ann Swinfen : Christmas 1586 – Burbage’s Company of Players Celebrates – http://tinyurl.com/mwaukkx
- Anna Belfrage : All I want for Christmas – http://tinyurl.com/okycz3o
- Carol Cooper : How To Be A Party Animal – http://wp.me/p3uiuG-Mn
- Clare Flynn : A German American Christmas – http://tinyurl.com/mmbxh3r
- Debbie Young : Good Christmas Housekeeping – http://tinyurl.com/mbnlmy2
- Derek Birks : The Lord of Misrule – A Medieval Christmas Recipe for Trouble – http://wp.me/p3hedh-3f
- Edward James : An Accidental Virginand An Uninvited Guest – http://tinyurl.com/o3vowum and – http://tinyurl.com/lwvrxnx
- Fenella J. Miller : Christmas on the Home front(plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/leqddlq
- J. L. Oakley : Christmas Time in the Mountains 1907(plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/qf6mlnl
- Jude Knight : Christmas at Avery Hall in the Year of Our Lord 1804 – http://wp.me/p58yDd-az
- Julian Stockwin: Join the Party – http://tinyurl.com/n8xk946
- 15. Juliet Greenwood : Christmas 1914 on the Home Front (plus a giveaway) – http://tinyurl.com/q6e9vnp
- Lauren Johnson : Farewell Advent, Christmas is come” – Early Tudor Festive Feasts – http://wp.me/p1aZWT-ei
- Lucienne Boyce : A Victory Celebration – http://tinyurl.com/ovl4sus
- Nancy Bilyeau : Christmas After the Priory (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/p52q7gl
- Nicola Moxey : The Feast of the Epiphany, 1182 – http://bit.ly/13KEq98
- Peter St John: Dummy’s Birthday – http://tinyurl.com/nsqedvv
- Regina Jeffers : Celebrating a Regency Christmas (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/pt2yvzs
- Richard Abbott : The Hunt – Feasting at Ugarit – http://bit.ly/1wSK2b5
- Saralee Etter : Christmas Pudding — Part of the Christmas Feast – http://tinyurl.com/lyd4d7b
- Stephen Oram : Living in your dystopia: you need a festival of enhancement…(plus a giveaway prize) – http://wp.me/p4lRC7-aG
- Suzanne Adair : The British Legion Parties Down for Yule 1780 – http://bit.ly/1ARaQsC
- Lindsay Downs : O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree (giveaway) – http://lindsaydowns-romanceauthor.weebly.com/lindsay-downs-romance-author/o-christmas-tree-o-christmas-tree