Sometimes Love Means Letting Go – Part 11

Posted by on Feb 2, 2019 in Roots and Branches, Short Stories, Sometimes Love Means Letting Go | 0 comments

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The man Uncle Sandy had called Miller was still talking when Jackson had beckoned everyone to the back of the house.

“I’ve got a real bad feeling about this,” he whispered. “Those guys aren’t going to leave without causing a lot of trouble.”

The two oldest grandchildren had been there for the family conference; the younger kids had not. Rose understood immediately what Jack was referring to. “The barns?” she asked quietly.

“Probably.”

Fire? she mouthed at him.

Her brother’s expression was bleak.

“But what can we do?” Jordana whined. “We’re just kids.”

Jack looked at her with exasperated pity. “Really, Lark? Wake up! I control Air and Water, Rose controls the ground. You can zap people with electricity! Davy can sic animals on them. Even Birdie can do stuff.”

“But Pa always says never to use our Gifts against people—”

“Your Pa said you could defend yourself, didn’t he?”

“Well, yeah.”

Rose had been trying to listen with one ear to what was going on outside and to Jack with the other. Now she broke in, “That’s what this is—self-defense. Because if we don’t do something, first they’re going to burn our barns down, and then they’re going to come after us.”

Jordana’s eyes grew very large, but then she swallowed hard and drew herself up bravely. “So what do we do?”

Jack’s brows were drawn together and his mouth was scrunched up. He looks so very much like Daddy when he does that, Rose thought lovingly.

“First we sneak through the tunnel to the barns. Birdie, you need to stay here.”

Their little sister got a mulish set to her chin. “Because I’m too little?”

“No, because Uncle Hawk’s still really sick. He needs someone to protect him, but without him knowing it. He’d never expect you to be the one looking after him.”

Rose had to admit, his explanation made sense. Robin certainly seemed pleased—she giggled with excitement.

“ ’Kay,” she agreed.

“And Birdie,” Rose added. “When he tells you to go get us, because you know he will, you just tell him we’ll be careful.”

Robin nodded, then slipped back to the gathering room without another word. Jack opened the door to the cellar and led them downstairs, a bright Faelight appearing above his palm as they entered the darkness. Jack had no other affinities for Fire, but he could call a Faelight. Usually anyway, Rose allowed for accuracy’s sake.

As the four made their way under the big open yard that the adults always called “the parade,” Jack continued his plans in a low voice.

“Whatever they try to do, we’ve got to stop them from succeeding.”

“But how?” Davy wanted to know.

Jack’s smile was grim. “You’ll have to figure that out as it happens.”

“By myself?” The little boy’s voice shook.

“ ’Course not. We’ll pair off. Lark, you’re with me. We’ll head over to the stable. Rose, you take Davy—”

“Why do I have to have Screech?” Rose protested without thinking. Jack shot her a look that she understood as well as if they actually had been twins with telepathic abilities. Because if I’m with her, Jordana will try to impress me with how brave she is. She won’t do that for you. “Fine, Davy and I will take the stock barn.”

“If you hear me give a hawk cry, meet us in feed barn, up in the loft. They shouldn’t be able to spot us there. If you need anything, give the same call and we’ll meet you.”

They’d reached the stairs at the barn end. Before opening the hatch, Jack halted and turned around, his expression very serious. “And whatever you do, don’t get caught,” he reminded them.

Jordana shivered and shifted closer to him. Rose merely rolled her eyes at the younger girl’s dramatics. But then from outside the barn came the unexpected sound of a gunshot.

Maybe she isn’t being overly dramatic after all. Rose met her brother’s eyes worriedly, but forced a smile. “We can do this,” she answered simply. We have to. “Let’s go get those bad guys.”

Outside that Miller man was yelling. “Turn the stock loose, then burn down the barns. That’ll show them we mean business.”

We were right, Rose thought, grabbing Davy’s hand and bolting for the barn where the heifers and yearlings were kept. Jordana and Jack were already disappearing into the stable.

“So what do we do, Rose?” Davy asked. His hand was trembling in hers, but he was trying to be brave.

She thought about it for a minute. The threat of fire was the biggest danger. Davy had only had one Talent show up so far, being a Charmer. Not much good for fighting fires. But if the bad guys were going to go after the stock as well . . .

“I want you to talk to all the animals in here. Explain what’s going on.” For the most part, the stock were pretty tame, but they could be wild if properly provoked. “Tell them to make as big a mess as they can, running about. Especially if they can run out onto the parade and confuse the horses and men out there.”

He nodded and grinned. “I can do that.”

“I’ll keep an eye out for any flames, and smother them with Earth,” she decided.

Deep laughter from the barn’s entrance. “Here they come,” she whispered. “Get going.”

 

It felt like they fought for hours, and by the time a hawk’s cry summoned them to the hayloft, Rose was so drained she could barely use her Talent. There had been six men. Davy and his animals had forced three to leave with various injuries. That didn’t include the poor unlucky fellow who’d gotten in the way when Tio broke free. The big stud bull had not pleased to have his quiet afternoon interrupted; the remaining two men had fled dragging their unconscious, bleeding companion with them.

Jack and Jordana were already there, sprawled out together on a pile of hay and giggling madly though quietly.

“How’d you do?” Rose wanted to know, collapsing beside them.

“You should have seen Lark!” Jack crowed in a low voice. “She kept zapping them with sparks, and they were high-stepping like they were at a dance!”

“And Jack roped one of them with Air and left him hanging upside-down in a stall,” Jordana said, yawning like a little kitten.

“And then Lark sicced the barn cats on another guy. The look on his face was priceless! We kept them so busy that they really didn’t have time to set any fires, and everyone vamoosed shortly after the cat incident. I called you then because I figured you had to be as tired as we were. How did you do?” Jack asked, clambering to his feet to go look out the big loft window that they hauled hay up through.

Rose joined him at the window. “Nothing quite as exciting as on your side. I managed to open up a sinkhole under one of them, but someone pulled him out pretty quickly. Davy and his animals took care of them after that, and I stuck to fire-fighting. There wasn’t anyone left when you called us either,” she answered. “I think we won,” she added softly.

Jack nodded distractedly, studying the open yard before him. “We won here. But now they’re all out there, and I’m just wondering, why haven’t they attacked the big house yet? Nobody’s even gone up on the porch. It’s plumb strange.” He frowned, then let out a little cheer. “Oh my gosh! Way to go, Birdie!”

Rose stared harder, trying to see what Jack saw.

He pointed, grinning like a lunatic. “The porch. Look at the porch! No wonder nobody’s tried to break in there.”

Finally Rose saw what Jack’s eagle eyes had already spotted. The boards of the porch seemed to be moving, they were so covered with sinuous black and brown and reddish shapes. That’s definitely Robin’s doing. Their little sister had an unexpected Talent for talking to snakes—rat snakes and corn snakes and racers and the like—and it looked like every one of the creatures in the area was now guarding the front porch.

Jack was explaining what Birdie had done to Jordana and Davy when something odd about the gathered men caught Rose’s eye. Her heart froze. “Um, Jack? They’re handing—” she paused, not wanting to scare the other two more—“they’re handing big sticks out to everybody.”

Jack understood. “Back to the house. Now.”

They were so tired that Jack had to carry Jordana as they ran through the too-dark tunnel, his Faelight barely enough to see the ground by.

We’re exhausted, Rose thought as she nearly stumbled over her own feet. “Jack?” she whispered. “How can we help Hawk now? I’m so empty I couldn’t roll a rock with my Talent.”

“Same here,” he hissed back. “And I think he’s sicker than he was letting on. I’m hoping our folks show up real soon, otherwise we might have to grab him and try find another hiding spot somewhere.”

They struggled up the stairs, only to have Jack stop stock-still at the top step.

“Stop right there,” a voice boomed.

Robin stood in the hall, looking about eight feet tall, with a snake the size of a fence post wrapped around each arm. In the blink of an eye her illusion vanished; their little sister was her usual size, the snakes normal rat snakes. “Oh, hi,” she said brightly. “Glad you’re back. Uncle Sandy’s not good.”

 

To be continued . . .

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