The Ransom of Little Deer
Billy Black and his father were not the first Native Peoples that Carlisle had come in contact with since coming to America. That noble honor belonged to Little Deer, and he would never forget her . . . or her courage.
This story is told from Carlisle's POV so there are no notations. You're in his head always.
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I set the first of a dozen newly cut section of sod carefully over the rafters and cross slats that I had replaced earlier that morning. I wasn't much of a carpenter, but fixing the gaping hole in the roof was now a priority. It was a cold blustery day and the thick blanket of clouds that stretched endlessly from horizon to horizon would soon dump their burden of snow. Little Deer and I had inhabited the cabin for over a week now, and while her injuries were mending satisfactorily she wouldn't be in any condition to travel for some time to come. It was painfully obvious to me now that we would be spending the winter together here in the wilderness.
I was apprehensive about spending so much unbroken time in a confined space with a human. This wasn't because I didn't enjoy Little Deer's company nor was it because I disliked her in any way; it was simply because I had never been in this position before. I wasn't worried about maintaining my secret, she thought I a Sky Being and I was content to let her continue to believe this. Neither was I worried that I would lose control and accidently drink her essence, if my control was to be tempted in this way, I would have fallen prey to the urge while carrying her bleeding body away from her pressures.
No, the reason for my apprehension stemmed from my ingrained habits . . . nearly two centuries worth of strict avoidance of close human contact. Yes, I lived and worked among them and yes, as a doctor I tended the bruised and battered bodies, but these contacts were fleeting. This situation would be very different, I was about to attempt the unthinkable for a vampire, I was going to cohabit, for several cold bleak months . . . with a human.
Of course, I would have to set some rules, I thought as I put another section of sod in place, but at the moment I couldn't even fathom what those rules ought to be. For the moment, things between us were fairly uncomplicated; her injuries had her confined to her bed. That wouldn't last indefinitely; soon she would be well enough to have some limited movement.
One rule would certainly have to be: ‘Under no circumstance was she to follow mewhen I left at night to hunt'. While I was able to control myself around the smell of human blood under all normal circumstances, once I gave myself over completely to my bestial nature during the hunt there were no guarantees. I'd never tested my resolve under those strained conditions before and I didn't wish to do so now. If she were to accidently get in the way while I was in the hazy unpredictable throws of my blood lust, I might not be able to prevent myself from killing her.
A soft moan from the cabin below drew my attention and I poked my head down between the rafters to check on my companion. By the slow steady sound of her heartbeat, I could tell she was still sleeping. A grimace twisted her serene face and she moaned again, then just as quickly her expression smoothed and she became quiet once more. Little Deer was dreaming. I shook my head and went back to my work.
I set aside the issue of rules to ruminate on later. No sooner had I cleared that problem for the immediate focus of my mind that another one happily plopped itself down for my consideration.
‘Tell me, demon, what are your intentions towards this girl?' the grumpy voice of my father snarled in my mind. ‘Surly you don't intend to condemn her poor soul to hellfire and damnation along with your own. Though she may be a heathen, there is yet hope for her redemption . . . your fate on the other hand is firmly sealed.'
An exasperated sigh escaped me as I continued to work on the roof. "No." I answered the voice curtly. "I have no intention whatsoever of turning her. I had my humanity stolen from me; I will not stoop to stealing the same from another."
‘That's very decent of you, beast,' the crass voice replied. ‘However, if you truly wish to be altruistic you should destroy yourself before your thin veneer of control crumbles and your true nature takes hold. Wouldn't it be a travesty if, through your own selfish desire to live, you ended up doing something . . . regrettable, to the girl."
I growled faintly, and with all the mental strength I could muster I shoved my father's wicked voice as far into the distant recess of my mind as I could. Once I had the bothersome drone cleared from my senses I climbed down the makeshift ladder to fetch more slabs of sod. While I hated the biting specter of my father's words, I had to admit that he brought up a valid point . . . what did I intend to do with Little Deer?
In the short term I intended to see her recover from her injuries, and help her through the rugged winter. Beyond that, I was unsure. It was apparent that I couldn't return her to her people, with her father dead she had no reason to go back and there was no one among them to protect her. And then there was the matter of Henry Savoy, so long as the disgusting brute continued to draw breath in this world he would be a threat to Little Deer's safety.
No, she most certainly couldn't go back to her tribe, but I couldn't justify leaving her out here alone in the wilderness either. She had survived three week by herself after she escaped from Jack, but when I found her . . . or rather, when she found me, she had no water, no food, no blanket, and no means of making a fire. Food, water, shelter, and warmth were the four pillars necessary for human survival. It was a wonder she had lasted three weeks.
Could I take her back to civilization with me? If I did, would it be fair to subject her to my nomadic lifestyle, always moving here and there? How would I explain to others her sudden presence in my life, would I call her a sister or a cousin . . . or a daughter? What would I say as she continued to grow older while I remained eternally youthful? Little Deer understood that Sky People were immortal and therefore wouldn't question my appearance, but those around us might take notice. After living in the wilderness among the Natives for so long, would she be able to adapt to urban life?
I shook my head as I carried several more slabs of sod up the ladder. The more I thought, the murkier the answers became. Only one thing remained clear to me, I was quite taken with Little Deer and I was bound and determined to do my best to look after her, to be her guardian, all the days of her life . . . regardless of what that might mean.
Later that evening, I helped Little Deer to sit up in bed; she winced with pain from her ribs and whimpered softly.
"I'm sorry," I whispered. I didn't mean to cause her pain, but sitting up was beneficial for her, too much lying flat of the back in one place invited pneumonia.
Once she was comfortable, I went to the fireside and retrieved her dinner. I wasn't a stellar cook, but roasting trout over an open fire didn't require the talent of the royal chef. I set the plate before her, coaxing her to eat. Her appetite had been poor since waking and the willow bark tea only made thing worse, causing nausea so severe that I had to stop giving it to her altogether.
"Come now," I coaxed gently. "At least take a little."
I peeled back the crispy skin of the trout to revile the perfectly succulent white flesh beneath. Deftly, I pinched off a small bit of the tender meat, mashed it between my fingers as I had seen her do and then I offered it to her. Never, in all my years as a practitioner of the healing arts, had I ever hand fed a human before and the act of doing so now made me feel oddly paternal.
I brushed her lips with the mashed fish between my fingers, cooing all the while as I had heard countless mothers do with their young children. Finally I was rewarded when Little Deer accepted the food from my fingers. By the time she turned her head away and refused more, she had eaten nearly a whole trout. Needless to say, I was pleased.
Now that she was fed, I banked the fire in the hearth so that Little Deer would sleep warm and cozy through the night. Then I took my full canteen and sat down beside her on the narrow bed. Over the past week, I routinely left her alone during the night, to hunt, to gather wood, and so forth, but always I returned well before dawn. Tonight would be different; tonight I would race with the rising sun to be back in the safe confines of the cabin before its light touched my marble skin.
‘Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.' My father's scolding voice preached earlier as I was preparing the trout for Little Deer's dinner. Of course I knew exactly what he meant; the words were not intended to be in the least bit figurative. While I ignored the intended connotation of the quote, I still took the words to heart. Little Deer couldn't survive indefinitely on roasted trout.
In fact, if we were going to spend the winter out here, not only would she need a more varied diet, but there were other supplies she would require. The weather was turning colder and snow now shrouded the ground. Humans, as a species, were not very efficient at maintaining their body temperatures in cold weather. Presently my charge was clad in only a in a man's oversized cotton shirt. She needed warm clothing and winter boots as well as a coat to keep from freezing to death. I had an entire mental check list of other things I should like to acquire for her. Some of them, like a stout and healthy horse, could wait until spring when we could travel again. Other things, like the aforementioned warm clothing were immediate needs.
I set the canteen on the bed beside her and smiled. "Little Deer, I'm going on a short journey tonight, and I will likely be gone all night, but I will be back by dawn."
Her brow knotted and I could read the fear behind her eyes. She shook her head and soundlessly begged me not to leave. Of course I understood why, reading human body language and unspoken emotions was a part of my predatory nature. In my work as a doctor this ability had often proven very useful. Her apprehension was clearly written in her expression, she was scared I would go away and wouldn't come back.
"I'm not abandoning you, child," I spoke in the most soothing of tones. "I cannot. You see, the Creator has seen fit to put you under my protection. Have you any idea how auspicious it is to be under the protection of a Sky Being?"
I watched as her apprehension evaporated at my words, the negative emotion quickly replaced by wonderment. She shook her head and I couldn't help but chuckle.
"Well, let's just say that it doesn't happen very often." I dismissed.
This wasn't a lie, to my knowledge no vampire had ever sought to protect and nurture a human before. My endeavors as a physician came closest to ‘looking after' humans. Aro would think me a fool for the course of action I was embarking on. In fact my good friend would probably kill the both of us, Little Deer for what she had witnessed, and me for being a reckless idiot. These sobering thoughts notwithstanding, I remained determined to take on full guardianship of Little Deer.
"Go to sleep now," I instructed gently, "And by morning, I'll be back."
I watched her as she reluctantly closed her eyes. Soon she was sound asleep.
I raced through the night at a blinding speed; the snow barely had time to crunch under my feet as I went. I was headed south- southwest back toward the only place of human habitation I knew to exist in the area. At my current speed, I would reach Little Deer's tribe shortly before midnight. It was the only place for many days travel where I could acquire the supplies Little Deer so desperately needed.
Since awakening to this life I had learned that, while honesty might be the best policy, it wasn't always feasible. The first time I stooped to picking pockets on the streets of London, I felt like the lowest form of filth. ‘Thou shall not steal,' my father's angry voice had boomed inside my head that day. ‘Are you incapable of keeping even the simplest of the Commandments, demon?'
In the years and decades that followed, I did my fare share of pilfering. I tried to keep this to a minimum, and target only the wealthy who could afford to lose a coin or two. In stealing what I needed for Little Deer, I would have to be very judicious, making sure I took sparingly and from many so as to spread the losses over a wide section of the tribe. In this way, no one would suffer too greatly.
When I arrived at the edge of the camp, I slowed to human speed and quickly took stock of my surroundings. With great care I began to pick my way through the camp, stopping here or there to take what I needed. Soon I had a large bundle of thing; it didn't take long to acquire the supplies necessary to meet Little Deer's immediate needs. I was about to add a parcel of ground corn flour to my haul when an out of place scent filled my nose.
As a group, the Natives had had a very distinct scent. It was spicy woodsy with undertones of tobacco, sage, and juniper. Overall, it was one of the purest scents I'd ever encountered. The odor that now tickled my nose was different, alien to every other smell in the camp. It was the same sickening scent that clung to poor Little Deer when I first meet her. It could only belong to one person . . . Henry Savoy.
Anger well up within me, rising like bile until I could taste it, and my vision suddenly became tinted in hues of crimson. Blood lust clawed at my rational mind seeking to rip asunder two centuries worth of discipline and control all in the name of vengeance. I found myself unconsciously following the invisible trail of Henry Savoy's personal scent. I was on the verge or releasing the beast within me, on the verge of committing my first murder, and while I should have been appalled by my actions, I was complacent instead. I was an unstoppable force; tonight Henry Savoy would reap a hundred fold the misery he had sown.
‘Show no pity: Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.' My inner voice growled in my father's anger filled tone. ‘Listen to me demon, thought you are a creature most foul, the sickening spawn of hell itself, tonight you will be the instrument of Heaven's divine wrath. Allow the veneer that belies what you truly are to fall away, release the wild and wicked thing that lurks within you, and cleans this new Eden of Henry Savoy's evil taint.'
I was standing outside the lodge, my prey lay sleeping within. I could hear the steady thrum of his heart; it called to me with the warm wet promises of complete satisfaction. I licked my lips as I moved towards the hanging deer skin that served as a door. Venom pooled in my mouth in anticipation of the coming feast.
I touched the hide to pull it back, my fingers brushing lightly against the soft hairs that still clung to its surface. As I did, the glowing image of her face filled my imagination. Her warm innocent smile and trust filled jade eyes leapt out at me hauling me back from the brink. Little Deer, how could I face her if I let the monster within me have its way, how could I look into those wide green eyes knowing that mine were the color of spilled blood. How could I kill, even this foul man, and go back to my innocent companion and live as though nothing happened.
I stood there, staring into the darkened lodge and listening to Henry sleep. If I committed this act, it would change everything. My life would be hypocrisy, the standers of morality and the years of disciplined denial of my base desires all for naught. I would be a killer, an abomination . . . I would be the monster that I saw in myself the day I awoke and found myself changed.
I let out a relieved sigh and, in answer to my father's angry charge, I whispered, "He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness: the Lord our God will destroy them."
Then I turned and took up the bundle of goods for Little Deer and ghosted off into the night.
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