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The Ransom of Little Deer

Summary:
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. Create your own banner at mybannermaker.com!


Notes:
This story is told from Carlisle's POV so there are no notations. You're in his head always.


5. Red Eyes at Dawn

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Chapter 5

Red Eyes at Dawn

The sky was starting to turn a pale dusky gray, like the feathers of the Mourning Doves that I startled as I ran. I hadn't expected to encounter Henry at the village, but in retrospect I suppose I should have. I still found it shocking, how close I'd come to killing a man. More shocking still was the fact that it wouldn't have been some tragic mistake made while hunting, had I followed through on my intentions, I would have committed premeditated murder. Mistakes were to be expected considering the nature of what I am, and while they were regrettable they were also excusable. Cold blooded murder on the other hand was an egregious sin.

‘Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow,' my father's voice grumbled harshly. ‘You should have cut the head from the viper while you had the chance. Instead you let him slither away, let us hope he does not return later to strike at your heel.'

Was it possible for vampires to lose their sanity, I wondered briefly, before rebuking the angry voice within me? "Do not say, ‘I will pay you back for this wrong!' Wait for the Lord and he will deliver you."

Before my father's voice could fire another scriptural cannon ball at me, I focused all my thoughts on the path before me and doubled my speed. Still, deep in the distant recesses of my mind, I couldn't help but wonder if he might be right. Would I one day regret spearing the life of the monstrous Henry Savoy.

As I broke from the trees, I could make out the little stand of shrubs and bramble on the far horizon that camouflaged our cabin. I had chosen to leave our sanctuary cloaked beneath its thicket of overgrown scrub brush. Concealed as it was, our home looked less like a cabin and more like the nest of a gigantic bowerbird. The only signs that gave it away were the thin wispy tendril of blue white smoke that rose lazily from the chimney.

Home sweet home, I mused with a smile as I continued to run. I'd had that thought in a dryer sense before about other places where I resided, but this time I truly meant it. I was glad to be home, not because the shelter of it allowed me to escape the coming day and exposure, but because I had a reason to look forward to being here.

Instantly, Little Deer's smiling face danced before my mind's eye, making me feel like the older brother coming back from a long holiday abroad with present for my baby sister. I couldn't wait to show her all the things I'd brought back for her. There was a new doeskin dress and a pair of women's leggings, boots and a cloak, a pair of fur trimmed mittens, and of course a whole cache of food stuffs . . . even a comb and ribbons for her hair.

The master piece of my magpie's hoard was the single bottle of laudanum that I managed to procure from the belongings of one of Savoy's men. It was the only bottle the pestilent human had and it was most likely for his personal use, but now it was for my patient. Now I could properly address Little Deer's pain.

‘You're entirely too pleased with yourself, demon.' My father's voice remarked as I reached the front of the cabin. ‘What have I told you about stealing? I assure you, those deeds done in the dark always come out . . . in the light."

For some odd reason I laughed at my father's humorless chastisement. "All things work together for the good of them that love God," I snapped back, "Even stealing, if His divine porous calls for it. Now retreat back into your cloister phantom, and leave me in peace." The voice snarled once and then departed.

I pushed open the door and stepped over the threshold. The interior of the cabin was quiet, and yet this house was more alive than any other home I'd ever lived in.

"Little Deer," I called softly. I was excited and couldn't wait to see the look in her eyes when I showed her what I had brought. "Wake up my child, I have presents for you."

I put my load down on the rough hued table and turned towards her bed, expecting to see her smiling face. What I saw instead chilled me to the core, my mind went numb briefly, and I wasn't sure what to think. If I had blood in my body, in that moment, it would have run as ice water in my veins. The covers on the bed were thrown back and the place where Little Deer lay was empty.

I took a deep breath, analyzing the aromas that swirled in the air. I could still smell her personal scent; it was strong and permeated the room. This meant she was still close by so I pressed my predatory hearing into service. The heartbeat the thumped in my ears was faint and growing fainter. I stepped back outside and followed my ears and nose. I rounded the corner of the cabin on the sunrise side . . . three strides from the corner, Little Deer lay sprawled in the snow.

"Dear God," I whispered and leapt to her side. I scooped her up and rushed her back inside.

She was cold, her skin was nearly the same temperature as mine, and her cotton shirt was wet from where she had been laying in the snow. There was no way of knowing how long she'd been out there. I put her down on the bed, shucked off her wet shirt, and quickly replaced it with a dry one before tucking her snuggly under my wool blanket and the buffalo robe. Instantly I went to the hearth, stirred the coals, and set a log on the glowing embers. Soon flames were licking at the dry wood, but it would take time for the ambient temperature in the cabin to rise.

I watched as her body writhed under the covers. She was trembling so hard I thought she might fall out of the small bed. I needed to get warm liquids into her. This would help raise her core temperature from the inside, but I had no tea or coffee. But youdo have rum, I thought as I set a pot of water over the fire. When the water was ready, I mixed a conservative amount of the potent rum, with the hot water and some honey I had stolen that very evening, and then I coxed Little Deer to drink it. While I didn't generally promote the consumption of strong spirits, in this case, the toddy was strictly medicinal.

As her body warmed, she stopped shaking and she soon drifted off to sleep. My mind continued to ponder two nagging questions, why had she been out of bed outside, and what was she doing outside?

*****

I didn't wake Little Deer until I finished making her breakfast. There was trout, of course, but now I also added gruel made from ground corn to her diet. Once again the insecurities I felt about my culinary skills reared their ugly heads. In spite of the fact that she never complained, I was sure my companion could to do a better job preparing her own meals. Until my association with Little Deer, almost a hundred and forty seven years had passed since I last prepared human food.

I settled beside her bed with a bowl and plate before gently calling her name. She opened her eye reluctantly, squinting against the daylight that streamed in through the window. I could tell by her expression that she wasn't feeling well. The down side to the human consumption of alcohol was that it tended to have unpleasant side effects.

"Eat and you'll feel better," I whispered. She didn't argue and finished off most of what I offered her.

As she took the last of her gruel, I considered how best to broach the subject I'd been pondering while she slept. Mainly, what was she doing outside in the snow? In her defense, I could think of a couple of innocent reasons, after all the human body couldn't go indefinitely without relief of the excretory system. I hoped this was the case and that Little Deer wasn't sprawled in the snow because she was trying to set out looking me.

I took a deep breath as I dipped the last spoon full of corn mush and offered it to her. "Little Deer," I began as she accepted the spoon. "What were you doing outside?"

I tried to keep the tone of my voice even and calm, almost a coo. In my experience, humans responded more positively to a soothing coo that to a harsher, accusatory, tone. The gentler I made my voice sound, the more willing they were to be forthcoming with otherwise embarrassing information.

Medicine might be a science in the minds of some, but there was a considerable amount of art to it as well. While most of the physicians I knew wouldn't admit it publically, the art of manipulation often played a pivotal role in patient care. Thought I loathed the craft, like most vampires, I was a master manipulator.

I watched her turn her head away and begin to tremble again. Perhaps my tone wasn't as soothing as I thought. I decided to try again.

"I'm not angry child," I offered, perhaps qualifying my emotions first might help her. "It's just that . . . well, finding you missing from your bed and nearly froze to death in the snow gave me quite a fright. And believe me, frightening one of the Sky People is no easy task."

My words had the desired effect; Little Deer turned her face back toward me and looked up to meet my gaze. She stared at me for the span of several heartbeats, and then she mouthed a single phrase.

"Red eyes," as her lips formed the words, fear inundated her features.

For the second time that morning my mind went briefly numb. Surly her words couldn't mean what I thought they did. How could I have missed the signs that singled the presence of another, how could I have missed the tell tale scent of one of my own kind? Had I been that distracted, that caught up in my involvement with Little Deer that I had failed to notice danger at our very door step?

"What do you mean?" I asked when I could form word again.

"I saw a man . . . with red eyes." Her lower lip trembled as she answered. Then she pointed to the window on the far side of the cabin, opposite her bed. "He was looking through the glass at me, and I heard the sound of his voice . . . in here." She pointed to her skull.

There was no mistake about it now; Little Deer had seen one of my brethren, another vampire. As if the specter of Savoy wasn't enough for me to worry about, now I had an unknown vampire in the neighborhood. I was going to have to take some extra precautions.

"What exactly did he look like, child?" Maybe the individual was someone I knew. If so, I might be able to convince him leave Little Deer alone and cut our home a wide berth when wandering through this area.

"Tall," she began, "But not as tall as you." She paused to think for a moment before pointing to a rust covered horseshoe nailed over the front door, "With hair that color, and a body like a bear."

Tall, with a robust build and rusty red hair I thought, defiantly not someone I knew. Of course, there was no way for her to tell how old he was, that would require knowledge and experience. All vampires who followed the traditional ways had red eyes, but those of newborns were brighter scarlet. With time, the eyes of older individuals tended to darken to a rich burgundy. My friend Aro, who was around three thousand years old, had deep maroon eyes that, at times, appeared almost black.

Because of my exclusive diet of animal blood, my own eyes were the color of honey . . . Panther Eyes. My experience had been the opposite of the norm, like every newborn I began my existence with scarlet eyes, but as I continued my way of life, they first turned dark amber brown and then over time lightened to honey-gold.

I felt a gentle tug at my sleeve that pulled me back to the present. Little Deer was staring at me. She looked worried and hundreds of unasked questions danced across her face. I smiled in an effort to put her at ease.

"But, why did you go outside, child?" I asked, continuing my gentle interrogation.

"He called to me and said I should come out and meet him," she answered honestly. "He looked like you . . . like one of the Sky People, so I guessed he was here to help me too."

Oh dear, this is going to be difficult, I thought as I considered how to warn her about the dangers of vampires without revealing the whole truth to her. I never gave this eventuality a moment's consideration when I walked willingly into the role of Panther Eyes of the Sky People.

My mind raced nimbly through the mythologies of a hundred lost civilizations. I studied all of them in the great libraries I had visited during my travels through Europe. Universally, I found one uniting thread, the powers of light vs. the powers of darkness, good fighting against evil. This battle even raged in the realms of the divine.

"Little Deer," I began quietly in a tone I hoped sounded loving and paternal. "Just as there are people in this world who will help you, there are also those who will do you great harm. This fact is also true with the Sky People . . . not all of us are benevolent." I reached out to tuck a strand of her hair back behind her ear as I spoke. "You have an innocent and trusting nature, my child. For your benefit however, you must learn to be very careful to whom you bestow the gift of your trust. As a general rule, red eyed Sky People are to be avoided, they will hurt you. Unless I tell you otherwise, don't trust the Red-Eyed Ones. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Panther Eyes," She mouthed as she nodded.

*****

When night fell and Little Deer was soundly sleeping, I slipped into the darkness to hunt. In order to make the long journey to Little Deer's village and back in a single night I gave up the opportunity to meet my needs. While I wasn't feeling especially thirsty at the moment, I didn't like to take chances considering who, or rather what, my companion was.

I took a deep breath, filling my lungs to capacity with the cold night air. A multitude of smells danced under my nose. As I wasn't too far from the cabin, Little Deer's inviting aroma accosted me first. Her common human scent veiled the more delicate perfume of honeysuckles, a smell I'd come to know as her personal scent. It filled the air of our cramped cabin and made me think of sultry summer evenings. I smiled even as I released the scent from my focus.

I inhaled deeply again, filtering through the cornucopia of smell as I searched for something suitable to hunt. I was in the mood for predatory game tonight. Grizzly at this time of the year would be unlikely; with the turn in the weather they would be snug in their dens by now. Cougar or bobcat might be feasible as would wolf, but I wasn't particularly fond of the latter, wolf tasted entirely too much like dog for my liking.

Two scents struck me simultaneously; the first was that of a bull elk not more than three miles away. The second scent was closer and far more disturbing. I growled faintly as the familiar smell that denoted one of my own kind filled my nose. I was down wind of him and I could tell he was moving toward the cabin. Without a moment's hesitation, and being sure to keep myself downwind of my advisory, I made my way back toward the cabin. I promised her my protection and I was a man of my word.

I moved quickly and soundlessly until I was in position. It was obvious to me as I stood several yards behind the tall red haired vampire, that this individual was young and inexperienced. My own scent clung to this place just as strongly as Little Deer's and yet he was willing to risk encountering me to come here. Yes, either he was very young, very thirsty, or both . . . in any case, this scenario spelled danger and I would have to keep my wits about me.

"Can I help you?" I asked quietly.

Suddenly the red haired male whirled around to face me and I knew by his expression that I had startled him. He hissed at me and jumped backwards several feet, bracing himself against the trunk of a gnarled pine tree. By his eyes, I could confirm his youth. They weren't the bright scarlet of a newborn but neither had they deepened to burgundy. His vermillion eyes told me he was likely less than a decade old.

"Who the hell are you?" He answered my question with one of his own. An Irishman, I thought when I heard him speak, or perhaps a Scott.

"I could ask you the same question young one." While I remained cordial, I emphasized the term young one, as I wanted him to realize that I was his senior.

It took him a few moments to gather himself before he answered. "The name is Iann O'Connor . . . and you are?"

"Carlisle Cullen," I provided in answer and then added again, "Can I help you?"

He took a breath, sniffing the air like an animal. I found myself shaking my head disapprovingly; he should have learned to do that more discreetly by now.

"You're the one I smelled earlier, at the cabin with the girl." He muttered. "Your scent is all over that place. Do you always toy with your food, or are you saving her for a rainy day?"

"Neither." I answered, allowing the faintest growl to accompany the word. I took a step closer allowing an errant shaft of moonlight to fall across my face, highlighting my golden eyes. "The girl isn't my dinner, she's my ward . . . meaning, she's under my protection and therefore off limits to you."

Iann's gaze locked with mine and he remained silent as he studied me. I hoped he could read the seriousness etched on my face, this was not a game. While I would prefer not to fight the youngster and I certainly didn't wish to kill him, I would do both if he pushed me to it.

"You're the one they all whisper about." He finally mumbled when he had his senses again. "The golden eyed vampire with the strange diet who goes about helping humans. I thought it was a myth when I first heard the story, but here you are, bold as brass, right in front of me. Is it true that you're actually a doctor and a surgeon at that?"

As it turned out, Iann was younger than I thought . . . he had been 22 in human years when a female named Cecilia turned him. That was four years ago. His creator was seeking companionship in changing the youth, but Iann found it impossible to stay with her. Their personalities clashed, often violently, especially when it came to Cecilia's odd preference of prey. It seemed she had an appetite for very young boys . . . children really, and Iann couldn't stomach it. After a year, he left his creator to strike out on his own.

During the course of our conversation, he asked me about Little Deer. It seemed his initial concern was that I might be like his creator in my tastes and that I meant this child harm. Once he realized who I was, his impression changed, but he was still curious about her. While I kept certain key details about our initial meeting to myself, I did tell him about her tragic plight. He could barely contain his anger when I told him about the Savoy brothers.

The young man agreed to stay clear of our cabin, and my temporary territory. As he often passed through this area he offered to be a scout of sorts and leave me any interesting news. There was a small outcropping of boulders about a mile north of the cabin; this would be his drop point for messages. When we finally parted company, I wished him well.