Below, is a very rough draft of the first two chapters of my very first attempt at writing a novel. The main character is introduced here as the 7th child of a Germanic tribesman. This is the beginning of his backstory.
Eventually, after the death of his father, the orphaned child (first called, Agi, meaning blood-born, cursed) is adopted by a childless Roman couple. They give him the Roman name Longinus.
According to Christian legend, Longinus was the Roman centurion who thrust the spear into Christ's side at the crucifixion, and he then believed in Jesus.
Obviously, this is not my usual blog post, but I thought my regular readers would be a good test audience.
I would like to know what you think of this first draft. I don't want to spend months writing something if I suck as a potential novelist! So, be honest with me; I can handle it.
Thank you for your help.
Bubna / BLOOD BORN
# # Chapter ONE # #
(PROOF COPY -- Not for distribution.)
3 BC, The Rhine River Valley
In the distance, a low rumble of thunder bellowed. It seemed like the deep cry of some dark creature--both ominous and foreboding. Adlahard knew a storm was coming, and quickly. However, he didn't fear the storm as much as he worried about the Roman scum destroying everything and everyone. If they found him, he, his wife, and their children were all dead. The storm was the least of his fears.
Then, in a matter of moments, the sky went from relatively calm to threatening. Before the winds began, there wasn't so much as a bird's whistle to be heard. It was if the animals themselves sensed the impending rage and attempted to cloak themselves with silence. Yet, when the gusts started, they came with such force that Adalhard needed to lean into the wind to stand. Lightening cracked open the sky like a vicious bear claw ripping a dark garment to shreds.
Now in terror, the children huddled together in a ditch quickly filling with water. Their bodies pressed so tightly together it was difficult to see what arm or leg belonged to whom. With each electrifying bolt, the girls let out a scream, and Gasto, the youngest son, pressed his hands so tightly against his ears he thought his head might burst like a melon.
Adalhard was present for the birth of four of his six children. Linza, now pregnant with their seventh child, was in no condition to be on the run for her life. She was in obvious discomfort, but he'd seen his wife go through more pain than he could imagine. He knew Linza was strong. It was often said that Germanic women could give birth in a field while harvesting without pause or so much as a whimper and keep on working. He prayed to the gods that Linza would survive, but eight moons pregnant made their escape perilous at best, and with six terrified children in tow, the journey was already too slow. Now the storm would complicate their escape beyond anything he'd expected.
Ada, as his wife called him, knew the risks of leaving their small cottage. However, with the Romans burning and killing everything in their path, and their village on the hills of the east bank of the Rhine directly on that path, they had no choice but to flee.
The Rhine valley they lived in was some of the most fertile lands on the known earth. The soil was rich and black. The harsh rains were often a challenge, and the growing season was sometimes too short due to long winters, but hunting was good, so food was always plentiful. Adalhard spent his entire life in that valley. He knew every winding trail and every ancient tree. His father died of the plague when Adalhard was only twelve, but he had passed onto his son generations of knowledge, and a deep love for the land and its people.
Tragically, in their haste to flee from the Roman soldiers, Ada and his family had to leave almost everything. Two skinny cows. A dozen or so chickens and ducks. A collection of tools, some handed down to him by his father's father, but too heavy and bulky to transport. All that he had built, and all that he had acquired as a simple farmer, now lost.
The children, ranging in age from five to eighteen, were told to take a bedroll, a sack of whatever food they could muster, and to wear their warmest coat. Everything they owned was quickly reduced to only what they could carry as they ran for their lives.
Boda, the oldest son, was large and strong for his age, so in addition to his bedroll and food sack, he carried the youngest son, Gasto, on his back. Boda stood almost as tall as his father. His eyes were as clear and blue as a mountain lake, and his hair long and dark. Except for a small scar on his right cheek, Boda was perfect. The girls in the village made their desires known and clear. Any one of them would gladly wed this handsome young man who would one day inherit his father's farm.
Gasto, the baby (for now), was the boldest of his children. Always climbing. Always challenging. And always into something he shouldn't be doing. When he was almost four years old, Gasto wandered off alone to the woods one day. He'd been missing for nearly three hours before his oldest sister found him far too high in an old beech tree by the river. However, even Gasto had heard the stories from the other villagers about Roman brutality. He knew the Romans killed every man, woman, and child, young or old--it didn't matter. The soldiers took what they wanted and raped who they could. Gasto had some idea of what it meant to rape a woman, but his imagination filled in the blanks with images that horrified him.
Adalhard was worried about his wife. Linza looked far worse then they'd ever seen her. She was breathing hard and yet seemed incapable of getting enough air into her lungs. Linza knew something was definitely wrong. It was too early for the baby, but the worse pain she'd ever had in her belly told her otherwise. This child was coming whether it was the time or not, and she was afraid. In fact, for the first time in her life, Linza was terrified.
Within minutes, all hell was raining down on them. The cold and biting wind and rains blew sideways and would make every step a struggle. Ada forced them out of the ditch.
"We must leave here, and now! There's no hope for you, the children, or the coming child if we stay put hiding in this trench."
Adalhard was a brave and strong man, but the tone in his voice left no room for doubt.
"If we can make it to the Witch's Cave we can wait out the storm," he shouted above the lightning and howling wind.
The cave was named after an old woman who'd lived there many decades before. She probably wasn't a witch, but she was odd and lived alone. With each telling, the stories about this woman who lived in a scary cave got darker and stranger. This is how the cave had earned its name so long ago.
"I can't climb that hill! The baby is coming, and the children are exhausted."
"We have no choice. Climb, hide, or die!" Adalhard wasn't being mean, but the intensity in his eyes and the desperation in his words made the girls shutter.
"We're going to die. We're all going to die," his four daughters, Odila, Saxa, Ishild, and Gisela, wailed in unison.
Linza knew that death wouldn't come easy for any of them, and the thought of her girls being abused over and over again by Roman soldiers made her determined to find the cave. Ada was right, they had no choice.
In a resolute voice that shook everyone, Linza yelled above the storm, "Out. Everyone out of this hole and follow your father, closely. Boda, you stay behind your sisters, and no matter what, don't let go of Gasto. Ready? Let's move!"
The girls still huddled together, hesitated for a second. They were cold, wet, frightened, and already weak from the distance they'd already traveled. The thought of moving in this storm to the Witch's cave seemed ludicrous. But Linza yelled even louder, "Go! NOW!"
Ada was at the top of the ditch, reaching out his hand to help them up the now muddy and slippery slope. One by one, the girls, Gasto, Boda, and then Linza scrambled slowly on all fours to the top where the force of the wind and rain now stung their eyes like grog poured on an open wound. Every step forward was a battle. Every moment more painful than the last.
Ada could hear his girls crying. He feared that if anyone of them stopped they would never move again. Boda and Linza were less than ten paces behind him, but all he could see was their silhouette when the lightning momentarily illuminated their wet and tired bodies.
Adalhard was certain he could find the cave, but now uncertain if his wife would survive the next few hours. He'd never seen Linza in so much physical or emotional stress, and he wondered how she kept moving while in the full grip of excruciating labor.
Under his breath, Ada prayed, "Oh god of thunder, storms, and protection, I beg you to stop this assault on my children. Please strengthen my wife. Help us, oh great Thor, or we perish."
"It's just there, at the top of this ridge. Keep moving. We can't rest here. Not now. Not yet," yelled Adalhard above the wind. Hail was now falling and it was the size of quail eggs. Fortunately, the thick forest provided some cover, but the trees and the brush, not to mention the steep incline, made every step difficult. It was like trying to swim upstream in the Rhine during flood season.
"Papa, I can't see and I can't feel my fingers," wailed the youngest daughter. Linza was close enough to give her a stern look and said, "Stop complaining about what we can't change!"
Boda, in addition to dragging Gusto along, and in an act of uncharacteristic kindness, took his baby sister's bag to carry. "
Shove your hands inside your coat for a bit to warm them," said Boda.
But the fact that she was climbing the hill on all fours made that impossible.
They were now only an arrow's flight from the cave, but the cold wind, the hail, and their utter exhaustion made it seem like the old witch had placed a curse on anyone who tried to find refuge in her abysmal hole.
Minutes seemed like hours. The closer they got to the cave the farther it seemed. Linza began to wonder if they were, in fact, lost. Her pain was now regular and beyond description.
She said out loud to herself, "Breathe. Breathe. One more step. One more breath. Just one more." She then panicked for a moment as she realized Adalhard had slipped away. Of course, she knew he would never abandon them, but where had he gone?
Then, and with relief, she saw Adalhard rushing down the hill toward them screaming at the top of his lungs, "It's here! We made it!"
Adalhard took Gusto in his arms, got behind Linza, and literally pushed her up the hill. She slipped more than once and planted her face in the wet and moldy leaves, but shelter was coming. At this moment, that's all that mattered.
The Witches Cave
The cave was large; bigger than Linza had imagined.
Adalhard and the Boda had been here before many times while out on a hunt, but Linza and the girls had only heard about it. Of course, it was pitch black and you couldn't see anything, but if the echo off the walls was any indication, the old witch's cave was enormous.
The girls were still whimpering, though grateful for a dry place to rest. Gusto, who would normally be wandering off to explore, dark or not, was asleep in his sister Ishild's arms.
"Boda, find the stash of dry wood we left after our last visit. It should be against the wall about twenty paces from the right side of the cave entrance. We must start a fire as far back in this old boar's hole as possible."
Boda was already looking before his father finished speaking. He knew the fire would provide warmth, and much needed light for the care of his mother.
"It's here, Papa, and dry!"
"Good son, good, thank the gods. Take some of the smaller pieces with a handful of leaves and move along the wall until you must duck down to stand. I will bring my flint to you in a moment."
"Yes, Papa. But will the light be seen outside the cave?" He asked in unveiled concern for their safety.
"If we keep the fire small we should be fine," but everyone heard the concern in Adalhard's voice.
Within seconds, Adalhard located the two flintstones and found his way to Boda and a small pile of kindling and dry leaves.
Strike. Strike. There was a spark on the second strike, but no flame. Not yet. Strike. Strike. Strike.
"Yes, Papa! There was an ember for a moment; let me give breath to it while you try again.
Together father and son did what they had done a hundred times, they brought life to dead wood that would bring life to them all.
Linza was comforted, for only a moment, by the familiar smell of burning wood and the glow of a small fire. Now able to faintly see her six children brought tears to her eyes. They were drenched to the bones, shivering, and hungry, but they were strong. The gods made my people strong, she thought as she smiled.
Her momentary smile was banished from her muddy face and matted head as another birth pain hit her hard, so hard she cried out in pain before she could muffle her scream with her hands.
Odila and Saxa had seen other women give birth. Odila, at fifteen, had helped her mother with her younger siblings, and she rushed to her mother's side.
"What can I do, Mutter? We have nothing needed to prepare for a birth. No hot water. No clean cloths. No birthing chair. You CANNOT have this baby here and now!"
"Yes, daughter, here and now is exactly where this baby will be born. I feel like this child is already pushing his way head through me for air and milk."
Even Gusto was silent at this pronouncement. But like any five-year-old, he grew excited that his mother said the baby would be a he. No longer would he be the baby brother, and he knew even then that he would always be the best big brother possible.
A surreal calm came over Linza as she spoke to her children, "Ishild, you must keep Gusto near and yet do not let him or Gisela see the birth. They are too young and this may not end well. Odila and Saxa you will help me bring our young fighter into this world. Boda, keep the fire going and help your father as needed. He will keep an eye on us and his sword and bow ready near the mouth of the cave should we have any unwanted guests."
"Yes, Mutter," the children replied, "we are ready." Linza knew they were not ready. Not at all. Something was horribly wrong and she feared this might be her last few minutes on earth with this clan she loved so deeply.
Adalhard stepped near her. He was not, by nature, an affectionate man. He was a hunter, a farmer, and a feared tribesman warrior, but tenderness and compassion were strangers to him. Linza, however, knew she held a special place in his hard heart; a place no woman--not even his mother--held.
Her eyes met his and Linza saw something she'd never seen before in the soul of her mate, fear. Not fear for his life or fear of the Romans, but fear for her. She had no idea if or how Adalhard would survive without her and with seven children.
Surprisingly, Ada bent down to Linza and gently kissed her on the head as he said in a whisper, "You are the jewels in my crown, the smile on my face, and the warmth in my soul. I cannot imagine my life without you. Be strong, woman. Be strong for me and this mangy brood."
Linza pushed him away, smiled, looked up at him, and said, "You have no crown or jewels." He smiled back, but still looked worried.
"Grab your pathetic little sword and stand watch while I push this brat of yours from my belly."
Adalhard knew what she knew, this was not the place or the time to push anything into anywhere, but they had no choice. He also knew by the look in her eyes and tone in her voice that Linza was saying goodbye.
She wiped a tear from her cheek as she pushed him away with one hand and pulled her skirt up with the other. "It's time," she said to her daughters with a heavy tone, "It's time."
Without a birthing chair or harness to help hold her up, Odila and Saxa did their best to steady their mother as she squatted. After six children, nearly thirty-five years, and far too many eggs and potatoes, Linza was not a small woman. The girls, however, balanced Linza as she rocked and pushed, rocked, and pushed.
Odila looked with horror at Saxa as she noticed a stream of blood now running past their feet and into the fire. The smell of burnt blood began to spread through the cave. Odila kicked some dirt and rocks into the flow, attempting to divert it from the flames that seemed to long for more blood.
Linza had placed her wet and filthy coat beneath her to receive the child. Odila understood her primary role was to help the baby down to the now filthy wet coat and then to sever the birth cord with her knife before she wrapped the child up.
Without thinking, Saxa whispered, "This cave is cursed. It demands a blood sacrifice."
"Be quiet, girls, I will not hear of curses, of witches, or of blood!"
Gusto was doing his best to see what was happening. Despite Gisila's attempts, he was determined to sneak a peek as he wondered out loud, "Do babies fight to stay in the belly or fight to come out?"
Gisela shook her head and told him to be still. That never worked with Gusto. Never. Boda turned his back to his mother and starred at the flame shadows dancing on the walls. He felt helpless and awkward and afraid, though no young tribesman would admit to fear.
Linza took another deep breath. She was squeezing Odila and Saxa's arms now and the girls did their best not to scream with her in their pain.
Odila was unprepared for what happened next. At the same moment, the baby was free, Linza fell back against the cave wall. She hit her head hard and then slumped into a pile just as Odila grabbed her newest brother. He was screaming, eyes and mouth wide open, and he gasped for air between loud cries. It was if the baby knew something was horribly wrong.
Gusto also started screaming as his mother collapsed. Boda yelled at Saxa to take the baby so Odila could cut the cord. Adalhard dropped his sword and rushed to his wife's side.
The noise, confusion, and panic was almost as thick as the smell of smoke and burning blood. Instinctively, all seven of them, now eight, came to Linza's side. Blood was everywhere. Odila had seen no less than a dozen women give birth, and the combined blood from all of them was less than what her mother was losing.
Linza's skin was cold to the touch, and her color pale, as she struggled to open her eyes she said with a hoarse voice, "I am so sorry to leave you. Odila, you must care for your father and this child. I am so sorry . . . so sorry . . ." Her voice trailed off and she was gone.
Then, and as if a deafening fog had settled in that dark place, there was silence. No more crying. No sound. Nothing but eight people breathing, and all in shock.
Death was too familiar in their land. Loss was a part of every Germanic tribesman's life. This moment would pass, and for now, they would survive. They had to press on. But the silence was painful, and their hearts were broken.
Gusto broke the silence with a curious tone. He asked a question only a five-year-old would ask in that situation. "Papa, what's is his name? What will we call the baby?"
Without hesitation, Adalhard looked up at the ceiling of the cave as if speaking to the gods, "Agi, his name is Agi, for he is blood-born and cursed."
# # Chapter TWO # #
(PROOF COPY -- Not for distribution.)
Odila held her newest brother tightly. Their eyes met in a moment of silent and deep bonding between the two. The blood had dried on his face. Oddly, it looked as if someone had painted his little chubby face for war as she had often seen her father's face before a battle. However, her mind raced with so many unanswered questions.
How would she feed Agi?
How would he survive without a mother?
What would her father do now?
Would they be able to provide mother with a proper funeral pyre?
She was startled by her father's voice. "Odila . . . Odila, put that cursed child down and help us gather stones."
"I will not leave your mother to the boars and vermin. We cannot burn her body so we must cover it as best we can."
Boda began to object.
"Papa, there must . . . . "
"There isn't! This is the only way unless we all want to die here. The Romans will see a fire on this hill and be on us like a swarm of angry wasps. There is no choice, and your mother wouldn't want me to risk all of you for her."
Adalhard was right, of course. But the idea of leaving mother here without honor tore at all of them. This was not a fitting end for such a brave woman and a wonderful mother.
Odila stood, moved a short distance, and set the child down against the cave wall. Strangely, Agi was now quiet and never so much as let out a coo let alone a cry. Odila then picked up the largest stone she could manage. With tears running down her face, and agony in her soul, she place the first rock against her mother's leg.
Quietly. Without a word. All the children, including Gusto, scrounged for rocks and brought them to their father for placement.
It seemed like hours had passed. Every stone weighed more and more. Every rock crushed their hearts. When father put the final stone over the last bit of Linza's face, Gusto let out a cry so loud you would not have imagined it came from one so small.
Gusto's wail must have startled the baby, or perhaps Agi too had sensed the loss, and he began to cry again, loudly. Odila rushed to the baby, her sisters huddled together crying, Gusto lay on the pile of rocks sobbing, while Boda and Adalhard stood silent.
As she tried to comfort her newest brother, Odila looked at her father, and what she saw terrified her. He was angry, and she knew that all his rage was directed at the little one she held in her arms."
"Gather your bags, now," commanded Adalhard. "We have spent too much time here already, and Gusto's scream no doubt echoed from this cave like a war trumpet. The Romans will be here soon."
Adalhard moved like a raging river to Odila's side, and he whispered in her ear, "We will leave the child. There are no breasts to feed him and no will in my heart to keep him."
Odila stepped back in horror, clutching Agi tighter in her arms. "FATHER, we cannot! I will NOT! He is strong and I will keep him quiet. Mother . . . ."
"No! Perhaps the gods will keep him alive, but that child is already dead to me."
Odila was young. She had never crossed her father. Even when he told her he would marry her off soon, she was afraid but compliant. At fifteen, she was already a year or two older than most of her village friends who had been given in marriage to tribesmen. Like her mother, she was large, homely, and pockmarked from a fever she had as a child. Odila was also rejected by many because of her strong will in a time when women were not much more than breeding mares.
Despite the words of her father, her determination was unflinching. She would stay and die with Agi before she would abandon her baby brother.
Adalhard knew his oldest daughter would not bend on this, not now.
"Perhaps you will change your mind when you will have to smother him to keep him quiet or be caught."
She spoke slowly and louder than she realized, "This. Boy. Will. Live. Or I will die with him. We have dishonored mother; the gods will not force me to dishonor my brother by abandoning him to a Roman sword or worse."
Adalhard turned to walk away and he was surprised to see his other five children, including Boda, facing him with resolve.
As the oldest, Boda spoke respectfully but unwaveringly, "Papa, we all stay or we all go. This is what Mutter would want."
"She would want you to live, but there is no time to argue. We must go and now before it is too late."
Agi, unknowingly the center of this conflict, sucked wildly on his oldest sister's dirty finger, eyes wide open and quiet, for now.
"Boda, take your sword and go down the hill as far as the grove. See what you can see. Listen too, boy! The Romans move like a herd of cattle and can be heard long before they are seen."
"If by chance, you run into some Romans, slip by them and make your way north along the river. We will find each other in a few days."
Boda picked up his small bag, grabbed his sword, and took a deep breath before exiting into the early morning sunlight. The storm had passed, the air was cool and fresh, but the clouds still hung to the hills like a wet dress on a woman--you could see the shape of everything but nothing in detail.
He had to move slowly, too slowly, for the rains made the saturated ground tricky to navigate. At times, his feet sank to his ankles in mud. In fact, he fell and slid down the hill more than he walked.
Moving down the mountain wasn't nearly as difficult as the climb up the night before. Though they'd been in a horrible storm, his body was warm from the exertion then. Now, however, still wet, hungry, and exhausted, left him chilled and shaking uncontrollably. Boda was glad his father wasn't there to see him quake like an aspen in the wind.
Get it together, Boda.
You are a warrior now and you must face hardship with strength.
Suddenly, his self-encouraging thoughts were interrupted by the sound of metal on metal.
Instinctively, he dropped to the ground and crawled on all fours behind an old tree.
Where was it coming from?
How far away were the Romans?
His mind went into survival mode instantly, and he consciously slowed his breathing and listened.
As he carefully peered around the tree, Boda saw them. Less than a hundred paces from him. It looked like a contubernium of seven or eight soldiers fighting their own battle with the slippery slope, but making progress and moving directly toward the cave.
He knew what must be done. There was no way he could get back to the cave to warn his father, and no way he could face this group of trained killers on his own. His only option was to draw them away from the cave, and quickly.
Without thinking, and without hesitation, Boda stood out from the tree, stepped into a beam of sunlight, and yelled as loud as he could, "Over here you Roman sacks of puss. I will lance you like a boil and crush you like a roach under my feet!"
He raised his sword in defiance, threw his bag aside, and continued to curse them with language that would have made his father proud.
Then, Boda did what he had to do.
The Romans had no idea that the cave they sought was just a stones-throw beyond them hiding a family. All they saw was a defiant tribesman, and they were tired of climbing. So, they drew their swords and pursued him as their enemy ran down the mountain.
Boda was unencumbered by armor, younger than his pursuers, and used to running through these woods after game. He knew he could outrun them and then circle back at some point to reconnect with his family. Once he reached the valley floor and the river, Boda planned on following the river moving northwest knowing he would find his father and family doing the same. There was no doubt in his mind that his father wouldn't wait long for his return to the cave.
He still did more falling than running, but thankfully the distance was growing between him and the Romans. The uncontrollable shaking stopped now that adrenaline was pumping through his agile body. He even let out a whoop of joy from time to time as he jumped a log. Boda expected to shake off these men like deer had escaped him many times in this same forest.
What Boda hadn't anticipated was running headlong into an entire Roman cohort of nearly 500 men at the bottom of the hill.
Foolishly, and in a tragic error due to his inexperience, Boda had not given any thought to where the smaller group of men had come from. They were a small part of a much larger group--a band sent to the top of a hill while their brothers waited eating breakfast below.
Without warning, and before he could stop himself, Boda practically slide into a Roman sword. Nose to nose with a man whose breath smelled like rotting meat and sour grog, his life quickly slipped away.
Boda's last thought was of his baby brother, Agi, perhaps he is cursed . . . first my mother, now me.
A Narrow Escape
The first centurion called for Otto, a tribesman who they had paid to betray his own people. Otto had one purpose--to help the Romans find his tribesman who had fled.
"Who is this man? Where did he live? Is he part of the group we are after?"
Otto knew Boda, of course. More importantly, he knew that this was the son of the famed archer and Roman killer, Adalhard.
"Yes," he replied sheepishly.
"Speak up you son of a whore! Is this the man?"
Otto despised all Romans, but this Centurion was hated even by his own men, it seemed.
"Yes, Centurion, or better said, he is the son of the man you seek. This is Boda, son of Adalhard."
Just then, the men in pursuit of Boda reached the cohort.
The centurion looked at them with scorn, "All eight of you chased this dog down the mountain? Where is his family? Where is the father?"
One soldier spoke up with embarrassment in his tone.
"Yes, Centurion, moving up the mountain was a difficult and slow task due to the rains. We saw no one until this man revealed himself and turned to run like a coward."
"Fools! I sent you after the brute, Adalhard, and his entire family, not one young buck! He must have sacrificed himself to draw you away from his clan. Half of you should have continued up the mountain to the cave this dog, Otto, swears is there."
The soldiers looked at each other with fear. It would not be unlike this Centurion to kill them or at least one of them in his rage just to make an example out of them.
"Get. Back. Up. That. Hill. We will continue to move west. Do not return to me without the head of Adalhard. AM I CLEAR?"
"Yes, Centurion!" They spoke in unison, saluted, and turned in haste to once again climb.
The centurion drew his sword and in a flash, he cut off the head of Boda, and then he threw it at the feet of a young soldier.
"Find or cut a stake and put this head on it. We have wasted enough time on this gods-forsaken road."
"We've waited long enough. Your brother is either running or he's dead. He should have returned by now. Either way, we must go. If Boda is alive he will meet us downriver soon enough."
Adalhard was worried about Boda, but there was nothing he could do; they had to move if they were to survive. He also knew that many of his fellow tribesmen would be heading for the Ruhr River Gorge to regroup and plan a counterattack.
"I will fight the Ro...mi...onions with you Papa. Give me a sword and I will kill them all," said Gusto.
Adalhard smiled a bit. Gusto was always his bold one.
"I will carry the sword, for now, my son, you can help by staying brave and listening well."
"Yes, Papa, you can count on me!"
Once again, Adalhard directed his children to gather their bags as he stepped to the mouth of the cave. The baby was fussing and Gisela was complaining, "Papa I am so tired, can't we spend just a few more hours resting here?"
Gisela was only nine, but she was also always sick with something. From the time she was a small child, she was weak and sickly. Her father was surprised she lived as long as she had. Sick children rarely lasted long in the harsh world of the Rhine River valley. If they didn't die from an accident, they died from the plague.
Not for distribution
# # END # #