/Addy sits one an outcropping of rock overlooking the quiet camp, but not far from it, as a buffalo soldier roves, keeping watch per the agreement. She has a mostly untouched flask of whiskey with her./
If I never bury another body, it will not be soon enough. I’ve seen more than I care to see of death on this trip already. Thank the Great Spirit Grizz came along and helped me with that, I was near the end of my rope—that poor boy couldn’t have been more than 20. That’s too young to die. I’m tellin’ you, I was thinkin’ about that all afternoon. Then Sophie started tellin’ me about her growin’ up and it just got worse. She sure has turned her life around, I can’t hardly imagine her as no one’s victim now, but what I truly can’t imagine is bein’ property. What a beginnin’. She gets on right well with the professor, though, in fact, I’m not sure he’d be out here without her—difficult to find a person who knows what you need before you say it. /She picks up her filled flask and tilts it gently back and forth several times, holding it horizontally, listening to the liquid inside moving./
Somethin’ felt off to me all afternoon after we buried that poor boy, I just couldn’t shake it. Then that creature showed up—what an almighty racket. That sent a cold finger up the spine and I was none too happy to be movin’ toward it when Sophie and the professor asked us to go after it. Between that poor boy newly cold in the ground and the dread that noise inspired, I could not seem to climb the rope they left for us, my hands just kept letting it slide. I thought Lonesome was gonna’ grab me ‘round the waist, throw me over her shoulder and climb up herself she was gettin’ so fired up! Then, when I did finally make it up, and into the cave (which was quite repellent, I might add), I realized I’d run off without a single torch and the twilight only reached so far back. Solomon and Dead Feathers were long gone, I could hear the buffalo soldiers moving forward, firin’ them jet pack contraptions from time to time, but I couldn’t hear Dead Feathers or Solomon moving around. The occasional chanted phrase drifted back, but that murk was so thick it was move forward or turn ‘round.
I haven’t felt that useless in a while. I still recall my feelin’ of relief when, hearing that scatter gun go off, that damned beast got a helluva lot quieter. Weren’t but a minute and it made no more noise a’tall. Come to find out, just as I’m comin’ up like some kinda Johnny-come-lately, Dead Feathers has finished it off. I’ll tell ya one thing, I’m not used to showin’ up when the work’s done and I don’t like the feelin’ whatsoever.
From up here, the camp looks so small. There’s only four fires and everyone else seems to be restin’ easy, the honest sleep of hard work—I wouldn’t know anything about that tonight. It’s a little cluster under this big sky; I tremble to think the Pathway of Departed Spirits up there looks down on me in its majesty and sees me shirkin’ my duty. It’s many a night I’ve been under that bright belt with Papa, watchin’ the forest move with life we folk see but little. They watch, timeless, clustered so thickly up there; I hope if my mama saw me today she understands. Though, I’ve always thought of her as The Star That Does Not Walk Around, guiding me from her steady vantage point overhead. We keep her on our left, on this journey, travelin’ more eastward every day, and I wonder if she’s there when the sun blazes over us—I think she must be, I just have to trust she’s there.
/She uncaps the flask and holds it to her face, inhaling the scent of the liquid for a long moment, then recaps it, untasted./ Hm. Honey, maybe a lil’ citrus too. No oak, no vanilla. Amateurs. Not bad, but not Aislinn. I’ve no idea when I’ll next see my distillery, but one takes the task at hand and carries on until that time is over. I’m just gonna’ try harder tomorrow, I reckon. /She stands and picks her way back down into the camp and settles in./