Here it is Ladies and Gentlemen! The next chapter in the story-Fistful of Snow. Just thought we’d add some mystery and go to Leandra’s P.O.V. 😉 Can’t wait for Eliza’s? Neither can I :D. Well, kept you waiting long enough–enjoy!
Leandra stumbled into the damp, dark dungeon hall. “Women to the left, men to the right,” proclaimed a guard in a monotone voice, using his sword to demonstrate. Somehow Leandra found herself moving along with the silent crowd of prisoners massing into the passageway. “Ella!” Marianna pressed heavily on Leandra’s arm, squeezing her hand tightly. “Here, I have something for you,” she quickly placed a tiny burlap piece into her hands. “What is it?” Marianna looked confused, fingering the rough cloth.
“Just wait and see.” Ella quickly smiled before being forced into a cell. She turned around at the last moment to see her sister peering over her shoulder, large blue eyes wide. Opening her mouth, Marianna mouthed ‘bye’ as another guard dragged her away. “Bye…” whispered Leandra, entering into her own barracks.
A tall young man stood in front of her, a sheaf of paper balanced on a board in his hands. “Leandra Ella Marie Johnson.”
“Age and date of birth.”
“Eighteen years of age. October 1st, 1625.”
“Fine. You may leave, Bed 21. Last room, last bed on the right.”
Nodding politely, Leandra made her way down the straw-covered floor and surveyed the area. The cells were split into three rooms, separated only by a doorway. On the either side on the room were three rows of bunk beds, each with the ends facing each other. She seemed to be the first person here, as none of the other beds were full.
Sighing, Leandra sank down on her bed, staring across to the other side. Why am I here? She asked herself, mentally tracing the nails in the bed above. Feeling a bit silly about that question, Leandra shook her head, Because of my faith. Feeling weary all the sudden, she fell back and stared at the ceiling before drifting off into blissful sleep.
The command was firm yet quiet, and all the room shuffled, moved pillows and got ready to face the day. Blinking tiredness from her eyes, Leandra sat up wearily. Turning to her right, she soon saw that the other bunks were now occupied. There were eleven other young women rolling over and shifting their feet, some whom Leandra did not recognize.
“Prisoners complete daily tasks.” The young man from yesterday stepped into the room, his eyes sweeping the room. He examined the women and counted the heads, then turned to leave.
He stopped in his tracks and looked at her, “What do you need?”
“Well, I’m new…can you inform me on the daily tasks?” Leandra clutched her hands together nervously, pulling them behind her back.
“Ruth will inform you. New attire issued tomorrow for prisoners 1642-1643.”
“From now you will say ‘yes sir’, understand?” His ice cold blue eyes seemed to penetrate her very being. Leandra bowed her head slightly, “Yes sir.” Nodding, he walked down the pathway and out of the cell.
A collective sigh of relief seemed to enter the room as the man disappeared out of sight. The women soon busied themselves tidying the room, while a thin young woman approached Leandra.
“I’m Ruth.” Her words seemed slightly sardonic as she tilted her head, “New?”
“Yes.” Leandra twisted her sweaty hands, watching Ruth’s narrowed eyes. “Come on then.” She walked briskly down the pathway, sending straw blowing in thin tuffs. As she came by, some girls gave her sidelong glares and tossed another handful of straw where they walked.
Feeling guilty, Leandra made sure to step carefully on the pathway, giving a smile to working girls. One older girl stared sullenly back, her face drawn into an unreadable expression.
“Don’t stand around,” Ruth snapped, never once looking at Leandra. “Yes ma’am.” She turned and followed her into a large walk-in closet. “Everything we use to operate this prison is here.”
The supplies were hung on the wall:several sets of worn blankets, some extra pillows, bales of straw, one broom shoved hastily in the corner. Several dust rags stood in a pitiful pile on the highest shelf, torn and dirtied with use.
“You can start by sweeping the entryway.” Ruth thrust the broom into Leandra’s hands and swept past her, “Don’t talk to anyone.”
“Alright…” mumbled Leandra, going over to what she supposed was the entryway. She began sweeping the threshold of the cell door. There was very little to sweep, and she soon began looking for something else to clean.
“Clean the attic.”
Leandra turned to see that same sullen girl slowly sweeping the floor, staring down. Glancing sideways at her, she turned around and began walking into the next room.
“Very well…” whispered Leandra, looking for a ladder to reach the attic.
The attic was musty and dark, a morbid feeling cursing through the chilly place. Leandra coughed, covering her mouth as she tried to see for the thick dust. Blinking rapidly, Ella stood shakily to her feet and walked slowly across the unstable floorboards.
There was next to nothing in the wide but low-roofed attic, save for a few scarce trunks and some boxes. Leandra swept harshly along the floor, sighing at the sentiment that she was getting just about nowhere with all the dust.
Finally the floor was mostly clean and Leandra straightened her back to take a long breath as she cleared her mind. Thinking of how long they might be stuck here with no escape frightened Ella to no end but she knew that faith was called for in times like this.
Sucking in a last inhale, Ella grabbed the broom handle once more and resumed cleaning, taking into account the rather large spider webs on the ceiling above her. She brushed the straw end of the broom along the corner of the roof, sweeping away the cotton-like material of the spiders’ homes. A lone brown spider fell to the floor and Leandra watched it scurry away. She knew what the little creature felt like, trying to make sense of a new place. Taken from it’s home.
Leandra was confused, her broom had gotten stuck in a loose board of some kind of ceiling above her. What was this? Ella pulled hard at the broom and it came loose from the nail. She frowned, a board had come loose above her.
Grabbing the ladder once more, Ella positioned it underneath the loose board and climbed upwards. Pushing at the wobbly piece of wood, Leandra tested the strength of the other boards. She was able to push aside the second wood piece and the space was large enough to fit through. Ella could see light emanating from the hole. What on earth? Leandra thought. She had never heard of a ceiling above an attic.
The little alcove was too short to stand in but wide enough for Leandra to crawl inside. The sunshine coming from outside illuminated the little area as she moved across the boards on all fours. A box was fitted tightly into one corner and would not have been visible if not for the sun shining just right on it. Leandra paused for a moment, considering whether or not to look inside. She knew that the Father must have planned for her to see it because if not than there would have no way she would have spotted it.
YAY! Another chapter! Now let me go start on chapter 3! Okay.
“Someday your faith will be tested, Ella, at that time, you will need to know when to speak. When to be silent. When to fight. When not to fight. When to stand. When to live. When to die.”
Eighteen-year-old Leandra is just apart of a small sect of believers in 17th century England. Opressed by King Leon III, they are soon rounded up and taken to prison. However, a designated group of women, including Leandra’s best friend Eliza and children escape to the woods, in order to leave for America. Along the way, kidnappings, encounters with soldiers and loss of faith threaten to discourage the two women, but they must remember to keep their faith.
Leandra held out her gloved hand to capture a fistful of pure white snow. Her mind wandered back to the words her father had spoken to her, what did they mean?
“Someday your faith will be tested, Ella, at that time, you will need to know when to speak. When to be silent. When to fight. When not to fight. When to stand. When to live. When to die.”
A single tear trickled down Leandra’s face, staining her perfect rosy complexion. An image crossed her mind, a man lying on his death bed, near the end of his life. Her father. Smiling into her eyes, her father took the girl’s hand, using his favorite name for her.
“Never lose faith, my Lea, never lose faith.”
Two years after
“They’re coming, they’re coming!”
Screams could be heard throughout the village as the eighteen year-old stood up from her washing. “Lea, Lea!” She bent down to pick up little Asher and faced the commotion, shielding her eyes with one hand, “Come here, my boy, I’ve got you.” Her dear brother, just past his second year, had faced more than his share of troubles. When their father died, the poor boy had just been one year of age. His mother had already passed away two months after giving birth. Leandra’s heart went out to the little one, and she kissed his head.
“Leandra, come quick!”
She turned to see Eliza rushing toward her, skirts billowing around her ankles, “Leandra! Come here!” Ella walked slowly, she could already see the smoke billowing in the distance and pursed her lips, “Eliza, what is happening?” Trying to make her voice heard over the noise of confusion and horror, the young woman walked as though dazed, staring until her eyes grew bleary.
“They say it is the King’s army, oh dear Ella, be careful, you must hide!”
Leandra did not need to hear the urgency in Eliza’s voice to understand the distress. She ran back to her own house, hurriedly bundling the two of them up to keep warm in the frigid fall weather. A second later, she turned to not see the young child standing near her, “Asher!” Her heart racing from the scare of not finding him, she was exceedingly relieved to see him standing near the window, watching the men of her village come home to help their wives. Now was a time Leandra wished for her father, but she was a strong girl, taught well by her old man. “Come here, Asher.” Her voice was firm, and the little boy ran to her, his black hair slightly in the wind. “You, little man, listen to me. You must do exactly what I say, understand?” Asher nodded innocently, his eyes questioning. Ella needed to be confident that her little boy would make it out alive.
The barn was old and musty, but it served well as a hiding place. “Quiet, now, Asher. You must not make a sound until I tell you. Sit tight, I will be back.” Leandra dashed toward the house of her sister, married with five children. “Marianna, it’s Ella!” The door opened, and her sister breathed a sigh of desperate relief, she grabbed Ella’s hand, “Leandra, I need your help, the little ones, I must hide them!”
The people of the village knew for a long time that this day would come. Since the day they left the king’s power to start a community of believers, their former master, King Leon lll, had his eye on taking them out. They were Separatists of sorts, furious with King’s rules, they had left his kingdom to live on their own, able to worship the Father as they believed.
Ella gathered the children, guiding them toward their mother. “Come here, John, let’s get you warm.” Marianna wrapped the youngest in warm clothing and kissed his cheeks, handing him to his aunt. The older children followed Ella toward the large barn behind the Elder’s house, Abraham James’ land. The Elder himself was helping the men organize an army to fight the army of King Leon’s men.
“Asher, my baby, where are you?”
The two-year-old peeked out from behind the straw, “Momma!” She smiled, rushing toward, “I’m so glad you’re safe,” she hugged him tight and sat him with her sister’s young ones.
Once the children of the village had been safely hidden, mothers of babies with them, the other women and teens began to care for the wounded men who were diligently fighting the king’s men. Ella was tending to an older man’s wounds when she heard the king’s booming voice, “My people, why do you fight? Surrender and be safe under my care, again!” She looked toward the window, seeing the king climbing off his horse. She saw at once that her village had been defeated. The soldiers of King Leon raced through the village, taking prisoner every single person in sight.
Leandra watched solemnly. She felt a hand grab her wrist and suddenly she was being herded toward a large wagon. Surrounded by the others of her village, Ella wanted desperately to hug Asher, but she knew he would be safe with the other children, they would all escape to freedom. A strange sense of calm flooded Ella’s being.
The dusty streets threw their dirt in the faces of everyone riding in the uncovered wagon. Coughing spread through the crowd as the wagon pulled to a jolting stop. “Everyone out!” The command was quickly obeyed. A tumult of men, women, and youth alike tumbled out. “Hurry up!”
The prisoners were forcefully directed onto a waiting ferry, being herded like common livestock. However, only a select few seemed to be in any mood of distress, with the others quietly comforting one another. Leandra herself was silent, resting on a hard wooden bench. The smell of something putrid filled her nostrils, someone pushed a small, rickety cart near the prisoners.
Leandra was handed a piece of stale, cold, bread and a cup of thin, watery broth. Her hands grasped the cold, tin cup as thoughts filled the young woman’s head. What would happen to them? Blowing out a breath of crisp air, she tugged her woolen shawl tighter around herself. Lifting her head, she observed Marianna, who sat rocking with a package to her chest, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Oh why?”
Tears pricked at Leandra’s eyes, although they did not come. Feeling compassion for her sister, she pulled a thread from her pocket and began to stitch buttons onto a spare kerchief.
As she sewed, Leandra thought of Jane, Lily, Olivia and Eliza, who had been designated to keep the children safe in the barn. The plan was for the women to take them into the woods until the soldiers passed by, and then take a boat to America. If the prisoners ever got out—Leandra doubted that—they would join the children. For now, they must endure until the end. Grimacing, Ella lifted her head and looked to the sky, which was aflame with a red sunset. She knew strength and patience was called, but somehow there seemed to be no way out.
Eliza grunted as she grinded a jar of cornmeal for the children’s dinner, watching little Asher play in the dirt. Long after the sun had gone down, the soldiers had left, but Eliza had overheard one of them promising to return. Glad for the unintended warning, she and the other women were making the arrangements to leave for America.
The smell of frying meat reached Eliza’s nostrils, making her stomach growl with hunger. Dumping the ground cornmeal into another bowl, she added water and eggs. Next, she poured the batter into a sizzling skillet that was hung over a fire.
“What’cha makin’?” little Levi was standing in front of the fire, peering into the pan. “I’m making your dinner, honey.” Eliza poked the hot flames, making sure the fire was burning well. “Where are my parents?” his solemn face stared up at her, smudged with soot.
“Well. They’ll be here on the good Father’s timing.” She leaned over, flipping the corncakes in succession. Levi threw a twig into the fire, “How long will that take?” Seeing the little boy’s dejected face, Eliza rose and put her arms around him. “It might take a long time Levi, but they need you to watch out for your little sister and keep her safe.”
“Okay.” Levi wandered off to find his little sister, a young five-year-old named Hanna. Eliza smiled after him, piling up a plate of steaming corncakes. “Dinner’s ready!” called Jane, one of the young women chosen to take care of the children. Eliza brought her plate and placed it on the makeshift table her colleagues had set up, which was a cloth stretched over six logs.
There was plenty for everyone to eat, considering none of them were extremely hungry or picky. Salt beef, corncakes and dried apples adorned every plate, and soon they had all eaten their fill. Once the women had cleaned up, they laid out an area for the children to sleep and tucked them in. Eliza placed Asher carefully in his spot, smoothing down a stray lock of raven hair. “Goodnight little one.”
She then turned to Marianna’s children, all under ten. Marianna’s eldest, Rebekah, was quite impertinent. Staring into Eliza’s eyes reproachfully she demanded, “Where are my Mama and Papa?” Quietly, Eliza put Rebekah’s siblings to sleep, “On a boat, going to prison.” Glaring, Rebekah folded her arms, “I don’t like you.”
Smiling faintly, Eliza turned to her, “Well you don’t have to like me, but you do have to love me.” Rebekah scowled, “Who says that?”
“Well, that’s what Yahshua told us. In John, it says: This is my command, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Rebekah stared contemptuously, “And what if I don’t love ya’?” Her red wisps matched her temper, jutting wildly about her pale freckled face.
“It will take time.” Eliza said simply, not wanting to argue. She lifted up Rebekah’s burlap blanket, “Climb in.” Huffing, she did as she was told and snatched the covers away from Eliza. Giving the young girl a stern look Eliza reprimanded her, “Don’t pull things away from people, Rebekah. Anger makes you feel like you really don’t want to obey, but don’t let it take over you.” She stood up and Rebekah mumbled a reply, pulling the covers over her head.
“What was that?”
“Yes ma’am.” She whispered, a bit more audibly. “Alright then.” Eliza made sure all of the other children were sleeping peacefully. Wiping her hands on her pinafore, she walked over to the other women. “…the woods makes me wish we were back in London, sitting next to Aunt Martha and Uncle Draywood, watching my cousins roast apples in the fireplace.” Jane was saying, picking at dirt in her fingernails.
“Aye, me mama let us roast a batch ‘o nuts back in Scotland. It was comfortin’ to watch me mum and father laugh while we bairns read near the fire.” Olivia spoke in thick Scottish brogue, her green eyes smiling and merry at the memories.
“Oh how wonderful Livy! I would have done that when I was younger, but we lived in the city. Our heat came from a woodstove, and Papa never let us get too close.” Lily, the youngest of the women, looked wistful as she tucked a brown tendril behind her ear.
“Indeed.” Jane sighed, tossing a piece of bark into the fire. “Land sakes, I’ve left me pie in the oven!” Olivia suddenly remembered, rushing off into the night to the clay oven.
The women looked at one another and burst out laughing, for Olivia was usually forgetting she had food in one place or another. “Oh Olivia!” sighed Eliza laughingly, watching her scurry off into the darkness. “She almost blackened the beef, if not for me seeing it sizzling and checking it!” giggled Jane, “She’s such a darling though.”
“Oh yes!” agreed Lily, smiling widely. She had taken to her quite well, thinking of Olivia as an older sister. Raised in the swaying fields of rural Scotland, the spunky lass was a mothering figure who knew a good lot about herbs, cooking and childcare.
“My how time has flown!” cried Jane, seeing the sky had darkened to a midnight black. “We must get to bed then,” sighed Lily, standing to go, “…as we are waking up before dawn.” She picked up her soiled apron, “Goodnight ladies.”
“Goodnight, dear Lils!” called Jane and Eliza, observing her as she walked over to her sleeping spot. “I suppose I must get some sleep as well,” stated Jane, turning to Eliza. She smiled, “Then I’ll go find Olivia. She’s probably cleaning the oven.”
“Take a torch with you, and…” Jane quietly pressed a switchblade into Eliza’s hand. “Take this.”
“Thank you.” She nodded and took a sturdy looking branch. Carefully, she lit one end and began to walk into the deep woods.
Cold air suddenly became apparent to Eliza as she stepped out of the warmth of the campfire. The trees quivered silently, waving in the slight wind. Everywhere around her showed signs of winter, with the icy frost lightly crystallizing leaves. Wrapping her woolen shawl tighter around her shoulders and blowing into her muffler, Eliza was suddenly grateful there hadn’t been any snow lately. Not that it wouldn’t come, as Abraham James had said it was expected next week. Still, it was chilly, enough for Eliza to wish she had brought her mittens.
Wandering closer to where the oven was, Eliza noticed something was wrong. The oven was dark and smoking in small clouds, which meant Olivia had probably taken out her pie. But she would’ve lit a branch so she could see to clean out the ashes. Instead, the cooking area was deserted and there was no sign of life.
Worry creeping into her heart, Eliza examined the site closer. Then she realized with a start that Olivia’s apple pie was fallen sideways on a rock, wrapped messily with a white linen cloth.
Whew! Sorry to leave you with that cliffhanger 😉 But still, hope you enjoyed reading that and if you spot any historical inaccuracies or grammar/spelling mistakes, please point them out. Thanks!
Luk 8:25 And He said to them, “Where is your belief?” And they were afraid, and marvelled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He even commands the winds and water, and they obey Him?”