The NightMature


"Father!"

"That...MAN is not one of the people I have made inquiries of."

"But father, he's--"

"He's working for your brother and obviously doesn't have any means whatsoever."

"Father, he could be rich and chooses to work for Bart--"

"For what reason?"  Claire's father looked her up and down.  "Get the feathers out of your head, and stop reading those idiotic romances. Rich man, indeed.  He's a Johnny Reb through and through."

"Father, at least hear--"

"Go to bed, child."  Her father opened the door to her room and kissed her.  The negro girl who was to be her assistant followed up the stairs, keeping a distance from the conversation.  The girl looked about thirteen, and helped her get out of her dress.  "Ooh...that man.  I went to college!  I know what I want."

"Yes'm," said the girl, unlacing the corset.

"What do you know about Casey Donovan?"

"He's a good man, miss," she said. Claire frowned - she probably thought that about all white men.  She walked over to the window, in her loosened corset.  "Miss!" she cried, and pulled at the curtains to get them to fall.  However, she didn't close them fast enough, as she could still see Casey downstairs, looking right up at her.  The curtain fell as he touched his brim.

"He's a good man, how?"

"He don' cause trouble."

Claire stared at the closed window.  "Miss, please, lemme finish gettin' ya dressed.  What'll you be wearing t'morrow?"

"I don't know.  I'll wear anything."  She finally turned away from the window, confused and angry.  Maybe after she slept, she'd feel differently about him.

----------------------

Casey set down the darkened lantern on the porch, close enough to the door so it could be noticed.  He saw some mice running in and out of the cottage, and asked them to come to his part of the barn, where he would feed them.  Six mice followed him in the dark, up into the small alcove that was his place.  He took out some bread crumbs and laid them out for them.  Mice had no manners, as they took the bread and scurried back to their homes in the cottage.  He looked out the window and saw an owl swoop down and catch one, however.  He knew the way of the wilderness, knew that he himself could take out any animal if he so chose, but he hadn't used that ability since before the Revolution.

Naked, he lay down on the straw pallet.  He'd gotten used to the hay not being soft and could easily sleep anywhere. Soldiers could do that.  It was what he was chosen to do by Soniac, to be a soldier and a leader of men when needed.

He put a hand over the crystal heart that did not beat, but hummed.  Inside that heart were the memories and souls of King Arthur, Julius Ceasar, Dioclecian, leaders and chieftans of the Iroquois, the Vikings, the Samurai.  At his fingertips, he knew many cultures and languages, from Russia to Greece to India to the Americas.  Sometimes they merged, and he found himself muttering an ancient curse in Pictish, or getting many senses of deja vu as he did or said things that sounded similar to something said or done a long time ago, by another person.

The Heart, so bequeathed to him by Soniac, one of the many forgotten goddesses of men, made him the representation of the pure fighter.  But more than a killing machine, he often protected the innocent, exacted revenge, and stood in the way of so-called "progress" when one culture attempted to take over another - or sometimes he assisted that culture to usurp another.  He mostly chose whose side he would fight on, or sometimes it was chosen for him.  

He searched through the Heart's memories to find those whose lives had ended.  Most of the men were tired of soldiering.  Most had lived a good, long life, fathered a legacy, and felt they were done.  A couple wanted to live their last days with a woman they loved.  He took these memories and examined them.  He felt them, and let those comfort him this night, as he made his final decision.

The End

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