Book Excerpt

"My Lord Savage"

by Elizabeth Lane

Excerpt from "My Lord Savage"

February 19, 1573

Black Otter lay in the stinking darkness of the hold where the white men had flung him. Slimed with blood, his wrists and ankles twisted against the iron manacles that held him prisoner. Although he had been viciously beaten, his ribs cracked and purpled, his eyes swollen shut, he felt no pain. He was beyond pain, beyond fear, even beyond grief. The only emotion left to him now was white-hot rage.

A whisper of reason told him that he’d been taken prisoner in the attack on the village, that he’d been knocked unconscious by a blow to the head and carried onto the great, winged canoe where the white men lived.

Reason, darkened by despair, reminded him also that Morning Cloud, the wife of his heart, was dead. His arms had caught her as she fell, her chest shattered by a blast from the mouth of a white man’s firestick. In the space of a single breath her life had slipped away. Too stunned to react, he had been cradling her limp body when the sharp blow had struck his head from behind. He had awakened in shackles.

Morning Cloud, at least, was beyond danger. But what of his children? Black Otter writhed in his bonds, yanking at his chains in impotent fury as he thought of his son Swift Arrow, a stalwart lad of nine winters, and his shy young daughter, Singing Bird, budding with the promise of womanhood. They had been in the village that morning, but he had not seen either of them since the beginning of the attack. Had they escaped into the forest or were they lying dead somewhere, the boy’s skull shattered, the beautiful girl-child spread-eagled and bloodstained where the white men had slaked their lust?

Black Otter clenched his teeth to keep from screaming out loud. He could not let the white men hear his torment. He could not let them know how close they had come to driving him mad.

Willing himself to be calm, he filled his lungs with the foul, dark air and forced his rage-numbed mind to think. There was nothing he could do for his wife. But if his children were alive, he had to get free and find them. He had to get them to a safe place before it was too late.

A rat scurried across his outstretched leg, triggering a jerk of revulsion. The great boat’s belly was overrun with the filthy creatures. The smell of their droppings mingled with the rank odors of seawater, rotting fish, urine and mold.

Black Otter could hear the rats squealing and rustling in the darkness around him. He could hear the creak of the massive timbers, the steady lap of waves against the hull, and, faintly, through the closed wooden door overhead, the strange, metallic babble of white men’s voices.

Sooner or later, he calculated, they would come down for him. This time he would be ready.

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