“You’ve been gone through the winter and into the spring!” Micah bellowed. “We were sure she’d killed and eaten you. Are you fit? Are you well?”
“I’m perfectly fine. Better than fine, he lady has an appetite unequaled….” His voice drifted off as he watched his friends.
“When you didn’t come back, we went looking for you,” Micah growled. Though he’d said they wouldn’t. “We couldn’t find her lair, though we were up the coast three days or more, and back down. No sign of you or her. Where have you been, nigh on four months?”
“With her. Eating, drinking, making love.” He paused, squinting at the shorter man. “Four months? You’re sure?”
“Positive. One of the mildest winter’s we’ve had, but still here and gone. You came at winter’s start and here it is spring.”
“My business!” Raven moaned. “My ships! They’ll think I’m dead. What’s become of my venture. My money!” Grasping his hair, he paced the land, bemoaning his fate.
“That’s why you never love a witch,” Payter said. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you that?”
“Excuse me,” Raven said. “But she died when I was seven. And before that, the subject of bedding ancient witches hadn’t come up. Until all this happened to me, I thought witches were a thing from fairy tales.”
Payter shrugged. “Still. Anyone should know that. Worst thing in the world, bedding a witch.”
“Best thing that ever happened to me,” Raven countered. “If I died today, I’d be a happy man. The things she did to me—weren’t human, decidedly immoral, and very likely illegal.” He chuckled earthily.
“She’ll have spoiled you for other women,” Micah snarled. “Won’t be the same, now.”
Raven nodded, having already come to that conclusion. But he had his memories of Osceola’s body writhing beneath him, the sound of her voice when she hit her climax, the rasp of her nails down his spine. Shaking himself, he found his focus.
“I must get to Maine. What’s the fastest way there?”
The two men looked at one another. “No fast way from here. Nearest port is Hopedale, about a day’s walk south. You might find a ship willing to take you aboard, but the full moon is coming in two days time, my lad. You’d do best to wait until that passes, and set out the day after,” Payter said.
“How far is it on foot, do you think?”
Micah looked up at the sky and sighted along the land as if he could see the way. “It’s a month’s walk, at least. The average man, which you aren’t, can make about twenty miles a day. You can put in at least twice that. As the crow flies….” He squinted into the sun, making mental calculations that lasted quite awhile. Raven had very nearly given up when his friend spoke again. “Say fourteen hundred miles, give or take the odd bit.”
“That’s a powerful amount of walking,” Payter said. “Best take a ship. Have you there in a span of days. Shouldn’t be hard to find one.”
“I have no money, though I did have plenty.”
Micah looked uncomfortable. “Well, when I thought you was dead, I might have—relieved you of the burden.”
Raven burst out laughing. “May I have it back, please?”
Chuckling, Micah wiped his hands on his pants. “All right, I suppose so. Will you spend the night?”
“I think I’d better stay until after the full moon, just to be safe. But how do I cope, Micah? I can’t live my life in hiding.”
“You go settle your affairs in Maine, then come back here and we’ll teach you what we know. Meantime, since you’ll be the next couple of nights, we give you enough to get you through the worst part.”
They finished working in the garden, the work going faster with Raven helping them. They talked long into the night, both Micah and Payter telling him things he would need to know, in order to survive on his own, in the city.
“The most important thing to remember—take off your clothing first,” Micah said, changing the subject suddenly. “Put it aside so you won’t destroy it.”
“Took me awhile to learn that,” Payter said with am embarrassed shrug. “After I lost my last pair of pants, I learned. Nothing like spending a day in the woods without breeches, to teach a man to be careful.”
“And find a place where you can be alone. The first shifts hurt like the very devil,” Micah said. “Now, it’s not so bad, more of a tugging and such. But your first times….” He shuddered. “Glad I don’t have to go back.”
“Do you worry that you’ll hurt people? Turn them into monsters like yourselves?”
The men exchanged a look.
“First off, we’re not monsters,” Micah explained, trying not to lose his temper. “We’re all just folk. But yes, we do worry, so we live out here. Being in the city, it was hard, especially on Payter. Me, I grew up with this, had family to teach me. He learned on his own, and that’s not easy for a boy. Hell, it’s not easy on a full grown man.”
©2021 Dellani Oakes