Jack had said he would be back before dawn, but a storm had blown in before dark and worsened over night. Waves taller than a house had crashed on the shore and pounded the headland.
First light of dawn now streaked the horizon in ghostly pallor, and although the sea was calm and ebb tide lapping the sands she nevertheless walked the beach, her petticoats and skirt leaving a faint drag-trail.
It was all so unfair. Jack, who had survived the war, who'd returned home safe and in one piece, and now lost at sea. She could not fault his setting sail, for the man he had gone to warn of impending trouble had saved his life. But Billy was now a smuggler, and someone had reported seeing lights out at Hart Point.
The local excise men and the militia were out and about as soon as overnight winds had subsided. They’d already searched the creek with lamps long before dawn, and found not a man, a boat nor contraband on the beach, for they would have said, would have been overjoyed in proof of guilt whether men were found dead or alive. But as she could see there was nothing bar driftwood and seaweed scattered in heaps.
The militia had now moved on to the next cove, so why had she come to the beach? It was madness. Yet something kept pulling her toward the headland, to the cavern . . .
She hitched up her skirts and ran and ran as if the very devil was at her heels. The tide was not yet clear of the headland, nonetheless she waded through the surf.
The chill of the water momentarily caused sharp intakes of breath. Soon waist deep, struggling to keep her balance, the entrance to the cavern lay within hands reach. She rounded the corner with difficulty, for the pull of the tide on her skirts was much like an anchor holding fast a ship.
Fearful though her heart at finding nothing, a hand grabbed hers and a voice said, “Looking for me?”
She willingly succumbed to the salty tang of his commanding mouth on hers, and his tongue emulated promise of pleasure to come. She had Jack, and nothing else mattered.
A Contemporary/Historical time-slip.
“Don’t be silly, it can’t possibly have disappeared,” said Amy, kneading dough. “Who in their right mind would stop by to pinch an ancient axe? We only moved in a few weeks back, and mum put most of dad’s old tools in a local farm implement sale.” She paused, looked her husband in the eye, a glare of accusation. “I bet if I go out there, I’ll find it lying in the long grass.”
Jake threw his hands in the air, frustration evident. “I tell you I left it in the wood shed.”
Mattie glanced up from her homework. “Dad’s right, mum. I saw him plunge it in the chopping block as I came back from feeding Jupiter.”
Once again dough received a good pummel. “Then the chopping block is where it’s at.”
“Was at,” snarled Jake. “O.K., fess up. Who moved it?”
Amy's hand thumped the dough with zest. “You think I have time to waste playing shuffle the axe?”
Jake watched as Amy panned her eyes around the kitchen, air of desperation about her. A grin spread across his face. “Lost something?”
“I swear I left a damp tea towel, on the end of the table. A red striped one.” She glanced at her husband: hands behind his back. “Give it here.”
He bared his hands. “Not guilty.” Laughter then rumbled from the depths. “Don’t look at me like that, I swear I haven’t got it.”
Mattie laughed. “He hasn’t moved, mum, not an inch.”
There was a loud thump and sound of splintering wood. The door swung open, caught by a gust of wind, and there, embedded in the door jamb, blood dripping from its blade was Jake’s axe.
He stepped forward to shield his wife and child from a potential intruder, but none came forth. With bated breath, he rushed forward, wrenched the axe free and glanced back at Amy cradling Mattie to her breast. “Stay here.”
It took but a moment to check outside, and Jake’s first thought was that of Jupiter in the paddock. Much to his relief the pony momentarily looked his way and carried on grazing. He checked all around the house, and then it struck him. Smoke. He could smell smoke. He dashed back to the farmyard, an unbelievable scene before him. It could not be, could not be happening.
He blinked several times, prayed it was some strange vision. But no, horsemen were circling the yard, animal furs about their shoulders: warriors from another time, another place? He yelled at them. Threw stones, anything to distract them. He had to lure them away from the house, away from his wife and child.
Not one of the horsemen noticed him, and each stone fell short of its target.
Oh no, Mattie with a red-striped tea towel in her hand. What was Mattie doing?
“Go back, Go back inside.”
He ran forward protesting, shouting her name, but a warrior scooped her up, cradled her to his chest and before Jake could reach Mattie the horseman turned about and rode off at the trot, the other horsemen surrounding the lead horse.
There was nothing for it but to get the shotgun. He lunged himself through the kitchen doorway, and there stood Amy kneading dough, Mattie at the table absorbed in homework. What the hell had just happened? He glanced back at the hay barn. No smoke. No fire.
He drew breath, kissed Mattie’s head in passing, moved to stand behind Amy and wrapped his arms about her waist. “Have I told you lately that I love you?”
“Yesterday, I think.” She turned in his arms, floured hands about his neck and leaned into him, her lips on his a lingering caress, until, “I love you, too.” She smiled, and whispered, “They come every tenth year.”
“So you saw them, too?”
“It’s my second time of seeing them.”
“And you never thought to tell me when we moved here?”
“The last time I saw them I was ten years old, and I’d forgotten they return on All Saints Eve.”
He glanced at Mattie. “She’s ten, and I thought, really thought I’d . . .”
Mattie suddenly said, “It’s all right, dad. I belong, here.”