THE OTHER SIDE OF DUSK
by Cherime MacFarlane
Ualan’s mother is killed, and he is sold as a slave. The Roman woman who purchases him must get pregnant before the master gets rid of her as he did his first wife. And the male slave she uses cannot appear to be a full grown man, so as not to force the master to acknowledge his lack. Her plan backfires when an old soldier, head of the household guard, takes pity on the boy. He teaches Ualan to fight and when the child is born, helps the slave escape with his son. He is home but…his people aren’t sure he is the one who can take his father’s place when the time comes. Ualan may not be fit in body and mind. Rumors are flying of the possible retreat of the Romans back behind Hadrian’s Wall. The Picts are ready to revolt against Roman rule and the Scotti may be caught in the middle. To make matters worse, the master is seeking his stolen son.
Twisting to escape, he couldn’t break away from the thongs binding both wrists and feet. Someday he would get free, and when he did, he would kill her. No! Leave me be! Don’t…Unable to block the tide, he was helpless. His head thrashed from side to side as she did those things the woman knew would harden him for her use. Then she would mount him. And he hated her for what she did.
He was sobbing. A huge surge of desire overrode his anger and fear. What she did to his body was wrong.
“Da! ‘Tis me. Wake now.”
Taog climbed into the bed with him and snuggled into Ualan’s embrace. The lad didn’t care how sweat soaked from the nightmare he might be. With a sigh, Ualan hugged the child tight.
“Was it truly horrid?” The childish whisper feathered warm air over the hollow of his throat.
“Nae, Taog. Nae so bad. I couldnae wake. Thank ye for bringing me out of tha bog.”
“Did ye dream of being caught in tha moss, tha old bog?”
No one knew of the content of the dark dreams that sometimes had him screaming in the middle of the night. None would ever know. Ualan intended to shield those he cared about from the truth. That he had become a tool for a Roman bitch to get a child for a man unable to produce a son, was his secret alone.
In the end, he took his revenge. The child she set out to have snuggled in Ualan’s bed in his family’s broch. Had Ualan been unable to escape, he would have killed the child before letting the bitch have him. God had been good. Ualan lay beneath the sleeping furs in his home on the far side of the damnable Roman wall, his son in his arms.
He wondered if the bitch was still alive. It was doubtful. Duilius would have flayed the skin from her body for allowing Ualan to escape with his son. Caecilia feared the man. It was one of the reasons she had purchased him in the slave market, to get her with child. Duilius was impotent and refused to believe it. He blamed his young wife.
With help from the Christian slave, the captain of the house guard, Ualan won the war. He stroked the child’s hair and sniffed the aroma the boy wore. Horse and hound, a bit of smoke and the scent of earth told him the lad had spent the day outside. It was comforting. On his side with the child tight to his breast, Ualan would sleep. For now, the horror was gone.
Although born in New Orleans, I am proud to call myself an Alaskan. I have lived here since 1977. I have seen -40 degrees, hauled water, made bear bacon and I live in a cabin. I have used a fishwheel to catch salmon coming up the Copper River. I was my second husband’s chief mechanic’s helper and roadie. I have cut firewood on shares. I worked as a cocktail waitress during pipeline days in a small lodge on the Richardson Highway.
My second husband, a Scot from Glasgow, was the love of my life. When I write Scots dialect, I personally experienced hearing it from my in laws. When my husband got on the phone to Scotland, after 5 seconds I could barely understand a word.
We moved to Wasilla to get warm. It barely drops past -25 degrees here in the winter. I became a paralegal and worked for over 26 years for the same firm.
Alaska is my home. I never thought I would love it so much, I never want to leave. The beauty of Alaska is a draw I cannot resist. I love the people and the history. I have been captured by a place I came to under duress. Life does play some interesting tricks on one. My love and I were not apart more than 24 hours for 20 plus years. I never wanted to be anywhere but with him. He was a man to run the river with and was my biggest fan.