by A.M. Tamburo
Contest Round 4 Entry
Contest Round 4: Plot Background Story
Roanoke Island, North Carolina
Crouched in the bushes, a bundle of blankets clutched to her chest, Eleanor Dare watched through the branches as her husband, Ananias, and the men prepared the fort to defend the village; what was left of it anyway.
The wind that had been bearing down on them along with a knot of black clouds was beginning to rise and pick up in intensity. Glancing out the window Eleanor felt the little minnow of panic in her belly begin to flutter more strongly. How in heaven’s name would they be able to combat what was coming if the weather became inhospitable?
For possibly the thousandth time she cursed her decision to remain with the others when her father had sailed to England to bring back provisions and more men to protect them. Why, oh why had she not gone with them as her father had begged her to? Instead she had chosen to remain with her husband and continue the task of establishing a colony here in the new world. Now as she felt the by now all too familiar dread rising up in her belly, she knew with an unwavering certainty that she would die here with her husband. They were all going to die here.
The bundle of blankets in her arms began to stir, and she snugged it a bit tighter to her.
“Shhh, love” She whispered to her daughter as she rearranged the blankets so that the baby’s face was visible. Virginia Dare gazed up at her mother from within the bundle and cooed quietly.
It had started a little or two months or so ago to her best recollection. Seven men had left the village on a hunting expedition. None of them had returned. After several days with no sign of them, another group, this time eight strong had been sent to locate the party. This second party had also not returned.
The remaining colonists, scared and thrust into confusion, had decided that sending out another party would not be a good idea; their number having been reduced by the loss of fifteen of their best men. Instead they had begun construction of a fort to protect the remaining colonists.
The construction of the fort had been swift and they were ensconced in their new quarters within a week. Unfortunately their belief that the fort would protect them had been unfounded. One by one over the next few weeks colonists, both men and women, had continued to disappear without a trace.
Fearing that the natives might be behind the disappearances, Ananias had led a small group to talk with the Croatans, a small friendly tribe that lived on nearby Croatan Island. On their return Ananias had called a meeting at which he had told the colonists a story related to him by the Croatan chief. A tale of betrayal and revenge from the time before creation; an angel banished from heaven with Lucifer; a twisted and perverted entity known to the Croatan as Croatoan.
Many of the colonists had not believed the tale. Why would a fallen angel exact this revenge on them? They were after all good Christians. Did they not worship the lord and strictly follow his commandments? They had argued that they had nothing to fear, for the lord would help and protect them from this evil.
Their arguments had proved to be flawed. As their numbers continued to dwindle the colonists had turned from fervent prayer for deliverance and had concentrated on arming themselves. The fort had become an armed military settlement.
No one was allowed to leave the protection of the walls unless to gather wood, food or water, and this was only allowed when supplies were dangerously low. Women and children were all confined to the fort and when even this had not prevented the disappearances they had eventually been confined to two cabins both of which heavily guarded by the men.
For a brief time this had stemmed the tide of disappearances and the remaining colonists had begun to believe that perhaps the siege was over. This belief had been swiftly crushed when just two days ago three of the children had been found brutally murdered and left to rot in the harsh sun. The murders were a message; this was something they had all agreed upon. Croatoan was intent on annihilating all of them.
That very morning Ananias had drawn her aside from where she was working with the other women to hastily wash and hang to dry several loads of laundry.
Drawing her away from the other women with a gentle hand on her arm, he had stepped quickly into the cabin where they had lived since the fort had been completed, the cabin that he now inhabited alone as he insisted that she and Virginia were safer in the well-guarded cabins with the other women.
As soon as the door had closed behind them, Ananias had turned to her, the calm and unconcerned expression that he wore around the others completely gone and replaced with a desperate expression of fear.
“Ellie, I fear that the end is near. Our hopes that your father would return and save us seem to be for not.”
“Ananias, please don’t speak thus. We will prevail for we have the lord on our side.” Eleanor had pleaded with him, her faith, while not as devout as it had once been, still remained.
“Ellie, listen to me.” Ananias had said, taking her hands in his, “We will perish this day, I cannot stop it, and neither would it seem, can the lord!”
Squeezing hers hand to emphasize his point, Ananias placed a finger under her chin so that she had to meet his eyes. Tears began to well in Eleanor’s eyes as she gazed in the sorrowed and fearful eyes of her husband.
“Ellie, I want you to take the baby and escape into the forest.”
When she began to protest he placed a finger to her lips to quell her arguments.
“Go now Ellie, take Virginia and run. Go to the Croatan. They will protect you.”
Seeing the set of his eyes and jaw, Eleanor knew that no amount of arguing would change his mind. Nodding reluctantly she had flung her arms around her husband’s neck, her tears soaking into the collar of his shirt.
Without another word, Ananias returned her embrace and then set her away from him as though holding her any longer would change his resolve.
“Go now Ellie, get the baby and go.” with those parting words he turned, opened the door to the cabin and with a quick look around exited, closing the door behind him.
Left alone in the dimly lit cabin, Eleanor stood for a moment, her breathing harsh and shallow and waves of fear washed over her, rendering her frozen in place. Hearing a shout from outside the cabin, she shook herself from her trance and began gathering her few precious possessions along with the baby’s things.
A few moments later she had left the cabin, ducked into the cabin she had been sharing with some of the other women and quietly wrapped Virginia and the little bundle of their possessions in several blankets to protect her from the autumn chill.
Waiting until no one was around to see, Eleanor left the cabin and made her way to the back entrance to the fort. The door was firmly barred with a large slab of oak, and she struggled to pull it free, fearing every moment that someone would round the corner and spy her.
Reluctantly she placed the baby on the ground nearby and using both hands she pushed with all her strength and finally the beam gave way. Placing it on the ground next to the door, she quickly picked the bundle up and opened the door sliding through it as soon as the opening was wide enough, and then pulling it closed behind her.
Despite his desperate order, Eleanor could not bring herself to simply leave her husband behind. Instead she had gone a short way into the woods and hidden inside the trees.
Now, as the storm clouds closed in over the tiny village, the wind began to howl and rage overhead and the first screams of pain came from within the walls of the fort, she realized her mistake. By staying she had condemned herself and her child to death, a slow painful death at the hands of the creature, Croatoan.
Clutching her child to her breasts she uttered a frightened sound that resembled more an animal then a human. Whirling away from the scene before her she suddenly found herself fighting against a wind that seemed to have a hundred hands all pushing her back toward the fort while at the same time trying to rip Virginia from her. Uttering a cry she clutched the child tighter, the baby letting out a protesting squeal at being squeezed so tightly.
Suddenly the wind stopped and she stumbled to her knees catching herself on her elbows to protect her child. Heaving in large breaths of air, she checked her daughter and found her sucking contentedly on her thumb, a habit she and Ananias had been fighting to break her of but brought a smile of joy to Eleanor’s face.
The smile quickly died away at a loud swooping sound and the sound of footsteps approaching through the brush.
Slowly looking up at the figure standing before her she sucked in a horrified breath and released it in a scream of terror that echoed across the sound and danced among the trees on Croatan Island. Tucked inside their lodges, huddled together for protection, the Croatan people clutched each other tightly and buried their faces in the furs draped about them as the scream faded away.