The story I am about to tell is a brand new adventure about one of my favorite characters in the Freaks, Gramps. He didn’t have a big part in the Freaks series, but I feel like he had a massive impact on Ariel and how she starts to grow up and tackle the challenges ahead of her. Gramps was a father figure to several winged-children. He protected them and taught them more than just survival. But, how did Gramps maintain his humanity in the Camps? His past is a mystery that I had never revealed, until now.
Before There Was Gramps
The hot summer sunburned on the back of my neck. A smile grew to a wide grin as I watched Chris pull a large bass from the river.
“Look, Daddy! Look,” Chris exclaimed.
My hand ran through his messy dark brown curls.
“Good job, son.”
“Mommy is going to be so surprised,” Chris giggled.
I nodded as I helped Chris put his fish away with the rest of today’s catch. It was a good day’s bounty. It will provide several meals for my family and to trade for some produce. The walk back to the cabin was short. Our little house wasn’t too far from the river, so we can always hear the water’s melody. Rebecca greeted us by the door. Chris stretched out his small brown wings and hopped up into the air. Rebecca reached out and caught him, bringing him close to her chest. Chris laughed as she hugged him tightly. A wave of complete happiness washed over me. My treasures were the only things I needed. Chris favored Rebecca instead of me, which was lucky for him. She was gorgeous with her dark brown skin and light brown eyes that captured my breath with every glance.
“How was today’s catch?” She asked.
“It was great! Look at this big fish that I caught,” Chris said as he squirmed in her arms.
Rebecca sat him down, and he raced toward the fish, pulling his prized catch out of the bucket. She took the fish from Chris and let out a whistle.
“What a beauty! This will be our dinner tonight,” she smiled.
“Really?” Chris asked, bouncing up and down.
“Daddy! I caught dinner,” Chris announced to me with his chest puffed out.
“Well done, son.”
“Are you going to the market?” Rebecca asked, eyeing the other fish.
“Could you get some tomatoes from Samuel’s booth? His wife has the best tomatoes in the whole town.”
“Of course. I will head that way as soon as I preserve the rest of today’s catch.” I stated.
“No, I will do that today. Hurry to Samuel’s. If you don’t get there early, then all the good ones will be gone.”
“Okay,” I laughed, then walked over to the side of the house and picked up a basket. Rebecca and I sorted through the fish. Once it was filled with fish to trade, I started for the Market.
I whistled a tune from my past as I walked to the center of town. Life had a whole new meaning to me now. It used to be filled with survival and brutality now it was love and quiet days. Samuel’s booth was busy as usual. I worked my way through the crowd.
“Good morning, Edward!” Samuel greeted.
“Good morning. Rebecca has sent me for some of your tomatoes.” I raised a basket full of fish. “Today’s catch,” I said.
“Those look delicious,” he said, as he took the basket from me.
Samuel took out the fish and replaced them with fat, bright red tomatoes. “Here,” he said as he handed me back the basket.
“Thank you, Samuel.”
“You and your family should come to dinner soon. It has been too long.”
“It has,” I agreed. “Perhaps, tomorrow?”
“That sounds wonderful. See you then.”
I turned from the stand and started my way home. Chores ran through my head as I began to plan my day. A loud bell rang, echoing off the trees. I turned to see the town’s warning bell’s string being jerked violently down by a young man.
“Pirates!” He screamed fanatically.
“No,” I whispered. Blood drained from my body as my feet were rooted to the ground. It has been so long. Why have they returned? There is nothing here for them. Food supply isn’t enough to feed them. We have nothing of value. Again the bell’s harsh ring sounded, pushing me to a run. I dropped the basket and spread out my auburn wings. Within a few steps, I was in the air and racing toward home.
“Rebecca,” I yelled as my feet crashed onto the dirt path.
She rushed out with a frown creasing her forehead. Our eyes lock. Fear crept into her gaze as she asked a question she already knew the answer to.
“The pirates have returned, haven’t they?”
I took a deep breath and nodded. “You and Chris hide in the cave by the river. Don’t come out until I call for you. Don’t come out for anyone.”
“Promise me,” I said, holding her shoulders tight. “You reveal yourself to no one. No matter what they say to you. Even if they threaten you with my life, promise me.”
“I promise,” she whispered.
My hand cupped her chin as I gently pulled her lips against mine. Rebecca ran her hands up to my neck as she returned the kiss that was full of our love and goodbyes. Then, we let go. Chris peeked out. He looked up at me wide-eyed.
“Where are you going, daddy?”
I bent down and hugged him tightly. “I am going to stop them.”
“Come, Chris,” Rebecca said, as she took his little hand into hers.
“I love you, both. You are my treasures,” I call to them as they hurried off to the cave.
Once they were out of sight, I raced into the cabin and headed straight to the bedroom. Kicking to the side a small rug, I pulled up a loose floorboard. My hands slipped into the darkness and rose up with a long box. This was meant to stay buried and forgotten, but today I must return to my old ways if I want to save my treasures and this new life. Opening the box, the light reflected off the silver metal of a long curved blade. My fingers enclosed around the plain silver hilt and freed it from its captivity.
Screams echo in the distance. I scramble out of the cabin with a sword in hand, and my feet carried me to the chaos. Winged-People ran screaming as the barge anchored right in front of our little town. A few of my fellow townsfolk joined me, weapons in hand, as we marched toward the threat. The Winged-pirates took to the sky carrying their fellow Sekhmet to land. The Sekhmet jumped to the ground and began to fight anyone foolish enough to get in their way. Once the Winged-people safely secured the landing of their brethren, they turned to steal goods, people, and anything they found to be valuable.
I turned to look at my fellow warriors. They nodded at me, ready to defend their loved ones. My hand motioned for them to follow. We had a small chance if we stuck together and out-number our targets. My eyes scanned the onslaught until I spotted a lone Sekhmet attacking Samuel.
“This way,” I yelled. “Remember what we have practiced.”
The small guard attacked the Sekhmet. Samuel grabbed his ax and joined our ranks. We made short work of the pirate, then continued our strategy slowly, thinning out the vile attackers.
“Samuel,” I said between breaths. “You must start evacuating everyone. The Winged-People have already begun to take people.”
He nodded and took three men with him. The rest of the warriors followed me as we neared the barge. Then a familiar face from my past forced me to stop. My eyes widened as our eyes locked. He looked exactly the same except a little older. His bright yellow eyes glowed as his cat-like ears faced me.
“Henry,” I whispered.
He smiled a toothy grin as he raised his arms out. “My dear brother, so you are not dead.”
To be continued…
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