Author's Note: Conclusion to Promises of Innocence

Chapter One

South Dakota - 1871

"Wiyaka Luta!"

Alyna turned when she hear the small cry. White Thunder had given her the name Wiyaka Luta, Red Feather during the first few months of living in the small Lakota village. When White Thunder first brought her to his home the tribe was much larger, but disease and the death and taken a toll on their numbers.

Some of the tribe started splitting into smaller villages to keep out of sight from the army and have the ability to be more mobile. The village she lived in now had just over a hundred people living there. She looked down the small pathway and saw Two Bears and Stands Tall running in her direction. Followed closely by their little sister Speaks Softly.

Alyna waited patiently as the young girl skipped over to her and clutched on to her hand tightly. Alyna pulled the child onto her shoulders and continued on to the clear river. It was a hot summer day and she couldn't wait to wade into that cool rushing water.

Pretty Bird sat across the river and watched the white woman with intense hatred. There was nothing she could say or do after White Thunder made her his wife. Watching the outsider being so accepted was the most irritating though.

She scowled in her direction as Alyna splashed merrily with the children. When she saw White Thunder wade over to his wife, Pretty Bird's anger consumed her. She grabbed her bags of water and huffed off in a rage.

Alyna laughed when White Thunder whispered something in his native tongue to the children. As soon as he did the three quickly jumped out of the water and ran back to the village. She raised an eyebrow at him as he advanced and treaded out farther away from him.

"Swim with me." She enticed him to wade further out into the river.

"Where are you going?"

"Can't fault me for wanting to spend some time alone with my husband can you?" Alyna wrapped her arms around him and kissed him softly.

White Thunder was happy to comply with his wife's wishes and pulled her tightly against him. Their tender moment together was cut short though by a sharp piercing scream.

At first White Thunder thought it was just one of the children playing, but when it was followed by gunshots he quickly waded to shore pulling Alyna with him. He slipped his shoes on and laced up his buckskins as Alyna stepped into her dress and followed him quickly back to the village.

She stood near the edge of the forest, her eyes glazed over as if she were watching a horrible dream. Bodies lay motionless on the ground and homes on fire. She could hear White Thunder speaking but she couldn't understand what he was saying.

He shook her a little harder than he meant to and saw her snap out of her trance like state. He instructed her to get the children and as many women to the caves as quickly as possible. She remembered him showing her last summer where they were to hide should there be an emergency.

She flew through the maze of people rushing around and found Soft Wind. They quickly rounded up as many children as they could find and herded them with some other women to the caves in the forest. Once they reached the caves the two women went back to the village to retrieve more children.

When they reached the clearing Alyna saw White Thunder in the midst of the commotion. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the army soldier raise his riffle, but it was too late. Her screams were deafening as she made her way through the frantic mob. She saw White Thunder fall to his knees. He lay flat in the dirt by the time she made it to his side.

Her shaky hands pulled up his tunic and saw the bullet that marred his chest. Gathering all his remaining strength he reached out and touched her cheek. She pulled him to her and held him tightly as she felt the last breath before he went limp. She cradled his body and wept.

Soft Wind saw from across the village her brother go down and Red Feather holding him in her arms. She had reservations about the white woman when her brother first brought her to their home. It wasn't her place to question her brother's decisions though. She couldn't have chosen a better partner for her brother though. She had grown to love Red Feather like a sister.

A few moments later Soft Wind saw one of the more decorated officers charging towards her brother and Red Feather. She ran quickly across the clearing and knelt down at Red Feather's side and put her arm around her pulling her to her feet.

"He's home now, his fight is over." She pulled Alyna with her.

"Wait." Alyna dropped to her knees and pulled the necklace from White Thunder's neck placing it around her neck.

"Come we must go." Soft Wind pulled Alyna up and ran with her back to the forest.

The officer saw the Indian woman grab the white captive and pull her to the forest edge. The army had been told there were white captives at this location and they were right. He took off after the pair and raised his gun. Leveling the sights of his riffle he fired hitting the Indian woman square in the back.

Alyna felt Soft Wind lurch forward and fall to the ground. In horror and shock she saw the large hole in her back. She rolled WT's sister over seeing her blank look she knew she was with her brother now.

Within seconds Alyna felt hands around her waist. She was being hoisted up on the back of one of the army men. She vaguely could hear him tell her everything was alright now, she was going home. She turned and looked back at Soft Wind's vacant stare. This was not the image she wanted to take with her.

Alyna struggled against the man who held her tightly on his horse. She could hear herself screaming but it did no good.

The minutes turned into hours, she remembered crossing the plans with the large group of soldiers. The officer kept assuring her that she was alright and safe. She thought it ironic because until that day she hadn't felt so scared in a long time.

Her only comfort was that the officer seamed genuine. He told her they were there to take the white captives such as herself home. He said they went peacefully but they were fired on.

Alyna wasn't too sure she believed his story wholly. There were several white women at the village, and there were a few who were held against their will. She herself once had been. That seemed a lifetime ago, before she married White Thunder. Alyna looked across the plains, it was so quiet. All she could hear was the thundering of the horse's feet beneath her.

Chapter Two

They had traveled for several days, she lost track of how many. It was dusk by the time they reached Fort Laramie. The large fort was intimidating. She shuddered and closed her eyes. She and the other women that were taken from the camp were assured to a small room just inside the fort.

Alyna and the other women were shown to a large room with several beds. They were each given baths and new clothes. Alyna struggled with the thin cotton garment. It fit her alright through the waist but the fabric strained across her bust. She was afraid if she breathed too deeply the dress would split.

She looked at her reflection in the mirror and touched the scar on her forehead. It had diminished over time, but she could still see it, right above her eyebrow.

How strange her reflection looked to her now. She looked older than she remembered. She stood and turned slowly in the long mirror. The dress was at least six inches too short and came up mid calf on her. She frowned and tried pulling it down.

Each woman had an interview with a man called Lieutenant Jorgensen. Alyna had managed to avoid her meeting for the first few days, but she could avoid it no longer.

She sat down on the softly padded chair and fidgeted nervously. The next few hours went by in a haze. Lieutenant Jorgensen asked her many questions. She knew there was no point in not cooperating, she couldn't go back. She was thrust back into the world she once longed for, but had since forgotten.

"If this becomes too difficult just let me know." He said sincerely. "I have helped many women in your situation for many years. My wife was held captive by a band of Apache many years ago. So I'm very sensitive to your situation."

"Thank you."

Alyna was surprised at how quickly her manners reverted back to her upbringing. Living with the Lakota her previous delicacies and training as a proper lady meant nothing. They valued honesty; there she spoke freely. But here, a woman said one thing and meant another. There were things kept to one's self and Alyna was keenly aware of these things.

"Where is your family from?"

"Rock Creek, Nebraska." Alyna folded her hands in her lap and took a shaky breath.

"How long were you held by the Sioux?"

"About two years I guess."

"Did they," He paused and tried to make his question as delicate as possible. "Hurt you?"

"No, I was treated well."

"That's good to hear."

"I wasn't a prisoner there. At first it was hard, learning their way of life. But I was accepted after a while." Alyna let a few tears slide down her cheek.

"You sound very lucky. Many women in your situation are not treated so well. If you were not a prisoner, why didn't you leave?" He cleared his throat.

"I wanted to at first, but rationally I wouldn't have gotten too far without being eaten by a wild animal or even being taken captive by another tribe."

"Alyna, you don't have to hide anything. I'm not judging you. You needed to make choices to survive, no one can understand what you had to do, and no one can judge on that." He spoke softly.

He could tell she was being very careful with what she said, choosing her words before she said them.

"I'm not ashamed of my choices."

She didn't want him to think that, she just wasn't ready to talk about everything with a stranger.

"That necklace, it looks like it belonged to someone with high respect in the tribe."

"It was my husbands."

"Your husband, was he a chief?"

"No. But he was a strong, respectable man. I imagine if he hadn't been killed, he would have been." She bit her lip to stop the tears from flowing.

"I'm very sorry for your loss." He was sincere in his tone.

"Why did you have to come? Why don't you just leave the tribes alone?" Alyna couldn't hold the tears in any longer.

"Like I said before most the tribes don't treat their captives well. We are just trying to help those that want to go home. It must be strange now after all these years to come back to this way of life."

He looked her over. He had no reason not to believe her. She looked to be well taken care of and seemed genuinely mournful.

"Yes, it is." Alyna fidgeted with the lace cuffs of the dress. "Though I find myself fitting in quite well."

"Alyna I'll notify your family that you have been recovered. What's your family name?"

"It's McAllister. My father is Garrison McAllister, he lived in Rock Creek, last I knew." She swallowed hard.

"Garrison McAllister?" Lieutenant Jorgensen raised an eyebrow.

"Yes. Do you know my father?" Alyna saw the recognition in his expression.

"A few years back your father was campaigning for government office, I don't recall exactly what."

"Oh."

"I'll make sure to send word to him. I'm certain he'll be happy to know you are recovered."

"Yes, thank you." Alyna forced herself to smile.

"I'll have my wife show you around and get you some more appropriate clothes."

"Thank you."

He stood up and walked her to the door and waved to one of the ladies waiting near the courtyard.

"Christine, this is Alyna."

After a few pleasantries Christine took Alyna upstairs to the officer's quarters. She helped her bath and comb through her long auburn hair. Alyna felt more comfortable wearing one of Christine's dresses.

"Well it's a little big on you." Christine tied a sash around her waist to help cinch the fabric in.

"It fits much better than the other dress. I was afraid to breathe at all, that it might rip."

"Well you look lovely."

"What's going on?" Alyna looked out into the courtyard.

"Renegade Indians out there, horse thieves and drunks. The army brings them in and they await trial." Christine pursed her lips.

"What happens to them?"

"The leaders are usually hung, the others most of the time are let free."

"What about the children?" She watched as a large group of children made their way into a different building.

"They are all sent to mission schools. Where they can learn to be a productive member of society."

"Hmmm."

"If you want to talk to someone about anything I'm a good listener."

"Thanks Christine."

"Until your father sends for you this will be your room."

Christine opened the door to a modest but clean and nicely decorated room. Alyna thanked her as she left and settled into the small but comfortable room.

From the small desk by the window she could see the courtyard as well as the front gate. She hadn't slept on a feather bed in quite a while. It was almost too soft; she lay listlessly and tried getting the images out of her head.

She felt the hot tears running down her cheeks. She felt her heart break when she let the loss of her beloved husband sink in. She touched the leather beaded necklace around her neck and sobbed quietly. She had lost her husband and sister in the same day. Her entire way of life had changed.

Alyna cried herself to sleep every night for the next week. She ate with the officer's families and made polite yet very little conversation. Her only solace was her walks in the small grove of walnut trees. She would sit for hours just staring at the sky and trying to make sense out of life.

Chapter Three

Two weeks after she arrived at the fort Gabe arrived. He explained to her that her father was ill and couldn't make the trip, but that he was overjoyed with the news she was alive and well.

They had presumed the worst after finding the housekeeper dead. Gabe asked her if they had hurt her in anyway, he noticed the slight scar on her forehead and wondered what caused it, but he did not ask.

She assured him that she was very well taken care of. She didn't feel the need to divulge any details of her life, and he didn't pry. He told her that he had made travel arrangements on the next Sunday to take her home.

She wasn't sure how she felt about going home. Where was home now? She had finally found a home with White Thunder and his family. Now she was to see her father whom she barely knew. Alyna stared blankly at Gabe's hand gently holding hers.

"So what about you Gabe? Did you end up marring Penny?"

"No, Penny is a little too much to handle for my taste. I was married to a wonderful lady, but she died in childbirth."

"I'm very sorry Gabe."

"Things happen for a reason. I prayed for yours safety and here you are. Like an angel." Gabe whispered softly.

"You are a very kind man." Alyna forced a smile.

"Alyna I never stopped caring for you, and always hoped that one day I would see you again."

"I'm going to be honest with you because you have always been a good friend."

"I know you've never felt more for me than friendship. Good marriages are founded on friendship. Your father would want to know you are taken care of." Gabe reassured her.

Alyna sighed non responsive and stared across the courtyard. She wasn't in the mood to discuss her future with him. She watched as a small group of warriors were rounded up and forced into the small prison confines. She wondered what tribe they were. They weren't part of her village, she didn't recognize anyone.

A few minutes later one of the warriors was pulled out of the prison room and tied to a post in the middle of the courtyard. She wondered what he had done; he must have been the leader of that group.

She fanned herself and felt sympathy for the man. It was hot in the shade; he was tied in direct sunlight. If the soldiers kept him there for very long she was going to have a word with Lieutenant Jorgensen.

"Did you hear me Alyna?"

"Sorry yes, I did."

"Well what do you say?"

"Gabe I'm sorry. It's just not a good time. I just had my friends and family murdered in front of me. Women and children Gabe."

"These people you mourn for kidnapped you and kept you a prisoner."

"I can't expect you to understand."

"I want to understand." He frowned. "I want to help you."

"I wish the army never found our encampment." She felt the tears streaming down her face. It was the first time she vocalized a little of what had happened. "I was happy there."

"How can you say that? They stole you from your family."

"Things changed. I've changed." She sighed looked off towards the horizon.

"You'll come around again sweetheart, you've just been through an ordeal."

"My husband died in my arms, his sister was murdered right next to me." She said a little harsher than she meant to. "I'm sorry, but you have no idea the ordeal I've been through."

"Husband?" Gabe looked at her horrified as though he hadn't thought of that as a possibility.

Alyna shook her head and walked quickly across the dirt courtyard. How could she expect him to understand? He only knew her as the lady her father portrayed her as. Polite, well groomed and always ladylike. Everything her father wanted her to be.

She tried to conform at one point; she tried to make her father proud, especially when she returned from finishing school. She had prepared herself to marry some wealthy man that would make her father happy. He always said she had her mother's spirit. He should have known she couldn't be tamed.

He didn't speak much of her mother; she had died in an accident when Alyna was very young. According to her father, he forbade her to ride the spirited mare, but her mother insisted. The horse was spooked and reared up, throwing her mother off and trampling her to death. Which was one reason that Garrison McAllister was so protective of his only daughter.

Had she not been taken with White Thunder, she was certain she probably would have married Gabe to please her father. They would have a few children and she would be miserable.

Even though she was sure her heart would never be whole again with the loss of White Thunder, she knew she wouldn't have chosen another path. She could never regret the brief years they had together.

Alyna sat at her desk and starred out the window. The man was still tied to the post in the center of the courtyard. The sun was setting now, so she was sure that was of some relief to him.

She took dinner in her room, making an excuse of a head ache, but really she just wanted to be alone. She picked at her food but ate very little. She glanced out the window again this time the man who had kept his head down the entire day was looking around as if to find a way to escape. She thought she saw him look towards her window and she quickly looked away.

Who knew what he was really tied out there for? Maybe he led a group of rogue murderers. Alyna rolled her eyes at her overactive imagination. She was certain he was there like the rest of the "savages" as the soldiers called them. She quickly wrapped up her remaining dinner and grabbed a canteen of water on the way down the stairs.

It was after midnight and she was certain except for a few soldiers standing guard, everyone was asleep. The soldiers on guard though were at the front gate and wouldn't notice her.

Chapter Four

Her courage started to disappear as she crept closer to the man. She knew he was tied up though, and there was no way he could hurt her. She knelt down next to him and offered him a drink first. She knew in all that heat he must have been thirsty. She could still see the war paint on his face as his long hair parted for him to drink.

"I brought you some food too."

She began tearing off bits of her roll and feeding to him. It was dark but the full moon offered a dim glow. Enough that she saw his bloodied bare back.

She ripped off the sash around her waist and dipped it in the water. She warned him it would hurt a bit. She carefully dabbed at the fresh wounds, trying her hardest to be as gentle as possible.

"Did the soldiers do this to you?"

"Yes." He groaned painfully.

"Are you still hungry?"Alyna was surprised he understood her, she just assumed he wouldn't.

"Thank you." His voice cracked softly.

He accepted the food from her hand and waited for more. At first he was skeptical of her bringing food out. He wouldn't put it past the soldiers to poison him, but compared to the whipping and the beating he had taken earlier that day, he would welcome a quick death from poison.

As the clouds parted he looked up in the dim light at the woman helping him and felt a sharp stab of pain when he recognized her.

It had been many years since he saw her last but the memories came flooding back as if it were yesterday. Memories that he had pushed out of his mind, or thought he did. The food in his mouth suddenly tasted of ash as he choked it down. He wasn't sure how he'd feel if he ever saw her again, but he also never expected to.

He wondered if she was married to one of the officers at the fort. She had changed so much since he had seen her. Of course she would have, it had been almost five years she must be about twenty one now.

Buck starred at her through his long hair that hung over most of his face. She was very thin, he wondered if she had been ill lately. Her dress hung on her like a sack. He glanced down at her hands, no wedding ring.

This was the last place on earth he ever expected to see Alyna McAllister. Maybe her father was doing something with the army. It was then he noticed the intricately beaded necklace that hung around her neck. He wondered why she would be wearing it, had someone given it to her as a prize of the warrior he killed and took it from.

Alyna felt a shiver run down her back. She heard a couple soldiers walking towards the gate. She looked around frantically for a place to hide. There were a large stack of crates near the south wall. She quickly told the prisoner she was going to hide and when the soldiers were gone she would finish feeding him.

She crouched down behind the crates and watched the soldiers. They made their way to where the man was tied to the pole and after a few minutes of taunting him one of the soldiers hit him in the head with the butt of his rifle. Alyna clenched her fists and waited patiently until they made their rounds back to the front gate.

She scurried back over to the man who was nearly unconscious now. She lifted his head and inspected where he had been hit. The blow did break the skin a little, she dabbed some more water on her sash and wiped at his face. His skin was feverish. She gently wiped the layers of paint, blood and dirt off his face.

She was about half way done cleaning his face up when he opened his eyes and starred at her. Alyna's heart stopped when she looked into his eyes. Those deep brown familiar eyes. Her heart was beating so quickly she thought it would explode. She starred dumbfounded and tried to catch her breath.

"Is it you?" She barely croaked out a whisper.

He had so many things he wanted to say to her, so many answers he had wanted, but in that instant as he looked up at her his mind was blank.

"I don't believe it." Alyna tucked his hair behind his ears and cupped his face in both her hands to inspect him more carefully.

It was like the years melted away. Time stood still if only for a few moments. Alyna leaned towards him and kissed his cheek softly as if to convince herself he was really there. She hugged him delicately, mindful of his battered body. The events in the past few weeks, and finding a long lost friend had her emotionally drained. Tears sprang quickly to her eyes and ran down her cheeks into the dry dirt beneath her.

"Alyna, I need to know."

"What?" She asked.

"What did you tell your father?" He whispered breathlessly.

"What do you mean?"

"Before you left for Boston, what did you tell him?"

"I came home; he told me he knew we were spending time together. I told him we were just friends. The next day I was on a train." She frowned as she remembered that day.

"That's all?"

"What a thing to ask at a time like the Buck. There are more pressing things at the moment than what happened when we were young." She frowned.

For years she had been angry at him. It had been a while since his memory had entered her mind. The thoughts of naiveté and unwavering trust of her youth still stung her pride.

Focusing on the task at hand she quickly attempted to untie the ropes that bound him, but her attempts were futile. Not saying a word she raced across the courtyard and returned a few minutes later with a small kitchen knife.

The past hung heavy between them, the unbearable silence was deafening. Alyna tried her best to restrain her anger, but it was of no avail. Even though inappropriate and childish she was still hurt by his callousness.

"I wrote to you every week. When I came home and went to your house I saw all my letters. You didn't read any of them." She whispered heatedly as she cut through the ropes at a frenzied pace.

Buck winced in pain, but it wasn't so much his physical pain but the realization she had no idea what her father had done.

"Will you offer an excuse for your inexcusable behavior? Was it another woman perhaps? I would understand that."

"It wasn't anything like that."

"What then?"

"It was all a mistake, that's all."

His heart had been angry for years at her, and she was not to blame. There was something satisfying about that knowledge.

"You better go before someone sees you here." He grimaced at the pain.

Ignoring his protests she quickly cut through the ropes and helped him to his feet. She hadn't thought much ahead, he was barely able to stand unassisted let alone escape across the planes.

"What are you doing here in Laramie anyway?"

"I've been living with a small party of Lakota near here." She helped him lean against the fence.

"You lived with the Lakota?"

"It's kind of a long story."

"Someday you'll have to tell me."

He instructed her to get one of the Indian horses out of the coral. He was specific to not get one of the army horses, because of their distinct hoof prints. It would make it more difficult to track.

"I need you to promise me something before I go." He said his voice heavy with pain and fatigue as she swung his body onto the horse. "My son was taken; he's with the other children. I want you to take him with you, I'll find you later."

"How will I recognize him?"

"He's four, and has a small scar on his chin. His name is Doshan. Take this. He'll recognize this." He handed her his earring.

"Doshan right?"

"Alyna, if something happens to me and I don't find you promise me you'll raise him."

"I promise."

She watched as he led the horse quietly out of the fort and then raced across the horizon. She slunk back to her room and shut the heavy door quietly behind her.

"What was that all about?"

Alyna jumped when she hear the low soft voice in the room. She turned around and tried to make out the figure in the darkness.

"Who's there?"

"It's me." Gabe stepped into the soft candle light.

"Gabriel you scared the hell out of me. What are you doing in my room?" She caught her breath.

"I came to see how you were doing; when you didn't answer I got worried so I opened the door." He walked over to the window. "I saw you out there with that Indian."

"You're not going to tell anyone are you?" Her eyes grew wide with fear.

"No I'm not going to tell anyone." He reassured her. "Who was he? Was he part of the tribe you lived with?"

"No, he was an old friend actually. Someone I knew from Rock Creek. He said he had been living with a group of Kiowa and they were taken here to the fort." Alyna shook her head and sat on the edge of the bed.

"I don't know anyone that moved out this way from Rock Creek, but that was years ago I lived there. It's hard to remember sometimes that far back."

"That seems like a lifetime ago doesn't it?"

"You never know what life will bring you. I mean I didn't expect to lose my wife, I'm sure you didn't expect to be living out here with savages." He smiled bitterly.

"They are not all savages. We all do what we must to survive. I'm grateful to have been treated as benevolently as I was."

"I want to ask you something personal, and if you don't want to answer you don't have to."

"Alright."

"Were you forced to marry that man?"

"I'm afraid to answer that, on the simple fact that I think it will change your mind about me."

Alyna took a deep breath and held in her tears. She didn't want to talk about her husband so soon after his death.

"What do you mean?"

"If I tell you I was forced, then they are savages and I'm a victim." Alyna swallowed hard. "If I tell you I married him willingly then I'm a whore."

"I would never,"

"I know what people say behind my back."

"That's not true."

"It is! None of them have the guts to say it to my face because of my father, but I hear what they say about the other women that were brought here. They call them whores. They say no self respecting woman would lay with an Indian." Alyna bite her lip and let the tears roll down her cheeks. "Some of the soldiers were so vicious a woman actually hung herself last week."

"Alyna, I didn't mean to cause you distress, I was just curious."

"I hated him at first, when he first brought me to his village. I would plan my escape daily, and beg him to take me home. Hoping that I could wear out his resolve but slowly, I began to respect him, and then to love him. He didn't force me Gabe." She starred out the window.

"I'm glad." He hugged her tightly.

"Are you?" She asked in disbelief.

"Of course I am. If you had to go through that again my heart would break." He sat next to her on the bed and held her hands in his.

"Go through that again?"

"Being forced. Don't you remember that summer before you left for Boston?" Gabe was surprised at her reaction.

"Oh, my father forcing me to go?"

"He forced you to go to save you from the shame you would have faced in town when they found out."

"Found out what?"

"You and that deputy." He watched as the blank look on her face became more confused by the minute. "Your father found out what he had done and the marshal ran him out of town before they could hang him."

"Hang him?!" Alyna was confused.

"Are you being serious? You look like you have no idea what I'm talking about."

"I don't have a clue."

"Your father said that he took advantage of you." Gabe put it as compassionately as he could.

"Took advantage of me?" Alyna thought for a moment.

No, her father wouldn't have done that. That would be unthinkable.

"Alyna?"

"Please tell me my father didn't tell the Marshal that Deputy Cross compromised me!"

"Well he had to Alyna. Your father just wanted the man brought to justice." Gabe consoled her.

"I never thought my father capable of cruelness and at such a cost."

"You're not making sense."

"Buck Cross never laid a hand on me."

Alyna was fuming. How could her father have ruined an innocent man's life over his pride?

"Surely you are just confused, you were just a young girl then."

"I would know if he raped me Gabriel. He never touched me. My father ruined the life of a good man over his vanity." Alyna spat at little harsher than she intended. "He couldn't stand the thought of his daughter with an Indian."

"Alyna calm down,"

"How can I calm down? If it wasn't for me, or rather my father, Buck wouldn't be half dead running for his life across the plains right now."

"That man, that was him?"

"He asked me what I told my father. I didn't know what he meant until now. All these years he thought I lied. He thought I was responsible for," She sobbed harder.

She sobbed so uncontrollably it took Gabe several minutes to calm her down. Finally she fell into a deep sleep. Exhausted from everything she had just learned.

When she woke the next morning Alyna found Fort Laramie in a state of unrest. She overheard some of the officers talking about a prisoner escaping. Her fears about being found out were put to rest when they assumed he must have had a weapon they missed and cut himself free.

Lieutenant Jorgensen assured her that she was safe in the confines of the fort, but cautioned her on leaving on her daily rides. He told her there may be a few Indians that helped the man escape.

She thanked him for his concern and promised, no more riding. She knew she would be returning home, or rather to her father's home as she really didn't feel she had a home to go to now. She had to find Buck's son and prayed that it wouldn't be too difficult.

She made her way towards the children's dormitory. She explained to the soldiers guarding the building she just wanted to see if any of the children from her village had survived. Seeing no harm in that the soldiers let her in.

She wandered around the large room that was packed with children. Bedding was placed just inches from each other. She couldn't even call them cots; they were just padded fabric bundles. The room was dark and was only lit by a couple small windows that were shut.

She called out Doshan's name several times until she finally got a response from a small child only about the right age. She didn't speak his language but she knew a little sign.

She signed that she was a friend of his father. Seeing he didn't understand, she signed again, this time he nodded and signed back, asking if his father was dead.

"No."

Alyna shook her head and handed him the earring that Buck had given her, then she signed that she was going to take him to his father, but he would need to listen to her and do what she said.

She received a small nod and he took her hand and walked with her out of the stuffy room. He was happy to know his father was alive and he would be with him soon.

He held on to the woman's hand tightly when he heard her raised voice and the soldier's animated gestures. He expected at any moment to be ripped from her grasp and thrown back into the room.

"I wish to speak to Lieutenant Jorgensen this instant!"

A few minutes later the soldier came back with the Lieutenant beside him. Alyna explained that this was her son and she was not planning on leaving him here. She said she thought he hadn't made it but saw him the other day when the children were walking across the courtyard.

Doshan watched as the man in charge waived his hand and the other men stepped back. He wasn't sure what was said but he knew the woman had won because he was not going back to the room with the other children. He walked quickly to keep up with the lady.

Continue On

Author's Note: Thank you to Lee Bee for my editing

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