After a moment, a twist, a yank, and a pop, the group appeared on an island.
Shofu recognized the pine growth immediately, "Jhojan! This is Turtle Island, I thought we were returning to Scotland?" His face held shock, for only a moment, then returned to normal.
Jhojan looked about, the strange thing the place felt like a Scottish castle, there were signs of a fallen fortress lay about as if a castle had been erected, and there soon after abandoned. There appeared to be underground installations, Jhojan looked down into one of these pits to find that it was now flooded with Atlantic ocean waters.
Geisha's ears flicked back and forth listening to her surroundings. She stepped uncomfortably gathering her weight underneath her as the rest of the herd traveled through the gateway produced by magic stones that Jhojan possessed.
Tancred strode through upon Skadi with Bengali riding Sargenta at his side. They were followed by Shinshu upon the immortal mare and Sheera riding Bella.
Instinctually, Shofu set up camp just on the edge of the pinewood forest. Pulling the immortal stallion with him, Shinshu soon followed with the mare and began helping set up camp.
The land showed signs of spring melting, small clumps of snow clung to the earth in the thicker forested areas. Shinshu sat and helped carve a firepit, his shoulder was still tender from the battle at Crystal Cove, but he could make a well-encased campfire ring with his eyes closed. After tying up Bella, Sheera proceeded to scout the area disappearing into the shadows of the trees.
Jhojan took in the surrounding area, Geisha's ears twitched as she was turned about, and then came to a stop, then tucked the stones away in a pouch near his breast pocket.
He then proceeded to the nearest castle and peered into what looked like a large well that was dug into the earth, there was a large amount of seawater at the bottom. It gave him a strange pit in his stomach and he turned to look at the fallen walls. The place was barren and seemed to be void of human activity, the stonework looked familiar though.
Bengali looked on in fascination at her new surroundings, she loved natural things and this new habitat was full of life. Squirrels chattered in the surrounding forests, field mice darted out of sight as Tancred and she explored the ruins. An owl hooted in the night. The night sky was full of a new set of stars, streaks of the auroras painted the sky; "Hey look," Tancred pointed at the constellation that was twinkling, a cluster of seven stars, "they are twinkling for you."
She smiled and kissed him, then looked as the stars twinkled with unusual brightness. Her mother had told her the stories of the seven sisters and now seeing them Earth made the perfect moment. She stepped back taking in her moonlight soaked man, then headed for the new camp to picket Sargenta. He too moved that direction and tied up Skadi next to her.
Jhojan joined them and then said quietly, "This isn't Europe, I think we might have landed in a new land. Shofu seems to know more about it."
Tancred nodded and the trio joined Shofu at the newly built camp and took a seat, "Shofu, where are we?"
"We are on Turtle Island, there are signs of my people everywhere. There are signs of battle also, who would have built these stone houses here? These buildings are not of the indigenous people." Shofu poked the fire making coals from the burning logs. "I will start a pot of soup as soon as the coals are ready."
Shinshu looked at his father, pausing in the middle of setting up the final pavilion, he had only been a child when they crossed the land-bridge, he didn't even remember the traveling people going back and forth across it.
Tancred spoke up, "This gives me the chills, it feels like the days of the crusades or Viking raids of the Mediterranean. What are these castles doing here?"
The camp became rather quiet after the question just hung in the air, with none of them able to answer. The crickets chirped their evening song, the horses stomped from their picketed spot just outside the firelight, the older ponies munched on the exposed grass. Ghesia's ear continued to flick around wildly, Bella's coat shone in the night's light like strands of gold, Sargenta slept were she stood and Skadi stomped unhappy with being tied up.
The night was still as Shofu put on the evening meal, a simple stew with potatoes and venison from the caves. He added a pinch of salt and pepper to add a bit of flavor, then smiling he saw Sheera return to camp and snuggle in close to Shofu whispering something in his ear. He grimaced slightly, then quickly covered up the expression.
Whisps of steam rose from the now warmed stew, the pleasant smell greeted each of the camp members bringing smiles to their faces. Shofu began serving the evening meal with a piece of bread, the warmth from the soup was welcome on the rapidly cooling night.
Bengali snuggled even closer to Tancred if it were at all possible. He pulled the blanket up over her shoulder, having finished their bowls of soup. She smiled pleasantly, eyes closing involuntarily. Tancred could feel the change in her breathing and wrapped an arm around her.
Jhojan puffed on his Shireman, a cup of coffee in hand. He had that thinking, almost brooding, facial expression to which the two companions exchanged that all to knowing look. Deep in thought, he cleaned out the ashes from his pipe, wondering all the while about how to navigate the standing stones and how this came to pass. He looked up to a pair of mischievous grins on Tancred and Shofu's faces, knowing he had had that constipated look and smiled back.
"I'll take first night's watch," He said setting up another pot of coffee.
A Pair of Visitors.
Tancred shook Bengali awake and the pair slipped into their pavilions, Shinshu and Sheera did the same. Shofu stayed up a while longer and cleaned out his kettle, then replaced the water for tomorrow morning's breakfast. The night was still and silent, the temperatures dropped to which Jhojan threw on his blanket and took in a sipped of freshly made coffee.
About halfway through the night, a hunting party approached. They were cautious in entering the firelight but did with extreme focus.
Shofu spoke a native dialect that Jhojan had never heard, the elder noticeably relaxed and pulled a rabbit from off his back and held it out offering it to Shofu, using a similar tongue. Taking the coney graciously he beckoned for the men to join them at his fire.
After a minute, using gestures he learned having spent some time with Dolowon, he used his hand to point at the heated coffee kettle, the small pouch of sugar, and then took a sip of coffee. Shinshu stirred in his tent, the flap had suddenly come loose in the night breeze. The younger hunters came over, lowering their bows and sitting upon the ground. Jhojan handed one a mug and poured the nice warm liquid with a few pinches of sugar each. The pair of younger men smiled as the pleasant effect of coffee took over and they laughed, smiling all the while pointing at the warm liquid.
Then a prolonged moment passed as the elder of the group hesitated to take the cup offered to him but after a pause for thinking, the wiser older man took the cup and sipped. This immediately brought a smile to the man's face, then remarked to Shofu his happiness. He had mentioned the other drinks offered by bearded men and how they caused men to do stupid things. Soon thereafter the men began laughing the smell of cooked rabbit permeated the air.
Then the elder, with a more dire tone, spoke about Mi'kmaq interactions with strange men that sailed large longboats that glided like canoes over the water. The men were pale in complexion and many had hairy beards on their faces. "Viking, Clan" the elder finished with finality.
The camp continued to celebrate well into the night, gladly exchanging stories of hunting and migrations. They shared more tales about Viking incursions, but they had never seen the fashion of dress that either of the two men clad themselves in.
The hunting party came to this island to meet and trade for generations, they offered Shofu beadwork and hides in exchange for some spices, precious stones, and caribou hides. The hunters laughed aloud and compared Shofu's bartering skills to those of the ancestors.
Movement from the tents caught the group's attention, both Shinshu and Tancred were awake and came to join the party. Shofu introduced them both, to which the elder reciprocated, "His name is Hunting Bear, his son's names are Laughs at the Dark and Hunts by the Stars," Shofu told the 3 other men. Shinshu understood a few words from the elder and knew the ancient Assiniboine dialect his father was using. Tancred and Jhojan lifted their Shireman's in greeting, and the returned to puffing on them in contentedly.
Bengali stayed in bed, but Sheera got up and sat next to Shinshu, the tent was cold without him. Tancred had put an extra few blankets over her as he left, his heart thudded slightly in doing so, she had been acting odd even before they left Crystal Cove. She would wave him off and say she was just feeling a bit nauseous nothing to worry about.
The hunters continued to recite story after story, to which Shofu translated for everyone. Hunting Bear told the story of the seven sisters, which after a while listening, Sheera sat up and a look of realization dawned on her face. She whispered something to Shinshu and he smiled, then kissed her lightly. She smiled and leaned into him looking into the fire now, enjoying the telling.
It wasn't more than an hour or so as the sun began to ascend into the sky that Bengali woke up and join the rest by the fire. She was a bit pale but was considerably cheery compared to previous days. The fire was warm and the group was in a boisterous mood. The elder man, Hunting Bear, shared the Miq'maq creation story.
He was inspired by the two beautiful women and began by talking about the giver of life and the creation of the sun and earth, how the sun gives us our shadows, a reflection of one's lifeblood. Humanity first showed up, after a bolt of lightning, with arms outstretched towards the sun and was eventually given fingers, toes, and even 7 senses in which to navigate the world, by another bolt. Then he spoke about how we first hear our mother's heartbeat, and by the third bolt of lightning, humanity was grateful to the grandfather for giving them a shadow and for Mother earth for nurturing them and providing everything needed to survive. (https://www.historymuseum.ca/history-hall/origins/_media/Mikmaq-Creation-Story-EN.pdf)
The elder was eloquent in his storytelling, he provided more detail when the girls inquired. He had obviously raised his sons on these stories for they were eager to answer any questions Bengali or Sheera had, as well. Tancred and Shinshu glanced at one another, gave each other a sheepish grin.
Jhojan stood and needing to use the men's room sauntered off towards the coast, he had just stepped behind a row of trees. He found a proper spot to relieve himself and it was there that he barely saw the two bearded men out of the corner of his eye. He began to speak, zipping himself up, and had started to turn just before everything went pitch black.