October 03, 2005

Chapter 30

"He's awake," said Martha, "and ready to go upstairs. I told him that he had to wait for you."

"Very well," said Matthew. He opened the door and peered in. John was reading a catalog of 19th century harvesting equipment.

"I see we found you something to read," said Matthew.

"Some of these devices are very exciting, yes, but -"

"Yes, you can go upstairs and see Rachel," said Matthew. "And Gideon and Sarah are there as well. We've let them know to expect you, though we've asked them to keep it quiet for right now."

John sat up and stretched. He still looked much older than Matthew, but far younger than he had looked coming in. Martha came in with a pile of clothes and left them on the bed. She and Matthew went out in the hallway while John changed.

"He has lots of energy," said Martha. "I just don't want him to fall and break something. I don't know how well he's healed."

"His mind seems sharp."

"Maybe too sharp, too energized. There's no discussion of that in the records I have, but maybe they just thought it was normal."

"I need you to go upstairs with him. The council would rather I didn't."


"We have a somewhat difficult problem in the prison," said Leah. "I believe Isaac has already met her."

"Zipporah?" asked Isaac.

"Yes, Zipporah. She seems extremely relieved to be away from her family for what may be the first time in her life. It's extremely clear that she has been harshly abused. She - she showed me the scars on her back."

"What can we do?" asked Miriam.

"For right now, she's in a separate stall in the barn, away from her siblings and the rest of the raider women. That's all been taken care of. There's another complication, though."

Miriam looked at Leah, but Judith spoke. "She claims her father was Nathaniel, but we have no Nathaniel on the list of raider prisoners. Which means that -"

"He was the one who died in the ravine."

"Precisely. We haven't told any of the raiders of that death yet, and we don't know what response we'll get. We're not equipped to handle a riot. The city is sending us two additional guards, but we'd prefer not to rely on them."

"We thought that perhaps you two could talk with Zipporah, somewhere quiet, where the rest of the raiders can't hear any of the conversation, even if she shouts. Find out how she thinks the raiders will respond."

"And if she responds?" asked Miriam.

"Talk with her."


Gideon woke up as he heard a knocking on the door. Martha entered slowly, as Sarah shook herself awake. Rachel remained quiet on the bed, breathing slowly.

"Your father is with me," she said, and opened the door further. John followed her in.

"John? Is that really you?"


"Yes, it's me. I don't - I don't -"

"It's as I said, Gideon. John is a citizen now. We did what we could to, well, to make him more appropriate for his age as a citizen."

Gideon walked up to his father, looked him over, and embraced him. John hugged him back, then let him go to kneel by Rachel's bed, taking her hand in his. She stayed asleep, shifting occasionally, but John was happy just to be with her.


Isaac and Miriam visited Zipporah's cell as the sun was setting, and waited for meal distribution to distract the prisoners before ushering her to the hospital. Isaac talked of wanting to visit her again, but Zipporah shook nervously as they walked between the buildings, looking around at the strange new city landscape.

They settled into one of the smaller empty patient rooms, Miriam sitting next to Zipporah while Isaac took a chair on the other side of the room.

"What is it?" asked Zipporah. "What are you going to do to me that you couldn't have done back there?"

Miriam shook her head. "We're not going to do anything to you. We have news, though, news which we didn't think it safe to share in the barn."

Zipporah's brown eyes widened.

Isaac started. "You said your father is Nathaniel, right?"

"Yes, he is."

"We don't have any record of a Nathaniel among the raider men."

"You mean he's escaped?"

"No - well, we don't think so. We think he's dead."

Zipporah's head fell. "Why do you think he's dead?"

"We have one dead raider, who fell into the ravine. Can you look at him, and see if it's Nathaniel?"

Zipporah's eyes filled with tears as she nodded. Miriam took her hand and led her out of the room. Isaac followed close behind. They went down a hallway and into a large room. Miriam pulled a handle on the wall, and a table emerged, with a large sheet hiding a corpse. Miriam lifted the sheet gently, and Zipporah looked briefly before turning away.

"It's him," she said.

Miriam lowered the sheet and returned the body into the wall. They walked back to the room where they had spoken previously.

"This will be your room for a while," said Miriam. "I'll go get your things from the barn. If you need anything, just push this button and a nurse or one of us will come help you."

She nodded to Isaac and they left the room, locking it behind them while a confused Zipporah cried.


"Why have the farmers moved one of the raiders to the hospital?" demanded Catherine. "What gives them that right?"

"Technically, Catherine, you're right. They can't do that. However - well, here's the conversation."

Matthew turned to the monitor and played back both the conversation in the hospital room and the conversation in the morgue.

"We haven't wanted the raiders to know that they had lost a member. The farmers stumbled on this, well, outcast, and she was able to identify the raider, something the farmers think important to their future dealings with the raiders. If she were to return to the barn and say what she's seen, even inadvertently, we could have to deal with a riot."

"We've already reinforced the guard for the night," said Stephen. "I suspect we should maintain that level of force."

"Zipporah, as the raider woman is called, is locked in that room in any case. She seems to have quieted quickly, and hasn't shown any sign of trying to get out, but she's more secure in that room than she would be in the barn in any case."

"She's in the hospital, and John - " began Catherine.

"Is also in that same hospital, visiting his wife, who will no doubt pass away any day now. I know it seems like a horrible conspiracy to overthrow the city, Catherine," sighed Matthew.

"Could we at least have a guard or two at the hospital?"

Matthew nodded. "It will disrupt our schedule a little, but it seems like a reasonable precaution."


"Is there any hope for me, Miriam?"

"Yes, Jacob. There's always hope. The elders didn't give me any reason to think they were speaking to the sister of a soon-to-be exile."

"Even without exile, though -"

"Stop it, Jacob. We have to go on living, all of us. Whatever the raiders drive us to, whatever comes next."

Posted by simon at October 3, 2005 09:22 PM
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