Revenge and Retribution is the sixth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.
Life in the Colony of Maryland is no sinecure – as Alex and Matthew Graham well know. But nothing in their previous life has prepared them for the mayhem that is about to be unleashed upon them.
Being labelled a witch is not a good thing in 1684, so it is no wonder Alex Graham is aghast at having such insinuations thrown at her. Even worse, it’s Matthew’s brother-in-law, Simon Melville, who points finger at her.
Not that the ensuing hearing is her main concern, because nowadays Alex’s entire life is tainted by the fear of what Philip Burley will do to them once he gets hold of them – there is no longer any ‘if’ about it. On a sunny May afternoon, it seems Philip Burley will at last revenge himself on Matthew for every single perceived wrong. Over the course of twenty-four hours, Alex’s life – and that of her family’s – is permanently changed.
As if all this wasn’t enough, Alex also has to cope with the loss of one of her sons. Forcibly adopted by the former Susquehannock, Samuel is dragged from Alex’s arms to begin a new life in the wilderness.
How is Alex to survive all this? And will she be able to put her damaged family back together?
Revenge and Retribution is very much about loss. In the excerpt below, Alex can do nothing when the Susquehannock chief, Qaachow, comes to claim her son as his.
Alex stuck her face up to the sun. Insects buzzed; birds chattered and squabbled; in the distance, a cow lowed; the sound of laughing children came in snatches with the wind; and somewhere to her left, Carlos was singing out of tune. Sarah seemed on the verge of sleep, her breathing slowing, and Alex was considering whether to stretch out for a little nap when a shrill sound sliced through the air. Alex rose, making Sarah grumble loudly when her pillow disappeared.
“What was that?” Alex said, tilting her head in the direction of the river.
“What was what?” Sarah yawned.
“Don’t you hear it?”
A carrying keening, and Alex shielded her eyes with her hands, swallowing back a gasp when she recognised the tall Indian who was jogging towards her home.
“Qaachow!” She snatched up her shawl and ran for the house with Sarah running beside her. Alex’s head was spinning with thoughts: Qaachow here. Oh God, oh God, why had he come? But she knew, even more so when she saw just how many Indians were filling her yard. Matthew was far away, out with the other men in the fields that lay to the south-east. Not Ian, she recalled with a flare of hope. No, Ian was at home, hurrying into the yard with his musket in hand.
“Go!” Alex wheeled to Sarah. “Fetch your father. Run like the wind! Tell him Qaachow has come.”
Sarah nodded and turned to leap away, her skirts bunched high around her legs. Fleet like a deer she was, speeding away among the trees like an arrow, and Alex turned to rush down to the yard.
Alex skidded to a stop, panting heavily. Her hair had come undone. She could feel it stand like startled vipers round her head but, despite her disarray and her unorthodox dress, she pulled herself together to stand very straight and eyeball Qaachow who was waiting in the yard. Samuel, where was Samuel? With the men, she hoped, but then she saw that he wasn’t. He was already standing with the Indians.
“Unhand my son,” she snapped, striding over to take Samuel by the arm and yank him free. She hugged him to her side and glared at Qaachow who glared back.
“It’s time.” He pointed at Samuel who shrank away from the piercing look in those dark eyes. “White Bear must learn about his other people. He must grow into a brave with Little Bear.” He made a gesture with his hand, and a young boy came to stand beside him, stark naked except for a breech cloth. His hair was the same blue-black it had been when he was a baby, and he peeked at Alex, a timid smile hovering over his mouth.
“You said twelve,” Alex said hoarsely.
Qaachow hitched his shoulders. “It’s time,” he repeated. He said something in a low voice, and his men spread out in a half-circle. Suddenly, there were arrows and muskets aimed at Ian. He said something again, and a group of at least ten Indians slipped away up the lane.
“You promised it like a gift. You take him under threat,” Alex said. “I don’t want to let my son go with you, and so you show up in force to compel me to give him up.”
Qaachow regarded her stonily. “My foster son.” He nodded in the direction of Samuel. “He and my son have nursed at the same breast.”
“Because I chose to save your boy!” Alex’s voice rose in anger and fear. “Am I now to regret that I did? Should I have left him and your wife to starve?” Qaachow flinched but kept his eyes locked on Samuel.
“You come across the seas,” he said bitterly. “You step ashore on our land, and you say it’s yours. You kill, you rape, you offer trade with one hand and stab us in the back with the other. My people are no more because of you. The lands that were ours since the Earth was new are trod by the feet of white men. You bring sickness with you, and our people die while you multiply. How many sons have you got, Alex Graham? Seven? I have one – one left alive. But I have buried three and just as many daughters, and they have died because of you.”
“Because of me? I saved him!” Alex pointed at Little Bear.
“Your people are our destruction,” Qaachow went on, ignoring her interruption. “And now I come to take something back. A son, a healthy, well-grown boy.”
“He’s mine,” Alex groaned.
“And mine,” Qaachow replied, not giving an inch. He made as if to grab Samuel. Alex slapped at his hand.
I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.
I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.
I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.