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Thousands of Miles From Home


Guest boshmi
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Guest boshmi

Mature Content: Doubtful

With: Aoife Leane and Robert Cullen
Location: Forest's edge, half-an-hour's walk from Kalispell
When: Mid-May 1876
Time of Day: About noon

 

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It had been some thirty minutes since she'd left the convoy. 'Just down that-a-way!' The trailblazer had said. 'Can't miss it!' Though here she was, alone in the wilderness, some thousands of miles from home, and still with no eyes on the town of Kalispell. Say what you would about Milford, but at least it didn't have giant predatory cats capable of turning a man inside out, or bands of natives who'd put a bullet in you just as often as invite you for supper.

Still, she was on her own now, this was the cost of independence, and there was nothing for it but to hope for the best. Milford might have had no giant predatory cats, but it seemed quite a dead-end compared to this frontier.

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Pausing beneath the trees, mid afternoon sun filtering through their leaves, Aoife set her trunk down on the forest floor. She'd have a rest, for a few minutes perhaps, before continuing. Despite it's dangerous aspect, the American wilds had a charm to them, and it was nice to be able to wander through nature without the threat of an Irish storm rolling through and sordidly ruining the ambiance. Folding her skirt beneath her, she sat down upon the leather top, procuring an apple from her pocket. The detritus around her seemed remarkably still, save for the occasional beetle or centipede that ambled it's way over the spring leaves, and she took a moment to regard the overlapping plants, the difference in turgidity of a fresh spring leaf and an old winter one, and the ever-so-slight tilt of saplings as wind whispered through them. I should come back here sometime. She thought to herself. Take some sketches, do some writing.

 

Instead, she bit into her apple, the crunch sounding quite loud after the forest's stillness. It was soft, and she made a face of distaste, but did not move to throw it away.

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As Robert rested the rifle upon the fallen tree trunk, his eyes were focused on a doe not fifty yards from him, munching casually on whatever green stuff that was. Robert knew more about rocks than plant life. Outdoorsman he was not, hunter definitely not either. But he had bought this cheap rifle some months back so he could better provide himself with some meat to help eke out his solitary existence in these mountains. Granted he could buy food in town but that all cost money, money he seldom had much of. He almost didn't spend the precious few dollars he did on this gun but it was a deal too good to pass up. Unfortunately, there was a saying in this world...

 

     You only get what you pay for. 

 

Well, what he got with this piece of junk was lots of issues. He was quite certain the barrel might not be straight like it should be, the sight was off, and the missfire rate was high, way too high.  But it's not like he knew how to fix a firearm and those that did charged.........yep, money!

 

Still he had brought down a few animals though most of the times he missed. He reluctantly would have to admit part of the problem might not just be the gun but his own poor marksmanship. However seeing the size of his prospective victim and the proximity of it, he had confidence he could hit this shot. That would make for a lot of venison. Slowly he brought the weapon up to aim it and then..........

 

The damn deer suddenly burst from a dead stop into an amazingly fast skedaddle, practically flying thru the trees with amazing agility. Lowering the rifle, for he had zero chance to hit that fast a target, he sighed. Something had spooked it, he was sure that it hadn't noticed him though. He stood up and had little choice but to move on. Least it was a nice day and the weather pleasant. He had damn near died this past winter.

 

He didn't get too far when he spotted something....no, someone. Now word in town had been for some time that there was going to be a lot of Indian trouble in this territory and no white man was safe from those devils' predations. Still he had little choice but to take the risk given his livelihood as a prospector, panner for gold. This was no Indian though. This was a white woman!  And she certainly appeared to be alone too? Just sitting on a trunk and eating an apple. What was a well dressed woman doing out in the middle of nowhere with a big trunk? Well, he was damn well going to find out.

 

Approaching her in a steady amble, rifle now slung over one shoulder, the young Irishman called out as soon as he got to within easy range of a voice.

 

"Excuse me, miss!  You lost by any chance?"

 

As soon as she spun about, he halted and raised both hands, "I donna mean no harm. Don' worry."

 

ooc: I'm terrible at Irish accents in written dialogue - just use your imagination.  :)

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A rustle of branches as something bounded it's way through the shrub, all scrabbling hooves and wild eyes. Though serving to make her heart leap, Aoife quickly recognized the animal as a deer, probably having smelled her given that she was upwind, and allowed herself to relax. The solitude was making her jumpy. She watched the animal disappear between the trees, only the faint sound of crunching leaves to indicate that it had ever been there.

 

"Excuse me, miss!  You lost by any chance?"

 

Aoife paused mid-chew and turned her head quickly at the voice, the adrenaline of surprise surging through her again. This time though, the object of her anxiety was no forest creature, rather a dark haired, youngish sort of man, perhaps slightly more so than herself, with a weapon at his shoulder. What struck her more than his appearance though, was his accent, with the faint flat endings of an Irish heritage hidden in a harder American aspect.

 

"I donna mean no harm. Don' worry."

 

She swallowed her mouthful of apple slowly, regarding the man with a critical eye. "No, not lost." she reaffirmed, her own accent stressing the fricatives in her words. "Just pausing."

Given that the stranger was carrying a weapon, she could discern that he was likely out here by choice rather than happenstance. His clothing too denoted some sort of outdoorsman - someone used to the wilds, perhaps a hunter?

"Sorry I spooked your critter." she said, venturing forth on that assumption. "Are you from Kalispell, down the way?"

 

(ooc: honestly, never written an accent in my life so you're already a step ahead of me :P)

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The woman paused in her munching on an apple and then answered calmly enough, least she wasn't the sort to fly into a panic at the approach of a stranger. Some might.

 

"No, not lost." she reaffirmed, "Just pausing."

 

Robert had to wonder, was that an Irish accent? Sure seemed like it might be. But regardless, he just was looking for a simple exchange, a conversation is all now that he knew she was not in some sort of distress or danger.

 

"Ye don' say," he nodded, seemed liked an odd place to pause, in the middle of nowhere especially with that big trunk. She was too wee to be carrying that big thing around for a long haul.

 

"Sorry I spooked your critter." she said, venturing forth on that assumption. "Are you from Kalispell, down the way?"

 

"My critter?" he raised one eyebrow then realized her meaning, "Oh, the deer. Nah, they spook easy, they do."

 

"Kalispell......no. Well, I mean ....sure, I know where it be, I go there on occasion. But I don' live there."

 

He gestured with a sweep of his hand in almost a 180 degree arc, "I live out here."

 

He accompanied that declaration with a sort of goofy grin, "Wild n' free...we Irish, ye know."

 

He just had to know, he was dying of curiosity, "What's with da trunk, aye?"

 

 

 

 

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"Kalispell... no. Well, I mean... sure, I know where it be, I go there on occasion. But I don' live there. I live out here. Wild n' free... we Irish, ye know."

"I see." Aoife said, nodding to his grin in a good-natured sort of way. He was indeed Irish then, it would seem that an ocean of water could not distance her homeland from herself, even if there was comfort in familiarity.

"What's with da trunk, aye?"

"Oh. The trunk." she repeated, quickly standing and righting her luggage. It occurred to her for a moment that she was rather vulnerable already, and to reveal to an armed man that all of her worldly possessions lay within that leather case was simply asking for trouble. Then again, he probably wouldn't have approached from her front with the rifle shouldered, if there was indeed an ulterior motive to this meeting. That given, she decided to proceed with a degree of... optimistic caution.

"Only a few bits and pieces. Personal stuff." she explained, hefting the trunk in question once more, and after some deliberation she added; "Is Kalispell much further?"

She didn't want to seem overanxious, but shooting the breeze with a stranger out in the forest was not exactly her foremost object, right at this moment.

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"I see." 

 

A woman of few words or she was still a bit intimidated by him? Robert hoped not, he really was hardly the scary type although granted he was carrying a rifle but then only a fool went unarmed in Montana. Oh and it did seem she had no weapon. Course it could be hidden.

 

He asked about the trunk but his question was poorly worded and she rightly misunderstood.

 

"Only a few bits and pieces. Personal stuff." she explained, hefting the trunk in question once more.

 

Well, at least she could lift it, though for how long she could carry it was still unknown. He then tried to figure out a better way to word his real question but she had one of her own first.

 

"Is Kalispell much further?"

 

"Oh well....it be a wee few hours walk yet and that be at a lively pace too," he answered truthfully, he'd done the journey back and forth a few times but he now owned a mule.

 

"Sorry miss, but I meant to be sayin'....how come yer stuck out here all by yerself now with that heavy thing? You get dumped out here in the midst of nowhere?"

 

Oh jayzus, here he was interrogating the poor thing and he hadn't even given his name! Quickly remedied.

 

"I'm Robert by the way. Or Bob or Bobby or Irish. I be answerin' to 'em all if called," he flashed what he hoped was a charming smile.

 

 

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"Oh well... it be a wee few hours walk yet and that be at a lively pace too,"

Aoife felt her stomach turn. A few hours more and it could be approaching nightfall by the time she arrived; a daunting prospect to say the least.

"Sorry miss, but I meant to be sayin'... how come yer stuck out here all by yerself now with that heavy thing? You get dumped out here in the midst of nowhere?"

"I'm Robert by the way. Or Bob or Bobby or Irish. I be answerin' to 'em all if called."

"Aoife. Charmed." she replied courteously, crossing to where Robert stood. If his declaration about Kalispell's distance was to be believed, then it was probably a fair stroke of luck that she'd happened across the young woodsman after all.

"In truth, Robert, I was with a wagon train, up that way." she said, indicating the direction from which she'd come. "Feller said the town wasn't far, and, well, I haven't any transport of my own. I haven't been in America long, see, and heard there was work down this way."

She sighed. Ratting off her life story wasn't the sort of thing she practiced on a daily basis, but it seemed she'd been left with no choice. She would indeed have probably wound up lost out here, hiking around in the woods for hours yet.

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He had introduced himself then, giving her choices for names, Robert was one of those which had lots of variations, all nice and short. He had no real preferences.

 

"Aoife. Charmed."

 

The way she said it, she was hardly charmed but no matter. Certainly was a definite Irish name alright. He smiled.

 

"Hullo, Aoife."

 

"In truth, Robert, I was with a wagon train, up that way." she said, indicating the direction from which she'd come. "Feller said the town wasn't far, and, well, I haven't any transport of my own. I haven't been in America long, see, and heard there was work down this way."

 

"Well then  you come a long ways in a short time then, miss. It took me months to get from da big city of New York out to here," he pointed out, "me brother and I set out together. It be just me now, he's dead and buried."

 

"I can get ye inta town, if you like. Give ye a ride even. But we gotta go back a ways that direction," he then pointed toward a mountain slope looming above the trees .

 

"Got me a shack there and a big old mule. When he's in the mood, he can carry the both of us," he further explained.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"Well then  you come a long ways in a short time then, miss. It took me months to get from da big city of New York out to here. Me brother and I set out together. It be just me now, he's dead and buried."

"I'm sorry to hear that." Aoife replied, and not entirely disingenuously. Even a year out on the frontier had been harsh for her, no doubt death was common.

"I can get ye inta town, if you like. Give ye a ride even. But we gotta go back a ways that direction," he said, pointing toward a mountain slope looming above the trees.

"Got me a shack there and a big old mule. When he's in the mood, he can carry the both of us."

"Oh." Aoife said lamely. She was more surprised than anything at his willingness to help, and under different circumstances her suspicion might have crept back in, but Robert's story did seem genuine, and he himself affable enough. After a moment of thought she added; "Thank you."

She turned to the direction he had indicated, peering up at the leering rise of rock. She'd hate to admit it, but having someone with a weapon alongside her was a relief, even if he was a stranger for the most part. If she was going to adapt to this American way of life, she'd need to stop making mistakes like this.

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She commiserated with him about his brother's death, it was polite of her, and he nodded, "Thanks."

But it seemed a long time ago and they both had lives now to live in the present. And she wanted to get to town, something he could help her accomplish, that is if she trusted him. He was a total stranger so he would understand if she was reluctant. Turned out she was not.

 

"Very well then, Aoife, can I take yer trunk for ye? It's gonna be a bit of a hike to my place. Nothing fancy as you might well imagine, just a bit of thrown together shack. I'm not tryin' to be a settler ye see, I prospect for gold. Pan it in the streams, that sorta thing," he explained.

 

"And before ye ask, how's it bin workin' out fer me then? Well, look at me, I'm poor as a church mouse. All those stories back East about there bein' gold everywhere...they be just stories I'm afraid," he smiled, by now his optimism had long faded but he had nothing else to do for a living, him being uneducated and well...Irish. Irish were not always welcomed in communities.

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