In All Places (Stripling Warrior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Al
l
Places

A Stripling Warrior Novel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2013 Misty Moncur

All Rights Reserved

Cover photo © 2013 Heather Waegner

Cover design by Heather
Waegner

 

 

This novel is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, dialogues, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be interpreted as real. Any resemblance to actual persons is coincidental.

 

This is not an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints. The opinions and ideas
expressed belong solely to the author.

 

With the exception of short excerpts for review purposes, this book may not be reproduced, in full or in part, by any means or in any form without prior written permission. To do so is unlawful piracy and theft of intellectual property.

 

ASIN: B00H5RC4BO

 

Published by Eden Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To
Kaiya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

A big thank you to Heather and Laura

for
all you’ve done to help me with this series.

It has not gone overlooked or unnoticed.

Sadly, it is going to go unpaid.

Sorry.

 

And
because I think it bears repeating,

Misty is better than Chad.

Chapter 1

 

“O
uch!” I rubbed my chest where the small, buckskin ball had hit me.

All the boys laughed,
and Corban crooked an arm around my neck.

“What’s got you so distracted
, Rabbit?”

I
rolled my eyes when he used my exasperating nickname and gestured toward the city. “My mother. The healers are coming through the gates.”

“I wonder if she brought us anything to eat,” said Reb
as he swept up the ball and hit it over to Ethanim with the outside of his heel.

He said it lightly, as a
joke, but it was true that we were on strict rations. We had taken prisoners after the siege on Cumeni, and feeding them had depleted our own supplies. Food in the city was scarce, and most of what we ate, we scavenged from the forest.

After
I dropped the ball two more times, Lib offered to take me to find my mother. He bent to pick up the ball at my feet and tossed it to Cyrus.

“Come on,
” he said, and not needing to wait for my answer, he started to walk away.

“I can’t help but remember the battle we fought here,” I
said dismally as I caught up to him.

Lib
didn’t say anything, but he gazed at the city square as we approached it. I could see he was thinking about it too.

“This war will be over someday,” I said
, wistful at the distant prospect of obtaining peace. I was weary of the fighting, the constant attacks on our villages and people, and the unrest in all the lands around us.

Lib’s voice
held weariness too. “And you’ll go home,” he said.

“Won’t you?”

He lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “Is that your mother, there?”

I looked
in the direction he pointed.

“That’s her.”
I turned to him when he slowed and hung back. “Aren’t you coming?”

He glanced to where Mother and Kalem unloaded supplies from the travel pallets.

“No.”

“Alright,” I said
, frowning at his refusal. “I’ll be back later.”

He
looked at me for a long moment. His eyes looked sad, but I thought it was just the nagging hunger that caused him worry.

“Try to get Kalem to walk you back.”

“Stay,” I invited. “Mother will want to see you, too.”

He shook his head
and gestured me toward my mother.

I went straight into
her arms. She waved to Lib over my shoulder, and I turned in time to see him staring plaintively at us. When our eyes caught, he turned abruptly and stalked away, his golden hair glinting in the sun.

Mother pulled back. I could see the questions
in her eyes.

“Everyone is alright,” I assured her. “But Zeke is—” I looked down and took a breath. “But Zeke lost a lot of blood.”

“Will he recover?” Her words were clipped and emotionless.

“The healers think so.” I turned to acknowledge Kalem with a small smile.
“But I’ve run out of herbs for him,” I admitted. “Everyone has some ailment for which they need treatment, and I’ve used up all I have.”

“It is not right to leave someone in pain when you can help,” she reassured.

“I can finish with this pallet,” Kalem offered. “Let Keturah show you where the good herbs are here in Cumeni.”

I witnessed a smile pass between them, one I had seen many times before and had long ignored the meaning of.

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay in camp to rest?” I asked her as we approached the city gates. She had been traveling all day, and I could easily take one of the men with me later to find plants.

“No, Kanina, finding herbs and medicines will calm my nerves.
I’ve known nothing but worry since we got news of the battle. I’ve wearied Kalem with my fears.”

I laughed, and it felt good.
“I doubt that very much.”

Kalem had been helping Mother take care of my brothers and me for many years. If he hadn’t already tired of us, I didn’t think he was likely to
at that point.


I know a pretty meadow that has hyptis and sage,” I suggested, feeling an unexpected heat in my cheeks as images of the last time I had been in the meadow came into my mind, images of Gideon and moonflowers. The sunlight slanting in from the west. His smile. His lips.

I shut my eyes
tight. “There are some cases of stomach pains in the camps,” I said quickly.  “It will spread.”

“Alright.
” Mother’s voice was gentle. “It is wise to be prepared.”

I could feel her looking at me. She
couldn’t know why I was blushing, but she was seeing too much in my face, things I couldn’t conceal, so I turned away and concentrated on the warmness of the afternoon as I led her toward the meadow. Though it was located outside the walls of the city, it was not far, and she barely had time to question me again about my brothers before we stepped into the small clearing.

“You
say they are all well?” Mother asked. “They’ve no serious wounds?”

I shook my head.
“Jarom also came through the battle practically unscathed.”

“And your unit? Lib, Zachariah?”

“They have their wounds. We were not here when the battle began. We were taking our prisoners to Zarahemla under Gideon’s command.” I held a branch out of the way for her. “We didn’t make it that far.”

“And Gideon?”

“He led us back to fight beside our brothers.”

The smell of the forest was go
od. The hot, moist air made it all the more pungent and earthy.

“Keturah.”

The way she said my name made me blush furiously.

“I do not want to know his rank in the army,” she said. “I want to know what is in your heart for him.”

I thought I heard someone else walking nearby. A footstep or a breath. My hand went to the blade on my arm, but though I scanned the area, I did not see anyone. It was probably nothing, but still, my training told me that anyone with good intentions would have let himself be seen. When I did not answer my mother, she tried a different question.

“How do you feel about Gideon’s wounds?”

I bit my lip and brought my eyes back to her as I discreetly removed the blade and held it to my side.

“He is strong enough to bear them,” I said.
“I’ve been taking care of everyone’s wounds. Zeke is the only one that fell unconscious, though some are in a great deal of pain.”

She sighed, but did she really think I could talk to her about Gideon?

“Like you?” she asked.

I guessed I hadn’t been hiding my limp as well as I thought. “Much worse.”

“Tell me about what happened to Zeke.”

I
didn’t want to tell her about Zeke racing across the battlefield to protect me. I didn’t want to tell her it was all my fault he had nearly died and still might. She would be disappointed in me, but her high esteem of Zeke would rise all the more—she’d betroth me to him on the spot.

I quickly convinced myself she was only seeking the medical information.
“He took one too many swords,” I told her. “The final wound, the biggest one, high on his leg, pulsed blood even after he had fainted.”

Mother hummed
softly. After a moment, she said, “You were there with him.”

Not a question.
Mother knew that my unit did not fight beside Zeke’s.

“Yes, I was there.”

She started to ask me more, but stopped when she saw the large tear that rolled down my cheek. Instead, she drew me around to face her and wrapped me in loving arms that I did not deserve. She loved Zeke like he was her own child, and I had nearly gotten him killed.

I willed my tears to stay at bay but let her hold me, even as I held inside all the things I could have told her. How Zeke had sacrificed his life for mine. How it had not been necessary. How my heart belonged to
someone else.

Guilt churned inside of me, and I eased from her arms.
I moved away from her worried frown, and went about the business of gathering plants and herbs. After a moment we were both snipping it off at the nodes of the branches between our thumbs and our knives, working away from each other across the clearing.

Mother had her little herb knife
, but I used my father’s large obsidian blade. I had grown comfortable with it in my hand, and because I used it daily, I was confident with it when I needed to be.

The day was sunshiny, and despite having to tell Mother about Zeke
and despite grappling with my guilt, I was feeling better than I had since the battle. I was relieved to have Mother there to help with Zeke’s care. Her healing hands were the only ones I really trusted with his life.

W
hen I heard a twig break, I glanced up, supposing Mother to be closer to me than I had thought, but two men with dark skin and leering smiles emerged from the trees near me.

“Mother!”

She looked up, and I saw her face register alarm. She dropped what she carried and ran in the direction we had come, but one of the men darted to cut her off.

The
other man approached me slowly, a menacing gleam in his eyes.

T
he Lamanite army had fallen back to Manti when they couldn’t recover Cumeni. That was what my brother, Kenai, had said—our army’s chief spy. These men looked to be stragglers. I had seen enough enemy soldiers to know what they looked like. They had probably defected from the Lamanite army, perhaps deserted during a battle. They carried no weapons of war, just bows and arrows to hunt in the wilderness.

I sent a
quick glance toward Mother, and I was dismayed to see she held her little knife out, pointed at the man.

“No, Mother!
Drop it!”

She glanced at me, not daring to take her eyes off the man
for more than a second. Would she trust that I could protect her? I had to get to her quickly. I had to keep her from breaking her covenant.

No,
I thought, Mother would have to make that decision for herself. I would have to protect her when she did not break her promises to God.

But I could not protect her until I had
first protected myself from the man who edged steadily closer to me like he thought he had all day to assault me. Clearly, these men thought Mother and I were easy targets.

I almost felt sorry for the man who reached out to grab me when I took him down with one of my oldest moves,
the four count drop Kenai had taught me. Whether it was my training or catching him off guard, it worked, and I made sure he hit his head hard on the ground when he went down. He wasn’t unconscious, but it would take him a few minutes to shake off the blow.

I jumped to my feet and ran headlong toward Mother
and the other man. His eyes widened, perhaps in surprise, perhaps waiting to see what I would do. I ducked, rolled, and picked up a thick branch that lay on the ground before him. It only took one hard blow to his head, which he failed to defend against, to knock him to the earth.

As I caught my breath
, I looked over my shoulder at the other man. He had rolled onto his side, but he was still on the ground. The one at our feet was not conscious. I bent, picked up Mother’s little knife from the grass where she had dropped it and handed it back to her.

“Come on,” I said
as I began to run toward the city walls. “I don’t think they will follow us.”

Mother and I
hurried over the hilly paths back toward Cumeni, but we didn’t make it all the way before we ran into Gideon.

“There you are,” he said
, a faint smile on his lips when he saw me. “Lib sent me after you when Kalem came—” He stopped when he saw our faces. “What happened?”

“Two men. In that meadow surrounded by willows.”
Surely he knew the one I meant.

His
eyes shot in the direction of the meadow. He remembered.


Did you leave them alive?”

“They
had no weapons of war.”

As warriors, we
had all been trained to kill, but we had been commanded never to kill if there was another option. We were not to take life unless our own lives were in peril. The Lamanite men had not drawn their bows on Mother and me and had likely planned to take us captive and carry us to one of their strongholds. Perhaps they thought they could buy their way back into the good graces of their king for deserting the army. There had been rumors of that happening all over the countryside in the small towns and villages that were not protected by walls or other fortifications.

Gideon
grimaced and escorted my mother and me back to the safety of the walls of Cumeni.

Though I had proved
I could protect both myself and Mother, I felt immeasurably safe and comfortable with Gideon’s warm hand on my back. But even as I welcomed his touch, the guilt tugged at my stomach.

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