Summary: The Jim Ellison’s early years.
May 15, 1709
Province of Carolina
“Welcome Master Bachmann! Bright the day!”
“Thank you Master Miller! How are you?” called Wilhelm Bachmann to his friend.
“Doing well. May I inquire as to what are you doing in town today?” answered James Miller. As his name implied, he was the township’s miller and had several flour mills under his control.
“I am here to get a few bags of grain ground while I wait for Mary’s ship to come in. And I am thinking of looking over the indentureds to see if any would work on the farm,” Wilhelm replied as he pulled back on the reins of his horse, bringing the wagon he was driving to a halt next to the other man.
Leaning to look over the edge of the wagon, Miller took a quick look at the number of sacks of grain in the back and then mentally reviewed the mill’s schedule. “Aye, I can fit your grain in. How do you want it ground? And Mary is due on the next ship? Wonderful! I know that you have wanted her out here. Have you gotten the house done?”
Setting the hand brake, Wilhelm leaned forward a bit, resting his elbows against his knees to stretch his back. Grinning lightly at his friend’s enthusiasm, he quickly answered all the questions. “I want one bag done fine for Mary and I and the others to about a medium bread flour. From the schedule I received, this is about the time that the King Charles is due in to port, so I decided to combine errands. The house was finished earlier this week. My men worked hard and I’ll be picking up some things for them as thanks.”
“Wonderful. Stay with Sarah and myself? It has been too long since we last talked. Perhaps we can get in a game of chess this evening as well,” Miller invited. “And it should take us a few hours to get your grain done. Just swing by the mill to drop it off and let my manager know.”
“Aye, James, I will. I shall see you in time for supper and chess then?” Wilhelm asked as he sat back up and released the wagon brake, and turned back towards the mill.
“Indeed.” Miller agreed.
Mary Grace Bachmann heard her name called as she carefully walked down the gangplank of the King Charles, the ship that had taken her from Brest, France to New Bern in the Province of Carolina in the new world. Looking up carefully she saw her husband and smiled, overjoyed to see him. It had been over two years since he had left for the new world and she had missed him dreadfully. Thankfully her ship had made the trans-Atlantic trip safely and there hadn’t been any storms. From everything she had learned from the ship’s captain, the trip had been unusual in how quick and calm it had been. But she wasn’t going to fuss about that, because it had gotten her to Wilhelm that much faster.
Setting foot on the pier was a relief, because she was not a good sailor. The seasickness had passed fairly quickly, but she had not enjoyed her time aboard the tiny little ship. Now that she was back on land, she could thank the Captain for his kindness without gritting her teeth against the feel of the sea under her feet. Turning to him she discharged her final duty before entering back into her husband’s care, “Thank you Captain for such a quick and uneventful voyage.”
Bowing over her hand, the Captain smiled at her and murmured his thanks. Taking her leave of the Captain, Mary Grace walked closer to her husband. “Husband, it has been far too long since I have seen you! I am so very glad to be here.”
“And I am glad that you are here, wife. I have so very much to show you.” And his face lit up as he looked at her in joy.
March 3, 1710
New Bern, Province of Carolina
“Push Mary! Push!”
“Aaahh!! Oh, dearest God this hurts!” Mary screamed as the next pain ripped through her. Her child was taking his sweet time arriving and the pain was beyond anything she had ever dreamed could happen to her. With the next pain, Mary pushed and felt the pressure suddenly release with the sensation of something slithering out of her. Sarah Miller, who was acting as her midwife, was abruptly busy doing something unknown down by her cunny and paying her no attention. But she didn’t care because right then, nothing hurt and Mary Grace reveled in the moment.
Just as she was starting to drift, the cry of an angry infant split the air. “You have a son, Mary. He is large and healthy. Here.” And Sarah passed a swaddled bundle of baby to her. Her arms went around the baby automatically and she held him close to her chest. Fascinated at the small being that had come from her and Wilhelm, she ignored the feeling of Sarah pressing on her belly and the slither of what had to be the afterbirth sliding out. Her son was beautiful and she couldn’t take her eyes off of him.
“You are all freshened up now, Mary. What is his name?” Sarah asked as she wiped her hands dry.
“Wilhelm has decided to honor his first friend on these shores… His son’s name is to be James Wilhelm.”
December 4, 1715
New Bern, Province of Carolina
“Papa, why is Mother sad?”
Wilhelm Bachmann rubbed his hands over his face and tried to figure out what to tell his son. For all the uncertainties of their life out here in the wilderness, young James had very little firsthand experience with death. Well, little before today. “She is sad, James, because Thomas was very sick this morning and he has died.”
The little face looking up at him was confused, but obviously expecting him to have the answers, “Died? He isn’t going to be able to play with me anymore?”
The laughter wasn’t from humor but from grief, “No lad, he won’t. And that is why your mother is sad.”
“Oh. Is Anna sick too?” Worry was starting to cloud the child’s features.
“No, lad. She’s fine. Go play with her now. I’ll be tending to your mother.” And placing a hand on the boy’s back, Wilhelm gently pushed him towards the kitchen.
Agreeably moving in the required direction, young James looked back at his father and asked one final question, “Alright Papa. Will the new baby make mother happy again?”
Wilhelm was quiet with shock. “Son, how do you know your mother is pregnant?”
Innocent and trusting, the face that looked back at him from the kitchen door was filled with knowledge. “I can hear it.” And with that pronouncement, young James slipped out of the room to go play with his sister.
Falling to his knees in prayer, Wilhelm appealed to his God, “Oh, my dear gracious God, please do not let my son be cursed. Let him grow out of this. Let no one find out. I beg of Thee.”
There was no answer.
June 23, 1718
Province of Carolina
Wilhelm was walking down the main street of New Bern looking for his oldest son. The town was safe, so he wasn’t worried about anyone taking his child, but it was time for them to leave. Looking around, he couldn’t see the pack of boys James played with when they were in New Bern.
“Master Bachmann, your boy is with Master Sturges at his wagon. He’s been in town about a week, stocking up before moving on. The mayor already checked him out,” called one of the working to put up a new building. Tilting his head, he tried to figure out what would be going in the space. Whatever it would be, it had room for a family to live over it. He made a mental note to come back later in the summer find out.
“Where is this wagon?” Wilhelm called out.
“Behind us,” the same man gestured behind the structure before turning back to his work.
Wilhelm waved and adjusted his course. “Thank you!”
Turning the corner, he saw the ten boys that were roughly the same age as James sitting on the ground, listening to a story. It was being told by a dark haired man who was turned out in a mix of clothes that spoke to a great deal of time being spent with the Natives of their new home. Whatever he was telling them, the story seemed to be accented as he moved his hands moving through the air, emphasizing his points. As he got closer Wilhelm started to get concerned.
It seemed that their new resident was telling them tales that Wilhelm had never heard before. Tales that sounded a great deal like what he had heard the Native men and women tell their children as they passed through his lands. And the boys were eating it up, hanging on every word the man spoke. Wilhelm stood silent and waited, letting the storyteller finish his piece. It was an interesting tale, even if the part of him that was God fearing wasn’t too sure about his son learning about deities not his own.
“Can we have another story, Master Sturges?” James asked.
Wilhelm cleared his throat and all the boys turned around to look at him. “Not today, James. We need to head home. Say your goodbyes.”
“Yes, Papa!” James turned to the pack he ran with and quickly concluded his visit with the boys before turning to Sturges. “Thank you for the stories Master Sturges. I hope I can learn as many things as you.”
“I expect you will, young man. And remember to keep an open mind, you never know where or when you will find a place to learn something new,” Sturges gravely told Wilhelm’s son. Wilhelm listened closely, but couldn’t place the man’s accent. From traders, he was familiar with an Englishman’s speech, but this man wasn’t quite like theirs.
He shook off his suspicions as he took in the smile his boy gave the other man. Wilhelm blinked at the sight. He and his wife had been schooling their children, but James had never seemed interested. If an afternoon listening to this man spin tales could help his son enjoy learning, then Wilhelm would be eternally grateful.
As they walked away, he turned to look back at the small group. The children were still clustered around the storyteller and were utterly fascinated by his words. It was something to think about.
“Papa, you told me tell you when I found something odd. Well, I found something odd,” James announced as they moved back towards their wagon.
Wilhelm wondered what his son had found. He knew far more about his neighbors than was comfortable, but James faithfully reported on all the things that caught his attention. For their temporary w citizen to have caught his attention, something must have been very odd.
Wilhelm smiled down at his son and nodded. “Very well, James. What have you learned that is odd?”
His son turned innocent blue eyes up to him and shrugged. “Everyone I’ve ever met has a heartbeat. Well, Master Sturges doesn’t. But he’s alive and all. Do you know why that is, Papa?”
A Vampire? Here in New Bern? He had not seen on of them since he had left Germany. His family had spent generations on the land of the Wencislaus Castle and were well acquainted with the people who lived there. “Sometimes, you find that there are special people who are like that. Some are good, some are bad, but you need to be careful of all of them. Let their actions tell you which they are and you will not be led wrong.”
“Yes, Papa.” The look his son gave him was rather skeptical, but Wilhelm took a deep breath. If the Vampire was to leave, he would make sure that James learned from him before he was gone. To know what to look for in one of their kind. If Sturges was going to stay, he would ask that the older man teach James this lesson. But only after he watched for a while. Only once he was satisfied all was well, would he the man on his own to let him know that there were some Chosen Ones in the area.
March 27, 1720
Province of Carolina
Young James Bachmann woke to find himself being shaken. Startled, he shrank away from the hand gripping his upper arm and the voice booming over his head. The last thing he remembered was watching a bird flying in the sky and being fascinated as the sun gilded its feathers as it flew from tree to tree. It had been early morning when he had stopped to stare and now as he was shaken, he noticed that it was closer to noon. Wondering what had happened, James looked up at the man who was shaking him, “Father? What happened?”
James watched as his father’s continence darkened. Whatever he had done, it obviously wasn’t what he had supposed to have been doing. “You have been standing there for the last few minutes as I called for you James. What were you looking at? Why didn’t you hear me?”
Confused, James looked back over at the area where the bird had been. There was nothing there now, and he didn’t know what he father would say when he told him. Turning back to look at his father, he watched his face as closely as he had watched the bird in flight, “I was looking at a bird, Father. It was very pretty and I was wondering how it flew. And I didn’t hear you at all. At least, not until you shook me.”
As the boy was talking, his father’s face turned slightly grey and his grip on James’s arm got just a bit tighter. Saying nothing, he went with his father as he walked them over to boulder and sat down. Standing in front of the man, James was surprised to see that he was just a bit taller than the older man when they were like this. “Father? What is wrong?”
Taking a deep breath, his father placed his hands on his shoulders and gazed at him with a serious expression, “James, I need you to tell me the truth. Have you been losing time?”
“Losing time Father? What do you mean?” confused, the boy looked at the older man wondered what he was talking about.
Looking impatient, his father tried again, “When you are looking at something and then when you wake up again, hours have passed. Is that what happened today?”
James nodded his head. Now he understood what the older man meant by losing time. “Yes, Father. It happens a lot. And I can see things better than Timothy Miller can, no matter how much he says that it isn’t possible without a glass. Master Sturges believes me, but has told me it might be best to not talk about what I can see.”
“Dearest God,” murmured his father. The Vampire hadn’t settled in their town, but had taken to wandering through on a yearly basis. On his second trip, Wilhelm had revealed his status as a chosen one and had hosted the wanderer every year since. It looked like his kindness was paying unexpected dividends.
Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and then opened them, their expression intense, “James, I need you to promise me something. You can’t tell anyone that you can see, or hear, or taste better than anyone else. Do you understand me? Master Sturges is right, you need to be cautious. And you need to be careful to hide your spells of lost time. It is very important that you not mention anything about them, do you understand?”
Shaken at the intensity of his father’s words, the boy looked at the man he respected above all others, “But why, Father? I haven’t done anything wrong, have I?”
“No, lad, you haven’t. But there are those that might think you are taken by the Devil for being able to do what they cannot, or for seeing what they cannot. And the same is true of your spells. Let no one know what’s happening with them.” And flexing his hands slightly, his father lightly shook him in emphasis. “Do you understand?”
“Yes, Father. I promise. And I won’t tell anyone about what I see, hear or taste,” agreed James. His father’s tone and bearing all impressed upon the young boy that whatever the reason the elder Bachmann had for pressing for that vow, it was very important that he do his part. Very, very important.
September 8, 1724
New Bern, Province of Carolina
“But Father, I did see the raiding party as they moved through the woods. And I heard them too. Why will you not believe me?”
Closing his eyes and offering up a prayer to God, Wilhelm Bachmann turned to look at his eldest son and begged for patience. His son was no longer a little boy who would accept that his father knew more than he did and then abide by his decision. He was now a young man fighting to find his place in their world, and Wilhelm’s apparent questioning of his word was deeply offensive to him. The thing that James didn’t understand was that Wilhelm wasn’t questioning his word, he just didn’t want the man to go and talk about what he had seen with the people in town.
Out at their farm, the family Bachmann could protect James, could cover up and distract attention from the strangeness of their oldest son. But if he went into town stating that he could see a raiding party of Indians from over ten miles away… Well, that would cause all sorts of problems. Not the least of which would be with the Church.
Rubbing his forehead in an effort to stave off a headache, Wilhelm tried to think of a way to explain all of these factors to his hotheaded son. “James, son… I believe that you did see the raiding party. And I am equally certain that you are right as to what tribe they are from. But damnit son, if you scream that information out in town, you will be setting yourself up for a series of events that will cause a lot of pain.”
Wilhelm watched as his eldest child tried to understand what he was saying. Confusion, anger, uncertainty and curiosity flashed across the face across from him and then they settled into the expression James always wore when he was thinking. For several minutes the young man was silent and then he asked the question Wilhelm had been dreading, “What do you mean, Father?”
Sighing deeply, the elder Bachmann marshaled his thoughts and decided that the boy was old enough, mature enough and in enough danger that he needed to have all of the truth. “Son, if you go into town saying that you can see further than a man can see through the strongest glass, hear better than any other man, and smell better than the finest hound you will be seen as something other than human. You know Master Sturges has decided to stop coming to our town and he told us why. The Church has a strong grip here and given the rumblings going through the colony, you might be charged as a witch and that means that we wouldn’t be able to protect you. And with you possibly being charged as a witch, attention would be paid to the rest of the family. Attention we don’t need. Do you understand me, son?”
His face white with shock, James nodded. Wilhelm moved closer to his son and raised his hands to cradle his son’s face in them and whispered his wish to him, “All I want for you is to be safe. Please don’t fight me on this.”
May 1, 1728
Outer acres, Bachmann Farm
New Bern, Province of Carolina
Young James Bachmann idly scratched at his ribs as he stood below the large oak tree that marked the edge of his father’s farm. At his feet was a large rucksack and staked in a small meadow was a horse, laden with a large pack. His father had asked him to wait at the edge of the farm until he was able to get away from their visitors and he was going to stay where he was for another hour or so. If his father didn’t show up by then, he would head out and deal with not having said good-bye to his father for the season.
Walking over to his horse, he started checking all the straps and buckles keeping his gear firmly attached to the pack saddle. Running over a mental list of his supplies, he thought he would be pretty much okay so long as he was able to stay fed and healthy. He had blankets, extra clothes, some travel food, weapons and a few carefully chosen trade goods all packed away and he did know what he was doing. James thought back over the last four years and realized that ever since his father had warned him of the possible reaction of their neighbors to his differences, he had spent more time in the forests surrounding the farm than he had spent in town. And the longer he was out of the town, the less he wanted to go back into it. It stank, there were far too many people there for comfort and the few things about the place that interested him, he could mostly do without. Beer wasn’t really all that necessary in a day to day life, no matter what his father said.
His father. James leaned his forehead against the shoulder of his horse and tried to breathe through the surge of grief he felt. It wasn’t logical he knew, but he still felt grief at the thought of leaving, even if it was only for a season. Over the next few months he would be testing his ability to survive in the wilderness surrounding the community and if everything went well, he would, hopefully, be coming home with enough trade goods and the like to make this experiment worthwhile. It had to be worth it because he would be leaving everything and everyone behind and the person he would miss most was his father. Especially the times when they had just walked together and talked about everything. He had always been able to talk to him, despite or perhaps because of the strain his senses put on their relationship. James knew that everything his father had ever done had been aimed at protecting his family. He knew that they wouldn’t be able to hide his difference for much longer and disappearing for a season or two would buy them some time to figure out a way to make everything work.
A hand was placed on his shoulder and he heard, “James? Are you alright?”
“Yes, I am well.” James said with a smile. And turning swiftly drew his father into a quick hug. “I’m glad you were able to get away.”
“Me too, lad. Me too. Now I know you have everything packed and must be anxious to go. Your mother gave me something to give you as a parting gift. Here.” His father had a smile on his face, the one that he always wore when he wanted to surprise anyone. On the shifting breeze came the smell of honey, nuts and fruit and James grinned in delight.
“Mother’s honey candies! These will be most welcome. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, son. So you’ll be gone for the summer and back before fall gets too far started, understand?” Wilhelm’s face turned slightly stern as he gently admonished his son.
“Yes, Father. As the leaves turn but before it gets really cold. I’ll be back. And I’ll bring some interesting trade goods back as well!” James said with an eager grin. His father had come to say good-bye, his mother had sent sweets and the day was glorious. It was time to go.
“Off with you then lad. Stay safe,” said Wilhelm with a small laugh.
And turning his face into the wilderness that he hadn’t had a chance to explore before, James Bachmann started his first true adventure.
May 1, 1732
Wilhelm’s Study, Bachmann Farm
New Bern, Province of Carolina
“It’s too much, Father. Not even leaving for the summer months works anymore. There are just too many people in too close of a space. I can’t even stand the Indian’s camps anymore. I’ve had too many incidents in too many public spaces and I have, no I need to leave before my spells get us all in trouble.”
Wilhelm Bachmann sighed heavily and stared at the ceiling of his office. His eldest son was correct about his spells and he feared that they might have left things a bit too late as it was. There had been some disturbing hints of gossip that were quickly squashed when he walked by and several of the perpetrators had been frequent visitors to his farm in recent years. So far the tone of the gossip he had managed to hear hadn’t been too fearful, but the edge was there.
When God gave him no helpful words of wisdom from on high, he turned his eyes back to earth and stared at the man his son had become. Tall, good looking with even features, bright blue eyes and he even had all his teeth, something that Wilhelm could no longer say was true of himself. His personality was just as nice, honorable, hardworking, knowledgeable about farming and brewing with a fair amount of woodworking skills besides. He was cordial to everyone and seemed to have several close friends in town whom he spent time with on a semi-regular basis. James had never seriously courted any of the girls of the settlement, but he had always treated them well. Overall he was an extraordinary young man.
“Father? Are you having one of my spells?” Wilhelm came back to himself with a small jerk and tried to control his embarrassed flush. It wouldn’t do to have his son see him woolgathering like this. After all, it wouldn’t help anything.
“I’m fine son. Just lost in thought. When will you leave?”
“A fortnight. I think that is enough time to get everything together, say my farewells and still have enough of the season to travel and find someplace to winter over.”
“So short of a time? Will you tell your mother that you will not be coming back?”
“No. No I don’t think I will be letting her know. I’ll write a letter and you can give it to her,” James said with a shake of his head.
“Alright. I will leave you to it. I will miss you, my son. More than I think either of us will ever know.”
Summer/Early Fall 1732
Somewhere in the Western Wilderness
James Bachmann finally felt free. Free of the expectations of his family, his community and even his church. Free of the stifling, noxious smells that permeated New Bern and his family farm. Free of listening to the busybodies around him whisper about him behind his back and spread vile gossip where his mother and father could hear it.
He was putting one foot in front of the other for the few weeks in an effort to put as much distance between himself and everyone he had ever known. After a fortnight in the wild, he wasn’t as clean and tidy as he had been in town, but he was happier. Even his vacant spells had decreased and that was a blessing that he had prayed to God for in thanks.
Lifting his face into the slight breeze, James caught the scent of fresh clear water and changed his heading to reach it by nightfall. He had noticed that the longer he was out in the wilderness and away from people the easier it was to use his senses. Not that he hadn’t been caught out by a spell or two, he acknowledged with a mental grimace, but by God’s grace they were far fewer than when he was among people. On his next deep breath he caught the scent of berries ripening in the sun and decided to let the water wait just a bit longer. Both he and his horses could do with a bit of sweetness.
He had been camped out in his meadow for a full seven days and enjoying every single one. There had been no one around but God’s creatures and even they left him alone when his fire was going. The stream he had set up camp beside was full of tasty, fat rich fish and he had managed to catch at least one a day. Wrapped in sweet grass, wild herbs and mud, they baked up into some of the best eating he had ever had. James had long ago decided that he was going to remember that particular skill and it was so useful to know how to cook, he didn’t know why the other men he had met had sneered at the womenfolk for doing the chore. Lackwits, the ignorant lot of them.
Taking the time to stop and rest had done both him and his horses good. They were all a bit fitter and better rested than when they had come upon the clearing and if it weren’t for the lack of game trails, James would have considered building a wintering cabin in it. But for all its lushness, he hadn’t seen any sign of deer since he had arrived. Not a good thing when he was going to have to rely on them for meat, hide and all the other things that made life livable out in the wild.
Mentally musing about everything from the quick check on his breakfast to wondering which pack he had placed the curry combs in, James slowly broke his temporary camp down. Everything was placed carefully in its assigned place and anything that was valuable, such as his journal or mirror was wrapped carefully and stored in the very center of his most waterproof pack. That thick book, his Bible, compass and mirror were his most prized possessions, and the most fragile. Well, the horses were valuable too, but they could take better care of themselves than his books could, so he was going to be more careful with his books.
Food consumed, a quickly woven basket of grass full of mid-summer berries nestled on a fold of a pack, James left behind his temporary home. The only evidence of his stay was a ring of blackened ground from his fire, cropped grass from the horses and a disturbed patch of ground that looked like it had been dug out and then refilled. In weeks, even this evidence would disappear into the renewing landscape.
“Ha, ha! Come on you lazy glue traps! Move faster!” The words were harsh, but they came out of a deeply tanned face that was smiling and full of good cheer.
It had taken James a little over a fortnight’s more travel from his meadow campsite to find a place where he could winter over without fear of starving. Water, fallen trees for fuel and building materials, wild fruits and vegetables that he could gather to supplement his diet and all of it in generous plenty. Stopping had been a logical choice and he had immediately started breaking ground on his winter home. It wouldn’t be fancy, but it would be snug and if he had enough time, he would put up a lean-to or even a shed for the horses.
But first he had to get this last load of logs up and notched for the walls. Careful pressure on the reins brought the horses to a halt before the half-finished structure and he unhitched them from their burden. Using the sensitive pads of his fingers, James checked the skin under their harnesses. No swelling, no over-warm spots and no chafing. Good. Attaching the extra long leads to the halters, he led the tired horses out to the stream and allowed them to drink their fill. After each had refused another drop, he staked them out in a new part of the meadow and let them have lunch.
Each blow of the ax was carefully gauged to remove the most amount of wood with the least amount of effort and very little in the way of thought went into them at this point. Chore quickly completed, James moved on to the next chore on his mental list and the next and the next. There was very little time left in this warm part of the summer and he needed to take advantage of every moment. The winter would be long, cold and very lonely and only his skills would keep him fed and healthy.
But for right now, he was happy, healthy and was that honey he smelled on the breeze? A quick sniff and he grinned, going to gather some green grass to wrap around a branch for smoke. If he was lucky, he could get enough to have a treat over the winter too!
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
James could smell the town long before he could see it through the trees. Shit, piss, people, animals, tanners, blacksmiths, slop buckets, beer, soap, fruit, flour and bread. All of it overwhelming for a man who spent most of his time outside of civilization. And the sounds! Shouts, whispers, clangs, whirrs and it was just too much. Pausing more than a mile outside of the town proper, James turned his face into the familiar comfort of his horse’s neck and breathed in the well known scent. With each inhale and exhale, the tension and stress of his upcoming adventure faded back to a manageable level and he felt calmer.
With a final breath of the smells of home, James pushed away and turned to face what lay ahead. The quicker he got in there, the quicker he could get out.