What Price Freedom
Chapter ???
by Marc Carlson
Copyright 1992 by Marc Carlson
 
 

 [iii.     Helena decides to overcome her fears, and not give into them.  That, all things considered, perhaps she and Yuvon need to continue to ride together.  He obviously had a plan for her health, and she really shouldn't just blow it off.

II.  They leave Mrs. Jenkins house, and travel.  North through Orodelfan, up four mile creek to Gold Hill.   Spend the night there.

III. From Gold Hill, up Left Hand Creek to Ward District.  Spend the night there.

     i.   They meet a pool playing kid who's struck it rich and is spending it all.

 

//And so the next two weeks of travel began for them.  It was a time of healing, a week of peace.  Helena had plenty of time to think and to reflect on herself and her world.

     Over the next week and a half, the pair covered many of the small little hamlets and mines in the region that Helena had heard called "Little Switzerland."  Magnolia, Crisman, Salina, Gold Hill, Ward, all of these small towns were alive with people engaged in the occupations of living.  Many of them had sick or injured, and in those places, the doctors found resting places for the night.  When no town was handy, or no rooms were to be found, they camped in the trees and flowers.

     At night, whether around a camp fire, in a hotel, stable, or sitting up over a patient, they talked.  Often they told stories, or sang songs.  Yuvon played the guitar that Helena saw him playing in Denver.  Helena smiled with an ironic humor when she realized that he played the instrument with the same easy perfection with which he did everything else.

     She slowly reached out a hesitant hand of friendship to him.  Her offer was returned as cautiously.//

     [Fantasy of him ‑‑ merges into nightmare of rape scene, then a few more men ‑‑ memories of child prostitution]

//Helena preferred to stay well in the background when Yuvon was performing medically.  At first because she was afraid that he might feel that she was in competition with him, then later because she was indeed afraid to compete with him. [why  and why did this worry her?]  His medical skills far surpassed hers.  In fact his skills surpassed those of anyone she'd ever met, or even had heard of.  She chalked this up with all of his other disturbing 'perfections.'  Then she began to see gradually that Yuvon more than made up for all his medical skills by a complete lack of bedside manner, or even any apparent concern for his patients. They were, on the face of it, merely problems for him to solve.

     How a man who could be loving and caring to a lost child as well as supportive and understanding to a lonely old man, or for that matter, show the concern that he exhibited for her, but treat the sick and injured under his care as large pieces of meat or even simply broken machines was beyond her.

     At first she thought that he was merely insensitive, later she wondered if he gained some perverse pleasure in his patient's suffering.  Then she came to realize that it was even deeper than that.  He didn't seem to recognize or understand physical infirmity and illness as real concepts.  He merely dealt with them with a coldly efficient intolerance.

     So she saw a need, and filled it.  Helena became a buffer to ease their patients' suffering.  She despised what she perceived the subservient role of 'Nurse,' knowing that most doctors would prefer her in that role.  But she gradually began to understand the position in ways she never would have thought that she would have allowed.  Yuvon began to take on only the most difficult cases, preferably when the patient was unconscious.  Helena weeded out the less serious cases, and dealt with them before Yuvon could ever get close to them.  Most of the patients that she so rescued, merely acknowledged her as Yuvon's nurse, but this was strangely acceptable to her.  At least she knew what she had saved them from.

     Her eyes followed him surreptitiously wherever he went.  A small ache began to grow in the center of her body, near the pancreas, when he was gone.  An ache they only his presence could assuage.

     If she'd had any less of a grasp on her self identity, she would have seriously feared that she could be lost in her feelings.//

 

[IV. North from Ward, they meet up with "Brigands"  Yuvon defeats them without killing them.  H & Y escape.  They reach a cabin, which is vacant, but lived in.  The owner appears to have left them only for a night.  They spend the night in his barn.  (This is their first actual night alone together, where no one else is around.  Sexual tensions are very high, but unfulfilled.)(Because of her fears?)

 

     Later, after breakfast, they remounted the horses and began the ride from (Allen's Fireplace).  As they rode, they passed alongside the east side of an immense mountain.  Helena suggested that they alter their route, and see what they could from up the side of the granite behemoth.

   

     The ride up the mountain was a pleasant one.  There were a few difficulties following the switchback trails that zigzagged the broad face of the peak.  They was some awkwardness with washed out trails, sand, gravel, and impenetrable foliage.  Even above the tree‑line, they still found unsteady footings, but the horses had no problems circumventing the troubles.  The cool, continuous breeze brought with it the dusty smells of scrub brush, and the scent of the ice that remained on the top of the peak.

     They spent the morning talking as they rode.  Helena felt happier and more alive than she had in many years.  Today it was she, more than Yuvon, who playfully rode her horse, laughing and joking, and looking at everything.  They were riding down a dry stream bed that led to a wide creek.

     "Aunt Melissa tried to teach me what was proper."

     "And that was?"

     "That I should get married and have several hundred children," Helena paused for a moment "She truly wanted what was best for me.  Unfortunately, in her mind, that was I should become one of those women whose world is defined entirely by their husbands and their children."

     "You say that as though it were a bad thing.  Many people are perfectly happy like that."

     She glared at him for a moment before answering the question and ignoring the challenge.

     "I realized that should I do so, should I become the sort of woman she wanted me to be, that would mean I would be giving away my freedom to another person without any hope of manumission."

     Nigel slipped a little on the slope and began to pick his footing across the creek.

     "So what makes you better than her?"  Yuvon asked jokingly.  "Why haven't you ever married?"

     "To be perfectly honest with you, Yuvon, I haven't yet found a man who I could tolerate for more than a few days, let alone live with."

     "You know," he said expansively.  "You shouldn't judge all men the same.  We're not all like Ed Chase, you know."

     Helena turned abruptly toward him.

     "You are quite correct there," she said angrily.  "Most of the men I've met in my life couldn't even raise themselves up to Chase's level."

     "And women are better?" he asked, his wry smile threatening to break out in a smirk.

     "Better what ‑‑ people?"  she asked.  At that moment, Nigel stepped down hard into a depression in the creek bed beneath the water.  The jolt of the impact traveled up his leg and into his rider's spine.  Helena felt her weight shift.  Her arms flailed as she tried to maintain her seat.   For a moment, she thought she might have maintained her balance, but Nigel shifted his footing out of the depression, and she fell backward into the creek.  Slowly she sat up, half submerged in icy water.

     Yuvon looked from high atop Erishkigal down on the soaking wet Helena and roared with laughter.  Helena struggled to her feet.

     "What are you laughing at?" she asked.

     "What do you think?"  He nudged his horse closer to her.  "Here, let me help you."  He reached out his hand.

     Helena looked at the proffered hand for a moment, then took it.  As he began to pull up on her arm, her foot flipped on the slimy green 'angel's hair' moss they covered the rocks of the stream bed.  Helena fell backward into the water.  Yuvon arced in flight over her head and landed in the water a few feet away.

     They both stood, and stared at one another.  They both burst out laughing at the humor of the situation.  Nigel and Erishkigal climbing onto bank, silently stared at each other and the humans in the water.

     Yuvon grew silent.  Helena saw his face freeze as he was looking at her.

     "What's the matter?" she asked, confused by a sudden self consciousness at her appearance.  "What are you staring at?"

     "You," he said softly.

     "What about me?"  Helena was feeling more nervous every moment.

     "You are very attractive right now.  You are a very sexy woman."

     "What are you talking about?"  She began to tremble and blush furiously, or so it seemed to her.  She looked at herself.  Her clothes were clearly molded to her form, the cold of the water making her breasts fuller.  Her nipples were erect through the material of her chemise and shirt.  She half-heartedly raised an arm to shield herself.

     "It isn't as if you haven't seen me undressed before," she said jokingly, trying to defuse the situation with humor.

     Yuvon stepped closer and touched her chin.

     "The circumstances were different then."

     She was terrified, her skin tried to crawl away from his touch.  She wanted to respond to him, but she had no idea of how to.  She had never been raised to be a woman.  It wasn't Ebin's fault.  Aunt Melissa hadn't been around often enough, and Helena hadn't been interested in learning to be more than a pretend woman.  And now it was too late.

     He kissed her.  She responded, at first hesitantly, then more completely.  She was being swept away in a torrent of emotions and needs that she had been denying for far too long.  She had never been this close to a man before, at least not like this.  She had no idea of what to do, and she was scared.  Clutching at her self control as if it were the only rock that would keep her from being lost in the river of feeling, she pulled away from him.  Her heart was pounding, and her mind was getting foggy.

     As they separated, she told him, "We shouldn't be doing this."

     He paused.

     "You are right.  This water is far too cold," he told her.  "Hold on."  He lifted her effortlessly and carried her from the river.

     "This wasn't what I meant, Yuvon," she giggled, then grew serious again.  "I didn't mean that we shouldn't be in the river.  We shouldn't be doing THIS at all, kissing I mean."

     He set her down and looked at her.

     "Helena," he began seriously. "We are both adults, you and I.  We both know what we're doing.  And I care for you very much."

     "And I care for you Yuvon.  More and more so every day, but ..." she stammered.  She ached within for his touch.  She kept silent about her doubts about whether they knew what they were doing or not.  "This is just so much.  It is so overwhelming."

     "Do you want me not to kiss you, not to . . . "  His words trailed off as he gently trailed a fingertip along her jawline and down to her throat.  "Remember, that you'll never know what you want until you try different things."

     Then, without warning, she found herself reliving the terror.

                          * * * * * *

     Years of starvation, of living a hand to mouth existence on the street.  Helena has stolen a raw chicken from the butcher's shop, and run away with it.  When she finally stops, she sees a well dressed man standing near her box, her home.  He grabs Helena.

     "Well, girl," He says, with a sneer in his voice, his breath acrid and harsh. "What have we got here?"  He takes the chicken away.  "Stolen, I'll wager.  Don't you know its wrong to steal?"

     When Helena tries to answer, he slaps her, hard.

     "I'll just have to teach you a lesson, girl"  He begins to punch her.  Very quickly she stops feeling any pain, feeling only the numbing thuds of the blows.  Suddenly, he strikes the small pouch in Helena's shirt and she hears part of Mama break, reflecting the sound of her heart breaking.  He holds fast onto her as he sucks at the blood on his fist.

     "What in hell cut me?"  He asks.  Helena struggles but he reaches inside her shirt and pulls Mama from her hiding place.

     "A doll, eh?  Well girl, you shouldn't be playing with dolls."  He tosses Mama into the brick wall and she shatters into a million pieces.  His voice grows strangely thick.

     "Yeah, well I'll show you what you should be playing with."  He tears off her dress, and opens his pants.  Then he hurts her.

     When he is finished, he pushes Helena into her box house, and kicks at it to make it fall down on top of her.  When she crawls out of the pile of broken wood, bruised and bloody, he is gone.

     Helena crawls over to where Mama lies in a pile.  She begins to cry over the shattered body.  Helena had only had her back for four years.

                          * * * * * *

     Helena stared up at Yuvon, her eyes wide with well remembered fear.  He started to say something, but it was lost as she rammed her knee into his groin and jamming her fist into his solar plexus.  He froze momentarily, his eyes frozen in the distance.  Helena took the opportunity to escape.

     She ran out of the creek blindly into the trees.  She ran wildly, for what seemed like hours, until she reached a gravel slope that ended in the large gray stone of a cliff stretching up and away from her.  She ran along the unsteady gravel of the talus slope as she searched for a way around the rock, but the slope was disappearing into encroaching brush.  Finally the thorny wall had grown too thick against the cliff face, and she could go no further.  She stood there panting, trying to regain enough of her intellect to find away around the blockage.

     There was a crunching of rocks behind her, and she turned around to face it.  It was Yuvon.  Part of her mind saw him standing there calm and concerned, but the majority of her only saw some venomous monster waiting to hurt her.  He was speaking to her, but she barely hear what he was saying.

     "... going to be all right, Helena.  Calm down, now.  I'm not going to hurt you.  Nobody's going to hurt you."

     She tried to dodge between him and the cliff, but he blocked her escape.  She tried the other side, but he was there too.  She looked around her, but there wasn't anywhere she could go.  She was trapped between the wall, the brush and him.  She lunged at him, intent only on trying to shove him out of her way.  He stopped her by jabbing the heel of his palm between her breasts hard and fast.  As startling as the blow was, it really didn't hurt, but she stopped breathing as she slipped helplessly to slump backward into the vegetation.  Yuvon reached down with one hand and picked her up by the cloth in front of her of her shirt, using it as a handle.  Holding her up to his face, he peered deeply into her eyes.  He slowly opened her mouth with his free hand before pinching her nose shut.  Then, tilting her head back, he pressed his mouth to hers and began to force air into her lungs.  As she felt his warm breath opening her lungs, she felt his presence envelope her.  The presence that could dominate a room full of people, now sought only to protect her.  Her blind terror faded, soothed by the breeze he blew into her body.

     As her lungs began to work for themselves again, he set her down.  Helena staggered slightly, but quickly found her legs again.  She looked at Yuvon, confused.  She wanted to escape from him, but she also wanted his protection, but she didn't want to give up herself, her individuality to him.  She dropped onto the gravel and curled up sobbing.

     She heard the crunching of gravel as he crouched down next to her.  She cringed and trembled as he touched her shoulder.

     "Helena?"

     "Please don't hurt me."

     "I won't.  Just relax."  He slipped his arms under her and lifted her up.  She scrambled around, wrapping her arms around his neck.  She buried her face into his shoulder, sobbing.

     She couldn't understand her crying.  For years she couldn't shed a drop, and now this flood.

     He set her down a short while later, and unwrapped her arms from around his neck.

     "Here we are.  Just relax."

     Helena looked around her.  They were back at the edge of the stream.

     "Oh God, Yuvon, I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to hit you.  I don't know what came over me."

     "Don't worry about it.  I'm sorry as well, although I did mean to hit you.  Are you going to be all right for a few minutes?"

     She nodded, trying to fight back the tears.

     "Then stay right here."

     She watched him as he walked over to Nigel, and untied her bedroll.  He carried it back, and set it down next to her.  He unrolled the tarpaulin only enough to remove the quilt that Mrs. Jenkins had given her.  He handed that to her.

     "Listen, you're going to catch your death in those wet things.  Get rid of them and wrap up in this.  We'll go ahead and make camp here tonight."

     "Yuvon, don't do this because of me."

     "No, it's alright.  This is a good place.  There's ready water, and we can set up over there in that clearing.  You'll see.  It'll be just fine."

     She walked off next to the bushes and watched him as she peeled off her cold, wet clothes.  The quilt wasn't much warmer, but it was dry, and that was something.

     Yuvon moved the horses next to the clearing, unsaddled them and fed them.  Only when they were taken care of did he go into the trees to collect fire wood.

     Helena walked over to the horses and pressed herself next to Nigel, seeking some warmth.

     Yuvon came back caring a large pile of wood, and within minutes had a fire going.  Then he came over to her.

     "Are you feeling any better?"

     "I don't know.  I don't know what came over me."

     "I don't know either.  Why don't you come over to the fire, and we will talk about it."

 

     "What is it with you?  Nothing about me seems to disturb you, distress you, anything!  You are either so damned understanding it's nauseating, or, worse, you get that asinine expression of amusement in your eyes.  I just told you that I was raped as a child, and you're being perfectly reasonable about it!"

     "I'm sorry, I'll try to improve."

     "What if I were to tell you that I really wasn't Catholic, but rather I am a worshipper of the Devil?"

     "Orthodox, Hellfire, or Reformed?" he asked blandly.  She slapped him as hard as she could across the face.  He ignored the blow,and continued, "What's really bothering you?  Most women I know would really appreciate a man that actually tried to understand them."

     "Balderdash.  Most women would run madly away from a man who even approached understanding them.  It's bad enough that we have to let you into our bodies, for God's sake stay out of my -- self," she paused.  "Particularly when you give nothing of your self back."

     "What do you mean?"

     "Who in the name of the Holy Mother of God are you?  Any time you even come close to giving away anything about yourself, then like a shot, there is some sort of redirection in the conversation.  Oh, you're very good at it, but I'm not a total imbecile.  Earlier, I was still confused, and I let a lot of things get by me.  But my dear Dr. Arelssyn, women aren't that stupid all the time."

     "I never thought that you were," he spoke very cautiously.  "I have just been more concerned about your healing process.  Giving away details of my life just weren't as important."

     "Am I healed yet?"

     He looked at her, his eyebrow cocked.  Helena remembered her irrational behavior of earlier and flushed, but continued to stare at him.

     "Not fully, no."

     "But I am well enough for a little roll in the grass?  Until this afternoon, I would have said yes.  Now, I don't know."

     "Am I well enough, O Mighty Doctor, to know more about you than just your name?"

 

     "It's not about love, or romance.  It's about survival."

 

     "Why don't you ever tell me about your problems?"

 

     "That's part of my job."

 

 

     Helena's mind was a rash of conflicting thoughts and emotions, fears and desires.  As he ran his fingertip along the major vein in her throat, her mind shut off.  She couldn't think clearly any more.  Finally she told herself to stop fighting her feelings and give in to herself.

 

     They stared into each other's eyes.  Her heart pounding.  She felt in intense sensation on her skin, as intense as the feeling before a sneeze.  A sensation of breathless anticipation, tainted with apprehension.  From the look in his eyes, she could tell that he felt it too, and that made her heart jump.  She was scared, she wanted to turn away and make it stop, but she couldn't.  she wanted to keep feeling like this more.  To see what came after

     Her conscious mind began to shut down as she began to fall into the sensation.  She tilted her head back, almost imperceptibly.  He moved closer to her.  Almost without either of them thinking about it, they began to kiss.  The pleasurable sensation of his lips, dry but gentle, fought against the terrors in her soul.

     She pressed harder against him, trying to think of ways to increase his passion.

 

 

     The next morning, Helena woke as the first gray streams of light began to filter through the branches.  She jerked slightly as she felt the warmth of Yuvon's body next to her, his arm encircling her.  As she remembered the night before, she sighed in contentment.  She burrowed more deeply beneath their blankets to seek his body's heat, and escape the chill of the morning.  She lay in the comfort of the blankets, inhaling deeply as she smelled the pines around them, mixed with the masculine scent of her companion.  She dozed back to sleep.

     When she woke again, a short time later, Yuvon was already up and preparing breakfast for them both.  Helena lay there and watched him in silence.  He seemed to be the same man that she had met in Denver.  She was certain that she was still the same woman.  How had she gotten into this position? she wondered.  [regret and fear]  More urgently, she thought, what should she do now?  Dive right in, I suppose, she told herself.

     Helena sat up in the bedding, shivering with more than just the cold.  She reached next to her and grabbed her clothes.  She began to dress.

     "Good morning ma'am," he said pleasantly.  He poured her a cup of coffee.  "I hope that you found your rest pleasant."

     She looked at him, thin lipped and with a raised eyebrow as she shrugged into her shirt.  She grimaced in discomfort, the cloth was still damp and very cold from her impromptu bath the night before.  Yuvon held the steaming cup of coffee out to her.

     "Why do you look perfect in the morning, while I feel like I look like the inside of a spittoon?" she asked sourly.

     "I thank you for the compliment," he said. "But I must beg to differ with you.  I don't look perfect every morning, just on those days when I wake up with beautiful women."

     Helena slumped over her coffee.  Her tousled hair hung forward like a thick black veil, and hid her face from him.

     "Don't remind me," she said, feeling miserable about the night before.

     "Why not?" he asked, sounding concerned.  "Are you sorry about what happened?"

     "Yes. No," she stammered.  "I don't know what I feel about what happened."  She wanted to feel happy, but she was too overcome with her fears.

     He sat down next to her.

     "I guess you'd better tell me what's wrong.  I'm terrible at guessing."

     "Yuvon, I'm very new to all of this."  She waved her hand distractedly.  "I mean, er, before last  night, ah, er, I've never. . ."  She trailed off, just wishing that God would strike her dead on the spot.  "To me, men have always either been patients or adversaries.  No one has ever tried to be more for me."

     "What about Ebin?"

     "What do you mean?" her voice was charged with anger at what she thought he was suggesting.

     Yuvon looked thoughtfully at her before he spoke.  "Helena.  I didn't mean that.  I meant, well, if it reassures you any, what happened last night was very important to me.  I was not just seeking a biological release.  Don't cheapen yourself by thinking that anything has changed my feelings for you.  I still care for you.  I care for who you are."

     She looked up at him.  She wasn't sure what he was talking about, but she felt somewhat reassured.

     "I don't expect you to be or do anything that is against your nature," he said.  "Did you want what happened last night?"

     She nodded.  She had to admit it to herself.

     "Did you enjoy it?"

     She nodded again, embarrassed.

     "Do you feel like I forced you into anything?"  She was beginning to see where he was going with his argument.

     "After a fashion," she said.  "But not as if you had physically forced anything."

     "Then what's the problem?"

     She looked confused at him.  She hated men's logic.  He made so much sense to her, and that was hard for her to fight.

     "I'm not sure."

     He pressed forward and began to kiss her, leaning her back into the blankets.  He slowly began to unbutton her shirt once more.

     [Her capitulation needs explication.  As does her emotion see-saw.  They talk about her meeting people.  "I suppose that I am afraid of people.]

 

 

 

     They spent the day ascending the mountain.  Once they left the trail, however, much of the scenery seemed to vanish into heavily wooded forests whose floors were richly carpeted in pine needles, broken only by small outcroppings of rock.  What often began as a valley would become a steep and narrow defile.  There was often nothing to see before them but dry gravel beds that forced them to dismount and carefully walk their mounts.

 

     [Climb the mountain sequence]

     Past some burnt out ruins, a rough stone fireplace.

     Fording streams

     Past park and glade, lakes covered in lilies, and streams, vast meadows of rich, untouched suncured hay.

     See through the trees, and past the lower mountains between, a vast golden sea of the plains behind them.

     Sharp limbs grabbing at them

     "Soundless"  Wind creaking, snap of timber, murmur of the pines.  Many dead trees standing among the living.

     Some trees lying upon the pine needle carpet.

     Pines get smaller until the tree line is passed, then, abruptly, they were above the line.  At first, Helena mistook it for simply a large clearing, but she quickly realized that it was the largest clearing on the mountain.

     Past a small vale that dropped below the trees line.  At its bottom was a small, lush stand of spruce.

     To the east, vast gorges opened to the plains.  Night is falling on the plains.  To the north, the bald, white crest of Longs Peak, Its huge precipices bloody in the dying sun.

     The summit of the mountain held the days sunlight for an hour after all else was dark.

     Cold at night.  Sounds of wolves.

     Sharp stars,  Plow and polestar, hunter, bull

     crackle as the pine knots blaze.

     showing Yuvon's face as he smokes his pipe

 

     Day dawned long before the sun rose in the east, the mountain was flooded by the light reflecting from the snow silvered peak.

     Plains were dark, cold blue‑grey that turned purple as the light of God emerged.  The line of peaks glowed like jewels between heaven and earth.

 

     Lava beds ‑ vast boulders

     Very chilled breeze, rarified air

 

     Picturesque hollow some 3000' down to a tree‑fringed lily‑covered amethyst lake.

     vast panoramic view. Golden haze. Trace rivers by the fringes of the cottonwoods along them, stretching to the distant Platte.

     Between Mountains and lake depths, blues and purples.

     Pike's Peak & other giants behind

 

 

     It was about midday when they finally crested the peak.  Helena abruptly halted Nigel and, staring ahead, she dismounted.  She realized that reality had, once more, deceived her.  The mountain that they had spent the day climbing had been merely a facade, a ruse, a minor attendant to the snowy grey stone pile that lay beyond.

     Helena felt humbled by the vast presence of the mass.  It was so easy to see why primitive man had often envisaged his gods in the vast works of nature.  Sinai must have been like this when the early Hebrew tribes had seen the Lord in its peaks and were humbled.

 

     She had found a pleasing space on the ridge for a rest break.  There were two comfortable looking rocks set in an outcropping and sufficient scrub around for the horses.  She let Nigel's reins drop to the ground.  He began to munch contentedly on the grass.  Helena carefully removed his saddle, and set it on its side on the ground.  She began to dig into her saddle bags looking for a bite of lunch.

     Helena was making herself comfortable on one of the rocks when Yuvon finally caught up.  He looked at her, and cocked an eyebrow.  Helena looked back at him and flashed her sweetest southern‑belle smile.

     "Why if it isn't Dr. Arelssyn." she said, batting her eyes coyly.  "What brings you out on such a lovely day?  And just in time for lunch.  Would you care to join me?"

     "Oh, might I?"  Yuvon dismounted, and patted Erishkigal on the neck.  He quickly had her unsaddled, and set the saddle on the ground next to Helena's.  Erishkigal joined Nigel in their lunch as Yuvon reached into his saddlebags for his.

     They dined heartily on bread, fruit and cheese along with water from their canteens.  After a bit of meaningless chatter, banter between lovers, Helena looked Yuvon straight in the eye.

     "Yuvon, there has been something bothering me.  Might you be able to assist me?"

     "That all depends on what the thing is."

     She paused.  "It is somewhat personal."  Helen rolled a cigarette and lit it.

     "Go ahead," he said.

     "Who are you?"

     "Why ma'am, I am the man you've been out camping with for a week and a half.  Don't you remember?"

     "Yuvon, I'm serious."  Helena was adamant.  "I know next to nothing about you.  Both Henrietta Jenkins and Dr. Holliday each told me things about you, but when I look at it, they seem to have told me about at least two different men.  I really can't tell, because I care too much about you."

     "Your judgment is clouded."

     "Exactly so.  In fact, all I do know about you seems to be that you are a doctor and that you shoot people."

     "Well, let me see.  I have been a rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, doctor, soldier, nope, not an indian chief.  I've been married thrice, widowered twice, and divorced in a trice.  What else is there to know?"

     "More than that, Yuvon," Helena pursed her lips.

     "Would you like a condensed synopsis of my life?" he asked jokingly.

     "That would be an acceptable start."  She said, looking at him with a unnerving stare.

     How shall I begin?"  He paused, looking serious and pensive.  He pulled out his pipe and filled it.  "At the beginning, naturally." he muttered.  He cleared his throat, and lit his pipe.  Holding the match up, he stared into its flame, then tossed it to the dirt with a suddenness that caught Helena off guard.  When he finally spoke, his voice was low, his vision seemed locked somewhere in the distance.

     "I was born in a small, middle eastern country.  The name of the country is unimportant, if only because any name that you might know it by isn't what the natives called it."

     "Go ahead and tell me anyway." she said quietly.  He smiled gently at her and shrugged.

     "I was born in Urrhim, a city that lay at the mouth of the mighty river Purranum, where it spilled into what it generally known as the Arabian Gulf.  Above the city, the Purranum flowed through a vast savannah, not unlike parts of your American High Plains.  Turning to desert, but arable with irrigation.  Regardless of its clay brick buildings and little rain, Urrhim was one of the leading cities of the region, as well as a sea port for a minuscule fishing fleet.

     "My family wasn't from Urrhim, but were, rather, foreign adventurers in the pay of the En‑Lugal, the local potentate.  My father served with the city's army as an Ugala, which is, I suppose, what might be called a Sergeant Major in English.

     "I was raised in the barracks with my father.  It was an exciting life for a little boy.  I had a great deal of free time, and spent much of it on the streets, finding all sorts of mischief to amuse myself."

     "What about your mother?"

     "My parents did not live together."

     As he spoke, Helena noticed an eerie similarity to their childhoods.  When Yuvon had gotten older, he had wound up under the care of Katahara, a local priest.  Katahara had been his mentor as Ebin had for her.

     "It was he who educated me.  I have always tried to be what he taught me.  To be the best that I could possibly be, so that he would be proud of me.  When I was sixteen, I went into the army, as it was expected that I should.  Several years later, Thank providence, I accidentally  fell in with a company of soldiers of fortune.  To be honest, I never went back."

     "Why do you thank providence?"

     "It was during that period in the army that I was attacked by my group leader, er, sergeant.  I killed him in self defense, and then was forced, by law, to support his wife and children.  I don't know if I mentioned her to you.  She was happy to see the back of me when we parted.

     "Why did he attack you?"

     "Because he was an illiterate moron, who felt that anyone with any sort of an education was trying to lord it over him.  Anyway, I was reading a ... book one day.  He tried to take it from me, and I resisted.  He took it as an affront to his authority ..."

     "Which it was?"

     "I suppose so, but I was much younger then,and had a tendency to be a bit volatile."

     "Thank goodness that you've mellowed," she said dryly.

     "It was marriage that did it.  A marvelously calming experience."  His eyes grew distant once more.  Helena's skin prickled and she had the distinct feeling that there was someone standing behind her.

     Yuvon continued,  "One of the other members of the troop of freebooters was a woman named, Tril.  Tril Tierrestoire.  I don't know how much actual experience you've had with soldiers, and so I don't want you to get the wrong idea.  Tril wasn't a camp follower, or such.  She was, in fact, one of the most blood thirsty warriors that I have ever known."

     "A woman soldier?" Helena thought for a moment.  "Was she disguised as a man?"

     He laughed.  "Not Tril, no.  Good Heavens, the last thing that she would ever do would be to hide her gender.  She was, and still is, far too proud of being a woman.  She is five feet four inches of living fire.  I never could tell what it was she saw in me, but she and I married, eventually, and tried to settle down.

     When he spoke of Tril, Helena saw ill veiled pain in his face, pain and anger.  He was tensing, but he continued.

     "Tril and I didn't really do too badly.  The place we finally settled in had a population of only a few hundred souls, but they were a comfortable and well fed lot.  The main commerce was a merchant trade," and then more ironically, "and, and after our arrival, exporting mercenaries.  It was during this time that I went to school and learned to be a doctor." he chuckled bitterly. "So did Tril.  We had a very competitive life together."

     "Over time, we had, as well as took in, some children.  Nicest brood of oddballs that you'd ever care to meet."

     "It didn't surprise me when she and I finally parted company.  She was still burning for an old lover of hers.  I even sent the gentleman a message informing him of his good fortune at their wedding.  In fact, he's the gentleman that I was on my way to San Francisco to see."

     "You seem awfully chummy with the man who stole your wife."

     "By that time, Helena, it was more like Alex saved us from killing each other.  To be honest, I was a bit angry about it.  In any case, I left.  I traveled around for a good bit, doing a bit of all work and working out my emotions.  I wound up meeting and marrying Callista, of whom we have spoken.  She was everything that Tril was not, although  both were strong, intelligent individuals.  Oh, we had our problems of course, but it was good to finally have a partner in life, and not an opponent."

     Helena broke in cautiously, "How did she feel about your having been married before?"

     "To the best of my knowledge, she didn't care.  I do know that she didn't care for Tril, although they had never met.  I suppose, I was still a little angry about the whole thing.  In any case, Cally didn't begrudge me any of the time I had spent with Tril."

     "An unusual woman."  Helena knew that she 'begrudged' Tril and Callista their time with Yuvon.  Or perhaps, she wondered, she just begrudged them the feelings he obviously still held for them.

     "Very."

     "Did you have any children with her?"

     "Who?  Callista?"

     "Well you already told me that Tril bore you children."

     "Yes I did.  Well Cally and I had three."

     "And where are all of your children?"

     "All of them?" he laughed.  Then he seemed to think about how to answer the question, then, "With the exception of Melissa, who died recently with her mother, they have all grown up and moved away.  In fact, most of them have families of their own now."

     Helena was thunderstruck.  "You don't look that old.  Old enough to have grown children."

     "Thank you.  It dies my old heart good to hear things like that."

     She struggled to put herself back on an even mental footing.  "I must say that I'm surprised at you.  Most people sound closer to their children."

     "You mean because they've moved away?  Not to worry.  I am reasonably good friends with most of them."

     "And then She died?"  Helena was still careful.  She believed he was still bothered by Callista's death.

     "Yes." he sighed softly."

     Helena desperately wanted to reach out and ease his still blatant pain, but she silently kept to herself.

     "After her funeral, I tried to cope with my grief in a few convenient wars.  There are always wars somewhere that need trained people to die in them.  I sometimes think that there are no small wars, some just have smaller body counts than others."  He was quiet for a long time, his face filled with pain.  "You know that even now I can see the faces of all the people that I've killed?  They haunt me.  All the might‑have‑beens, all the never‑can‑bes."

     He paused again.  Helen could swear that he was trembling.  After a few moments, he continued, once more under control.

     "Eventually, I met and married Megan.  Not that it's important. but Megan was a woman doctor also.  I think I married her because I needed to try life again to recover from Callista's death.  I'd had enough of death.  The sad part is that it didn't matter, we weren't married all that long.  As I told you, she and our daughter, Melissa, were killed last year in an accident in New York.

["Change would do him good/see some old friends/good for the soul."]

     I moved to England after that, and set up a medical practice there.  I must say that although I was traveling to visit an old friend, I hadn't expected to meet an new friend that day in Denver."

     Helena blushed and looked down at her hands.  She pursed her lips, then looked back up at him.

     "I think I can see now why you are reticent about your past.  All that pain.  Thank you for sharing it with me."  She thought for a few moments as she lit a new cigarette.  "I had thought that you were perfect," she said.  "At least you always act perfect."

     "Far from it, I suspect," he chuckled bitterly.  "I know very few perfect people."

     "Do you think that you will ever stop running away?" she asked gently, looking at the peak in the distance.

     "I seem to stop for brief periods of time.  I stopped for a while with Callista." he replied thoughtfully.  "I am hoping that I can stop now."  The intensity of his voice grabbed at Helena's throat.  She continued, trying to keep calm.

     "Yuvon, you told me that not all men were Ed Chase.  I hope I can believe that.  But you must not believe that all women are Tril. The way you describe them, always hurting you.  I' certain that Callista didn't mean to die, and neither did Megan."

     "I would like to believe that."

     They sat there, next to each other looking at the view.  There was absolute silence, but for the sound of the eternal breeze moaning softly across the hill.

 

 

     The pair rode off the mountain as night falling.  It was already late in the evening by the time that the pair rode into the small village on the northern face of the mountain.  The hotel, Helena wondered if it should be called that, was easy to spot.  It was the busiest place in the town.

     The main room of the hotel was about thirty feet on a side and was occupied by a desk, a bar and two pocket billiard tables.  Filling up the remaining space was a crowd of people, many of whom, Helena believed, didn't know the meaning of the word 'bath.'  She reminded herself then that neither she nor Yuvon smelled of spring roses either.

     "Allow me to see if we can get lodging," Yuvon said, trying to make himself heard over the din.  He blended into the crowd.

     Helena made her way over to the bar.

     "Beer."  She said to the barkeeper.  The fat, balding man gave her a quick glance, then with a shrug, pulled her an earthenware mug full.  Helena dropped a selection of nickels and dimes on the counter.  The bar keeper separated out a nickel, and turned to another customer.  Helena swept up the change, picked up her mug and sought out a section of wall to lean against.

     She was exhausted.  Two weeks of riding was beginning to take its toll on her, and she wasn't sure that she could take much more.  Besides, with one exception, her mood had sweetened, and she no longer felt like killing herself.  Yuvon walked up to her.

     "Well," she asked. "Did you get a room?"

     He smiled. "Not exactly."

     "Not the stable again."  She was getting very tired of using hay for a mattress

     "I'm afraid so," he replied.  "Although I wouldn't mind if I were you.  I'd rather run the risks of ticks and fleas than what I can smell from the rooms."

     Helena smiled weakly.  She expected that his nose was as perfect as everything else about him.  The stable it was.  Yuvon looked around, then back to Helena.

     "How would you like to play a game?" he asked indicating the billiard tables.

     "No, thank you."  She replied tiredly.  "But why don't you go on and have some fun.  I'll just lean here a while."

     "Well, then I'll stay here with you."

     "No, please, Yuvon.  I just want to be quiet and think a while."

     "In that case, I'll leave you to it."  Yuvon patted Helena on the head and moved off toward the tables.

     "Oh, Yuvon!"  Helena called over to him.

     "Yes?" he turned back to her.

     "Try not to kill anyone.  Please?"  She looked pleading at him.  He paused for an instant, then laughed.  She laughed.  Several other people turned and stared at them.

     "I'll try."  He melted into the crowd.

     Helena leaned back and looked around the room.  It was smokier than most saloons that she had ever seen.  In fact, the entire place seemed shoddier, more decrepit than Jim's, or even the Miner's Saloon in Black Hawk.  Even the sawdust on the floor seemed older and moldier.  The people were rough and physically unclean, dirty from hard work and primitive living.  Helena realized how distant she felt from these proceedings.  How truly removed she was from the gutter child that she had been.

     Across the room, she saw Yuvon moving around the pocket billiard table, a cigar projecting from his wide smile, though his eyes were cold and calculating.  His smile didn't waver as he leaned over the table for a shot.  She smiled at this man who had altered her life so much.  She still couldn't understand how he could adapt from one social level to another so easily.  Perhaps it was from all those years of freebootery, she mused.  What a story he had told to her.  But coming from him, she could just about believe it.  He did have a certain romantic flair, not unlike a pirate king, and he obviously blended well with these people.

     Helena began to look around the saloon with interest.  Although she had spent a lot of time in saloons recently, she still felt as if they were some sort of forbidden wonderland.  Tonight she could feel Ebin's steady blue eyes protecting her, eyes that saw her future as a proper, or at least civilized woman.

     She felt badly that she had never quite reached Ebin's standards of perfection.  The more she thought about it, if Yuvon's Katahara was anything like Ebin, then she could understand Yuvon's need to be perfect.  Her desire for perfection meant that she could never relax and be herself with most of the people that she knew.  Yuvon, at least, seemed to care for her as herself.  With him she could be try to relax and enjoy herself.

     Laughter came from a far part of the crowd.  Helena looked to see what it was about.  Several men were standing around in a drunken circle as another, more inebriated than they was trying to perform a hand stand.  His comrades cheered his attempts, thought they cheered his failure with more enthusiasm and laughter.  Helena smiled at their enjoyment.

     It hadn't really occurred to Helena before that people came to these places, not merely to drink, or to escape their lives, but to socialize.  The loneliness of these people was different that of those in the cities that she had visited, even small cities like Denver.  People grew lonely up here in the mountains because there were no people around, not because they felt somehow isolated from the society around them.  In this particular saloon, the only one who was isolated, and that self imposed, was Helena herself.

     Helena shuddered with a chill that rose from her feelings of loneliness.  She was alone in her life, and had been so for a very long time.  Now Yuvon had entered her life.  Just the thought of his name warmed her inside, like a glass of good brandy, easing the chill of loneliness.  She knew that he could keep her from being lonely.

     Helena couldn't help but wonder if he wanted to keep her from being lonely, though.  He certainly had his own problems, if he was to be believed.  Would he want to risk another woman in his life?  A thought seized her; what if he had been out hunting the next one when he found her?  That just anyone would have fit the bill, and she had simply been the 'lucky one.'  The thought made her skin crawl.

     Helena cloaked herself with clinical detachment.  No, she told herself that he wouldn't have gone to this much trouble for anything so superficial.  She felt that he cared for her as much as she did for him.  He had to.  His overt symptoms supported that hypothesis.

     She knew that she cared for him deeply, although she hesitated to use the term 'love.'  That word had always held connotations of romantic hypocrisy for her.  But what if she did actually love him?  What if he proposed?  She knew that men often did that, and he seemed to be prone to marriage.  Even as she tingled with the thought of that word, marriage, part of her felt sickened.  While he treated her as a person now, what could she expect after?

     Helena leaned her weight harder into the wall.  She was troubled by her thoughts, while the object of her thoughts continued to rack up points with his usual, inhuman efficiency.  Her thoughts gradually slowed, and she sagged against the wall.  She sat down on the floor, leaned back again, and was asleep in moments.  She didn't even wake up when Yuvon picked her up and carried her out to the stables and her bed.

     The next morning, they rode out and began to look around the valleys and lakes that lay under the northern face of the vast peak.  They lunched by the side of a calm lake nestled deep up a canyon.  On the far side of the emerald colored lake, a glacier hung over a slide of rocks and gravel set in a cliff face that was mirrored in the clean, icy waters.

     After they finished eating, they sat under a small cluster of trees and looked at the glacier.  Helena leaned up next to Yuvon, with her legs tucked up under her chin, hugging her knees.  It was all very peaceful, but Helena could feel a thin sheet of tension begin to build.  She dreaded that tension.

     Yuvon began to fill a blackened clay pipe.  He lit the tobacco and puffed deeply on the smoke.  He watched the thin gray plume rise from the pipe's bowl in his hand.  Without looking at her, he spoke.

     "It is about time that I was heading off toward San Francisco."

     "I know," she said softly.

     "I would like it if you were to come with me.  Be my wife," he said, as if it were the most simple thing in the world.

     "I know that as well," she replied, feeling numbed with fear.

     A long dead silence filled the space between them.  Helena knew that there was no one who could save her from this.  The only way to save herself was for her to do it by herself.  Waves of indecision washed over her.

     It would be so easy to surrender, to give up herself to him.  That was, after all, was what society expected her to do.  Even Ebin, God bless him, had really only expected her to find a good, strong man to replace him, and for her to settle down.  Moreover, it was what she wanted to do as well.  He was everything that she might want in a man.

     Another consideration, she told herself was that rejecting Yuvon like this would hurt him, and that wouldn't be right.  He had already done so much for her and it hurt her to think that she might cause him more pain.  Helena didn't want to be added to his list of those women who had betrayed him.  Her neck began to throb as she pushed these thoughts aside, and looked toward Yuvon.  He had turned to face her, his face covered with confusion at her silence.

     "I'm very sorry, Yuvon," she said carefully.  "But I can not go with you."

     "Why not?" he asked, his voice rife with conflicting emotions.  "You certainly can't believe that you are absolutely necessary back in Denver?"

     "No."  She paused for a moment.  "You are right in that.  Even though I have a social responsibility to those people, someone would take my place if I were to leave.  Hell, I'm not really certain that most of those people would even notice that I'd gone, not to speak of their actually missing me.

     "Yuvon, I simply can not take the heights at which you live. Perhaps I am simply too much of the gutter."  Her voice was full of self loathing as she stood up.  "No."  She shook her head.  "That isn't the answer."

     She looked down at him.

     "You may think that I am playing some kind of game with you Yuvon."  She paused, trying to collect her thoughts,

     "During this entire trip I have been nothing but an accessory to your life.  When we left Denver, that was all right.  It may have even been desired, in fact.  I needed you to watch over me.  I needed the protection from the world that you gave me, so that I could heal myself.  I am very sorry, if I am hurting you, but I can not be like that forever.  It would be far too much like when I was taken in by Ebin.

     "When I was a child, I was free in a very small world.  Ebin took that freedom away from me, but gave me a much larger world in return.  I only regained my freedom after he died.  I'm not complaining.  Those years with Ebin were the best of my life, but I wasn't free.  The freed Negroes had more liberty than I.

     "You have shown me glimpses of an even larger and more interesting world than the one in which I now live.  But I don't want to relinquish my freedom to another person again."

     He stared at her.

     "Do you think that I would, or even could define the limits of your universe?"

     "I can't take that risk," she said, feeling like a coward.

     Yuvon stood up and touched her arm.  She looked up at him, seeing the intensity of pain and concern in his face.

     "Are you certain that is the reason?" he asked gently.

     "No," she said coldly. "You may collect you horse down in town."

     With that, Helena McCoy turned away from Yuvon and walked over to the horses.  She slowly untied Nigel, hoping that Yuvon would call her back, and praying that he wouldn't.  She mounted Nigel.  Looking over at Yuvon, she could see that he hadn't moved, the pipe gone cold in his hand.  He still looked stunned and confused, his image of perfection shattered.  Helena was nearly overcome with the ache in her soul, and compassion for his pain.  She jerked the reins, turning Nigel back toward the path.  She rode back the way they had come.

      Yuvon watched the ravine as Helena rode off.  She quickly passed out of sight beyond the bends and turns of the canyon.  A moment later, Yuvon cast aside his mask of pain and confusion, and smiled.

     It must be admitted, he knew, that he felt an ache for her departure, but it was an ache that would pass.  He was far more pleased with her progress.  He was proud, as well, for a job well done, but he knew that it had been she who had discovered the woman who was Helena McCoy, and it was she who was now beginning her own march toward that woman and her true freedom.

     Still smiling, he relit his pipe, and slowly sat back down, his back against the tree.  He sat for a long while after, content in the silence, admiring the beauty of the glacier, and its reflection in the mirrored surface of the lake.