Posting a rough draft of The Kirk which should be out within the next few weeks. The YA zombie series is still in progress. Sorry for the delay! LI
Couriers carried back the glad tidings of peace and safety, and a glowing account of rich lands, fine forests, great water courses- rivers, creeks, brooks, and bubbling springs. In short, the land of milk and honey had been found.
Land. Acreage. Daring wanderers left the misty folds of the British Isles in search of it. A small spot in the world where a man could plant crops, pasture his livestock and live free, answerable to no lord and master save God.
The Piedmont region of North America is a lush land of hills and valleys comprising vast, dense forests and fertile meadows ascending gradually to the ancient Appalachian Mountains. Born during the Ordovician period the mountains rose when the North American plate collided with an ocean plate, folding vast layers of rock and thrusting them upward to dizzying heights. In the late 1700s much of the land was still considered the western frontier, a rugged region known well only to explorers, traders, and the natives.
When the first families of European immigrants arrived they were delighted to find that the tales of prime farmland and woodland sent back by explorers were no lie. They entered a land of tumbling streams and sparkling waterfalls that led to deep, slow-moving rivers ideal for transport and irrigation.
At the same time they were surprised at the lack of cultivation. Despite the existence of large populations of the Catawba and Cherokee people above and below the area the soil lay unbroken except by trees and wild plants.
The natives referred to the land as the “dark and bloody ground” and some related rumors and old tales of human sacrifice made by a mongrel, degenerate tribe, who delivered up their children to “pass through the fire” to appease an ancient and powerful being. Fierce battles were fought there between warring tribes but none settled on the blood-drenched soil. To the Catawba the land was, and always would be, cursed, and they did not want to wake what they believed slumbered there.
Undaunted by the Catawba tales and bringing with them their culture and their faith, the intrepid settlers negotiated sales of the territory with the natives claiming ownership and, with their growing families, began to fell trees to create pastures and build their rude log homes. It was then that they came upon the enormous earthen mounds scattered throughout the forests. Being from the British isles they were not unfamiliar with such phenomena and in general knew better than to disturb the ancient mounds. Mounds that were already thousands of years old when Columbus landed on Caribbean shores.
It was the Robard family who laid claim to the mound dotted acres. One of the original settlers, Mr. James Robard soon built his log cabin and sent to Baltimore for the rest of his family. They arrived in July of 1777. By spring of the next year they would all be dead, victims of an arcane horror acted out during the cold and snowy winter of 1777-78.
By most accounts Mrs. Robard was found first. Neighbors discovered her decayed body staked to the ground of the spring house, razor cuts crisscrossed her arms and throat, deep, narrow wounds that must have taken some time to drain the body. Her daughters were close by, hanging upside down from open rafters, small bodies revolving slowly, throats sliced.
James Robard was still alive when three men forced the door of the cabin but were only in time to watch as he slit his own throat.
The Robards were not the only victims of that winter, just the most well-known. The fledgling town closed ranks and kept its secrets.
For a time the land fell into disuse, locals occasionally using it as common grazing pasture.
Game near the mounds was plentiful but often inedible. Hunters sometimes found malformed prey with extra hooves or even vestigial legs. One memorable kill involved a deer with two heads, one of which was capable of a sort of piteous speech before it was silenced. It was burned rather than eaten. Blackberries there, no matter how plump and sweet, were left for the birds.
Farmers soon learned that cattle grazing in certain fields either perished of a wasting disease and/or yielded poor quality milk and beef. Such areas were soon fenced off and in little more than a generation trees soared again into the gentle blue sky, vast canopies creating shaded micro-climates lush with ferns and vines that sometimes quivered when no wind blew.
The ground here was seismically active and occasional mild tremors caused the mounds to dislodge rotting, stained bones which the settlers quietly reinterred with appropriate prayers as they had done in the dark water peat bogs of the Old country. The dead were best never disrespected.