A bit of chapter eight from my latest novella, The Scholars. This story continues with Geoffrey and Adam as they travel to the budding penal colony of Sydney in New South Wales. Back then, it wasn’t even called Australia. Taking place in 1791, the colony has only been around for three years. But they find more than aborginies and dingos. They find Geoffrey’s father, Alfred, who abandoned his family over four hundred years ago.
Broken Bay, New South Wales
A once clear blue sky was now darkened by pregnant storm clouds that had yet to let loose their torrents. The air had long been electrified with the coming tempest as Geoffrey neared his father’s hut in the tree grove. All he had to do was follow the most-hated scent trail.
He had walked all night from Prospect Hill where he left the injured settler to be discovered by his neighbors. Heeley and his small gang would no doubt tell them of the attack on the homestead and an investigation would be taken up soon enough. With hope, they would all forget about the one bolter that disappeared. Perhaps Heeley would make up some story that Geoffrey was carried away by the natives. It wouldn’t be unexpected.
What piqued him more than the long journey from Prospect Hill, more than the days he had spent in captivity amongst convicts and scoundrels, more than the constant evasion of natives or the moments he wasted feeling lost in this strange wilderness without a guide, was what waited for him when he came to the grove.
Nothing. The scents were stale and about to be obliterated by the rain that now fell to strike on the leaves of the canopy over the grove. Not a sound disrupted the silence in the clearing, neither breath nor movement. Geoffrey, his stomach growling and wolf bristling in agitation, went to the vacant hut to confirm it.
Neither Alfred nor Adam were inside, and it was enough to make him want to tear the house down. Heavy raindrops landed on the thatched roof and all at once, the sky opened up to let the rain come pouring down. Inside, Geoffrey was dry, though there was a leak toward the back of the hut.
On the poorly pieced-together table, he saw some parchment with words written in Adam’s hand.
Gone to the mountains. Will return soon.
Geoffrey crumbled the paper and let his now unsheathed claws rip into it without mercy. Why would they have gone to the mountains? How long had they been gone? Why didn’t Adam do as he asked and come to look for him in Sydney when he didn’t return?
Adam wouldn’t have disobeyed him, not after his show of concern before they parted ways. Had their argument aided the decision to leave the grove before Geoffrey came back? This had to be Alfred’s doing. His son wouldn’t have changed his mind so carelessly.
He let the mangled and wrinkled strips of paper float to the dirt floor, drove his heel down to bury them in his anger, and then turned to the open doorway. The veil of heavy rain that drenched the grove encouraged him to stay. There was little use in trying to track them now. Their scents would be washed away by the storm. With luck, the note would hold some truth and both of them would be back before nightfall. Although, he knew he would need to go hunting before then.
At least thankful for the shelter, he sat on the edge of his father’s thin straw mattress and hung his head in his hands. Patience was never his virtue. Waiting was a nuisance that brought more pain than pleasure, even when it was at its end. Sitting now, with only the din of rain to keep him company, a heaviness settled over Geoffrey.
He looked up, his eyes falling upon the slivers of water that snaked through the blades of grass to darken the dirt around the doorway. He watched its slow, creeping progress as the puddle formed and widened in the dip that had been dug for the express reason of catching any intruding rainwater.
With the heaviness came a numbness that tingled across his skin, and a feeling that speared through his chest. Loneliness. Continue reading