Chapter Sixty-five: The Butterfly Effect
Northeast Mauritius, Dutch Refugee Camp
Pam awoke in a nest deep in the meadow, naked, a warm, masculine arm draped over her shoulder. She blinked for a moment or two, trying to remember just how she had ended up here, then laughed as the memory came, with all its terrors and thrills. It wasn't quite dawn yet, so she closed her eyes for a few more minutes, soaking in the heat emanating from her Swedish sea captain, a comfort in the cool morning air. Pam heard a noise in the distance, the low moaning of a cow ready to be milked. Gently removing the delightful arm, she sat up, and began wondering where her clothes were! She found them soon enough, blushing at the thought of the entire camp turned out to look for them, and finding them bare as newborns!
Pam laughed as she pulled the charmingly simple white dress over her sunburnt and thorn-scratched body. She awakened Torbjörn with a gentle kiss, his smile adding a further brightness to the sunrise. Pam had just been through living hell, but right now, at this moment she realized she was about the happiest she had ever been. "Hooray for me!" she whispered to herself, as she helped her still drowsy man find his clothes.
They held hands as they waded back across the river and up the narrow trail to the Dutchmen's camp. Doctor Durand saw her, and began to walk over to her in his courtly, yet ground-eating stride.
"Ah, back to work." Pam said as she let go of Torbjörn's hand with a last squeeze. He smiled at her and raised his hand in greeting to the doctor.
"Ah, Captains Pam and Torbjörn! I hope you had a good rest. How is that injury feeling?"
Pam tried to smile as she gently rubbed the back of her head where it had connected with a large-ish stone, but grimaced instead. The constant throbbing was gone, but it had been replaced by a dull ache. Fortunately, this seemed to be slowly receding into the distance; she was on the mend.
"Better, I think. Much better, really."
"Excellent!" the doctor was pleased to see his patient on the mend. "Ah, just a moment, I have something that belongs to you." With a rather grim scowl he pulled the knife she had used to kill two men the day before out of his medical bag. "It took myself, aided by the considerable strength of Sergeant Gerbald, to pry this back out of that fellow's skull." He handed it to Pam with a wry grin, as if presenting a noble with a fine sword.
Pam took the blade from him with a grin of her own, and slid it into the waist strings of her dress. "Thank you, Doctor, much obliged. That knife saved my life twice yesterday."
"May it continue to serve you so well," the doctor replied with a small bow.
"Is Gerbald up yet?"
"I haven't seen him. The Dutch ladies have prepared a breakfast. Will you join me?"
"In a moment. I want to go get Gerbald up, you two go ahead." She gave Torbjörn a squeeze of the hand and favored them both with a bright smile as they followed the delicious aroma. Pam took a stroll around the edge of the clearing, looking for telltale signs of the great woodsman. After a few minutes she found a large pile of boughs just outside of camp with a mustard yellow hat visible beneath the branches; Gerbald's nest.
"Better get up before a dodo hen comes along and lays an egg in your hat." she said, giving the pile a light push with her boot. The branches began to stir, the ridiculous floppy hat rising to reveal a drowsy-eyed, salt-and-pepper stubbled face.
"Ah, good morning Pam. You look refreshed." A twinkle of mischief was visible in his sky blue eyes.
"I feel it. Even so, I'm still pretty damn tired, running from brigands takes it out of you. So, how far do you think we are from home?"
"Well, we followed you up into the foothills, and then back down the river. According to the uptime map the river's mouth is only about five miles north of the colony."
"So, how do we get all of us back there?"
"I say we follow the coast, which will be a bit longer than as the crow flies, but easier going I think. With luck much of it will be sandy beach."
"Okay, that's good news. I'm pretty beat, but I think I can make five miles. Let's have breakfast, then get the Dutch organized for the trip."
As they entered camp it became plain that the Dutch were already getting themselves organized, packing up their few belongings and preparing to break camp. Harmannus and Lijss greeted them, their lined faces bright with anticipation, so unlike the desperate refugees of the day before. Rescue had come. After months hiding in the forest they were safe in the hands of people they could trust.
"Good morning, Captain Pam, Sergeant Gerbald!" they hailed in cheery tones. "Please, come eat!"
"Good morning, Harmannus, Lijss!" Pam replied, taking Ljiss's proffered hands in warm greeting while Gerbald shook hands with Harmannus.
"Thank you for your hospitality!" Pam said, pleased to see her new friends so happy.
"It is nothing," Ljiss said "You and your men are our saviors. We have been living in fear for so long, suffering much. Our future is bright again, thanks to you." Her brown eyes were full of a new sparkle. Pam bowed her head, a sense of pride welling up in her. It's funny, she thought, how good things can come from even the most awful circumstances.