Settling In: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver – Part 7


Lem woke up in his small hut on the far edge of the underground village. He had been living with the natives for over a month now, and he still had trouble judging the time in the mornings. The sun shone down into the cave differently depending on the time of day because of the trees in the forest above and the location of the holes in the cavern ceiling, but no matter how early it felt to him, he always seemed to be the last awake.

He had not given up on his determination to escape. He was growing fond of the people in the village, and he had no cause to complain about any of them. They all treated him kindly, well, except for Red Bear and his friends, but they pretty much ignored him. The older ladies in the village seemed to have organized some sort of informal schedule for feeding him. Every day, someone brought him three meals, and then the next day, it would be someone else. The first week, they didn’t ask anything of him in return. They just let him get settled in and try to come to terms with his new home, but the following week, his vacation was over. Since he couldn’t leave the cavern, he wasn’t able to go hunting with the braves, so, he was given other tasks, miscellaneous tasks.

The natives had planted a garden under a particularly large hole in the cave roof. Enough sunlight streamed in to allow the specific plants they had chosen to grow. Lem spent most of his time working there. He also helped skin animals, tan hides, and make bows and arrows. He realized later that many of the jobs he was given were tasks that usually fell to the women of the village. He felt embarrassed when this was first brought to his attention, but his curious mind quickly rid him of that emotion. He was learning so much, and it was all very interesting. Sometimes, he got so caught up in what he was doing that he even forgot he was a prisoner. Then something would remind him of his parents or his home, and a great depression would overpower him.

Even with all of the new things, he was learning, Lem always kept his eyes open for any opportunity to escape. He tried to be subtle, but he knew that the warriors guarding the exits still didn’t trust him. Every chance he got, he tried to learn more about the cavern and the tunnels that shot off from the main room. He also kept up with the guards’ schedules. He had a difficult time finding out where they  hid at first, they were very good at their jobs, but after a month, he thought he had discovered all of their posts and when someone would be at each one.

Today, Lem worked in the garden alone. They had been leaving him alone some lately. Not that that really mattered because the guards were ever there and ever watchful, but it gave him a change to think and look around with a little more freedom. Once he settled into his task, he glanced around as subtly as he could. There was Big Eagle, a friend of Red Bear, taking his post on a ledge high above. Lem thought he saw what could be a tunnel entrance behind the tall warrior, but he couldn’t be sure. He sighed. It didn’t really matter anyway. That ledge was never left unguarded.

Lem sat back on his heels and wiped the sweat off his forehead. That seemed to be that, then. He had watched them all. This was the last post he had been unsure of, and now he knew that it had a constant guard on it as well. There was no other option but the one he feared. Sighing again, he continued weeding. He must keep up appearances, after all. He needed to put together a plan. It would be incredibly dangerous, but he would have to go at night. That was the only time he could be sure that he wouldn’t be seen. That was the problem, though. You couldn’t see anything at night. Hardly any light came in at all from the moon, and even the faint light that did, didn’t reach down into the bottom of the vast cavern. They wouldn’t be able to see him, but he wouldn’t be able to see where he walked either. That was dangerous in a cave with pits, low-hanging, sharp rocks, and boulders scattered around on the ground. He would have to try it, though, it was his only chance. He thought about his parents. Did they think he was dead? Were they still looking for him, or had they given up? He had to get out. He had to let them know he was safe. He wouldn’t tell anyone about the village, but he had to get out. He would try tonight before he lost his nerve. Satisfied, with this decision, Lem continued his work while he planned his escape.