The Settlement's Local 'Witch'
Selah Jarret had not always been this way. Not always had she been an outsider, subject to the harsh world outside the safety of walls and without the warmth of those who would call her friend or family. She had once had a mother and father and two elder brothers. Her mother had been a midwife and seamstress and her father a tanner and carpenter. Each of her brothers had been skilled in hunting and trapping as well as their father's trade. Out in the wilds, one had to play many roles in order to survive. The hunting cabin she had fashioned into a home had once belonged to her father and brothers, a place of work for the three. They had built it from the forest around them, the one that now slowly wished to consume the little hovel back into its wilderness lifeblood.
Yes, once she had had a home with her family right there in the middle of the little trade town of Blue Spring. But when her father had passed of fever sickness, and her two brothers vanished on a hunting trip never to be seen from or heard again, it had been just her and her mother. Women could not own land, though at least when her mother had been alive there had been a few short years to just be a wild girl without the cares or concerns, and she had been able to keep a hold on happiness. Those burdens that now pushed down on her, threatening to drown her in frustrations and despair, had not always been on her. But they had loomed in foreboding shadows overhead like angry storm clouds that turned blue skies to black. As a girl, even after the tragedy of losing her protectors, she at least had her mother. But alone, they two women in wilds of Kentucky, many troubles brewed and stormed overhead of them without Selah ever having known. Oblivious in her youth, she only took notice on how wane and worn her mother had become in the few months just before she had jumped into flooded river. It had been spring. She could still recall the scent of honeysuckle.
But out here, in her warm and cramped hut, the village no longer concerned itself with her. For the most part. They kept their secrets in their walls so as long as she kept to her hovel outside Blue Spring. Those who grew too ill to be cured by the laughable excuse of a doctor (who was also the barber) somehow found their way to her though, every now and then. They could at least recall how good a midwife Selah's mother had been and being the selfish cowards they were, begged and pleaded for Selah to aid their 'incurable' ails. And then called her witch when they were cured and at home inside their walls. It had angered her once. Frustrated and tore at her, just as the need to survive in the exile that they condemned her to had. But Selah was older now. She promised herself every time it threatened to pull her under that she would forgive and forget them. Only focus on living.
It worked for the most part. Always fixing something on the rambled hut, or maintaining the garden she had cultivated herself, or even trying to catch a bit of meat every now and then for herself with makeshift traps. Yes, she kept busy. And Yarrow, a cat that had been traded to her for her help in delivering a baby in the middle of the night a half year after her outcasting, helped keep off loneliness. Also, it helped to keep off the feeling that she might be going a bit off her rocker. Talking to a cat seemed a bit less concerning than talking to oneself at the very least.
Currently she was instructing the brown and black speckled cat in how to properly filter the boiled roots of dandelions in order to make a tea that tasted a bit like coffee. The cat, sprawled out before her small hearth, didn't give a whisker's twitch to what she had to say, much less the proper ratios to make a good dark blend. A good cup of dandelion tea always seemed to calm her down after a long day. The bitterness and scent was much like coffee, or what she remembered it to be when her family had woken her up in the morning with the thick heady smell of it. The bitterness soothed her.
A heavy noise on her creaky doorstep caught her attention. A voice, deep and male, muffled by the hovel's walls called out to her and she set her mock-coffee aside, reaching up to hastily pin her hair back. She knew that voice, but she was alarmed what he said. Going to the door, the sight of him was a mite bit worse than what he indeed had to say. 'Bleeding a bit' indeed!
"Daniel Milligen!" her dark eyes went wide and she swooped forwards to prop him up with her shoulder, "Look at the mess you are making all over my step! Do you know how hard blood is to get out of anything these days?" She spoke lightly, but her round face was pale in concern. She didn't have many friends. Even fewer were actual speaking and breathing humans. No, for all her joking scolds, the sight of him was the sight of ghosts at her stoop. It felt like ice water was being poured through her veins.
"Come on inside," she grunted, trying her best to keep a casual and cheerful tone, "No sense in catching a cold out here." A cold was the least of his worries with the gore that was staining his middle and- goodness, his arms too? "What, have you been fighting with Indians?" she chided in her gentle voice with lightly laced sternness, "Now you know they fight like the Devil himself. Even a brave hunter and woodsman like you couldn't take them on by yourself."
She needed to get a good look at his wounds. See how deep they went. There was somethings she could do with just herbal medicines and other things she could do with a needle and thread, maybe a well applied searing poker to close up anything vital. But if the damage was too great... She wouldn't think on it. Not yet. Night would fall soon. She'd examine him and go from there.
Daniel Milligen had as much sorrow in his shadow as she did. It was not three months ago when his wife, Sarah Michelle Milligen, passed from the wasting influence. Consumption or something akin to it. Poor woman had suffered a good couple of years before being taken. Selah had tried her best to ease the pain and keep her comfortable as possible. Not even she could keep the iron strong grip of Death at bay. Not with that kind of sickness, so seeped into the body that it had branded the person inside and out with the stench of what was to come. The young woman with all her herbs and knowledge and even the bit of extra wisdom her mother's line had cultivated in her very bones, no not even she could stop such illnesses once they had grown past certain points.
Once she had propped Daniel Milligen up in her only dining room chair, she quickly cleared the table. She never kept much on it and for reasons exactly like this. "Up we go," her voice was soft and warm, just like the two room hovel she called home, "Up on the table there. Easy, easy..." Going to the fire, she stoked it high and put another log on. Rolling back her sleeves, she knew it would get hot in the hut, but she needed the light. Taking one of the few candles she had, she lit the wick. Precious light. It would fade soon and she needed to see what she was doing. "Oh, you couldn't get half torn to shreds earlier in the day, could you?" she gave him a smile, before looking back on his wounds.
"Incorrigible man," she snipped away at the bandages around his torso, but didn't pull them away just yet, "Now I won't lie, this is going to hurt some, but I have to get your sloppy excuse for bandages off to take a look at what I have to stitch together." Quickly setting the shears aside, she tried to unwind the bandages on his arm as gently and as quickly as possible. She had to work fast. She didn't know how much blood he had already lost.
Taking a look over his arm, then peeking under bandages on his waist, she frowned. The shirt would have to go. It was in the way and anything that had been on it could contaminate the wounds. But for now she needed pressure on the torso wound. Grabbing a cloth from the basket of linens under the table, she put it between his hand and his wounded waist. "I want you to apply pressure to this," she pushed on his hand a bit to show him how much, eyes flashing as they locked with his. Her light tone was gone. She was in her no-nonsense procedure of looking after a patient now. "No more and no less, do you understand me?" she gave him a nod, making sure he understood, then set about to a hasty blur of actions. Hot water in a basin, clean cloth to wash away both blood and impurities, a poke on the fire just in case, a needle sterilized under the candle flame, thread, and a half bottle of whiskey.
This was not going to be a pleasant night for either of them.