I could smell them.
The scent of roasting venison came across the lake and caught my attention.
It was a good smell, and it reminded me of my childhood and of my father.
For a moment, as my heart skipped a beat, the child in me hoped my father had returned. That perhaps he was out upon one of the islands, waiting for me to find him.
It was a foolish hope, of course, but it was one I nurtured nonetheless as I slipped into a canoe and paddled across the lake, following my nose.
On the island of Anne’s Folly, I caught sight of a slim trail of smoke rising up from a nearby hillside. Pulling the canoe up onto the shore, I moved at a quick pace toward the source of the smell and the smoke.
Drawing nearer, I drew one of the Colts.
Half a dozen yards away, I spotted a pair of deer hides stretched on racks, the hides scraped and ready to be treated. Cut wood was stacked nearby, and a small garden stood behind a fence of woven reeds.
In front of me, a small structure stood, half buried in the earth. A neatly made stovepipe protruded from the roof, and a path of stones led around the front.
As I followed the stones, I heard several men engaged in conversation. Their voices were light and relaxed, with no notes of fear or dread.
Rounding the small building, I found myself on the other side of an opening. Cooking utensils hung from the edge, and four men looked at me in surprise.
“Smells good,” I ventured.
One of the men spoke in German. “It is Felipe’s recipe.”
“Many thanks,” Felipe said in French.
“Did my mother send you?” I asked.
“She did,” the first answered. “But we discovered she has no sway on this island.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“Yes,” confirmed Felipe. “Once we learned this, we set about making this camp. We have already died once, Monsieur Blood. We have no desire to die by violence again.”
“We want peace,” the German speaker added. “Nothing more than peace.”
I holstered the Colt and asked, “Is there enough venison for another plate?”
The Killed Soldiers laughed, and Felipe fixed me a bowl of venison and fresh bread.
In the calm, sweet air of Autumn, we talked of books and music, art and women.
Anything but war.