This wasn’t Cross.
I stepped out of the woman’s back door into a world not my own. The sun hung in the air wrong.
On my back, I had a bit of meat and bread as well as a container of hot tea. They would last until I found the town I needed.
I’d been on the move for no more than a few hours when I came upon a narrow, well-trod road. I followed it for another half hour or so and spotted a blacksmith’s. Five men stood outside; all work paused as they watched me approach.
There was an unmistakable animosity in their faces.
The man at the bellows spat upon the ground while the smith, with hammer raised above his head, as though frozen in mid-strike, eyed me with growing hate. The other three fixed their gaze upon me and waited.
I came to a stop, slipped my hands behind my back and took hold of my Bowie knife. There was no need to draw the Colts. Not when there were no firearms in sight, and especially not when I couldn’t be sure as to how many men might be in the house behind the smith.
“What do you want, Boy?” the smith asked, lowering his hammer.
“Nothing,” I replied. “I’m headed to a village not far from here. I’m to kill a man and any who stand in my way.”
None of the men found the statement humorous, which was good. I hadn’t meant to be funny.
“And why’s that?” the smith inquired.
“He’s aligned himself with Dame Blood, my mother.”
“Then you’ve more than one man to try and kill!”
The smith and his comrades spread out and came at me from all sides, which was fine with me.
My father had taught me close-quarters fighting, and I’d learned the hard lessons of fighting Abenaki and Mohicans.
Five men at a smith’s forge were far from worrisome.
The men fought well and died fast, the smith lasting longest of all.
In the end, he was on his knees before me, arms hanging useless at his sides. I had him by the hair; his head pulled back to expose his neck.
“You’re Duncan Blood,” he said.
“I should have known,” the smith mused. “I saw you fight once, twenty-odd years ago. You killed eight men with a pruning knife. There are, I suppose, worse ways to die.”
“There are,” I said and drove my knife into his throat.