The painting is a modified version of the one I posted in the "After 9" Section.
Before they left to return to the cabin from the Arapaho village, Dover made a trade with Man Who Walks Slowly, giving up his spare knife in exchange for the Arapaho warrior's big brown dog. He knew it would serve as a pet for the boys as they got older, but his main purpose was for it to serve as a watch dog.
Dover had decided that until winter came, he would sleep in the cave. He was not comfortable sleeping under a roof, and he wished to give Mariska and Senta as much privacy as possible. The dog would warn them if anyone came around, and all they had to do was fire a rifle, and Dover would be there in just a few minutes.
Winter would be a different story, for a sudden snow, could block the trails, and make the time involved getting to the cabin, much too long for the family's safety. Once winter dropped in their lap, he would have to endure sleeping in the cabin until spring.
The second night after returning to the cabin, once everybody had gone to bed, the only sound from outside the cabin walls, was the occasional breeze rustling through the leaves. Inside the cabin, the silence was broken only by the crackling sound coming from the fireplace.
While upstairs in the loft, Chance and Patrick slept the peaceful sleep of youth, on the main level of the cabin, Mariska and Senta each struggled to surrender to sleep. Both repeatedly tossed and turned, trying to remain silent, not wanting to wake the other.
For Mariska, worrying about Sean's safety was not a new experience. Even before they came to Colorado, there had been many instances where she was forced to deal with the worry of whether he would live or die. Those past experiences helped temper the level of her anxiety, but there was no denying that it still weighed heavily on her mind.
She also missed her father, whom she had not seen since leaving the village over three years ago. Was he well? Did he still hold the position of chief advisor for the tribe? Was he even alive anymore? Unfortunately, these were questions for which there were no answers. The Mohegan tribe was far away, and it would be a long time, if ever, before she would be able to return there to visit.
As Senta stared into the darkness of the ceiling, it seemed to her that what Sean had left to do, seemed to be an impossible task, and would almost certainly end in his death. If he wasn't killed, he might be crippled, and never able to return to them. The idea of a life without Sean in it, upset her so badly that she trembled.
Finally, her fears and frustrations drove her out of her bed, and onto her feet. She could lay there in silence no longer. Moving silently, as to not awake Mariska, whom she believed to be sleeping, Senta walked over and sat down near the fireplace. Staring at the dancing embers rising from the fire, she wondered where Sean was at, and what he might be doing. Was he safe? Did he miss her as much as she missed him? A chill ran across her shoulders as she struggled with the big question. Would she ever seen Sean again? Tears began to slide down her cheeks as she realized that even if he were killed in that far off land, she, nor Mariska, nor their sons, would probably ever know where he was buried, or even if his enemies had bothered to bury him at all.
From her blanket, Mariska could see the glow from the fire on Senta's face. That she was struggling with Sean's absence was obvious. Rising to her feet, she walked up behind Senta, and slipped a blanket around her shoulders. "You are worried."
Senta turned to face Mariska, her eyes filled with tears. "Yes." She reached out and took Mariska's hand. "This evil man that Sean has gone to kill. He is very rich and powerful?"
"Yes, he is."
"Such a man must have many strong warriors to defend him, is this not true?"
A strong gust of wind rushed through the trees, sending Mariska to the window to be sure that the noise was only the wind. Returning to Senta's side, she put her arm around her shoulders. "From what Sean told me when we first met, this man is protected by many warriors."
Senta's eyes closed and she sat deep in thought for a few minutes. Her hands were shaking when she reached out and pulled Mariska closer. Laying her head on Mariska's shoulder, she whispered. "My sister, I need your wisdom. Is it even possible that he will return to us? If he is killed, what then shall we do? Shall Patrick and I return to my people, while you and Chance go back to the Mohegans? Is our family to be no more?"
"Get dressed Senta," she whispered firmly. "Wrap yourself in a warm blanket. We need to go outside where we can speak without waking the children and spreading our fears to them."
Once outside, they sat on a log just to the right of the cabin, where they could see the stream in the moonlight. "I will not deceive you," Mariska stated as she looked directly into Senta's still glistening eyes. Sean faces great danger, and we would be fools to think that he could not be killed."
Pointing at the mountain stream rushing by, she continued. "When we came outside, were you surprised to see the stream still flowing?"
With a puzzled look on her face, Senta replied, "No. Why would I be surprised?"
"Neither was I. We were not surprised, because it has always continued to flow, no matter what has happened. Sean has always survived and always returned. We should have the same confidence in him that we have in the stream." After peeking in the window to be sure the boys were not up and about, she turned back to Senta.
"I've told you much of our experiences before we came out here, but I don't believe I told you about the vision, have I?"
Senta thought for a minute. "I do not believe so."
"Then, it's time you knew. When I returned to my village after escaping my captors, Sean came with me. We had met and traveled together for mutual protection. On the way, he was bitten by a snake, and almost died. When we entered the village, he was still weak. My father, thankful that he had escorted me home safely, and concerned for Sean's safety, invited him to stay in the village until the next spring. One night, while sleeping in my father's lodge, a vision came to me. In it, my mother came to me and warned that the men who had killed her, and captured me, were coming back to kill me. Winter was near, and every warrior was needed to hunt meat to help fight off starvation in the tribe. Sean knew that if warriors were pulled from hunting duties, that people would die, and that might mean someone might die that might have lived, had he not been in the village."
In the moonlight, they watched as a couple of deer slipped from the cover and took their fill of water from the stream. "Anyway, Sean told my father to keep the warriors hunting, and he would stop the killers. From almost the first, I had dreams of being Sean's wife, but as I watched him running up the trail to head off the killers, I feared I would never see him alive again.
A third man had joined the two killers by the time they rode into Sean's ambush. He killed the third man, and left the two killers hanging from a tree, as a warning to others. He returned to our village without a scratch, having saved my life, and probably the lives of other women that would have been their victims had they not been stopped. So, this is not the first time he has faced much danger. Dover can tell you about the time Sean was attacked and ripped apart by a bear in Missouri. When we found him, we were amazed that he was still breathing. Neither Dover nor myself expected him to live, but we took him back to the campsite, to try and make him as comfortable as possible. He lived that time too. Sean is a kind and gentle man, but he's also a fierce warrior when needed, and a very hard man to kill. So, we shall not give up hope.
However, Sean would not expect us to close our eyes and act like fools. Even great warriors are sometimes killed. But, we shall expect him to return home for as long as it is reasonable to do so. Understood?"
Senta returned a small smile, and answered. "Yes."
"Now," Mariska continued. "Our sons have a wise and strong man for a father. They do not yet know or fear the danger that their father faces. If the worst happens, then as his wives, and the mothers of his children, you and I will do what is needed.
We will gather his things, and place them on a burial platform, where his body would have lain if he been killed here. Then we shall set it afire, and let it return to the world around us, as he would have wished. Together we shall sing his death song, and recount his many brave deeds, so that his children shall always know that their father was a great man. You and I will find our own times to slip into the shadows and shed our tears, but our sons shall not see them.