July 21, 2016 by Lyn
This story takes place mainly on the 4th of July, 1784
They hadn’t wanted to let him join their army at all. There were plenty of excuses they could have used – he was young, even by the standards of that day and age, and looked younger. He was, by their society, a bastard, and there were people who cared strongly about things like that. But the sergeant looked at him over steepled hands and said, simply, “This isn’t your people’s war.”
He could have been referring to Luca’s suspiciously dark skin – his Mara mother had spent the last fifty years among the Indian tribes of the North and East, and he bore his father’s heritage in his skin tone if nowhere else – but the way his eyes glanced off of Luca’s shoulders, to the wings he kept tightly hidden under a Mask and folded tight against his back, told Luca that it wasn’t his human ancestry that was in question. Still, some things were not said, so he answered both questions with a single answer.
“I was born here, too.” He was driven in equal parts by his Mentor’s instructions and by his own need to do something for this war effort, and he’d tried to make this sergeant see that.
“And will you fight and die for our cause?” the sergeant asked, rather sourly. It would take over another century, and three wars, before Luca would understand that it wasn’t his willingness to sacrifice himself the crusty old man was questioning, but whether or not he could die.
Now, though, he nodded enthusiastically. “Of course, sir. The colonies needed to be free from British Dominion. All men deserve to be free.” And all Ellehemaei, but that wasn’t a matter for this war, and the other war, eternal as the mountains, would be there when he had earned his name.
Something must have gotten through to the old man, because, however reluctantly, he had been enlisted into their rag-tag army.
He had learned to fight in the pragmatic and dirty style favored by the Continental Army, and found that, while he preferred straight-on one-on-one combat, there was something to be said for making sure the other guy fell down, and you didn’t.
He had earned the trust, slowly, of the men he fought with – even if none of them could see his wings, and he had doubts about a few, they could all see his dark skin, and they’d learned to distrust that. But he sounded like a colonial, not an Indian, and he fought next to them, and, Mara-born and Mara-trained, he killed the enemy and did his best to keep his brothers-in-arms alive.
For all his efforts, he’d watched more than a couple of them die, the first violent deaths he’d seen, the first time someone he’d been protecting had fallen. And the second, and the third. And more. The war had been bloody and horrid (he learned later that all wars were bloody and horrid), and it had seemed, for a time, that his hands would never be clean of the blood of his friends.
It had washed off, from his skin, at least; the dirt from their graves had come clean from under his nails. Grass grew in the fields where they had planted Moses Andrews, and Dickie Aston, and Ben Taylor and his nephew Benji, and sun shone on the grass. And they had won! They had fought, like rabid dogs, one Redcoat had said, like wolves, they said to themselves, and they had won their freedom. Their independence.
Luca had earned his Name, too, given to him by the men he fought alongside. Hunting Hawk. He’d laughed at first, and then grown proud of it, proud enough to bring it to his Mentor, who confirmed it. So it was, with name and battle scars, that he stood as an adult, here on the cobbled streets of Philadelphia, albeit a beardless, skinny adult.
There were parades. The nation had started celebrating its independence almost before the ink was dry on the Declaration, but, now, the war over, they came out with renewed fervor.
The band, in uniforms brighter and shinier than any the Continental Army had worn (and a good thing, too!), marched proudly down the street, every one of them beaming with the joy of the new nation. Later, once the sun set, there would be fireworks to light up the night sky. And, now, once the parade had passed and all the proud veterans had been saluted, there were speeches. There were always speeches.
Philadelphia, short on mayors, had no shortage of statesmen. After prayers, songs, poems, and endless oratory, the crowd hushed as the Reverend Father Josephsen stepped up to the reviewing stand, a lean man who himself had fought in the war, and come back short a hand but long on patriotism.
He cleared his throat, and the crowd cheered. He smiled, a wan expression that seemed to mock his own popularity, and, holding a piece of parchment in front of him but reciting, it seemed, from memory:
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
“Now, what that means,” he said, looking around the crowd, “is that this piece of paper that started it all-” he brandished the sheet at the crowd – “told King George exactly why were doing this.”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, as obvious as the nose on my face.” The crowd chuckled at the self-effacing joke, as the Reverend had a prominent, beaklike nose, “ that all men are created equal, ” He leaned hard on the words “all men,” and Luca heard a few murmurs in the crowd, and a few ragged shouts of agreement.
That phrase had stuck in his craw the first time he heard it – born to a race of people who lived by an entirely different set of natural laws than the men around him, he’d thought it was naïve and foolish. A blacksmith is not the equal of a poet; one can rhyme far better, the other was massively stronger. Today, a different man than before the war, he cheered as loudly as anyone else.
“…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”
The cheers became deafening at liberty, Luca every bit as loud as the humans surrounding him. That was what they had fought for. The right of every man and woman on this giant piece of earth they had claimed to pursue their own road. The liberty to not be tied down to an outdated system of social class and ranking. The freedom to strive, to climb, and to reach heights that a slave could never achieve.
Nearly two centuries later and only a couple blocks away, Luke wondered what the compatriots in arms who had first named him would think of what they were doing here, and scowled deeply across the table. “So, how are you going to bring together all these kids you’re bringing into existence?” he demanded, already annoyed at his complicity in this scheme.
Regine was unfazed, smirking at him in that self-satisfied way that she always had. “A school, of course.”
“A school.” He glowered at her. “A fucking school. Regine, these kids have a right to freedom. Not to some Potemkin Village pretend school you set up to trap them.”
“They will have more than freedom.” He always distrusted it when she got expansive. “And it will not be a pretend school. They will have an education in what it is to be Ellehemaei, a chance to spark, to Become.”
“What it is to be an Ellehemaei?” He could not be frowning any more than he was, so he settled for lowering his voice. “I’m not sure you and I have the same ideas about that, Regine. What’s it mean to you?”
“To be gifted, and superior in every manner, of course.”
“Of course.” He was snarling by now, and that would do him no good at all. Regine might not be able to use his emotions, but Mike could, and would have no qualms doing so. He forced himself to smile at her, not even showing many teeth. “Of course,” he repeated.
…all men are created equal, all men, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There was no stopping Regine once she’d gotten going, and the contracts had already been signed and sealed. But he could help these kids fight for their rights. “I’m in. I’ll help you teach them.”
And if they needed to fight him, too? Then he would welcome that, and hope he’d taught them well enough to win their independence.
Text of the Declaration of Independence found here