Make Yourself at Home
Eoban’s booming laugh reverberated through the trees. He stood in front of a new dwelling and watched Gilbreth try to free himself from his two younger siblings who clung to him like creeping vines in midsummer. Eoban stepped closer.
The children’s eyes widened in stark terror.
Loping forward, Eoban scooped Ham into his arms and swung him high into the air.
Screaming bloody murder, Ham struggled for a handhold, using Eoban’s nose for support.
Eoban laughed louder. He flipped the child around to face his mother and father.
Lud smiled and waved.
Dinah held out her hands, ready to receive her baby boy. She grinned as she took him her arms. “Does Eoban the Giant scare my baby?” Standing next to Eoban, she tapped his arm. “He’s a good man.” She kissed the little boy on the nose.
With a new light in his eyes and mad glee in his heart, Eoban strode toward Deli.
The little girl scampered into her brother’s arms in a desperate attempt to flee from the approaching menace.
Lud laughed so hard, he bent double and lifted one hand in surrender. “Deli, don’t be afraid. He’s a friend. He wants to make friends with you.”
The little girl peeked around Gilbreth’s neck and pointed an accusing finger. “He’ll throw me up in the air and drop me!” She nuzzled her head against Gilbreth and murmured into his neck. “You won’t let him get me, will you?”
Gilbreth managed to gasp. “Don’t worry. But please, I can’t breathe!”
Eoban shuffled to a halt and chuckled.
Lud strode over and rescued his eldest son.
Gilbreth offered wide-eyed gratitude as his father pried his sister from his body.
Eoban pointed at Gilbreth. “You have a remarkable son, Lud. Few boys could take such treatment without complaint. I bet he’s as fearless as he is good-natured.” Leaping forward, Eoban grabbed Gilbreth by the waste and then swung him over his shoulder. He peered from Ham to Deli. “See, little ones. I swing children into the air.” He swung Gilbreth around and then placed him gently on his feet. “But I do not drop.”
Red in the face, Gilbreth readjusted his tunic.
Eoban patted Gilbreth on the back, best of buddies.
Lud grinned. “You’re a man of many talents! As I remember, you used to tell entertaining stories, too. Maybe, if my children are very good, you’ll tell a few tales today?”
“To be sure!” Eoban smiled broadly. “Even if they are not so very good.” He stepped forward and waved to the dwelling before them. “So, how do you like the house?”
A rosy sun settling on the horizon, a cool breeze, and evening bird song set a peaceful scene.
“It’s beautiful.” Lud glanced at his wife. “We’d like to build one very much like it.”
Eoban rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Build? This one is vacant, and I know the owners. I’m sure they’d offer a fair deal.”
Dinah’s face lit up. “We’d be neighbors then?” She glanced at her children. “But we might get a bit noisy.”
Eoban ran his fingers through his wild, unkempt hair. “I’m easily bored. I enjoy hearing laughter—or screams—as the case may be.”
Dinah giggled, nestling her baby against her shoulder.
Stepping forward, Lud peered at the framework and slapped a post with a firm hand. “Could you introduce us to the owners tomorrow? We’ll make camp for the night and meet them in the morning.”
“Make camp? Perish the thought. I’ll introduce you to the owners tonight, though” —Eoban jogged a few paces away and waved at distant figures shuffling in the center of the village— “it might take me a few moments to gather them up.” He flung a grin at Lud. “Make yourselves at home. I’ll be right back.”
Dinah sighed, strode to her husband’s side, and clasped his hand.
Carrying the little ones and with Gilbreth in tow, Lud and Dinah circled the dwelling.
Lud stroked his chin. “It’s new. A few rough spots but generally well-done.” He nudged his wife. “Eoban’s a bit of a mystery, isn’t he?”
Dinah’s gaze roamed over two matching front benches. “I trust him. A man without guile.”
Lud nodded. “Honest to a fault. You’ll never wonder what he thinks.” He glanced at the sinking sun. “It’s getting late. Let’s get supper.”
Gilbreth jumped forward. “I’ll start the fire. Man’s work. Finally.”
Lud unrolled mats, and Dinah pulled provisions from their bags.
A rumble of murmuring voices rose in the distance. Dinah glanced up as Lud turned to face the approaching throng. She edged closer to Lud and gripped his arm.
A crowd of young men ambled forward chattering in high-spirited exuberance.
Eoban led the group, his voice rising above the rest. “Remember your manners. They’re new here, and their children are a bit skittish. Don’t talk too loud or make foolish jokes. Just smile a lot. Understand?”
The assembled heads nodded. One voice lifted above the rest. “Just don’t tell them who made the roof, whatever you do!” Laughter soared like a flock of excited birds.
Eoban tapped the speaker on the head. “You know who’ll be doing all the repair work if there are any problems, right?”
The boys chorused as one voice. “Eoban!” A roar of approval met this comment.
Lud glanced at his wife and grinned.
Eoban and his troop halted in front of the stupefied family. Silence ensued as the two groups stared at one another.
Lud laid a comforting hand on his Gilbreth’s shoulder.
Eoban nudged one young man forward. “Go on, Tannit.”
A handsome, dark-haired lad of fifteen stepped forward, his gaze skittering from husband to wife. “You and Dinah were expected, Lud, and your children too, of course. We wanted to make you feel welcome. It was Eoban’s idea, but he made us feel like it was ours, since we did all the work.” He blushed. “Though he worked, too. He had to tell all those stories!” Tannit grinned. “So, we built you this house. We figured it was something you’d need right away, and it wouldn’t spoil if you were late in coming.” He glanced at the house. “Hope you like it.” Biting his lip, he stepped aside.
Giving Tannit a firm pat on the shoulder, Eoban spoke up. “The boys worked very hard.” He flashed a grand smile.
Lud stood frozen and wondered if his heart had stopped beating.
Dinah smiled, her eyes round with shock.
Attempting to make his mouth work, Lud swallowed and sucked in a deep breath. “You mean…this house is ours? It’s too much. How could we ever repay such generosity?”
A younger, slighter-built youth stepped forward and stared boldly at Lud. “My name is Onia, son of Jonas and Obed.” He brushed a stray lock of hair from his eyes. “Truth is, we’re only paying you back for all you’ve done for us. Didn’t you lead the slave revolt? Wasn’t it you who befriended Pele so she could warn us about the Giants? You helped a whole passel of children during the great fire and brought the vision that stopped Ishtar.” He shuffled his feet, his gaze dropping to the ground. “It seems to me that we’d have to build many houses—and better ones than this—to repay all you’ve done for us. We’re just being grateful…as all worthy people are grateful.” With a little shrug, he stepped back among his peers.
Mouths fell open across the assembled group.
Tears ached behind Lud’s eyes. Straining, he swallowed and clasped his hands together. “I accept your gift then, and my family and I will treasure this house as a warrior treasures his finest weapon.” He glanced from one face to another, finally landing on Eoban. “We thank you from the depths of our hearts.”
His eyes gleaming, Eoban squeezed Onia’s shoulder. “Breeding is in the blood.” He glanced around. “Boys, show Gilbreth around while I help Lud and his family get settled. We ought to celebrate!”
Dinah’s face blanched. “I don’t have enough provisions to feed the whole clan.”
Onia turned on his heel and called back. “Don’t worry. Mother and the other women have been preparing a feast for days. It’s their surprise.”
The troop of boys galloped away, laughing and shouting. Looking like a proud father, Eoban stared after the boys.
Lud took his wife’s hand, and they laced their fingers together. His heart swelled, joy flooding his whole body.
“I want to see!” Ham scampered to the doorway and peered inside with Gilbreth holding Deli on the other side. Lud and Dinah stepped closer and leaned over them, glimpsing the dim interior.
Lud felt a hand on his shoulder.
Eoban nudged him forward, nearly tumbling the whole family. “Go on! It’s your house now. Make yourselves comfortable!”
Before stepping over the threshold, Lud glanced back at the glowing horizon. The same horizon he knew as a boy in captivity. The same horizon he shared with his family in the hills. The same horizon he shared with his wife and children while traveling. Tears slipped down his cheek. Forever, now, this horizon would glow in splendor…just outside his home.
A new chapter every Tuesday and Thursday.