Nothing survived ‘The Breaking’ unchanged; lives and fortunes, love and hate, freedom and slavery …
It’s early 1860, and war hero Captain Nathaniel Chambers, commander U.S. Army Fort Davis in the west Texas wilderness, has received shocking news – his father is dead. He must return home to Virginia and claim his inheritance before a maniacal neighbor can murder his widowed mother and seize the family plantation.
But he’s torn by a terrible dilemma – to stay in the army and turn his back on his fortune, his mother and his beloved childhood home, or become the thing he despises; a slave master! Is there no other choice?
Meanwhile, a woman desperate to redeem her family’s fortunes schemes to marry her beautiful but troubled daughter to the handsome young heir. But will Evelyn’s own plans break his heart instead?
An epic journey across a young nation seething with debauchery, brutality, corruption, and political intrigue, unwittingly on the brink of an unimaginable disaster; the American Civil War. Nathan Chambers has left the violent army life behind in Texas, never imaging he’s on the very ‘Road to The Breaking’.
“Hey, Billy. Why is it the Comanche hate the Tonkawa so much?” he called out. The Captain’s bowed head looked up, startled by the sudden noise.
“What … the Comanche? Oh, it is a very long, old tale. Would you like to hear it, Sergeant Clark?”
A long tale, Tom thought. Just the medicine the Captain needs.
“Yes, Billy, if you please.”
The other men started to perk up. Billy rarely spoke much, but when he did his stories tended toward the bizarre and supernatural, with plenty of his own special brand of odd, dry humor thrown in. This typically made for highly entertaining stories.
“There once was a time, very long, and long, ago. Back before the grandfathers of our grandfathers were even conceived by their grandfathers’ grandfathers. So long ago, in fact, it is said it was almost the very beginning of time—whenever that was.” He shrugged his shoulders and grinned.
“Anyway … in that long-ago time it was different between the Comanche and the People, those of us you white men now call Tonkawa. Back then we did not hate each other and fight always, the way we do now. We didn’t love each other either, of course; there is no amount of time going that far back, ha!
“In that time the People and the Comanche knew each other, but lived apart, sometimes seeing each other when they shared the hunting grounds. The land was not dry as now. It was filled with a great greenness. It is said the water was abundant, and fell from the sky so often, it flowed carelessly, wandering across the land, heedless of its proper places in rivers and lakes.
“And so, the land was filled with so many animals the People did not have to hunt long or hard for their daily meat. And never did they give thought to saving anything for tomorrow. Both the People and the Comanche were wasteful in their excess, never having known want.
“But there came a time when the People were led by a great and wise man. His name was Tchezse—um … Tchezselkeizl … well, it would mean nothing in your language, anyway. You would say something like ‘Sun-and-Moon-in-Sky-Together-and-Wind-in-Stars,’ but that is not quite right either. For my story, I will just be calling him ‘Sun-Moon’ and you will know who I’m talking about.
“Sun-Moon was very wise, as I have already said. One day he called the People together saying, ‘I have had a mighty dream of the gods, and they have made my eyes to see many great and terrible things.’ And the People listened as Sun-Moon told his seeing—of a time to come when water would stop falling from the sky and would no longer flow heedless across the land. It would return to its ancestral home in a few, shallow rivers and lakes or sink deep into the ground. And the land would change from green to brown, and the animals that once provided the People with their daily meat would hide away in far-off lands.
“Then the People were afraid, and asked Sun-Moon what would become of their children, and their children’s children, if there were no greenness and no meat. But Sun-Moon said, ‘You needn’t worry about your children’s children, or even your own children; this time the gods have shown me is coming even unto the lives of you who sit before me. If the People do not prepare to face the evil time coming, all will perish from the earth.’
“And so, Sun-Moon led the men high into the hills, or deep into caves under the Earth. There the animals were few and fierce, so the men must become great hunters and trackers. And he taught the women and children to cure the extra meat they did not eat daily, with salt and different herbs growing in the earth. In this way their meat might be saved for many months in time of want. And he showed them where to find roots growing under the ground, for water, and food, at greatest need in time of dryness.
“But the Comanche had no great leader like Sun-Moon. They laughed at the People for making their hunts so difficult when meat was so plentiful. And they mocked them for digging in the earth for roots when food and water were so easily had on the open earth.
“But Sun-Moon was not angered by the cruel laughter of the Comanche. You see, he was a truly great and wise man—but I think I have already said that. So he went to them and told them also of his dreams, by way of warning they should prepare for the evil days to come. But still they would take no heed and sent him away with great scorn.
“And so, you will not be surprised to hear there came a day when the water stopped falling from the skies. And then the land turned all to brown, even as Sun-Moon had foretold. And though the People had been warned, and had prepared as best they could, still the greatness of this evil time was even greater than any had imagined. So although they had practiced hard to become mighty hunters, and great trackers of animals, still, bringing home the meat was hard. Though they ate little, and salted and kept back what they could, still many, and many died. And all suffered great want.
“This story was told me by a wise, old man when I was just a young boy, and he called this terrible time The Breaking.”
“The Breaking?” Nathan asked, having become absorbed in the tale. “What does that mean?”
“He said it was called that because it was a time of such suffering and death, it caused the breaking of all the old ways. Some for the good, and some for the worse. Nothing came through The Breaking unchanged, and all that once was, even to the greenness of the earth, was broken during that time, and was never again the same.
“Well … it is said while the People suffered greatly in The Breaking, the Comanche suffered more. They had not heeded the words of Sun-Moon, of course. So they had never learned the skills to hunt the few animals remaining, and to dig the roots from the earth. Their need was great, and they became desperate, and dangerous.
“They saw the People still had the meat they had preserved, and a store of the roots they had pulled from the ground. And they became angry the People had food, and they had none. So they came to the People and demanded they be given the food the People had saved.
“But Sun-Moon took pity on them. He said, ‘There is not enough of the salted meat and roots for both the People and the Comanche, so we cannot give it to you. But we will teach you to hunt that you may bring home your own meat. And we will teach you to save your meat by salting, and how to find roots living under the ground that you might dig them up.’
“But the Comanche were hungry and did not want to wait to learn these things. Instead they decided they would take the food from the People by war. So they returned to their village, put on their war paint, and collected their hunting spears. By the time they had made ready for war it was becoming dark. They lit torches and carried them to see their way back to the camp of the People.
“But Sun-Moon had foreseen this as well and made ready the People for the war that was coming. The Comanche came, carrying their torches. They have always been larger, stronger, and more fearsome than the People, so they carried their deadly spears with confidence of easy victory. They could already taste the precious food that would soon be theirs.
“But they had forgotten the men of the People had become great hunters. Because their prey had been more fierce and cunning, the People had learned to use the bow, and shoot arrows with deadly aim. And they had learned to use lightweight throwing spears to hit prey from a distance, rather than short, heavy spears the Comanche used to butcher their easy kills.
“Many Comanche were killed, and the rest fled in fear. But those who fell, and those who fled, all dropped their torches, and the dry earth was set afire. It burned all that night with a great flame that lit the sky.
“When the sun rose in the morning, the People found all their food had been destroyed by fire. They were hungry but were also very tired from the fighting and the fire and had no strength left to hunt. Also, all the animals they might have hunted had been driven far away by fear of the flames.
“And so the People did the only thing left for them to do. They ate the Comanche they had killed.”
“They … ate them?” Georgie asked.
“Yes. Sun-Moon told them it was the only sensible thing the People could do so they would not all starve and die. And so that is what they did.
“It is said the great flames of the fire sent smoke high into the sky. It climbed so high it mingled with the scant clouds, and caused the water to start falling again, though never so much as before.
“The war with the Comanche, you see, was the end of The Breaking, but it was the beginning of the hatred of the Comanche for the People.”
“Well, I don’t see why the Comanche should hate the Tonkawa. Sounds like they lost the war fair and square, and after they started it!” Jamie said, and Georgie nodded in agreement.
But Billy shrugged his shoulders and said, “Guess Comanche don’t like being eaten. Ha!”
The men chuckled and even the Captain smiled.
“I’ve heard people say the Tonkawa still eat their enemies,” William said.
Billy turned toward him and grinned, “Then best hope I never have to kill you, William!”
William shook his head “No,” emphatically.
Billy continued, “I have heard of it being done. When the enemy is not of the People and is killed in man-to-man battle. Some say it is to honor those who fought the war of The Breaking. Others say the fighting spirit of the dead is taken into the living that way. I don’t know … seems to me the one left alive had more fighting spirit than the dead one! Ha!”
Though he seemed more alert after Billy’s tale, by the time they’d made camp that evening Nathan was already laid down and asleep, as if from utter exhaustion. Tom was still concerned and sat up long into the night watching over his Captain. At first, Nathan tossed in his sleep and seemed to moan as if in pain. But then at some point, it seemed to Tom he began to rest more at ease and sleep more at peace.
Chris Bennett grew up on the shores of Klamath Lake in southeastern Oregon. For a young boy it was a dream world of water, hills, forests and abundant wildlife. His love for action and adventure morphed into a lifelong love for books when his Mom read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to the family on a long road trip.
It was routine and normal for the family dinner table discussions to involve history, politics, and anything interesting going on in the world. So, when he attended the University of Oregon it seemed perfectly natural (and easy) to study history and political science. But everyone said you couldn’t make a living in those fields, so he decided to try his hand at Computer Science. He’s been writing professionally, in the software development business for more than 35 years now.
However, Chris’s thirst for adventure never faded and he began to live out his love of history onto the pages of his first book, The Road to the Breaking. Once he started writing he just couldn’t stop and the result is The Road to the Breaking series; an epic journey across a young nation seething with debauchery, brutality, corruption, and political intrigue, unwittingly on the brink of an unimaginable disaster; the American Civil War.