Age of Edward Contest
Title: Diary of Edward Masen or A Man Called Omachkatayo
Your pen name: einfach mich
Type of Edward: Old West-ward
If you would like to see all the stories that are a part of this contest visit: The Age of Edward C2 Community:
I shall simply address this to my fiancée, Miss Isabella Marie Swan. Though we have yet to meet face to face, she has been my dearest friend through these past two years of our engagement.
I have just received this ledger from my blessed caretaker and I am bit puzzled at how I should begin to convey all the strange and wondrous things that have happened to me over the past few days.
For the sake of brevity, I will start from where my last correspondence left off. We departed Chicago on a chilly February morning. Upon my father's strong encouragement, I employed a seasoned trail master to book me with the next coach headed west. My final destination was to be the Oregon territory, to finally meet your acquaintance. The worldly gentleman that I found, with guidance from my father of course, went by the name of Newton. In fact, it was Mr. Newton and his son, Michael, who would be my guides on my journey.
My father was too busy with business affairs to see me off, but he was kind enough to have a messenger pass along a brief note. The contents relayed his wish for my safe journey and that I should convey his gratitude to your father for his hospitality and tolerance. I write that here now, as I have misplaced his note, along with most of my possessions. Usually, my forgetfulness can be blamed for the misplacement, however in this instance an uncontrollable circumstance was to blame. This circumstance will be discussed, in detail, momentarily.
I feel it is important to pass on this information, as my father experienced much trouble to relay it to me. As he has often pointed out, I have tendency to forget the finer points of etiquette, and I do not wish to disappointment him. He has worked hard to instruct me in these matters. It is my duty to take his lessons to heart and I aspire to, one day become half that man that he is. Please forgive me. My mind, as you know, is given to wander when I set word to a page. I will return to my story.
The beginning of the journey was fairly uneventful. I passed the time by getting more acquainted with my companions. The younger Newton was very social, and chatted with all of the travelers in our group. I must admit that his confidence sometimes made me feel self conscious. However, the relaxed and friendly manner with which he spoke, quickly allayed any, fear that my inadequacies would be a source of annoyance for my traveling companions. In fact, both Mr. Newton and his son were eager to ask me about my knowledge of business. They intended to stay in Oregon city and open a store.
Several months into our journey, passing travelers began to relay stories of savage raiding parties that were plaguing the area. Many a horrifying story circulated through the group, the details of which I will remain silent on to spare your delicate sensibilities. Suffice to say, few survivors were left, and a gruesome fate was shared by man, woman and child, alike.
In response, our night watches were doubled in manpower and even my sadly-unprepared self was recruited to join their ranks. The younger Newton took time, and a great measure of patience, to teach me the function and use of a rifle. It is a tad embarrassing that my teacher, who at the age of seventeen, a year younger than myself, is far more adept at handling a firearm than myself. My focus on accomplishment in arts, rather than weaponry, is to blame.
It was a few weeks later, while bedding down for the night, a terrible cry went up in the camp. As feeble a gesture it was, I grabbed my rifle and went to the head of the wagons where most of the men had gathered. One of the other gentlemen, whose name I am shamed to admit I do not recall, told me that it was most assuredly savages intent on our destruction. This news shook me right to my very core. The mere idea that I would be torn from you, before ever having had the chance of setting my eyes upon your lovely face or hearing your sweet voice, summoned courage in me the likes of which I had never felt before. I rose up to stand shoulder to shoulder with the other men as we stationed ourselves around the perimeter of the camp, poised with strong will and determination.
They rode down upon us like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, making a commotion that would wake the very dead. I steeled my courage and thought of you as I fired into their ranks, praying that my best would be enough. The noise of the guns and their screams deafened me while the smoke from my rifle made my eyes water. I was able to focus enough to see a warrior on horseback struck with such force that his body was thrown from his mount. The animal unguided and in a rage, came careening through the barrier. I had to throw myself clear to avoid being crushed by the thrashing beast.
I recovered quickly, but could not find my rifle. Our defenses were shattered, and they pouring through the breach like the waters of the great flood. The things that I saw when they set upon us are etched so deeply on my soul; I am assured that I will carry them with me to my grave. I staggered through the haze of smoke and screams, trying to find any familiar face, when a sudden pain erupted near my temple. The pain was so overwhelming, and the sights around me pressed upon me with such intensity that I believe my very soul gave out and, perhaps for a time, I was indeed on the other side.
When I was recovered enough to make a more sensible assessment of my surroundings, I found myself in a small room. The walls tilted at a steep angle and were made from some animal hide. A young boy appeared at a small flap-like door, sunlight streaming around the dark hair and russet skin that marked him as a primitive. I hesitate to use the word savage, as I know him to be as good-natured as any boy his age.
I smiled and greeted him - to which he gave a startled yelp, dropped the stack of branches that he was carrying, and fled. I attempted to stumble to my feet, thinking that I would pick up the branches that were, I assumed were meant to feed the fire in the center of the room. But as I tried to stand, I nearly collapsed. After a great deal of struggling and, forgive me, a few muttered curses, I had mastered my legs enough to make a clumsy attempt at picking up the discarded branches. It was at that moment that a tall woman came through the door.
Her skin was as dark as the boy's and her eyes the same soft brown, but her beautiful face was shadowed with a stern look that lent her a certain air of authority. With a startlingly strong hand she lifted me to my feet and guided me back to the narrow pallet that serves as my bed. She covered me with several pieces of fur a make-shift blanket, and spoke a few short words that I could not decipher but most assuredly understood to mean that I should remain where I was or suffer her wrath.
I relaxed into my bed, intently watching my caretaker as she cleaned up the branches, when another commotion drew my attention to the entrance. My caretaker immediately ran and intercepted someone. She seemed to be arguing for a brief moment, and then a strapping warrior pushed past her and strode into the enclosure, grabbed me by the throat and unceremoniously dragged me outside.
In the bright sunshine my eyes hurt and strained to focus. I came to understand that I was in the center of a large group, apparently gathered to witness my presence in the settlement - a fact that I had, mistakenly, assumed was common knowledge. My caretaker screamed and beat against the warrior who was staring at me with such hate that I could almost feel the heat of his gaze burn my face though, now, I am sure it was just the sunlight and the effects of my wounded state. He had a large hammer-like object in his hands and, though I did not understand his words, his intent to end my life was clear.
At the sight of the weapon my caretaker ceased her protests, going still. Then she said a few hushed words that seemed to finally capture the warrior's attention. He looked at her, repeating the same undecipherable phrase that she had spoken. I could not help but follow his gaze as it set on her now-trembling form. She reached to a cord around her slender neck and pulled it from beneath her simple brown dress. It gave way under her strength and snapped free. The simple leather cord and the small animal tooth that it was tied to hung from her white-knuckled fist for a second before she cast it at his feet. I quickly returned my squinting eyes to the warrior's face; he looked shocked and, to my own surprise, heartbroken.
His eyes met mine and the anger returned tenfold. I braced myself for the blow, but it never came. Instead, I was released and fell to the ground in an ungraceful heap of weary relief. My caretaker was at my side immediately, dragging me back into her little home. The intimacy that was required by my weakened state afford me a very clear view of her own grief, and I am still very concerned that I was the cause of her pain and severance of some connection to the warrior.
Once she'd returned me to my humble bed, I took hold of her wrist to get her attention. I tried to make her understand that I did not wish to be the source of grief for her and would attempt to leave at my earliest convenience. I did so by motioning my exit from the settlement, and then I pointed to her and mimicked a smile. She tilted her little head at me, a pondering look on her pretty little face, and then she seem to understand and immediately shook her head.
She began to search the floor and scooped up a stick, brandishing it at me and then pointing to herself. I nodded and pointed at the stick and then her, trying to let her know that I understood. Then she snapped it in half and took a piece in each hand, placing the separated pieces together, and then pulled them apart and shook her head.
My face must have shown my heartache as I realized the meaning of her demonstration. That she believed herself to be broken and irreversibly so. As her eyes held mine she dropped the two piece of wood to the floor.
I did not have long to contemplate the cause of her grief, when a tall older man who gave off the air of a general entered the small space. He was followed by a muscular warrior and a tall lanky young man. Both were dressed in similar attire as the warrior who'd just attacked me. I tried to sit up and the first chief, as I think they are called, placed a hand on my shoulder that I took as an indication to relax. He turned back to the boy and nodded. The young man stepped forward and began to speak.
He asked how long I had been at the settlement, his mouth moved with effort as pronounce each word very precisely. My shock delayed my answer, but I finally sputtered out that I was not sure. I began to relate that I had only just woken as I finished the boy's face seemed to darken, as if he were displeased with what I had said. He shook his head and seemed to think a few seconds and then spoke in their language, translating, I assumed. The chief spoke to me, his eyes focused in concern as he leaned towards me. I met his gaze, though I didn't understand his words. The boy spoke again asking who brought me to the settlement. It was strange, as I watch the boy speak, he seemed to twitch as if he had an itch that he could not scratch, but that irritated him fiercely.
I shook my head and again relaying my ignorance. This time as the young man translated I watched his face. It appeared as if he were nervous, though about what I could not say. I turned to the chief to see his reaction to my pleas of ignorance and found that he was now studying the boy, his face intent as he began to speak. The boy suddenly looked worried, but it was the other man that moved to leave the room. I was confused as they stood staring at each other in silence until the other man disappeared.
Then the man said something in a long exhale, looking tired. The boy began to speak in a rush as if he was pleading, his hands moving in frantic gestures. Pointing at me and out the front entrance where, soon enough, my caretaker appeared, flushed and angrier than ever. She charged right into their conversation, speaking in quick heated words that made the boy's eyes go wide. In contrast, the older man just looked at her and listened. Once she had finished, the boy tried to speak again but the man put up his hand and silence fell.
He returned a curious gaze to me. I simple stared at each one of them in confusion. Then he seemed to make some sort of decision. He stood up and spoke a few words that seemed to make my caretaker happy, but boy had a stricken look on his face. As the man made his way to the entrance he paused and looked back at me and said something. He looked at the boy who turned to me and spoke in a defeated tone. Saying that they welcomed me to their hospitality. While, I understood the words, the situation was strange and puzzling to me. It was my intention to write them down so that I could better sort out this mystery and possibly figure out how to get to Oregon and you.
Night has fallen and my hand grows weak from exertion so I must say good night, for now.
Through his generosity, the Lord has blessed me with life so that I may ensure we will, some day, meet. That will be the prayer I say as I close my eyes.
Today I was better acquainted with the young man who now is my sole source of communication. He has told me to address him by the name Jacob, as my attempt to pronounce his tribal name resulted in my caretaker and him erupting in fits of laughter. Jacob explained that the older man, who is referred to by a name that I have a somewhat better time pronouncing, has instructed him to assist in my recovery and to train me in the daily tasks that are required of each member of the settlement.
On this first day we did the simple but exhausting task of walking around the enclosure in the attempt to build my strength. I sweated and huffed like an old man, but made satisfactory progress. By the end of the day I was made to lay back upon my pallet to rest while my caretaker made us food. My weariness robbed me from any enjoyment I might have taken in my meal.
I hope to have more to report as my recovery progresses.
It is late and I am writing this by the faint light of the embers that are left of the hearth fire. My caretaker roused me with sound of her muffled cries. At first I thought she was awake, but as I approached her, I soon realized she was caught in some terrible dream. I watched her for a short spell, debating the wisdom of attempting to wake her. My nanny had often warned me against waking someone from a nightmare for fear that they would stay forever trapped in its grip. Finally, she subsided into a deeper state of slumber.
Now, awake, I look at her sleeping form and I cannot help but wonder at the cause of her strife. I am reminded of her earlier demonstration, with the sticks and its meaning. She is far too young and healthy to believe herself fractured beyond repair. It was deeply troubling to me. What could have caused her to come to such a conclusion? What could be haunting her so fiercely, that she cries out in the night. If only I knew of a way to bring her some comfort, if not heal the source of her pain as she is doing for me.
My eyes are weary, reminding me that I will not find an answer. Not tonight.
I apologize. My process of recovery has been long and tedious. Therefore, I have done what I could to spare you from the monotonous details, that is, until there was something more exciting to report. Today, I believe, qualified. I began my true work with Jacob. As you know I am not well acquainted with manual labor. However, my grandfather was hard working and as I toiled, I felt his strength and determination with me. There were many tasks in need of attention around the settlement. Trees needed to be felled and stripped of their branches for the use in making shelters. Holes needed to be dug for fire pits and various other tasks that have bled together in my memory. With Jacobs's guidance and instruction, we were able to accomplish a great deal.
Over the course of the day, my caretaker checked on my progress, examining the many minor cuts and bruises and speaking in her usual harsh manner to Jacob who, to his credit, took her abuse with good humor often sneaking me amusing looks when she was unaware. He made it very difficult to maintain a passive expression. I have taken to liking young Jacob.
Though I am still a stranger to these people, I feel that I am developing a kinship with Jacob and my caretaker. Oh, and there is my caretaker's young brother, the boy that startled on my first day of consciousness. He often joins us for meals or is set to some task around our home. While I struggle to properly pronounce my new young friend's name, Jacob was able to explain to me the meaning of his name which is quite amusing. Two stomachs, which is not to mean that he possessed an abnormal digestive system, but rather to reflect on his rather ravenous appetite. Something to which I can attest to, as he often assists me in finishing off my meals
I am sorry to leave my previous entry unfinished, but my caretaker returned and was rather cross with me. She returned with water and found me writing, took the ledger, and insisted that I assist in the preparation of a freshly killed rabbit. Having never been intimately involved in the gutting and preparation of an animal carcass, I was not prepared for the graphic nature of the process.
Suffice to say, it was an experience that left me with little of my dignity intact. Though, it seemed to be a source of great amusement for Jacob that is until my caretaker chased him from our home with harsh words and large piece of firewood.
Today was rather similar to yesterday, with the blessed absence of animal evisceration. I will write again when I am not so weary and have more interesting news to report.
Until then, I wish you sweet dreams.
While Jacob and I were busying ourselves with the menial tasks around the settlement, he finally told me how he claimed to learn English. He also speaks some Latin and French. Apparently, many of the children were taken to a Jesuit school, the purpose of which was to educate and civilize Indian children. Jacob, my caretaker, the warrior and two others were among a small group that escaped.
They do not track time and ages as we do, so I am not sure how old they were but, based on how tall Jacob said he was at the time, he couldn't have been older than six or seven. So very young to be taken from their family and everything they have ever known. I myself was the same age when my father sent me to the academy after my mother's passing. Thinking of the many trials and stifles I suffered there my mind cannot comprehend the shock that Jacob and my caretaker must have suffered in a similar institution.
When I expressed my sympathy for their hardship Jacob merely shrugged, saying that the clothing was what bothered him the most.
I suppose that I should take a moment to explain. I fear that I might offend your modesty if I go into great detail, but the traditional grab of these people are trouser-like leggings and a plain cotton shirt - if any shirt is worn at all. Jacob prefers to go without a shirt, insisting that clothing hinders movement. My clothing was destroyed in the fighting so I am forced, by necessity, to wear the leggings and shirt. I have grown used to it. I must admit as the heat of the summer sun grows in intensity, I have come to appreciate it. At times I have even been forced by the blistering heat to remove my shirt, much to the amusement of the others in the settlement.
While digging small holes in the earth (the women use them to cook) I was forced to remove my shirt and was greeted with many gasps and whoops at my pale skin. Jacob joined in with his own booming laughter. I was given a name of sorts by many of the tribe. While I cannot conceive how to pronounce it, Jacob tells me it refers to how my skin shines like the face of the moon. Needless to say, I re-donned my shirt and suffered the heat.
I find myself amused by the strange difference is their habits. The women are modest in comparison to the men, with their long loose dresses and simple un-enhanced beauty. They often let their hair hang loose and unadorned. In contrast, the men often braid their hair with decorations of bone, wood and feathers. There have been times when I have even caught Jacob preening while looking at himself in a pool of water.
I have taken to tying my hair back with a small leather thong provided by my caretaker. She dislikes that I do not braid it. Often she's attempted to braid it for me, but the feeling is uncomfortable and can make my head ache. Despite the comments of my father, I have never been one for the trappings of vanity or fashion. I am happy with comfort and simplicity.
I am told that tomorrow I will begin some new tasks. Jacob was rather guarded when he spoke of it. Which, of course, immediately sparked my curiosity, but he ended the conversation and just said I would see tomorrow.
So, I will say good night and report to you, this secret task, as soon as I am able.
After I consumed a hearty breakfast and assisted my caretaker with some small tasks around our home, Jacob arrived to collect me. Instead of heading into the settlement to do our 'secret task,' he led me into the nearby forest. He carried a large bundle slung over his back, but would not answer any inquires that I made as we walked. As we carefully picked our way through the brush, I wondered at what could be so secret that Jacob would have to take me so far away from prying eyes. Once we had reached a large clearing, carpeted in lush grass and open to sky above, Jacob set down the bundle and began to unpack it. He laid out an array of weapons. When he was done, my face must have shown a mixture of all the conflicting emotions I was feeling.
Jacob patted my shoulder, silencing my meager protest, and led me to the center of the clearing. For most of the afternoon he tossed me around the clearing, trying his best to give me instruction in hand to hand combat. I am sure it is of no surprise that I need a great deal of practice before I can hope to be Jacob's equal in such matters. When he moved to pick up a weapon, he called it a war club. I tried to insist that I did not need such advanced training, my conscience making me shy away from the instruments of killing.
I wish that I was capable of doing a glimmer of justice to Jacob's passionate and well spoken response to my hesitation. He swayed me, and I began a series of short lessons in each of the weapons he had brought along. I hope that with time and my patient teacher I will improve.
My body is weary from today's lessons, heaped atop our normal duties. I will seek my pallet.
Jacob is a patent teacher, but I am a poor student. Today I tripped over a stone while we were sparing with some small hand axes and I cut my shoulder. My caretaker was very cross with Jacob. I did my best to argue his innocence, but she stepped around me and continued to screech at poor Jacob who took it with his usual humor. Once he had said his farewell and left, she turned her scorn to me.
She did not speak, for it serves no purpose. Instead, she cleaned and bound my wound with rough hands. It always startles me that a woman of such fine and stark beauty should have such well worn hands. After my wounds were tended to, she served our simple but delicious meal. They make this strange root vegetable. It has a surprisingly hearty but sweet flavor that reminds me of chestnuts. We also had some meat. I assume it must have been the rabbit that Jacob and I caught earlier that day. The meat was delicious. I ate heartily, as it usually pleases my caretaker for me to do so. She watches me closely, as if judging my health by my appetite.
At times I catch her smiling as she observes me, I imagine that it is akin to the pride of a mother feels seeing her child growing and healing. After we finished eating we settled in for the night - which is the time that I pull out this journal to report the day's activities to you and she busies herself with some small task. Tonight she is sitting across the fire from me, her hands working with a small piece of leather and a quill needle. I am always in wonder at the many crafts that the women create amongst all their other daily tasks. No one sits idle for long here; even in leisure there is a kind of relaxing work to do.
In fact, only last night, I asked her, with a series of gestures, to instruct me in how to craft of stretching leather to make the bowls that they used for gather water. She laughed for the first time that I'd have witnessed and shook her head. When I asked Jacob about it this morning he too laughed and explained that such a task was for only women. He elaborated by saying that to do so would paint me more as female than if I were to wear a dress. I must admit that idea made me chuckle.
I explained that my intention was to help her in some way, no matter how small, to repay her for her kindness to me. For a few moments Jacob expression was clouded, as if his thoughts were elsewhere. Then, he spoke in hushed tone, saying that I should just stay with her. I intend to do so, at least until I am able to find a way to travel. I will require a great many supplies and tools to navigate through the mountains. I am still very unsure of where we are located. It is my intention to contribute as much as I can, in the hopes that I may repay their hospitality.
For now, I will say good night.
I almost forgot to tell you, I have decided to ask Jacob for assistance. I pray that once I have told him about what or rather who waits for me in Oregon, he will be moved to aid me. The prospect that I could find a way to you fills me with hope.
Excellent news! I talked with Jacob about my intentions to gather supplies to finish my journey. He was hesitant at first, but once I told him of our engagement and that you were waiting for me, his interest was piqued. He did his best to discourage my hopes, explaining the process of acquiring supplies would require planning, and concealing the supplies could prove difficult.
As we worked we began to plan and my heart filled with renewed hope.
Today, I learned a more of my caretaker. A distressing story was conveyed to me by Jacob, but let me start from the beginning to prevent any confusion.
There is a small stream that lies within the forest that is our primary source of water. Jacob and I, along with a few other men, were recruited to escorting a group of women during the relatively short walk from the settlement. I had noticed as we gathered at the edge of the settlement, preparing for the journey, there was a young woman with a small boy toddling on chubby legs near her feet. I had noticed her because she had a strikingly similar face to my caretaker, though her face shone with a easy nature despite a thick scar that stretched from the corner of her left eye to bottom of her chin. The scar is sadly a common sight in the camp; warfare is not uncommon among the people, even for the women.
However, what was noteworthy was that my caretaker had been approaching the group to join us, as she often finds reasons to be nearby whenever I venture out of our home to work with Jacob. I hadn't noticed her approach until Jacob made the grunted exhale which was his usual greeting for her. I turned in the direction of his gaze to wave a greeting; she had just nodded at Jacob in acknowledgment when her head turned. I saw that she was looking at the girl who had just been joined by the warrior who'd attacked me earlier. He was holding the scared woman in a familiar and intimate manner, the small boy in his free arm. They painted a clear portrait of a happy family. Confused, I turned to see my caretaker's back as she stalked back towards our home, her bowl forgotten on the ground. I quickly grabbed it, with the intention to pursue her. Jacob's hand on my arm stopped me and immediately I asked him to explain.
He shook his head and indicated that we would talk more, later. Once our group was assembled and we headed out, Jacob and I took the rear of the group while two other warriors lead the party. Jacob gave me a slight nod and we slowed our pace, dropping us back enough from the group. Then he began to explain the situation.
As I had suspected my caretaker and Longknife, the warrior had been attached in the past, but she was unable to bear his children. As is customary, Longknife opted to take another wife, my caretaker's cousin, and they quickly conceived the young boy that I saw. Upon the birth of the child my caretaker requested that her father rescind the union and he did so, placing her in the care of her brother, Twostomachs whose home we were occupying. This news was quite a surprise. The young boy that often spent nights and days playing around our home, and pestering my caretaker, was actually the master of the home I had been calling my own.
My heart went out for my caretaker's unfortunate situation. To not only be severed from your love but to see them in the arms of another is a hell I hope to never experience.
We have begun to dismantle the settlement in preparation to move to the summer hunting grounds. Jacob tells me this is a traditional journey. There are many songs and joyful cheers around the settlement as the many dwellings are dismantled and packed into sleds made from large branches that have been harnessed to the horses. Through, Jacob's generosity we've acquired a mare. She will carry our dwelling and most of our possessions on the journey. My caretaker was in an uncharacteristically jovial mood when I presented her with the horse. She and Twostomachs petted and preened over the horse. The mare bore the attention with a kind pride that only horses can. As we prepared our sled, my caretaker took great care in showing me how to properly secure the sled to the horse without harming the beast or disrupting the sled.
I am always surprised by the hard calluses on her hands; for such a beautiful woman she has worked very hard through her life. The knowledge of her hardships only increases my sympathy toward her, though she is far from the type of person to accept such emotions. I often try to entreat her to rest, while Jacob, her brother and I make the appropriate arrangements for the journey, but she is physically unable to sit still for more than a few moments before she has to jump in and instruct us in the proper manner to secure a tie or pack meat.
I cannot help but smile at her stern, heavy-handed instruction. She is a grave soul, but I know that her intentions are pure and kind. Though, I feel, her fiery temperament will push Jacob's patience to its limits. I did my best to distract him with well-intentioned jests about how we would be lost in even the most minor task without my caretaker's careful guidance. My attempt at humor was poor, but my friend is indulgent and he laughed.
Once, we'd prepared our dwelling, we set up a temporary camp. Jacob has told me that this is how we will live as we travel towards the plains. We will sleep in the open and follow the herds of buffalo, when we see them.
We are dousing the fire and preparing for sleep. I will try to write more, when I can.
It is dusk, I am one of an only a few who are awake. I thought that I would utilize the dim morning light and the moment of solitary reflection to share a strange new development. As we were bedding down for the night, my caretaker left our little campsite for a short time and Jacob seized the moment to ask if he could join me on my journey. I was surprised, but immediately agreed. I will be glad to have his company and I am sure his skills and good humor will make the journey all the more tolerable.
I am, however, puzzled by his sudden request. Everything that I have seen would indicate that he leads an almost privilege life, in comparison to some of the other young men his age. He maintains his own dwelling and owns a fair amount of physical possessions, when are considered a sign of status among the people.
I must go. The others are beginning to stir.
We have traveled for several days. Our pace has been leisurely as we scout for buffalo and other game to hunt or trap. We've found some game during our trek, though no buffalo has been spotted. Jacob has shared his concern, that their numbers are not what they once were. He said, that he'd heard that the white men have been killing too many and their numbers may not recover. Though, he tells me, that many among the people insist that the buffalo have been here since the beginning and will be here long after we are all dust. I can't help but agree with that assessment. Surely the lord can accommodate for enough animals to fulfill the needs of everyone.
I have grown accustom to sleeping in the open air, there's a strange comforting feeling to it. The cool grass makes a welcome bed, after the long days of walking under the hot summer sun. I noticed today that my skin, that had at first been pink and tender from extended exposure to the sun, has grown darker, though not nearly as dark as my companions. Jacob says that my caretaker compared the shade to that of the dried grass of the plains. We are still traveling in lush green fields, so I cannot judge her assessment fairly.
Jacob tells me that we should be seeing other groups soon. Apparently, we shall be joining a large celebration of sorts. Several bands, as he calls them, more than he could count on his hands, will join us on the plains, for the hunt. He says that many other activities will take place. I am curious to see the other groups and these activities.
Though, with each day, I have noticed that my caretaker has grown anxious. She often frets over me a great deal more, before I leave our camp each morning. She has even incited loud raging arguments with Jacob. When I ask him their cause and subject, he shakes his head and insisted that she is just being silly. A word that I would never apply to her, but Jacob has even become cross with me, when I have pressed the matter.
Two more groups have joined us, while the features a similar, I can see many differences among these people. They were greeted with many friendly greetings, though those were mostly on the part of women. The men exchanged some stiff nods and a few friendly shoulder pats.
However, I was reminded that I am still an outsider to these people. When a warrior approached me, shoving me to the ground aggressively and began shouting. Jacob and Bloodface, the other warrior that I met on my first day, appeared if by the grace of God. Jacob placed himself between me and the angry warrior, speaking in a calming tone. I assumed explaining that I was a friend. Bloodface lacked grace and patience, which I am to understand, is rather characteristic of his usual conduct.
When the warrior shook off the entreaties and turned his anger on Jacob, Bloodface charged. I watched in a mild horror, much like the others that had gathered to see the commotion as Bloodface began to beat the other man, mercilessly. Jacob immediately wrestled Bloodface off of his victim, and was promptly attacked for his efforts.
As Bloodface turned on Jacob, I screamed in shock, but my warning was unnecessary. Jacob deflected Bloodface's fists and moving with a swiftness I had never seen, his forehead colliding with Bloodface's nose, with a wet crack. The look of shock on Bloodface's face would have been comical, if it hadn't been followed by a gush of blood from his broken nose. I've never seen a grown man pass out. It's a disturbing sight, as if a marionette's stings have been cut. He fell to the ground with a heavy thud.
Since this incident, most keep a respectable distance from me. I am being called to eat, I must go. I will report more, soon.
We arrived at the settlement this morning and have toiled most of the day setting up our dwellings and getting settled. There is still much to be done, but I wanted to note my first impression of the settlement, before it is diminished by time.
We rose early this morning, Jacob told me that scouts had returned, saying that we were very close. The morning light was still dim as we set out, the air still held a slight chill, and I tried to stay close to my caretaker, but soon was pulled away by Twostomachs, his elation was quite a sight to behold. I looked to my caretaker who nodded and waved for me to go. I did my best to keep up with the boy, as we weaved through the other travelers, horse and their burdens. I realized that he was pulling me to the front of the group, just as we crested a small hill and the sun broke from the clouds.
They were set out in rows, like crops, spreading out across the pale gold grass of the plains. The size of this gathering dwarfed our small band by a hundred fold, maybe more. Twostomachs howled with delight, jumping and kicking the air as he continued on towards the settlement, leaving me to stand as I was struck dumb by the sight.
I must go. There is still a great deal of work left to do.
We rode out across the sweeping plains. In all my life I have never seen anything like this; the horizon stretched to the end of the world, or so it seemed. As we rode along, the other men hummed along to a wordless tune that they all seemed to know. I picked it up and quickly joined in. I caught Jacob's eye; he smirked at me but said nothing. Longknife caught sight of game and signaled us to slow our mounts to a trot. Jacob had told me of the great rolling groups of buffalo, how the earth would shake as they passed, but in my mind I never imagined something as vast and sprawling as what I saw. The golden landscape was turned black with them, crowded so close that my eyes could not distinguish one beast from the next until the outer rim of the herd. We dismounted and the younger boys took the reins as we continued on foot. After several yards, Longknife dropped to his belly and we all followed suit.
As we crawled closer I assumed that we would come to a stop a few yards away, but Longknife kept crawling, leading us into the edge of the herd. We were close enough, that I could smell the animals. The smell of grassy manure filled my nose, but I did as Jacob had taught me and breathed through my mouth, quietly, as I waited for the signal. They used a series of hand signals that, frankly, were far easier for me to comprehend than their spoken language. We remained there, on our bellies, crouched amongst the large beasts, waiting for a signal.
When my body began to grow weary with the unreleased tension, I saw the sign. Longknife indicated two beasts that our pre-established groups were to pursue. Bloodface was the head of our group. As Jacob and I turned to watch for his command I said a silent prayer that his patience with hunting would not be as short as it was with everything else. Whether it was by the grace of god, or his focused determination to bring back our prize, Bloodface rivaled Longknife steady calm as he lead us to our position and had us wait for the final signal.
Jacob had been very clear on a few points: I should keep my eyes on our leader at all times, I should stay aware of the rest of the hunting party, and I should avoid injury at all cost. I had assumed that the last part was specifically for me, as I am sure he would be one charged with returning me to my caretaker - who would be far from pleased if I were harmed. So I watched and waited my rifle spear at the ready. Bloodface gave the signal and he and I sprung up from the grass with whoops and hollering, driving the beast right into the sights of several of our fellow warriors, their rifles at the ready. The sounds of gunshots and smoke exploded in the closed area, followed by the pained bellows of the fallen animals. The cheer went up immediately, but was soon drowned out but the roll of thunder. I was captivated by the sight of the fleeing herd, like large rolling waves of black and brown water flowing across the prairie.
We arrived back at the settlement just as the sun was beginning to set, our prizes being dragged behind our horses. The whole settlement gathered to see us. As it turned out, we were the first hunting party to find and successfully catch buffalo.
Longknife jumped off his mount and was greeted lovingly by his wife and child, as were many of the warriors. I naturally scanned the crowd, looking for a familiar face and was disappointed when I did not see my caretaker. Jacob pulled me toward the quickly gathered group of warriors that were celebrating. I smiled and cheered with them, but I could not share the entirety of their joy, my mind was too distracted as I worried after my caretaker. I slipped away as soon as was appropriate, though Jacob told me that I should return. That there was much more celebrating that I should participate. As I stalked away I was caught by a hand that I thought was Jacob's, but as I turned I was face to face with the scared beauty of my caretaker's cousin. Her smile was blinding, despite her marred as the delicate features of her face. She placed a large cut of buffalo into my arms and pushed me toward my home. I looked at the meat and then to her face, but she indicated that I go, her face spread in a contented-looking smile. Confused, I thanked her and headed home.
I made my way quickly to our home, set as it was before at the edge of the camp and, as I approached, I saw the door flap was drawn closed. The sight only increasing my concern; I pulled it back and went inside. She was leaned over the small fire, starting it for the night. She looked up, the kindling fire casting a menacing shadow across her face. I set down the meat near where she usually prepared our food and went to check on her, kneeling next to her and reaching out to touch her face. She flinched back and turned away, but I stopped her and she looked back at me, a dark bruise swelling up on her cheekbone. Rage tore through me at the sight of the mark, but she pushed my hand away as if to make light of the injury. I insisted on examining her closely, but she pushed me back forcefully and stood. I looked up at her, trying to express my confusion in my face, but she seemed to not see me and went about minor chores around the enclosure. I sat there awhile, time passing by as she tried to find things with which to busy herself and not look at me. So I finally left, though I laid a hand on her shoulder trying to reassure her in some way before I went.
I found Jacob with the other warriors dancing, wrestling and feasting on our prize. While I did my best to enjoy their rivalry I could not help but dwell on what I had seen, and finally inquired to Jacob about it. He looked as puzzled as I felt and he spoke to one of the women that were weaving through the groups of men, passing out food. She hesitated before answering, her eyes glancing at me every few minutes as she spoke and then quickly moved on. I looked to Jacob for a translation, but he was silent, his face drawn closed. I pestered him but he only sighed as if he was unsure what to say.
Before I could badger him again to answer me, he began to explain that the manner, with which my caretaker is allowed to conduct herself, is unique to their people, an indulgence in some people's opinion. He explained that she has been instructed on more than one occasion to conduct herself in a more demure manner while around other groups. He stood as he continued speaking, telling me that my caretaker had an encounter with one of the warriors from another group. As we both rose to our feet, Longknife and Bloodface immediately joined us. I watched as Jacob's eyes scanned the group around us and knew that he must be looking for the warrior. I took my place as his back, shoulder to shoulder with the others, and then Jacob was moving swiftly through the gathered groups to a large group of laughing warriors. He strode up to what had to be one of the largest men I had ever seen. A hulking figure that dwarfed the other men gathered around him. He made Jacob look like a small child, an impressive feat in its own right.
Jacob addressed the warrior with a short bark-like command. The warrior looked up, his face smiling, and greeted Jacob with a nod. Jacob spoke in short angry words, the warrior's eyes widened with mild shock and, once Jacob had finished, he laughed loudly. He replied between chuckling, gesturing at me as if making some explanation for his actions. He did not make it too far before Jacob struck. He collided with the chest of the warrior, sending them both crashing to the ground. Longknife and Bloodface leaped onto the warrior's laughing companions and I followed suit, jumping atop a young warrior about my height. I pounded his face with my fists, screaming a war cry, letting out all the seething anger I felt at the sight of my caretaker's injury. Soon enough, I was being pulled back; the young warrior I had attacked was battered and unconscious. Jacob was the one at my back, arms around my waist, pulling me to my feet. I surveyed the area. The large warrior's face was covered in blood - the torrent was still streaming from his now crooked nose. He had a companion on each arm helping him limp away. I turned to my companions and found a few bruises, and a split lip, belonging to Bloodface. Their faces were spread in wide smiles, as was my own. We laughed and exchanged hearty pats on the shoulder and back.
I have taken a moment from the festivities to relate this story to you. I am told that we will be participating in some ceremonies within a strange and new structure that we raised upon arriving. My curiosity is warring with my trepidation concerning what these ceremonies will entail.
Jacob told me to drink and eat heartily tonight as we may have to go without as part of the ceremonies. In the past, such an idea would have concerned me but now, with all that I have accomplished, I feel confident that I will make Jacob and the leader proud - despite my caretaker's apparently dismay.
She is buzzing about our small home, attempting to feed me more and braiding my hair. I had hoped the indulgence would calm her concern, but as she works on my hair and can see her mouth is pulled tight. I will say good night and try to attempt to soothe her worries.
I hope to have more to report to you in the morning.
Edward set the ledger down upon the soft piece of hide and wrapped it carefully before placing it beneath his bed. He turned and stood, ready to join the other men. A smile spread across his lips as he watched his caretaker move a pile of blankets to her bed only to pick them up again and place them back where she had picked them up. She moved with purpose, her face neutral, though she was clearly avoiding looking in his direction. Such obvious distress and concern charmed him. He walked to her, placing a hand on her shoulder, trying to let her know that the pretense was not having its desired effect. She looked at him and her dark eyes glistening slightly.
"Oh, no. Please do not worry yourself so, not for me." He placed a hand on either side of her face and she closed her eyes. Feeling a strange tightness in his chest at her uncharacteristic display of emotion, he pulled her into his arms. "There is no need to worry. I will make you proud." It was a whisper. Though he knew she could not understand him, he felt compelled to make the promise. They stayed that way for a moment when there was a commotion at the entrance of the tipi. She pulled free of his hold and returned to her task as her younger brother burst in and grabbed Edward's wrist. Edward laughed at Twostomachs' enthusiasm, but allowed himself to be pulled away, sparing a glance behind him, but he only saw her back.
The settlement was abuzz with excitement. Edward could feel his own body alive with anticipation at what the night would hold. He was so distracted, that they were standing before Jacob's dwelling before he was even aware of it. The older man stood next to the entrance, his gray and black hair sparkling in the waning sunlight.
"Omachatayo," the older man greeted Edward, using the same name that Bloodface had given him after their fight with the warriors. Jacob had said it had to do with some sound he had made during the fight. Edward liked how it sounded and the way that the others so quickly began to use it to greet him around the settlement.
"Nínna," Edward greeted the older man with the name that Jacob often used when referring to the leader. The Nínna gave Edward a considering look, as Jacob emerged from the tipi to stand beside him. Nínna turned his gaze to Jacob, who muttered something in their language and shrugged. Edward grew concerned that he'd offended the older man, but Nínna began to chuckle and pat him on the shoulder. Edward sighed in relief as the older man walked away, his shoulders still jiggling with humor as he gave Twostomachs' head a gentle pat as he passed. The young boy was giving Edward a look of shock, but quickly ran off, when Jacob gestured for him to leave.
"Come here," Jacob grabbed his arm to pull him inside his tipi. The interior was dark, as no fire was lit. The only light was coming from the smoke hole at the top of the tipi.
"What is it?" Edward blinked, his eyes trying to adjust to the lack of light as Jacob shushed him.
"We should go in the morning, before first light." Jacob spoke in a harsh whisper, which struck Edward as strange since it was unlikely that anyone would know what they were talking about.
"Why?" He asked confused by Jacob's sudden desire to leave, after putting off their journey for so long.
"Everyone will be asleep after the ceremonies. Few will be watching to see us leave." Jacob gave him an irritated look. Edward was struck with the sudden image of his caretaker's worried expression; his throat seemed to close as guilt gripped him
"I don't know?" Edward croaked around the lump in his throat as his mind raced. What would his caretaker do, if she found he was gone? Would it hurt her? Or would she worry that something untord had happened during the ceremonies? Would she quarrel with one of the elders or warriors?
"Is something wrong?" Jacob asked, giving him a suspicious look.
"No, I just think that we should wait." Edward knew that if they could just get away from the larger group, if it was just their small band, his caretaker would be safer. She would have her family and the community to protect her.
"Fine, we will wait." Jacob watched him for a second and the shook his head. He grabbed two small satchels, handing one to Edward and pulled them out of the tipi. Edward followed Jacob as he studied the strange bag. It looked to be made out of a leather hide and was decorated with beads and painted in intricate designs. There was a large tooth set at the front of the bag that acted as a type of button that kept the main flap fastened in place. Edward began to slip the flap off of the tooth when Jacob stopped him, placing his hand over the bag.
"Just place it around your neck; I will explain later." Jacob watches Edward slip the loop around his neck and then begins to lead the way, again. Soon they approach one a large gathering. Edward scans the faces of the other young men and recognizes some warriors among the group.
"Will Longknife and Bloodface be joining us?" Edward asks as he continues searching hoping to see familiar faces in the gathering of men. Jacob gives a strange cough and shakes his head. Edward takes Jacob's strange response to indicate that he should cease he questions. As they wait, he sees the strange dome-shaped hunt that was covered with thick pieces of hide and fur that had constructed a few days earlier. Set in front of it is a short poll, with what looked to be an animal skull set atop it and then further in front of it lay a large fire pit. Edward is curious about what the purpose of the hut is and what the next few days will hold for them, but he keeps silent and choosing to study the skull. Despite its small size, a quarter of the size of man's head, the skull made Edward uneasy, he supposed that he could attribute his feelings the a natural reaction to the animal's sizable teeth that tapered it a point. Like knives. Something about the teeth seemed familiar and after a few moments' Edward realized that they were similar to the tooth attached to bag that Jacob had given him.
As Edward wonders at what the animal could the skull have belonged to he noticed a small group of warriors approach Jacob. Edward immediately tensed, assuming a confrontation was about to occur, but Jacob set a hand on his shoulder and he relaxed as the group came to stop in front of them. Though they did not speak, there seemed to be some purpose to their presence as they stared at Jacob, who only gave them a stern expression. One warrior, Edward assumed must be the leader of the group, nodded at Jacob, who returned the gesture and then the group moved on. Edward watched them go, letting go the last of his tension and feeling frustrated with his ignorance.
"Tsá kitánikkoo?" A withered old man dressed in a wolf skin addressed Jacob.
"Ómahkapi'si," Jacob said his name and the old man waved him toward the hut. Jacob lightly tapped Edward's arm and motioned him to follow. As they walk to the tent, Edward can't help but noticed the sidelong glares he receives as the bend down to enter the hut. Smoke and hot air hits him like a smack to the face. He stifles his cough, relieved that Jacob too is coughing and wiping at his watering eyes.
"Ikimópii," the old man spoke in a formal tone as he gestured for Jacob to sit. Jacob took a seat, and pulled Edward down to sit beside him. Edward squinted as he looked around the dim interior, he could make out several figures but details were obscured. A strange kind of rhythmic speaking had sprung up around them, the thick heat and moisture in the air seemed to weight down his lungs. He felt a light touch on her hand and looked at Jacob who placed a hand over his eyes. Edward closed his eyes as he assumed he was being instructed and waited.
Sweat clung to his skin making him feel chilled despite the suffocating heat. He opened his eyes, but it did little to help him see. Smoke and shadows swirled in front of his eyes, making his thoughts as murky as his vision. A silhouette began to solidify and as he strained to focus, figure crystallized into his mother. She was smiling down at a small child cradled in her arms. Tears began to sting his eyes as he silently wished he could talk to her, and then she looked up at him and smiled. Her face bleeds into that of his caretaker. The sad down turn of her mouth made him feel more weight upon his chest. Then he heard the soft drumming of hooves and the cry of horses. His muscles tensed and he fought the urge to move, to jump to his feet. He looked around the tent at the others around him. They moved and swayed to the rhythm that was reverberating off his spine, making him move with them.
He felt eyes on him and turned to see large golden eyes staring back in his own. The low growl making him vibrate with the fear and exhilaration crawling across his skin in a wave of a thousand icy pin pricks. His hands clawed at the dirt floor, but he did not run. The cat looked at him, its muzzle so close he could feel the heat of its breath. He was not breathing - just staring at the golden eye, feeling…exposed. A moment of recognition passes through him, like the smoke, into his lungs, with a tickling itch it seemed to call forth something massive, from deep within him and he opened his mouth.
The scream was loud and guttural as it tore from his throat, riding his body with each wave as it flowed through him.
Savage fires consume the broken remains of wagons scattered around me as it fills the air with thick smoke, burning my eyes and lungs. I cough and try to blink through tears to navigate the uneven terrain only to stumble over something soft. I look down at the crumpled form that was once a living being. A woman, her face is fixed in a look of shock, eyes and mouth frozen open. Her chest is a gaping ruin of blood and gore. I gag and look away. Frantic to flee, the chaos of fighting men and screaming women, that is suddenly all around me.
"Father!" I hear a familiar voice screaming a short distance from me. I search for the source and find, Michael Newton. He is wrestling with a warrior, for possession of his rifle. I begin to move, clumsily making my way towards him. When, I see a dark hand seizes him from behind, grabbing a fist full of his hair and pulls his head back, just as a knife blade slides beneath his chin. His throat opens, like a red mouth spilling a ruby waterfall over his chest.
I watch in horror as my young friend's body falls lifeless to the ground and my will to move leaves me. I stand in the center of hell, trembling and crying for the light of god as my legs threaten to give out. The urge to lie down and give into death overcomes me as I begin to pray that at least one soul will remember me in a kind like. The memory of Isabella's kindness turns cruel in my mind, as I realize she's a heaven that I will never see and never deserved. The voice of my father stabs at my head;
"Weakness is your natural state, boy. You must strive to overcome it, if you ever hope to become a man."
Lost in my thoughts, I do not see danger until a scream rises up behind me. Panic seizes me as skull shattering scream rises up behind me. As I twist to see its source, someone slams into me, our combined weight driving me to the ground. I land hard on my shoulder. The impact jars me for only a second, just long enough for me to realize that I'm under attack. Fear and desperation shoot through my body, filling me with strength and drives to turn on my attacker and began to fight back.
Using my newfound strength, I shift my weight, rolling our tangled bodies over the uneven ground and pin my attacker on the ground beneath me. I trap his arms that are clutching his rifle between our bodies, and grab the barrel. One hard yank frees the weapon from his grip, allowing me to see my attacker's face. Under the red and white paint, is a boy, but all I can see the face of young Michael Newton. The look of shock on my young friend's face as his life was stolen away, but one of these savages. I see the satisfied look on the face of the warrior that had taken his life.
Rage surges through me, drowning logic and reason and I bring down the butt of the rifle on the boy's face, with all of the strength that I have left in me. I scream, like a crazed animal. Over and over, I slam it down, until the wood of the rifle splintered and cut into my hand. Blood splashes my face, the boy's face is a wet ruin.
I do not stop, until I hear a strange popping sounded accompanies by a hot pain burns through the side of my skull. Shocked and off balance, I rise up to touch my temple, where the pain was the sharpest. I draw my hand away to see fresh blood shinning bright in the fire light, dripping from my fingers.
Panic and nausea wash over me as my eyesight starts to dim. All I could think is that I deserve this that I was meant to end this way. I choked out a sob of regret as the darkness overtakes me.
I burst through the ten flaps into the cold night. Swallowing air in large gulps as I crawl along the ground, my hands like claws. Tears stream down my face as the first wave of nausea slams into me and I empty myself onto the ground. I stay crouched on my hands and knees, part of me still screaming, in my head. I want to escape the truth of what I did. I kept it from Isabella in the hopes that it would fade away with time, but I was being naive. I took a boy's life and worse still, up to the moment. I had never felt more alive.
As a child, my grandfather regaled me with tales of the glorious battlefield. He was only a few years my senior when he fought in the war for independence, but he recalled with such clarity the surety and pride he'd felt as he fought. He never spoke of the bowel shaking fear that seizes you at the sight of carnage. The horror of seeing bodies scatter across the ground like rotten fruit, or the soul rending pain that you feel as you watch a friend's life spill onto the ground, in a hot red streak. Battle isn't glorious it is equal parts of chaos, panic, and repulsion.
I sit back on my heels and look to the sky, and stare at the cold pale face of the moon, a new truth smolders within me. I can still feel the euphoria - from having wrestled my life from the jaws of death by my own will. My hands are still dirty with the stain of that guilty pride. Yet, even as my heart grieves for the life that I took, I feel grateful for gift of strength and freedom from self-doubt that it has granted me.
I laugh the startling sound erupting from me before I even understand its meaning. My mind turns back to all the years that I have carried the weight of my father's expectations. My heartbreak of his disappointment and anxiety over being incapable of shouldering the responsibility of my inheritance seems so…small. Their insignificance made unmistakably clear in the face of the wide world that spreads out before me, now.
I am a warrior. I've shed blood in battle and stood beside my brothers, in defense of my people. I've known fear and fought past it. I've felt the weight of a weapon in my hand and posses the knowledge of how to wield it. I know the satisfaction that can only come after a long day of hard work under the summer sun. My muscles reassure of the truth of my new strength. I am not a boy; I am not my father's son. I stand and feel the truth settle into my bones.
A soft touch on my arm rouses my attention. I turn to see my caretaker's dark eyes staring at me, as a gentle night breeze that I hadn't even noticed toys with her loose hair. My new knowledge swells within me, and I wish that I could share it with her, to thank her for the part that she's played in its birth. I smile and reach out to her, as I struggle with how to communicate the enormity of the feelings within me. Like trying to convey the majesty of Heaven with a wild flower.
I sway slightly, drunk with my new found joy and she places strong hands at my waist, to help me. A smile touches her lips and I reach out to touch her there, as if to reassure myself that it is real. She looks at me, her eyebrows furrowed in confusion that turns to concern as she grasps my face between her warm hands.
"I am just happy, for first time in my life." I say it, forgetting that she doesn't understand as I take hold of her wrists and gently pull them away. I step back, and give her one last smile before I return to the sweat lodge. I duck back under the flap and take my seat.
"Iimahkáyii," Jacob mutters the word, as he writhes on the ground beside me. Concerned I look up and see Nínna looking at me. I motion to Jacob and Nínna just nods, I assume that to mean that what is happening with Jacob is normal and I nod. Then, I close my eyes and began to inhale the smoke once more.
I awake slowly, the dark humid air keeping sleep close to my eyes, as I begin to move my stiff muscles. The tent is dark despite the slit of sunlight streaming into my sore eyes. As I crawl towards the light, trying to avoid touching any of the sleeping figures in my path. My caretaker suddenly appears at the entrance, her eyes wide and hands gesturing frantically. I stand on shaky legs and carefully step out into the bright morning. She grabs my wrist and pulls me across the settlement, towards our home.
Once inside she gestures wildly towards my pallet. I stare at it, confused, and then I noticed that all the covers had been thrown aside. Panic seizes me as I go to my knees, and feel for the ledger that is no longer there. I feel nothing but cold hard earth beneath my fingertips and I can think is Jacob.
"Ómahkapi'si," my caretaker speaks Jacob's name as if she can hear my thoughts. I look at her as a chill runs through me. My mind screaming in protest as I run past her towards Jacobs home.
Even before I throw back the entrance flap I know that he is gone, along with all the supplies that we carefully collected for my journey. I turned back on his empty home to see her waiting for me, her eyes full of questions that I had no answers for. My feet were moving before I even truly knew where I was going. I reached the small herd of horses and was throwing a riding blanket atop one, when someone grabbed my arm. I looked to meet Longknife's angry gaze.
"Ómahkapi'si," my caretaker said Jacob's name again as she seizes his arm. "Iyíístapokska'siw!" her frantic tone made the urgency of the situation clear. Bloodface's released me, his face plainly showing his shock is plain. I met his gaze, trying to convey to him my appreciation. He seems to understand me as nods and steps back. As I am about to dig my heels into the flanks of my mount, I feel a hand on my arm. Before I can protest my caretaker pulls herself up to sit behind me. I just wait as she adjusts herself, and slides her arms around my waist. I kick hard and we take off at a run, leaving the settlement behind us.
I know that he is heading southwest, but as I check the sun and land markers, I wonder what could have changed since our discussion the day before. While I do not wholly under his reasoning, I know that he is heading to Oregon - to Isabella.
After several tiring hours of riding, we reach the edge of a forest that I recognize from our original journey. We dismount and I tie up the horse. My caretaker begins to follow me and I set a heavy hand on her shoulder.
"I cannot be responsible for anything happening to you." I look into her dark eyes, trying to will her to comply. She tries to move forward anyway, shaking her head. Acting on impulse, I take hold of her shoulders and pull her close, pressing my lips to the stern line of her mouth. The chaste contact quickly turns heated as she opens her mouth. Her arms wrap around my neck, and she pulls me into her body. Strange new emotions and cravings take hold of me, as if the urgency of her opening mouth and skillful tongue summon them forth. I tremble before the strength of my own reaction, hot air slips between our lips as she moans into my mouth.
Awareness suddenly takes hold of me, as I pulled her hands from my neck and back away. Shame rose in me as heat flooded my face. As her hands to her mouth, her eyes wide and her face flushing crimson beneath her dark complexion. Her own embarrassment at her unguarded reaction, shames me further. My chest grows painfully heavy as I look at her, suddenly so aware of her regard.
"Stay here!" I try to sound firm, though my eyes are blurring as I gesture for her to stay. She nods, her fingers still on her lips, the unshed tear making her eyes look large and hopeful. I realize as I press a kiss to her forehead. How much of a fool he have I been for not seeing this sooner? As I pull away from her I touch her face, a light slide of fingers against her cheek, a weak attempt at an apology before I turn to the thickly shadowed forest.
Jacob trained me well - either that or his path is sloppy. It looks as though someone tore through the foliage like an angry grizzly bear. As I follow the path, careful to avoid the broken branches and brush, I check the sky to make sure I was still headed southwest. I duck and dash as fast as my feet will carry me. The natural sounds of the woods echoing in my ears, driving me deeper into the trees. Searching for any indication that I might have caught up with Jacob. Then I hear a strange sound. I slow my approach, trying to focus on the sounds, to close in on them. Slowing to a careful pace, the sounds take on a new clarity. It is not Jacob. It is white men. I am struck for a moment by the thought. White men.
"Damn it, Earl! I thought you said you knew this area!" A coarse voice cuts through the peace of the forest as I crawl through the brush, getting closer to see two men arguing. They smell of alcohol, gun powder and sweat. The scents sting my nose, making me grimace.
"I told you, we need turn back toward the mountains, head west." The larger of the two men grumbles as he spit on the ground. A deep brown liquid stains the emerald blades of grass and my lip curls in disgust. The two men continue to argue and point at the mountains, debating on the best course of action. I stayed crouched trying to figure out the best route around them. I finally settle on turning back and riding south for awhile before trying to find Jacob's trail.
Suddenly, the brush a few yards away comes alive with movement as a lanky man emerges, dragging a tall struggling form with him. His discolored teeth shine dully in a parody of a smile as he drags my caretaker in his dirty stain arm, a knife at her throat. To her credit, she thrashes, legs kicking the air as she screams and fights like a wild horse.
I rise into view, my body poised and ready. My mind is momentarily filled with the vision of golden eyes bleeding to red. The men are not ready. I burst through the forest, my screaming war cry tearing free of my throat. The largest man is the first to fall, his skull collapsing with a loud crack, beneath the down swing of my war club. Not wasting the momentum, I twisted my body, continuing the swing as I cast the club at the back of the thinner man. The club hits with a sickening crack, cutting short the man's strangled cry, his body collapses limply into the grass.
The lean white man holding my caretaker shakes and sputters threats. I close the distance without hesitation, though I only have my small knife. One quick lunge and the blade open his arm holding my caretaker, leaving a red gaping wound. The man releases her as he howls like a wounded dog and I turn to strike again. A swift slash across his throat sent blood spattering across my face, in a hot spray, as the man falls to the ground with a dull thud.
My breath and heart race as I stand there a moment.
"Omachatayo," my caretaker says my name in a hushed voice. I lower my gaze and my eyes fix to the bright smear of blood on her mouth from a small split in her lip. I look her over and spot the new swelling where the dead man held her, leaving new bruises on her throat. Her wounded mouth spread in a wide smile as she stares up at me, and I return her smile, despite the surge of sorrow that rises up as my rage bleeds away. I reach out my hand and her warm palm slides into mine as I pull her into my arms. I hold her tight, pressing my face into her hair, as my heart thunders.
We return to the settlement. I cannot in good conscience continue on with my caretaker and with my head clear, I realize that in order to properly track Jacob's path, I will need supplies. Though, I worry that the trail was made by the white men and not Jacob. I push that thought away, as I focus on my immediate need.
I walk with purpose, through the settlement. People move from my path, whispering amongst themselves and I assume news of Jacob's absence has spread. Once I reach Nínna's home, I duck inside and find the older man engaged in a passionate conversation with Longknife. I hesitate, crouched in the entrance, not wanting to disrespect either man, with my sudden presence. They look up, Longknife continues to whisper in an anxious tone.
"Píít!" Nínna raises his hand, waving me forward and Longknife went silent, giving me an angry look.
"Nínna," I began, the enormity of all that had happened that morning, making my voice unsteady.
"Imitááwa!" Longknife hisses and surges towards me. I stepped back, understanding that I made some error.
"Innísttoana," Nínna shouts, his expression uncharacteristically angry.
"Síkimiwano'tsísi?" Longknife's confusion is blatant as he looks back at Nínna. The older man only shakes his head and motions Longknife to step back, which he does. Nínna motions with his hand, for me to resume. I relax my stance, take a breath, and continue.
"It is about Jacob, I mean Ómahkapi'si." I struggle to pronounce Jacob's name. "He left." I make rudimentary gestures with my hands, hoping that they understand. "I followed, but I need supplies to continue on." I have no gestures left in me to aid in my communication. Though, I am confident that they are beginning to understand my meaning. Nínna nods and Longknife smiles.
"Síkimiwano'tsísi," my caretaker's voice cut through the calm of the small enclosure. I turned to see as she bursts into the conversation, her eyes wide, face flush.
"Míístapáaatoot annóma!" Longknife shouts, he gestures to the entrance behind her, obviously instructing her to leave.
"Sa," she spits the word at him. His face darkens as he begins to move towards her. A spark of rage comes to life inside me, at the sight of his aggression towards her.
"No," I growl the word as I stand, placing myself in front of my caretaker.
"Ánnia!" Nínna's voice stops everyone. I stand my ground, as I wait for Longknife to back down. He reluctantly steps back a few paces and I relax my posture, but remain standing.
"Niipáaakiiwa, mató." Nínna speaks my caretaker's name in a gentle tone that I often hear the men use with skittish horses. Whatever attempt at reason he may have planned is lost as my caretaker's face hardens.
"Sa!" She shook her head. I turn and try to touch, to comfort her, but she pushes past me and addresses the other men, tears starting to leak from her eye. "Ikkámssawohkokkiiniki…" her voice cracks as Nínna's face darkens with a look could not read.
"Tell her to leave." Longknife speaks in a stilted manner, his face tight as if he were in pain. At first I cannot comprehend that Longknife is speaking. My ears are so unaccustomed to hearing English words from anyone but Jacob.
"I cannot speak..." The words die on my lips as I begin to understand the truth that I had been, up until this point, been too ignorant to see. Had not Jacob told me, that both Longknife and my caretaker had also attended the Jesuit school? It would stand to reason that they had learned English, even if they chose not to speak the language. As I look at my caretaker, my mind struggles with the alteration to my reality. Her eyes are locked on Longknife, hate like heat radiating off and filling the air with tension. Why? I want to ask, but the thought was cut short as Longknife speaks again.
"Tell her to leave! She hears you, only. If others hear..." He does not need to say more. I still remember the fight that had started because a warrior from another band had taken exception to my caretaker's defiant manner. She inhales, like she was preparing to speak, but I shake my head.
"Leave." My voice was surprisingly clear and strong, considering how deeply it pains me to dismiss her this way. She grows silent, her gaze meeting mine for a second before her eyes quickly drop to the ground. As she turns to leave, her shoulders lower as if all the air left her body.
After a silent moment, Nínna began to speak.
"Ómahkapi'si is following a new path." Longknife translates, speaking overtop of the old man.
"Yes, he is headed to the Oregon territory, I believe. Though, I do not know why. It was our intention that he assists me, in my journey." I feel the guilt well up in me as I confess. They have given me nothing but generosity and I have plotted to runaway. Nínna's eyebrow raises at my words, when he speaks he shakes his head and I feel shame color my face. I am sure that he is disappointed with my ungrateful behavior.
"Omachkatayo is not aware of…" Longknife seems to struggle for a moment, as if searching for the right words, after a moment he nods to himself and continues. "Ómahkapi'si had other reasons to leave."
"I do not understand." I was caught off guard.
"It is not yours to understand." Longknife adds on his own, his eyes flaring wide for a second. The threat is clear and I decided against inquiring further. Nínna begins to speak again.
"Omachkatayo wishes to leave?" Longknife smiles, as if the idea pleased him. I am struck with sudden desire to knock that smile off his face, but I hold my tempter and think about how I should answer. It was easy enough and yet again, I was struck with reasons to stay. Specifically, concerns for my caretaker. After seeing her face, knowing the depth of her feelings, I find myself conflicted.
Nínna is to be watching me carefully and speaks again, before I can summon an answer.
"Stay, leave, a choice must be made, soon." Longknife's voice is passive, but it is Nínna's dark eyes that I met. We stare at each other for a long moment, before he rises and walks towards me. Nínna places a warm hand on my head and gently pats, as he'd done earlier with Twostomachs. Realizing that I have been dismissed, I rise to my feet, dazed.
"Áaksiistapsskoyiiwáyi," Longknife speaks in a harsh chuckle, a smug grin on his face. I realize that he is directing his words to Nínna.
"Máátomáíiniitsiwaatsiksi," the older man smiles at me as he speaks, giving my shoulder a reassuring pat and I turn to leave. I stumble out, into the cruel unforgiving sunlight and the resigned face of my caretaker. She guides me back to our home, my shaky hand in her hers as we walk in silence.
In the dark interior of our home, I stand in numb silence as my caretaker kneels beside my pallet and begins to place my few possessions into a hide bag. I am surprised by how much I have accumulated during my short time with them. Somehow, I know that Nínna will give me whatever supplies that I may require for my journey.
Jacob's lessons, in navigation will be my greatest ally. He taught me to track time by following the path of rising and setting sun, he has shown me to search, even the flat landscape of the plains, for markers to track my location and progress of my journey. I know that when our band set out on our journey to the hunting grounds, that we headed northeast. I know the settlement had been on the east side of the mountains that stand between me and Oregon. However, I only vaguely remember the path that Jacob traced on the map he sketched on a page of my journal. Without the map to assist me, I am not as confidant in my ability to navigate through the mountains.
I let out a long slow exhale, wondering what I should do. I look up through the opening in the center of the tipi. The sky stares back at me, bright blue and filled with promise. I feel nailed to the ground by something that I cannot name weights me down.
Jacob's words suddenly come back to me, his wisdom astounding me, even now, in the face of his betrayal.
"Sin is the stone that lays silent, while the water shapes him."
As the words echo in my mind, I ask myself; Am a stone if stay or if I leave?
My mind swirls with all the events that have occurred over my time with these people, my people. As I remember my revelations from last night's vision, I am seized by desire for it to be true.
I lower my gaze to see my caretaker carefully folding a pair of deerskin leggings, her shoulders hunched. My chest tightens at the sight of her, the memory of our kiss filling me a new torrent of conflicting emotions. I go to kneel beside her, trying to see her face. The shadows that I'd seen when we first met have returned in force, adding to the weight that is already strangling my chest.
I try to draw her attention from her task by laying my hand on hers, ceasing its movement. She stills, but her eyes remain fixed on our hands. Her obstinance only increases the intensity my concern. I cannot help but think of all the tragedies that have marred her life. The stolen childhood, the love that she has been denied and I realize that as I prepare to leave, she must be feeling yet another loss. It is such a strange thought, that she should love me. As undeserving as I was of her affection, it is there, I can feel it. I place a finger beneath her chin and lift her face. She complies but her eyes remain downcast. Seeing her so visibly heartbroken at the prospect of my departure, I feel my own heart falter at the thought of leaving her here, alone. My conflicting emotions raging within me.
"Niipáaakiiwa," I whisper her name, taking great care with each syllable. Her eyes finally rise to meet mine, her gaze as guarded as an injured wolf. I study her, truly seeing her for the first time. I see the beautiful, strong woman that saved my life and fought for me, before she even knew me. Spirited and fearless, she is all the things that I lacked, when I arrived. I believe, in some part I owe her for the strength and confidence that courses through me now. I look in my heart and I know that it is within me to love her. With that comes the knowledge that if I choose this, I will be turning my back on the future for which I have worked my whole life. While, I care little for the life that my father laid out for me, my thoughts turn to the dark haired girl that was to be my wife.
As I look at my caretaker, my Uprightwoman, I see her fierce devotion and the pull of her love is stronger than any imagined future. Her eyes close, as she exhales sharply and tries to push my hand away. I hold her, refusing to let go, and I feel my imagined future slip away. For a moment, I wish that I could take it back, for Isabella's sake. Regret flairs within me, like a shooting star cutting across the night sky to disappear into the dim light of the horizon.
I do not know if I am what she truly needs. Never the less, I will strive for the rest of my life to be whatever she wants.
Pulling her to me, I slide my hands behind her neck, the warmth of her skin makes my heart race and my body tense. Her eyes widen, as I set my lips upon the tight line of her mouth and last of her resistance melts. I close my eyes, savoring the feel of her soft mouth. A slow breath escapes her in a languid moan. My breath quickens at thought that I could have as profound an effect on her as she has upon me. I growl and I feel her smile against my lips. Emboldened, I open my mouth and lightly trace the lines of her mouth with my tongue, and her tongue urgently tangles with mine. As her tongue dances over my lips and darts into my mouth her expertise quickly overwhelms me.
She pulls back from me and I make a wordless grunt of protest, but she silences me with a press of her finger to my lips. Confused, but compliant, I wait as she rises on her heels, places her hands on my shoulders. Her warm hands press against the naked skin of my shoulders and obey her silent command. I ease myself down and wait my body tight as a bow string. Her hands slid over my naked chest as my back presses against the cool earth. She slides herself up over me to straddle my hips.
She lays herself over me and returns her lips to mine. I close my eyes against the aching pleasure that flutters through me as our body press together. A different kind of fire sparks to life within me, called to life by the taste of her mouth and the skillful movements of her body as it begins to move over mine. My fingers side down her spin, to grip the back of her dress, knotting the soft hide in my fists as I nip and lick at her mouth. She's smiling, I can feel it and I open my eyes
She gazes down at me through heavy lidded eyes, the thick curtain of her dark brown hair hanging around use, obscuring the light. I place my hand at her temple, to slide her hair behind her ear, so that I can see her face better. Her dark eyes fix on me for a moment, I feel the weight of her gaze as studies me. My heart fills to bursting at the sight of her as my body swells with desire. I am suddenly weakened by the strength my body's reactions, I search her eyes for reassurance. A seductive smile slide over her lips, stretching her smooth copper skin over her narrow cheekbones. Teeth bright as unbleached bone shone from between her full lips. The sight of her smile leaves me breathless and elated. I pull her mouth to mine and close my eyes against my overwhelming emotions as we crashed together.
Our bodies move with a renewed desire, press of skin and heat between us, drives us to a breathless fevered pitch. She breaks the rhythm, leaning up, her warm palms press against my chest. A look of predatory delight, on her face as she pulls at the sides of her dress, lifting it up over her head. I lose my breath as I stare at the golden brown glory of her naked skin.
A shuddering gasp escapes her lips as she settles herself back down over me and I remember to breathe. Her arms slide around my neck, her teeth shining as she looks at me. Her lips brushed against mine as I tentatively touch her naked flesh, her moaning response inspires me to be bold. I seize her smooth skin of her back in his hands, as press my lips against her neck and ear lobe. Her thighs tighten their grip on my waist and her breathing became erratic as I captured her mouth, and attempt to mimic the dance her tongue had done earlier. My enthusiasm leaves her breathless as she digs her nails into the muscles of my shoulders.
The pain burns in a blissful heat and I hiss as I fight the intense urge to pull her naked body into mine. Instead, I trace the muscles of her back as they strain and flex beneath my fingers. She gasps, the sound sends a pulse of delight through me and I feel myself grow more rigid as I press against her, through my loin cloth. Unsure of how to proceed I begin to bite along her jaw and draw my tongue down her neck in long teasing strokes. She tilts her hips and moves against me in short rhythmic movements that drive all reason my mind. I scramble for control, slamming my hands to the ground to claw at the dirt.
She sits up pressing into my groin, driving another torrent of pleasure through me. My eyes open as I gasp for air, trying to wrestle back control of myself. Her fingers dance against my belly, tracing a line to my hip and down below my loin cloth. Panic rushes through me as I finally regain enough control to stop her hand. She attempts to move, but I shake my head as I struggle to catch my breath and explain.
"Are you sure, that you wish, - I mean, without…" I was not sure what I was trying to say. I had no claim to her, we were not married and it seems silly that such conventions of my old life should not haunt me now. As I look at the look of amusement on her lovely face, I feel a twist of pain in my chest, that I should give her some indication that it is my intention to not take advantage of her.
"kitái'kó'pohpa?" Her voice is low as she leans down placing her mouth again to mine. Her lips gently glide over mine, as her tongue leaves a small wet line in its wake. I struggle to speak again, but she presses her mouth against mine harder. Her hips begin to move again and I lose my will to protest, letting her seduce me with her madding movements.
This time as she rises up and reaches beneath my loincloth, I do not protest. She takes me in a firm grasp and I hiss and shudder at the feel of her grip as she pulls me free. I stand fully aroused, seated perfectly in her strong callused hand. She moves her hand and the delightful sensations that are produced by the slight stroke drive the air from my lungs in a stuttered exhale. Her hands stops and I look at her, suddenly concerns that I've displeased her in some way.
A look of predatory delight lights up her eyes as she gazes down at me, her tongue sliding across her lower lip. The muscles in my arms and legs began to scream in protest, but I ignore the pain, too consumed in watching her enjoy my body. She takes my sheathed crown between her thumb and forefinger and gently rolls me between her fingers. My hips rise up off the ground as I bite my lip and fight the urge to groan. As if she can sense me escalating desire, she moans, a long low hum of appreciation. The sound snakes down my body, lighting a thousand tiny flames that are threatening to consume me.
I begin to regain some control as I open my eyes to see her draw her thumb across her tongue. The relatively benign gesture, fans the fires of my hunger desire and I feel myself twitch in her hand. I gasp in shock, yet she seems unfazed by body's reaction as she sets her now moistened thumb over the small portion of the crown peeking from my hood. Friction ignites an eruption of ecstasy that threatens to stop my heart, leaving me staring at her in shock. Her lips spread in a long smile as she lightly draws the slick callused pad of her thumb across the my now emerging crown and the lip of my hood, the stimulation and accompanying itching heat making me writhe and cry out.
She shushes me, as she removes her thumb and I begin to feel that I've step into a deep pool that has no bottom and the water's covering my head. I look at her, hoping she sees my fear, because even with knowledge that she can understand me, I still cannot voice it. Her eyes are intent on my straining flushed shaft, as she lowers her face down to hover above it. Every part of my body tenses as I wait. Her dark brown eyes rise to meet my gaze as her lips pucker slightly and cool air flows out from her mouth to consume my moist crown in ice. My whole body shudders as I ground my teeth against the curse that tries to forces itself from my trembling lips.
Like her prey, I lay and wait, breathless as she begins to devour me. Soft full lips slid over me, with a maddeningly slow pressure that drives me to dig my heels into the ground. Inconceivably, hot and wet, all consuming as she takes me in her mouth. The slick serpentine movements of her tongue drive me make my head swim as she begins to move over me, robbing me of reason.
She sets a rhythm, slow and steady, pushing me in small steps, closer to my release. I begin to rut beneath her attention, my hips rising to meet her every stroke. Just as I am about to reach my peak she pulls away. I begin to regain my sanity and I reach out to touch her face. Her attention is still focused on my manhood, her eyes glittering. Her hand moves over me, rekindling the fire that had just threatened to over take me. I move beneath her, grunting and pleading with her. She stops again and I groan as my now fully aroused manhood, strains towards her. She looks at me, and I see the hunger that mirrors my own.
In a movement so swift and yet graceful, she sets herself over me, pressing herself against me. Her hips tilt as she slides over me, in a fluid motion, leaving me warm and wet with her arousal. The sensation threatens to drive me to my climax. I tried to tell her as much, grunting and moaning as I trembled beneath her.
"Omachkatayo," She says my name as she leans up and places me at her entrance. Our bodies shift, the slightest of movements and she is sinking onto me, taking me into her in a long gliding motion. Once I am fully inside her, I wait a moment, reveling in the feel of her. She leans down and moans in my ear, her tongue tracing along my jaw as her nails dig into my arms. I thrust into her, unable to stop myself and she lets out a sharp sound of shock. I worry that I may have hurt her, but her hips slam down onto me and I let out own exclamation of pleasure. As I try to recover, pleasure still reverberating through my body, she pushes off me and leans up again. This new position allows her to sink down onto me, driving me deeper as we both groan.
I gripped her hips as she began to move. There is a sweet kind of agony as she slides over me. I cannot help but rise off the ground to meet her each time she sinks down onto me. I watch her ride me, her eyes closed, mouth open as we drive closer to our climax. I fight to stay my own release, in the hopes that I will please her before it ends. I say her name and as she tilts her head down, her eyes open. My heart drums in my chest as if it's trying to be heard. This is a beauty that I never understood before her, the force of her presence, how it demands, commands my attention. Her power overwhelms me. I happily fall beneath its power.
It starts as a searing heat at the center of me, beneath her hands, spreading through my body, despite my cry for it to stop. As the sound of my plea her movements take on a new vigor and I answer her with my own desperate thrusts. I finish in a stutter gasp as she continues to drive herself down on me her hands suddenly moving between us and then she freezes. Her body going stiff as she begins to tremble. I feel her grip and drawing more pleasure from me as she rides her own. She finally ceased her movements and flashes me a beautiful smile. We're both covered in a fine sheen of sweat as we pant and begin to laugh.
I pull her down to me and wrap her in my arms, kissing her with all the love and passion that I feel.
"Kitsiikákomimmo." She breaths it against my skin and I think I understand her meaning, because I feel it swell within me too.
"I love you." I say in a whisper as I pull her into another kiss.
Author's notes: I would like to thank jmeyer and My Muse (she knows who she is) for holding my hand. You both rock on so many levels.