Spirit on the Wind

A poem inspired by The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. An upset to the balance of La Push's guardian spirits culminates in Leah's first shift.

Prompt: Why exactly did Leah become the first female Quileute shapeshifter? Is she really the first?

Music: Snow Patrol – Mysterious Ways (U2 Cover)

Primeval forest, breathing, sighing,

Fertile soil scarce sees the sun shine,

Shielded by the dark trees waving,

Sitka spruce, bearded big leaf maple.

Ancient wilderness, final refuge,

Of the spirits of the forest,

Forgotten by invaders from far flung places,

Yet living on in this unspoiled corner.

Nature spirits, wise ancestors,

Walk the earth beneath the rain clouds,

Holy ears for those who would speak,

A blessed place for those who seek.

Gone the time when man walked with spirit,

Of whispered voices there to guide him,

Walking together, respecting balance,

Under protection of the forest.

Men who still dwell by the sea shore,

Keep the secrets of ancient forest,

Keep the knowledge, not yet forgotten,

Still keep the faith of nature spirits.

But through the years mouths become silent,

Fewer tales of earth and water,

Passed from elders to the children,

Truths become myth and fable.

The dwellers of the First Beach,

Who lived before arrival of the pale face,

Who worshipped spirits of the forest,

And listened well to all their teachings,

Were given power to leave their bodies,

To wander free as spirit warriors,

Able to converse with leaf and elk,

Hearing echoes of other warriors' voices.

Many years ago one spirit warrior,

Dark and hungry cruel Utalpa,

His spirit walked, cold and evil,

Misused his power, brought dishonour,

Harmed reputation of his village.

Chief Taha Aki, pure of spirit,

Banished monstrous dark Utalpa,

Never to return to his people.

One day the outcast in the forest,

Saw Taha Aki leave his body,

While the chief's spirit wandered,

His body the dark watcher claimed.

Utalpa in Taha Aki's body,

Took a sharp stone in his hand,

The false chief slayed his true form,

Condemned the good chief's spirit to roam.

False Taha Aki returned to the village,

Did unspeakable acts to his people,

All the time true chief's spirit followed,

Lamented his own body's actions.

He found a wolf within the forest,

Asked, "Brother Wolf, please listen,

Is there room inside your body,

For a weary spirit traveller?"

The wolf agreed and Taha Aki,

Joined with animal flesh and bone,

And ran swiftly to the village,

To warn the others with howling voice.

Old Man Yut listened to the wolf song,

Within it heard a voice familiar,

Fearing discovering of his falsehood,

Utalpa slew Yut's mortal form.

Enraged at Old Man's cold-blood murder,

Wolf Taha Aki felt the rage within him,

Pure spirit overcame the beast's flesh,

And half-wolf, half-man the flesh became.

The animal man-spirit seized the false chief,

And tore his head from his body,

And with new found voice he did proclaim,

To be Taha Aki come again.

Without Utalpa the village prospered,

Found many peaceful years of plenty,

Under protection of wolf-man-spirit,

The gentle rule of Taha Aki.

The many sons of the Great Wolf,

Also learned that from their father,

His half-wolf nature they did inherit,

Wolf spirit warriors the sons became.

Many generations passed, and Taha Aki,

Preserved inside his wolf-man body,

Told Brother Wolf that he grew weary,

The tribe's protectors should be the young men.

But Brother Wolf had not grown weary,

Only grown weary of their shared existence,

Agreed that it was time to part their ways,

Their body as Taha Aki's should remain.

Brother Wolf left their body,

As immortal spirit returning to the forest,

Walking the earth beneath the rainclouds,

Shielded by the dark trees waving.

Taha Aki aged and became an old man,

As did his much beloved third wife,

His sons kept the peace until the day,

They found the stone man by the lake.

Nearby tribe of rocks and seagulls,

Harvesters of the ocean, peaceful traders,

Found their maidens had gone missing,

Called on Taha Wi, son of Taha Aki.

Confused by the maidens' strange disappearance,

He followed a trail into the forest,

Followed it far north with his brothers,

But the youngest were sent away.

They found a man hard as stone or glacier,

His pale face shining like the new moon.

He had traversed far across the oceans,

And hungered for the blood of humans.

Sons of Taha Aki came across the Cold One,

In a circle of maidens' bodies,

Wolf protectors they became,

The monster's head they sought to claim.

The wolf-men were torn to pieces,

Overcome by strange and unfamiliar creature,

Drifted away into the forest,

Without bodies as spirits they remained.

Taha Aki's youngest son by his third wife,

Spirit warrior, Yaha Uta,

Came to search for his half-brothers,

Followed Taha Wi's northern trail.

Quileutes wolf warriors found the stone man,

Drinking the blood of Makah maidens,

Long forsaken by his own god,

Wolves made stronger by nature spirits,

By their teeth and burning flames,

Defeated, ash the Cold One became.

When stone woman returned to the forest,

At what she found and hissed and wailed.

Vengeful blood demon came to the village,

Tribe of the First Beach felt her fury,

Young wolf warriors were torn asunder,

Yaha Uta and his older brothers.

She broke their bones,

Their flesh was mangled,

But their spirits returned to the forest,

With brothers who had gone before.

Formless warriors begged nature spirits,

To allow them to return to their people.

The ancients said that could not happen,

But they would offer some protection.

Brother Wolf returned to Taha Aki's body,

Helped the old chief to fight the woman,

But the stone demon was too wild to tame,

Wolf Taha Aki was sure to fail.

Beloved third wife drew her own blood,

Caught attention of vengeful monster,

As the life blood flowed from her veins,

Her entire people she did save,

But broke the heart of Taha Aki,

Never again to become human,

As an old tortured lone wolf,

Deep in the forest he lived out his days.

No surviving sons of Taha Aki,

No more true spirit warriors,

His daughters could not wander from their bodies,

Nor converse with leaf and elk.

Yet the half-wolf spirits of fallen warriors,

Could not abandon their descendants,

Allow the slaughter by blood drinkers,

Or suffer them on Quileute lands.

Protective spirits standing vigil,

Ever watchful in the forest,

Forever waiting for the Cold Ones,

To keep the First Beach sacred and safe.

The Cold Ones travelled alone,

Or with a friend, mentor, or mate,

Rarely were they more in number,

So three spirit sons would remain.

When the Cold Ones drew too close,

Ghostly warriors came from the forest,

Seeking out young men of the First Beach,

Who still had wolf blood in their veins.

Three spirits would fuse with three boys' bodies,

Their skin would burn as hot as fire,

Arms, legs, and shoulders would grow stronger,

And to a wolf their shape would change.

Taha Wi and two half-brothers,

Sons of Taha Aki from different mothers,

Their spirits took on the mantle,

Three Quileute ghostly guardians.

Taha Wi always the alpha,

Toki Aken, with eyes of the eagle,

Qa'al Ti'iyahl, the youngest,

Quick to anger, third behind the others.

Spirit chose descendants of their sisters,

Daughters of Taha Aki born of same mother,

As joined warriors they would guard the forest,

And protect the noble Quileute people,

Until strange arrivals came to the forest,

Seeking compassion and not violence,

Cold of skin but with eyes of yellow,

And would not feed on or murder humans.

This peaceful blood drinker coven,

The three wolves they did outnumber,

Accepted and proposed was a treaty,

Though the peace remained uneasy.

Quileutes kept secret of the Cold Ones,

From nearby tribe of pale faces,

But their eyes were always watchful,

Should their promises ever fail.

More spirit sons of Taha Aki,

Came to defend people of the First Beach,

Traced the bloodlines of their sisters,

To find their nephews in the present.

The growing pack of wolf protectors,

Upset the fragile balance of nature,

Less spirits under the green trees wandered,

Weakened the magic of sacred forest.

Then the yellow eyes travelled onwards,

Lest the pale faces become suspicious,

Of their stone-like lack of aging,

Preserved forever and unchanging.

But conflicted were the spirits,

Should they go or should they linger?

They had broken their age-old traditions,

Left them confused and unsure.

For a time the forest was quiet,

Once more settled were the spirits,

Ancient warriors keen to wander,

Left the people of the First Beach,

For Sitka spruce, bearded big leaf maple,

Fertile soil, and misty mountain.

Three protective spirits remained,

Though the three were not the same.

Taha Wi had gone back to the forest,

His place uncertain, almost forgotten,

But there must always be an alpha,

And in his place stood his younger spirit brother,

Shípa Kwoli, the black wolf,

Now of the three he was the leader,

Guardian of the Quileute people,

Waiting, watching for generations.

Short the memories of the pale face,

Their tribe swelling, growing larger,

Unrecognised, the yellow eyes,

Returned once more to live among them,

Unknown was their immortal secret.

But alert were spirits of the forest,

Worried by the Cold Ones' increasing number,

The three were swift to do their duty.

Shípa Kwoli, the black wolf,

Found a boy from the line of Uley,

Strong of blood from his youngest sister,

Old alphas of a line from sister less favoured.

Toki Aken, he choose from the line of Huautah,

Found the boy Jared Cameron,

As his line had almost faded,

Accepted blood tainted by the pale face.

Once Qa'al Ti'iyahl had chosen,

Paul of the line of Lahote,

A mongrel breed, but strong and fierce,

Filled with fire and wolf fever,

Yet more spirits came from the forest,

Compelled to outnumber,

These yellow-eyed invaders,

With their unfamiliar ways.

Amongst the spirits came Yaha Uta,

Who had loved his mother, the third wife,

Almost as strongly as his father,

And had died defending his beloved tribe.

He came keen to trace his blood line,

Searched amongst the Quileute people,

And found his line was now diluted,

Weak of blood, broken of will.

Finally his search was rewarded,

He found a boy pure of blood and spirit,

Convergence of strong Quileute bloodlines,

Ateara, Black, and Uley,

Brave of heart, a true believer,

Though he had seen too few summers,

Young Seth Clearwater,

A worthy wolf spirit warrior.

But, alas, he was already chosen,

Around him flowed another spirit,

Yaha Uta's own older brother,

Poised for the boy's approaching manhood.

Ready for the transformation,

Becoming guardian of the First Beach,

When boy with wolf blood merged,

With protective wolf warrior spirit.

Onward continued Yaha Uta,

Mingled amongst Quileute people,

On the wind he met his oldest half-brother,

Taha Wi had returned from the forest,

Had found the great-grandson of the old alpha,

Direct descendant of his old host,

Strong of blood, honor, and spirit,

The true chief his new host had chosen.

Conflicted were the nature spirits,

Two wolf spirit warriors, both were alphas,

But to help find the balance,

Taha Wi deferred to Shípa Kwoli,

The black wolf, his younger brother,

Who remained the growing wolf pack's alpha.

But Yaha Uta continued to wander,

Floated down to ancient seashore.

He was the wind on the water,

Spirit playing amongst the salt spray,

Rolling along with sand and stone,

Remembering times past and gone,

On human feet he'd walked this same place.

This spot where he had fought and died,

When waves had lapped against his still form,

His mother laid beside him in the foam.

It was then that he first saw her,

Felt the force of unshed tears,

Sensed burning rage deep within her,

Touched her pain and her fury.

Young Quileute woman,

Of bloodlines Ateara, Black, and Uley,

Strong and fierce, aura of fire,

A reflection of her inner beauty.

Surprised then was Yaha Uta,

To find no wolf spirit warrior had claimed her,

He saw that she was fair of face,

Healthy of womb, and of body,

Yet there were no binds to tie her to a wolf mate,

To give her blood to sons and grandsons.

It seemed to him a great misfortune,

To see such a precious gift be wasted.

Yaha Uta searched once more,

To find a body for his spirit,

Their imprint already chosen,

From which their line would be continued.

And though his search grew ever wider,

To him it seemed all were unworthy,

Of the woman on the seashore,

He could not find a man who would deserve her.

His quest frustrated he returned to the First Beach,

Found her seated by the shore line,

Sitting where he had once lain,

When by the Cold One he had been slain.

He decided then to wander with her,

With the girl Leah Clearwater,

He drank her pain and ate her sorrow,

Felt nourished by raw furious anger.

As time went by he grew to love her,

Became obsessed by her spirit and her beauty,

Not of her flesh but of the flame within her.

He vowed that he would never leave her,

Even when she grew old and weakened,

Beyond that time he would still wait,

Would take her spirit with him into the forest,

To show her all the ancient secrets.

He was the wind that blew her dark hair,

Dried her tears should they fall unbidden,

First beam of morning light that found her,

The starlight that glistened on her lashes.

He was the warm, dark cloak of night fall,

The breeze that fanned her inner fire,

A hand to help her through the hard days,

And in her he saw the third wife's spirit.

It was Leah's mother who first felt her forehead,

Who exclaimed that she burned hot with fever.

Her father cried, "No, this cannot happen.

Please take my son, and not my daughter.

The wolves have already stole the heart within her,

And robbed me of my loving girl child."

Jerking, he fell to the cold tiles,

Echoing his daughter's trembling limbs.

Then the spirit of Yaha Uta,

Realized that in loving Leah,

With the damaged balance of nature,

He had joined his spirit to her body.

In choosing her he had also chosen,

Her to be a wolf spirit warrior,

Bound himself to her, gave her life immortal,

Until the day she sent him away.

Much loved Leah became the she-wolf,

The first female warrior joined the wolf pack,

Proved herself neither weak or soft,

Though her presence did cause disruption.

Shípa Kwoli, the black wolf,

He saw the resentment he had created,

When he'd taken the boy Sam Uley from her,

A double betrayal of heart and kin.

As she hurt, so did Yaha Uta,

The searing pain became double,

Leah at the loss of her love and of her father,

The spirit at her love for another,

But, one day, thought Yaha Uta,

My Leah will know she has been held,

And will be loved forever after,

For all this life, and what comes then.