Author: AnnaJamila PM
At her father's death Beatrix is thrown to the charity of family 500 miles away in Independence. Once there she sees the construction of the first railroad West of the Mississippi and the gruesome murder of a worker's family, rumored to be a Indian raid. A young brave is abducted for questioning and she has to make a decision. Will she help him escape, and if so, does she follow?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Adventure - Chapters: 13 - Words: 25,499 - Reviews: 31 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 03-20-13 - Published: 11-11-12 - id: 3073400
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Not long after, Thunder Crow was tying up his own gifts- he'd done almost as well as Beatrix- getting ready to leave. He'd be damned if he was going to stay after that performance!
The little bitch humiliated him in front of the entire village! He tightened the strap of the saddle bag, taking grim satisfaction in his imaginary retribution. If she knew what was good for her, she'd give him a wide berth.
Behind him came a tiny voice, the last word a barely audible peep. He swung around and there was Beatrix, shaking in her new party clothes, lip quavering and tears in her eyes.
"What do you want?"
Looking up at him with those great dark eyes, she tried a smile.
The smile wavered and a tear escaped, then her face slowly crumpled and she walked toward him, wrapping her arms around his waist. The anger whooshed out of him, replaced by alarm at the pitiful figure clinging to him. He looked to the man beside him, but he threw up his hands, as much at a loss as Thunder Crow.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to- I was so embarrassed! And, and now you... won't like me anymore."
"Hey! Hey, don't cry, Little Bird, I still like you. I like you a lot."
Her eyes sparkled as she looked up at him.
He smiled at her, ideas of violence forgotten.
Sighing contentedly she pressed her face back against his chest.
"I am sorry."
He stroked the top of her head, enjoying the feeling of holding her.
"What are you doing?"
"I was loading the horse."
She looked up at him again.
"Why are you doing that?"
"We need to leave soon. Now that we have supplies-"
Seeing her look of disappointment he quickly amended his plans.
"But we're still staying tonight."
Glancing at his companion, who was watching the proceedings with some amusement, he decided maybe it was time for her to go.
"Go back to She Walks in Beauty. She'll have something for you to do."
She nodded and held up her face innocently for a kiss. Thunder Crow was more than happy to oblige. He watched her leave, grinning like a fool when she turned to look at him over her shoulder.
He'd been ready to murder her not two minutes earlier, but now if she wanted... That is, if she asked him to... Well, he couldn't think of an example but he'd probably do it. The hell did she manage that?
Beatrix winked at her host as she rejoined her.
You'd be surprised the things growing up an only child could teach you.
"Come on, Little Bird! It's time to go."
In honor of Thunder Crow and Little Bird their village was going to have a feast. When he'd ridden up Thunder Crow had mentioned being captured; Shining Smile was excited to hear about it. Though she could do without the part where he picked up Little Bird.
She crossed her arms over her chest, scrutinizing their guest. Her mother had carefully painted her face and rubbed ocher into her braids. She'd even lent her a beaded belt to wear as she hadn't received one. Otherwise she was covered in jewelry, with two long necklaces and a choker, shells woven into her hair and two huge disks at either ear.
She wasn't so pretty. Well, maybe that wasn't exactly fair. She did have... interesting eyes. And her mouth was nice. And the new clothes (thanks to her, she thought with a sniff) were relatively attractive...
OK so she was pretty. She wasn't prettier. So there.
"She has on all her jewelry?"
"Her hair isn't mussed?"
"You put her shoes on the right feet this time?"
"I was only joking! I wouldn't have let her leave like that."
She Walks in Beauty smiled and kissed her youngest child's forehead. She'd always been a bit of a scamp.
Arrayed in her new clothes- which were surprisingly warm given the lack of layers- Beatrix padded behind She Walks in Beauty and Shining Smile. They were the last of the women to gather on their side of the blazing fire at one end of the village.
The steady throb of a drum kept time as the men sang; one of them got up and began to dance, holding out his arms like wings and slowly turning in circles as he moved around the fire.
The women didn't join in the song but swayed back and forth in time with the music. Another voice broke out over the rest, rising above the monotone of the original chant. Looking up at the sky, she imagined he was talking about flying. She watched as its pink tint was slowly replaced by stars; first brave, bright ones then smaller stars came to listen.
She looked for Thunder Crow and after a few moments found him sitting near the Chief. Thunder Crow had painted his face and body and the Chief had done the same.
The Chief wore a great war bonnet, like what Beatrix had seen in photographs. Across his brow was a band beaded in bright colors and an intricate pattern, strips of fur hung beside his face, attached with beaded medallions and feathers ringed his head and face, reminding her of a gryphon- that legendary creäture part lion, part eagle. The shaft of the feathers had been stripped and wrapped with red leather, and tassels of horse hair decorated the tips.
Neither man was singing; they simply watched the lone dancer. Soon another man joined him, then another, until dipping and whirling figures ringed the fire. Suddenly they stopped.
The chief stood and addressed the crowd, and after a pause they replied to him in unison. He spoke again, tapping a fan made of feathers against his shoulder. This went back and forth several times until the chief left off waiting for replies and began what sounded like a story.
Though she couldn't understand him, his words held Beatrix entranced. His face was stoic- eyes somehow fierce and kind at once- but his voice rose and fell in the easy rhythm of an old story told well. The children squirmed in their mothers' and fathers' laps, inching toward him if they sat by themselves. A small girl darted up, jumping into Beatrix's lap with an excited giggle. Surprised, she hugged the little bundle, shushing her gently.
He looked Beatrix full in the eyes and spoke softly, then turned toward the East and his voice hardened. It rose in volume until it was deafening, though he didn't shout, both palms up in a gesture of rejection. Goosebumps prickled the back of Beatrix's neck as a strong wind picked up from the West, as if to push his words toward the ears of the new settlers who'd pushed these people from their ancestral grounds. The children were wide eyed and still; evidently this wasn't the conclusion they'd been expecting.
He stood like that for a long time, facing the people he'd seen the chief before him welcome as friends who'd now become his enemy. At last he turned with a sad shake of his head, smiling briefly at Beatrix as if to say, "I don't blame you."
But she felt guilty. The dark faces around her were blending into the twilight, only visible by a flash of teeth or eye, or the brief sparkle of a silver earing. She could imagine how her white skin must stand out in the gloom. Suddenly the weight of it all crushed her; she felt like an imposter, sitting here in Indian garb, knowing that her people were attempting to blot this tribe from the face of the Earth.
Even her father- who'd been run out of his parish for his radical ideas- hadn't been able to instill such a sense of horror at the idea. The little girl twisted in her lap and pushed against her. She'd been squeezing her.
When Beatrix let go the child stood and tugged at her arms, whispering something in Dakota. Other children joined her and eventually She Walks in Beauty nudged her forward.
She got up, other children joining the first, tugging her toward the fire. The little girl from before pointed to the ground, then patted it, repeating a short word. She looked to Thunder Crow, who'd stood as the Chief retook his seat, and he motioned for her to sit. As soon as she did several of the children fought to sit in her lap or by her; the unsuccessful ones sticking arms and legs between their fellows to touch her as he began to speak.
"I am Thunder Crow! I am not from you, but I am of you. She is Little Bird. She is from away, but now she is of the Yankton-Nakota, the Dakota-Santee, the Lakota-Teton; the Allies! You are the people of the End of the Circle- I am of the Upper Yankton, but we are Brothers!"
At this the men cried out fiercely, the women held their hands to their faces and trilled and the children called out the names of the Three Nations. At the end they all repeated,
"Our Brother Thunder Crow, our Sister Little Bird, you are in the village of the people of the End of the Circle, and you are welcome!"
"I have been given permission to speak by One Who Listens- your Chief!"
They cheered again, and raising his volume he spoke over them,
"Ancestors! Winds that carry the voices of our nation, hear me and give me counsel; let my words and the intentions of my heart be pure! Hear me and give me counsel! Keep my feet on the path of the Good Red Road, until my business here is complete! Great Spirit, who sees and knows all things, hear me and give me counsel!"
At this the voices died away, and he waited, looking over the people. The children, who'd been bouncing and shouting, some getting up and jumping in place as they cheered, clung to Beatrix, silent but fairly vibrating with excitement. She dearly wished she could understand what he was saying.
"I am from far away. My home is in the North, under the snow. We hunt the buffalo and the elk, the mule deer and the white tail, the wolf and the coyote, the bear and the lion, the mountain goat and the big horn sheep, the turkey and the pheasant; we trade with our friends the Arikara for corn and beans; from the ground we take potatoes and berries and greens; in this way the Earth provides for us as it always has.
The children repeated this list, at the end shouting,
"The Earth is our mother!"
"I am a great hunter. I've killed many buffalo to feed the people of my tribe, but one day I went out with the other braves and the buffalo were gone. We rode and rode, searching for the herd- and then we found it. Every cow was dead- their corpses lay spread across the hills as if they still grazed. The only thing the killers took was their skin. We rode among the rotting corpses, seeing the waisted calves who starved to death next to their mother's bodies. One calf stood, and bleated at us to go away. Honoring her courage we caught her, and brought her back to the village so she would not die.
"That night my father, Chief Dust of the Road, held a council.
"'My people,' he said, 'Who of us would do this evil thing?'"
Again the children called out, repeating the words of the chief. Their voices were softer; the image of so many dead animals had disturbed them.
"'Who would dishonor the souls of these creatures? This herd now wanders in the In Between Place- their lives have not been honored, their bodies desecrated. Who has done this?'"
Now they only whispered the last sentence.
"'Thunder Crow, you are my son. You are the coolness of my eyes, your life has made mine sacred. You speak the language of the English- go to their settlements and ask them why they have done this. These people are as children; perhaps they do not understand.'
"'My father you honor me- I do not know if they will listen but I will go as you have asked me.'
"I rode far to the South, looking for answers. The English chased me, shot at me, but I did not give up. One day I found a herd destroyed in the same way. A farmer was kind to me, when he knew that I spoke English he gave me food and traded with me.
"'Why have the animals been killed in this way?' I asked him.
"'I have met many Indians,' he told me, 'Some I have traded with and made my friends, some I have fought with. But I hate none of them. The government and new settlers do hate you. They want to kill the buffalo so the Indians will have nothing to eat. They hope that it will either kill them or make them leave. Also they want to build a rail road- a track for a huge metal horse- and if buffalo are here they'll damage it.'
"'But why have they attacked the herds to the North? Our people have made no treaties with them; they do not claim the land.'
"'They do not claim it now but they will soon.'
"I thanked him and put my back to these evil people, and even now could be sitting before my father, telling him what I've told you, but that next day as I left his farm eight men rode me down, killed my horse from under me- a horse that I had raised from the beginning of his life- and dragged me back to the camp behind their horses.
"My soul wandered then- I don't know long- but when it came back a white-haired devil tortured me, taking his knife and cutting my feet."
Here the children and several adults interrupted him, wanting to look at his freshly bandaged foot.
"This is true," called an old woman, "I saw his wound, and dug the dirt from it, and through me the Great Spirit has begun to heal it."
"They had tied my arms like cowards- I could not rise to fight him, but this woman, smaller than some of our children, saved me. She fought with the White Devil and made him leave. On her face she bears the mark of his blade and her own bravery."
The crowd shifted to her, every woman and child filing before her to touch the scar under the paint on her cheek.
"She looked at me and was not afraid. The White Devil's knife also cut her hair. Later I took it and made a bracelet, knowing that when I returned to my people she would come with me. Then another man came. He was of her family and he beat her. The moon and sun passed over my head twice before she returned, bringing me food and water and medicine for my foot. She defied his orders, and of the eight days I was trapped there she came to me thrice.
"The last night I spent there a terrible storm came. The White Devil was my guard- he covered his hair so she would not recognize him and hid. Though she was small and the wind knocked her from her feet so she could barely walk, she fought against it and came to me. I strained against the ropes and shouted a warning to her- the wind was such that she could not hear me.
"Then the White Devil showed himself but she was not afraid. She stood and faced him, ready to fight with dignity knowing she could not escape. At last the ropes broke and I attacked- scalping the White Devil so I could carry his hair with me as a trophy."
At these words he reached into the leather pouch at his side and produced a short handful of white hair.
"This is the hair of my enemy! This proves that he is dead."
He held up his wrist.
"This is the hair of my wife! This proves that she is mine."
The children, comforted by the idea of good defeating evil, found their voices and echoed these two statements.
"But this wasn't the end of the journey. The storm had not gone, and it developed into a tornado. There was nowhere to go- I had no horse to ride away with. I held out my hand to Little Bird and she took it, and we raced the storm.
"I could hear the wind calling- 'Run faster hunter, and maybe I'll let you get away!'
Several little boys jumped up, some calling in the loud voice of the Tornado Wind, some challenging it.
"It came closer and we dove behind a hill. There was no chance of escape. Even now she was not afraid- both of us would have come to the hunting grounds of the ancestors with honor and dignity- but I would not have her die. I prayed that the wind would end its game and die, and just as it came over us I heard it laugh and then it was gone."
He stepped back from the fire.
"This is story is true, and it is finished."
A voice spoke up.
"But where did you get the horse?"
He hemmed a bit, then impatiently waved for Beatrix to stand and join him.
"Show them how you called the horse."
Clucking, she dipped her hand into the pouch at her waist and held it out. Everyone erupted with laughter. Scowling, Thunder Crow rejoined Chief One Who Listens.
After this a few more people got up and spoke but they were all brief and not as serious as the first two. Then they passed around freshly roasted meat a few women had tended nearby along with a gravy of the juices and prairie turnips. This was good but Beatrix sorely missed the taste of salt. Afterword came two puddings; one savory made of corn and one sweet flavored with berries.
Her stomach well and truly full for the first time in days, Beatrix sat back on her elbows and enjoyed the singing and dancing.
Before she knew it Thunder Crow was kneeling over her.
"Put your arms around my neck, Little Bird."
"Is it time to go to bed?"
"Yes, my star."
"Am I going to sleep with you?"
"No, not tonight. I'm taking you back to She Walks in Beauty's tipi."
"What's a-" a huge yawn interrupted her. "What's a tee-pee?"
She nodded sagely.
She was asleep by the time he straightened. He walked carefully, not wanting to jar her. Away from the bright fire he could make out her dark lashes against her cheeks. Her lips were parted slightly and he could feel her breath- sweet with berry pudding- against his neck. She was so light, even in the heavy skin clothing she was almost nothing in his arms. He held her for a little bit, enjoying how she felt against him.
His left hand cupped close to her breast- if he just moved his thumb he could feel the curve of it. Suddenly his mood shifted from protective to predatory. He'd been patient so far, but there was only so much temptation he could stand.
He could take her inside and... wake her up.
A/N Because I'm evil, that's why. ;)