Wind thrashed the ebony hair of a woman aboard a chestnut mustang. The sun beat down on her bronze cheeks, but her destination was within reach. She could see the almost round tanned hide wigwam tents of La Cabeza Cubierta tribe about a mile northwest in the plains.
About two thousand natives in a hundred and fifty tribes existed in the land at this time in 1452. Bashida came from the Lughat tribe of the southeast shores – a people who originated in Morocco, but had intermarried with the tribes of Spanish and French origins as well as the Roman missionaries who arrived in 95.
The mustang snorted as his mane was lifted by another gust of wind. Bashida uttered a soothing hum, and he continued on to the allied tribe. Two men in deerskin leggings were posted on each end of the most spacious tent – the trading post.
As she approached, Bashida rummaged in a leather pouch strapped over one shoulder and removed a clam shell necklace. She raised it into the air as the wind swirled her hair again and shouted, "Canje?"
One of the men disappeared into the tent. Bashida squinted and watched as he reappeared with a woman wearing a suede dress and a woven straw hat. She approached and motioned to Bashida to dismount, which she did with a suede skirt slit at each side. The same man who retrieved the woman in the trading post came to hold onto her mustang.
There were four stumps that served as pedestals inside the trading post. Etched copper earrings and gold nuggets sat on one. Another had a bison hide to serve as a blanket and a straw hat. Still another had dried meats and dried blackberries and blackcurrants, and the last was empty. Here the women gathered, and Bashida removed the contents of her pouch: a pair of hawk feather earrings, a pearl necklace, a pair of clam shell earrings, dried mackerel wrapped in broad leaves, and a wooden flute.
Ashadas examined the contents presented to her with scrutinizing dark eyes. She pointed to the dried mackerel and the hawk feather earrings. Bashida agreed and requested a strip of bison meat, a pair of copper earrings, and the blackberries and currants. Ashadas gathered the requested items and put them in the leather pouch for the woman.
"Shukran," Bashida gave a polite nod. Ashadas raised a palm with a smile and said, "Shukran. Adios."
The coastal woman exited the trading post and accepted her mustang with a smile. She leapt aboard and steered him across the plains and back to her home.
That was a small trade, but Ashadas was satisfied. She had a substantial amount of mackerel to share with the tribe as well as a gift to her cousin. She came out of the tent and surveyed the tents of her tribe with pleasure. She was married to the leader and considered herself a sort of mother and sister to all.
The men would be pleased by the mackerel when they returned from their hunting expedition.
She gathered what she had received and carried it to the tent where most provisions were stored. As she reached the tent, a shrill cry startled her out of her contemplations. She dropped the mackerel on a mat and rushed outside to see about a dozen northern natives on Appaloosas and mustangs sweeping across their village. The trading post guards had been speared. The riders dismounted and stormed into the trading post as Ashadas started after them, shouting to alert the rest of the tribe.
The northern tribes sometimes raided those south of them because game was much more sparse in the mountains, and the climate much colder. To be sure, they were aware that the men were hunting. This was the Glace tribe; she could see this by the dense suede clothes.
"Arrêtez!" she screamed as she raced after them, but everyone already mounted and galloped away with battle cries and bison meat as well as the stolen bison blanket. Ashadas stopped short and caught her breath. She met the eyes of the women and children emerging out of their tents and out of the distance with sorrow in their eyes.
The men and women of the Glace tribe were exhausted when they returned after several days to their camps at the base of the northern mountains. After reuniting with their families, they returned up the mountain trails until they reached the scattered longhouses on various ledges.
After raiding multiple tribes, there was scarcely enough meat, berries, and hides to divide amongst the households of the warriors. Each lived in a longhouse with their spouse and children as well as other relatives. Women started the fires in the middle of each house to welcome their relatives home. The children eagerly explored the stolen goods.
Rean seemed pleased by his children and their smiles. Perhaps this would be the night they would be warm and satisfied with a meal. The fire cast shadows across his bear clawed cheeks as he crossed to the chair where his bear hide coat lay.
His brother Visolo earned his own silver wolf hide in the same manner he earned his bear hide: with great courage and severe wounds. He seated himself beside his brother with a pipe in his hand. They murmured a discussion as the children assembled some of the bison meat and their own elk meat to eat as a meal. The two smallest girls scampered to their dads and presented them with some of the meat.
Rean smiled and rumpled their hair and Visolo released a stream of smoke from his mouth.
After the meal, the children gathered together beneath the bison hides close to the fire pit. Their warmth was preserved by the hide, and at last, sleep was readily possible. Rean smiled above them before he went to sleep as well.
His son Darsha was the sole man who lay awake in contentment. He released a pleased smile as he considered the week long hunting expedition he was to set out upon at sunrise. He curled his arm around his two small sisters and allowed himself to slip into sleep.
Several afternoons later, Darsha strode his mustang as the point of an arrow of warriors. The streaked black paint beneath his eyes made him seem fierce and prevented the glare of the sunlight that beat down on his bare shoulders. Soon the men were to arrive at the western coast to harvest some of the fruits native to the area. There they would pack their pouches with mangoes, pineapples, oranges, and cashew apples before hunting wild boar and coat as they returned north.
Chickadee structures appeared on the horizon. Darsha squinted between the mahogany tree to determine what these cries and glimpses of color were. He raised his palm and stopped his mustang, and his men stopped behind him.
A man was seated on a mango log in a cotton tunic tinged with sweat. His legs were clothed with fringed suede and sandals were strapped on his feet. Darsha squinted at him with curiosity. His hair was sandy and his complexion was tan, but less so than his own.
The man was Cato Agapius, a descendent of the first Roman missionaries to arrive in 95. The western tribes seemed the most receptive to the missionaries, and so they integrated with the native people. Some Romans who arrived in more recent years carried with them clothes from their native land to present to previous pioneers and to trade with the natives.
About two decades after the Roman arrival, a Viking longship arrived out of Denmark and crashed against the north-west coast in a storm. The Romans and some of the natives rowed out after the storm passed in search of survivors. About fifteen were rescued and hauled ashore. Nine were women. One woman protected the sunstone of the ship amidst the storm and, legend had it, stashed it away in case she could trade it for some sort of necessity later.
Trapped, destitute, and unable to sustain themselves, the Danes integrated with the Roman and prevalent native population, although women with Danish descent still often wore apron dresses over kirtles, and the men generally wore tunics with the suede pants introduced by the natives.
And now, the Danes and some natives lived up north-west while the Romans integrated with the majority of the western natives along the coastline. Cato and his tribe were almost in the middle of the coastline.
Ferns sheltered the stage ahead of the chickadee. Here, women in elaborate colorful Roman dresses hemmed a mite short pranced to the beat of drums and a panpipe melody. The leader wore a cape of peacock feathers attacked to her arms, which she swept around as if they were wings. Her audience crowed and cheered as the iridescence shined in the sun.
The leader was Sol. The shimmering gold and scarlet of her dress made her resemble the fire of the sun. She met his eyes and smiled as she swept the cape around with a twirl. His heart beat faster. The crunch of a twig snatched his attention. He darted his eyes to the left and met those of Darsha.
The men stared.
Then Cato rose and announced, "Bellatores!"
Was it a warning? A call to arms? There was no time to waste. Darsha aimed his spear ahead of him and released a shrill cry as he charged his mustang toward the audience. Cato spun away from the spear driving toward him. He saw that the first three natives in the arrow point formation charged the audience while the rest broke away and started snatching mangoes out of the trees and throwing them into burlap sacks.
"Pax!" Cato shouted, waving his arms. "Pax!"
The women on stage screamed and sought shelter in the chickadee. Some of the native men in the audience raised side arms. There was an explosion of gunfire. Darsha and one other man dropped from their mustangs. The third raised his spear and looked to either side of him, cornered and alone.
Cato approached the cornered man. "Descende."
The man blinked. Cato attempted to gesture what it would look like to dismount his horse. The man started to dismount, but his eyes stayed on Cato. By this time, those who stole the fruit had disappeared into the trees. Cato assumed they were awaiting their brethren. Two lay groaning on the ground.
"Sunmaize," Cato called. "Rosash!"
Two women appeared. He gestured toward the men who were shot off their mustangs. The third man watched intently as they picked up the men and carried them into the chickadee. He knew Sol would be there to dress the wounds.
Cato leaned toward one of the other men beside him and murmured, "Aliquam aliquam susicivus cibum." The man nodded and sprang across to one of the other chickadees. The native darted his eyes between everyone who surrounded him. The atmosphere was tense, but he appeared too scared to move anything but his eyes.
Poor man. Cato recognized their appearance and mannerisms as northern natives, notorious for their aggression and raids. The mountains were cold and vegetation was scarce. Meat meant hunting big game that could easily kill and eat them first. And now this man looked as scared as a mouse cornered by a cat.
The man Cato sent away returned with a wild boar carcass, which he promptly secured over the back of the cornered man's mustang and strapped it down with rope. The cornered native scowled at him with perplexity. Another man disappeared into a chickadee and returned with a leather pouch. He then went to one of the mango trees and hauled himself into the branches to pluck the fruits.
Within fifteen minutes, the leather pouch was set across the cornered man's shoulders and he remounted onto his mustang. The two wounded men reappeared with dressing on their shoulders wounds and were helped onto their mustangs.
Sol smiled at Cato. "Boni Samaritani eramus."
"Etiam. Fecimus, ut illis Iesus."
The trio of natives rode north at an easy stride. As the passed between trees, the rest of their hunting party fell into place behind them. They would hunt on their way north and disturb these coastline tribes no more.