Seven Years Gone
Characters: Singing Wolf
The village had changed little since she had left. Her parent’s lodge still stood near the center, tall and proud. Perhaps it was a little more smoke darkened from the fire kept inside, the cover slightly more worn, but to Singing Wolf, it looked perfect. Old friends and relatives called out to her as she passed by. She returned their greetings, but did not stop. No one expected her to. First she would pay her respects to her Chief, and then she would see her parents and grandparents again, for the first time in seven years. Later, there would be time to renew old friendships.
“Have you come home to stay, Wolf?” Her mother asked. She was obviously hoping she would be, but the sadness in her eyes betrayed her feelings of the truth.
“Our daughter is a warrior now, Two Stars,” her father reminded her. Thunder Shield reached out and touched the small scar on Wolf’s cheek. She smiled at him. “She brings honor to our people, and our family. She will go where the Spirits guide her.”
Her mother sighed. She missed her daughter. She still hoped she would return to marry and give her grandchildren, but she kept these thoughts to herself. Wolf surprised her by moving beside her and placing an arm around her shoulders. “I am happy, Mother. I have become a part of something greater than myself. The Minbari are much like us in many ways. I am proud to be Anla’Shok.”
Two Stars smiled and looked at her, her eyes bright with tears. “But you have no one to perform the ceremonies for you, Wolf.”
“I have learned to adapt. I constructed a sweat lodge in my quarters on my last ship, and heat metal for the steam.”
Her father scowled disapprovingly. “You are using metal in a sacred sweat? Wolf, you should know better.”
“Father, I thought and prayed about this matter. On a ship, I am surrounded by metal. The ground beneath me is metal. I cannot carry enough rocks with me, so I keep one, and heat it as well, to honor Inyan. It is different, but it still works. The spirits have not seem angered by this, only sometimes amused.” She smiled.
He still didn’t look happy, but he let the matter drop. One didn’t question another’s relationship with the Spirits. Especially when she was a fully trained medicine woman in her own right. He changed the subject. “How long can you stay with us, Daughter?”
“I have been told to report back in 18 days.”
“Then you have time to attend the Wiwanyag Wacipu. Your brother will be there.”
“I look forward to seeing Grey Fox again.” She looked up at her father. “I would participate in the Sundance. For many reasons.”
Thunder Shield smiled. “Of course. No one will deny you that right.”
A man whose name Wolf could not recall walked past, a PPG in a beaded and fringed holster on his hip. She stared.
“Father, why is he wearing that weapon?” To say she was shocked would have been a great understatement; she had never seen technology of any sort among her people here.
Her father smiled down on her, his eyes shining brightly with pride. “That is not my story to tell, Wolf. But you will hear, tonight, at the fire.”
Though the air was now silent, Wolf could still hear the pounding of the large dance drums in her head. Her blood still sang, her body glad for the respite from the hours of celebratory dancing that had gone on for many hours. A large circle had formed around the camp’s central fire, awaiting the stories to come. Wolf especially waited with anticipation, knowing there were new stories to be told. She had heard hints of it all night, young men boasting of battles fought and enemies killed. Though she didn’t understand, she knew she would soon hear all in detail.
She made herself comfortable at her parent’s side, in a prominent place near the chief. She pretended not to notice the several admiring looks from the young men, but was secretly pleased. She glanced down at the dress she wore. It was beautiful, made of soft doeskin, decorated with dyed quills and tiny beads. Her mother had made it for her, hoping for her return. She wore it proudly, along with the shell earrings that dangled down past her shoulders and the bone choker at her throat. She also wore her Minbari pike at her side, as well as an obsidian knife. Two Stars had brushed her black hair until it shone, and it flowed loose past her waist. She looked every bit the proud warrior woman, and beautiful enough that many men dared to consider approaching her.
Chief Two Elks raised a gnarled hand, and the low conversations fell silent. In a voice still surprisingly strong, he spoke. His words, spoken in Cheyenne, were understood by all. Children of the camp were in essence, raised by all, and therefore learned the tribal language of all. It was not uncommon to hear conversations in Lakota, Cheyenne, Navajo or Cherokee.
“Maheo has blessed us with another day of life, and for this, we give our thanks. He has returned to us an honored warrior daughter, Singing Wolf.” Wolf raised her chin proudly at the many eyes turned in her direction. Murmurs of approval moved through the crowd. “Maheo has also returned to us many new warriors, those who went to fight for our people to the west. Wanbli will tell you.”
A tall, handsome Lakota warrior stood. His hair flowed freely down his back, his bare chest, marked with Sundance scars, glowed bronze in the firelight. Wolf’s eyes widened in recognition. Once called Wanbli Cikala, Little Eagle, he had been her childhood friend. Now, he was known simply as Wanbli, The Eagle. It seemed he had become even stronger and more handsome in her absence. She listened raptly to his words.
“We heard the call of our brothers to the west. They told us of their young man, Running Bear, who had left his people to live in the Outside. He told the truth to people, through a group he called Eye-Ess-En. But then soldiers came. They didn’t want people to know the truth. They went to his home, to arrest him. He was not there, and they killed his young wife, who was carrying his first child. They called it an ‘accident.'” He snorted derisively. “Seeking others who would help him, he returned to his people. Their warriors gathered, and we soon joined them.” He paused a moment. “We agreed to seek takpe.”
Wolf tried to not let the surprise she felt show on her face. Takpe, revenge taken by killing the enemy. It had been a long time since her people had fought together in this way. Her admiration for them grew. It had to have been Nightwatch they had fought.
“At sunrise, we were prepared to leave. But the soldiers had followed Running Bear, and were approaching the camp. They were foolish, and had no knowledge of the forest. We surrounded them, and attacked before they even realized we were there.” His face darkened. “Their weapons were superior to ours, as we knew they would be. But at great risk, some warriors were able to take some of their weapons.” Wolf noticed that he too, wore a PPG at his side. She smiled. “Others continued to fire arrows from places of concealment, felling many. Finally, the soldiers ran from us. We pursued them for a time, to make certain they knew what would happen to them should they return.” He nodded and sat back down.
As low conversations again started among those gathered, Wolf found her eyes drawn to this warrior. To her surprise and some embarrassment, she saw his gaze on her, his eyes bright. She returned his smile, then looked away.
Things had changed much while she was gone. But she believed the changes had only made the people stronger, and she was proud of them.
(C) 1999 Sam Stephens. All rights reserved.