Carole McDonnell
Essayist, Reviewer, Novelist


Wind Follower

These are the words of Loic tyu Taer and Satha tya Monua which they spoke to our ancestors on the day the Angleni gathered us to this place. How briefly that bright light shone -yet how powerfully! But all is not lost. Tell your children this prophecy, and let your children tell their children, and those children must tell the future generations - because the prophesied time will come. In the last days, the light will shine again with power and permanence. Use these memories as a beacon, my children, for the time will come when the Great Chief will return our land and all that is ours to us.


The Reaping Moon -- First Harvest Moon

I will tell you first how Krika died.

Okiak, his father and the chief shaman of our clan, brought Krika before the elders at the Spirit Shrine, the sacrificial mound we called Skull Place. My friend was bound hand and foot, and the skin of his face had been flailed away so that all the muscles and bones beneath his right eye glistened. He was weeping then and crying out for mercy, choking on his tears. This surprised me, but I forgave it. --who could bear such searing pain without weeping?

Okiak lifted the shuwa, already reddened with his son's blood, and there, surrounded by bones and burnt flesh, remnants of the monthly sacrifices, he shouted, "My son has not obeyed me. I have warned him time and times to pay obeisance to our spirits, but he has refused."

The spirits had ordered his death. I stood far off, struggling with my father and Pantan. Their hands held me fast and kept me from racing to Krika's side.

Nevertheless, I called out. "Are the spirits so puny and helpless they must force people to worship them?"

All eyes rebuked me, yes, all the elders of the Pagatsu clan, and Father yanked me backward by my arm. "Tread lightly, son," he said, "lest the spirits also demand your life."

I glared at him. "And if they did, would you be so weak as to comply?"

He turned away. "The spirits have not asked for your life. Why contemplate unasked demands?"

I hated him for that. Yes, although I loved him with all my heart, but from that moment, I despised him for those words.

Krika continued pleading for his life. Okiak aimed the shuwa and let it fly through the sky towards his son. Krika's wail sounded over the fields and the low-hanging willows and past the Great Salt Desert. But no one spoke for him, not my father, not the other shaman, and not the Creator. He died, battered beneath a hail of stones; all eyes but mine witnessed his last breath. Father had pulled my face into his chest, and I hated my weakness for allowing it. My tears soaked his tunic. He gently stroked my head and played with my braid, and told me that I should forget, forget, forget, for death - however it comes- is the lot of all men.

They left Krika's body where it fell. Unburied, he was to be devoured by wild wolves and bears. But worse, his lack of a burial meant he could not enter the fields we desire. He could not hunt with the Creator. Thus, his father damned him to eternal grief.

Krika had been my age-brother, taught with Prince Lihu as I was. While he lived, his presence colored my life as a wolf's continuous howl or a woman's singing might color the night. He seemed at once to rage against the spirits while yet singing to the Creator. This was a strange thing, for at that time no one in the three tribes sought the Creator; we thought those shadow gods were his servants. Even I, who was suspicious of the spirits from my birth, had never warred against them as Krika had.

That night, as the sun set over my father's Golden House, I escaped to the shrine. There lay Krika, crumpled on the ground. With many shuwas I warded off the wolves and lions who had sniffed out my friend's blood. But the spirits fought against me, calling from the east, west, north, and south, all creatures of earth and air. How black the field and night sky grew with their descending shadows. In the field, only two men: Krika and me, one living and one dead. All my father's so-called Valiant Men were nowhere to be seen, for although they had battled mightily against the Angleni, on the night of Krika's death, they hid in the compound trembling in fear of the spirits. Then, all at once, I understood the spirits had arrayed themselves in battle against me. That I would battle them alone, for I had no, not one among my clan.

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