Three youths were sitting around a campfire in the middle of nowhere, their grandfather telling tales of their tribes past to them in his horse voice. All three had heard most of his tales before, and were beginning to grow restless, when the old man halted the tale of the Coyote Woman to gaze at them from across the flames.
“Ohanko,” Old Thundercloud said with a firm voice, getting the attention of the three teens. “Why are you and your brothers so restless?”
The aforementioned Ohanko, or Eric as his parents had named him, snorted and threw his long hair over his shoulders. “We’ve been listening to these stories for years Gramps, we know them all by heart.”
“Yeah,” Mato, Bryan to his friends, chorused. “How can you expect to keep us entertained out here? I mean, I don’t even get any service out here for my IPhone!”
Gomda looked up at the stars and added with an airy voice. “All we really have are the stars to look at, and even they grow more boring than your stories!”
Old Thundercloud grew pensive, crossing his arms over his chest and allowing the small camp to fall into silence, the crackle of wood disturbing the quiet night with pops and cracks. The three brothers all looked at each other before looking over the fire at their grandfather.
Mato, coughing into his large hand, cleared his throat. “Grandfather?” He grumbled, just loud enough to be heard over the fire.
“I am thinking Mato,” Old Thundercloud said, his eyes closed. “There are tales yet to be told, for muttering some of them bring them back to life. And somethings, dear grandsons, do not need to be brought back.”
This startled the three teens. Their grandfather often spoke of the old ways and how the tribe should go back to them, fight the U.S. government for more land and settle it how they would like to. To hear him say some things should be left forgotten… that seemed like blasphemy coming from him.
The man finally moved, his taut muscles clear beneath his tunic that he still wore. He reached into a leather pouch hanging from his belt, opening it wide enough to scoop out a handful of what looked like sand. With a flourish, the old man threw the powder into the flames, the fire flashing high in a brilliant green color for a few moments before burning low, casting shadows over the area where there hadn’t been any before. The three teens were looking around wildly, muttering, while Old Thundercloud sat ramrod straight, eyes facing forward as he reached for his walking stick to hold in his calloused hands.
“Speaking of this… creature is to run the risk of bringing its attention down upon us, so when I tell you this tale do not ask me to repeat anything,” Old Thundercloud said, his voice stern. “I will tell this tale once, just as you will as well one day to your grandchildren. But be wary…”
“Alright Grandfather, we will,” Mato said with his deep voice, looking over at his brothers who nodded at the unasked question.
“It began long, long ago before the White man came to our shores, but this story is of a time not too long ago,” Old Thundercloud recited, leaning back to hold onto his walking stick as he delved into the tale.
Three brothers walked along the deer path, their longbows pulled out and readied to shoot down any stray deer that had been chased from the expansion of the city. Their lands were receding by the day as the White man infringed on the treaties the tribes had signed, but there was little the Iroquois could do. So they just did what they knew; they hunted and fished, tended their fields and orchards while tanning hides for their clothing. They brought in furs into the city for trade, the fox and mountain lion pelts fetching high prices in the budding settlement.
Heinmot, the oldest of the three with the groups’ water skins slung around his shoulders, held up a hand to halt his brother’s progression. He could hear Abooksigun, his middle brother, grunt in annoyance at halting. The fiery blood of the hunter pumped through his veins and he longed to prove himself to the village elders, this Herinmot knew. But Heinmot also knew that he’d come across a marker hanging from a branch, a raven skull hanging from a leather thong, worn paint marking it as the warning signs of entering an old enemies territory.
Heinmot frowned at the sign. The enemy had been dead for forty years, their main village left for the ravens due to the illness that had claimed them. The Black Palm had been overcome by the illness suddenly, and were left to fend for themselves in the middle of a winter with no medicine and little food.
None had survived.
The youngest brother, Aditsan, spoke in a low whisper. “Is that what I think it is?” He asked, gazing up at the crow skull with a mixture of awe and fear.
“Yeah,” Heinmot said. “The village isn’t on any of our maps because it is a place of vengeful spirits, the land cursed. I’ve never been along this trail, and would never have guessed that we would encounter it.”
“Let’s go and explore!” Abooksigun said with enthusiasm. The whip thin teen was a crack shot with his bow, and quick as lightning. Sadly, this gave him little time to cultivate patience. Heinmot sighed, turning to look his brothers’ in their eyes.
“We need to make camp soon,” Heinmot said, motioning to the place of the sun in the sky. “We have four rabbits and two foxes; we can prepare a rabbit and save the pelt, and make an offering to the spirits with another rabbit.”
“Forget that!” Abooksigun laughed, clapping Aditsan on his shoulder. The younger hunter almost fell over and glared at his brother, but Abooksigun failed to notice it. “I say we go into the old village and use one of their old homes to rest in for the evening. Any illness will have died out by now, and there could be treasures to be looted from our former foes.”
“What are you, a White man?” Aditsan asked, shrugging to get his brother’s hand off his shoulder. “Why would we want to loot a dead village? To find things to sell to the people in town?”
“We could get whiskey, just think about it!” Abooksigun pleaded.
“No,” Heinmot refused. “We won’t disgrace the dead by rummaging through their homes like thieves in the night. We’ll set up a camp here and backtrack in the morning, find another trail.”
“That sounds wise,” Aditsan agreed.
Abooksigun shrugged and walked past Heinmot, under the tree where the skull hung. “Forget you two, I’m going to see what treasures await in the lair of our old foe. They may have pelts that we could salvage, tools we can use… maybe even liquor!”
Heinmot stood tall and stared at his brother. “Wait with us Abook, there is no reason to tempt fate.”
“Hah! I’m not tempting fate, I’m seizing it! You can cower over here with Aditsan creating a campfire to roast lean rabbit for a small meal,” Abooksigun jeered. “I’m going to get the haul of a lifetime and stop acting as the elders’ go-to boy.”
Abooksigun turned and continued on down the deer path towards what would be the old territory of the Black Palm. Heinmot looked over at Aditsan, sighing. “Can we really let him go alone like this?”
Aditsan shrugged, his usual answers seemingly like water in a dried well. “He’s our brother. We can’t just let him wander off into Black Palm land by himself. They were supposed to be trappers; what if Abook falls prey to one of their old traps? We hunt together to protect each other. Well right now we aren’t protecting Abooksigun very well, are we?”
Heinmot heaved a sigh and turned to stare down the deer trail. “Like always, you make too much sense little brother.”
Aditsan shrugged. “Our parents named me well,” he said.
“Let’s go,” Heimot groused. “I don’t want to be in this foul territory for long. The spirits won’t take kindly to their mortal enemies poking around their former home.”