This land belongs to us, for the Great Spirit gave it to us when he put us here. We were free to come and go, and to live in our own way. But white men, who belong to another land, have come upon us, and are forcing us to live according to their ideas. That is an injustice; we have never dreamed of making white men live as we live.
— Sitting Bull, 1882
June 13, Wednesday
AS IF COOPERATING WITH THE hour's intent, Grandmother Moon lurked beneath the horizon while blackened skies strewn with stars awaited their demise at dawn. Charlie made an offering with his prayers, then sat cross-legged on the bare ground outside his cabin, facing northeast.
Dawn would commence just after five o'clock, sun breach the horizon roughly forty-five minutes later. Just enough time to get to work by six.
Morning air sharpened his senses as he tapped softly on the hand drum in his lap. The hypnotic rhythm quieted his mind much as his blanket warmed his body, a lullaby to his indigenous soul. He would have preferred buckskin instead of jeans, but might not have time to change.
Showing up like he'd just come from a powwow would stretch Maguire's "no altercation" policy to the breaking point.
As it was, he'd show up smelling like burnt sage. Certainly better than what emanated from those roughnecks.
His mind shifted to work, discomfort resuming. Immersing himself in the white man's world before brought catastrophic results.
Back then he deserved being called an apple.
Would he succumb again?
His white brother was killed by the same type of men who cheated his people out of their land, slaughtered the buffalo, and ran them off like wolves to desolate lands no one wanted. Bryan's dying request to Sara that they "not get away with it" pierced his heart like a fiery arrow.
Badger's message to his inner warrior was as clear as spring water.
For now, his view of the future was as dark as the predawn sky. The only thing working for LSO would help was his bank account.
Was it another betrayal?
Something told him it wasn't, if his heart remained true. The threads of fate were invisible, tying people and events together in tenuous ways. A decision that seemed simple could lead or, conversely, divert from, whatever it was Maheo wanted him to do.
Was he assisting the enemy in violating the earth?
Or invading their camp?
There was something to be learned there.
It certainly wasn't enjoyable. Dr. Phil was unpleasant, to say the least. He bristled with suppressed annoyance.
His thoughts shifted to the two main things that demanded attention: First, find out the truth behind Bryan's execution, and second, earn a living. In the white man's world, currency was necessary. He had responsibilities, many of which required a source of income. Like being a better father and seeing his girls. No telling what his ex was telling them.
He was older, more experienced with life. Intuition told him the job related somehow to what he was supposed to do, even if for now it presented a dichotomy. He was ready to bear the pressure of standing astride two ponies. This time if one diverged, he'd stay with the red one and honor his roots.
His gut told him to avenge his white brother's death, but not do anything foolish or impulsive. Maybe it wasn't yet time. When it was, their power would help him serve up the needed justice and restore balance.
The thought startled him.
Serve up justice? How?
That was no simple matter. Yet it held a kernel of truth. And for thus he sought the Great Spirit's counsel.
While the fetishes provided valuable insights, inspiration came through multiple channels. If he could discover more regarding how to fulfill his obligation to Bryan, all the better.
The scent of pine needles and soft chime of aspen leaves embraced him from the forest below while his eyes remained fixed on the eastern horizon,.
As he practiced what Eaglefeathers taught him of the Tseteshestahese way of life, he likewise remembered how the Diné sought answers. Both tribes honored the same Great Spirit, but through different rituals.
Dawn was a sacred time when Diné tradition declared one could seek wisdom in a special way. Why not take advantage of both? Surely Maheo wouldn't mind.
A pale glow caressed distant peaks, reaching toward heaven. Light fanned out and brightened, the time he was waiting for. The last rising star or constellation preceding the sun's appearance would deliver a message in those sacred moments before it was extinguished by the break of day.
His heartbeat merged with that of his drum, mind clear and receptive as he watched, waiting.
What appeared wasn't surprising. Stars known to the white man as Orion's belt. To the Diné they were the quiver of Átsé Ets' ózí, a strong, young warrior charged with protecting his family and people. His appearance in an heliacal rise was a call for action.
What that might be, however, was what he needed to know.
Opening his mind to Maheo, he braced for the moment's culmination when a small splash of pinkish-red appeared between the peak-strewn horizon and the spreading light. Its energy stirred his soul, bathed in brilliance like the snow crowning high elevations.
A sharp cry shattered the still air like a lance—a golden eagle on its morning hunt.
Another call from Eagle.
He assumed the great bird's persona, acquiring its flawless vision that sought its prey, then swooped in for the kill before it could escape. Eagle didn't know where his prey would appear until it did. He rode the wind, searching, until it broke cover.
He kept drumming, maintaining focus, enjoining patience. The eagle plunged groundward, then ascended again, an unfortunate rabbit dangling from its talons.
An animal that depended on its senses to perceive danger, then use its wit to survive.
He thought back to hunting rabbits with his father. They were not always successful. While their arrows were swift and silent, their feet were not. Rocks, twigs, fallen leaves, perhaps the vibration itself, served as warning. Snares were far more effective.
This quest required that he hunt as the eagle. Maintain his instincts and be on constant alert with unwavering vigilance. Sharp of eye, his approach silent, swift, and deadly.
Otherwise, he would fail.
He drummed a while longer as he watched and listened. The sun continued its journey, dissipating night and its shadows, stealing dawn's intrigue.
To discover what happened to Bryan required further action.
How his job with LSO fit in would come with time.
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