Mystic Dreamers (Mystic Indian Series #1)by Rosanne Bittner
In 1833, Star Dancer, a Sichangu (Brule Sioux) is promised in marriage to Stalking Wolf, an Oglala warrior whom she has never met. Against her wishes she must travel with her new husband to the Oglala's land far from her home and family. What begins as a loveless union develops into a moving story of a man and a woman led by powers beyond their control. Star Dancer… See more details below
In 1833, Star Dancer, a Sichangu (Brule Sioux) is promised in marriage to Stalking Wolf, an Oglala warrior whom she has never met. Against her wishes she must travel with her new husband to the Oglala's land far from her home and family. What begins as a loveless union develops into a moving story of a man and a woman led by powers beyond their control. Star Dancer grows to understand that not only her father, but the spirits also, have blessed the union between her and Stalking Wolf. Together Star Dancer and Stalking Wolf come to realize that it is their destiny to lead their people toward a future made wholly uncertain by the encroaching White Man.
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By Bittner, Rosanne
Forge BooksCopyright © 2007 Bittner, Rosanne
All right reserved.
BY WHITE MAN’s terms, the year this story begins is 1832, during the Moon When The Ponies Shed…in May.
* * *
“Take pity on me. Show me the way, and protect my people.”
A naked Night Hunter trembled from four days of hunger and thirst. The red heat of the afternoon sun penetrated his skin, but he ignored the pain, celebrating his suffering. Four days ago, his uncle, Runs With The Deer, had warned that he must come to the Big Waters of the sacred Black Hills to seek a vision.
“A wolf spoke to me about you in a dream, my nephew. It told me you must go to the Big Waters. There the wolf will come to you and tell you of a woman you must seek, for without her, you cannot become a true leader of the People. This woman has power, and she will help you become a leader of the Oglala.”
As a member of Naca Ominicia, men who represented the entire Lakota Nation, Runs With The Deer held a position of great importance and his dreams held great significance. Thus Night Hunter now sat alone on a high ledge that overlooked the Big Waters, waiting faithfully for the wolf to come to him.
As he listened to the gentle flow of the river at the bottom of the canyon, he breathed deeply of the sweet, cool air thathung rich with the scent of wet pine needies. These sacred hills, nearly black with thick groves of deep green pine trees, harbored powerful spirits. Other Oglala men, and sometimes women, came to this hallowed place to seek visions.
Again, Night Hunter drew on his sacred pipe, letting the sweet smoke fill his lungs. He held the pipe aloft and sang to the God of the Sky.
“Take pity on me,” he repeated. “Show me the way, and protect my people.”
Despite his powerful build, weakness consumed him, and raising his prayer pipe took great effort. With shaking hands and arms, he offered the sacred pipe to the four corners of the earth. At each point, east, west, north, south, he again sang his prayer, his voice husky from a dry throat. He lowered the pipe toward the ground, praying to sacred Mother Earth. Here he had experienced his first vision at fourteen summers of age. In that vision, the moon and the sun moved side by side, and then the moon passed over the sun, blocking its light. After that, Moon Painter, the Oglala priest, told him that he should be called Night Hunter.
He had lived up to his name, hunting at night, his vision sharper in the night’s darkness than others of his clan. Unafraid of the spirits of the darkness, he once killed a buffalo after dark, an accomplishment that brought him great praise and adoration from his fellow warriors, even from the wise old men of the Big Belly Society. For the next ten summers he pursued his quest to be a leader among the Oglala, a Wicasa, Shirt Wearer. From there he hoped to become Wicasa Itacan, one who ruled the Shirt Wearers.
Night Hunter swayed, then fell. The gravelly earth cut into his elbow and forearm, and he grimaced as he managed to ease himself back up. He crossed his legs and laid his pipe across his knees. Taking a deep r breath for courage, he slid his hunting knife from its sheath and deftly sliced into his left arm, then stretched it out so that the blood from the wound dripped onto Mother Earth. He must show the Great Spirit his willingness to sacrifice even his own blood for the gift of a vision.
Could the woman of whom the wolf spoke be Fall Leaf Woman? He had enjoyed her slippery depths many times since the day two summers past when she caught him alone and boldly offered herself to him. She had dropped her tunic, exposing her womanly mysteries, enticing him with licks and caresses that caused him to fall under her power. Since then, she had continued to brazenly offer herself to him without reservation.
Fall Leaf Woman truly seemed to care for him, but he did not feel deeply for her. Lately she annoyed him with her constant pestering, and it seemed that wherever he turned, she hovered nearby. Surely such a woman could not be his intended. She held no special powers. Whomever he chose to call first wife must be a woman of great honor, one who would cost many horses, and who would not offer herself physically without a great price. Fall Leaf Woman did not hold such honor; he could have her for no price at all.
As the sun lowered, the western trees and hills cast a shadow over Night Hunter. His body shook with a chill, and he nearly passed out again. Thunder boomed overhead, rousing him from his stupor. The earth began to shake, and a powerful dizziness overcame him as the thundering noise grew so loud it hurt his ears. Then he saw it, a herd of buffalo stampeding toward him. Their pounding hooves shook the ground, yet they did not touch the ground at all. They charged out of the sky, so many and so fast that he could never run fast enough to avoid being trampled.
He sucked in his breath and waited for whatever must come, and just before reaching him, the herd suddenly parted and thundered around him on either side. Wild, black eyes glared at him as shaggy heads darted past. He heard their snorting, felt the hot breath from their nostrils, yet their feet stirred no dust once they touched the canyon ledge where he sat.
The herd suddenly vanished, and silence reigned once again. Then, from where the great beasts had charged out of the sky, a bright white cloud approached, swirling and eddying as it floated closer. Finally it came to rest on a nearby outcropping of rocks at the edge of the great chasm before him. Gradually the cloud changed shape, forming a white buffalo.
Then a black cloud, outlined in yellow, swirled and tumbled toward the white buffalo, settling beside it. The black cloud slowly took the shape of a wolf with yellow eyes. The menacing beast began to prowl around the white buffalo as though stalking it. When the wolf seemed ready to pounce, the head of the buffalo quickly transformed into a woman’s face, her long hair white and shaggy like the buffalo’s mane. She looked down at the wolf, and the animal backed away. Then one leg of the white buffalo turned into a slender arm that reached out and touched the wolf’s head.
“One day you, Night Hunter, will be my husband,” she told the wolf. “But then your name will be Stalking Wolf.”
She withdrew her hand and became a buffalo again. She ambled away, and the wolf turned to Night Hunter, its yellow eyes filled with wisdom. “She is the woman you must marry,” the beast told Night Hunter. “She is blessed by the white buffalo. When you find her, do not let her go.”
The wolf turned and chased after the white buffalo. Night Hunter watched until both figures again became only clouds, which soon disappeared into the red sunset. Then a blinding flash of light exploded across the sky, causing Night Hunter to cup his hands over his eyes. A great warmth enveloped him, and when he dared look again, he saw a man standing before him with outstretched arms and a hairy face. He wore a simple robe, his long hair and the hair on his face lighter in color than Night Hunter’s hair.
The man’s gentle, comforting gaze held Night Hunter in rapture for several minutes, but the vision did not speak. As Night Hunter watched, the man spun around and his robes fell away, until he wore only an apron about his loins. His hair and skin turned darker and his outstretched arms bulged with more muscles, until he grew into a powerful giant of a man with feathers sprouting from his arms and back. Finally, the feathers covered his entire body, and his head trans formed into the head of an eagle. He opened his beak and spoke.
“The man who appeared first represents peace, as will the woman you take as a wife. I am the Feathered One, and I represent the power of the Oglala, as do you, Stalking Wolf. Go and seek the woman of peace among the people of the Burnt Thighs. Some call her the White Buffalo Woman.”
The Being soared away, disappearing into the clouds. Night Hunter stared after it in awe and confusion. A terrible dizziness washed over him then and he fell, hitting his head on a rock. He breathed deeply of the sweet smell of pine before lapsing into unconsciousness.
* * *
The next morning, Runs With The Deer and other Big Bellies came to check on Night Hunter. They found him lying near death, his head and left arm encrusted by dried blood.
“Take him, quickly,” Runs With The Deer ordered. “Moon Painter must pray over him, and his mother and sister can tend to him.”
The others managed to,maneuver Night Hunter onto a travois tied to a horse. They hauled his limp body back to camp, but Runs With The Deer remained behind, staring out over the valley below.
“What have you seen?” he muttered, wishing his nephew could speak. He noticed a feather on the ground, and he stooped to pick it up, but a sudden wind whisked it away. It floated out over the valley below and disappeared.
Copyright © 1999 by Rosanne Bittner
Excerpted from Mystic Dreamers by Bittner, Rosanne Copyright © 2007 by Bittner, Rosanne. Excerpted by permission.
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