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By Rosanne Bittner
Tom Doherty Associates Copyright © 2000 Rosanne Bittner
All rights reserved.
EMERGING FROM SWIRLING clouds, the warriors rode out of the sky toward Buffalo Dreamer. Their bodies glimmered a ghostly white. Coup feathers and quilled ornaments decorated their hair. Colorful quills adorned lance covers, quivers, leggings, moccasins, and armbands. Each man wore a bone hairpipe breastplate tied to his otherwise naked chest. Some wore a bearclaw necklace. Their faces were painted black, making the whites of their eyes seem to glow.
Buffalo Dreamer watched them, astounded and afraid. War shields of buffalo hide hung at the sides of their painted horses, the shields decorated with hand-drawn pictures of personal spirit guides: eagles, horses, wolves, bears, birds, beavers, suns, stars, lightning bolts.
As the warriors charged forward in thundering glory, their long black hair trailed in the wind. Eagles circled above them like sentinels. The hooves of galloping warhorses rumbled like thunder, but even though the riders' mouths were open as though shouting war cries, there was no sound.
Buffalo Dreamer tried to run, but she couldn't move. Sod sprayed in all directions as panting steeds charged past her, determination on the faces of the warriors, who stared straight ahead as though unaware of her. Now she could see they were Lakota, but men of another nation rode with them—Shihenna, those the white man called Cheyenne.
Suddenly the terrain changed, and Buffalo Dreamer found herself standing on a ridge, looking down at many white men wearing blue coats. More Lakota and Cheyenne rode out of the sky, until they numbered in the thousands. The fierce warriors surrounded the men in blue coats, circling, killing, until the white men were pounded into the earth and disappeared in a pool of blood. The warriors rode back into the clouds, carrying scalps and sabers, their eyes gleaming with victory.
The clouds swirled around and engulfed them, then fell to the ground and took the form of a white buffalo. The sacred beast stared at Buffalo Dreamer, its eyes bright red. Crimson tears of blood trickled down the white hairs of its face.
"It is the beginning of the end," it spoke. "When next I appear to you, I will die. Eat of my heart, and keep my robe with you always, for protection. And beware of the men in blue coats."
* * *
Buffalo Dreamer awoke with a gasp and sat up. Taking a moment to gather her thoughts, she was almost startled to find herself in her own tepee. Big Little Boy, two summers old, still slept quietly nearby.
After hearing the thundering hooves of the warriors' horses, everything seemed too quiet, and Buffalo Dreamer found it difficult to remove herself from the very real dream she had just experienced. She shivered, for her dreams carried great significance. Though only nineteen summers in age, she was considered a holy woman by the Lakota. In her medicine bag she carried the hairs of her spirit guide, the white buffalo. Among all living Lakota, she alone had seen and touched the sacred beast.
She pulled a wolfskin shawl around her naked body and looked at her husband, who slept soundly beside her. Because Rising Eagle was a man of vision and possessed great spiritual power, she knew she must tell him about her dream. She watched him quietly for a moment longer, reluctant to disturb him. In sleep, he appeared just a common man: peaceful, calm. Awake, no man could match him in strength and bravery, in hunting or in raiding. He had even fought the great humpback bear to win her hand in marriage, for her father had demanded the hide of a grizzly as part of her marriage price. Rising Eagle still bore scars on his throat, chest, and back from his struggle with the fearsome beast.
Other markings spoke further of Rising Eagle's prowess: a deep scar on his left calf from a battle with Crow warriors; a narrow white scar ran from above his left eye over his nose and across his right cheek, making him appear fierce and intimidating. He had sacrificed his flesh more than once at the annual Sun Dance. And twice Wakan-Tanka's messenger, the Feathered One, had spoken to Rising Eagle in a vision, making Rising Eagle a highly honored man among the Lakota, one whose prayers were heard beyond the farthest clouds. No other Lakota man had ever seen or spoken with the Feathered One; and so, at twenty-eight summers, Rising Eagle already claimed the status of Naca, a very important leader among the Oglala and the entire Lakota Nation. Red hands painted on the rumps of Rising Eagle's most prized horses depicted his many wounds suffered at the hands of the enemy. Black hands represented the number of enemy warriors killed.
Buffalo Dreamer touched his shoulder. "Rising Eagle," she whispered.
He started awake, frowning at being disturbed. "What is wrong?"
"I had a dream," Buffalo Dreamer said softly. She still expected to hear the thundering of horses' hooves go charging through the Oglala camp. "I saw the blue coats again."
Rising Eagle rubbed his eyes as he sat up to face her. With concern in his voice, he said. "Tell me."
Buffalo Dreamer explained what she had seen in her dream. "It is surely an omen. When you saw the Feathered One in your vision at Medicine Mountain, he warned us of the wasicus. I think it is those who wear the blue coats we must fear the most, more than any enemy we have now."
Rising Eagle lay back down. "You said that in the dream the warriors destroyed those who wore the blue coats. Surely that is a sign that there is nothing to fear from them."
Buffalo Dreamer pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. "But this time the Sacred White also appeared, and it told me to beware of men in blue coats. When the warriors disappeared into the clouds, it said, 'It is the beginning of the end.' You know that this is not the first time I have dreamed about the men in blue coats."
Rising Eagle reached up and teasingly yanked at her hair. "Lie down, woman. I enjoy lying beside you in the early hours, when the camp is still quiet."
Buffalo Dreamer obeyed. "There is more." She told her husband about the words of the white buffalo, that when she saw it again, she must eat of its heart.
Rising Eagle breathed a long sigh, then turned on his side and ran a hand over her nakedness. "I will speak with Runs With The Deer about your dream. My uncle is wise in his old age. We must decide what to do about the men in blue coats when finally we see them in life."
Buffalo Dreamer traced her fingers along his firm jawline. "When I have a dream that frightens me, it is good to wake up to the safety of your strong arms. I know that with you by my side, nothing can harm me, not even the blue coats." She watched the love sparkle in his handsome dark eyes. A vision had led him to her, and she had feared and hated him when he first came to claim her, a man she had never before set eyes on. Now she loved him beyond her own life.
"I would die for you, and for my sons," he said softly.
Buffalo Dreamer smiled. He'd said sons, not son. He considered Never Sleeps, their adopted son, as much their son as Big Little Boy, even though Never Sleeps bore no blood relationship to them.
"Never Sleeps might as well belong to my mother," she told him. "Since she agreed to care for him while I still nursed Big Little Boy, she has come to love him like her own son, the son she was never able to bear."
Rising Eagle nodded. "Never Sleeps has been good for Tall Woman, and also for your father. Every man wants a son. Since Never Sleeps has no uncle to teach him the warrior way, I have asked Looking Horse to train him."
Buffalo Dreamer drew in her breath with joy. "I know my father will be happy and honored to lead our son to manhood. And my mother will also be pleased."
Rising Eagle moved on top of her, laughing lightly. "Looking Horse often jokes that Never Sleeps is in his tepee so often that he cannot enjoy your mother's company at night. Often she takes Never Sleeps to bed with her so the child can sleep close to her." He leaned down and licked her neck. "There is, however, nothing between you and me right now, Buffalo Dreamer. I wish to enjoy you at this moment."
He moved his mouth to lick and taste her lips, and Buffalo Dreamer tasted his in return. They did not know what to call this touching of lips and tongues, but they had discovered once, during lovemaking, that it was very pleasant. It usually led to the exploring of other, more secret places. She had only recently stopped nursing Big Little Boy, and so they had renewed their lovemaking only a few days ago. Passions still ran high.
Rising Eagle caressed her breasts, her belly, and her private places that had always belonged only to him. She breathed deeply with the want of him, enjoyed the scent of him. Soon she felt the rising exotic pulse that made her ache to be filled with this man who had taught her the glory and delight of mating.
"I need you, my husband."
Rising Eagle mounted her, grasping her hips and thrusting his most virile self into her with movements that made her groan with pleasure. For the moment, Buffalo Dreamer forgot about her strange dream. All that mattered was the ecstasy of mating with this most honored warrior. For many moons after first marrying him, she had refused his advances. Now she rued the pleasure she had missed by being so stubborn.
They twined in sweet rhythm; then Rising Eagle rose to his knees, moving even deeper and faster, the gleam of a conquering warrior in his eyes. Finally, Buffalo Dreamer felt the rush of his life pour into her, and Rising Eagle groaned in his own pleasure. He held himself deep within her for a moment before pulling away and lying down next to her again.
The morning sun began to brighten the inside of the tepee then, and they lay there a moment longer, each lost in their own thoughts, until a small voice broke the early morning quiet.
Buffalo Dreamer turned at her son's call to his father. Big Little Boy was awake and watching them. She thought that the boy truly fit his name. The husky child had walked sooner than others his age, and he was a bundle of energy, always ready for mischief. Once he had run into the nearby river and was caught by Buffalo Dreamer just in time; otherwise he surely would have drowned. All the Oglala took great joy in his antics, everyone agreeing that Big Little Boy was definitely his father's son when it came to fearing nothing.
Rising Eagle sat up and gave Big Little Boy a frown in mock scolding. "You are awake too soon, my son."
Big Little Boy giggled and jumped up. He ran outside naked, and Rising Eagle shook his head. "It is a good thing the weather has warmed." He reached for his breechcloth and rose, tying it on. "I will catch him for you this time. You can stay here and dress. I will wash myself in the river."
He ducked out of the tepee, and Buffalo Dreamer lay still, feeling pleasantly happy, until suddenly a flash of apprehension moved through her. She sat up, whispering Big Little Boy's name, deciding to hurriedly wash and dress. Perhaps it was just a reaction to her still-vivid dream, but something felt very wrong.CHAPTER 2
RISING EAGLE CHASED Big Little Boy into the tall grass beyond the camp, where he caught the child urinating.
"You must do this farther away from camp," Rising Eagle scolded. He leaned down to grab his son, teasingly letting Big Little Boy scamper off again. The boy laughed with glee, and Rising Eagle smiled at the child's excitement in thinking he could outrun his father. He shook his head and took his time following, allowing his son to play his game of tag. After all, it was not too soon for the boy to begin to learn how to hide from the enemy.
Rising Eagle stopped to also urinate, then casually traced the pathway of trampled, broken spring grass left by Big Little Boy.
"So!" he shouted. "You think you can hide from me!" He heard another giggle. He noticed that the pathway led toward the thicker brush and trees that bordered the river, and he felt a sudden alarm. Later in the summer, the river near where they were camped would be shallow and sandy, but heavy spring rains, mixed with snowmelt from the mountains far to the west, had caused it to swell way beyond its banks.
"My son!" he shouted. "You know you are not to go near the river! You will cut your feet running into the tangle of brush there, and you must not go into the water!"
Somewhere deep in the heavier brush he heard more laughter, then a light shriek. It sounded like a child's normal shout of excitement, yet something about it made him wary.
"Big Little Boy!" he yelled, but there came no reply. He did, however, hear a loud splashing sound. He began running, ignoring the sticks and stones that gouged his bare feet. He reached the north riverbank, but Big Little Boy was nowhere in sight. Again he called for him. He heard voices behind him then, and realized that his shouts of alarm had disturbed the rest of the camp. He ran alongside the riverbank, desperately searching the rushing water. He saw nothing, but as he ran farther, he spotted a lance stuck in the ground on the opposite bank.
A new dread charged through him when he looked down to see fresh hoof-prints in the soft sand along the riverbank. No Oglala horses had grazed in this area since making camp, and none were in sight now. He looked across the river at the lance, then hurriedly waded into the chilly water. Worry obliterated all sensation of cold.
My son! Not my only true son! He swam toward the opposite bank, still hearing voices somewhere behind him. He heard Buffalo Dreamer scream her son's name.
Fighting the strong current, he headed toward the lance that had been left stuck in the ground. The rushing water slammed him against a boulder, knocking the breath out of him. He clung to the cold, slippery rock until his breath returned, then struggled to the opposite bank. He crawled out onto the sandy ground, where he saw moccasin prints. He studied them closely, and he knew from their shape that the prints did not belong to the Oglala, nor to any other Sioux band.
After scanning the immediate area, he rose and walked over to the lance. He yanked it from the ground and studied the beaded edge of the buffalo hide wrapped around the upper half. The Oglala had only recently begun trading for the white man's colorful beads. No Lakota man yet decorated his lance with beads, but only with quills. One other tribe, however, now traded frequently with the wasicu, and he knew the design of his most hated enemy.
"Pawnee," he growled. The surrounding trampled grass was an obvious sign that several men had been hiding here. A deep rage began to swell in his soul.
"Rising Eagle!" Buffalo Dreamer shouted from the opposite bank. "Where is our son?"
Rising Eagle's gaze fell upon a wide pathway left by many horses. He turned to see the look of terror on Buffalo Dreamer's face, and it made his heart ache. He held up the enemy's lance.
"Pawnee!" he shouted. "They have taken our son!"CHAPTER 3
"GREAT SPIRIT, TO whom I will one day return; Wakan-Tanka, Ruler of the Earth, of all we see and taste and touch, save my son!"
Buffalo Dreamer repeated the same prayer she had sung for the last five hours. A rush of cool wind blew her hair away from her face as she spoke, and she believed it to be a sign of the presence of another power. Below the bluff where she knelt praying, Rising Eagle shared a sweat lodge with other esteemed men of the Oglala Akicitas and equally honored Shihenna men, all participating in Inipi, the rite of purification.
The Oglala and Shihenna had begun trading with one another over the past few years, resulting in several intertribal marriages. They often shared the Sun Dance celebration, and they supported each other in warfare, especially against the Pawnee, an ancient, hated enemy of both nations. Unsure of how many men rode with the Pawnee who had stolen Big Little Boy, and because most of the Oglala clan was scattered farther north on its own hunting expeditions, Rising Eagle appealed to the Shihenna for help in finding his son. Many Shihenna men gladly agreed to join the search, hoping to retrieve sacred arrows stolen in an earlier attack by the Pawnee that had resulted in the death of many Shihenna women and children.
Prayers and fasting were always important before going to war. In a sweat lodge, the Oglala men prayed to the all-powerful one, Wakan-Tanka, the same god the Shihenna called Maheo. Buffalo Dreamer took hope in the power of their prayers. The men would smoke sacred tobacco in an offering of the prayer pipe to the Great Spirit, and would be cleansed by perspiring from the heat of rocks taken from peta owihankeshni, the sacred fire, making them pure in the eyes of the Great Spirit.
Surely Rising Eagle's petitions for the safety and rescue of his son would be heard by the Feathered One himself, that Being who was half man, half eagle, the Being who had once come to Rising Eagle in a flash of lightning on top of Medicine Mountain, enveloping Rising Eagle and Never Sleeps, healing their adopted son's deformed fingers and toes. The miraculous healing had proved the power of Rising Eagle's faith and prayers. Surely a man whose prayers could heal the lame could bring about the rescue of his own flesh and blood.
Excerpted from Mystic Visions by Rosanne Bittner. Copyright © 2000 Rosanne Bittner. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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