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The Indian village of one hundred tepees sat in the shadow of Mount Hope, and near the great Yellowstone River, where dark, fertile soil discolored the moccasins of these Indians, which was why they called themselves Siksikawa, Black Moccasins, or Blackfoot.
Beyond this wide river and the shadow of the great mountain, magnificent bear grass grew to the height of five feet, and a great number of wildflowers were in full bloom. There were dense caps of white flowers, floating above narrow, stiff leaves. Pink flowers adorned vines of shiny dark green leaves climbing the trunks of flowering dogwood and birch trees. An assortment of towering trees cast their shadows over other flowers, such as bishop's caps and light yellow adder's-tongue.
A fire burned low, and there was the aroma of baked venison in the largest tepee of the Blackfoot village, where Chief Cougar of the Turtle Clan sat with his sister, Morning Flower.
Morning Flower, a widow who was still young and beautiful, with black hair hanging in one long braid down her back, pushed her empty wooden platter aside, as did Chief Cougar. They had just finished the early afternoon meal.
The snows of two winters had passed since the death of Morning Flower's husband at the hands of Ute renegades, and now her chieftain brother was her caretaker, as well as theprovider for her son, Gray Stone.
Yes, Morning Flower's son was like a son to Cougar, but she knew that was not enough for her brother. She knew that he longed to have a child of his own, yet he had not chosen a woman to bring into his lodge and bed. He had fallen in love in his teen years, but many moons ago the girl's people, of the Owl Clan of Blackfoot, had moved far away, so far it had been impossible for Cougar to court her when he reached the age for marrying.
Morning Flower knew that her handsome brother's memories of this maiden were now beginning to fade. He had said that he no longer pined for her and knew it was time to let go of the past and look forward to a future that would include a wife and children.
She knew that among the neighboring Blackfoot clans, many a maiden's eyes followed her brother's every movement when they came to join the celebrations of the Turtle Clan. And why not? Her brother, a man of noble countenance, was twenty-six winters of age and handsome beyond description, with broad shoulders and great muscles.
He stood tall and straight over his brethren Blackfoot, his face sculpted, his hair most times worn long and loose down his back.
Today he was dressed in a fringed shirt, beaded buckskin leggings, and moccasins. One lone eagle feather was secured in a loop of his hair at the right side. His eyes, as black as midnight, spoke as he spoke, yet when he did not want to reveal his feelings to someone, he knew the art of keeping his emotions hidden.
"My sister, as usual the meal was good," Cougar said, then chuckled. "But I do not know of a time when it was not. Thank you for keeping your brother's stomach warm with food."
"My brother, I am certain soon I will not be the one bringing food into your lodge," Morning Flower replied, stacking his empty plate onto hers. "You will take a wife soon, will you not?"
He smiled with quiet amusement at his sister. "Yes, surely soon," he said. "But I see in your eyes that you do not wish to talk about your brother and his plans for a wife. My sister, you are again troubling yourself with useless worry. I say to you once more that your son, my beloved nephew, will be safe as he undergoes his vision quest. All our youths go to the mountain to pray for a vision to come to them so that they may become warriors of much standing. Like those who have gone before him, Gray Stone will receive what he seeks, then return to us a proud man."
"But my brother, there are many wild creatures roaming Mount Hope that can harm my son," Morning Flower said in a whining tone that she knew irritated her brother. But when she was disturbed, she could speak no other way. "There are animals who hunger for warm flesh, and ... and ... we can never forget Ute renegades who often roam near our village ... and our mountain."
"My sister, shame be upon you," Cougar said, his smile waning as he gazed intently into her dark eyes. "You are a woman of too little faith. Must I remind you again and again that from the beginning of time, all male Blackfoot youths have left their homes for their vision quests? A rare few have not returned to their village. Gray Stone will be one who will come home. He will become a man we both will be proud of."
"But, brother, I am already proud of my son," Morning Flower said. "He is as no other child I have known, except for you when you were but a mere boy wanting already to walk in the moccasins of a man. Even then, if you will recall, I dreaded your going to the mountain for your vision quest. You have no idea how relieved and happy I was when you returned home safely."
"Then you must recall, as well, the pride I brought into our mother's and father's hearts," Cougar said, reaching over and resting a hand on his older sister's shoulder. "Although they are gone from this world, I can even now see the pride in their eyes, as though they are sitting with us beside this fire, discussing along with us their grandson and his vision quest."
"Yes, I recall their pride. But it was such a relief to your older sister that you were home, safe and unharmed, I cried," Morning Flower said as Cougar slowly removed his hand from her shoulder. In his eyes was the same irritated disappointment she always saw when she could not stop worrying aloud about something.
But this was not just "something." This was her son she was concerned about. If anything happened to him, she would not be able to continue to live. She would take away what breath was left in her lungs and join her son, her husband, and her mother and father in the Sand Hills, finally at peace with herself and the many things that worried her.
"Morning Flower," Cougar said, leaning closer to her and gazing directly into her eyes. "My sister, listen to what I say and know the seriousness of it. I want no one else to see your doubts about your son's vision quest. That could cause doubts in other mothers' hearts when it comes time for their sons to pursue their own visions. I do not want any of those mothers to see your doubts ... your concerns. I understand, because I understand you and know that you were born to worry more than others about things. But you know that no one else understands."
"Must I remind you again, chieftain brother, that I have only my son now," Morning Flower said tightly. "I lost my husband at the hands of the renegades. To lose my son would be to lose my soul."
"Morning Flower, you not only have a son, you have this proud brother as well as the people of our village to love you," Cougar said, growing tired of reassuring her.
But because he did love her so much, he tried hard to ignore this bad trait. He had seen this side of Morning Flower since she was a child, who even then worried constantly about things, and whose faith was not as strong as it should be.
Yet he knew that he had said all he could to help her today. Any more words would be wasted, and he would not squander time that could be used more profitably.
He took her hands and urged her to her feet. He drew her gently into his embrace. "Come outside with me," he said, then stepped away from her. "Let us look up at our mountain, where Gray Stone is at peace with himself as he prays and waits for his vision to come to him. You will see how peaceful our mountain is. You can then go on your way to begin your day's normal activities. You will see how quickly the time passes before Gray Stone is home again with you and his uncle. We will show him, together, how proud we are of him."
He went and lifted the door flap, then stepped aside for her to leave.
He followed her outside and turned with her to gaze up at the towering mountain that shadowed their village. "Do you see the many beautiful golden eagles soaring peacefully where your son surely sits and waits for his vision?" he said, gazing upward at the spot where he knew his nephew would be sitting on a bluff that overlooked the world below him. "Sister, those eagles are an omen. They are Gray Stone's guardians. He will see them in a vision. He will be home soon."
"I wish he were here with me now," Morning Flower said sullenly, then turned and walked away from Cougar, worry wrinkles creased deeply at the corners of her eyes.
Cougar watched her for a moment, then turned and looked around him at the men, women, and children who were outside their lodges doing the normal chores of his people. Some women were bent over their outdoor cookfires, slowly stirring large kettles that might contain a stew of service berries and tongues for their evening meals.
A few elderly men were sitting around the brightly burning communal fire that was always kept lit, night and day, in the center of the village. These men were gossiping as they shared the smoke from a large pipe of polished red stone, each of them passing it on to the next, stem first.
Elsewhere children were playing, the boys engaged in a game of tag, while some girls rocked dolls made from cornhusks.
It was good to see his people happy, but he knew there was one who might never know the true meaning of happiness: his sister. Oh, but he did wish he knew of a way to lift the burdens from her heart so that she could laugh and talk of ordinary things with the other women, not of how she constantly worried about this and that.
Needing to get away for a breath of air after his strained moments with his sister, Cougar went to the corral behind his tepee and readied his coal black stallion for riding.
Soon he was away from his village and riding slowly up the side of the mountain, where trails had been made and worn deep into the ground by generations of his people.
He would go far enough to be close to his nephew, but not near enough for Gray Stone to see him.
He did not go because he was concerned about his nephew; he just wanted to feel Gray Stone's presence, knowing his nephew's prayers would connect their souls.
He rode until he came to a bluff far below the one where Gray Stone sat, and where his nephew could not see him.
He dismounted and secured his horse's reins to a rock, then went to the edge of the bluff and knelt to say prayers of his own. His prayers were mostly for his sister, who needed divine guidance more than anyone else he knew.
Once he felt peace inside his heart, Cougar stood and looked all around down below him. He was proud of the land where he made his home. The village was far from any white man's fort, although there was a small white community that had been established not far from the Blackfoot camp. Fortunately, no one in that community had interfered in the lives of Cougar's people.
Yes, this was still a wonderful place for his people to find happiness and peace. The mountain slopes still abounded with beaver, moose, and mountain sheep.
But before the arrival of the white man on this Montana land, immense herds of antelope and buffalo had roamed the plains, furnishing the Blackfoot with an abundance of meat for food, and skins for clothes and shelter.
The irresistible advance of the white race had been like the invasion of a hostile army in its effects upon this Indian paradise.
But some things had not changed. The air was sweet with the fragrance of wild rose thickets. The sky was the deepest blue, and the river wound past his village into the distance, passing through open glades and grassy meadows.
He looked farther still and grew tight inside when he spotted something strange and unfamiliar to him. From this vantage point he could see brightly hued tents with colorful flags at their peaks. He could even see huge animals with long trunks that he had never seen before.
He saw white people moving about, both men and women, and even children.
"What is that place?" he asked, his eyebrows lifting. "And what are those strange animals?"
Cougar was a leader who needed answers about everything; he was too inquisitive not to want to know all that he could know, especially about something as peculiar as this encampment on the tawny plains below him. Cougar hurried to his stallion, grabbed his reins, and mounted.
He took one last look overhead, where he knew his nephew was at peace with himself, and where the spirits of his father, grandfather, and grandmother watched over Gray Stone. Then he made his way slowly down the trail that had brought him to the cliff.
When he came finally to flat land, he sank his moccasined heels into the flanks of his steed and rode toward the peculiar place where tents seemed to grow from the ground, and where flags of all colors whipped in the wind, and strange animals puzzled his mind more than anything had for many winters.
Excerpted from Savage Quest by Cassie Edwards Copyright © 2007 by Cassie Edwards. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted November 10, 2009
Posted December 9, 2008
Indians killed all the other family members of Annamae Jacobson she is fortunate to have survived the attack though the youngster is confused by the tragedy. Traveling carnival show owners Howard and Ellie Baker ¿adopt¿ her to use her to perform duties. However, as she has gotten older Annamae begins to understand her role is that of a con artist she detests her phony interpretations that give people false hope. --- When Howard captures Gray Stone and plans to use the lad as a sideshow freak, Annamae decides she has had enough. She helps the Indian escape and he takes her to his uncle Chief Cougar of the Blackfoot tribe. He initially holds the white woman, whom he is attracted to, culpable, but his nephew clears the air. As the Chief and the outsider fall in love, her real skills to tell the future through visions make her a tribal asset. --- A Cassie Edwards¿ Savage tale is always well written and fun to read though each historical comes out of the Big Mac mold of knowing that wherever you are you know what you got before that first bite. Annamae is a solid protagonist who has doubts about what she is doing that is not enough to run away as she has no place to go however when Howard plans to use and abuse Gray Stone, that motivates her into becoming a heroine. Ms. Edward¿s fans will appreciate the historical romance between the Indian chief and the White shaman. --- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 30, 2011
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Posted November 26, 2013
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