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Rolling banks of wispy, cottony-white fog shrouded a band of warriors riding across the gray premorning prairie. Silent as the moist clouds concealing them, they followed the river.
Above, Wi rose, coloring the sky with pale pinks and golds. Taking a deep breath, the sun stretched his light and warmth upward and outward from the horizon, chasing away the last of the night. Satisfied his work was especially nice, he glanced downbut frowned when he spotted the war-painted warriors taking advantage of his absence and the morning mist. Anticipating the violence soon to take place below, he let his light dim.
Tate, the wind, howled his own protest. He rushed downward, dispersing the fog in tendrils across the rich green land. Reaching the oncoming warriors, he circled them. Go back, he howled. But the revenge-bent braves ignored him, pressing onward. Reaching a thick wall of trees, they dismounted and led their mounts through the silent woods.
Flowing above the budding forest, Tate swirled across the land until he reached the small encampment that was the war party's objective. His breath sent waves of green grass flowing across the prairie. Flames flickered in the fire pits there, and smoke from the camp's many cook fires was sucked high and far.
Unaware of the danger, the camp's men gathered to plan their day while women began the morning meal. Children of all ages embraced the dawn with the exuberance of youth. No one paid any mind to Tate's howls of rage.
Saddened and angry over his inability to stop more blood from flowing into the earth, he screeched upward, back into the heavens.
Pounding hooves, along with the high-pitched shrieks of the band of Miniconjou warriors who broke through the thick stand of cottonwoods lining the river, shattered the gentle spring-morning calm.
All in the Hunkpapa encampment, now alerted to the danger, scurried to protect themselves. Settled away from the river, away from the trees that could hide an approaching enemy, they had time to take action.
Men grabbed weapons and mounted their war ponies while women cried out warnings, grabbed their young children and ran out into the expansive prairie. Like ants fleeing their nests, they ran low in the tall, dark grass, and hid. The aged, feeble and ill members of the tribe had no choice but to take refuge in their tipis.
Hunkpapa warriors of all ages rode away from camp, toward the stream, to meet their enemy with lances held high and outraged shouts ringing in the air. Half a dozen Hunkpapa youths ran to their tribe's large herd of horses. As they mounted, their yells rose and sent the rest of the herd galloping to safety. Braves of a visiting tribe also joined the defense.
Despite the resistance they met, the attacking band of warriors continued on, and birds flew from the treetops, frantically beating their wings to escape the melee below. White-tailed deer froze in place for a heartbeat before leaping nimbly across the stream and away across the grassland.
A group of young boys ranging from seven to nine gathered upstream from the enemy and whirled as one at the first war whoop. Calf-Boy, the youngest, felt his heart slam into his throat when he saw the enemy riding out of the fog, heading toward them.
His uncle rode past. "Go! Hide!" the man called.
Moist earth churned up by the horse's hooves pelted him, spurring Calf-Boy into action. He and the others wasted no time in heeding the command. While their skill with the miniature bows and arrows slung on their backs might bring down a squirrel for the morning meal, they were no match for seasoned warriors.