Almost a thousand years ago, the North American continent was dominated by the great civilization known as Cahokia, which ruled a wide swath of land from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Cahokian settlements and Cahokian traders carried the people and the culture far and wide. But this magnificent expansion, like the empire of Rome, did not happen without conflict and battle. In Copper Falcon by co-authors W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear, a young warrior, Flint Knife, and his father travel to the legendary capitol city, ruled by the living god known as the Morning Star, to ask for military aid to drive back the barbarians. Flint Knife is amazed at the great city's awe-inspiring palaces and temples, the buzzing activity of its hundreds of thousands of residents. What should be a simple errand becomes a bewildering and frightening experience when Flint Knife learns that his father is hiding a dark secret that will change his life--and his son's life--forever.
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About the Author
KATHLEEN O'NEAL GEAR is a former state historian and archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has twice received the federal government's Special Achievement Award for "outstanding management" of our nation's cultural heritage. Her solo novels include This Widowed Land, the western Thin Moon and Cold Mist, and the apocalyptic thriller Maze Master.
W. MICHAEL GEAR, who holds a master's degree in archaeology, has worked as a professional archaeologist since 1978. He is currently principal investigator for Wind River Archaeological Consultants. His solo novels include the Western classic Long Ride Home, Big Horn Legacy and, as William Gear, This Scorched Earth.
The Gears, whose North America’s Forgotten Past series hit the international as well as USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists, are also the authors of the Anasazi Mysteries. They live in Thermopolis, Wyoming.
W. Michael Gear, who holds a master's degree in archaeology, has worked as a professional archaeologist since 1978. He is currently principal investigator for Wind River Archaeological Consultants. With his wife, Kathleen O’Neal Gear, he has written the international and USA Today bestselling North America's Forgotten Past Series (including People of the Songtrail, People of the Morning Star, Sun Born, Moon Hunt, among others); and Anasazi Mystery Series.
Kathleen O'Neal Gear is a former state historian and archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has twice received the federal government's Special Achievement Award for "outstanding management" of our nation's cultural heritage. With her husband, W. Michael Gear, she is the co-author of many books, including the North America’s Forgotten Past series (People of the Songtrail, People of the Morning Star, Sun Born, Moon Hunt, among others); and the Anasazi Mysteries series. She and her husband live in Thermopolis, WY.
Read an Excerpt
AD 1050, on the river that would one day be called the Mississippi ...
The way he stood tall in the war canoe's bow, he might have been a conquering hero. The world knew him as Red Mask, high chief of Copper Falcon Town, a lineage elder of the Four Winds Clan. I called him Father.
His cardinal-feather cloak was thrown back over his shoulders and ruffled in the breeze. Sunlight glinted on the copper pin that held his gray-streaked hair in a tight warrior's bun atop his head. The flat planes of his tattooed face accented his hawkish nose. His wide mouth now fixed itself in anticipation as the canoe raced across the wide Father Water.
My father was beloved by our people and feared by our enemies. His mere entry into the Council House back home brought smiles to lips, a sparkle to the eyes of those in attendance.
To me, however, my father remained a perplexing enigma full of contradictions: a man of well-kept secrets, anger, festering resentment, indomitable courage, and that rarest of traits: a charisma that brought men and women flocking to his various causes.
Not even our recent military defeats at the hands of the T'so barbarians had dimmed that luster. Just the opposite. The council had voted to send Father back to Cahokia after all these years. His mission? To persuade his cousin, High Chief Green Chunkey of the Horned Serpent House, to send a squadron of warriors to bolster the defense of Copper Falcon Town against continued T'so depredations. Just a quick in-and-out, all done without alerting the rulers of Cahokia that we were there.
I was a bit hazy about why the last was so important. It had been many years since my father's banishment. He had left Cahokia having barely turned twenty, my age, and was now into his fifties. After so many years, the Morning Star — the reincarnated god who ruled Cahokia — shouldn't have cared. We sent tribute to the living god every year. Nor did we care what went on among Cahokia's ruling Houses. Our concern was finding a way to deal with the T'so.
For me, despite the risks, the trip was a dream turned real. All of my life I had listened to talk of magical Cahokia. The center of the world, Cahokia was fabled to be the greatest city on earth. I'd seen the wistful look in Father's eyes, heard the longing in his voice when he spoke of it.
He never discussed why he'd been exiled, or why he'd been given the task of establishing Copper Falcon Town in the distant and hostile lands of the T'so barbarians. Those were some of his most perplexing secrets. On the few occasions when I'd twisted up the courage to ask, his eyes had narrowed to slits, and the muscles in his wide jaw had knotted: Father's signs that further discussion was forbidden.
Closed-mouthed my father might have been. But I knew leaving Cahokia had cost him something terrible in dreams, pain, and soul. The staggering sense of loss was always there, hidden just far enough below the surface that its faint reflection lay in his dark eyes, in the shadow of his wistful smile.
Possessed by anticipation and worry, I bent my back to the paddle, calling cadence to our twenty warriors. Pointed paddles drove deep into the murky river, propelling us forward with water slapping at the bow.
Nothing had prepared me for Cahokia's packed canoe landing. Behind us, the high western bluffs were dominated by Evening Star City, a sprawling conglomeration of tall temples, spirit poles, and palaces like I'd never dreamed of. Before us on the river's eastern bank were hundreds of beached vessels and countless ramadas and stands thronging with busy people. Rising from the levee behind them — dense with high-peaked thatch-roofed buildings for as far as the eye could see — lay River Mounds City. Our warriors muttered in disbelief. I just gaped in foolish amazement.
But not Father. He maintained his stance, his cardinal-feather cloak billowing, his old, scarred war club hung crossways in his hands as the canoe raced across sun-sparkling water.
Back home, the arrival of a canoe from any distant place would have occurred amidst fanfare and excitement. In Cahokia, no one gave us a second look as the canoe drove up onto the charcoal-stained sand.
I watched Father leap ashore. He took a couple of paces, then dropped to one knee, his head lowered. As our warriors bore our craft up on the beach, I stopped beside him, dismayed by the expression on his face: torn, with a couple of tears leaking down his hard, tattooed cheeks.
He choked out, "After all these years ..."
I glanced around at the bustling people, caught the damp odors of rot, urine, smoke, and cooking food. "How do they know who has arrived in this chaos?"
I felt suddenly small. Unsure of my place in the world, of who I really was. For days' travel up or down the Tenasee River from Copper Falcon Town, if anyone didn't recognize my distinctive facial tattoos, I only had to say, "I am Flint Knife Mankiller, son of High Chief Red Mask Tenkiller, of the Four Winds Clan." Eyes would widen, and people bowed and respectfully touched their foreheads.
As I struggled with the fact that I was suddenly no one, Father stood. Knowing him as I did, I could see an unaccustomed worry behind his dark eyes.
I had imagined our arrival at Cahokia: people rushing toward us, a bubble of excitement rising at the arrival of a canoe from distant lands. We were, after all, the warriors who fought for the Morning Star's southern frontier.
"My chief, does no one know who we are?"
His lips thinned as he stared at the bustling men and women loading and unloading canoes around us; then he took in the stalls and ramadas displaying food, ceramic pots, statuary, and every other conceivable good.
"Didn't used to be this busy." Then he added in an unsure whisper, "It's still a hard run to reach our kin at Horned Serpent Town. Our cousins will need time to prepare. They'll remember us."
Was this the stone-cold man who cowed the T'so barbarians with his very glance? Was that fear I heard in his voice?
"Father? Are you sure this is the right course?" He steeled himself, calling to our warriors, "Collect your weapons and packs."
He lifted his pack from the hull and withdrew a white-painted stick decorated with red lines and woodpecker feathers. This he handed to young Five Wings, ordering, "Bear this to my cousin, Lord Green Chunkey. He'll be in his palace in Horned Serpent Town. Inform him of our arrival and our need of lodging in the clan house. If you lose your way, just ask. You're Four Winds Clan. No one can refuse you."
"Yes, my chief." Five Wings took the stick as if it were sun-blessed rather than a messenger's staff. He turned on his heels and sprinted up the long beach, weaving between people, stalls, and canoes.
I retrieved my own pack, heavy with a rolled blanket, my chunkey stone and lance, food, and personal kit. Next came my shield, bow, quiver of arrows, and war club.
Father ordered, "Sixkills and Cut Hand, you will stay and guard the canoe. The rest of you, come. We have a fair run to reach Horned Serpent Town."
"Where you from?" A big, bluff man paused to inspect us. His wide grin almost split his face; a crafty look barely hid behind his eyes. I couldn't quite decipher the amorphous design of his facial tattoos. He wore a common brown hunting shirt that fell to the knees; a rope belt with pouches was tied at his waist. I couldn't place his accent.
"Copper Falcon Town," I told him with great solemnity.
"And where is that?"
"Copper ... Falcon ... Town," I repeated as if he were a dolt.
"On the Tenasee. At the upper rapids."
His eyes remained vague, but he said, "Ah, good Four Winds, that Copper Falcon Town." As if anyone could think there were others. "I'm Seven Skull Shield, a man well known in Cahokia. Seeing that you lords are visiting, I would be most happy to offer my services should you, or your warriors, need any kind of special consideration."
At that, Father turned his attention the man's way, a wary smile on his face. "And let me guess? Such services would include women with warm beds? The finest of Cahokian artifacts to take back to Trade with our bucolic and rude townsmen at home? Statuettes of Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies crafted in the one true temple? Or chunkey stones used by the Morning Star himself in his ritual morning game?"
Seven Skull Shield bowed his head, touching fingers to his forehead. "The very same, good Four Winds lord. If I might ask, how many years has it been since —?"
"Not so long that I've forgotten the tricks played by weasels like you and your sort." Father gave a dismissive toss of his hand. "Be away with you."
"As you command, great lord. But should you find need, just send word through the fish-seller in yonder —"
"I said, Go."
Seven Skull Shield touched his forehead again and vanished into the crowd.
"Cahokia draws his sort the way a dead elk draws flies and maggots. They get away with things they'd never be able to anywhere else: thievery, abduction, smuggling."
"And the Morning Star doesn't strike them dead?" I asked.
Father gave me his familiar condescending squint. "Seriously? Do you think gods care about what goes on in the world of humans?"
"But, I —"
"Come on." He motioned me and our following warriors forward. Then I heard him growl under his breath, "Whose war are we fighting, anyway?"
Unless you've been to River City, seen what I have, my description will border on fantasy. The levee is packed with a throng of warehouses, specialized craft workshops, and manufactories. You'll find potters and their wares, rope makers, stone and shell carvers, coppersmiths, woodworkers, arrow makers, weavers, and tanners. Temples dedicated to every god and spirit helper stand atop mounds or are guarded by spirit poles. Here, too, are Traders who deal in shell, stone, copper, thatch, building poles, firewood, fish, meat, corn, exotics from distant lands, and every other good. Palaces rise above tightly packed houses.
The run from the canoe landing to Horned Serpent Town takes half a day — and all of it through unending city. The high ground along the River Road is marked by clusters of mound-top temples, society houses, storerooms, and granaries. Surrounding those are concentrations of houses with ramadas and cramped gardens. Small farm plots are squeezed in between plaster-walled buildings. As you continue south, the road crosses marshy bottoms denuded of reeds and riparian grasses where the raised track streams with people, many of them plodding under cumbersome loads. Porters carry litters bearing seated nobles, priests, and high-born; immigrants bear burdens of stone, timbers, quarters of meat, or the carcasses of turkey, ducks, or other fowl. Some pack tall bundles of cane or thatch, or tightly folded bolts of colored cloth. If it can be eaten, worn, or used for any purpose, you will see it on the roads of Cahokia.
Used to the scents of Copper Falcon Town — of our fields, river, and forests — my nose quivered at the medley of odors ranging from fly-filled-and-sour latrines, to the onion acridity of fired shell, to the marvelous odors of baking spiced breads. Never far from the nose, smoke hung low in the sky, giving the city a constant brownish haze.
And the people, the endless people. From all corners of our world they flocked to Cahokia to share in the miracle of the reincarnated Morning Star. Speaking every language, wearing all manner of clothing, their hair in peculiar styles, with tattoos of impossible design on their faces, they occupied every arable plot of soil. Had I not just spent two full moons on the rivers passing town after town, I would have believed that every person on earth lived in sprawling, bustling Cahokia.
Finally, panting and exhausted, we trotted between tall guardian posts carved in the shape of Horned Serpent, the great winged snake of the underworld. The guardians watched us pass, mouths wide to display curving fangs, forked tongues extended. I'd never seen such lifelike copper-clad eyes; the slitted pupils sent a chill down my spine as they pinned my souls with their cold gaze. I'd have sworn the actual creatures were rising from their abodes in the Underworld.
Horned Serpent Town, home of my ancestors, Father's birthplace.... From childhood I'd heard of the palaces and temples where my relatives, including High Chief Green Chunkey, ruled. With barely hidden derision, my father had always described the high chief as "flexible" and "capable of compromise."
Passing through a maze of houses, temples, granaries, and clan and society houses, we emerged into the spacious central plaza. A towering, lightning-riven bald cypress pole — representative of the World Tree — pointed skyward in the center of the square. The pole had been placed in exact alignment with an observatory mound on the east to mark the equinox sunrises.
On the north stood Green Chunkey's palace, its high roof like an ax blade cutting the sky. Horned Serpent effigies rose from either end of the ridge pole; their painted wings spread as if to bear them into the Sky World.
At the foot of the steep-sided palace mound, parallel chunkey courts had been laid out. A stickball field filled the plaza's southern half. The western side was bounded by the Four Winds charnel house — where the bodies of my ancestors had been processed. A line of three conical burial mounds stretched to the south. From here my ancestors had sent their souls westward toward the Land of the Dead. I could almost feel their eerie presence.
A statue of the double-headed eagle, Hunga Ahuito, the all-seeing sky god, rose from the Temple of the Sun that dominated the plaza's southern boundary.
People and booths of diverse description lined the periphery. Every kind of food was offered for trade. Others hawked firewood or building materials. Warriors lounged before the Men's House on the southeastern corner, and on the west side, down from the charnel house, stood the Four Winds Clan house where we would stay.
The warriors and I were staring around like stone-struck ducks as Five Wings, his staff still in hand, came trotting down the high palace stairs. As soon as he was within shouting distance, he called, "The high chief will see you!"
"That was fast," Father said dryly. "All of you. Look sharp. We're Copper Falcon warriors. We're going into the presence of the high chief of the Horned Serpent House, the leader of our lineage. I know we're not properly dressed, haven't had time to paint our faces. Don't think about how we look in comparison to Green Chunkey's town-dressed warriors. Remember that we come from the battlefield and the river, and that for all of their looks, the high chief's warriors may have seen only ten or twenty battles in their entire lives."
That brought grim smiles, blooded as we were by a hundred closely won fights. Winks and nods went back and forth as we slipped our shields onto our forearms. At Father's command, the twenty of us formed four ranks. Marching in time, slapping our shields, we followed him to the base of the high chief's mound.
Starting up the wooden stairs that led up the great ramp sobered me. The mound alone — even without the great palace rising from its flat top — would have encompassed our entire palace back in Copper Falcon Town.
I touched my chin in reverence as I passed the serpent-shaped guardian posts at the top. Two ranks of warriors had assembled to greet us, beaded forelocks hanging down over their foreheads. They had painted their faces white: the color of peace. From the corner of my eye, I noted that Father was right: their armor looked new and unscarred, painted in gorgeous images of Snapping Turtle, Rattlesnake, Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and the other spirits of war.
As we stepped onto the veranda, we passed between two carved wooden doors and entered what had to be the most opulent room in the world. The walls were covered with carved reliefs and hung with blankets and war trophies. The uprights for the wall benches were topped with carvings of faces, animals, and spirit beasts. A single large woven-reed mat covered the entire floor. Flames leaped from the central fire, lazy curls of smoke rising toward the high roof. A carving of the four curling spirals of the Four Winds Clan dominated the back wall. Beneath the wall benches I could see stored pots, intricately carved wooden boxes, and folded blankets.
Father marched us forward to stop just short of the crackling fire. At his call, we grounded our shields, dropped to one knee, and touched our foreheads.
I stared past my beaded forelock to see High Chief Green Chunkey, a man in his fifties with blocky features, tattoos of serpents fading on his cheeks. The forked-eye design of the Sky World blackened his face around each eye. A stunning cape made of tanned rattlesnake skins hung from his shoulders, and he'd tied a white triangular apron at his waist.
Green Chunkey sat on a raised dais covered with panther hide. Seven of his nobles and a woman I took to be one of his wives clustered behind him. They, too, were immaculately dressed, some sporting feather splays on their shoulders. A few had stunning feathered capes hung over their backs. Others wore sleek-furred bearhide. Fine textile aprons graced their waists. They stared at us with curious if dismissive eyes.
Excerpted from "Copper Falcon"
Copyright © 2014 W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Tor and Forge titles by Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear,
About the Authors,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In this short novella, the Gears introduce us to life in Cahokia around 1000 ad. Cahokia was a major Native American city located near St Louis and is the setting for an upcoming full length novel--People of the Morning Star--the latest in a series of novels about pre-Columbian societies. The authors' background as professional archeologists makes there novels engaging and authentic.
This is the first novella from the authors. I loved it
Why? Because it gives a good history before you get into the Morning Star book. This is a short prequel but gives a good preview of what's to come. Highly recommend this book.
Copper Falcon is an Intro to The book People of the Morning Star and what an Intro it is! If you are interested in Native American history and prehistory and culture this is a must read. Besides the educational aspect of the "People" books, you will find inspiration in the stories. Romance, danger, suspense, mystery and spiritual insights that will hit home. If you're looking for fulfillment through reading look no further!
Copper Falcon by Kathleen O’Neal Gear, W. Michael Gear I will wholeheartedly admit I am Biased... Being the individual the book has been dedicated to... Which is a hoped for, but un-requested or even uttered desire I have held quietly to my heart for years? It is a great honor, to be acknowledged by two so prolific and wonderful authors and to be included into a prestigious club of re known personage of science, literary globe and wonderful people and beloved animals. To the review... I was immediately lost in the pages of the story, the graphic and detailed description of the wondrous and inspirational place as the historic Cahokia could only be. I felt I was standing next to Flint Knife Mankiller, lost in the enormity of seeing a world beyond my comprehension. The beautiful majestic place that was Cahokia would have astonished any visitor to its teeming shores. I love how the Gear's use the emotion and feeling of the character to show the true world of the past, and bring to life things that were lost. The description of Cahokia is only the back drop to another story of personal trial, conflict, and sacrifice of the character as always is the heart of the story. Flint Knife is the son of the reputed Red Mask, high chief of Copper Falcon Town, a lineage elder of the Four Winds Clans. What this privileged son does not know is his own family history. He knows that his father was banished to the frontier of the Cahokia world, forced to create a new town and protect the boundaries of the empire. He does not know why, or whom his father had betrayed to be banished. Nor does he understand the price his father is willing to pay to return a sacred and important family honor. This book is only a foreshadow of the Morning Star trilogy that will soon be published and avidly read by fans.. I can't wait for People of the Morning Star.
Kept me wanting more. A good story.
She listened, disinterested.
ShadowMist - hello she meows <p> Ravenpaw- he nodded
Purred. "Sure!"she got up, tail bobbing eagerly
A silver she cat with white paws pads in. She looks around with pale green eyes. "May I join?"
She mewls louder, wanting milk.