Death Song

Death Song

by Jeff W Manship

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Overview

Out of the deserts of the Southwest rides a band of renegade Apaches. Led by the mysterious warrior and holy man, Juliano, they have fled the reservation in a last-gasp effort to unite with other bands of free Indians in a violent uprising against the hated white man. In a remote corner of Utah Territory, a small company of Mormon settlers crosses the canyon of the Colorado, blasting a treacherous road through a steep, narrow notch in the imposing sandstone cliff s. Sent by command of their prophet, they hope to befriend the Indians and establish a new settlement near the San Juan River. And hidden deep in the labyrinthine, red rock canyons lives a mysterious and ancient people who inhabit the graceful cliff dwellings of their long-dead ancestors. Three widely different cultures will collide in a whirlwind of violence and betrayal; Philo Hatch and his Mormon brethren, in search of their abducted children; Juliano and his followers, seeking a sacred treasure once spoken of in ancient tribal legends; and the Recordkeepers, an ancient indigenous tribe isolated for centuries in the twisting canyons of the southwestern desert, a people who only wish to preserve their dying way of life and the sacred records they were entrusted with in a distant age.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781490736518
Publisher: Author Solutions Inc
Publication date: 05/30/2014
Pages: 558
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.24(d)

Read an Excerpt

Death Song

A Novel


By Jeff W. Manship

Trafford Publishing

Copyright © 2014 Jeff W. Manship
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4907-3651-8


CHAPTER 1

Juliano's story began long before he left the reservation with his band of trusted warriors to raid, kill, and plunder the white settlers in Utah. To understand the anger, the hatred, and the bitterness that caused him to flee the reservation and to make futile, senseless war upon the enemy whites, one must look back upon the life of a young Indian boy of uncertain ancestry, raised by a tribe of Coyotero, or White Mountain, Apaches. Who were his people? From which tribe had he come? No one knew. His origins forever remained as mysterious as those ancient, deserted stone temples whose ghosts haunt the hidden canyons of the desert country.

Where and when he was born are unknown. That he came out of the north country over forty years earlier as a young boy with a woman, presumed to be his mother, is remembered by only the oldest members of the tribe. Juliano remembered little of his arrival among the Apaches on that day so many years ago. But he remembers that it was hot—so very, very hot....

... the merciless sun beat down out of a sky as blue as turquoise. From the red rocks, cliffs and hoodoos of the sun-scorched desert, it sent up shimmering waves, making rocks, cacti, and bitterbrush dance in a silent lake of heat in the thin, dry air of the high desert.

Kipa and Lopai had walked much of the day into the desert, their bows at the ready, eyes alert for the movement of some creature foolish enough to leave its daytime shelter for the unforgiving desert sands. They had left their Coyotero village before the sun had risen that morning and feeling the weight of nearly thirteen summers of youthful self-importance upon them, they had vowed not to return without some morsel of meat to show for their hunting efforts.

Deer were scarce in the desert during this time of year and boys of their limited experience could little hope to bring back such a prize, yet rabbits were sometimes seen and even snakes, lizards, and rats were common fare for the tenacious Apache who had learned over many generations to thrive in the punishing desert environment they inhabited. Although they were disposed to survive on the sometimes meager fare offered by the unrelenting desert, there was certain game they habitually avoided, whether by imposed tradition or by a common distaste for certain foods, no one remembered. These included birds of prey such as the owl and the eagle, and peccaries, those wild pigs of the desert that stink like sweat and urine ripening under a smoldering sun.

The heat of the day had driven most of the desert creatures deep into their hidden lairs to await the coolness of the desert evening when they would once again reemerge and turn the silent, lonely desert into a varied and colorful collection of life forms, marvelously adapted to life in this harsh, dry landscape. Now, the boys realized that they would be lucky to return home with so much as a rattlesnake. The face of the desert seemed dead, barren and hopelessly bleak under the blazing rays of the midday sun.

"We might as well turn back now, Kipa," Lopai suggested, hunger gnawing at his stomach like a long-toothed rat. "We may scare something up on the way back."

Kipa stopped, his face creased with frustration. Lopai thought more about his stomach than about his reputation in the tribe as a hunter and a provider. Of course, they were not expected to provide a warrior's share of the game, but it was time that they began establishing themselves as promising hunters and warriors. Besides, he had noticed that Lunara, daughter of one of the tribe's fiercest warriors, always came to the door of her father's wickiup whenever Kipa returned from a hunt to see if he had been successful. She had been watching him for some time now, trying to determine if he was strong enough and brave enough to ask her father for her hand.

Kipa noticed the attention she gave him, but among his people it was the custom to ignore the fawning looks of a squaw until one was ready to take her to wife, and Kipa knew that he had many summers to wait before he was ready to make his own wickiup and take a young maiden to wife. He had to prove his skill at tracking and hunting and providing meat for the tribe. And then he had to prove his courage and skill in battle, and he lacked two years yet before he would be allowed to ride with the warriors on one of their raids against the hated Navajos or the thieving Papagos.

On the day when he could return from a raid with many prized horses and plunder, then he would be ready to approach the fiercely proud Mowake and bargain for the hand of his daughter.

Now he looked out over the barren, treeless desert, toward the north into lands that he had yet to explore. He knew that members of his tribe sometimes ventured to the north or to the east to trade or to make war with the strange tribes that lived in square houses of mud built two and three stories high, raised sheep and planted corn. Although Kipa had never seen these strange tribes he had little respect for them. They were not warriors like the Apache even though they were known to fight fiercely on occasion in defense of their homes. They did not move about with the seasons across deserts, high plateaus, and wooded mountains, like the Apache, but lived forever in one place, raising sheep, corn, melons, and other crops for sustenance and trading their finely made pottery and arrow and spear tips with neighboring tribes. They were tribes of women, not warriors, for warriors did not pursue such sedentary customs.

Much more worthy of respect were the vicious warrior tribes of Apaches that lived to the south, the Chiricahuas, the Mimbrenos, and the Bedonkohes. These tribes often clashed with Mexican soldiers, and as a result had evolved to a level of savagery unsurpassed among North American Indian tribes.

Kipa looked toward the north, the direction they had been traveling. He supposed Lopai was right; they would find no game today unless they chanced upon some creature foolish enough to be out in the heat of day. He searched the horizon for a sign of clouds building up, oftentimes a precursor to a rare and much desired thunderstorm. To the west, a few clouds billowed about the mountains, but they would not develop into anything that would bring moisture to the thirsty desert below. The mountains always seemed to be very possessive of their clouds, clinging to them as if to suck out all their moisture, denying any to the more deserving desertlands below.

The trip home would be hot and dry, and they would have to detour to one of the few springs on the way back to refill their depleted waterskins.

Kipa sighed and was about to turn around toward the village when something caught his eye on the plain below him. An interruption in the pattern of rocks, brush, and cactus indicated the presence of something that was not part of the stationary desert floor. His senses told him that it was something alive, although it did not move. Perhaps it rested, or it had stopped and was watching them also. Maybe it was dead. He touched Lopai's shoulder and pointed to the indistinct figure and instantly Lopai nodded to indicate that he too had seen it.

Whatever it was, they would investigate. If it was alive and not human, it was game and the tribe would eat almost anything during the hot season when the sun drove the larger animals high into the rugged mountains, while the smaller animals burrowed deep into the sand, or crawled under rocks to escape the sun's scorching, oppressive heat.

Not a breath of wind stirred the hot, dry air as the two boys crept silently toward the figure, hoping that they would not alert it to their presence by an inadvertent sound such as the scraping of their moccasins upon the rock or the breaking of a twig underneath their feet. As always before the start of a hunt they had rubbed their entire bodies with sage to mask any scent that might betray their presence to their wary prey. Disguised thus, with moccasined feet noiselessly gliding across the ground, they approached to within an arrow's flight of the still unmoving figure.

A closer examination now revealed two separate figures, huddled close together. They were humans.

In the Indians' world, strangers encountered alone, away from their village, were always approached with extreme caution and suspicion. Most Indian tribes, especially Apaches, had few alliances with other tribes, and anyone encountered outside of the village was a potential enemy.

Other tribes were perceived as sources of plunder from which much valued items could be obtained through raiding and war. It was through such raids that the Apache warrior earned his reputation and his honor. Horses were the preferred object of an Apache raid, for it was through horses that a warrior achieved status within the tribe. A great warrior may own as many as fifty horses, yet in one night he may lose them all as another tribe would ride in and add yet again to their own herds.

It was an endless cycle of one tribe raiding another tribe. Oftentimes there were casualties as arrows were exchanged. When Spanish guns became available to some of the Indians, the numbers of casualties increased, yet the incessant warfare continued, and was accepted, because it was the Indian way of life, and it was the manner in which the Indian male proved his manhood and achieved social acceptance and distinction among his people. To end the warfare, that was as old as any of the tribes' history and an integral part of their culture, would be to reduce the warrior to the status of a woman. It would take away his strength and his dignity.

Occasionally women and children were also taken captive during the tribal warfare. The women would be taken as wives while the children would be adopted into families, usually ones that had recently lost a son or a daughter to accident, disease, or captivity by another tribe.

Two centuries earlier, when Spanish explorers followed by Catholic priests and soldiers, entered the land of the Apache, they were looked upon as a new source of plunder, and it was from the Spanish that horses and firearms were first obtained. Through the years these items became the foremost object of all the Apaches' raids.

Many meaningful scholars and philanthropists will assert that the warfare between the Indian tribes of the American West and the invading Spaniards from the south, followed later by the Anglos from the west, was the result of the encroachment of the newcomers upon the ancestral lands of the Indians. The Indians' retaliation is depicted as their last futile effort to preserve their culture and their identity from being overwhelmed by the threatening hordes of strange peoples overrunning their lands. Such is not the case, however, for the Indians held no innate hostility toward the newcomers but merely saw them as a new enemy upon which the Indian warrior could establish his bravery and his reputation among his people and obtain the much-desired spoils of war that the Europeans brought with them in a variety and abundance that the Indians had never before seen.

With such widely differing views on war and on how and why wars are fought, it was inevitable that conflict, with its consequent bloodshed, should erupt between the Indians and their new white neighbors. The newcomers had arrived to the land of the Apache with their shiny baubles, their horses and cattle, their brightly colored cloths, their weapons that killed at great distances, their tools and implements made of metal, and many other tempting things that the Indian warrior could hardly resist. Why not take advantage of such wealth when it could be easily obtained through the time-honored system of raiding and stealing?

It was with these traditions of countless generations that Kipa and Lopai encountered the two lone creatures in the desert. They did not see them as friends or foes, nor were they concerned with whether they were in need of assistance. They were strangers, they were alone, and they might have possessions that would make Kipa and Lopai respected in the tribe, and perhaps earn them the honor of hunting or raiding with the older warriors.

The two figures sat in the hot sun, unmoving. Perhaps they were dead. No living thing could survive for long in the midday heat without moving. Lopai could see that the smaller figure was a child while the larger was a woman. Why were they alone in the wilderness away from their tribe, away from the protection of their warriors? Their appearance here was mysterious and without any rational explanation.

Overhead the vultures circled patiently, black wings extended effortlessly in an endless glide through invisible currents that left no breath on the reptilian landscape below. How long had they circled? Were they awaiting death to overcome the hapless victims below or did the two new arrivals deter their feasting?

From behind a rock where the two boys had silently ensconced themselves, Kipa drew an arrow to his bow. Peering silently from behind the rock he watched the two figures. That his intended victims were a woman and a young boy, no more than five or six summers of age, were of little concern to him. Their plunder would grace his father's lodge and bring honor to the young would-be warrior who would be remembered as having first slain the enemy while on a hunting trip, alone with another young boy his own age.

Still the figures did not move. Kipa hesitated to let fly his arrow. There would be only shame and ridicule if it was learned that he had ambushed and killed two dead people. He glanced at Lopai who appeared uneasy.

"Take the woman, my friend, and I will take the young one," whispered Kipa.

"They are but a woman and a child," Lopai responded. "And I think that their souls have fled. I will not waste an arrow on a woman that is dead and dried up like an old moccasin in the heat."

As he spoke the child lifted his arms and in a voice that was easily discernible from where the boys waited with throbbing hearts and hushed breaths, chanted a sad and eerie hymn to the sun that poured down its rays of stifling oppression upon a barren and tortured landscape. His strange outburst had a hypnotic effect upon the boys. Although the words were strange and unintelligible, the boys sensed that the child was in the midst of a vision.

They had many times seen the tribe's spiritual leaders enter into a trance with the aid of the sacred peyote buttons, during which times they would receive visions and instructions from the spirits on how to triumph over their enemies in battle. Such visions, and the privilege to use the sacred peyote, were reserved for those who had the gift of conversing with the spirits, for those whom the spirits trusted, to whom they would divulge their most ancient secrets. For those who were uninitiated, who had not the spirits' sanction to leave the body and enter the ethereal realm where one could converse with strange and diverse apparitions, the drug was expressly forbidden. Some had attempted to use the hallucinogen without the spirits' acquiescence and had suffered horrible sickness, fits of madness, and sometimes death.

Yet now they looked with wonder upon a mere boy who apparently talked to spirits and looked into the blazing midday sun without pain or discomfort. Could a mere boy have the power to see visions? Or was this some monster sent from the underworld to test and to torment them?

Kipa drew his arrow with new determination. This strange boycreature with the unfamiliar tongue that spoke to spirits and traveled in the desert accompanied only by a woman must die. By taking his life, Kipa would obtain great prominence in the tribe. Perhaps some of the power of the boy would be passed on to his slayer.

With his bow fully drawn, Kipa raised himself above the rock where he lay hidden. He was about to loose the arrow when Lopai's hand came to his arm, staying his shot.

"Do not take the boy's life," he pleaded. "His medicine is strong. He speaks to the spirits. If we kill him, the spirits will be angry."

"You speak well, my friend," Kipa agreed. "The spirits would not be pleased if we slew him. It is strong medicine indeed that allows one so young to see visions and talk to the spirits. What of the woman that is with him? Shall we kill her? She has not moved. Perhaps she is asleep, or dead."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Death Song by Jeff W. Manship. Copyright © 2014 Jeff W. Manship. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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