Authors: D. Sallen
Back at the cave, Leahna was running around bare breasted in only an apron. For my piece of mind I wished she kept her dress on.
We described the man who challenged Moyock and how we’d scared him off.
“That funny. I not know who man is. When I see man in woods, I hide in brush. Take another way home. Make sure no one follows. Sometimes I do funny thing on mound. On nice day, wind blowing, my hair long, I stand on mound. When people in canoes see me, I make moaning noise, wave my arms. Want to scare them. Want them to think mound is haunted. Many times they paddle faster. Sometimes cross to other side.”
Our communication is improving. That was the longest single talk we’d heard from her. I could see where living alone here could be quite a chore for a woman. She didn’t seem to get much help from her relationship with Coyote. When here, maybe he was a good watch dog, but he’s been gone so long he hasn’t been any use as a hunter, if ever.
“How long have you been alone?” I asked Leahna.
She sighed and thought about my question. She counted on her fingers and raised both hands. “Ten moons, my Uncle die.” She sniffled and tried to hold back tears. “I not honor him. I not put him to rest in trees. Put him in small cave, river side of mound.”
“Moyock and I came across some bundles in trees today. Was that the rest of your family?”
“I think so. My aunt, my sister gone many moons.”
She was sobbing now, so I stood and put my arms around her. “When you were all alone, you did all you could,” I said.
“Couldn’t Coyote-Man help you?”
“No. Coyote-Man not here. Never come Uncle alive. He fear dead. Me too. Maybe Uncle is ghost. Maybe mad at Leahna.”
With her head on my shoulder and her bare breasts pressed against me, male that I am, I struggled to keep my mind on her problems. “You have charm thing. Your cross. If Coyote-Man afraid, I think it protect you against ghosts too.”
This thought at least stopped her tears. “Why don’t you carry your charm all the time? Then you will be protected against any ghosts.”
I didn’t add, also against Coyote-Man. All along I had considered this quest more a great adventure than a real treasure hunt. Her crucifix hampered a supernatural pagan, and made me think about my own attitude toward religion. If her charm had that power, perhaps this mysterious Holy Grail really had magical properties.
Leahna had a couple of strings of bead that I gave her which she seldom wore. Now I rummaged around in my trade goods until I found one of the few more expensive items I carried, a pewter necklace chain.
I then bent one of the chain loops open with my fingers. Taking her crucifix down, I fastened it to the chain and then squeezed the loop shut. While I did this, she glared at me. As I approached her with the dangling crucifix she trembled. “It’s all right,” I said. “You can wear it around your neck.” Demonstrating I held it up to myself. Now she smiled. After I hooked the chain behind her neck she seemed quite pleased “This is a good chain. You don’t have to take it off, if you don’t want too.”
I placed my hand on the crucifix, raised my other arm and my face upward, and with my eyes closed, recited the Lord’s Prayer, the only one I knew.
“Why you do that, Squire.”
“The figure on your charm is the son of the White Man’s God. I asked the White Man’s God to protect you from evil.”
“That good. You think he protect Natural girl?”
“Since you carry his charm I think he will.”
I wanted to reassure her that the crucifix was proof against ghosts, but what did I know? Hadn’t I kissed the ring on the finger of a spooky archbishop? And among these people, if they had Coyote witches, might they not have other supernatural beings? I didn’t know, and thought it wiser to say as little as possible about the subject.
With a little smile, Moyock watched the two of us. “This place not good for her now. When we go, I think you must take her with.”
“I could not in good conscience leave her here. How long could she survive here alone?”
“Hah. You want take her anyway.”
Mentally I tried to assure myself that it wasn’t only my stallion who wanted her with us…still a problem with Coyote. What would he do, if we tried to take her away? With all his ‘girls’ would he miss this one? In his place I sure would. Where was he anyway?
Having cured enough meat for a long trip, I was eager to start west. To carry everything, we needed to recover our other canoe. Gathering up needed gift goods, Moyock and me loaded the canoe and set out. Waterborne we arrived at the falls in short order. We beached the canoe in front of a large crowd. Moyock muttered, “Maybe much trouble. Show strong.”
Moyock to secure the canoe. With my flintlock in my left hand, and cradled across my chest, I strode up to ten feet in front of Chief Otisco. Taking my time, I raised the weapon to the sky as my symbol of power. With my right hand I made the peace sign. As smiles appeared among the council, my little showmanship seemed to have pleased the crowd. Not to be outdone, the Chief took his time to return the peace sign. Then he broke out in a smile. While lowering my ‘scepter’ to cross chest, I stepped up to him. Straight away I had Moyock break out tobacco and distribute it to the dignitaries.
We sat in front of Chief
Otisco’s wikkiup, smoked and made small talk, mainly about the weather and abundance of game. It seems the Unilah only ate fish as a last resort.
Then I mentioned we planned to travel down the river.
“Not easy,” Chief Otisco said. “Falls…rocks…bad water long way…down river.”
“What do you think he means,” I asked Moyock.
“These rapids must stretch quite a ways.”
Otisco added, “Canoe can not go. Bad rocks. Swift water. Must carry canoes.”
Faces around the Chief took on an amused look. Moyock whispered, “Careful, Squire. Something has changed.”
Now smiling very slightly, the Chief said, “You very big man, very big chief, Squire”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“I think Squire rich man. I think for repaired canoe, rich man can be generous.”
I knew this was coming. The bargaining entered a new phase. “I hear you, Chief Otisco. I have open mind. I have open heart. But we only talk about air. I have not seen any repaired canoe.”
More smiles appeared. Apparently the Unilah enjoyed a challenge in trade. Moyock mumbled, “Good show, Squire.”
Otisco’s flattery was a clever opening gambit. Now I knew my planned offer of two knives, a hatchet and some beads was paltry indeed. Moyock mumbled. “Praise long, be generous.”
I did as he said, and went on at some length to laud the Chief and his people in English. When I ran out of good words, I spouted some gibberish and left it to Moyock to make it sound grand. He made grand sound all right. He offered more in trade than I would have. Naturally to save face I had to back up his gesture. We parted with two hatchets, three knives, five bead necklaces and a pound of tobacco. Then rascally Moyock said to me, “Too bad we not have wool cloth along. I think that make wives very happy.”
“I think they’re happy enough.”
“Hah. I think we happy Chief not want more gifts. Generous offer stop more bargaining.”
“Good enough. Let’s go while everyone is in such a jolly mood.”
“No. Must go slow. Have another smoke. We can not hurry.”
I recognized the sense in what Moyock said. The kid knew how to handle the niceties of mixing with the natives. So we lollygagged around for awhile being affable. Aside, I asked Moyock, “Have you seen anything of Berserk Beaver?
“No. I have been watching. He has not shown himself in the crowd.”
Finally I used approaching night and the possibility of bad weather as a reason for us to leave. Chief Otisco and the Sachems led us down to the river bank. We found our second canoe beside the first. Still no sign of Berserk Beaver.
Now Moyock and I by walked out on rocks near the shore. We took time to examine as much of the rapids as we could see. The rough water extended out of sight. Moyock said, “I think we must carry canoes around falls.”
“Yes, and we’ll need help. I wonder how much aid we can count on from the friendly Unilah.”
“Maybe some. We don’t know how far. Maybe cost more trade goods.”
“That we can count on.”
Before mounting our canoes, I shook hands all around. Moyock explained shaking hands was a White Chief sign of friendship. That pleased everyone. As we pulled away, the dignitaries delighted the Chief in this new custom.
Because of the swifter current in the middle of the river, we stayed close to the shallow north shore. I led, Moyock followed in trail. Sitting in the back of the canoe, with the rest of our trade goods in front of me, limited my visibility of the water surface close in front of me. A couple of times I almost got stuck in sand. I backed off and proceeded around the end of the bar. Then swinging to avoid a floating tree, I turned inshore and grounded hard. After futile attempts to back off the laden canoe, I jumped in the water to push it off. Bending to shift the canoe I heard Moyock shout, “Watch out!”
In my shoulder…Aimed for my throat! Rising had saved my life. Berserk Beaver shot again!
I slid in the mud…He missed! Beaver notched another arrow…Moyock leaped out of his canoe…splashed toward Beaver…Distracted…Beaver loosed his arrow at Moyock…Moyock flung his hatchet…disrupted Beaver’s aim…The blade sliced his arm…Not fatally damaged…Beaver turned tail into brush along the river.
Certain the varmint was gone, Moyock splashed over to me. “You one lucky Squire.”
Beaver’s arrow struck my shoulder blade at an angle. Moyock examined the damage. His gentle tug freed the arrow head. “Not bad. Flesh wound.” He splashed water on it.
Using a pad of tobacco as a poultice he pressed it on my wound. “Hold tobacco on wound. You can not row. Lay in my canoe. I paddle yours, and tow mine.”
With Moyock doing all the paddling the trip home took until dusk. Unknown to us, a worried Leahna scanned the river from on the hill. When we came in sight, she saw only one man paddling, and the other canoe being towed. She scrambled down to the shore. “Leahna meets us. Her face show very worried.”
“She must have known we had trouble…expected us much sooner.”
As we came closer she shouted, “Moyock, Moyock…where Squire?”
She sounded concerned. Could it be that she did care some about me? Well, don’t get excited, Billy Boy. Maybe you are just a trip ticket to the west.
“Squire lay in canoe,” Moyock shouted back. “He is hurt…arrow wound. Not dead. Build up fire in cave!”
By the time Moyock beached the canoe, Leahna was there to meet us. She hurried to help me. “Squire where you hurt?”
Feeling light headed, I must have lost some blood. I clambered out of the canoe and fell. “Shoulder wound,” I said.
Moyock grabbed under my left arm and hoisted me. “Can you walk, Squire?”
“I’m weak, but I think I can make it.”
Moyock said, “Leahna, you help him back to cave? Take this arm. If you can’t do, shout and I will help. I’ll hide canoes, follow you.”
Moyock joined us before we got to the cave and relieved Leahna of my arm. He said to her, “We must look at wound. Need water to clean. Must stop blood.”
When we got inside I wanted to fall on my pallet. Instead, Moyock laid me on my face near the fire. “We must get you warm and dry. We must see wound.”
He pulled the tobacco off my shoulder. Leahna knelt beside me and examined the cut. “Tobacco help,” she said. “Stop most blood. Must clean.” So saying I could feel her soft touch wiping my shoulder with something wet. It still hurt like hell. “I make something, put on. Must press flesh together. He must be still.”
While she went off to gather her potions, Moyock slid my pallet next to me. Then he pulled off my wet deerskins and helped me to scurry onto my bed. I must have slept through the night on my stomach. When I awoke daylight filtered through the drying racks. My shoulder hurt like I’d been branded. Now I really regretted failing to kill Berserk Beaver. As I tried to rise, Moyock hollered, “Stop! Leahna say we must fix arm before you move.”
Well I had to move anyway. Then Leahna said, “More than skin in shoulder hurt. We make arm tight. You not use for while.”
Moyock helped me to sit up. Leahna brought a piece of deerskin which she looped under my arm and fastened with a cord around my neck. She’d fashioned a sling such as I’d seen physicians apply to battle wounded.
“How did you know to do that?” I asked.
“Make sense. You must keep arm still until flesh mend. It must heal. After, you move a little until strength come back.” She’d make a good doctor and certainly was a good nurse. Moyock helped me to my feet. I felt light headed. Leahna brought some kind of poultice and smeared it on my wound. “It bleeding again. Don’t use arm. We help you move.”