The Dove (Prophecy Series) (5 page)

BOOK: The Dove (Prophecy Series)
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Johnston saw her and lifted a hand in greeting. When he realized she was coming to his table, he smiled.

“Little Tyhen, even though your name means whirlwind in the language of your mother’s people, you are no longer little! You have grown even taller since I saw you last!”

Tyhen smiled. The New Ones were so much easier to talk to than the others. They had witnessed her mother’s feats and did not feel threatened by what others viewed as magic.

“My mother says I am too tall.”

Johnston shook his head. “You are a woman of power. It is only fitting that your appearance should match it.”

She chose to ignore the mention of power and looked at the things on his table instead.

“You have smoked jerky. No one makes it as good as you do,” she said.

Johnston’s smile grew wider as he picked up a piece of the dried meat and handed it to her. “Do you remember how I taught you to make it?” he asked.

She nodded. “Yes. I will do this one day for myself.”

Johnston eyed her curiously, but didn’t comment as he watched her tear off a small bite of the dried meat with her teeth.

“Good,” she said and was about to ask him about the handmade knife she picked up when she heard a woman scream.

In her mind she saw a large bird swooping down from the sky. She dropped the knife and started running. Her guards were behind her, trying to keep up, while Acat, realizing she’d let the chief’s daughter wander off, was even farther behind, crying and calling her back. She ignored them all, and the farther she ran, the clearer her vision became.

A condor had been circling the sky for a meal, and a small child was playing at the edge of a field where her mother was working. The enormous bird was only seconds from snatching it up, and the mother was running toward the baby. In Tyhen’s mind, she could see others following close behind, but they were all going to be too late.

Just as she cleared the marketplace, she saw the massive wingspan of the condor diving toward earth. Without conscious thought, she screamed and swung her arms up into the air.

A blast of wind came out of nowhere, hitting the condor head on and forcing it upward, pushing it higher and higher until it soared out of sight.

Seconds later the mother reached her baby, scooped her up into her arms and then dropped to her knees, too shaken to stand.

Tyhen’s arms were still over her head when she felt the guards moving closer. Suddenly a hand snaked around her waist and she heard Yuma’s voice near her ear. The urgency in his voice was impossible to miss.

“Come with me.”

Her heart skipped a beat. “What’s wrong?”

“They saw what you did.”

She frowned. “So? Should I let the baby die?”

“No, my love, and at the same time, I cannot let you die. I see fear on their faces.”

“I will not run away.”

She pushed out of his arms and turned toward the crowd behind her. When she started toward them, they jumped aside to let her pass as if they were afraid of what she might do to them. She passed through with Yuma on one side and her guards on the other, making sure she walked unharmed.

She ignored the whispers, her head held high. When she reached Nantay’s table back at the marketplace, she picked up her jerky and took another bite as if nothing had happened. She knew the crowd followed her, but refused to acknowledge their fear.

Johnston watched her without speaking, thinking of Layla Birdsong’s grandfather, George Begay, and how proud he would have been of this child. She had her grandfather’s visions and her mother’s magic. He hoped he lived long enough to see what she did with it, and if it would make enough difference in their world to keep it from dying all over again.

“How did you make this blade?” Tyhen asked as she picked up a long knife near the edge of the table. Its shape was unlike the kind the warriors of Naaki Chava carried. It was wider at the hasp and came to a long point at the end.

“I traded for some pieces of metal a few months ago.”

“Is this something from your time?” she asked.

“In our time the metal would have been harder and sharper. It was called steel, but this is good enough.”

She felt of the edge of the blade again, then set it aside.

“It is a fine knife,” she said softly. “If it is agreeable, I would trade three pots of honey for it.”

“I would be honored,” he said.

“I will send it to you before sundown today.”

“I will bring the honey,” Yuma offered.

Johnston nodded, picked up a leather scabbard, slipped the knife inside, and handed it to Tyhen.

Satisfied with her trade, she had the weapon in one hand and her jerky in the other.

“Now can we go?” Yuma whispered.

She turned to the crowd and held up her jerky. “This is good,” she said, bit off another bite, and walked away with Acat and the guards behind them.

Yuma was still worrying about how to tell her about the upcoming confrontation with the priests when Tyhen tore off a piece of the jerky and gave it to him without speaking.

He popped it in his mouth. As he began to chew, it reminded him of the jerky he and his father used to make with their first deer of the season. He was still thinking about his father when Tyhen’s steps began to slow.

“I know about the shamans,” she said. “I saw them coming in my sleep last night.”

He relaxed. Again, he should have known.

“How does it make you feel?” he asked, then saw her dark eyes flash.

“It makes me angry. They come to challenge me, to test me. They expect me to perform tricks like one of the monkeys in the marketplace. I am no monkey and I do not do tricks.”

“So what are you going to do?” he asked.

“Show them what Firewalker did.”

He stumbled and then quickly caught himself. “But how? You weren’t there.”

“But I was. I was in my mother’s belly when she ran back to save you. I saw the world on fire.”

The hair rose on the back of Yuma’s neck. “I had no idea.”

“No one does, but now you know, and soon they will, too.”

“Can you do that?”

She nodded. “All I have to do is think it and then put it in their heads.”

Yuma felt like he should drop and kneel. Such power was beyond his comprehension, and the moment he thought it, she glanced up at him.

“Don’t ever do that,” she said.

He frowned. “Do what?”

Her voice was shaking. “You do not kneel to me. I am no god, and one day I will be your woman.”

They were near the palace when Yuma motioned for the guards to stand back. Then took her by the hand and walked a short distance away.

“We have yet to make love, but you are already mine.”

Her heart skipped a beat as she saw his face and then quickly looked away. Passion was still unsettling. She didn’t know how to reconcile her feelings with the blood rushing through her body. The power of what she felt for him was frightening, and she wondered if when they finally made love, she would burn up in the heat.

He slipped a hand beneath her hair and pulled her to him.

“Fear not, my little whirlwind. Nothing happens until you’re ready.”

She laid her cheek against his bare chest and closed her eyes. She knew his scent as well as she knew her own name.

“I’m not afraid,” she said.

“I am,” he said, stroking the length of her hair.

She leaned back. “What do you fear?”

“I am only a man. You are a Windwalker’s daughter.”

She made herself look up at him then, even if the feeling scared her.

“You will be enough.”

He sighed. Once again, she’d read his heart. “Then I fear nothing,” he said.

She slipped her hand into his and resumed their trek to the palace with Acat and the guards still at their heels. She was going to have to tell her Mother what had happened down in the city and listen to Cayetano’s concerns for what was coming, but what would be, would be.

 

****

 

By nightfall, the parents of the child she’d saved were praising Tyhen’s name to all who would listen. Most of the fear had dissipated, leaving behind a tale told and retold until her single act of mercy reached heroic proportions.

But there was one person in Naaki Chava who did not appreciate the growing power of Tyhen’s presence. It was the old shaman, Ah Kin.

Ah Kin was the last of the shamans who’d been here when Singing Bird brought the New Ones through the portal. The others had died off one by one without being replaced, which did not bode well for him. Now Cayetano relied solely on the pretty young men who wore the same face. He felt worthless and alone. If it was the last thing he did, he wanted to make the chief sorry.

 

****

 

The first day of the festival began with the sunrise ceremony.

Cayetano and Singing Bird stood side by side on the upper steps of the temple, dressed in their ceremonial clothes. The loincloth around Cayetano’s waist was white as the sun on a cloudless day and hung just above his knees. The gold thread woven into a geometric design at the hem was as thick and heavy as the jade stones around his neck, but it was the cape of red feathers signifying his status of chief that gave him a most regal presence.

Although Singing Bird had come back to Naaki Chava with the New Ones, she still had enough of Layla Birdsong left in her to be uncomfortable in the bare-breasted style of the local women, and from the start had worn shifts or sarong-style wraps to cover her nudity.

The blue and gold design woven around the hem of her white shift was striking, as was the bib necklace that lay flat against her chest. The tiny circlets of hammered silver and gold were fastened together in an intricate design, and there was the one long, red feather tied in her hair, signifying her unusual status of warrior.

Tyhen stood slightly behind them. Her shift was without any decoration and had been made with two slits up the front to reveal her legs as she walked. Her long, dark hair was unadorned. Her only nod to the ceremony was an ornate necklace of rare, large turquoise stones worn in honor of her mother’s people.

Yuma was beside her, wearing an unadorned loincloth, which was the traditional clothing of a warrior, while the twins’, who stood on the other side, wore clothing similar to his, but made from the skins of jaguars. They were all three striking young men, but it was Yuma who held her gaze.

Instead of tying his long hair up in a loop at the back of his neck like the other warriors, he honored his heritage and wore it down, framing a wide forehead, high cheekbones and a strong chin hinting at a stubborn streak. His face was shining from the heat, highlighting the warm tone of his skin. He stood braced as if for combat, his feet slightly apart and on guard against anything or anyone who would harm Tyhen.

She knew the shamans who would come to judge her were not far away, and she knew what was at stake.

The old shaman, Ah Kin, was standing at the topmost tier of the temple in a ceremonial robe the same color as the purple orchids that grew wild in the jungle. He was waiting to welcome the first rays of the new sun. A phalanx of warriors encircled the temple, forming a barrier between the people and the chief.

For Ah Kin, the playa below was but a sea of faces, and the moment the first rays of the new sun broke the horizon, he lifted his arms to the sky and began the long ritual that ended with giving thanks to the Sun God and the Rain God for providing them with such a good harvest. The last thing Ah Kin did was bless the day. At that point, his job was done.

He then stood in all his glory, watching as the people began coming forward to leave their offerings at the temple’s base, standing witness to the gifts while remembering the old days and how revered the shamans had been. Now no one even bothered to look up or seek his attention for a special blessing.

The slight fueled his anger to the point that when he finally saw the purple robes of the visiting shamans who were walking into the playa, it was all he could do not to cheer.

He moved hastily down the temple steps to greet them.

“Cayetano, the shamans are here,” Evan whispered.

Ah Kin was halfway down the steps when Cayetano stepped forward and raised his hand. The sound of his voice carried, silencing the crowd.

“What strangers come to Naaki Chava?”

Ah Kin frowned. It was obvious by the color of their robes that they were shamans. It should have been his right to greet them. Once again he’d been shuffled off to the side.

The twelve shamans were accompanied by twice as many warriors. When Cayetano spoke, they stopped short of the temple steps. Rarely were they ever challenged and they didn’t like it. A single shaman stepped forward to speak for the rest.

“I am Votan, shaman of Matzlan. I and my fellow shamans come from below Naaki Chava, and from above. We come from the other side of the mountain, and from the valley between. We have heard about a woman with great power who lives in your palace, and we want to see her and judge her for ourselves.”

“She is my daughter, and she does not perform tricks for your entertainment,” Cayetano snapped.

Votan frowned. He wasn’t used to being denied.

“Why are you hiding her? Does she practice bad magic? Maybe she communicates with the dark ones. Maybe you—”

“Stop! Stop now!” Tyhen cried and came striding down the steps in long, angry strides.

Cayetano was furious with the shamans, and when he would have called her back, Singing Bird stopped him with a look.

Yuma was right behind her, and when Tyhen stopped on the steps far below Cayetano, he grabbed her hips with both hands, making sure she went no farther.

She reached back as she leaned against him, laying her hand along the side of his face to reassure him she was fine, and then gazed down at the shamans and their guards.

“I am called Tyhen. I am the woman you accused of dark magic. The last shaman who came after me lies dead in the gorge below swinging bridge. Do you wish to join him?”

They couldn’t believe their eyes. She was very tall, taller than their biggest warrior, and she commanded attention when she spoke. The fact, that she had just threatened them was not what they’d expected of one so young. They moved closer to each other as their guards brandished their spears and shields.

BOOK: The Dove (Prophecy Series)
7.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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