Authors: Janelle Taylor
“I am happy you came, Dawn,” Chase murmured.
“I come to thank you for your generous and brave deed, Cloud Chaser. My family’s hearts would be filled with sadness if my brother had been slain or injured. We are grateful you kept him in our Life-Circles.”
“It was good to hunt as his companion. It pleases me that I was given a chance to warm your heart toward me.”
Macha felt weak inside just from being near him. She had first come to love him as a child, and those feelings had increased since his return, as if she were being carried away in a whirlwind. “How could your deeds not warm my heart, for we were friends as children, Cloud Chaser, and we are friends on this sun.”
“Is it too soon to tell you I hunger for us to become more than friends one day? If my cousin learns of my strong feelings for you, he will seek you out if only to harm me. Do not join to Two Feathers,” Chase said urgently. “He is unworthy of you.”
Before she could reply, she heard Hanmani’s bird call. “Hanmani calls me. I must go.”
Chase cupped her warm face between his hands, leaned forward, and brushed his lips lightly over hers. “Think on me, Dawn, for you enter my thoughts each time I breathe. Go quickly, Sunshine of my heart.”
ANYTHING FOR LOVE
CHASE THE WIND
FIRST LOVE, WILD LOVE
FOLLOW THE WIND
KISS OF THE NIGHT WIND
THE LAST VIKING QUEEN
LOVE ME WITH FURY
LOVE WITH A STRANGER
PASSIONS WILD AND FREE
PROMISE ME FOREVER
SWEET, SAVAGE HEART
WILD IS MY LOVE
MOONDUST AND MADNESS
STARDUST AND SHADOWS
STARLIGHT AND SPLENDOR
MOONBEAMS AND MAGIC
who’s like a sister to me;
and to three of my best friends and talented writers:
Bobbi Smith Walton, Constance “E.G.” O’Banyon,
Chase Martin took a deep breath and slowly released it. He kept his rifle sheathed and his handgun holstered to indicate he was no threat to the approaching Red Shield warriors as he guided his horse from concealing trees. He was not surprised that the party’s leader spotted him immediately and alerted his followers to a stranger’s presence. Chase reined in and lifted his hands to signify he only wanted to parley with them. He wasn’t afraid to die for a just cause, but his heart still pounded in suspense and blood sped through his veins in anticipation of what he would learn. He watched the warriors race forward and encircle him. He said to the young man who sat astride a mottled mount before him, “I’ve come to speak with Chief Rising Bear. Will you take me to his camp and tepee?”
As Chase saw the leader’s keen gaze search the trees behind him, he added, “I’ve come alone to see your chief. This is no trick or challenge. Do you speak English and understand me?”
The warrior nodded, still on alert. “Why you seek my father?” he asked.
Chase eyed the speaker with great interest as he said, “My
words are for the ears of Rising Bear alone. I come in peace, War Eagle.”
“How you know my name,
Chase knew he appeared to be at least part Indian, even if War Eagle had called him a white man, and in a near insulting tone. Considering the past and growing hostilities between the two races, he was lucky he hadn’t been slain on sight. “At Fort Pierre, I was told Rising Bear has two sons: Wind Dancer and War Eagle. You are Rising Bear’s second son?”
“It true. Why you ask men at trading post about my family? You Bluecoat come to scout our camp for attack?”
“No, War Eagle, I’m not a soldier or an enemy. I come from far away and had to ask questions at Pierre so I could find Rising Bear and his camp. You must take me to him, for the words within me are powerful medicine.”
If they don’t heal me, I don’t know what will
“What big medicine words you bring to my father?”
“I must speak them to Rising Bear; only he can tell them to others if he so chooses.” Chase observed as War Eagle scrutinized him intently and considered his bold request. He listened as the leader spoke with his hunting party, pleased that he understood the Oglala tongue he had not heard for many years.
War Eagle felt there was something oddly familiar about the intruder, but he could not determine what it might be. From somewhere deep within him, a voice—perhaps the Great Spirit’s—advised him to take the evasive man to his father. “Give weapons to Swift Otter.”
Without protest or delay, Chase surrendered his rifle, pistol, and knife to the warrior, who edged close to his mount and confiscated them.
“Come. I take you to my father. If you speak false words or seek to harm him,
you die by my hand before this sun sleeps.”
“Trust me, War Eagle, for I speak the truth.”
“I trust no white man, for truth does not live in their hearts or come from their mouths; they prove this on each rising sun. Come. We go.”
Chase knew it was futile and a waste of valuable time to argue with War Eagle, so he remained silent. He rode behind the leader, with the other warriors positioned on either side of him and to his rear.
So far, so good,
he told himself.
They journeyed over the edge of the Great Plains where tight bunches and singular stalks of various grasses swayed in a constant wind, and traveled into foothills of fragrant pine and cedar and fully leafed hardwoods. Along the way, they encountered straggling buffaloes who were not members of the vast herds which spread across the rolling grassland like enormous dark blankets and unknowingly awaited the Indians’ impending annual summer hunt. They also sighted small groups of antelope, several coyote, a few turkey, and many deer. Amidst flower-filled meadows with winding streams, and creeks, they spooked grouse, other birds, and burrow-dwelling creatures. Beyond their current position were canyons and higher elevation of ebony or gray granite boulders, towering needles, spiky spires, and picturesque cliffs. Those rugged mountains with their jagged peaks and lofty pinnacles comprised the Black Hills, the sacred Paha Sapa.
From childhood recall and the maps he’d studied, Chase knew they were between Swift and Bear Gulch creeks, and north of a site called Cave Of The Winds, where powerful spirits allegedly dwelled. He realized he would soon reach the Red Shield camp to face Rising Bear and others. A multitude of contradictory feelings and thoughts filled him: tension and serenity, eagerness and dread, trust and doubt. The moment of truth would be at hand soon.
At long last, the village was in view. Numerous buffalohide tepees with lodgepoles jutting upward were situated on the relatively flat surface of a canyon floor, which was sheltered against the harsh winter forces by evergreen-tree-covered hills and large, dark rock formations. Most featured what he knew were colorful paintings of their warriors’ skills and exploits. There was no circular pattern to the arrangement, as was the custom on the Great Plains for self-defense in the open. In the spaces between them, Chase saw racks with pelts and hides being dried and stretched for tanning. He saw campfires
enclosed by rocks. Kettles were suspended above the fire from three-pronged stands over them and smoke and vapors rose from the simmering meals. Some horses were picketed near conical abodes, and others were grazing and drinking at the nearby river. Weapons were proudly displayed on trilegged stands as they soaked up the powers of the earth and sun. Women were busy with daily chores. Older children played on the camp fringe; younger ones and infants were tended near their homes by their grandparents or sisters. Men talked and worked on their tasks, mainly preparations for the impending annual buffalo hunt. It was all so familiar and yet alien to Chase. For a moment, he wondered if he had been wrong to come there, if he should have left the past dead and buried. Yet, even if he had made a grave mistake, it was too late to change his mind now.
Chase noted that many people halted their chores and headed toward them—whispering and pointing—as the riders entered the busy area and dismounted near their chief’s tepee, their curious or narrowed gazes focused on him, a white man who arrived unbound. Several young boys took the horses away to be tended, including his own. He waited in silence as Wind Dancer and Rising Bear scrutinized him with keen dark eyes before looking quizzically at War Eagle for an explanation. The leader hurriedly related the news of Chase’s “capture” and persistence in speaking with the chief.
Wind Dancer gave the man another quick study and had a strange feeling they had met before. He asked in English, which he had learned from his wife during the last few years, “Who are you and why do you come to see my father?”
So, like War Eagle, you don’t recognize me, either. I guess the same is true for our father and everyone else here.
“I want to speak with Rising Bear alone; my words are not for the ears of others unless he so chooses.” Chase waited and listened as Wind Dancer translated those words into Lakota, and the older man responded to his eldest son.
“My father says you can speak your words before his family and people,” Wind Dancer said. “But who are you? Why do you come to our camp?”
Chase had yearned to be remembered and for this initial meeting to take place in private. His hurt and displeasure sent forth a response in a near-surly tone as he frowned, “Does Mato Kikta not recognize the face and voice of Yutokeca Mahpiya, son of Rising Bear and Margaret Phillips, the white woman he called Omaste, Sunshine, for her golden, hair? Is my father not happy I have found my way home after being stolen from him twelve summers past? Has he forgotten his own flesh and blood?”
A shocked Wind Dancer glared at the scowling stranger and almost gritted out the angry charge, “You lie,
My brother is dead. You are foolish to come here and claim to be him. What evil trick is this?”
Chase leveled his gaze on the man whose height matched his own of six feet. “Do I look dead, Wind Dancer, my brother who is five winters older than I am? Do you not remember Cloud Chaser who followed in your shadow on most suns after he learned to walk? It isn’t a trick or a lie. I have proof: the clothes and possessions I was wearing when I vanished long ago, they’re in the saddlebag on my horse. In my medicine bundle is the feather you gave me from the first bird you killed with an arrow. Also there is the sacred red stone my father gave to me following my first vision and the golden lock of my mother’s hair, and I wear the locket which holds her parents’ image. If I’m not Cloud Chaser, how would I have and know such things?”
Wind Dancer eyed the stranger with astonishment. He and Cloud Chaser had been separated by evil forces when Wind Dancer was fifteen winters old and his half-brother was ten, and Cloud Chaser had been presumed dead or lost to them forever. Was this man speaking the truth? Was that what evoked such eerie feelings within him? If this was Cloud Chaser, he had changed from the almost black-haired and -eyed boy who had looked Indian to a man who appeared mostly
with his medium brown eyes and hair with lighter streaks. His features were larger and different, but the passing of time could account for those changes. As a curious Rising Bear nudged his arm and questioned his reaction, Wind Dancer’s muddled
thoughts cleared. He translated the shocking words to his father, whose widened gaze jerked toward and stared at the stranger who oddly tugged at his emotions.
Two Feathers snarled in the Lakota tongue, “It is a trick! Cloud Chaser walks the Ghost Trail, not the face of Mother Earth! This man is a white man who has come to spy on us for our enemy! We must slay him where he stands. I will do the deed for our chief,” he offered as he withdrew a weapon.
Wind Dancer told his irate first cousin in their language, “Hold your tongue and sheathe your knife, Two Feathers, and allow him to speak.” In English, he asked, “Who are you,
and why do you come here?”
Chase ignored his hostile cousin as he avowed, “I told you such news should be revealed in private to my father. Our long-awaited reunion was not for the eyes and ears of others.” When Rising Bear failed to smile, embrace, and welcome him home, disappointment and bitterness shot through Chase and provoked angry words, still in English. “Tell me, Father, would you have tried to find and recover me if I weren’t half white or if I had been one of your other three children? Does it bring you shame and sadness to have me return and remind you of past dark days?”
Of necessity, Wind Dancer translated those words to their father.
“Do not speak such bad words and show such bad feelings to our chief or your tongue will be taken!” Two Feathers shouted in a threatening tone.
Chase disregarded his cousin, whose Lakota words he had understood. “If my father will not answer the questions which trouble my heart, then you tell me, my brother, how long and how hard did he search for me when I was stolen by the Whites? Why didn’t he follow the cloud-covered wagons? They move slowly and he is a great warrior, so he could have easily overtaken them and rescued me. Was he glad to have me gone?”
“He and others searched many suns and moons, but Cloud Chaser could not be found,” Wind Dancer rebuffed. “He followed the wagons but did not see him among the Whites, so it was foolish to attack them and call forth a war with the
Bluecoats. He found Crow tracks near his last moccasin prints; he followed our enemy and recovered his pony, but all Crow were slain in that battle and there were no signs of him in their camp. He did not know where he was or what happened to him. If you are Cloud Chaser, why did you wait so long to return to us? Why do you return in this season?”
“I was wounded by the enemy,” Chase began his explanation, “and thrown from my pony; my leg was broken. White settlers found me, tended me, and took me with them to a place far away called Oregon and named me Chase Martin. I was told my people were attacked and killed and that I must remain with them to recover and be safe. And I did not know the long path home. Before my white father died, he revealed the truth to me, but begged me to forgive him and to stay with the woman who raised me as her son to help her on the farm and to protect her. After her death, I returned here.”
“Why did those who took you speak such lies?” Wind Dancer asked.
“Because they wanted a son badly and couldn’t have children. They also believed I was a white captive being held and reared by the Indians. They said nobody came searching for me or claimed me, so they kept me.”
After Wind Dancer translated those words for their father, Two Feathers snarled, “The Oglala blood he carried at birth has been slain by his many seasons with the Whites; he is more
than Red Shield. He must be slain or sent away or he will cause much trouble for us.”
Chase, glared at his cousin and refuted, “The blood of Rising Bear lives strongest within me; that is why I have returned to him and the Oglalas.”
“You speak our tongue?” Two Feathers asked in astonishment.
Chase replied again in Lakota, “I speak the tongue of my father and our people. I have forgotten little about my life here long ago.” He realized he had to settle down or he would be sent riding before he gleaned the truth. “Give me time, Father, and I will earn your love, respect, and acceptance; but you must also earn mine and my forgiveness. I will—”
“You speak foolish and dangerous, half-breed!” Two Feathers shouted. “How do we know you are Cloud Chaser and not a
who uses his thoughts and possessions to trick us?”
“I have not forgotten what I was taught as a child, but you have done so. You forget it is not the Oglala way to walk upon the words of another, son of my father’s sister. Do you still hold a wicked grudge against me for the many times I beat you in foot races and in arrow practice? After so many years, do you still hate me and wish me dead?”
“Do you come to cause trouble and to shame our chief? Do you—”