Prologue Part Two
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|Mon, 01-06-2003 - 7:27am|
Prologue Part Two
Thanks so much for all the feedback on my last post. That's one thing I appreciate about this place, everyone is eager to give feedback and encourage one another. Thanks for being here for me, ladies!
This picks up right where I left off. Again, any and all feedback is welcome. This is a little more than 1600 words.
Link to previous post.
Prologue Part One: http://boards1.ivillage.com/messages/get/bcromancewriting46/6.html
Prologue Part Two
Jean-Marc charged into the village as Black Bear and Dancing Cloud’s war cries followed behind. He spotted Black Kettle’s American flag. Below it hung the white flag which signified peace. A promise that the village would not be harmed. At the base of the pole lay the dead bodies of women, elderly men, and children. Moans and cries carried through the air from those who still suffered from their wounds. More shots rang out at the other end of the village.
Jean-Marc urged his mount toward the fighters, and he readied his arrow. Other Cheyenne men fought to defend the village. Smoke burned his eyes as he galloped between smoldering lodges. Tears blurred his vision. He took aim. The arrow missed a soldier.
Dancing Cloud’s war cry caught his attention. Jean-Marc turned and saw him fall from his stolen horse. He rolled on the ground, curling his body in pain. A soldier hurried to stand over him and took aim with his rifle. Black Bear was nowhere to be seen.
Jean-Marc grabbed the dagger from his belt, turned his horse, and galloped toward the soldier. He swung his leg over the saddle, braced himself in a standing position and squatted. He leaped from the beast and landed on the soldier’s back. The rifle fired, missing its target. With one stroke, he sliced the man’s throat.
They plummeted, twirling to the ground. The man’s weight slammed against Jean-Marc’s, forcing the wind out of his lungs. He shoved the heavy, bleeding soldier off of his body and gulped in air. The pressure in his chest made it almost impossible to move, but he crawled to his feet, holding his breath.
Another soldier came toward him with a saber.
Jean-Marc spun and pain sliced through his chest.
He stifled a cry. Only a coward would show signs of pain. He dropped to his knees and grasped the wound, noticing that the sword tore the surface of his flesh.
The man swung back his weapon for the final blow.
Jean-Marc snatched his tomahawk from his belt and threw it at the man’s chest.
The soldier stepped back, dropping his saber, and collapsed to the ground.
Jean-Marc’s hands trembled, and his chest burned like fire. He climbed to his feet, while the sounds of gunshots faded. His eyes darted around in search of another threat. There was none. The pressure in his chest diminished, and he sucked in air. Smoke filled his lungs, strangling him. The stench of death filled his nostrils.
His mother. He had to find his mother. He hurried toward his lodge, gasping for air, but became disoriented by the fallen homes and burnt-out teepees. He looked behind him and from side to side. Dead bodies of people he knew lay wasting on the ground. Some still moaned, not yet dead from their wounds. Others had been scalped, and more were mutilated. They were degraded in ways the Cheyenne forefathers had long ago forbidden. Jean-Marc’s stomach turned. Bile rose in his throat. He dropped to the ground and heaved.
When finished, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and through blurred vision, scanned the markings on the lodges that were left standing. Recognizing them, he made his way over the carnage toward his mother’s home. It was still intact with the buffalo skin pulled into a point high above him.
He pulled away the skin flap and peered inside, trembling with the thoughts of what he might find. A small fire flickered, casting long shadows about the large room, warming the place. His books, stacked in a pile on his bed, showed no signs of an attack, and the blankets were folded where his mother had slept. Then he saw his grandmother sitting next to her own bed slumped over a pool of blood.
"Grandmother?" His voice came deep from within his throat.
He crept across the room, took hold of her chin, and raised her head. Her long, gray braid brushed against his arm. She was gone. Torrents of anguish shuddered through him.
He scanned the lodge again. His mother, nowhere to be seen.
He left, his nose burning as he held back tears. His grandmother, gone. He refused to cry. He bolted through the village calling out his mother’s name. His voice was ragged, nearly giving way to his repressed wails. There was no answer. He leaped over bodies, trying not to look at the small child who had been thrown onto the stakes above a lodge.
His eyes darted from side to side to avoid another threat, but the danger was gone, the battle was over. Silence, and the sounds of death carried on the air.
Then, a silver chain, half buried in the dirt, caught his eye. He picked it up and drew it over his trembling hand. A turquoise stone fell into his palm. His mother’s necklace. His heart pulsated in his ears as his eyes darted from one body to another.
There she lay, face down, her braids strewn over her blood-soaked dress. He stumbled over to her and dropped to his knees. With quivering hands, he reached out and turned her over. Under her, a young child holding his mother screamed, her eyes wildly large and frightened. The little girl jumped up and clung to his neck.
"My baby! Runs With Wind!" a woman’s voice shrieked from behind. The woman stumbled over to Jean-Marc and snatched the child from him. She ran away with the child, wailing.
He turned back to his mother. Her eyes were open, but lifeless. A braid had fallen across her ashen cheek, wrapped around it was the beaded leather band she always wore. He moved the long strips of colorful leather from her placid face.
His throat burned from the smoke and from the lump that had gathered there. He brushed his bloodstained knuckles against her cold cheek. His lips trembled. He wanted his mother. He wanted her to be alive, to hold him and tell him all would be well.
An anquished wail tore from his heart. He hugged his mother, but her arms dangled at her side. He rocked back and forth, crying, taking in her familiar sent, hoping beyond hope that she would awaken and embrace him. Hot tears streamed down on his cheeks as he held her lifeless body against his chest.
* * *
That night after the soldiers had left, those who had escaped returned to the village. They crept over the battleground among the naked and mutilated bodies of the dead. Jean-Marc dared not return to his mother or his grandmother, fearing what he might find. The soldiers had come back that afternoon and scalped the dead, cut out the insides and private parts of wives, husbands, children, and friends. Few were found alive.
After helping carry back wounded, Jean-Marc, reeling in shock, sat with some of the younger men in one of the trenches.
"I will fight!" Black Bear, crouching next to Dancing Cloud, slammed his fist in his hand and moonlight flashed in his eyes. "I and others will go to the Dog Soldiers’ village. Who will join me?"
"I will join you," Dancing Cloud said, eyes red and swollen; he too had lost his mother. One of his sisters had been seriously wounded, while the other two had survived. They had escaped while the warriors held off the soldiers.
"We will also fight," others called out.
Jean-Marc remained silent, clutching the leather band he had found in his mother’s hair that day. He still awaited his father’s arrival with their supplies. Would he have heard what happened? Or would his father suffer the same shock he had just suffered?
Jean-Marc’s grandmother and mother were dead. It all seemed like a horrifying nightmare. Why did this have to happen? Why couldn’t his family have survived? His mother had saved the life of Runs With Wind. Why couldn’t he have saved that baby? Why did his arrow have to miss that soldier? There could have been one more life saved, but he had failed. If only . . . . How could he live with himself after missing that soldier? The agony of it all festered in his mind. Those soldiers would pay.
"I too will fight," he said, his whole being racked with grief.
"You will fight against your father’s people?" Dancing Cloud asked.
"I won’t murder the innocent, but I will fight the soldiers."
"They murdered our innocent!" Black Bear said. "Now they must suffer the same loss. They are savages."
"And I won’t become as they," Jean-Marc said, his eyes set on Black Bear. Had Black Bear no grief, no anguish for what just happened? Anger radiated from his being.
"Jean-Marc saved my life." Dancing Cloud’s voice hung in the air. Everyone fell silent. "He is a brave warrior. A soldier knocked me from my horse, then stood over me with his rifle. Jean-Marc flew through the air like an eagle, and he took the soldier down."
Jean-Marc’s eyes fell on Dancing Cloud and his heart swelled. He would be fully accepted by the Cheyenne, and he was now a brave. But in an instant his pride vanished with the finality of what took place. He had killed men and watched their blood soak in the ground and snow. He looked at his murderous hands. In one day, he had gone from boyhood to manhood. And the man he had become, he wasn’t certain he liked.
"But he won’t fight." Black Bear’s voice stirred low and filled the trench with its deadly force. Jean-Marc was already fully aware of the warrior’s rage, but Sand Creek’s massacre ignited Black Bear’s anger turning it into a inferno of flames. The White Man would suffer for what happened here. Fury burned in Black Bear’s eyes, yet despite his furious gaze, Jean-Marc wasn’t afraid.
"I won’t murder the innocent, but I will fight," Jean-Marc said, his jaw set, "and the white soldiers will pay."