Read The Next Skywatcher: Prequel to The Last Skywatcher Triple Trilogy Series (The Last Skywatcher, Anasazi Historical Thrillers with a Hint of Romance Book 1) Online

Authors: Jeff Posey

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The Next Skywatcher: Prequel to The Last Skywatcher Triple Trilogy Series (The Last Skywatcher, Anasazi Historical Thrillers with a Hint of Romance Book 1) (10 page)

BOOK: The Next Skywatcher: Prequel to The Last Skywatcher Triple Trilogy Series (The Last Skywatcher, Anasazi Historical Thrillers with a Hint of Romance Book 1)
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Tuwa noticed a dark pile of bodies near Choovio’s storage room, and heard the sounds of fighting from within. He saw Ihu, his bare head shining in starlight and his face and neck black with blood, run toward Grandmother Haki and club her viciously in the head. Then he looked at Tuwa and charged, his eyes flashing, his bloody pointed teeth barred. A small arrow appeared in his left shoulder. He slowed, but kept coming, his club raised in his right hand. Another arrow lodged in his right shoulder. He dropped his club and fell to his knees a body length from Tuwa.

Tuwa wanted to stand, but his legs would not cooperate. Ihu also tried to stand, but his arms hung limp and he couldn’t get his balance and push himself up. Finally, Tuwa forced himself to his knees and he crawled to Ihu. He forced his heavy hands to obey him and grabbed the ends of both arrows and twisted them. Ihu screamed. Tuwa head-butted Ihu in the face, which sent sparks of pain rushing down his spine and pinpoints of light dancing in the darkness, and then he pushed Ihu backward. Tuwa almost went over with him, but managed to stay upright on his knees and scan the plaza. Fighting had stopped. The warriors had either fled or been defeated. He saw bodies on the ground. Heard sobbing. He looked at Grandmother Haki. Her open eyes stared lifelessly to the sky. Good, he thought. She could see her path. He noticed her knife still clutched in her hand. She had never gotten the chance to have her word with Ihu.

A sound like a windstorm filled his ears and he didn’t trust his senses. His legs shivered and he had no strength.

“Choovio,” he gasped. “Sowi.”

A dark shape emerged from the room where Choovio had been fighting. He recognized his friend, coated in gleaming black blood. He wanted to go to him and touch him, but his legs and arms would not move.

“Hurt?” slurred Tuwa.

“Not much,” said Choovio. His arms hung as if they were too tired to move.

“Sowi?”

Choovio’s eyes went to the roof. Tuwa turned his pounding head and saw Sowi standing. He also saw Kopavi there beside him, holding a bow strung with an arrow. If he’d had the energy to smile, he would have.

“More?” Tuwa called with as much volume as he could muster.

He saw Kopavi point to the north. “Three archers escaped,” she called. “One with an arrow in his back.”

“Ours?” Tuwa asked.

“Three up here,” said Kopavi. She shook her head.
Dead
.

“Two,” said Choovio.

Tuwa nodded, five Pochtécans lost. His vision wavered like watery images off the floor of the desert in the middle of the day and he fought to stay conscious. Choovio towered over him, blocking the stars. Tuwa looked up, but shadow hid Choovio’s face. Tuwa’s world wavered into black and he felt himself fall into nothingness.

When he came to, it took Tuwa an excruciatingly long time to realize he lay where Grandmother Haki had been the last time he spoke to her—was it the evening before or days ago? The gathering around the central fire was much smaller than before. The young ones were gone, the town’s girls with them. Tuwa saw Kopavi moving among the Pochtécans scattered about, some prone, some sitting. He didn’t see Choovio or Sowi. He caught Kopavi’s eye and she came to him.

“Many wounded?” he asked.

She signed
no
, then said, “Choovio and Sowi are standing sentry.”

“Five dead?” Tuwa asked, wondering how he remembered.

“Seven.”

He stared across the plaza seeing double. He couldn’t do the calculation.

Kopavi read his mind. “We are twelve now, counting The Pochtéca.” She knelt beside him and touched his bandaged head. He cringed, from his pain as well as from their loss. Too much to bear, though the quiet voice of Grandfather reminded him that twelve was the luckiest of numbers. The number of full moons in a year. Except for seven years out of every nineteen when there were thirteen full moons. He couldn’t remember which year they were in now. Grandfather would be disappointed.

“What happened?” he asked, closing his aching eyes.

“Sowi put an arrow through the throat of the warrior who clubbed you in the back of your head. Ihu charged away from you after you fell and hit Eldest Woman. Then we both missed our mark when Ihu came at you. Sowi got his left shoulder. I got his right. You are our worst injured.”

“I am fine,” he said, though he didn’t feel fine. The world tilted and wobbled. He felt as if he might retch.

“You are not. You need time to heal.”

“Have no time. Archers escaped?” He felt the need to move. To stand. To think and prepare for…something he couldn’t clearly remember.

“They found one dead. Two are gone.” She held his face in her hands and peered closely at him. “Your eyes wander. Your spirit is loose.”

“My spirit is not in my eyes.” He found it hard to hold her gaze because his eyes drifted. He tried to force them to cooperate, but they would not, so he squeezed his eyelids closed. “Ihu?”

“Tied in a storage room. His arms will not work.”

“They will be back.”

“Maybe not so quick this time.” She stood. “I will bring you soup. You eat. Then sleep.”

The soup calmed his stomach, and he dropped into a burning sleep.

The next morning, he saw Choovio and Sowi coming across the plaza toward him with a young, thin boy between them, a stranger. Tuwa’s eyes didn’t drift as badly as the night before, though he still had to close them often.

“You won’t believe what we found this boy doing,” said Sowi. “He was cutting out the teeth of the dead warriors! Putting them in a pouch. Show him.” Sowi shoved the boy toward Tuwa. The boy’s fingers were sticky with blood.

The boy picked up a flat rock, brushed it free of sand, and then shook out the contents of a blood-soaked pouch. Clumps of teeth spilled out, many with flesh still attached.

Tuwa squinted at the boy and realized he could control his eyes for a few moments at a time. The boy acted proud.

“What’s your name?” Tuwa asked, an ache clenching his head.

“Tootsa.” Tuwa lifted his eyebrows. Named for the hummingbird. Appropriate for such a small boy, he thought.

“Who were you born to?”

The boy looked down. “My mother is dead. All her family, too.”

“Father?”

“Him, too.”

An orphan, Tuwa thought. “Are you from here? Black Stone Town?”

“Not yet, but if I keep getting rich like this, maybe.”

Tuwa puzzled at the boy’s answer. “Why are you here?”

“To see if the rumors are true.”

“Rumors about what?”

“That they really did clear out Black Stone Town and give it to my uncle.”

Tuwa shook his head, which sent arrows of pain into his brain. He couldn’t follow this boy. “I thought all your family is dead?”

“They are. Except for the ones who should be.”

Tuwa blinked. Did the boy speak in riddles or did his own mind no longer work? “So why are you knocking teeth from dead warriors?”

“Because it’s a treasure,” he said. His eyes brightened. “I’m rich!”

Sowi looked incredulously at Choovio, who stood like a bull buffalo without expression. “You’re sick in the head, boy,” Sowi said. “Nobody wants those smelly, bloody things.”

“No, they do,” said Tootsa. “The Wild Boys in the canyon collect them. I’ll have more than anybody, except maybe the Fat Man.”

“Wait, wait, slow down,” said Tuwa. His head throbbed with his heartbeat. “Wild boys in the canyon? A fat man?”

“Yeah, they’re my friends. They’re all like me, no parents, no family. Since that bad Day Star. So we make our own family. I can’t wait to show them these. If you kill any more, can I have them?”

Sowi’s body writhed with exasperation. “Why would they care about a bunch of teeth?”

Tootsa looked at Sowi as if he didn’t understand the question. “Everybody in the canyon cares about the pointed teeth of warriors. Everybody wishes they had some.”

“Why?” Sowi almost screamed.

“Because nobody likes them being around,” said Tootsa with a shrug.

Sowi lifted his hands and walked away, shaking his head. He sat with his back turned, but within hearing distance. Choovio knelt by the fire where he could watch the north road and still listen, toying with his bow and arrow.

Through his fog, Tuwa realized Tootsa had gathered only pointed teeth. From warriors. And that he’d mentioned
everybody in the canyon
. He looked into the boy’s eyes. “You’ve been into Center Place Canyon?”

“Sure. Lots of times,” said Tootsa.

Tuwa glanced at Choovio. He would understand. This odd little boy could help them. He wondered how to get the boy to talk. How to pick good information from his riddled way of talking.

“Who will you take these pointed teeth to first?” Tuwa asked.

“Lightfoot,” he said.

“Who is with Lightfoot?” asked Tuwa.

“All the Wild Boys.” Tootsa seemed to become shy with Tuwa’s focused attention.

Tuwa turned and stretched out with his hands under his throbbing head and stared at the sky. The light hurt his eyes and his head, so he closed his eyes and concentrated on talking with Tootsa. “What do you like to do with the Wild Boys?” he asked in a quiet voice.

“Oh, we run some and laugh and get food from people.”

“How do you get food?”

“We run up and take it, and then they get mad at us. But some mothers don’t mind.”

“Who will Lightfoot take your pointy teeth to?”

“Nowhere. I’m not
giving
them to him. No way. If he wants a treasure he’ll have to get his own.”

“If I were you, I’d give him at least one,” said Tuwa.

“Well. Maybe one. But nobody else. And only because he’s our top man.”

“Then Lightfoot would trade it for something, I guess.”

“Oh, I
know
what he’ll do with it. He’ll give it to the Fat Man so he can watch the girls.”

“The girls?”

“Yeah. The Fat Man’s girls. Men pay him to do stupid things with them. Sometimes he lets us Wild Boys watch if we do something for him. I don’t like that much yet.”

“Yet?”

“Lightfoot says I will someday.”

Tuwa grinned in spite of his aching head. He wondered how willing the girls were. If Chumana were alive, could they make her do that? That made his anger rise again. “What kind of men pay for the girls?”

“Those smelly warriors, mostly. They hurt them, so I don’t like to watch.”

Tuwa turned onto his stomach. He let the pain drive out the thought of Chumana and drew a circle in the sand. “Draw the canyon for me, Tootsa.”

Tootsa dawdled, used different sticks, found one he wanted, smoothed the sand for a long time, and quickly drew the outline of a canyon.

“Who is most powerful in the canyon?” Tuwa asked.

“Chief Dog Poop,
Póku-mongwi
.” Tootsa held his nose and giggled.

Tuwa grinned only a little. A couple of summers before and he would have laughed out loud. “He’s the leader of all the warriors, right?” Tootsa nodded. And the man who killed my Grandfather, Tuwa thought. “Where does he stay?”

“The giant house, here,” said Tootsa, making a mark.

“Who tells Chief Dog Poop what to do?” Tootsa laughed and flashed his eyes at Tuwa as if no one other than his little friends had ever gone along with the joke before.

“I guess The Builder. But he never comes out into the canyon.”

“What about the High Priest?”

Tootsa looked at him as if he didn’t understand. “The Builder
is
the High Priest. He just doesn’t do much High Priest stuff.”

Oh, Tuwa thought. The same person. He had them as separate in his mind. That simplified things. He was thankful for all the simplification he could get. “And nobody tells the High Priest, who is The Builder, what to do?”

“I don’t know,” said Tootsa with a shrug. “Maybe. Tókotsi. He’s my great-grandfather. But I don’t like him. He did bad things to my family because they didn’t think he was a good as he thinks he is.”

“Where does he live?”

Tootsa made a mark to the west. “New Star Town. I’ve only seen it. I won’t go there.”

“How far away is it from the High Priest’s giant house?”

“I guess you could get there in one morning if you didn’t mind getting too tired.”

Tuwa asked him about the warriors. Where they are.

“All over the place. It depends on which ones you’re talking about.

“What kinds are there?”

“Oh, you know. The ones that guard the giant house and The Builder and follow around Chief Dog Poop. They’re supposed to be the best. They wear long loincloths, down past their knees. And that pushed-up hair. And there are ones that go out on patrol and stay gone a long time. They call those ‘regulars,’ but I don’t know what’s regular about them.” He marked base camps beside the giant house, and two others down the valley where it widened. “And then the new recruits camp. That’s the worst. They smell worse than anything.” He marked a place far down the canyon. “They bring them to the giant house first, and then send them down there.”

“How many?” asked Tuwa.

Tootsa seemed to count in his head, and then shrugged. “If you killed a hundred, there would still be lots more.”

“How about just the long-loincloth guys?”

“They call ’em the
guard
. And I don’t know. You’d have to kill this many,” he held out one grubby hand with his fingers spread, “this many times,” he held out his other hand. “Maybe. I don’t really know how to count very good.”

“Who else is at the High Priest’s house?”

“Just people. Cooks and women and stuff. And there’s this albino woman, all white. She looks like she glows in the dark. I’ve seen her. She scares some of the other boys but she doesn’t scare me. I stood there one time and watched her until everybody else ran away like she would steal their spirits and it was just me, but I still got my spirit, so they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

In spite of what it did to his head, Tuwa sat up when Tootsa mentioned the albino woman. “Nuva?” he asked. “Was she called Nuva?”

“Maybe. Lightfoot calls her the albino witch, but I don’t think I believe him. She didn’t look like a witch to me.”

“Did you talk to her?”

“No way, she can’t see me, even if she is a witch. But sometimes I sneak into the giant house when I’m invisible and I hear her talking to that woman in the mask. They think they have secrets, but they don’t.”

BOOK: The Next Skywatcher: Prequel to The Last Skywatcher Triple Trilogy Series (The Last Skywatcher, Anasazi Historical Thrillers with a Hint of Romance Book 1)
12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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