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) (5 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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“We have more who are hurt,” said Tuwa.

“Bring them.”

Sowi refused to go at first. He insisted the falling war club had missed him, but a trickle of blood flowed down his face, and they finally convinced him to let the blind woman clean it.

Sowi winced as she swabbed his wound, but it didn’t stop his mouth. “I don’t know why I chased that guy anyway. I should’ve just run the opposite direction. All of us should. Staying here is crazy and it’s only going to get worse. You think they’re going to let a bunch of kids kill their warriors and get away with it? They’ll hunt us down. Our only chance is to start running and never stop.”

“Leave the injured ones?” asked Choovio.

Sowi swung his eyes to The Pochtéca, who slept with a shallow breath. “Well, I don’t know.” He looked back at Choovio and Tuwa. “It’s not going to be easy.”

“We don’t expect easy,” said Tuwa. “These warriors are the kind of people who killed my Grandfather. And his parents,” Tuwa pointed his chin at Choovio. “Somebody has to stop them.”

“It’s crazy, is all,” said Sowi. He screwed his face into a pained expression and didn’t utter another word.

After the woman finished cleaning his wound, Sowi helped Tuwa and Choovio carry in two young orphans, one with a broken bone, protruding from his arm and a wound in his chest, the other with the fletched end of a black arrow protruding from his stomach. Their wounds looked bad to Tuwa, but he couldn’t read the blind woman’s impassive face.

They went outside and dragged the dead warriors to a place below the lowest fields and left them lying face down, their eyes closed. Tuwa hoped they would wander forever without sight in the evil, dark places they worshipped. Then they tended to the three young orphans who had died that day. They laid them out on a hillside above town, their eyes open skyward with their favorite belongings at hand. Tuwa rubbed a smear of cedar ash on their foreheads so that their spirits would rise like aromatic smoke, and tossed a pinch of cornmeal offering in the six directions. Some of the younger children cried hysterically. Kopavi tried to comfort them but they wouldn’t have it. Choovio began a slow dance. Tuwa joined and sang a chant about a falcon that flew to the stars and spoke to the sun and moon, then returned to Earth to tell the people what to do. It wasn’t a proper death chant, but he remembered it best because it was Grandfather’s favorite. Kopavi coaxed the grieving children to join the dance, and the remaining Pochtécans went round and round the dead ones until they stopped in a stupor halfway to middle night.

Tuwa looked into the dust of starlight that stretched from horizon to horizon, seeing what the dead ones’ eyes could no longer see and thinking about Ihu, still running to his masters in Center Place Canyon. He hated that name. It was the center of nothing that was good.

Tuwa had exposed the orphans to further attack by failing to catch Ihu. More warriors could arrive at any moment. Tuwa noticed Choovio had already posted sentries, as he did every night. Choovio was their backbone, the quiet one who did the right things without question or discussion, as if an elder guiding spirit resided in his large young chest. Before the coming of the awful Day Star, he and Choovio had often opposed one another as rivals. But with The Pochtéca, they had become closer than brothers. Tuwa thanked the sky spirits that Choovio survived this horrible day. He couldn’t imagine continuing without him.

Back in town, a fire burned in the courtyard. A handful of women and children huddled near it, quiet and thin as skeletons. No men or boys were about. Tuwa saw both Choovio and Sowi jump when an orphan girl clattered two empty water jugs together outside the circle of firelight.

Kopavi led the older orphan girls in preparing a meal from the stores they had carried in, and soon began passing out bowls of corn and dried squash stew with bits of meat from Tuwa’s jar.

Tuwa wanted advice and went to find the old woman with cloudy eyes.

“Greetings, Eldest Woman,” he whispered.

He saw the dim shape of her sit up with more energy than he expected. “Who speaks?” she rasped.

“Tuwa, grandson of the
Tokpelamongwi
, Village of the Twins,” he said, using formal language as if he addressed a high chief.

“Help me to the courtyard,” she said. Tuwa pulled her up and almost carried her to the raised platform where he first saw Ihu. Kopavi helped get her settled and handed her a bowl of warm food.

“This is wonderful,” the woman said after eating all of it. “I have not eaten so well in months, even though the spices aren’t right.” She asked for water, and her stick-thin helper girl brought her a drinking bowl. After she drank, she looked sightlessly around the fire and asked, “Who is here?”

Tuwa asked everyone to say their names, going in order around the fire, all of the Pochtécans except for the youngest, who slept together like a pile of puppies. The town women and girls said their names as well. The thin girl who helped the old woman sat at her feet.

“This one,” Eldest Woman said, smoothing the hair of the girl, “does not speak and has no name. She came here from nowhere and tells us nothing. She is like the long-hair stars that come and go without warning. She is a good girl. She is my helper. This is her place. Someday she will find a name. And I am Hakidonmuya, which means ‘the time of waiting for the full moon,’ as we are now, for the growing half-moon is in the sky now and will set after midnight. Even a blind woman can see these things.” She tapped the side of her head. “You may call me Haki or Eldest Woman or Grandmother, as you wish.”

She hesitated and turned her head from side to side. “Where is the one called Tuwa?”

Tuwa, standing behind her, leaned down and touched her shoulder.

“Sit here,” she said, patting the place beside her. “We will talk. But only if you speak as if I’m your grandmother, not some murderous priest who demands formal talk.”

Tuwa sat beside her and looked at the faces around the fire. It had been an awful day. Even Choovio and Sowi were dazed and exhausted.

“May I call you Grandmother?” asked Tuwa.

“Please, Grandson.” She smiled and reached out her hand. Finding his forearm, she squeezed, and then released him. Her hand, though small and bony, had a strong grip. “Now. You tell me everything, and then I will tell you everything.”

Tuwa told, as quickly as he could and using informal language, the story of The Pochtéca and the orphans and their plans to trade for bluestone, and even his desire for revenge because of what had happened to Grandfather after the appearance of the Day Star.

“I remember your grandfather,” said the old woman when Tuwa finished speaking.

“You knew Grandfather!”

“No, I didn’t know him. Never spoke to him. But I remember seeing him. I grew up and started a family in Three Waters before it grew into a town.”

Tuwa remembered Three Waters, where three raging rivers came together, two days’ jog from his home village of the Twins. “I’ve been there with Grandfather,” said Tuwa. He leaned back on a well-used reed mat and stretched his tired legs.

“I remember a small boy with him,” she said. “That must be you.”

Tuwa couldn’t believe he’d met a woman who remembered him from his youth. “I’m sorry I do not remember you,” he said.

“You had no reason to notice me. My husband was a farmer. A good man, he was. But after the Day Star, they forced him work stone on the tallest walls in the canyon. The height frightened him. Six rooms high, with plans for a narrow row of seven rooms atop that. No one had ever built anything that tall before. They took every able man from the northern villages and made them work. I followed him and tried to keep him fed. He would not eat the vile food they provided, so he began to starve. He lasted two summers. Then they sent me here. I miss mountain air.”

Tuwa asked why they sent her south.

She shook her head. “It’s like asking a rock why it sits in the desert. They do whatever they want. If you refuse, they do things that people never do to other people, even enemies. You’ve seen their pointed teeth. In the old days, they were more animal than human. Now they’re all animal with no human.”

“I’ve been gone for three summers.”

“Since the Day Star That Faded.”

“Yes.”

“Nothing has been the same since. They do everything now in a frenzy of madness. You see no men here, do you? They took them all away. Now it’s women and a few elder men and baby boys. In the old days women ran the villages and families, and men behaved themselves. But those Southern animals don’t listen to their women and elders. They do whatever they want, and what they want is too often unspeakable.”

“Are they strong in number?”

“We send girls now as messengers. It used to be runner boys, but now it’s only girls. This helper girl of mine who does not speak, she saw what those animals do. Kill and butcher and…. I will not say it. There is good reason for her not to speak.”

“You mean in villages? Outside the canyon?”

“Entire villages, from newborns to eldest. And they always choose witnesses to tell the stories.”

“Why? What do they want?”

“Everything. The harvest from our crops, meat from our hunters, pots and baskets and firewood and building timbers and able-bodied men to carry stones and young women to….” She shook her head. “These are not men. You kill them, and no human spirit goes to the other side. They have the cold spirits of snakes.”

Tuwa closed his eyes and tried to imagine the whole region under threat, how people would react. Surely groups of men somewhere would resist. Would fight back. He and his orphans couldn’t be the only ones.

“Do you know of any men who refuse? Who fight?”

Haki shook her head slowly. “All who resist die.”

“How far must Ihu go to get help?”

The woman tapped the girl at her feet on the head and whispered something to her. The girl ran to their room and returned with a tiny hand loom, and the old woman began testing the threads and working it before she spoke. “They move without pattern that I can see. If they happen to be nearby, they could arrive by first light.”

Tuwa saw Sowi turn and stare at the old woman, his body ready to spring into action. Even Choovio tensed. They both heard and it put them on sharper edge than they already were.

“If not,” the old woman continued, “he’ll have to go to the canyon. Young runners can do that in one day. More like two days for a regular patrol. They are not men, but they tire like men. Are lazy like men.”

“So we have at most three days if Ihu has to go all the way to the canyon,” said Tuwa.

“If they believe him.”

“Why wouldn’t they?”

The old woman swung her marbled eyes to him, aiming their blank gaze over his left shoulder. “A half-patrol killed by children? Orphans? That evil little man, the top warrior, will laugh at Ihu.”

“Maybe Ihu will lie and say we are giant warriors from far away,” said Tuwa.

The old woman smiled. “You are wise, young man. That hairless coward may indeed do something like that.”

Tuwa asked what she recommended they do.

She began working her loom furiously. Tuwa thought she might try to finish the piece before she spoke. “Send the little ones away,” she said at last. “This village is dead. Everyone is gone but the ones you see here. But there are farming families scattered in all directions. They hide as best they can from the warrior patrols. The few girls we have left in the village know how to find them. They will lead your littlest orphans. Send them with valuables and food enough to share.” She went quiet and sent the smooth loom stick with a thread tied through a hole at one end back and forth, dipping beneath the cross threads, then she packed the loose threads tight with the tapered tip of the stick.

“What else, Grandmother?”

“Your older orphans can obviously fight.”

“Yes. We are used to defending ourselves. The Pochtéca makes us practice.”

The woman sighed and stopped working her threads. “Archers?”

“Yes.” Tuwa looked at Sowi, the eldest archer. “Six or seven. With small jungle bows and short arrows. Good for short range and close quarters.”

“Can they shoot from the roof up there down to this courtyard?” The old woman pointed to the second-story roof behind her.

Sowi locked eyes with Tuwa and nodded. “Yes,” said Tuwa. Choovio turned to face them.

“Hide them there with every arrow you have,” said the woman. Of course, Tuwa thought. They had never fought in a village before, only on natural ground. This blind old woman’s mind still worked well.

“What trade goods do you carry?” asked the woman. “What is the red-hat fool carrying to those black-hearted people in the canyon?”

Tuwa hesitated. He’d only just met this woman. Should he reveal all? Or hold back? But she made him feel he could trust her, so he took the risk. “The Pochtéca guards his shirt with bells most carefully. And we have feathers of colorful birds, beads of green stone, and rainbow-colored shells from the bitter water that stretches to the horizon.”

She nodded in thought. “Put it in there,” she pointed to a row of low single-story rooms across the courtyard, “and hide your best close-in fighters there. Are there watchers out on the road?”

“Yes, Grandmother.”

She laid back and relaxed as if the effort of thinking and speaking had depleted her. “Get the young ones on their way. And your other people in place. Then we sleep and wait.” She closed her eyes a moment and then raised her head again. “If Ihu runs a patrol hard to get here, they will stop outside town and rest before they attack. They will send archers wide to surround us and drive your sentries into town. They will be hard to stop. Very hard. You must draw them here, into the courtyard. When the close fighting starts, the archers will rush in. That’s when yours must be ready.” She laid her head back and turned her face away from Tuwa.

He stood and called for Kopavi, Choovio, and Sowi. He asked Kopavi to organize sending away the youngest ones and to distribute her entire supply of arrows to the archers. He asked Sowi to collect and position the archers, and Choovio to gather the trade goods into a single room and place the best club-and-knife fighters there.

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)
4.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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