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) (9 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)
8.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The Builder doted on the woman in the mask, whom he referred to as his Goddess of the Future, a fortuneteller who had his private ear, who mysteriously appeared after the glorious human sacrifices of the Day Star. She never spoke openly, but sat mute. When she wanted the attention of The Builder, she rang a tiny copper bell and whispered into his ear. One of Pók’s recurring daydreams involved ripping the mask from her face, stripping her naked, and tasting her flesh in more ways than one. Short of that, he merely wanted to strangle her. Unless she really could see fortunes and futures. Then she might be worth keeping. She shifted as he stared at her, and Pók felt pleased that he made her uncomfortable.

“Let’s begin what we came here for, to discuss an escort for the muster of the Summer Council,” said The Builder. He indicated for Tókotsi to speak, but turned to watch Pók’s face. Pók felt a tickle of discomfort. Something was about to happen, a setup.

Tókotsi sniffed with his nose raised and directed his comments to Pók. “The Summer Council of the Southern Alliance wants an official escort into the canyon by your elite guard. Ráana and I are here to take your four top patrols south to accompany the council members. You know how those old men like pageantry. Ráana will command them until we return here. The Builder has graciously given his approval.” The chief smiled and wrinkled his brow as a signal to stifle discussion.

Pók looked from Tókotsi, to The Builder, to Ráana. He had no intention of letting this frog-boy command his guard. Pók had trained them himself. They were his alone to command.

Pók knew he must be careful not to walk into a trap. Yet he must also protect his authority or risk losing it. “I will bring them to you, under my command, at the time and place of your choosing, Council Chief,” he said, looking at The Builder to gauge his reaction. The Builder had approved Ráana taking command of Pók’s special guard to muster the Council. Why would he want to diminish Pók like that?

Ráana showed a facial expression for the first time, which pleased Pók. He smirked and looked to his grandfather.

“Ráana is quite capable of commanding your forces,” said Tókotsi. Pók heard the fortuneteller ring her bell to get The Builder’s attention. She whispered into his ear. The Builder gave Pók an astonished look.

“I am certain your grandson shows maturity beyond his summers, my Chief.” Pók said to Tókotsi, but his attention focused on his peripheral vision of the High Priest. “But I have hand-chosen and trained these men since before the Day Star. They are loyal to me, and I to them.”

“Surely you are not saying they would refuse the command of Ráana! That’s insubordination!” Tókotsi’s eyes flashed.

“Of course not, my Chief,” said Pók unctuously. “They will obey whomever I instruct them to obey. But there is more danger to field operations than most novices realize.”

Anger fired in Ráana’s eyes. “Danger from children perhaps?” The Builder asked. He leaned forward as if to attack Pók with his words. Tókotsi and Ráana looked from The Builder to Pók with puzzled expressions.

Pók’s heart raced. Did The Builder know? Had the fortuneteller just told him? How had she found out? From the runner? Or did she really possess an ability to see and know things?

“Yes,” Pók said carefully, feeling prickles of sweat on his scalp. “Even children can present a danger in the field.”

“How could children kill a half-dozen of your warriors?” asked The Builder.

“I sent a patrol of regulars this morning to find out,” said Pók, forcing himself not to glare at the masked fortuneteller.

“Where did this happen?” demanded Chief Tókotsi.

“Black Stone Town,” said Pók, wishing he knew what The Builder knew.

“What!” said Tókotsi. He turned to Ráana. “That’s the town we cleaned out and gave to you!”

Ráana’s eyes went large. Pók didn’t know what they were talking about.

“What?” asked The Builder. Pók stifled a smile. The fortuneteller had missed something.

“I gave that town to Ráana after the Day of Balance,” said Tókotsi. The equal length of day and night had been more than two moons ago. “He is chief of Black Stone Town. I pulled every man and woman of working age out of there to raise stone on my new Southern Palace. Ráana was to have staffed the town with his personal guardsmen to ready it for new settlers. Did you?” His angry eyes bored into Ráana.

Ráana hesitated while a wave of relief passed through Pók.
warriors hadn’t been killed by children.
warriors had.

“Y-yes,” stuttered Ráana. “I posted Ihu with a half patrol….” He halted and cut his eyes to the fortuneteller. “How could children kill my warriors?”

“That’s what we all want to know,” said The Builder.

Pók couldn’t help himself and smiled. Tókotsi caught him and looked infuriated.

“Did you have anything to do with this?” Tókotsi roared.

“Until this moment, I thought my own warriors had been killed and that Ihu was a loyal member of my own guard, not Ráana’s.” He managed to swallow his pleasure. In just a few well-placed comments, he had implicated inexperience by Ráana and treachery by Ihu. He avoided eye contact with anyone. Then something else leaped into his brain. The Builder had not mentioned the red-hat trader. Did the fortuneteller not know?

Chief Tókotsi glared at Ráana. Through clenched teeth he gave orders. “Pók. Bring your special guard to me at New Star Town in four days. We will begin the muster for the Summer Council. And you, Ráana, will lead as many men as you can gather to your Black Stone Town to do battle with
. May Másaw and the Shadow Gods help your soul.”

A few moments after he walked out of The Builder’s chamber, Pók summoned a runner. He remembered the boy. One of his favorites. “I’m glad it’s you,” he said. He told the boy to take a message to the captain of the patrol of regulars Pók had sent to Black Stone Town earlier that morning.

Pók stared into space as he dictated. “A patrol is coming from the canyon to Black Stone led by Ráana. They have turned against us. I want you to kill them. All of them. But when you return, say that children killed them. If Ihu and anyone with him resists, kill them as well.” To the runner, he said, “You watch and see that it is done, then report back to me and me alone. Highest priority. Top speed.” Pók turned and the boy seemed too astonished to speak the message back to him. “You die before you tell anyone this, you understand?” The boy nodded. “Do not let Ráana and his men see you. Now go.” The runner nodded again, then fled.

Pók narrowed his eyes as his mind worked. Those so-called children who killed warriors, if they truly existed, could wait until later while he took the opportunity to eliminate a few of his more annoying opponents.

Escaped. Again.

“Grandmother!” Tuwa shouted
as he ran into town. He saw her gray head rise from the pallet on the low platform in the courtyard.

Tuwa went to her side, Sowi and the others ran into the plaza at their top speeds. “Ihu and a band of warriors are coming.”

“So soon?” She lifted herself into a sitting position. “He must have found a patrol nearby.”

“We must hide you.”

“Nonsense. I am old. Hide yourselves. I want to have a word with this Ihu.”

Tuwa put his hand under her arm and pulled her up.

She found his forearm and dug her fingers into him. “Listen to me,” she hissed. “Leave me. Prepare yourselves!”

He didn’t have time to argue, so he did as she said. Sowi called, and he ran to confer with him and Kopavi. Choovio joined them. Everyone kept their eyes on the north road, but Tuwa glanced back at the old woman and saw her speaking with her young stick-thin helper. The girl nodded but didn’t blink her eyes.

“Everybody relax and hit your marks,” said Tuwa. “Don’t waste arrows.” He looked at Choovio, who looped his bow over his arm and pulled out a club.

“It’s too late to run, I guess,” said Sowi. “We’d best get ready.” Kopavi looked at Choovio and gave a sign for him to watch himself. Choovio clenched his fist in the barest of response.

Tuwa nodded, then wrenched himself away and trotted back to the old woman. The girl looked up at him in fear and slinked away. The old woman sensed his presence. “You are here?” she asked.

“Yes, Grandmother. What did you tell that girl?”

“A message for the White Priestess. I told you there are those who will help you. She will prepare them.”

“She goes alone? Now?”

“She will be invisible. The evil men who rule the canyon are blind to women unless their man parts are full of lust.”

Tuwa didn’t want to think of that happening to the little girl. “She cannot speak, you told me yourself. How will she tell others?”

“I believe she will speak when she must.”

“Who will help her?”

“Women like me. With the mark on their fingers. She knows how to find them. She has the mark herself. When you have a chance, make the mark on your own fingers.”

“I already have them,” Tuwa said, rocking back and forth impatiently. “From Nuva, long ago. The only male, she said. I always thought it was silly. But that doesn’t matter now. Ihu and his warriors will be here at any moment, Grandmother. What will we do with you?”

“You will leave me be. I have something to say to Ihu. He killed my great-grandson right here where I am sitting. If I can get him close enough to me, I have a present for him.” From her shawl she pulled a bone-handled knife, the blade having been flaked away so many times it looked like a stub. But Tuwa noticed a new edge gleamed in the dying firelight.

“He will hurt you,” said Tuwa. He didn’t want the old woman to die. Especially in a gruesome way at the hands of Ihu.

“I have lived long and well, Grandson. Do not worry about me. Go lead your people.”

Even knowing he must move quickly, he hesitated to leave the old woman. “I feel that I have known you all my life,” he whispered.

“What is my name?” she asked.

“Eldest Woman. Grandmother Hakidonmuya,” Tuwa said. He had paid attention.

“Yes. My family calls me Haki,” she said. “I am named for the time of waiting for the full moon. Do you know what is the moon tonight, my Grandson, my Tuwa?”

Tears filled his eyes when she called him by name. “It’s a growing half-moon, Grandmother Haki. That just set. We are in darkness waiting for the full moon.”

“Yes,” she said. “It is also the time of waiting to recover what has been lost. You have a part in that. Go now. All will be as it must be.”

Tuwa touched her shoulder, and then ran to the center of the plaza. The youngest ones had already left with town girls as guides. None had cried or whimpered. They were too shocked, he thought, or perhaps Kopavi’s magic touch with children had calmed them. Choovio and the largest boys hid themselves behind the bundles, baskets, and jars they had piled in the main storage room, and Sowi and the archers were settling into the spots they’d created on the rooftops. Kopavi, their best archer, crouched up there as well. They could not do much more.

He whistled low and got the attention of Choovio and Sowi. He pointed at his eyes then at the north road. He would run out to watch.

“Too late,” called Sowi.

Tuwa saw a man with a hairless head—Ihu—run into the plaza with six grizzled warriors. He wondered if Grandmother’s prediction that some would split off had been correct. Were a half-dozen archers sneaking in a tightening noose around the town? She had not been right about them pausing to gather themselves before storming the town. They looked exhausted from their run. A good time to surprise them. Tuwa pulled two razor-sharp stones from his knife pocket, and, hearing the voice of Grandfather say
Cut off the head of the snake
, he raced to meet Ihu.

Ihu stopped and rocked back, clearly surprised by Tuwa’s mad rush. He raised a club just enough to block Tuwa’s right-hand jab at his throat. Tuwa pivoted off the club and slashed with his left hand at Ihu’s head. Ihu twisted and ducked. Tuwa’s knife opened a gash from Ihu’s jaw muscle to his lips.

Ihu screamed, blood spraying from his open cheek, and pulled away. Tuwa tripped, and before he landed on the ground, a blow to his head dimmed his world and vibrated his body like a piece of seasoned wood struck with a stone. His vision narrowed to a pinpoint. He thought he would die from lack of air and he felt as if he had zoomed very far away with only the barest of connections to where he had just been. So this is death, he thought. He drifted without control of his limbs, his head floating and spinning. He thought of Chumana and the children they could have had. Of Grandfather’s turkey-feather robe and its many tendrils of down waving in a breeze. He saw Grandfather and Nuva waiting for him in the shade of mountain trees. He felt cold in the pit of his stomach.

His lungs suddenly unparalyzed themselves and he breathed, and soon realized he lay on the ground staring at Grandmother Haki. Her mat had been overturned and she lay on the ground near the fire circle. She raised herself on one arm as if to look around. Her long hair flowed like a white waterfall in the starlight.

Tuwa heard grunts and shouts, blows to flesh, scuffling, the zip of arrows. The fighting made no sense to him. His head felt pressurized, his thoughts unfinished. He realized archers ringed the plaza and fired toward the roof above Tuwa’s head. He saw a body fall from the top story and the face turned to him in a surprised last gasp of life, an arrow buried in his chest. He recognized the boy called Earless. Even with his thoughts scrambled, he remembered when The Pochtéca found that boy and brought him into his fold, and when his ear had been severed in a skirmish with Másaw Warriors like the ones who attacked them now.

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)
8.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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