The Peach Stone Game

4 February 2015 Comments (0)

Games of chance seem to be not a small part of North American life since the times immemorial. Even the deities were reported to engage in betting, while contesting for power and influence over the ‘Turtle Island’ (our world) and those who populated it, the people of their creation. In this Iroquois seem to be no different from their neighbors, other dwellers of the Eastern Woodlands.

When the world was young and only barely created, the Divine Twins, the grandchildren of the Sky Woman, the first people to populate the Turtle Island, were engaged in a fierce contest, struggling for domination.

The Right-Handed Twin (sometimes called Sapling or the Good Twin, Skyholder), responsible for creating everything good, from people and animals to useful plants, has to protect his creations against his evil brother the Left-Handed Twin (sometimes called Flint, or the Bad Twin/Troublemaker), the one who was busy making troublesome things, poisonous herbs, bad animals, darkness. Unable to best each other through cunning or even violence, the brothers had finally settled on solving their differences through Peach Stone Game, a game of luck.

It is reported that since those old, old times, people are expected to reenact this sacred game in honor of their creators. Through certain ceremonies – namely Mid-Winter, Seed and Harvest Ceremonies – Peach Stone Game is played on the second, or sometimes third day of the festivities, lasting for many hours, to “…amuse the life-giving forces, please the plant and animal kingdom and make the creator laugh…”. The message people are sending back to the Right-Handed Twin is that they are grateful for what they have and willing to share it with others.

A flat-bottomed wooden bowl containing six flat stones, fruit pits or nut shells, painted on one side and unmarked on the other, is switching hands between two players, who shake it vigorously in turns, causing its contents mix. The most desirable outcome is when all stones display either their painted or unpainted sides. Such turn brings the lucky player an immediate victory of the entire round, enriching him with one of the bets and five beans from the central pile. Usually the game is started with one hundred and one bean in the ‘bank’- a hundred for the actual betting, and the additional one for the creator.

If the player got five stones of the same color – whether marked or unmarked – he collects one bean and goes on shaking the bowl one more time.

The throw of four beans or less give the player nothing but the loss of his turn to his opponent, who would be now eager to get the score of five or more, hoping to win the entire round either by getting all stones on the same side or by scoring five stones after five stones until the beans of that round come into his possession one by one.

The moment the turn ends, the losing player vacates his seat for the next member of his team, to take his place and hope for the better luck.

The game can go on for hours, if not days, accompanied with much excitement and maybe even side betting of the onlookers. But when played traditionally, through one of the three ceremonies, the bets are always returned to their owners in the end.

An excerpt from “The Foreigner”, People of the Longhouse Series, book #2.

“One more bean to the Turtle Clan!”

People let out a held breath. The cheers filled the air, louder, more uninhibited than before. No matter what clan each observer wanted to win, so many favorable throws in such a short period of time, with no luck at all for the other side, were a rare thing. The spirits truly favored the renowned leader, as they always had.

“One more bean and they’ll have to look for another player,” said someone.

“And in the meanwhile, we get our well-deserved refreshments.” Iheks’s voice was back to his usual lightness. “I’m starving.”

“Don’t count on the feast of yesterday,” someone said with a laugh.

“Why not?”

“Wolf Clan is busy losing the game. They won’t be organizing our meals today.”

“So what? Others can do that as well.”

“Not as well as the Wolves.” The man next to Ganayeda beamed at him. “You should have been here yesterday, Brother, instead of running all over, picking fights with our disgusting neighbors from across the lake. What a feast it was, and what dances! No one wished to retire to sleep, not one single person, not even our exotic guests.”

“Oh, the Long Tails? They are still here?” Encircling the crowds with his gaze, he suddenly realized that he had forgotten all about this troublesome delegation. What became of them?

“Oh, yes, they are.” This time it was Iheks again, shifting his weight from one foot to another, waving away a fly. “They will be participating in the ballgame, or so I hear. If our Onondaga Town’s opponents will arrive in time, that is.”

“Only four stones!” cried out one of their neighbors.

At the center of the contest, the bowl passed back to the Wolf Clan man, to many outcries of disappointment.

“No one can get five stones time after time,” stated Ganayeda, as disappointed as the rest of them.

“Unless you are favored by the Great Spirits themselves.”

“Well, the War Chief is favored. He won four rounds in no time. But then, it was only expected.” Iheks’s chuckle floated in the pleasantly sunny air. “I can’t recall a time when our leader failed, whether organizing, campaigning, or engaging in throwing games.”

Another bang of the bowl. Ganayeda shifted his eyes to the people crowding the other side. Jideah was standing among those in the forefront, looking pale and unwell. Was she ill?

Catching her gaze, he nodded amiably enough. Or so he hoped. Somehow he didn’t wish to interact with his wife, not now. Maybe later, when he wasn’t as angry over what happened near Lone Hill, when he had stopped thinking about Gayeri in the hands of the filthy enemy.

The wave of rage was back, washing his insides in perfect accord with the collective gasp that escaped many throats, rising like a tide. His mind snapped back to the present.

“What…”

One arm protecting his wounded side, he moved forward together with the shifting crowd, his attention again on the players. Father’s back was as straight as an arrow, while his rival leaned forward, examining the contents of the bowl with his eyes so wide they turned round. The counters from both clans froze as well, bent above the object of the staring, as motionless as a pair of rocks. The silence was brief but encompassing.

“Could it be?” breathed someone, and then the crowds erupted into yells and cheers, while the counting man of the Wolf Clan straightened up slowly, lifting the bowl, afraid to breathe on it, let alone shake it.

“Six unmarked stones,” he said, offering it to the closest of the observers. “All stones are displaying their painted side.” Clearing his throat, he encircled his spellbound audience with a wide-eyed gaze, repeating loudly, in an echoing voice. “The lucky throw!”

 

Historical Fiction and the Mohicans

30 December 2014 Comments (2)

While having a fairly large amount of evidence as to the time of the Great Iroquois League formation, we cannot tell for sure when the Mu-hee-can (Mohican) People came to occupy the valleys of the Hudson River. It might have happened not many decades after the Great Peace of the Iroquois was established, or maybe a century or so later.

According to some of the legends, the Mohican People’s ancestors came to the Hudson River after much wandering, seeking the lost homeland of ‘great waters’, finding it in this mighty river that ‘flowed and ebbed like no other’. They came to call it Muheconneok, which roughly means ‘The Waters That Are Never Still’. Here they settled, to become known to their neighbors as River People, or Mu-hee-can, Mohican as we know these people today.

But the Great League of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee, People of the Longhouse) had spread to the west, a strong alliance of five nations, an amazing democracy and a regional power that no one could overlook or dismiss lightly. Wary of strangers, this powerful league did not hesitate when it came to waging war, in defending their towns and villages, or, like in many cases, taking the warfare into the enemy territory.

Out of the Five Nations, the members of the Great League, the Mohawks (People of the Flint) were the ones responsible for the eastern neighbors of the confederacy and their behavior. Carrying the title of Keepers of the Eastern Door in the metaphorical Longhouse of the Great League, these people took their responsibilities seriously. The wars between the Mohawk and the Mohican People were reported to last for centuries, relentless and uncompromising.

Although culturally similar to other woodland Algonquin People, the Mohican’s way of life might have been reshaped by the centuries of the constant warfare with the neighboring Great League (Iroquois). At some point, the Mohicans were reported to form an association of four or five nations as well, not a confederacy but an alliance, for defensive purposes probably, and to maintain trading ties. Unlike the Great League, there was no mutual government and no sense of political body with strict sets of laws proscribing everyone’s conduct.

Governed by hereditary sachems of matrilineal descent, the villages – fairly large settlements of many bark houses, or sometimes small to mid-size longhouses – were advised by a council of the clan leaders. All in all, these people had only three clans – Bear, Wolf, and Turtle.

However, the warfare with their powerful neighbors to the west demanded a higher degree of organization. Through later centuries, when their alliance had been probably already organized, a general council of sachems would meet regularly at their capital of Skootuck (or Shodac, eastward to the present-day Albany) to decide important matters affecting the entire alliance. In times of war, the Mohican council passed its authority to a war chief chosen for his proven ability. For the duration of the conflict, the war leader exercised almost dictatorial power.

Next to the villages, that were usually located on the elevated ground, fortified to their best, large cornfields would spread, the regular diet of maize, beans and squash supplemented by hunting and fishing, and collecting of forest fruit. For reasons of safety, the Mohicans did to move to scattered hunting camps during the winter like other Algonquin and usually spent the colder months inside their fortified villages and towns.

And so, these people continued to be a force to be reckoned with, with passing of each century more so, as it seemed.

However, at the time featured in this novel, the idea of such cooperation might have only been beginning to form, promoted by some farsighted leaders, probably, not yet to bear fruit.

They felt she was too spirited, too forward, too boyish, not as feminine and as graceful as a young woman should be. Their frowns followed her like a cloud, but she didn’t care. Other girls may have worked happily, danced beautifully, or sewn themselves pretty dresses, but they could not climb or run or swim as well as she did, the silly, giggly, empty-headed creatures that they were. The entire village may have been frowning at her, but when she spotted the enemy forces camping under the Sacred Hill, they had no choice but to listen.

Okwaho knew they were being watched. Whether by spirits or a wandering local, he could not ignore the feeling of the wary, frightened, hate-filled eyes staring out of the forest, burning his skin. But of course! Of course, the local woods distrusted them. He and his people were invaders, not coming to trade or engage in other peaceful dealings, but to raid these settlements. The enemies from the lands of the rising sun were bad, evil, impossible to understand. And yet… And yet, when the urge to prove himself lent him enough words to convince the leader of their party to send him and his friend on the mission of scouting the suspected hill, he could not have imagined what consequences this deviation from the well-planned road would lead them all into, the attackers and defenders alike.

An excerpt from “Beyond the Great River”, People of the Longhouse Series, book #1.

“When our forefathers came to the beautiful valleys of the River Whose Waters Are Never Still, they knew they had found a new homeland.”

The open challenge in his father’s voice brought Migisso back into the impressively large council house, stuffed with mats and decorations aplenty. What riches! The council house of their village was nothing but a few hastily constructed bark walls and a fireplace.

“The lands of our ancestors forgotten, we made the plentiful valleys of the mighty river our home, our only home. It is here where Father Sun blessed us and smiled upon us, showing his satisfaction. It is here where our forefathers were allowed to stay and build their villages.” The man’s gaze encircled his audience, open, imploring. “We are brothers, we who came here from the west. We are a family. We should never forget that.”

The speech was coming along well, if the grave nods and the creased foreheads were to serve as an indication. Migisso suppressed a shrug. They knew what Father wanted, and those who did not, were sure to understand now.

A cooperation, a union. The man had been struggling to make it happen for some time now, not always listened to, not always supported or understood, not even by his own fellow villagers.

Was it really that necessary to cooperate with the neighbors they barely knew, to establish some sort of a procedure? Migisso was not so sure about that, and neither were the others. The towns and villages of River People, those who came here some generations ago, were scattered throughout bountiful valleys and along the Great River, not warring, true, but not keeping close contact aside from occasional trading. Why would they? Every settlement made its own living, and there was more than enough of that. Why would they wish to seek each other’s advice, or give such if asked?

“We do live as a family, Brother.” The impressively tall man, the head of this town’s most important clan, nodded calmly, his face a blank mask. “As our clans are scattered among the villages and towns, so our settlements are spread along these lands. It is the right way of living, the way of our ancestors. Why would you wish to change that?”

“We need to keep closer ties, like the family we are. We need to protect each other.”

For a heartbeat, the leaders kept quiet, staring at the fire, each in their own thoughts. Remembering the raids, Migisso imagined, his own stomach constricting at the mere thought.

“Our villages and towns are living in peace with each other, exchanging goods and well wishes. These were the ways of our fathers, indeed, but it is not enough these days. The western beast has grown more aggressive, seeking to hurt, seeking to destroy. They have grown larger and bolder. The captives from their lands report strange happenings. These people have changed since the messenger of their evil spirits came to their lands. They have grown stronger and fiercer. We cannot contain them separately anymore. We need to unite.”

The other man’s eyes narrowed. “Does your village have captives of the enemy?”

The Rise of the Iroquois, Part IV – back to the other side

22 October 2014 Comments (1)

The legend of the Peacemaker ends with the creation of the Great League, when the first gathering of the Five Nations and their fifty representatives were presented with the insignia of their office and told about their duties and responsibilities. There was little that the Peacemaker’s wonderfully detailed constitution didn’t cover. Composed of almost hundred and fifty laws and clauses, it gave clear direction as to the way of conducting themselves and their nations in order to preserve peace and concord.

Longhouse

So all was well among the Five Nations for the time being, but what about the Peacemaker himself?

Evidently, he didn’t participate in the government he himself has created. The names of the original founders were to be passed down to their successors in the office – this was one of the laws – however, as typically, the elected representative would stay to serve his people for life, such direction did not create a problem. For example, the person who came to succeed the deceased Hionhwatha was to be called “Hionhwatha”, inheriting this great man’s name along with the vastness of his responsibilities. This is how we came to know the names of the original founders.

And yet, the Peacemaker’s name, although passed down to us as a part of his story, was never inherited, showing that he did not sit in the Great Council he created.

But then, where did he go?

Various versions of the legend did not address this question at all, concentrating on the First Gathering and the set of great laws he had delivered to be passed on to the future generation, instead. Some do mention that this great man went back the Creators, to the Great Spirits he came to represent here on earth. Does it mean that he died? Disappeared?

Two Clubs

If allowed to question the legend and the mysterious aspect of it, I think these questions are important. People were always people, and divine intervention or not, some might have grown jealous of the power this man had wielded. Particularly Tadodaho, who according to every angle and every version of the legend was not a likeable man, not above using violence and dirty means. Hionhwatha’s family and what happened to it prior to the Peacemaker’s coming, serves as an example; them and the fact that the Onondaga People were the last to join the League, difficult to convince only because of this man’s resistance. What if he tried to get rid of the Peacemaker after the Great Council began functioning, looking as though it is going to hold on?

And there is another aspect. Wyandot/Huron People, those whom the Five Nations came to call Crooked Tongues – the Peacemaker’s original country-folk – seemed to be as busy and not idle at all. Composed of four nations as opposed to the five on the other side of Lake Ontario, they were reported to form a confederacy as well, the one that might have been functioning on the similar basis. We don’t have knowledge of when exactly this confederacy was formed. Like with the Great League, the dates are jumping centuries back and forth, with no conclusive evidence, but unlike the Five Nations we don’t have an event as the full solar eclipse to help us out. Nor do we have a recorded story. Only the repeated claim that the Wyandot confederacy of four nations did exist.

Which bring us to another question. Why didn’t the Peacemaker try to bring his own people into the Great Law of Peace of his own creation. After all, according ot his own words it was open to every person or nation with a willingness and a right set of mind “… If any man or any nation outside the Five Nations shall obey the laws of the Great Peace and make known their disposition to the Lords of the Confederacy, they may trace the Roots to the Tree and if their minds are clean and they are obedient and promise to obey the wishes of the Confederate Council, they shall be welcomed to take shelter beneath the Tree of the Long Leaves…”

Why didn’t he make sure his own people had a place under the Great Tree of Peace?

Or maybe he did. Maybe he did try to bring his former people, the Five Nations’ sworn enemy, in and maybe this was what served as his downfall, or made him leave in any other way.

An excerpt from “The Peacekeeper”, The Peacemaker Series, book #4.

And so here he was, stuck with the strenuous task of organizing this important gathering, while the three most important people in his life were threatened, dangerously exposed.

“I’m not underestimating that poison-dripping snake.” Two Rivers’ voice cut into his thoughts, not calming or reassuring, not this time. “I’m watching him as closely. Just in case. But he is not as powerful as he used to be, Old Friend. So don’t fret about him that much. He can hate us all he likes, but he can do nothing to interrupt our work, nothing at all. Mainly because it will go against him, too, if something goes wrong. Having received such a high position in our Great League, he can’t jeopardize the entire thing. He wants it working well as badly as we do.” Sucking on his pipe, the Crooked Tongues man chuckled. “It’s good to be back. Running all over those western lands reminded me of our previous Awakening Season. We didn’t get much rest back then, did we?”

“No, we did not.” Making another tremendous effort, Tekeni tried to push his misgivings aside, if only for this short part of the morning.

“He may not be as powerful as before, yes, but he is still vicious and unscrupulous. He hasn’t changed. His pride demands that he lead our union, so if he finds a way to be rid of you in order to replace you as our spiritual leader as well as the Head of the Great Council, he would do this as quickly as you can say ‘Great Sparkling Water’.”

“Yes, I’m aware of that.” Two Rivers exhaled loudly, in an exasperated manner. “Credit me with more wisdom than that. I’m not a simple-minded child.” He studied his pipe, a skillfully carved and painted affair of many patterns, another gift from this or that grateful community, probably. “I’m not disregarding your advice, Old Friend. I trust your judgment more than I trust the judgment of anyone else on both sides of the Great Lake. I know you are right about Tadodaho. I know he would have gotten rid of me if he could. But the thing is, he can’t. He needs me. After the second, and maybe the third gathering, when it all works and all the laws are firm and solid, and our union looks like the unshakeable structure that it should be, maybe then he’ll decide that I may be of no use to him anymore. Then I will keep him in my eyesight, and I will be careful not to turn my back on him. But until then, I’m safe. He is too wise not to appreciate my usefulness for now.”

“Unless the opportunity to get rid of you presents itself, too tempting not to exploit, even if it might come too early to be of convenience.”

Oh, curse this persistent bad feeling to the underworld of the Evil Twin. Two Rivers was probably right. He was the wisest man of them all. He could see beyond the obvious and above it, flying like an eagle, seeing the great picture and the smallest details at once, his eyes as good as those of that magnificent creature, and his mind as sharp as the most polished flint, the best arrowhead. Wasn’t he the man who had brought this magnificent vision to life, giving his, Tekeni’s, people so many great laws and rules?

“This Crooked Tongues delegation may be that thing, that opportunity, to tempt the evil snake into pouncing, even if your dubious trip to visit the western people did not,” he muttered, hating his gut feeling and his logic, wishing they both would go away and leave him alone, so he could enjoy the company of his friend, or the warm arms of his woman at nights, without the nagging worry.

Real smart folks, but no wheel?

31 August 2014 Comments (0)

I’m honored to present a guest post from , Bilingual Interpreter at American Translators Association, an expert on Mesoamerica and its various indigenous nations and cultures.

Why didn’t the peoples of ancient Mesoamerica have wheeled transport? They had a vibrant commercial economy, with lots of long-distance trade, periodic marketplaces, and professional merchants. They had two types of money. But they didn’t use wheeled carts.

The surprising thing is that the Mesoamericans DID invent the wheel. They made wheeled toys – mostly small clay animals with holes in the legs for an axle and wheels. These were most abundant in sites of the Toltec period (AD 900-1100), including Tula in central Mexico.

When the Spanish arrived from Europe in the sixteenth century they were astounded at the remarkable skills exhibited by the architects, builders and craftsmen of the ‘New World’. The calendar developed by the ancient Maya was more accurate than the calendar in use throughout Europe and the medical system in place among the residents of Mesoamerica was superior to that of the Spanish.

Yet, for all the advanced thinking, there was no utilitarian wheel; no carts, no wagons, no potter’s wheel. Still the concept of the wheel was known throughout Mesoamerica.

Archeologists have recovered numerous wheeled toys, very much like those still made today for children. These toys were what we would call “pull toys” and they were generally made of fired clay in the form of an animal (real or imagined) standing on a platform supported by four ceramic wheels. A loop for the pull string was usually made around the neck or head of the creature.

And yet, while the idea of the wheel was in place there were no wheeled vehicles.

Oddly enough, the Maya built roads, or more correctly, causeways. These roads, called sacbeob meaning white roads were constructed of limestone and paved with natural lime cement called sascab. Often as wide as ten to twelve feet and raised between a foot or so to as much as seven or eight feet above the ground, the sacbeob connected various areas of settlement. The sacbeob at one Maya site (Coba) in the Yucatan of Mexico connects several major architectural groups, the longest running in an almost perfect straight line for over sixty miles! Archaeologists have found what may have been stone rollers used to compact the road bed during construction.

But no wheels.

While it is certainly true that the Maya did not possess the potter’s wheel, they did make use of a device called the k’abal. This was a wooden disk that rested on a smooth board between the potter’s feet. Spun by feet, the k’abal was not unlike the potter’s wheel that had been in use in the Old World for over five thousand years.

Still, there was no conventional wheel.

Perhaps the closest the Maya came to a utilitarian wheel was the spindle whorl.

In ancient times the Maya wove cotton garments in much the same way as they do today. Cotton was spun into thread, using as a spindle a narrow pointed stick about a foot long, weighted near the lower end with a ceramic disk called a spindle whorl. Acting as a fly-wheel, it gave balance to the stick which was twirled with one hand while the cotton was fed by the other to the top of the stick. The twisting motion produced the thread which was then sent to the loon for weaving. Cotton material is still being produced in this way by Maya groups in several parts of today Mexico and Guatemala. Some scholars believe the first wheeled toys were made with spindle whorls and spindle sticks as wheels and axles.

Why, then, were the Maya and other native populations without carts or wagons? Certainly they had the concept, so why did they transported everything on someone’s back?

The answer probably lies in the fact that there were no animals around suitable to pull a wagon or cart, no beast of burden. Horses and burros were unknown in Mesoamerica. Without draft animals a cart is not particularly useful. Then too. the area in which the Maya lived, for example, did not lend itself to road construction and that fact lives on until this very day. Rural areas are more easily accessed by foot or along narrow trails than by car or truck. Streams and rivers were the highways of the Maya, with extensive trade and commerce carried out by fleets of canoes.

Hope this partially answers the mystery of no wheel.

Sources: Diehl, Richard A. and Margaret Mandeville 1987 Tula and Wheeled Animal Effigies in Mesoamerica. Antiquity 61: 239-246. Linn?, Sigvald 1951 A Wheeled Toy from Guerrero, Mexico. Ethnos 16. Stocker, Terry, Barbara Jackson, and Harold Riffell 1986 Wheeled Figurines from Tula, Hidalgo, Mexico. Mexicon 8 (4): 69-72.

For the original post and more information, you are invited to visit Andres Michel Amezcua’s Facebook page

Historical fiction and the Great League of the Iroquois

13 July 2014 Comments (0)

I am happy to announce the release of another new book

The Peacekeeper

The after-story of the Great Peacemaker’s legend is not clear. Some versions refer to his disappearance briefly, off-handedly, stating that after bringing the Law of the Great Peace to the people, he went back to the Sky World.

Other versions do not mention his departure at all, concentrating on the events of the First Gathering and the elaborate set of laws he had given the people on this opportunity.

What is clear and agreed upon by all versions of the story is the fact that he did not participate in the government he created, did not sit among the fifty representatives he went to such great pains to guide and direct.

The names of the original fifty became titles, to be passed to each office’s successor and become his to use for the time the man would be expected to hold his position—a lifetime in many cases. These important dignitaries could be replaced by the Clan Mothers of the towns they represented, but there was no limited time for them to officiate if they did so in a satisfactory manner. Thus, the man who was chosen to replace Hionhwatha assumed the name of this great man, and the man who was honored to officiate as the Head of the Great Council was to be called Tadodaho as long he stayed in the office. And so on.

Yet, the Peacemaker’s name was not passed down through the generations. He was clearly not among the original fifty who had formed the first Great Council. A clear indication that he did not remain to see the confederacy of his creation functioning, blossoming as the years passed.

But where did he go?

Wyandot, or Wendat, people from across Lake Ontario—the Great Sparkling Water—or Crooked Tongues as they were honored to be called by the other side of the lake, his original people, were reported to have a confederacy as well. They were four nations of similar-sounding languages, and their union seemed to be of the same nature, maybe on a smaller scale, but not by much. There is no clear evidence as to the time their union might have been formed, not like with the Five Nations, thanks to the solar eclipse and the many recorded versions of the story, but we do know that such a union did exist.

So he might have died, or disappeared, but he also might have gone to his former people, to do for them what he had done for their enemies? It would be strange if, after declaring his intentions of bringing all peoples under the shade of the Great Tree of Peace, he would not have tried to do so starting with his own ‘Crooked Tongues.’

And even if he failed, as, historically, we know that there was no peace between the League of the Five Nations and the Wyandot (Huron) from the other side, he might have tried to do that at least, to attempt to unite his former people into a similar sort of a union.

With the Great Peace established, new laws delivered, and important agreements reached, Two Rivers and Tekeni could now sit back and enjoy the fruits of their work, watching the union of Five Nations alive and kicking, functioning, maintaining the Peacemaker’s wonderful vision. Or so they thought…

Tekeni had never trusted the power-hungry Tadodaho, now the Head of the Great Council. Yet, Two Rivers dismissed such warnings lightly, too lightly for Tekeni’s peace of mind. The devious man was up to something. Tekeni’s gut instincts screamed danger, but the Peacemaker kept waving his hand in dismissal, claiming that everything was under control.

And then, the Crooked Tongues entered the scene…

An excerpt from “The Peacekeeper”, The Peacemaker Series, book #4

She said nothing, her palm pressing his shoulder, giving warmth, but not enough of it. Nothing would fill the void the incredible man from across the Great Sparkling Water would leave when gone, back to the Great Spirits he clearly belonged to. He was their messenger, the temporary guest here.

“He didn’t finish his work, you know.” He felt silly, like a complaining child, whining about things he couldn’t have. “He said five nations was just a beginning. He went to see Long Tails from the west, somewhere upon the shores of another Great Lake. We barely hear of these people, but the People of the Mountains knew, and they told him. So he went there. Like in the good old times, but alone. I was busy organizing the Second Gathering.” It was easier to keep talking, it kept his grief in some sort of control. “And the Crooked Tongues, of course. He wanted to have them as a part of our union. He invited their delegation, but it was not enough, he said. Not a pitiful delegation from one or two towns. He wanted to go there in the summer, to organize them like he did with our people. Then we could talk to them properly, he said.”

Sighing, he smiled at the memory, not a happy smile.

“He said he did not believe I would like to come. I told him, damn right, I would never cross the Great Sparkling Water again, not if I could help it. But I would have now, you know? If it was the way to save him, to make him change his mind, I would be sailing our Sparkling Water before the sun was to kiss the treetops of the eastern side of it.”

The pressure of the gentle palm was gone.

“He wanted to go and organize the Crooked Tongues?” she asked, suddenly excited.

“Yes, he did.”

“Alone?”

“I suppose so.”

She coiled into her previous position again, pressing her knees with her arms, but not sobbing now, deep in thought.

“What?”

“Wait. Let me think!”

“Think about what, Kahontsi?”

“I think I may have a solution. But you won’t like it.”

“There is no solution.”

“Maybe there is.” Her eyes shone at him like two bright stars, their excitement barely contained. “Like the test of the falls, eh? It was wild, but was worth a try. And we did it. And it worked.”

He felt his own excitement beginning to stir. “Tell me.”

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