Posts Tagged: upstate New-York

Historical Fiction and the Long Tails or Erie People

18 October 2015 Comments (0)

The first serious military clash between the Great League of the Five Iroquois Nations and the Erie People (Erielhonan/Long Tails) is relatively well-documented. In his History of Ashtabula County, Ohio, written in 1798, Rev. S. D. Peet dedicates more than a whole chapter to the battle that might have shaped the following history of this entire region, taking place centuries ago.

Long Tails/Erie were a prominent nation who, until up to the 16th were reported to occupy the southern and eastern shores of Lake Erie, spreading as far out as Ohio River Valley. Having been an inseparable part of the Great Lakes’ demography, they played an important role in local politics and developments, a people that no one made the mistake of overlooking or omitting taking into account. Neither the Great League, not the Wyandot People confederacy, nor various smaller nations around both great water bodies made this mistake.

According to the reports, furnished mainly by the Great League and recorded by the wandering French missionaries centuries later—not perfectly reliable sources, the first having no objectivity in the story, obviously, and the second having no understanding of local mentality and cultural traits—the Erie People were powerful and warlike, feared by their immediate neighbors, even the members of the Great League, at least prior to its creation. Or so the story goes.

To the north and west, where the famous Onguiaahra/Niagara Falls are cascading today as spectacularly as they did centuries ago, Attiwandaronk People populated the land, a small confederacy of various sub-nations that were later recorded and known to us today as Neutral People. The Wyandot had mistakenly lumped them together with their Long Tails neighbors, even though those people were no Erie. However, the two powers would unite from time to time, enjoying a complicated relationship, especially in the face of the growing confederacies all around—the Wyandot and the Iroquois, in particular. It must have been unsettling, to watch such dominant neighbors uniting into powerful alliances. Not an occurrence farsighted people would choose to ignore.

So in this last book of the People of the Longhouse series – or rather the Great Peacemaker’s saga – I wanted to explore such a development, a large-scale war that might have defined the Great League’s path from those relatively early days, as judging by the later centuries, its political and military dealings and the vastness of its influence, the pattern of its expansion has been set for the earlier times.

The Peacemaker wished to have more people and nations sharing in the union of his creation; the various clauses and laws of his constitution, the detailed and very minutely documented Great Law of Peace, make it perfectly clear.

Yet only five original nations remained the members of the exclusive union up until very late post-contact times. Why? A fair question, as the neighboring people were not so dissimilar to the Five Nations, neither culturally nor linguistically. Still, something prevented even the Peacemaker’s native Wyandot from joining the Great League. Early military clashes? Well, it is one of the possibilities. The documented oral tradition supplying accounts such as the one I based The Warpath on suggests this direction.

Other challenges that the creators of the Great League or those who inherited this responsibility might have been facing were as interesting. At some point, they might have come to realize the possible flaws in their unheard-of political body, long stretches of peace as opposed to the threateningly uniting neighbors, lack of readily available warriors’ forces in case of emergency—no standing army, not among the Great Lakes’ dwellers—or even a certain lack of discipline and organized way of fighting among those who were used to raiding in small groups and in a sporadic manner.

All was not well in the lands of the Erie/Long Tails People, on the western shore of Lake Ontario and around Niagara Falls. Tucked between two growing unions, the mighty Great League and the newly formed alliance of the Wyandot to the north, the Long Tails tried to remain neutral, playing for time, doing little while earning no respect from their powerful neighbors on either side. However, there were some who were enraged by the shameful neutrality. Although Aingahon was not one of those. His reasons for hating the Great League were personal, his desire to take the warpath originating in a thirst for revenge. Leading a serious faction of rebellious elements from his town and its surroundings, he was determined to make the enemies of his people pay; still he got nowhere, until Tsutahi, the mysterious girl from the woods, had crossed his path, changing his world in ways he could never have foreseen.

Back in the lands of the Great League, the generation of younger leaders, Ganayeda and Okwaho – not to mention Ogteah, the newcomer facing new troubles and challenges – sensed the winds of change as well. The relationship between the Five Nations, conducted just like the Great Peacemaker’s legacy prescribed, wasn’t enough, not anymore. A closer cooperation between the nations might be needed, a mutual help and support, even if it came to sending reinforcements and fighting in wars that were not strictly theirs.

The War Chief’s sons’ way of going about pushing their plans was as unconventional as it was forceful and decisive. To bend laws and customs was not the same as breaking them.

Or so they thought, heading toward the inevitable clash with the notorious Long Tails from the west, a clash of proportions neither side could have foreseen or foretold.

An excerpt from “The Warpath”, People of the Longhouse Series, book #4.

“The Great League is not a stone giant,” he said, holding their gazes, sensing their need to hear more. “They claim they are one and many at the same time. One longhouse, five families, they say. But it is not possible, not on such a large scale. What works for clans and towns, doesn’t work for nations.” Taking a deep breath, he hurried on, feeling their attention almost physically. Even the strange girl stopped her knife-throwing exercise and was staring at him through her narrowed, nicely tilted eyes. “We’ve been warring against the Mountain People for many summers, long before their League was born. And even though the warring slowed down through the last decades, we’ve still raided an occasional village of theirs, while they raided ours.”

Another glance at the girl confirmed what he always suspected. Her darkening face and glazing eyes were an indication. Was her entire village destroyed, or only her family, he wondered, then forced his attention back to his audience. “And what happened through all these last summers’ warring. Did the Onondagas come to their fellow members of the Great League’s aid? Did the Flint People from the far east? No! None of them joined this war, just like these same Mountain People don’t travel to join the wars in the lands of the rising sun.”

The memory of the cheeky, violent, bubbling-with-life fox from that hilly Onondaga town made his stomach shrink like it always did, every time he remembered. That familiar mix of anger and warmth. She was such a strange-looking thing, a total foreigner, not even pretty or sweet, not feminine, not attractive in the usual sort of way, even though he did fancy her.

Had he wanted to take her away when the chance presented itself? He didn’t know, didn’t bother to face this question. The following events erased any such thoughts from his mind. The disastrous consequences, the pain of the failure.

“You say that if we start warring on our neighbors in force, their so-called allies would not come to their aid?” The voice of one of the men cut into his flow of thoughts just in time, before his anger turned difficult control.

“Yes, I say that, and I say that with a good reason. The Great League would not join our unworthy neighbors in their war, just like these same Mountain People do not go to war in the east.” He encircled them with his gaze, glad to put his mind on something he could deal with. “The Flint People, whom they call the Keepers of the Eastern Door, are warring against fierce savages from the lands of the rising sun. The Onondagas are dealing with the Wyandot, their recently ridiculously temporary peace agreements notwithstanding.

Those won’t last. We all know they won’t, and they know it too. So they must be busy watching the shores of their Sparkling Water.” He paused, but only for a heartbeat, eyeing them one by one. “No one will join our wars in the west. They will be too busy or too indifferent to do that.” Shrugging, he let his smile of contempt show. “Their Great League is nothing but a sham. It helps them avoid the opening of their old squabbling between each other, but it does little else, no matter how they try to make it sound like a great union of one people.”

They nodded thoughtfully, offering little in the way of an argument. But, of course. They weren’t his adversaries, all these hunters and warriors whose pride the current stance of uncertain neutrality hurt. These men were various and many, from all over the region, curbed by the councils, mainly the Town Council of Tushuway, Aingahon’s own town. Such a major settlement, led by cowards. Only a handful, one or two of the more careful elders, but those were influential people. And very headstrong.

The girl was still watching him, staring with her strangely tilted, disquieting eyes. There was something about her gaze, something ominous. The closeness, he knew. It was unsettling enough before, when she would gaze at nothing in particular, but now, filled with concentration, with an obvious thought process, it made his skin prickle. Like facing an animal, he reflected, a forest creature of unknown quality. Smart, dangerous, dedicated to purpose, some purpose.

Lacrosse – the sacred game to please the creators

4 February 2014 Comments (0)

Wandering around upstate New York early in the previous millennia, you might have enjoyed hospitality of many towns and settlements spread all over the land.

Haudenosaunee people, whom we today know as various Iroquois nations, lived there for centuries, growing crops of maize, squash and beans, farming, hunting and fishing, while maintaining one of the worlds’ earliest democracies through a remarkable set of laws that, centuries later, was used as an inspiration for USA modern-day constitution.

Their towns and villages were not excessively large, usually up to a few thousand or less citizens, dwelling in several longhouses – a sort of apartment buildings – hosting up to ten and more families belonging to the same clan.

The system worked well, leaving people with much time for entertainment, from betting games to various contests, with lacrosse being the most prominent and demanding, a very serious competition.

Originally this sacred ballgame was designed to please the Creator, the Right-Handed Twin himself. According to the legend it was played for the first time before the earth as we know it was created, in order to determine who will control the world, the good Right-Handed Twin, or his negative Left-Handed sibling. The good won, as always, and people never forgot, recreating the game to honor their benefactor, giving thanks to their benevolent creator.

The game of lacrosse demanded a great skill and lasting endurance. In order to score a goal you needed to catch the ball, a heavy affair made of wood or stuffed deerskin, into the net at the edge of your playing stick, carrying it to the other side of the field, against the attempts of the rival team to stop you or make you lose your cargo. Like in the Mesoamerican ballgame, one were not allowed to touch it with his hands.

The game was fairly violent, sometimes causing serious injuries, even though in the official games the players would wear a protective gear of additional clothing and padded baskets as helmets. Still one was expected to play fearlessly, displaying one’s stamina, strength, courage and quick thinking.

If you were lucky to catch the ball firmly, preventing its slipping from the basket-like net on the end of your playing stick, you then would dash for the other side of the field, hoping to score. Or you may try to pass it on to the other members of your team, if your rivals were truly determined to prevent you from doing that.

And yes, your the opposite team would be desperate to stop you or make you lose the ball before reaching the boundaries of their marked goal posts, which could be of various sizes, sometimes quite a vast space, or sometimes just a simple mark of a rock or a tree. But large or small, the ball should have been landed there, between the marked boundaries, in order to win a point.

To participate in such game was an honor, and a privilege. To watch it was equally thrilling. The power of this competition, which has various names throughout various Haudenosaunee-Iroquois nations, with the word “lacrosse” being the most incorrect one, a mistaken term invented by French missionaries of 18th century, was a vigorous contest beyond being simple entertainment. It was believed to purify the soul and the body, testing its limits, pushing to exceed, bestowing gift of healing upon those who came to watch and cheer. This game made the creators smile.

Official contests could be held between towns and nations – solemn affairs of thanksgiving speeches and tobacco offerings, strict rules, hundreds of players and the dignity of the involved nations at stake. But as often, spontaneous games would break on the sunny afternoon, played at the open grounds of a town or a village, a friendly competition accompanied by almost no formalities. Life was not always stern and Haudenosaunee men, like anyone else on earth, welcomed the opportunity to exercise and relax, to show their skill or impress the girls.

An excerpt from “Two Rivers”, The Peacemaker Trilogy, book #1.

Pushing another player out of his way, Tekeni leaped ahead, seeing the momentarily clear path. His shaft shot forward, as his eyes estimated the distance. Oh, yes, he was going to trap this ball, to catch it safely in his net, to make a run for the opposite team’s gates, and maybe, with a little luck, to score.

Racing on, oblivious of the cheering crowds, he turned sharply without slowing his step, catching his balance, ready to face the descending ball. It was coming down fast. For a fraction of a moment, he could see it clearly, a coarse, round thing made out of a stuffed deerskin, heavy enough to inflict damage if one wasn’t careful.

Blocking the sunlight, it made its way toward his outstretched arm, making it unnecessary to get into a better position, not even to tilt his body. It was going straight for his shaft. He caught his breath and felt the silence as the watching crowds went still, holding their breath, too.

Then, as the ball was about to land in his net, his arm shot sideways, driven away by a force he could not comprehend for a moment, the pain in it paralyzing, making him gasp. As the heavy body of another player slammed into him, he felt the grass slipping under his feet, jumping into his face, revoltingly damp, permeating his breath. From the corner of his eye, he could see the ball crashing into the earth just outside the field, cumbersome, powerless upon the ground.

“You will be out of the game before you know it!” shouted someone angrily.

Recognizing the voice of Ogtaeh, a player from his team, Tekeni wiped the mud from his face, blinking to make his vision focus.

“It was an accident,” answered Yeentso smugly, a thin half smile twisting his lips.

He was a tall, broadly built man of twenty or more summers, the best player of the opposite team.

“It was no accident!” fumed Ogtaeh. “I saw it all!” He turned to the surrounding players. “You all saw it, didn’t you?”

“Well, it might have been an accident,” murmured someone. “The slippery ground and all.”

“The slippery ground in your stupid dreams.” Spitting the remnants of the earth from his mouth, its taste mixed with the salty flavor of blood, Tekeni came closer, trying to pay no attention to the pain rolling up and down his arm. “He collided with me on purpose!” He took another step, glaring at Yeentso, seeing the hated face so very close, every scar, every speckle, every bead of sweat upon it. “And you hit me with your shaft to make sure I did not catch this ball, you dirty piece of excrement.”

The high cheekbones of the man took a darker shade.

“You better watch your tongue, wild boy,” said Yeentso, leaning forward.

Historical Fiction and the Five Nations

23 September 2013 Comments (0)

I am happy to announce the release of another new book

The Great Law of Peace

Having proven the divine nature of his mission to the People of the Flint (Mohawks), the Great Peacemaker began working for real.

Backed by this powerful nation and their goodwill, he had approached their immediate neighbors, The People of the Standing Stone (Oneida), who had proven relatively easy to convince. The message of the Good Tidings of Peace fell on attentive ears, although it must have taken a few gatherings and more than a few arguments to make two enemy nations sit beside the same fire.

“They deliberated for three days, with the foreigner doing most of the talking,” went on the older warrior, scratching the sides of his bowl with the spoon in an attempt to fish out the last of the juicy pieces. “And they are still there, waiting for the representatives of the other towns to arrive.”

“Can’t they conduct their own people’s meeting without the Messenger holding their hands?” asked Jikonsahseh, raising her eyebrows high.

The men shrugged in unison.

The People of the Great Swamp (Cayuga) joined the proposed union of the nations eagerly, but their neighbors to the west, the fierce warlike People of the Mountains (Seneca) remained suspicious. They were divided anyway, following two different leaders, with Genesee River being a natural boundary. Yet, what united both disagreeing leaders was their mutual dislike of foreigners trying to pry into their people’s affairs. To speak to the enemies of yesterday? Oh please!

But the Peacemaker was not about to go away. Or to take a ‘no’ for an answer. Accompanied by the leaders of the three other nations, he sailed into the lands of the stubborn Seneca, to talk and to persuade, by another miracle if necessary.

The meeting might have not been very well going, as at some point the Peacemaker was reported to make “the sun disappear from the sky” . Indeed, in August 1142, around the possible site of this meeting (Ganondagan, near modern-day Victor, NY) a full solar eclipse have occurred according to the list displayed on NASA Eclipse Website. There were, of course, more eclipses recorded above this area – a century earlier, and a few centuries later too – but those were either not full or occurring at the wrong time of the year or a day.

This or that way, after witnessing such a terrible prove of the divine displeasure, Seneca People joined promptly, with no more arguments or debates.

The sun was a pitifully thin crescent, like Grandmother Moon on certain days. Oh, Mighty Spirits! Tekeni watched the strips of light, darting across the ground, alternating with patches of black, both moving fast, like attacking predators. It was as though the light and the darkness were fighting each other. The epic battle of the Celestial Twins?

He felt his heart fluttering, the stony fist gripping his stomach, squeezing with all its might. But for the presence of Two Rivers, he would turn around and run into the woods, to crawl somewhere quiet and maybe vomit in fear. The world was ending in front of his eyes, and he was not ready for this. It was one thing to risk his life, facing the death, fighting or sailing, or hunting a bear, but another to watch the world dying, collapsing on its own, with the Father Sun being devoured by a feral beast.”

With the backing of four powerful nations, the Peacemaker could turn to the last of the reluctant, the Onondagas. In the lands of the People of the Hills (Onondaga) all was not well. Tadodaho, the man responsible for Hiawatha’s family’s death, was still strong, still influential, still adamant in his refusal to listen to the message of the Great Peace. He was reported to be a powerful sorcerer, with twisted limbs and snakes for a hair.

The Peacemaker and Hiawatha went to see him alone.

According to many versions of the legend it was a long tedious meeting. The old sorcerer refused to listen. Snakes twisted in his hair, and his ears were closed to reason. The Father Sun climbed its usual path and was about to descend to its resting place and still the Peacemaker talked, refusing to give up.

In the end the old sorcerer was convinced. He allowed the Peacemaker to comb the snakes out of his hair, his twisted limbs straightened and he joined the Great Peace.

Judging by the Peacemaker’s wonderfully detailed, well-recorded constitution, it might not have been that simple. Onondaga People had definitely received a special place. The meetings of the Five Nations were to be always held in Onondaga lands, making its inhabitants into the Keepers of the Central Fire. In the Great Council these people were represented considerably more heavily than any other nation (14 Onondaga representatives as opposed to 9 of the Mohawks, 9 of the Oneida, 10 of Cayuga and 8 of Seneca).

Tadodaho was to preside over the meetings, having a position of an arbiter, and a power of veto. Not that the power of veto gave the Onondagas any clear advantage, as the voting was required to be always unanimous, thus granting every member of the council power to veto any decision.

Still, these positions of honor and additional power may have be the ones to tip the scales on that famous snakes-combing meeting. The Peacemaker was a great man with grand vision and a brilliant thinking. He might have thought of those concessions to lure the man he needed to join on his free will. In the end there was no inequality in the Great League’s procedures, honorific titles or not.

An excerpt from “The Great Law of Peace”, The Peacemaker Series, book #3.

He pushed the troublesome thoughts aside, concentrating on the elated mood of this town, talking to them and letting them talk. Hionhwatha had done a splendid work, he decided. He had clearly spent no time in idleness and gloom. These people wanted to join, with no special concessions even, but the real challenge was still ahead of him.

“Tadodaho is holding his town and the settlements surrounding Onondaga Lake in his firm grip. He is fiercer than ever, and by now, quite eager to meet you, to pit his strength against yours. He doesn’t fear me more than he should, so my life is in no danger. But yours is.”

“Then we shall give him his meeting.” Replete with food, Two Rivers sought out his pipe, always within an easy reach. He was relying on its calming effect too readily these days, he reflected, crushing the dry tobacco leaves, not paying attention to the familiar process. Of an old he had not been smoking his pipe at every opportunity.“Join us, and we will sail to Onondaga Town in a real strength, with our intentions peaceful but our spirits strong, unwavering, ready to face any challenge.” He forced a grin, missing Tekeni’s presence. For a change, the young man had chosen to stay on the shore, reinforcing the warriors who remained behind in order to guard their canoes. As though there was a need to guard their vessels, camping in such a friendly place.

“Maybe,” said the old leader thoughtfully. “Maybe we’ll do just that.” His grin spread, along with a slightly mischievous sparkle. “And to think that when we separated on the shores of Onondaga Lake you were no more than a strangely spoken foreigner with a few outcasts for followers. But look at you now! Two seasons later, you come to me, followed by four united nations, speaking our tongue, more sure of yourself than ever. And more impatient.” The glimmer in the dark eyes deepened. “You will need every grain of your patience now. While dealing with Tadodaho, you will have to be firm and confident, as unwavering as always, but this sparkle of arrogance I see in you now will have to go. You cannot force my people into your union, four nations or not. You can only persuade them.”

“Can Tadodaho be persuaded?” Momentarily alone, as, out of respect, people moved away, letting the two leaders converse in private, Two Rivers eyed the older man, pleased with the changes. The haunted, violent look was gone, replaced by the dignified bearing, the slightly amused, know-it-all twinkle new to the broad, wrinkled face. The old bastard knew what Two Rivers wanted to know, and he was not about to volunteer the information without making the visitor ask.

“Maybe he can be persuaded. Who knows?” The wide shoulders lifted in a shrug. “He has been waiting for you to come. Not much had been done around Onondaga Lake to make it ready against your arrival. The old fox is clearly playing for time, curious, confident in his ability to deal with you, to put you in your place or get rid of you. Curious and expectant. Maybe he has more wisdom than we credit him with.” Another shrug. “He could have gotten rid of me, could have swayed High Springs to his side, but he did not. Why? Only his devious mind knows. I think he is eager to meet you.”

“Then we shall grant him his wish.” Uneasily, Two Rivers shifted, leaning against the warm tiles of the bark lining the wall of the longhouse. “Maybe when he sees the size of our delegation, it will make him pause.”

“It won’t. He knows his strengths and our weaknesses. He knows that we need to make it as peaceful as we can, resorting to no violence, as tempting as the option may be. But, of course, we shall sail in a day or two. We have not much choice, do we? And we do have the power now.”

The Rise of the Iroquois, part I – In the lands of the Crooked Tongues

14 September 2013 Comments (2)

The most recent studies place the formation of the Five Nations’ Great League, people whom we know today as Iroquois, at around 1142, basing their conclusion on the oral tradition, archaeological evidence, and specific events such as full solar eclipse that was most clearly mentioned to occur above a certain area on either August 1142, or somewhere around 1450.

At this time the lands of today’s upstate New-York and southeastern Canada were torn by ferocious warfare, with many nations fighting each other, relentless in the mutual hatred, swept in the ever-rising tide of revenge and retaliation. A murder has to be avenged by murder, an attacked by a counterattack. There was no safety anymore, and not even a resemblance of peace.

People lived in well fortified towns and villages, surrounded by a double-row of palisade fence and sometimes even protective ditches. To wander the woods, in order to seek privacy, make love or just meditate, was absolutely out of the question, with people venturing beyond the safety of their palisade only in large, well organized groups. Women in the fields were working carefully, allocating enough fellow workers to climb the high platforms erected for this purpose on either side of the field, to watch the surroundings, to sound the alarm should the enemy warriors be spotted. Men were hunting in large groups, ready to fight the enemy, not always to return.

Slowly but steadily the situation had worsened, with bad harvest being a more frequent occurrence than not, with famine threatening toward every coming winter, and the deceases spreading.

The Harvest Ceremony was nearing, usually one more happy celebration, but this time the amounts of the harvested corn were pitiful, creating a problem. Reasons and explanations kept mounting, as they did now in the beginning of every fall, plenty of reasonable excuses, but their mutual nature was difficult to overlook. It towered menacingly, indicating the farmers’ state of mind and even the lack of manpower. Women in the fields were busy keeping their watch, ready to sound alarm at the sight of approaching enemy, so the rest could make it safely behind the town’s fence. However, for every justified warning, there were quite a few false ones and those pointed at the disoriented state of the people’s minds. Nervousness and lack of confidence had been mounting for decades, reaching for all aspects of life, growing with every summer, steadily, if imperceptibly.

Every town struggled as best as it could, trying to work the land and to harvest the forest fruit, to dry enough meat and fish, to collect enough firewood for the winter to pass on comfortably; yet their main resources were still turned to warfare. To equip as many warriors’ parties was important because there were always neighboring nations and settlements that needed to be punished and made to learn a lesson, and the town’s defenses always needed to be strengthened, because the neighbors were expected to retaliated, never failing this particular expectation.

A vicious circle that kept ruining people’s lives. A vicious circle that needed to be stopped, somehow. There were probably enough people who saw that something was wrong, that something wasn’t working, but they either kept silent or simply weren’t listened to.

“The enemy grew too bold!” exclaimed the Wolf Clan’s man. “The People of the Hills grew too bold. They should be punished for their brazenness.”

Some heads nodded in agreement, while others just shrugged.

“To ensure our well being through the upcoming winter, we will have to send out as many hunting parties as we can organize,” said Atiron, taking the pipe in his turn. “The men will have to leave their clubs in favor of their bows and their fishing spears. We have close to two moons to do as much hunting and fishing as we can.” He let the smoke linger in his throat, enjoying the sensation. “The women will finish their winter preparation sooner than usual, due to the small amounts of corn to grind, and so they will be free to gather more of the forest fruit, and plenty of firewood.” Passing the pipe on, he sighed. “Our duty is to ensure the well being of this town, so the Frozen Moons will not prove as terrible as two winters before.”

They fell silent, remembering the terrible winter when the illness spread like a lethal storm, killing people in its wake, unmerciful, oblivious of the identity and the age of its victims. All due to the lack of food and firewood, Atiron knew. Not to the displeased spirits as many chose to believe.

The Great Peacemaker came from across the Lake Ontario. He belonged to none of the five powerful nations of the modern-day upstate New-York. His foreignness might have been one of his greatest advantages because as a person belonging to neither side, he could be expected to have a measure of objectivity when no one trusted the other. On this, the other, southern side, of the Great Lake his people were called Crooked Tongues, because they talked in a language that was difficult to understand, regarded generally as uncouth foreigners, also an enemy but not as bad as the local foe.

By crossing the Great Lake he gambled mightily, with his life and not only his status as a person who had left his own people for the sake of the unknown. In those times the death was quick to come upon a lonely man who could not even speak in a proper, not-crooked sort of a way.

So why did he do that? Was his own country folk proving too stubborn, refusing to listen?

It may have been the case. The Huron/Wyandot people on the northern side of Lake Ontario were in a somewhat similar situation. They were divided in four different nations, and they had probably warred against each other as zealously, as relentlessly, unforgiving of offenses, imaginary or real.

Maybe they didn’t trust a person of their own, having difficulties to see beyond the obvious strangeness of his ideas. Maybe they needed an outsider to come and tell them that.

But no outsider was heading their way, while one of their own seemed to be on his way out.

An excerpt from “Two Rivers”, The Peacemaker Trilogy, book #1.

To leave or not to leave? The question kept circling in his head, examining all the possible angles, arriving at a dead end, always. To stay was fruitless, to leave was insane. The town of his childhood offered nothing but frustration, boredom, emptiness. But so did any settlement of his people. His reputation would go with him wherever he went. They all knew about the prophecy and about the strangeness and unacceptability of his ideas.

To leave it all behind by crossing the Great Sparkling Water, on the other hand, was tempting but plain insane. He had nothing to seek among the enemies of his people, nothing to ask, nothing to offer. Nothing but a spectacular death that they would be sure to inflict upon him. That might give them an interesting diversion for a day, but he would gain nothing but a painful end. Even taking the boy along might not solve the problem. The promising youth was nothing but a child when he had left his people, with no influence and no weight. A son of a War Chief, admittedly, but still just a child. No one would probably remember him at all.

No. The attempt to cross the Great Lake was the worst idea of them all. And yet…

The scattered drops of rain sprinkled his face, waking him from his reverie. Time to go back, back to suspicious glances, hatred, and mistrust. He shrugged. The hatred was new, all the rest – not so much.

Hesitating upon the top of the trail, he watched the woods to his left, his instincts alerting him for no apparent reason. He scanned the open patch of the land, all the way to the clusters of trees that began not far away from his vantage point. As though unwilling to disappoint him, a figure sprang from behind them, progressing in a funny gait, seeming like running upon an uneven surface.

Puzzled, he watched her for another heartbeat, then rushed down the cliff, his heart beating fast. Something was amiss. Even from this distance, he could see that it was a woman and that she had been in some sort of a trouble, with her hair flowing wildly and her dress askew, but mostly because of the desperate way she ran. Were enemy warriors spotted in the proximity of their woods?

He hastened his step, but the girl must have been running really fast, as she was close by the time he reached the flat ground. Close enough to recognize her. The pretty Beaver Clan girl. His heart missed a beat.

Historical fiction and the Iroquois

1 September 2013 Comments (0)

I am happy to announce the release of another new book

Two Rivers

The Great League of the Iroquois existed for centuries before both Americas had been discovered by the other continents. Composed of five nations known to us under the names of Mohawks, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca, the Iroquois Confederacy had occupied most of the present-day upstate New York and more, spilling into the southeastern Canada.

What made this confederacy special was their amazingly detailed, well-defined constitution. Recorded by a pictographic system in the form of wampum belts, the league’s laws held on for centuries, maintaining perfect balance between five powerful nations.

More than a few modern scholars believe that USA constitution was inspired by the Iroquois. To what degree, this is another question, but Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and some other Founding Fathers were, undoubtedly, very well-versed in the laws of the Great League, with Franklin advocating a federal system akin to that of the Iroquois and Adams leading a faction that favored more centralized government but still citing some of the Iroquois laws in the process.

So what was this remarkable constitution, and how did it come to life?

The year is 1140 and the war is raging on, relentless, uncompromising, a ferocious warfare, with every nation fighting each other, raiding one another’s towns, seeking revenge against offenses, imaginary or real. Five sister-nations caught in the web of violence and retaliation, unable to escape the hopeless loop.

To settle their differences and make them talk, someone with courage and unusually broad thinking was needed. Maybe a prophet. Maybe just an outstanding man. But an outsider, on that all the versions of the legend agree.

The Great Peacemaker, indeed, according to all sources crossed Lake Ontario, heading from the lands of the Huron/Wyandot people, present day southeastern Canada. For reasons unknown, his own country folk did not want to listen to his message.

However, the time the first novel in the trilogy is dealing with, the main bulk of the work was yet awaiting him. To cross the Lake Ontario was a brave decision. But what made him do that? Did he leave willingly or was he forced to do so?

Tekeni, a captive youth from across the Great Sparkling Water (Lake Ontario), adopted but finding it difficult to fit into his new life, gets caught in the middle of his new country folk politics when a game of lacrosse goes wrong. An act of violence, commenced out of an impulse puts him outside the law, hated by all but one man who is also frowned upon.

Two Rivers was an esteemed hunter and warrior, a local man of impressive abilities and skills, but a strange person with strange ideas that he never bothered to keep to himself. He claimed that the constant warfare was a wrong way of life, that the struggle between the neighboring nations – even the enemy across the Great Lake! – should stop. He maintained that the peaceful existence was possible. A notion that made even his friends shake their heads in doubt. What he said made no sense.

Yet, the man was insistent, arguing with his peers and his elders and betters, even the members of the Town and War Councils, and the Mothers of the Clans. Many eyebrows were raised in disapproval, but now that he was defending an enemy cub guilty of crime, the general displeasure began to turn into anger and hatred. Just whom this man thought he was?

With their trouble mounting and the revengefulness of some people around them growing, both Tekeni and Two Rivers find themselves pushed beyond limits.

An excerpt from “Two Rivers”, The Peacemaker Series, book #1.

Turning abruptly, she faced him, her face barely visible in the faint moonlight, mainly the outline of the beautiful cheekbones, high and oh-so-well defined.

“What do you want?” he asked tiredly, squatting upon the cold sand.

“Me? Nothing! I want nothing from you.”

“Then why did you wait for me here?”

“I didn’t say I was waiting for you!” The fringes decorating her dress jumped angrily as her chest rose and fell. “I came to enjoy some peace and quiet. I was here first.”

He snorted. “Peace and quiet? You don’t look so peaceful. And you were waiting for me here, fuming and getting angrier with every heartbeat.”

The hiss of her breath tore the silence. “I just came to tell you that if you will go on defending the dirty whelp that tried to kill my brother, you will regret it dearly.”

He didn’t turn his head, not surprised.

“Your brother is not dead yet. He may heal. And he was the one to attack this boy. I was there, I saw it all. He grabbed the boy by his throat, and he threatened to kill him, after he hit him in the middle of the game. It was quite a blow, and I’m surprised he didn’t break this youth’s arm. And maybe he did. It was all blue and swollen, but no one paid attention, of course. No one cared for the dirty foreigner. They were busy fussing around your brother, the impeccable Wyandot man.” He raised his hand as she tried to say something, glaring at her in his turn, truly angry now. “Well, I did not intend to defend the wild cub. He was certainly guilty of the charges against him. All I did was to tell the true story when I was called by the Town Council to testify. But now, after talking to you, I may very well do that, try to help that boy. He was treated badly enough, this afternoon, if not through his previous moons here. He was adopted formally, turned into one of us. But he is not treated as one of us now, is he?”

“If my brother dies, he’ll die,” she said stubbornly, turning away and peering at the dark mass of the water below her feet. “Adopted or not, one of us or not. And I’m warning you. Keep out of it. Many people are angry with you as it is. Your attitude is bad enough, without making matters so much worse by helping the filthy cub.” She paused, and he could imagine her lips pressing tightly, unpleasantly thin, an ugly sight, although she was a beautiful woman. “The boy is lost, anyway. If my brother recovers, he will not let this incident pass unavenged. He will kill the boy by his own hand.”

“He can’t take the law into his hands. We are no savages. We have councils to settle such matters.”

A shrug was his answer. He tried to keep his anger at bay.

“How is he now?” he asked instead.

She shrugged again. “He is vomiting, and he cannot see clearly. He is murmuring, coming around, and then going back into the worlds of the Spirits.”

“Not good.” He sighed and more felt than saw her doing the same. “But he still may heal. I’ve seen people recover from head injuries like that. It takes time.”

“I hope you are right.” Her voice stiffened again, turning freezing cold. “But if he doesn’t, this boy will wish he were never born.”

The hatred, he thought, feeling the familiar twisting in his stomach. Always hatred. So much of it. And it is ruling our lives, this ever present sense of being wronged, this persistent need of revenge, this hopeless urge to take our frustrations out on something or someone. And always anger, anger, lakes of anger, not a peaceful moment for anyone, harmful, destructive, corruptive, ruining people and nations. Can’t they truly see the wrong in it?”