Excerpt

Black Sun studied the woman, concealing his emotions behind the stony mask of his face.  He had never seen a white female before.  This one was young, and might even be judged pretty in the eyes of the Nih’oo’oo.  But to him she looked as pale and strange as a ghost.  Dirty, tangled hair, its color like dried cattail stems, lay in dank strings around her soot-smeared face.  The cloud-gray eyes that stared up at him were bloodshot and wide with terror.  One hand splayed protectively over her bulging belly.  The other lay concealed beneath her skirt as if hiding something, a knife, perhaps.  He would be wise to watch that treacherous little hand.

       The Arapaho life path was built upon giving to others.  As a follower of that path, he was duty-bound to take pity on all those in need, even non-human beings like this Nih’oo’oo woman.  To turn away and leave her to die, along with her unborn child, would bring disgrace upon himself and his people.

       Still, as he shifted and made ready to dismount, Black Sun found himself paralyzed by warring emotions.  The nine years he had spent in a filthy cabin, with the white trapper who had bought his widowed mother for a few strings of beads, had separated him from the true way of the Arapaho.  Those same nine years had spawned a hatred of whites that ran as deep as the marrow of his bones.

       Following the council of his grandfather, Four Winds, he had returned to his mother’s burial place seeking reconciliation, and asking for a vision that would bind him to his people once more and enable him to serve them.  Weak from fasting, he had pleaded with Heisonoonin, the great creator and father of all, to cleanse his spirit and bring him peace.  But because his heart was hardened by old angers, the vision would not come. Heisonoonin had sent him away empty.

       Now, as if to mock him, fate had flung this helpless white woman across his path, giving him no choice except to take compassion and help her. 

As he eased his leg over the pony’s withers, the vile curses his drunken stepfather had screamed at his cringing mother echoed in his memory.  Part of him wanted to shout them into the woman’s ears, to let her know exactly what he thought of her kind.  But when he finally cleared his throat and spoke, the words that emerged were simple.

“Don’t be afraid.  I won’t hurt you.”

 


 

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