Night Wolf Ch. 09byLady_Blackhawk©
Disclaimer: I have tried to make sure my historical information is correct and I'd like to think I haven't offended any Native Americans peoples with the telling of this tale. I am 1/8th Cherokee and am proud of that heritage. I'm not trying to show any Native Americans in a bad light... that is not my intention.
Author's Note: The English-Cheyenne word translations come from the Cheyenne Language Web Site, one that I've found extremely helpful for the telling of this tale.
Néá'eše: Thank you
Néséne: My Friend (spoken male to male)
Nae'ha: my son
Óoetaneo'o ného'e: Crow father
Néá'eše, ného'e: Thank you, father
Vé'ho'á'e: White woman
Night Wolf slowly followed the trail of hoof prints back to the village, hoping it would lead to the one who stole Ione away. He couldn't understand the reason behind her disappearance, though. Why would his people wish to see her gone? He knew not everyone approved, but he thought they would come to accept her as they had Sky Eyes once she proved herself to the tribe.
He stopped just short of the village perimeter, examining how the horseman had mingled his horse's hoof prints with many others. He checked the freshness of the tracks; some were days old, while others had been there for weeks or longer. Then he picked out a distinguishing feature of the trail he'd followed since he left the grove of trees. One of the horse's hooves had a mark shaped like an arrow carved into it which left an impression in the soft soil. Night Wolf tracked it until he reached a lodge on the outermost ring of the camp.
A horse was tethered to a post driven in the ground. Its flesh was lathered as if it had just returned from a hard run. Night Wolf soothed the horse with soft words while he lifted the horse's right front leg, examining the hoof. His suspicions had been right. The mark was present. He released the horse's leg, stalking away from the lodge. He now knew Red Claw was involved with Ione's disappearance.
He mulled the battle over in his head. The Crow hadn't come just for ponies this time. It was a calculated strike meant to kill as many warriors as possible, weakening the village, but many Cheyenne were going about their morning business. Many of whom kept their best horse near their lodge. The Cheyenne reacted quickly meeting the raiding Crow head on. He knew if they'd been caught unawares their enemy would've raided their food stores, killed the men, enslaved the women, children and made off with the best horses.
He vaguely recalled Red Claw riding away from the battle. Many had chased after the fleeing enemy. Night Wolf had assumed that was the case, but now he wondered if Red Claw was letting them get away instead. But why would Red Claw betray his people? Why help the enemy? Something didn't add up.
As he jogged through the center of the village towards his father's lodge, he caught sight of Black Horse leading Star and his mother back to their lodge. Joining them, he spoke to his friend. "Ione is missing. She is not where I told her to go. Treachery is afoot; I fear one of our own has betrayed us."
Black Horse cocked an eyebrow, "Who?"
"Ask Star if she saw Falling Water during the raid," Night Wolf nodded to Tessa, ignoring his friend's question.
Black Horse turned to Tessa then posed the question. Her eyes went wide, "No, I never saw her. Winter Bird and I headed to the river, but she wasn't among any of the women and children who sought refuge. I figured Night Wolf would take her to safety. Where is she?"
"Gone," Black Horse simply replied, watching as a stricken look graced his woman's face. Tears flooded her eyes, streaming down her dirty cheeks. He cradled her in his arms, soothing his distraught female. Then he looked back at Night Wolf. "Do you want my help to find her?"
Night Wolf shook his head stoically. "No, my friend, this is something I must do on my own. I think I know who is behind this; I would rather not involve you in what I must do to find her, for it will require spilling the blood of one of our own. I must speak to my father then to Coyote. I believe we need to consult the sacred medicine arrows. If they run red with blood, then we know someone betrayed us to the Crow. It will be my duty to avenge my people."
Black Horse pondered his friend's cryptic words. When the medicine arrows ran red with blood it meant one Cheyenne had killed another. It was a taboo crime amongst their people. He felt Night Wolf's pain, understood the burden he bore. "Bring her back alive, my friend," Black Horse spoke up. "Star doesn't want to be alone here without her friend."
A somber look fleeted across Night Wolf's rugged face, "She's not alone, néséne. She has you," he nodded as he walked away. He looked back over his shoulder. "Have no fear. I'll have her back soon."
Night Wolf searched the village, hunting for Red Claw. He crossed the river, heading for the small forest opposite the village, checking for tracks as he went. Noticing two sets of tracks, one large and the other petite, as if they belonged to a woman or child, he followed them stealthily until he heard hushed voices on the breeze. Sneaking closer to the clearing his quarry occupied, he crouched behind a large leafy bush then listened.
He recognized Red Claw's voice immediately, his eyes honing in on the warrior his gut told him had everything to do with Ione's disappearance. As Red Claw shifted, Night Wolf caught sight of his companion. His eyes trekked up her form from the smallness of her heavily beaded moccasins to the resplendently decorated doeskin dress. He traced her fur wrapped braids to the coppery brown creaminess of her face. Night Wolf sneered. For all of Prairie Flower's beauty she couldn't begin to compare with his Falling Water, whose hair rivaled the sunset, whose eyes sparkled with the luster of the finest malachite stones he'd ever seen. Her smile warmed his soul; her gentleness filled his heart with joy and her perfect body heated his loins with unquenchable desire.
As much as he wanted his love back, he knew it would be un-wise to charge into the clearing and confront Red Claw. He needed to have patience, needed to wait and listen. Knowledge would be his power and his greatest ally. But his need for vengeance would hold only so long before he acted. Ione's life could be in utter peril. Her survival depended on him; he vowed not to let her down.
Night Wolf followed Red Claw as the older warrior exited the clearing, watching Prairie Flower leave in the opposite direction. He was infuriated by their conversation, but he knew he couldn't allow his anger to get the better of him. It wouldn't do Ione any good. He had to find her. Then a surge of betrayal ripped through his heart as Red Claw spoke of disposing of the "white bitch" in hopes that Night Wolf might look upon Prairie Flower with interest. Night Wolf had never shown interest in the maiden. Even her father knew Night Wolf's heart lay elsewhere.
Night Wolf remained a few paces behind Red Claw, keeping to the shadows of the dense foliage. His mind raced. His thoughts zinged back and forth. Every thing deep inside urged him to confront Red Claw. They were far enough away from the village that any noise wouldn't be overheard. He knew it was bad medicine to kill another Cheyenne, but his woman's life was on the line.
Coming to another small clearing, Night Wolf stepped from the foliage, presenting himself to Red Claw. Night Wolf pulled his knife, scowling at the older warrior. "I know what you've done. You had no right to take my woman from me." His words were clear and concise as desire for vengeance burned in his eyes.
"Of what do you speak? I have done no such thing," Then Red Claw dismissed Night Wolf's accusation with a shrug though he met Night Wolf's eyes evenly.
"You are lying. I overheard you telling Prairie Flower how you disposed of her rival. If you had been smart like the fox, you would have known I've no interest in her. Her father is aware of this. Hear me, Red Claw, you will tell me who you gave Falling Water to. Then you will explain how you could betray your people by allowing the enemy to attack us this day!"
Red Claw sneered, "And if I do not?"
"Then you've made your last mistake," Night Wolf growled as his voice took on the quality of his namesake.
"I fear you not, young pup. Perhaps you have forgotten that my father was Óoetaneo'o (Crow). His warrior spirit lives within me, overpowering my mother's Cheyenne weakness. I gave my true brothers the opportunity to seek revenge on you. The Crow you killed was my brother. My father sired him upon a proper Crow woman. He captured the white bitch first. She belonged to him, not to you. I simply returned her to where she belongs... to a true warrior who will put her in her place. She never was nor ever will be yours. You shall never see her again. If you try, Black Sun will kill her and the one called Sa-man-tha. You would do well to forget her. For the sake of your people, you should marry Prairie Flower. She will make a fine bride. One that will give you children worthy of your father's lineage," Red Claw retorted.
"Who is Black Sun to you?" Night Wolf's curiosity had been aroused.
"Also one of my brother's," Red Claw replied as he drew his knife from its sheath. "It is rude to speak of the dead. I will not utter his name. The other man you killed was my cousin. Challenge me, pup, I will send you screaming into the afterlife where my fallen kin will spend an eternity making you pay for their murder."
Night Wolf glared at Red Claw, not fearing the older warrior's words. "Your words hold no weight. Falling Water will always be mine. She is a gift from the Great Spirit. She gave her maidenhead to me." A satisfied smirk crossed Night Wolf's handsome face. "Furthermore, you will pay for your treachery and betrayal. You are my enemy now."
Without warning, Red Claw lunged at Night Wolf, slashing the blade of his knife across Night Wolf's chest. A thin line of blood blossomed from the cut. Night Wolf hissed at the sharp pain before making his own attack, rending a ragged cut across Red Claw's chest. With a guttural growl, a grimace of pain crossed his face; Red Claw lunged again at Night Wolf. Night Wolf sidestepped, bringing his knife down swiftly, jaggedly slicing a gash from Red Claw's shoulder to his waist. Red Claw howled in pain, kicking his opponent squarely on his chest. Night Wolf grunted, his lungs fighting for breath. Shaking off the pain, Night Wolf rallied, avoiding Red Claw's blade before delivering a hard punch to the older warrior's mouth and nose. Red Claw bellowed.
The two combatants circled each other, both looking for the opening to take down his opponent. Red Claw struck first, goading Night Wolf then he jabbed his sharp blade into Night Wolf's shoulder, narrowly missing the younger man's jugular. "I will kill you, wolf pup. Then I'll make my claim on the white bitch as your blood seeps its way into the ground."
Night Wolf ignored him, blocking out the vicious taunts. "I will not die so easily," he laughed. "Many Crow scalps hang from my lodge pole. Yours shall join them." Night Wolf seized the moment to lunge at Red Claw, knocking the older warrior to the ground when his forearm connected with Red Claw's head, even though Red Claw attempted to block it.
"They are the scalps of women and children that hang on your lodge pole, pup," Red Claw growled breathlessly. The hard fall to the ground left him gasping for breath. Red Claw rolled to his side, as he received the rib-cracking kick to his side. He clenched his jaw as whimper of pain whistled through his teeth, he tried to get up, but Night Wolf kicked him again. Then Night Wolf dropped, slamming his knee violently into Red Claw's chest.
"You are a beaten man, Red Claw. You will tell me where Black Sun took Falling Water. Then you will face the council for your treachery." Night Wolf rolled Red Claw onto his stomach, grabbed a handful of hair then jerked his back to expose Red Claw's unprotected throat.
"Finish it!" Red Claw growled.
Night Wolf unleashed a wicked laugh, running his blade across Red Claw's high cheekbone, slicing a gash from his nose to his temple. Red Claw screamed. Night Wolf then grabbed his beaten foes braids, hacking each off before drooping them in front of the beaten man. "You are unworthy of a warrior's death." He then slammed his fallen foes face into the dirt, spitting upon him before dragging him to the center of the village. Night Wolf threw Red Claw down at Medicine Bull's feet, watching as a look of surprise crossed the chief's face.
"What is the meaning of this, nae'ha (my son)?" Medicine Bull asked as his filled his pipe with tobacco, motioning for his son to sit beside him.
"Red Claw is behind this morning's attack on the village." Night Wolf calmly stated, "He is also responsible for the disappearance of Falling Water. He gave her to his Crow brother. I overheard him talking to Prairie Flower about removing her rival. I have no affection for Prairie Flower, no interest in the maiden. Ného'e (Father), I bring Red Claw to you. Let the council decide his punishment for betraying his mother's people."
Medicine Bull carefully eyed his son then the beaten warrior groaning at his feet. "Red Claw is of two hearts, conflicted between his Óoetaneo'o (Crow) and Tsitsistas (Cheyenne) blood. He'heeno (Black Bird), Red Claw's mother, is a fine woman, gentle and caring, too gentle to have survived in the Crow camp. We were lucky to have rescued her when we did. By then, she was already with child. She refused to give the babe to his father's people. It caused much strife, but your grandfather who was chief at the time was able to negotiate a peace with Proud Bear, the Óoetaneo'o chief of the time. In exchange for Black Bird, we gave them many ponies and many buffalo robes. We forged a short lived peace. Black Bird raised Red Claw with only the help of her mother and father, who have both passed on to the spirit world. Once Red Claw reached manhood, he sought his vision. He has been a torn soul ever since. It was only a matter of time before he betrayed us."
"Did you know he would? Couldn't you have done anything to stop him?" Night Wolf replied vehemently.
"Coyote and Grass Man had visions concerning him. I always felt in my heart the angry soul of his Óoetaneo'o ného'e (Crow father) would lead him astray. Council will gather soon. We will decide his fate."
Night World inclined his head respectfully, "Néá'eše, ného'e. I must find Falling Water. He gave her to his Crow brother. Perhaps you will be more successful in loosening his tongue."
Night Wolf stood, returning to his lodge. He sat upon the furs where he and Falling Water slept each night, hanging his head. Time was of the essence. He had to find Falling Water soon. Her survival would depend on it.
Once the tribal council had gathered, Medicine Bull called upon Night Wolf to tell the tale of what had transpired. Night Wolf spoke of the tracks leading to the grove of trees as well as the trail he followed back to Red Claw's lodge. He told of the mark in Red Claw's horse's hoof, which left the incriminating track. Then he spoke of the clandestine conversation between Red Claw and Prairie Flower, of Red Claw confessing to the maiden that he'd disposed of her rival, making way for the maiden to have Night Wolf. Finally he spoke of their altercation outside of the village. Night Wolf reiterated Red Claw's words concerning his Crow blood. He then spoke of how stealing Falling Water away was revenge for the death of Red Claw's brother and cousin, Black Tail Eagle and Whirling Cloud.
When Red Claw had the chance to speak his peace, glaring at Night Wolf, he remained silent. Finally Red Claw scathingly departed his last words to Night Wolf, "The fate of the vé'ho'á'e (white woman) rests on your shoulders. Black Sun will kill her and her sister. You would do well to forget about her."
Red Claw's fate was decided then handed down by the council. They ordered him to be turned over to the mercies of the women grieving for the lost husbands and children. Big Pine, shamed by his daughter's involvement with Red Claw, tied the warrior with his arms stretched above his head to a thick pole driven into the ground. The grieving women went at him with knives cutting, digging their fingernails into his flesh. A pool of congealed blood rested at the base of his mutilated body; his eyes, ears, fingers, toes, and genitalia were missing. Still Night Wolf was no closer to finding Falling Water.
Dawn found Night Wolf leaving his village behind. He vowed not to return until he brought his woman home. It was his mission, the need that rode him relentlessly. With one final look back, Night Wolf set out.