Tales and Tests
After staying nearly a week the posse have managed to trade and get to know at least a few of their hosts and the tribe are warming up a little more towards them. Daren has gotten better at their language and has helped the tribe with making a canoe. Jeb, Dr. Pat and Corky have traded a little with the tribe. Jeb has also learned the word for “no” and made sure every one of the tribes women knew his name. Joe has taught the tribe how to recognize cards and made up a simple war game with the cards and with such gambling has earned himself some knucklebone necklaces and a feathered and beaded bag.
The Shaman Speaks with wind is still not sure about this Wendigo Taint thing but he does still want to seek out Kibechay in the Hunting Grounds and all those who wish to participate join him in a couple of the rituals in preparation. First he fasts, then he’s doing some meditation and some chanting and the final ritual is the peyote ritual. Daren, Dancing Crow, Dr. Pat and Joe all participate. Corky sits with them and takes notes about the activity. Jeb was carving a spoon as he’s still trying to hook up with one of the tribes women. Not long after this Jeb finally found some success in his flirtations and met a nice Squaw who took him out in the woods for a fun time. The romance does not go unnoticed by others however. ..
The members of Posse joining the Shamans in the Hunting Grounds enter the spiritual world there and wait. Finally after maybe an hour, Kibechay shows up with a big satchel of weapons at his side. After initial greetings and at Speaks with Winds request, he tells of his encounter with the Posse and the circumstances of his death. He also shares what he has learned about the Enemy (Wendigo, though the name is not used in the Hunting Grounds). He has not been able to learn much only that the enemy must be very powerful and is in the Hunting Grounds somewhere. He also shares the biggest news he has, which is that the reason for all the new found power for his people and other tribes too is because the Great Spirit War was recently lost and that is why things have changed in the world.
Speaks with Wind tells of the Great Spirit War: that in the time of legends the world was filled with many horrible things and the people were frightened, then the most powerful of the Warriors and the greatest of the Shamans fought the evil Spirits where ever they could be found, even in the Hunting Grounds. It is also speculated that the darkest of the evil spirits in the deepest parts of the Hunting Grounds were loosed, that these great spiritual warriors who lost the battle were keeping the darkest of the evil power in the Hunting Grounds contained some how.
Most details are not known and Kibechay vows to continue to seek knowledge of why and of the enemy and its weaknesses. He does share with Joe that the reason why the Deceitful One focused so much on him in that battle was because he recognized how powerful Joe is in the Hunting Grounds. Kibechay tells him that the strange white man way of working with the spirits is very powerful here in the Hunting Grounds.
At Daren’s request the Shaman Speaks with Wind tells him how he might gain notice of or contact his Guardian Spirit – that the best way is to use his song, which he should have been taught. So Daren goes off to the side and howls like a wolf. It takes him a few attempts and finally he receives an answering howl in the distance. Then after several minutes the brushes quiver and a wolf steps out and greets Daren, calling him Pup. The two of them howl together for a while and then the Wolf seems satisfied that Daren knows his song. So Daren has now gained a powerful ally among the Spirits.
After returning from the Hunting Grounds Speaks with Wind urges all to sleep and asks that the Posse prepare to tell their tale again to the whole tribe the following night and that he will also tell the Arapaho’s tale of the Wendigo. It’s clear he means to make it an educational night for everyone. He also shares with the Posse that two of the Tonkawa that Gennotoka told them of are now among the Arapaho. He will not tell them who they are but will suggest to them that they could approach the Posse and share their stories.
One of the tribe does approach Daren and Dancing Crow and tells them about the Tonkawa, that they are a dead tribe, and their rites of Cannibalism are practiced by them to gain strength and power. After some discussion the Brave known among the Arapaho as New Warrior agrees it must not be the same spirits. New Warrior also shares with them that two of his brothers have headed north to Medicine Wheel and that there were White Men of that Southern White Law (Texas Rangers) who participated in the Tonkawa’s rites of Strength too. One of them is still known to the Tonkawa and other tribes and goes by Walks in two Worlds when living among them.
The next evening as requested the Shaman has the tribe gather in the evening after the work of the day is done and has the Posse tell their tales. It goes fairly well. Then the Shaman tells the Arapaho’s tale of the Wendigo:
Long ago when Eagle spirit was busy, and the Great Spirit was distracted, there was a foolish village of the people who fell prey to the evil spirit; Wendigo. The Foolish Village was led by a very old shaman named Old Horse and he was tired, and angry, and he did not care what his people did any longer. He led his people in the rituals, he spoke and sang for the spirits favor but his efforts were but sounds in the breeze, meaning little for his spirit was no longer speaking.
Old Horse let the people forget important things. His Chief Tree Shadow was of a similar age and did not help in these things. Tree Shadow was missing his wife and had been for many winters. As short trees grow taller so did the Foolish Village’s forgetfulness grow season by season til one spring the people did not bother to sow seed in the usual spots as they left their winter camp.
Now this was noticed by one of the village, the chief’s daughter Wolf Woman saw and spoke up, complaining that the seed had been forgotten, but she was not heard by any of the Foolish Village. Long before, Wolf Woman had earned her name for her lack of cunning, for her loud words and brash behavior. She was thought more wolf than woman as she hunted like a man and did not like doing the chores women did. For this reason she had never left her father’s teepee, for what man wanted a woman who would fight with him over everything?
Though her village did not hear her, Wolf Woman continued to talk of their forgetfulness until one of the village braves; Laughing Jay taunted her. He said her words were the whining of an old dog. Wolf Woman was silenced by this because Laughing Jay was the strongest and best of the village’s warriors. He was also fair of face, and many of the women of the village liked to look at him. Wolf Woman was not immune and of all the men of the village, save her father, Laughing Jay was the only one she admired.
Spring turned into summer and the people of the Foolish Village continued to neglect the spirits and they soon forgot other vital things. The season of plenty became a time of feasting. Wolf Woman saw that instead of saving meat, all the women had taken to cooking all that the braves killed. When Wolf Woman complained of this, she was again ignored. Weary of her words Laughing Jay taunted the Chief’s daughter again. Wolf woman took to bringing out the smoking racks for her own kills. Soon Wolf Woman was jeered at for finally doing women’s chores.
Over that summer the Foolish Village did not do many things that should have been done. No new snowshoes were made, no new moccasins were made, and hides were left to rot for lack of stretching. Whenever Wolf Woman would complain of these things, she was taunted and asked why she did not do these things, and so Wolf Woman tried, but she lacked skill. Her efforts were rewarded with laughter, and Laughing Jay’s hurt Wolf Woman the most.
That Fall, Foolish Village was late to travel to their winter camp because so many of the Village’s children were off playing in the forest and the people were not ready for travel. The Foolish Village took their time and when they came to the places they usually gathered grain or roots the plants were not there. Some people like Wolf Woman thought to gather from the wild, but every place was already harvested because the Foolish Villages’ sister villages had also been through those forests. Now the Foolish Village realized their mistakes and Old Horse urged everyone to hunt and store as much food as they could for the coming winter.
Too late! hissed the wind spirits, too late! whispered the leaves as they fell, and too Late sighed the snow as it piled against the Village’s hides. The Foolish Village sat in the dark at night because there were too few rush lamps and they shivered in the cold for lack of good hides.
Wolf Woman said little and at first her silence was met with angry words but her father Tree Shadow spoke instead saying he was to blame. The nights grew longer, and the days colder, but the peoples’ bellies were never full. Again there were angry words and again Wolf Woman said nothing, and this time Old Horse spoke saying he was to blame. The hunting in deep snow was bad so the horses were slain and despair sat at every meal the Foolish Village had, and when once more people spoke in anger urging Wolf Woman to speak, Laughing Jay spoke instead before she could refuse, saying she had said enough before for them all to have known her wisdom and that he felt he was to blame.
His words of sorrow brought tears to Wolf Woman’s eyes and she looked on Laughing Jay and knew she loved him. When all the food was gone, Wolf Woman went with Laughing Jay to hunt whatever they could find in the snows. Each hunting trip brought them closer, but none of the hunters came back with much to eat. All of the village despaired and many were weak, too weak to hunt. Others became sick with the winter’s ills. When one of the first died, Wolf Woman was trying once more to bring home game with Laughing Jay and the other braves. When they returned again unsuccessful, the people of Foolish Village were cooking their friend and brother. A week later Old Horse died and he was eaten as well.
The evil spirit Wendigo is always near when people are hungry. It feels their need, and it eats their anguish. When the people of Foolish Village ate of their own dead they let the Wendigo spirit into their hearts where its power over them only grew stronger. One after another, Wolf Woman’s village gave in to their hunger and ate of the flesh of a brother, or sister, father, or mother, husbands ate wives, wives ate husbands, mother’s ate children, til all the weak were dead and only the survivors felt the despair and growing hunger, for Wendigo only makes the hunger grow.
Wolf Woman felt the despair the most as even she had eaten of her own father, and now Laughing Jay put distance between them. Wolf Woman tried to get him to speak with her but he and the rest of the braves seemed different, wild or drunk she could not tell. When she finally confronted Laughing Jay he spoke of his hunger only and would not come near her. The next night a fight amongst the warriors ended with another dead and the hungry did not even cook their kill. Wolf Woman was sickened at the sight and would not eat, but Laughing Jay did and many others too.
Laughing Jay found Wolf Woman while she prayed for the Spirits help but Laughing Jay was no longer the man he had been. Wolf Woman wept for her own weakness and she ran out in the snow with her weapons. She thought to try and reach one of the sister villages. After she reached the other village and they learned of what Foolish Village had done, they told her to go back. They would not have her within their village, and the Shaman told her she must kill the Wendigo spirit if she would ever have peace.
Wolf Woman returned to the Foolish Village with food but Laughing Jay was cold eyed and claimed to now be Chief. All the others lived in fear of who would be next among them to feed the rest. That night even with food from sister village, another of her village was killed by Laughing Jay. As they ate the braves saw their new chief change from man to beast. The evil of the Wendigo spirit changed his skin, it tore his spirit. Wendigo made him into monster. The beast was covered in white fur and as tall as teepee. The thing that had been Laughing Jay turned and attacked the rest of the braves. Wolf Woman tried to fight the thing but anguish and horror made her heart rattle in her chest and so again she ran. Out of sight the thing forgot her, and once it had killed all the others it settled down to feast.
Wolf Woman prayed to the spirits, she mutilated herself, cut her hair and offered it to the spirits for any favor that would help her fight the Wendigo. When Wolf Woman was ready, she showed herself to the creature and baited it to chase her like prey. She led it to a ravine where it fell into the trap she had set for it, and there she shot every arrow and threw every spear she had til the thing was dead.
Wolf Woman felt only brief joy at her feat, for its cost was too high. When she went near the bodies of her village she could feel the power of the Wendigo spirit inside of her, and then she understood what the Shaman of sister village had meant. Wolf Woman called on the spirits once more, and she asked for the blessing of her totem spirit, the wolf. She then made a new trap with a spear and pierced her own heart to kill the last of the Wendigo spirit that lived there.
The Shaman of Sister Village found Wolf Woman and the rest of Foolish Village and performed the songs and rites to ensure that their spirits would be welcome in the Hunting Grounds. This tale was told to me by my Shaman when I was just a boy and it was told to him when he was a boy, just as it will be told to your children someday too.
Speaks with Wind followed this story with another tale that was less frightening for the children of the Tribe so they would not go to bed with the terrifying tale of the Wendigo upper most in their minds.
The next day Jeb has had another fling with his new found honey even though he learned that she has a husband. Not surprisingly the Husband has found out and stalks into the woods to confront his wife and the intrusive white man. Jeb gets attacked and after a drawn out fight which gets the Posse, Shaman and Chief, the whole village up and out into the woods; the fight is settled and Jeb has to give over his spare gun and some ammunition to the Husband as recompense.
Knowing that their grace in the Winter camp has been seriously compromised the Posse make plans to leave the next day. Speaks with Wind promises to keep working on finding a favor that will help the Posse with the Wendigo Taint and then the next morning the Posse set out to head north into Sioux territory and Deadwood.
After a few hours travel the Posse come upon a campfire apparently abandoned. The howling whine coming from the fire is what drew them closer and they find a fist sized lump of ghost rock in the campfire. Searching about they conclude the camp has been abandoned but there’s no sign of why. The horse is still there with gun and saddle bags. There’s stew bubbling over the fire and a suspicious layer of purple grey ash. Shaking their heads in wonder they pack up these items and string the horse up behind them and continue on.
They camp for the night and nothing untoward happens. They set off the next day and then about mid afternoon they come upon another campfire, that appears abandoned, only this one has three dead bodies recently killed and scalped. The miasma of blood in the air sets off the Wendigo Taint in everyone and several are drawn towards the bodies to try and taste them. Daren is intercepted by Dancing Crow who has resisted. Jeb is intercepted by a combination of people but then he flings some of the blood in the face of Corky who then can’t resist the temptation herself.
A full out brawl ensues with Corky getting shot twice before Dr. Pat steps in and uses ether to knock out the frensied Corky. While the reverend lays on hands, Jeb goes back to the bodies and searches their pockets finding some money and a claim for a Ghost rock mine somewhere near Deadwood.