by Panaklo Haklo
We can see the fire from my tent, as my brother and I walk to his. We pass clan after clan, their warriors in bright chestnuts and amber paints, others in charcoal and crimson. They follow one right behind the other to the heart of the camp. The drum softly is beating, beckoning us to come to it. Outside of his tent, Mantema is waiting, her onyx hair already dancing in the wind. She wants to go, I can see it in her eyes, but she can not. Her stomach is like a ripe gourd, full and round. They are expecting a youngling. Mantema told me, last time I ate with them, that when Holtatha Hopaii came from the forest to visit them, he said the youngling will have great power and will have even greater medicine. They both had the widest smiles, when they told me, and beamed like they had seen Solum.
"Mantema, has your family left yet?" Nashoba Nowa asks. He is worried. He does not want to keep them from going when their ancestors wanted to.
"No, they have not. My Father is still putting on his paint, I just came from there." Her father, Chuka Holtathabi, is one of our oldest warriors, but his time is almost over. His ribs have begun to sink into his chest. Chuka Holtathabi soon will join as an elder, which not many warriors do. Talako Abi, another warrior, was almost an Elder, but he died from an arrow wound that would not heal.
I turn away, looking up at the ancestors, as they embraced. Perhaps one day? I think to myself.
"You found the paints."
"Yes," I say as I look back at the two.
"The spirits showed me many berries and large tracts of clay."
"Thank you Mantema, you are too kind." I hug her. She always took care of my Father and I. My brother, Father and I are the last of the Nashoba. My mother had already begun her walk when Nashoba Nowa and I were born, but she had no sisters. He tells me that he asks the spirits for a daughter to continue our clan.
"You better sleep tonight Nashoba Nowa." She puts her hands on her hips. "You better not stay up all night telling stories with the other warriors."
This is the first time they will be apart. I think.
"I won't Mantema. After Father and Holtatha Hopaii finish their pipes and after Hoyopahihla I will. " Unlike the White Man, when one of the Chahta say they will do something, they do it.
"I will see you when you get back," she says before embracing him again.
"I will see you too," he coos at her.
"Never thought I would see my brother broke." I laugh, nudging his shoulder.
"Yupk!" His cheeks begin to match the paint on his chest.
Mantema laughs, before leaving to go be with her family.
We go inside, and Nashoba Nowa grabs his club, and fan. He had found three eagle feathers for it over the last year. The handle is our Mother’s; my Father had left the feathers on her grave mixing them with the rocks that covered where she rests. I try to smile; my brother has already done so much, though he is only a winter or two older than me.
When he looks at me, he nods. "You will have your time, Yupk. You still need to find your power. When we go south I will go with you, to the edge of Chahta Sakti.”
Nashoba Nowa means well but I think he can't help me with this. When it comes to power, this is something each man has to do on his own. He knows that he had to find his without Father.
Nashoba Nowa is gone for two weeks. He says he sat with the spirits every day during that time, with no food or water. Chula and Hushi both came to tempt him, but they could not. The spirits gave him a clear amber pebble that he keeps in his hair behind his ear. I don't know what will happen when my time comes, but he now knows I will have to do that alone.
"We should go join Father." I insist. It should be starting soon.
He nods and we leave.
The drum has been beckoning me all night and my stomach is twisted in knots. I feel like I ate bad meat. The fire shines bright and breathing life into the patterns on the dancers, causing the swirling designs to dance themselves. Like a heart the drum sounds, the elder around it providing it life. Their chants call out, the warriors answer. My father is leading them. I have never seen my father dance before. He always told us when he was younger he did, but Nashoba Nowa and I have never saw it. I guess that is how bad of medicine the White Man is. My brother is now beside him, though now he is not our Father, he is Holtatha Humma. He is the leader of Chahta. The warriors ebb and flow around the fire, like water in the river, when the elders begin to quiet then they slow and sit.
I stand as a few of the older Taloa Imponna join the Elders at the drum and they talk quietly. I stand there, and it feels like reptorems are climbing my legs, making me feel like I had to scratch everywhere. I have danced before, but never for this. It feels different. I look to the ancestors and where Lun will be before I close my eyes. Then comes the first beat, and the second. I feel my body move, first my feet and then my hands follow the drum around the fire. I am answering every call that is made.Is it the Elders? The ancestors? Perhaps Solum? I know not. We are like leaves in the wind swirling like the spirits of the forest as Coleus flew through. As soon as it began, it ends, and my head feels light, and my stomach unknotted.
I am sad it is over, but I feel warm in my chest and arms. It can be bad if I dance too much. I looked at the dancers and watch for a while, watching the colors and shapes on them contort. I see it in the corner of my eye, and the dancers look up, the Elders stop. White owl after owl flew across our camp. It is so quiet that I can hear their wings flap.
Then I hear it. It does not sound like thunder, it sounds like the very sky tore itself asunder. What comes next is like a whine of a youngling separated from its mother. I turn to Nashoba Nowa and my body runs cold.
Before I can even move, I am knocked to the ground, fire and wood shooting into the sky. No matter how hard I try, I can't breathe. I try to stand, but keep falling over. I turn my head too fast and my eyes can not keep up. I am helped on my feet. It is Mantema, she is saying something, but I can’t hear her. She puts my arm over her shoulder and pulls me into the forest. This is their sky medicine.
Author: Panaklo Haklo