Death & Rebirth
The year is 1754
A crisp fall day marks the nineteenth year of the Cherokee – Creek War over the Northwest Georgia hunting grounds. The red and yellow foliage blankets the misty Smoky Mountains to the east. The rich topsoil has given up its yearly bounty of corn, vegetables and fruits. It has been safely stowed away for the winter that is quickly descending on the City of Refuge, Chota.
The Ada’wehi (A-DA’-WAY-HEE) or shaman builds a War Fire from coals of the Sacred Fire beside Oconostota’s hothouse, keeping it burning for four days as the warriors ready themselves for battle. On the fifth day, the warriors now cleansed for battle, the Ada’wehi places the War Fire in a red clay pot equipped with a wooden handle and carries the War Fire through town. Arriving outside the Council House, he stands beside Little Carpenter. Now in his seventies, Little Carpenter is dressed in his finest robe, turban and moccasins. He is wrapped in the White Feather Robe signifying his position as Peace Headman.
Beside Little Carpenter stands Oconostota. In his fifties now, he is still an imposing figure, dressed in traditional breechclout, leggings and moccasins. To signify his position as War Headman, Oconostota wears the War Headdress made from a wolf’s face and pelt. The face of the wolf pelt sits on Oconostota’s head while the body trails down the length of his back, ending with the wolf’s tail dangling at the back of his knees. All of his visible skin is covered in black war paint that represents death. His choice of weapons are a brass French-made smoker-hawk hanging at his side, his musket and a large flint knife.
Oconostota is flanked by KAI-YAH-TA-HEE, Long Fellow, the Raven of Chota, and the Tassel, dressed in breach-clouts, leggings and moccasins and wrapped in buffalo robes. Both are covered in red war paint with a mask of black war paint over their eyes.
They watch the procession of warriors led by red war-painted Tsi’yu-gunsini Dragging Canoe, now twenty. Stout, stoic and muscular, his face is pocked-marked from his boyhood illness. Beside him is his brother, Little Owl, fifteen, in red war paint. Both warriors have their tomahawks, flint knives and muskets. The black war paint across their eyes enhances their fierce appearance.
The procession consists of thirty male warriors in buckskin and buffalo robes. Their faces and heads are hairless with the exception of topknots. They too are covered in red war paint with black paint masking the eyes. Ten War Women, wearing the same clothing and war paint as the men, follow them. They remain bare-breasted and carry an array of weapons as the men do. A few have muskets, but most carry bows and arrows as their long-range weapons. The Tsalagi, who prefer close fighting, each carry flint knives with their main weapons of choice being either French-made smoker-hawks or traditional war clubs made from buffalo jaw bones.
The warriors make their way through the town toward the Council House. They are leading their horses, both men and women warriors, joining the war party. At the rear of the procession are the wives – their lack of war paint signifies they are non-combatants and safe from attack. Each wife leads horses that pull travois loaded with food and other essentials for the long campaign.
The procession passes Nanye’Hi’s lodge. Outside is her husband “Tsu-la” Kingfisher, age twenty, six-foot and muscular. He is in red war paint wrapped in a buffalo robe carrying two muskets, a bow, and tomahawk and flint knife. He is standing beside his wife Nanye’Hi’ – now seventeen, a tall, physically powerful woman with long, dark brown hair braided and arranged tightly on her head. She is wrapped in a buffalo robe, covering her knee-length breechclout. She wears a loose fitting vest held together by a single leather string at the base of her breast, with knee-high leggings and moccasins. As a wife and not a War Woman, she wears no war paint. The couple are giving their two young children, KA-SE-WEE-NEE, Catherine, age two, and Litli Welo, Little Fellow, age three, the last good-bye hugs and kisses.
Nanye’Hi’s mother, Tame Doe, approaches them as Kingfisher jumps up to mount his horse bareback. Nanye’Hi’, with tears in her eyes, tries to comfort her crying children. “Kasewini, Litli-Welo, I must go with your father to fight the Muskogee. Do not cry – I will return. Stay with OO-lee-see (Grandmother),” she tells them. “ Doh-dah-dah-go-huh-ee – two person, until we meet again.”
Tame Doe takes the children by their hands, leading them away as they cry out for their mother. In the distance, an owl calls out its mournful omen of death, causing Tame Doe to wince. She watches as the owl flies southeast from his perch in the large poplar tree. She turns, looking back at Nanye’Hi’ in horror. Nanye’Hi’ also hears the owl’s call of certain doom. With tears and a hint of uncertainty, she tells her Mother, “doh-nah-dah-go-huh-ee – one person, until we meet again.” Tame Doe rushes to her side, whispering, “Nan-yah’-Hee’! The owl calls for someone to fly to the Nightland with him. Who will accept his call?”
A light snow begins to fall on Nanye’Hi’. Heavy-hearted, she peers up into the overcast sky in deep thought and prayer as the snowflakes fall upon her tear-stained face. But she must focus on the task ahead. Nudging her horse’s flanks, she rides out beside her husband toward the Council House.
Once they reach the Council House, the people form a semi-circle around Oconostota and Little Carpenter. The warriors gather close, and the wives remain at the rear. The warriors receive their final instructions from A-DA’-WAY-HEE, the shaman.
“It is the responsibility of the War Head-Man and I to see that the fire never fades out. If the fire should fade while the war party is away from Chota, return home with defeat upon you. If the fire fades out during battle, Oconostota must retreat, and the war party must return to Chota. Should the war party be in battle and defeat is on them, it is the responsibility of Oconostota, the Ada’wehi and any living warrior to shatter the fire pot and scatter the War Fire. The fire pot must be shattered, and the War Fire scattered, denying our enemy the gain of our War Fire’s powers!”
Mounting up and leading the war party, Oconostota and the Ada’wehi with the War Fire depart Chota. Bringing up the rear, Wild Rose joins the other wives following their warriors and husbands with the horse-drawn travois. As the war party heads southeast to the cheers of the townspeople, two white men watch as they leave. These are two gruff traders dressed in buckskins and carrying muskets, tomahawks, metal bladed knives, buffalo powder horns and minie-ball pouches made from buffalo scrotums. One is Ole Hood, a rather scruffy man in his forties. Alongside him is the cleanly dressed Big Foot Spencer, a Scotsman and giant of a man nearly seven feet tall. Over his buckskin hunting shirt and breaches, he wears a green and black plaid Glengarry wool blanket, and his huge feet are covered with knee-high moccasins. After the war party leaves, Ole Hood and Big Foot mount bareback horses and ride out of Chota, crossing the river headed northeast, leading five packhorses loaded with buffalo robes, deerskins and beaver pelts.
Several days later, they arrive at a stream circling the foot of a very steep mountain. Looking up, Ole Hood in disbelief points up at smoke from campfires on top of the mountain. “Ah, hell! That’s got to be it up yonder. Never heard of a Tsalagi puttin’ a town on top of a mountain, though. It puzzles the mind.”
“Quiet your griping, you old Bodach,” Big Foot replies in a strong Gaelic accent, “We have only one more mountain ta climb.”
“Yeah, and a cold stream to cross first,” Ole Hood grumbles.
Aggravated, Big Foot shakes his head. “I say quiet your bellyaching.”
“Just kind of queer is all,” Ole Hood retorts. “Don’t be getting uppity.”
The two seasoned mountaineers continue to feel their way around through the tree-covered mountain from the south side to the west where they discover a stream that forms a small waterfall for the last hundred feet. Beside the stream is a steep trail snaking its way up the mountain.
“This must be the gap to Seven Springs that Little Carpenter told us about,” Big Foot says.
After almost four hours on the tortuous trail, the two mountaineers break the crest of the mountain and cautiously inspect the situation before exposing themselves further. The town has many log structures on the tree-covered summit, blanketed by a light snow and cloaked in a mist. They can see several springs bubbling up, trapped in man-made pools to hold the water. At one end of each pool are man-made rock gutters for the overflow that leads from the pools to the stream the men followed up the mountain.
As unannounced strangers in this town, they are startled that no guards have confronted them. In fact, the opposite is true – Cherokee men and women alike nod and greet them with a friendly “O-Si-Yo!” Big Foot and Ole Hood return the gesture with a smile, but they remain wary as they roam about the small town, admiring the ample trading of goods. Inwardly, they are filled with anxiety about being allowed to continue unimpeded. Slowly Ole Hood terminates all movement except for placing a hand on Big Foot’s arm. Big Foot suspends his own actions except for a glimpse back over his shoulder.
Ole Hood’s keen gaze is locked in place, he points with his chin toward a group of men huddled around one particular trader. The two observe the men locked in an active banter of mixed English, French and Cherokee languages. The three English-speaking traders are wearing long wool hunting coats. The two French-speaking trappers, however, are dressed in buckskin with buffalo robe ponchos draped over their shoulders, making it difficult to separate them from the Tsalagi gathered around them. The English and French are in forceful conversations, trading goods with a huge young Tsalagi man who remains silent. He is sitting outside his small trading post, a log lean-to with a low roofline. Ole Hood gives a sly nod to Big Foot, pointing out that a much larger lean-to in the rear houses a copper whiskey distillery.
Because most of the trading centers on this one trading post, Ole Hood sizes up the Indian trader.
“He looks to be no more than about twenty years old,’ he mumbles softly to Big Foot, “He seems to be a fair trader, but from the looks of that deep scar on his face, it appears he takes no guff.”
The Tsalagi trader stands silently beside by the lean-to that houses thirty clay jugs with corncob plugs. The interchange between the French and English intensifies over the trading of pelts and buffalo robes owned by the French trappers for the wool blankets, powder and ball owned by the English traders. The French are vigorously waving their arms about while the English are pounding their fists in their palms.
Then the Tsalagi trader makes a sudden chopping motion with his arm. All is silent as he speaks in Mobilian sign language first to the French, motioning them to take five of the clay jugs, one box of ball and one small keg of powder. The French reply in kind, gathering up their bounty and walking away, leaving their furs and robes on the ground. The Tsalagi trader then signs to the English traders who leave their trade goods at his feet and quickly gather up twenty of the clay jugs and half of the furs left by the French trappers, load them on their packhorses and leave.
As the Tsalagi trader puts his goods away in the lean-to, Ole Hood nudges Big Foot toward the trader. They approach carrying their muskets cradled in their arms, leading their horses and pack mules that are loaded with furs and buffalo robes. Ole Hood never taking his eyes off the young Tsalagi, but whispers to Big Foot, “He’s a strange one. Damn, he might’n near tall as you.”
The young trader quickly sizes up both of these white traders with a sharp penetrating stare, addressing them in a Cherokee dialect that is not familiar to the strangers:
“O-si-yo! What’s your business?”
They stop a few feet short of the trader, careful not to come too close until properly asked. Big Foot replies warmly in Overhill Cherokee, “O-si-yo. Name’s Big Foot. This here is Ole Hood. Needing staple goods, powder and ball.” The young trader looks down at Big Foot’s huge feet straining at the buckskin moccasins and snickers. “Big Foot, uh!”
Carrying his cradled musket, the affable Ole Hood steps up to the young trader. He reaches out to shake the young trader’s hand, but the trader declines his invitation of friendship. Disappointed, Ole Hood withdraws his hand and scratches his head with a puzzled look. Turning to Big Foot, he whispers, “Never seen a Tsalagi that didn’t like a good story or a joke.”
The reserved Big Foot scowls, “Hood, don’t ya be startin’! No one wants to hear them damn old stories!” The affable Ole Hood looks up at Big Foot smiling, “Watch this!” Then he turns smiling away at the young trader and says in Cherokee.“O-si-yo! Name’s Hood, they call me Ole Hood. Got a story for ya!”
Still no reaction from the trader. Ole Hood reaches into a small leather pouch on his side and offers the tobacco to the trader, but the trader declines. Hood shrugs, wads the tobacco leaves up and puts them in his jaw. Hood chews the tobacco vigorously while he looks the young trader in the eye, staring at him intently. The trader just stares back blank-faced, never blinking. Turning his head to the side, Ole Hood spits a large plume of brown tobacco juice on the snow. The young trader watches the brown syrupy juice hit the white snow then he slowly returns his full attention back on to Ole Hood. The two men share a short moment just staring at one another.
“Ok then!” Ole Hood remains still a second then suddenly calls out, “Oh, hell! Since you asked.” He cranks up with arms waving and pointing. This causes the stunned Tsalagi warrior to step back with his hand on his smokerhawk and at the ready as Ole Hood starts his story in Cherokee.
“When Big Foot first came to the Overhill Country, the Real People saw these huge tracks, and they thunk it was a giant bear or one of them huge hairy wild things that roam this country,” he began. “They was scared enough, but when they saw this huge hairy creature up close, they messed their breach clouts, I tell ya! Thought it was one of the wild people. A half-man, half-bear sort of sumpun! Since I had a gun, they sent me aftern’ him. I tracked him down – weren’t hard with them huge tracks.”
With a playful nod, Hood smiles up at a snarling Big Foot. Turning his attention back to the Tsalagi trader, Ole Hood carries on in Cherokee. “I found him living in a huge hollow beech tree like some sort of wild animal. He was a dreadful sight all right, hair everywhere. Hell, all he be a-wearn’ was hair. He weren’t wearn’ no clothes! I took aim, but when I saw it might be a man – well, sort of – -and not a giant bear or one of them half-creature, half-man sort of things they talk about at Chota, I didn’t shoot. But I tell you for sure he was a scary sight, but the scariest thing was them big ugly feet. They are so big and ugly they just sit up and stare at ya!”
Hood pauses, shaking his head. “Never seen feet that big before. On nothing!”
Big Foot is clearly not amused.
The young trader laughs and once again sizes up the two men. “Why you called Ole Hood?” he asks in English.
“You speak English?” Ole Hood replies, a little surprised.
The young trader laughs again: “Tuh-huh!”
Angered at being the center of Hood’s joke, Big Foot pushes Hood to the side and steps up to the trader. “Let me be a telling ya why he is called Ole Hood,” he begins. “He be called Ole Hood because he’s been old since the day he be born. His father came in the room the morning he was being hatched and was gonna shoot his mama, ‘cause he thought Hood was an old man in bed with his young wife. But he decided if she was poking summup that old and ugly, he didn’t want nothing else to do with her anyways.”
Laughing heartily, the Tsalagi trader puts out his hand in friendship, now greeting his guests properly. “Welcome to Seven Springs. They call me Is-aac.”
Ole Hood shakes Isaac’s hand, but quickly offends the young man with his next remark: “Kind of strange Tsalagi making a town on top of a mountain. What’s the story?”
Affronted by the comment, Isaac whips out his flint knife and puts it to Ole Hood’s throat.
“Why? You English spies?”
“Now hang on there, Isaac,” Ole Hood nervously replies, dropping his musket and holding up his hands, “We are traders from west of the mountains at Chota.”
Unconsciously rubbing the scar on the side of his face, Isaac apologizes. “The English dogs drove us from our lands in Virginia, killing nearly all our people,” he explains. “My father, William, led us to this mountain to keep us safe from the English.”
Big Foot slaps his thigh. “So, William The Emigrant be ya Pappy? I be damn!”
“Tuh-huh. Why?” Isaac asks.
“He’s well thought of by the Tsalagi in the western towns. Is that where you got them scars?”
Isaac’s eyes grow cold. “I hate the English dogs and the Irish that run with them,” he says.
Ole Hood and Big Foot look briefly at one another with concern, and then smile at Isaac in unison. Ole Hood leans in toward him and whispers, “There is a girl in Chota that has spoke fondly of ya. Said she met you some years back. Her name is Nan-yah’-Hee’! Said if’n we saw you to tell you o-si-yo for her.”
Isaac’s face lights up. “I think of her often.”
Big Foot smiles, “She’s still there – with her children and husband, Kingfisher.”
Subdued by the news of her marriage, Isaac changes the subject.
“What you trade?”
“Beaver and buffalo hides from west of the Little Tennessee River and east of the Mississippi. Yeah, heard you had about the best trade stock in these parts. We ‘bout out of everything.”
Big Foot chimes in, “We trade with the Tsalagi west of the mountains at Chota and in need of supplies.”
At the mention of Chota, Isaac shows interest. “I have heard of Chota over the mountains,” he says. “I have long thought of setting up trade there.”
Ole Hood spits out the spent tobacco he had been chewing and reaches back in the small leather pouch. He puts several more leaves of tobacco in his jaw and also offers tobacco to Isaac. As Isaac accepts, Old Hood looks him dead in the eye and says softly, “Well, no one knows the over-the-hill country better than me and Big Foot. Maybe we can work something out, if you a being interested?”
Isaac smiles. “You look thirsty. Come, let us talk.”
Ole Hood is shocked. “You got whiskey?” he blurts out.
Tuh-huh! My father made whiskey in Virginia,” Isaac says. “We trade Tsalagi for corn. Father makes the whiskey. We trade whiskey to the English dogs and French for blankets, tomahawks, guns, ball and powder.”
Ole Hood and Big Foot break out in huge smiles.
“Damn good system! Everybody’s happy. Ain’t had a taste of the spirits in quite a while.”
Following closely behind Isaac, the two mountain men enter the trading post filled with goods and trinkets. Isaac takes a seat on a buffalo robe laid on the dirt floor. Ole Hood and Spencer lean their muskets against the wall and sit down on wooden kegs. Isaac pours whiskey from a gourd into hand-carved wooden cups, and there is a moment of silence as the three men sip their whiskey. Then Isaac asks about rumors he has heard lately. “I hear that the Tsalagi over the mountains are troubled by the English dogs,” he says.
Ole Hood shakes his head. “The Tsalagi hedged their bets with the British by letting them build Fort Prince George and Fort Loudoun on their ground,” he answers.
Big Foot butts in. “But lately the Tsalagi have been pressed to find new hunting ground to make up for what they are losing to the white settlers crossing the mountains into overhill country.” Big Foot takes another sip of whiskey, and then continues, “In the Northwest Georgia territory, the Tsalagi are still in a war with the Mus-ko-Gee over a dispute about hunting grounds.”
“They left Chota a few days ago the same day we did,” Ole Hood adds, “They were headed south in the direction of the Taliwa hunting grounds. They left in war paint, so it won’t be no buffalo they be after.”
“Tell me more of Chota,” Isaac asks eagerly as he refills their cups with whiskey.
Taliwa, Northwestern Georgia, January 1755,
It was a frigid cold winter’s morning. The hardwood and mixed pine forests of the Southern Smoky Mountains are blanketed in a heavy snow. Materializing out of the wooded embankment is a lone warrior on his bareback horse. Oconostota. He is adorned in black war paint and wolf headdress and is wrapped in a buffalo robe. His musket is resting at the ready across his lap and his French smokerhawk is at his side. His normally fierce eyes are tired and weary as he inspects every bush, tree and rock in the area for any lurking Creek warriors. Every nerve senses danger is near, but his eyes and ears fail to detect the enemy.
The Mortar, a fierce adversary, leads the Muskogee, and Oconostota knows his opponent all too well. His prowess as a fierce warrior and a brilliant strategist has earned him Oconostota’s respect and admiration. A part of Oconostota dreads the day they will meet once again. He knows many of his own valiant warriors will meet their end, yet the warrior in Oconostota craves the battle he knows is soon to come.
Now appearing from the shelter of the woods are The Tassel, The Raven, Dragging Canoe, Little Owl, the Ada’wehi, Five Killer and Kingfisher in war paint. They ease slowly out onto the snow-covered bank of the river. Moments later, more than twenty men and women warriors follow suit. The remaining warriors make their way to the edge of the woods and pause before exposing themselves fully in the openness of the stream bed. Remaining in the safety of the woods are Nanye’Hi and the other wives.
The horses’ nostrils shoot out rhythmic pulses of steam as the nearly frozen Tsalagi war party descends the sloping embankment onto the rock-lined stream bed. As the warriors’ horses enter the knee-deep icy stream, the cracking sound of the ice breaking shatters the winter silence.
Concealed in the evergreen trees upstream is the Mortar, the Mus-ko-gee (Creek) Head-Man, watching intently. Behind him in the woods are fifty of his seasoned Creek warriors, poised for attack. The Mortar continues watching through the branches of the evergreen tree as the Tsalagi War Party advances slowly toward his trap. His eyes focus on the lone warrior he respects most, Oconostota, but he restrains the impulse to strike.
Oconostota hesitates in midstream, his body motionless as he continues to inspect every bush and tree. His uneasy eyes seek but cannot find his adversary. Next to Oconostota are his lead warriors, The Tassel, The Raven, Kingfisher, Dragging Canoe and Little Owl. They sense Oconostota’s uneasiness and become even more wary, cautiously proceeding toward a bend in the icy stream. Oconostota’s inner voice tells him the enemy is close. He comes to a halt, and his heightened tension is an unspoken warning that quickly spreads throughout the entire war party, reaching Nanye’Hi’ who remains in the safety of the woods.
From the protection of his wooded vantage point above the stream, the Mortar slowly draws back his bow, holding the arrow until Oconostota is in position for the clean kill.
Oconostota slowly eases further out into the stream, but stops when he hears a scout on horseback racing up from behind him.
The Mortar releases his arrow.
The scout pulls his mount to a sliding halt just in front of Oconostota and points to the bend of the river that hides the Mortar.
Just as the warrior opens his mouth to speak, the arrow meant for Oconostota strikes the scout in the eye, sending him backward into the icy waters. His blood sprays the white ice and turns the snow a brilliant crimson.
From the tree-lined ridge, the Mortar screams a bloodcurdling war cry, igniting the Creek warriors to attack. Remaining hidden from their prey, the Creek warriors open with a heavy fusillade of arrows and musketry.
The Tsalagi warriors scatter, splintering off in all directions, searching desperately for cover. The chaos of battle ensues as the Tsalagi war party quickly disperses, desperately using what little cover is available on the open stream bed. Many reach the safety of the woods while others find cover behind their dead horses.
Under intense fire, Kingfisher kicks his horse to a full run through the icy waters, hoping to find a better vantage point. He reaches the opposite side of the stream. With musket in hand he dives headlong over a log. Arrows and musket shot pepper the log, pinning him down.
Meanwhile, at the edge of the woods, Nanye’Hi’ – who is carrying the ball, powder and most of the reserve muskets in her travois – sees her husband’s perilous position. She looks skyward a brief moment and calls out, “Yo-He-Ya! Give me the cover of invisibility!”
Breaking out of the safety of the woods with the travois bouncing erratically behind her, she races through the fray at a fevered pace but slows briefly as she passes the warriors so they can grab the sacks of powder and ball from the travois. Now that the travois is nearly empty, her focus is on her husband. She kicks her horse to a faster gait and rides hard across the stream, heading directly for Kingfisher, still pinned down behind the log. Covered with a shower of bullets and arrows, Nanye’Hi’ and her crazed horse jump the log and Kingfisher. The travois hits the log, sending muskets, ball and powder flying in all directions as Nanye’Hi’ bails off the horse. Landing hard on the rocky stream bed near Kingfisher, she crawls around and quickly reclaims another musket, powder and ball thrown from the travois.
Proud of his wife’s action, Kingfisher smiles briefly, grabs the musket from her, and turns and fires. He quickly exchanges the spent gun with another loaded musket from Nanye’Hi’. Taking a spent musket, she loads the powder, patch and ball and uses the ramrod to pack down the charge. She quickly dispenses powder in the flintlock breach and cocks the gun while exchanging it for the next spent musket from Kingfisher. They repeat this action over and over as the battle escalates.
From the far side of the stream bed, the Mortar points to the log on the opposite side of the stream. Instantly a Creek warrior quickly scampers up a leaning tree. From this vantage point, the warrior releases an arrow at his target.
Suddenly Kingfisher is still. Dropping his musket to the snow, he looks up at Nanye’Hi’ with a glassy-eyed stare, then slumps to the cold ground with the Creek warrior’s arrow in his chest. With his last breath, he reaches out to Nanye’Hi’.
Under a hell of arrows and shot, Nanye’Hi’ manages to cradle his head in her lap. She screams at him through her tears, “Kingfisher! Kingfisher!” As Kingfisher’s blood flows from his chest covering Nanye’Hi’ and the snow-white ground, shock consumes her. The battle continues to swirl around her as if she was in the eye of a massive whirlwind, but everything goes silent for her. “How did we get here, to this place, to this time?” she whispers to her husband.
The Tsalagi warriors continue to fight valiantly to ward off their unseen enemy, returning musket balls and arrows into the trees on the ridge above. Seconds later, Dragging Canoe screams a war whoop, bringing Nanye’Hi’ back to reality. She shakes her head to clear her mind and wipes away her tears with her blood-soaked hand, giving her the ghastly appearance of a war-painted warrior. Concentrating clearly now, she pulls Kingfisher’s tomahawk from under his lifeless body. Peeping over the edge of the log, she sees Dragging Canoe waving his tomahawk as he runs headlong toward the charging Mortar and his Creek warriors.
At midstream Dragging Canoe and the Mortar furiously collide in hand-to-hand combat. Dragging Canoe swings at the Mortar with his tomahawk, but the more experienced Mortar ducks his blow, leaving Dragging Canoe catching nothing but air. The Mortar comes up swinging his war club, striking Dragging Canoe in the head, a blow that causes Dragging Canoe to stumble backwards and fall unconscious over the log. He lies lifeless beside Kingfisher’s body and Nanye’Hi’. Racing after Dragging Canoe, the Mortar leaps up on top of the log.
Looking to finish Dragging Canoe, his attention is diverted when he sees Nanye’Hi covered in blood, staring up at him. The Mortar mistakes her for a warrior in war paint. With all his might, the Mortar brings down his war club on her. She dodges the deadly blow, rolling out of his reach. Recognizing Nanye’Hi’s peril, Oconostota races to her defense at a full run, clutching a shiny brass smoker-hawk. Only a few yards away from reaching the Mortar, Oconostota falters as an arrow pierces his thigh. and the Tassel steps in front of him. Suddenly another Tsalagi warrior attacks the Mortar from the side, but the Mortar defeats him with a single blow from his war club.
Crazed with anger, Nanye’Hi’ stands, throwing off her buffalo robe. Dressed in only her breechclout, leather vest, leggings and moccasins, she clutches her dead husband’s tomahawk. Instantly a Creek warrior descends upon her with his flint knife. Without uttering a sound, she sinks the weapon in his head. Staring with wild eyes at her victim, she quickly jerks the tomahawk free. Now completely consumed with rage and fear, Nanye’Hi’ rushes past Oconostota, waving the bloody tomahawk above her head, with a blood-curdling scream. She battles one Creek warrior after another, coming face to face with the Mortar midway of the icy stream. Nanye’Hi’ stares into the Mortar’s cold black eyes just inches away from her blood-covered face. She raises her tomahawk and screams a war whoop.
Realizing she is covered in blood instead of war paint, the Mortar slowly lowers his war club, backs up and walks away. Blank-faced she stands there, her bloody tomahawk still raised, as the Mortar retreats up the hillside with only sixteen warriors. Before entering the safety of the wooded ridge, he turns to look back at Nanye’Hi’ and raises his war club in her honor. In a blink of an eye, he vanishes into the woods.
The battle over, her adrenaline subsides, and her arms become heavy. Shivering from the cold, Nanye’Hi’ staggers around and around in circles, dragging her bloody tomahawk through the icy stream running red with blood of the dead and dying. Wet and chilled to the bone, her lips quiver and her teeth chatter violently. She gazes about until her tear-filled eyes find her dead husband. She screams out at the top of her lungs, “Kingfisher!”
Still clutching the bloody tomahawk, she runs over to the lifeless body, staring down at the man who was her husband and the father of her two children. She falls to her knees in the blood-covered snow beside him. Consumed with unbearable grief, she gently places his head in her lap and strokes his forehead. “Dah-nah-dah’ goh’-huh-ee’. Ah’s-gah-yah’-ah-nayla,” she says softly. “Until we meet again, my husband.”
With tears running down her bloody face, she reaches up and releases the two long coils of braids wrapped tightly about her head. Loosening the leather ties from the ends of the braids, she lets her long hair hang unbound, enveloping her. In her sorrow for her dead husband, she cries out, “Yah-ah-Yo-He-ta-Wah. Master of Life, I mourn. Yah-ah-Yo-He-ta-Wah. Master of Life, I mourn. Yah-ah-Yo-He-ta-Wah. Master of Life, I mourn.”
Oconostota now approaches Nanye’Hi’ and gently touches her shoulder. He removes his buffalo robe and wraps it around her shivering body. She looks down at her bloody buckskins. “Oconostota, this is not me,” she says. “I am not a warrior. I am a wife. A mother.”
Oconostota kneels down and consoles her. “Nan-yah’-Hee’! In every human lives a warrior. All warriors are judged by their enemies to be good or evil. The truth lies only in the heart of the warrior’s people, not the eyes of the enemy,” he explains. “You must seek your own truth of what you are and what you are destined by Yo-He-Wah to become.”
Joined by the Ada’wehi holding the War Fire pot intact, Oconostota raises Nanye’Hi’s arm up, still tightly clutching the bloody tomahawk. As he pulls her to her feet, the remaining warriors slowly gather around her. Once she stands fully erect with the bloodstained tomahawk outstretched to the heavens, the warriors release an explosive war whoop of approval, a sound that reverberates through her body and soul. Her skin is covered in goose bumps, not from the cold, but from an unexplainable transformation of her whole being.
Awakened by the war whoop, Dragging Canoe regains semi-consciousness and is filled with anger and shame. He hears the unrelenting chant, “ War Woman! War Woman! War Woman!”
He sees the warriors gathering about her, repeating the chant over and over:
“ War Woman! War Woman! War Woman!”
Trying to stand on his wobbly legs, Dragging Canoe staggers over to Oconostota and grabs his arm. With rage in his eyes, Dragging Canoe informs him, “I will not return with her looked upon as a warrior. Nan-yah’-Hee’ is no warrior! If she is a warrior, I take my own path!”
Oconostota replies grimly, “Nan-yah’-Hee’ is a warrior! Nan-yah’-Hee’ returns a warrior! I have spoken!”
Setting the War Fire pot on the blood-covered snow, the Ada’wehi stands in support of Oconostota’s declaration and stares at Dragging Canoe.
He proclaims so all can hear, “Nan-yah’-Hee’ stands as a warrior on this bloody ground of Taliwa! Nan-yah’-Hee’ will be presented to the Council as a DA-NA-WA A-GAY-YA, a War Woman!”
Dragging Canoe’s jaw tightens. Turning his back to the other warriors, he looks about the scene of battle with disgust and shame. Seeing his weapon lying in the blood-soaked snow, he angrily snatches it up and jumps on his horse, quickly kicking it into a full run. As he leaves the bloody ground, he is followed closely by Little Owl. With deep concern and pity, Wild Rose watches as her cousins ride out of sight.
Days later, Isaac, Ole Hood and Big Foot make their way west through the Smokey Mountains. They are riding horses and leading five loaded pack mules down a narrow trail on a thickly forested mountain ridge. Ole Hood leads the way with Isaac riding directly behind him.
“Isaac, we usually do most our trading with Fort Prince George and Fort Loudoun,” Ole Hood tells him. “But we’re fearful of catching the pox from the English.”
Riding to the rear of Isaac, Big Foot adds, “The Virginians purposely infected the trade blankets going to the Tsalagi. They have spread the pox through most all the Tsalagi towns.”
“Tuh-huh, the pox has killed off nearly half our people,” Isaac adds.
“That’s a lot of Tsi’yu-gunsini problem with the whites,” Ole Hood says sadly. Isaac is puzzled and asks, “Why does he let you be?”
“Hell, me and Big Foot has known him since he was a pup,” Ole Hood replies. “Besides, our wives are his cousins.” A sly smile comes to Big Foot’s face. “Aye, then there is his other cousin. What a lass!”
“Damn, she gets my nature up just thinking about her,” Ole Hood replies.
Big Foot looks at Hood with disgust, “You be poking a snake if one would hold his head. And poking a bush if you think a snake be in it! Get your mind outta your britches an’ back on your business!”
Suddenly Ole Hood’s face fills with concern. Pulling to a halt, he searches the valley below with a troubled gaze. Isaac and Big Foot halt as well. “What the hell are they doing out here?” Ole Hoods wonders. “They left Chota with Oconostota to fight the Creek weeks ago.”
Slowly nudging their horses onward, the three of them watch two tattered warriors head down another trail into the valley.
“Who are they?” asks Isaac.
“Nan-yah’-Hee’s cousins. The big one’s Tsi’yu-gunsini – Dragging Canoe – and his brother, Little Owl,” Big Foot answers quietly, “Both of ‘um bad news and itching to make a name for themselves.”
“Well, let’s see what’s going on,” Ole Hood says and reluctantly nudges his horse forward. “This should be interesting.”
The three slowly make their way down the narrow mountain trail with their packhorses.
As they reach the bottom, Dragging Canoe sees them, tenses and pulls up. Ole Hood calls out, “O-si-yo Tsi’yu-gunsini, Ki-teg-is-ka. It is Ole Hood and Big Foot.”
Still bloodied and in smeared war paint, Dragging Canoe and Little Owl ride the twenty or so yards to meet them. Both parties come to a stop with neither party speaking. Dragging Canoe’s attention is centered on Isaac. He rides slowly up alongside the tall stranger, inspecting Isaac from head to toe.
“Hood, who is this stranger?” he asks irately. Hood nervously stammers out, “A, a, a, a friend from Seven Springs Town.”
Testing the stranger’s resolve while relieving his own frustrations, Dragging Canoe begins chastising Isaac in Cherokee. This only increases Ole Hood and Big Foot’s uneasiness. Riding around and around Isaac, Dragging Canoe pokes at him with his bow. Isaac, disdainful, can take no more taunting. As Dragging Canoe pokes him again, Isaac grabs the bow and jerks the warrior from his horse. As Dragging Canoe falls, Isaac whips out his smoker-hawk and slaps Dragging Canoe’s head with the handle, reopening his wound. Dragging Canoe falls unconscious to the ground. Enraged by the attack on his brother, Little Owl attacks Isaac, but with a single blow from his smoker-hawk, Isaac slaps Little Owl from his horse.
Ole Hood looks down at the two of them lying unconscious on the ground and shakes his head. “Don’t let Dragging Canoe bother you,” he tells Isaac. “It is just his cantankerous spirit. Dragging Canoe is scarred real bad with the pox, inside and out. He hates ‘bout everyone. Guess we can add you to the list.”
Out of habit, Isaac unconsciously rubs the scar on his face. “We all carry our demons and tortured spirits,” he says, undaunted. The trio of traders rides away with their pack mules, leaving Dragging Canoe and Little Owl lying in the snow.
After several more miles of heavily wooded mountains, the terrain mellows out to lush hills and valleys. They come to the peak of a hill and stop. In the valley beside a wide river is a large Cherokee Town. “There it is – Chota,” Ole Hood says.
Isaac is awed by the sight of a Cherokee town the magnitude of Chota and slides down from his horse to take it all in. “How many Tsalagi live here?” he asks. Old Hood scratches his head. “I ‘spect close to five hundred or so, counting men, women and children.”
Big Foot points toward the river below. “Look. Oconostota and the War Party return to Chota.” They watch the battered war party cross the river entering the town. Then the traders mount up and make their way down the hill with their loaded pack mules.