The Ohio Expedition
It is early spring in Chota. Wild Rose’s children, Kasewini and Litli Welo, are laughing as they chase each other in and out of the lodge, but Wild Rose herself is nervous as she prepares for her first battle as the reigning War Woman. Her mother, Tame Doe, braids Wild Rose’s into a single ponytail, applies the black war paint that forms a mask across her daughter’s eyes, and speaks to her sharply.
“You must accept that Big-Man and Alissah’ have their life,” Tame Doe says. “You’re near the end of your time of mourning. Still you mourn, but for who? Your life is with your children, not Big-Man.”
“I mourn, not for Kingfisher, but for myself,” Wild Rose answers. “I have my children, but there is a part of my life that only Is-aac can fill.” Her mother is not satisfied with that answer. “Are you going to war for the people or to be with Big-Man?” she demands.
“I have nothing to say. It is the Council that has spoken,” Wild Rose replies with authority. “They say the French are the enemy of the English – and now our enemy. So, we enter once more into war. Nothing more!”
Trying to restrain her anger, she snatches up her bow, flint knife and tomahawk and runs from the lodge with her mother and children chasing after her. Her heart is torn at leaving her children, and Tame Doe’s words have brought her to the breaking point. She grabs the reins and mane of her horse and throws her leg over his back, kicking him until they spin to face the Council House. As the procession of warriors and townspeople passes her lodge, she nudges her horse forward, blending into the procession. Her expression is hardened to hide her pain. She is unable to look back, even to wave good-bye to her children as they run behind her. They call out to her, and their tears slash at her soul, yet she must remain focused on her duties as War Woman.
The gathering villagers cheer the war party of twenty-seven men and three women, including Dancing Rabbit, now eighteen, as they ride through town. Wild Rose is focused straight ahead, face blank as they go by Big-Man’s trading post. Alissah’, now three months pregnant, makes sure Wild Rose sees her embracing Isaac passionately as he wipes the tears from her face and kisses her good-bye. Big-Man waves to Wild Rose, but he is ignored. Shrugging his shoulders, he continues his final preparations, collecting his brass smoker-hawk, musket, bow, and buffalo robes.
Big-Man’s affection toward Alissah’ tugs at Wild Rose’s heart, but she shows no emotion, continuing on toward the Council House. She never stops or speaks as she passes Oconostota, who shrugs off her rudeness and continues leading his horse. He walks against the procession, greeting the townspeople as he makes his way to Big-Man’s trading post. As Big-Man carefully loads the last of his belongings, Oconostota approaches Alissah’. Smiling, he rubs her stomach and tries to be reassuring.
“O-si-yo. I will have your husband back safely for the birth of your child,” he says, and then turns to Big Man.
“You staying with the women or going to war with the men?” Oconostota asks sarcastically. Big-Man ignores his jab and mounts up. As he and Oconostota slowly ride toward the Council House, Alissah’ stands still, tears running down her cheeks. Big-Man’s decision to fight in this war is not without reservation, though. “I do not trust the Red Coats,” he mumbles under his breath, “That time has passed,” Oconostota says, reaching a hand out pats Isaac’s shoulder. “They are now our brothers.”
“Without balance, how can we be brothers?” Isaac retorts with venom, his visions of his childhood still vivid. In his mind, he sees the English army invading his small village, burning everything in sight. He recalls trying in vain to protect his mother. He remembers the Englishman’s sword cutting his cheek. As he and Oconostota join the other warriors at the Council House, he rubs the scar on the side of his face.
“They will never be my brothers!” Big-Man vows to himself. Big-Man and Oconostota ride pass Wild Rose. Seeing her eyes filled with tears, neither man speaks to her. Her children and Tame Doe catch up with her at the Council House. Unable to ignore their cries any longer, she slides from her horse and hugs her children. Tame Doe watches with trepidation as her husband, Five Killer, mounts his horse.
In tears, Wild Rose remounts and joins the war party. Among the warriors gathered at the Council House are the Ada’wehi with the War Fire, Wild Rose, Big -Man, Oconostota, The Tassel, The Raven, Five Killer and Dancing Rabbit, along with thirty Tsalagi warriors. Os-ten-a-co and thirty warriors from To-mot-ley ride in, sharing greetings with old friends and fellow clan members.
Also riding up to the Council House is Major Andrew Lewis, a British officer in his forties – a small-framed man with an air of self-importance. The equally arrogant Lieutenant Coytmore accompanies him. Coytmore is in his thirties, tall and slender. His disdain for the Cherokee is very clear as he observes what he considers a lesser people. A third officer, Ensign Bell, is also in his thirties, and has a rosy look about him. Behind them are fifty pristine British soldiers, armed and mounted. Big Man inspects the soldiers closely – especially their shiny steel swords – and a coldness fills his soul. Wild Rose and Oconostota ride up to his side, and Oconostota whispers, “Hold your hate for another day.”
Mounted on a magnificent bay horse, Major Lewis rides out front and slowly turns to face the soldiers and warriors. “We are to make a forced march to the Ohio River,” he proclaims loudly. “Once we gain the advantage of the northern shore, we shall engage and destroy the French vermin and the Shawnee that fight with them!”
Chin up, the stiff-backed Lewis kicks his horse to a gallop, the English soldiers and warriors following his lead to ride north out of Chota. Big-Man snarls with contempt at the British Union Jack as it waves in the breeze ahead of him. Just as the army leaves Chota, they pass Running Deer’s lodge on the outskirts of town. Big Foot and Ole Hood stand with their wives to bid them farewell.
Upon spotting Big Foot and Ole Hood, Major Lewis raises his hand and brings the army to a halt. “Why aren’t you coming with the rest of the warriors?” he asks with suspicion and repugnance.
Ole Hood closely looks Lewis over and spits a brown stream of tobacco juice on the major’s well-groomed horse.
“I ain’t no warrior,“ he says. “Besides,” he adds with a sly grin, “Someone has to look after the womenfolk.”
“Ya need me to check in on your missus?” he asks Lewis with a hint of lechery.
Big Foot has his own answer for Lewis. Standing nearly as tall flat-footed as Lewis is in the saddle, the trader steps close to the officer. “This is your war, Englishman – not ours,” Big Foot tells him with disdain. “Besides, I am a Scot. I trust no damn Englishman!”
Taken back by Big Foot’s statement, Major Lewis gives the two men a haughty look.. “You will regret your insolence,” he says.
“Doubt it! But you may,” Big Foot snarls back. And in an insulting tone, he adds, ”Sir!”
Slightly unnerved by Big Foot and Ole Hood, Major Lewis quickly kicks his horse to a full gallop. Following his sudden departure, the soldiers and warriors proceed, and as Big-Man passes by Big Foot and Ole Hood, they step toward him. “Isaac, watch your back, I don’t trust him,” Big Foot tells him. Ole Hood agrees: “I don’t have a good feeling about this, Isaac. No, I for sure don’t.”
Big-Man rejoins the warriors in the procession, and soon Wild Rose rides up to his side. “So, we leave our home, our children and our families for the long journey north to fight not our enemy, but the Englishman’s enemy,” she says, avoiding eye contact. “I ask, why?”
Big-Man looks straight ahead and does not reply for he has already asked himself the same question.
February 1756 The expedition against the French and Shawnee crosses New River.
Over the following weeks, the expedition crosses many rivers – the North Fork of the Holston, the Clinch, and the Big Sandy, slowly negotiating their way north along “The Old War Trail” towards the Ohio River. The northern Kentucky backcountry with its heavily wooded mountains takes its toll on soldiers and warriors alike. Even with spring nearly upon them, the mountain air holds its chill, and dusk falls quickly.
When they are unable to find a suitable campsite, they must feel their way through a deep hardwood forest strewn with boulders, high ridges and deep hollows. Trudging on through the thick forest, they soon find themselves on an open rocky bluff jutting over the violent cauldron of the Ohio River a hundred feet below.
The once-pristine English soldiers are now dirty and bone-tired. The soldiers and warriors dismount, canvassing the campsite, walking out the kinks of the arduous ride.
The experienced warriors distance themselves as far from the English as possible and quickly make camp, working hand in hand with one another. With the help of the War Fire and fleabane carried by the Ada’wehi, one group of warriors concentrates on building large perimeter fires for security against bears, wolves, and human intruders. The huge outer fires light the woods as well as the campsite. Others build smaller fires in camp and rig up spits to cook on. Several warriors skin and clean the rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons they killed on the day’s journey, preparing them for their hot nightly meal.
Major Lewis, seeing the organized warriors making camp, gathers Lt. Coytmore and Ensign Bell. “We make camp here for the night. Have the men prepare the area!” Instantly, Lieutenant Coytmore spouts instructions to the exhausted and inexperienced soldiers who continue to go about their chores in a haphazard manner.
Oconostota and Big-Man are standing and talking on the bluff when Major Lewis calls out in a demanding tone, “Oconostota, come here!” They ignore the summons, inciting Lewis to call out again even louder,“ Getting no response, he struts over to where they are standing.
“Oconostota, we must discuss the security of the night camp,” he says, but receiving only a cold blank stare from Oconostota and Big Man, returns to his camp in silence.
“The whites want to teach us how to set camp,” Oconostota says with a grin. The two chuckle as they walk over to the English camp that is in total disarray.
Major Lewis gathers Coytmore, Bell, Oconostota and BigMan together and resumes barking out instructions: “The English in this camp! You Indians over there! Place Indian sentries out around both camps!”
Annoyed by the orders, Big-Man asks Lewis, “Why don’t the soldiers stand their own watch?”
“My soldiers need their rest!” Lewis replies.
Big-Man glares down at him with disgust. “I will stand watch over you,” he says in a treacherous tone. Lewis’ eyes reveal his sudden fear, but he says nothing. Turning to walk away, Big-Man mumbles, “This is Shawnee ground.”
“Shawnee?” Lewis replies nervously, “The Shawnee are north of the Ohio River?”
“The Bloody Ground of Cain-Tuck-ee is all Shawnee ground,” Big-Man, says, enjoying Lewis’ discomfort. “They have been shadowing us daily.” Hiding his pleasure at the major’s nervousness, he adds, “Not to worry – Shawnee don’t like attacking in the light. They prefer the dark of night for their bloody work.”
Shaken by this information, Lewis directs Ensign Bell to have ten of their men stand guard. Bell scurries off as Lewis nestles himself in closer to his men. Watching Lewis cower, Big-Man and Oconostota walk away hiding their smiles, but Big-Man’s thoughts force his face to tighten. “I could cut Lewis’ throat for the pleasure of it,” he admits.
Oconostota affirms his thoughts: “Tuh huh! Soon!”
The two warriors split off, going to separate parts of the Tsalagi camp. Exhausted, Big-Man, heads to the tip of the rocky bluff and prepares his campsite. From his fire pouch he removes his flint and the dried stalks of fleabane called “firemaker.” Striking the flint near the shredded fleabane, the warrior ignites the firemaker, adding twigs and wood to quickly build a fire. As he watches the flames, he reflects on the violent currents of the Ohio River below and on his own turbulent life.
After all the warriors have eaten, they prepare their sleeping spots, and soon the entire Tsalagi camp is asleep, worn out by the long march. Wild Rose wraps herself in a buffalo robe, and once under the robe, she removes her moccasins and deerskin vest to use as a pillow. Trail worn, she is soon asleep.
Big-Man stealthily walks over to the English camp and gives it a once-over inspection. They have just started eating, and many of them were so tired they have fallen asleep without any supper. Big-Man walks away, undetected by the English sentries, shaking his head in disgust.
When he returns to the warriors’ camp, Big-Man gathers more firewood and throws several large limbs on the fires, watching the sparks dance toward the heavens. He looks over at Wild Rose as she sleeps under the warmth of the buffalo robe and reaches down to pull the robe up over her bare shoulder. Her eyes are closed as if asleep, and a warm smile appears on her lips.
Walking through the camp, Big-Man makes his way to the rocky jag overlooking the river where he lays his blanket on the rocky ground. A cool north breeze chills his face as he stares into the churning waters. The snoring from the camp indicates everyone is asleep, so when he hears something move behind him, he jumps up, smoker-hawk drawn. It is Wild Rose, bare-footed and wrapped only in her buffalo robe.
“I could not sleep,” she says. “Can I sit with you?”
Isaac is shivering, but he cannot tell if it is from the night or the tension he feels when he is alone with her. Seeing he is chilled, she opens her buffalo robe and drapes half of it over his shoulder, snuggling her warm body next to his. To divert his awkwardness, he turns away and focuses on the river. Moments later, the strains of the day overtake her, and she falls asleep, her head resting on his shoulder. Looking at her sleeping face fills him with contentment, and a rare smile crosses Big-Man’s lips.
The next morning as daylight breaks, Big Man, watches the red sky reflecting on the river, a sign that means severe weather is coming. The fires of the camp are now only glowing embers. He looks down at Wild Rose’s face and long dark hair covering his lap. As he gently brushes the hair from her face, she slowly awakens to see Big-Man smiling down at her. She gently reaches up and touches his scarred face, returning his smile. Suddenly she remembers they are not alone. Panicked, she jumps up, and her alarmed state makes Big-Man laugh heartily. Wrapped in the buffalo robe, she brashly makes her way through camp over to her bed, her head held high. Big-Man watches her as she quickly dresses and prepares for the day.
On a morning round of the camp, Oconostota walks up behind Big-Man and startles him.
“How was your night?” he asks with a hint of sarcasm, Oconostota chuckles, then turns serious, saying. “Walk with me.”
“The girl Nan-ya’Hee’ is no more. She must hold a higher standard than other women,” he says to Big-Man in a stern fatherly voice.
“She must be held in high esteem as a Beloved Woman and called by her rightful name, Wild Rose of Chota.”
As Oconostota departs his sharp words cut Big Man deeply. Standing on the edge of the bluff, he gazes over the river.
“Oconostota is right,” he muses. “She is no longer that girl, Nan-yah’-Hee’. I am no longer that boy, Is-aac.”
The camp starts to wake, and fires are stirred to heat the food left from the night before. The warriors eat quickly as they prepare to move out. Big-Man finds Oconostota and tells him, “I will go and find a suitable crossing downstream.
Dah-nah-dah’ goh’-huh-ee.’ Until we meet again.”
“You are right about Wild Rose of Chota,” Big-Man adds before turning away to mount his horse.
He kicks it to a full gallop just as Wild Rose walks up to Oconostota. He sees clearly that her feelings are hurt that Big-Man rode out without speaking to her. “You and Big Man have much to talk on,” he says as they watch Big-Man ride away. “Go! He needs you.”
Wild Rose quickly gathers her belongings and rides out of camp as the warriors finish packing the last of the camp. The soldiers in the English camp are all still asleep, including their sentries. Oconostota shakes his head in disgust. “They are a poor race,” he says, looking up with arms spread wide. “Yo-He-wa. Have pity.”
The warriors are soon ready and mounted with the packhorses loaded. Oconostota and Ada’wehi lead the warriors as they prepare to leave camp. Their movement wakes the English camp, and Major Lewis steps out of his tent half-dressed.
“Where are you going?” he demands of Oconostota.
“Down river to find a crossing,” the unconcerned warrior replies.
“You can find us later after your guards wake.”
Angered by his men’s obvious lack of soldierly qualities compared to the warriors, Lewis yells for Coytmore, who rushes up still adjusting his uniform.
“Have the men ready to move out in thirty minutes!” the major tells the junior officer.
By the time Wild Rose reaches the crest of an open hillside, it is noon on a beautiful spring day. She looks down on the tranquil banks of the Ohio that contrast with the muddy river, now swollen to a mile wide and filled with turbulent currents, eddies, and whirlpools. From a distance she can observe Big-Man who is at the river’s edge inspecting the current. She watches as he picks up a large tree limb, throws it into the river below, and watches closely as the whirlpools suck it under the muddy waters. It reappears downstream before disappearing again.
Wild Rose sees this as an opportunity to speak to Big-Man in private and to confront him about their feelings for one another. Kicking her horse to a fast gallop, she rides up behind Big-Man, and quickly dismounts. Big Man casually turns to her as if unconcerned by her presence, and keeps the conversation on the task at hand.
“We cannot cross the river – it is too strong,” he tells her. “It is not the river I am concerned with – it is us,” Wild Rose blurts out, no longer able to contain her feelings.
“There can be no us,” Big-Man replies harshly, “Alissah’ has taken me as her husband! You mourn Kingfisher!”
“I no longer mourn Kingfisher,” she snaps. “That time has passed long ago!”
Before Big-Man can answer, the warriors ride down the hill coming to a stop beside them. Oconostota realizes they are in the middle of a contentious conversation and examines them both closely, but says nothing.
Breaking the tension of the moment, Big-Man turns his attention on Oconostota. “We cannot cross the river,” he states bluntly. “The current’s too strong.”
The sound of the English army approaching breaks their conversation. Soon Lewis, Coytmore and Bell appear on the hillside, along with fifty mounted soldiers, dusty and dirty from the long journey. Oconostota accepts Big-Man’s opinion about the crossing and tells him, “I talk to Lewis.”
After galloping up the hill, Oconostota pulls up alongside the major. “Lewis, the river is too strong,” he tells the officer in English. “We cannot cross! We must have dugouts to cross the river!”
Lewis’s loathing for Oconostota is clear, and he is grave in his response: “You will cross the river with the supplies! We do not have time to build dugouts! Follow my orders, or we will no longer furnish you and the Cherokee with supplies, powder or guns! Is that clear?”
Oconostota’s face shows his disdain for the major’s insult. Jerking his horse around, Oconostota rides down the hill joining his warriors.
From the hill above, Lewis observes as Oconostota issuing orders to his warriors. He watches as Oconostota kicks his horse rides toward the river. He is quickly followed by a number of warriors. Reaching the bluff they pull up and stare down into the swollen waters of the Ohio River.
“That is how you handle these ignorant redskins,” he boasts to Coytmore. “They are like children. We must constantly demonstrate our superiority, and they will obey.”
As they carefully examine the turbulent waters below the Headmen are joined by an angry Big-Man.“We cannot cross this river!” Big-Man insists. “We will drown! The horses will drown!”
“We must cross!” Oconostota retorts. “But why?” Big-Man demands to know.
“If we do not cross the river, the English will no longer supply us with guns or supplies.”
Infuriated, Big-Man proclaims, “We do not need the English or their guns!” He remains in place, staring into the river.
Oconostota, Ostenaco and The Tassel gather the warriors to council near the edge of a bluff twenty feet above the muddy waters below. Big-Man takes notice Wild Rose is not with them. He searches the broad meadow and the river for a sign of her. Then he hears a familiar female voice behind him. “Be careful what you lose. It may never be found again.”
He spins around to find Wild Rose sitting on her horse. With trepidation, they watch as the warriors ride their horses back one hundred yards from the river. The warriors stop momentarily, and then Oconostota releases a bloodcurdling war whoop! He and his warriors race at full speed across the open meadow, and at the edge of the bluff, riders and horses take flight before plunging headlong into the deadly cauldron. The packhorses are immediately swept under.
“Cut the packs from the horses. They will drown!” Oconostota calls out.
The warriors, risking their own lives, manage to save many of the packhorses by cutting their packs and now expend every ounce of energy fighting the deadly currents. Wild Rose and Big-Man kick their horses to a full run along the riverbank in pursuit of Oconostota and the warriors being swept downstream. Reaching an eddy in the river, they dive into the river just as Oconostota comes sweeping by them. Big-Man grabs Oconostota and The Raven by their topknots, as Wild Rose grabs The Tassel. Swimming with all their strength, Big-Man and Wild Rose pull them from the raging currents and up onto the bank. The five of them lie there gasping for air as Ostenaco drags himself up on the bank beside them.
Major Lewis watches the debacle from the hill above. “I should have known the savages are totally incapable of following the simplest of orders,” he rages, kicking his horse to a full run. The English soldiers follow, riding more than a mile downstream to where the last of the surviving warriors are fighting to make it back to the safety of the riverbank. Major Lewis and his army approach Oconostota, The Raven, Ostenaco, The Tassel, Wild Rose and Big-Man, who are still lying on the riverbank trying to catch their breath.
Major Lewis turns to his men and begins screaming at them: “Imbeciles! Don’t just sit on your horses! Save the supplies, you idiots!” His soldiers bail off into the river from their mounts, trying desperately to retrieve the supplies. They make no attempt to save the last of the warriors being carried downstream to their death. Focusing his rage, Major Lewis gives a direct order to Oconostota. “Retrieve those provisions! You are to blame for this mission failing, and you will pay the price, not me!”
Oconostota looks Lewis coldly in the eye. “You want them – you retrieve them!”
“Abandon the savages,” Major Lewis calls out to his men, Coytmore turns to Bell. “Ensign, retrieve what provisions you can – we will cross at a more suitable ford downriver!”
Lewis and Coytmore ride away with twenty of the soldiers.
“Lieutenant, I could care less about these wretched dogs, but save those supplies,” the major says. “The savages are expendable, but those provisions are essential to carrying on the war with the French – and to my standing with Governor Lyttelton!”
“Major, these savages take you for a fool. They must pay!” Coytmore replies.
“Make no mistake – they will pay. I will wipe these treacherous vermin from the earth if it is the last thing I ever do!”
With an early spring storm erupting in thunder and lighting on the horizon, the warriors quickly gather as many of the horses as they can. Oconostota and Big-Man watch helplessly as the remaining horses and warriors are swept downstream.
“You are right. The English say we are brothers only when they need us to fight their battles for them,” Oconostota says, “They are not our brothers.”
The wet, muddy survivors climb out of the water as the storm breaks and torrents of rain begin to fall. Many are on foot, having lost their mounts to the river.
“Come, we must find higher ground to make camp,” Big-Man tells them.
Later that afternoon, the warriors make camp in a small, well-drained meadow surrounded by trees on three sides and a large open hill on the fourth side. Several warriors start gathering firewood in a useless attempt to build fires in the pouring rain. The women use willow trees and branches covered with buffalo robes to build temporary shelters. However, Big-Man takes no shelter from the rain – he stands vigil, aware they are on enemy ground and vulnerable, subject to attack by the Shawnee as well as the English dogs that deserted them.
Eventually, the rain subsides, giving the warriors a chance to dry out. With the help of the War Fire and dry fleabane, the Ada’wehi manages to start a fire despite the wet wood. As several fires around camp come to life, warriors return with several more horses that made it safely onto the riverbank.
As night falls on the meadow, Wild Rose prepares to bed down for the night, but her thoughts are of Big-Man. Peeking out of the shelter, she sees him standing guard, never flinching from his duty as the heavy thunderstorm beats down on him. She sloshes through mud and rain to the drowned campfire, cuts a piece of meat from the spit and brings it to him. “I saw you have not eaten,” she says.
Big-Man takes the food, but can no longer look at her. His regrets are too overwhelming.
“What troubles you? Is it me?” she asks.
“No. Not you. It is the English.”
Wild Rose strokes Big-Man’s head and says softly, “Do not worry – they have gone, and we go back to Chota.”
“Go. Get your rest,” he tells her gently, realizing that her feelings have been battered by his earlier harshness. “Tomorrow will be a long day.”
“What about you? You have not slept in two nights.”
Concerned for her welfare, Big-Man becomes gruffer. “Go! Leave me.” Reluctantly, Wild Rose walks away, alone and heartbroken, to her temporary lodge. She peers into the dark skies above as if searching for an answer, but she finds none. Before falling asleep, she peeks out to see Big-Man staring out toward the river, consumed in thought. “What is he searching for?” she wonders.
The next morning at sunrise, some of the warriors begin rising to start the day’s travel home. Big-Man has been awake all night, but before resting, he sloshes through the mud over to the bushes by the horses to urinate. The horses on the tether line are very nervous and unsettled. When one whinnies, Big-Man hears a horse in the distance answer the call. Taking a moment to listen more closely, he gazes toward the ridge, the morning sun in his eyes. What he sees there fills him with fear. It is Lewis, Coytmore, and Bell, along with fifty mounted soldiers lined up to attack. From the ridge above, Big-Man faintly hears Major Lewis call out: “Give no quarter! Take no prisoners! Charge!”
Frantic to warn his fellow warriors, Big-Man runs from shelter to shelter screaming, trying desperately to wake those still asleep. “Wake up! Attack! Attack!” he yells as a wall of red-coated horsemen bears down on the camp. Major Lewis, however, has remained on the ridge in complete safety. “The coward,” Big-Man mutters.
Mired in mud, Big-Man, Oconostota, and the other warriors urgently try to mount a defense, but before they can organize, the soldiers are twenty yards away, opening fire with their pistols. Twenty warriors fall, some dead and some wounded. The wounded try to escape, but the soldiers are upon them, slashing them with their swords. Behind the first wave are another hundred soldiers running in on foot, shooting and stabbing the warriors with bayonets.
Oconostota aims his musket at a British soldier only ten yards away, but his gun misfires, still damp from the rains. The soldier smiles, then charges with his two-foot bayonet. Oconostota stands in place as the soldier bears down on him. The warrior in Oconostota refuses to be a victim. He draws the only weapon he has left – a six-inch-long flint knife. The soldier charging headlong toward him is at a full-speed run, and now only a few feet separate Oconostota from the Nightland.
Seeing Oconostota’s peril, Big-Man plants his feet and throws his smoker-hawk with all his strength. The weapon travels more than thirty yards toward Oconostota’s pursuer and finds its target. The soldier crumples face down in the mud with Big-Man’s smoker-hawk buried in the back of his head.
Big-Man runs to the dead soldier, jerks the weapon free and throws it again, finding its next victim just yards away. In three quick steps, he retrieves his weapon. Another soldier lunges toward him with his steel blade, but Big-Man sidesteps the soldier’s sword and swings his smoker-hawk, splitting the soldier’s forehead.
After killing one soldier, Wild Rose retrieves her tomahawk and looks across the camp for her next victim. She catches sight of Coytmore in the distance, mauling Dancing Rabbit as she fights unsuccessfully to free herself from him. Wild Rose rushes through the mud and the madness to Dancing Rabbit’s defense.
Coytmore punches Dancing Rabbit until she is only half-conscious, then drags her up the muddy hill by the hair. He stumbles slightly, giving her the opportunity to reach the flint knife concealed in the top of her leggings. Gripping the knife with the last of her strength, she buries the weapon in the back of Coytmore’s thigh. Screaming, he drops to one knee, releasing his grip on her hair. She tries to escape stumbles down the muddy hill, but the enraged officer limps after her in pursuit until he sees Wild Rose running toward him with her tomahawk drawn. Wild Rose is more determined than ever to kill Coytmore, but she is sidetracked by another soldier coming at her. After killing him with her tomahawk, she looks up to see Dancing Rabbit running to the safety of the woods. Coytmore has now made it back to the safety of his soldiers and is lying on the ground, overcome by pain. “You savage bitch,” he screams at Dancing Rabbit. “You will pay for this!”
Wild Rose turns her attention back to the surviving warriors. Heavily outnumbered, they retreat to the safety of the woods above the meadow, forced to leave twenty of their Tsalagi brothers lying dead in the mud. This once tranquil meadow is now a bloody killing field.
Reaching the safety of the wooded ridge are Wild Rose, Big-Man, Oconostota, Ostenaco, The Tassel, The Raven, Dancing Rabbit, Five Killer, and the Ada’wehi with the War Fire extinguished, along with only ten other warriors. They lie on the ground at the edge of the woods, desperately preparing for another charge, but the soldiers, having excessive casualties as well, decline to make another charge. Instead, they busy themselves chopping and mutilating the bodies of the warriors with their swords. Their shining steel knives take the warrior’s scalps. The wounded warriors who surrender are stabbed, then scalped.
The survivors taking refuge on the hill are helpless to mount an attack and can only watch the carnage below. At last Big-Man can take it no more – he stands and screams out, “I will hide no more! The Redcoats will know Big-Man’s tomahawk!”
A few of the soldiers react to his taunting, and musket balls pepper the ground and tree limbs around him. Oconostota grabs Big-Man and pulls him down.
“Not this day. Yo-He-Wa demands balance,” Oconostota says grimly. “They want scalps? We give them scalps!”
Several months later, June 1756
On a hot summer night, the tattered war party – now numbering only nineteen – enters Chota on foot. Cries of grief resonate through the town as families deal with the loss of their family members killed by their so-called allies, the English army.
As Big-Man and Wild Rose walk slowly toward Big-Man’s trading post, they hear muffled cries coming from Alissah’s lodge. He starts to enter, but Wild Rose steps in front of him, placing her hand on his chest. Once inside, Wild Rose finds a very pregnant Alissah’ lying nude on a river cane bed in severe pain, attended by Tame Doe, whose face reveals her anxiety. Alissah’ moans as she grabs her knees, drawing her legs up to her chest. Tame Doe kneels at Alissah’s side and wipes her perspiring face with cool water. “It is time,” she whispers.
Tame Doe and Wild Rose lift Alissah’ into a squatting position. Alissah’ looks into Wild Rose’s eyes and senses something with her has changed. Suddenly, Alissah’s face contorts, and she releases a muffled moan, pushing with all her might. The child emerges, falling slowly down on the bed, chest first, the baby is clutched gently in Tame Doe’s experienced hands. Tame Doe and Wild Rose look at one another with deep concern.
“We must take the child to the river – it is oo-yo-een go-we-lo’-dee, a bad omen, for a baby to land breast first,” the older woman murmurs.
The baby, still covered in blood and amniotic fluid, has yet to cry. Exhausted from childbirth, Alissah’ lies back on the cane bed as Tame Doe cuts and ties the cord, and rushes out of the lodge, clutching the baby to her body as she darts through the woods to the river. Kneeling at the river’s edge, she gently places the baby in the cold river and releases it. As the baby sinks, the rushing water washes away the birth fluids from the baby’s face and body. Tame Doe scoops up the baby – now crying loudly – and rushes back to Alissah’s lodge just as a worried Big-Man enters.
After she swaddles the baby, Tame Doe lays the infant on Alissah’s breast and tells the new parents, “He is fine.”
“A bow, or a sifter?” Big-Man asks with a relieved smile. Very weak, Alissah’ says, “A bow. Your son.” As Big-Man cradles the boy in his arms, Wild Rose slips outside so he cannot see her sadness. As she is leaving, she rushes past the Ada’wehi entering the lodge to bless the child.