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A champion is born.
Small Bear's Journey
| Category: || Fantasy Fiction |
Posted:|| January 14, 2012 Views: 141|
Something was very wrong. The ebb and flow of the Vision still held Small Bear in its thrall but tentacles of the solid world were slowly making their way into it. Unwanted essences clung to those fragments. Small Bear did not know if it was the touch of those things or the fear of them that dragged her out of her dreams.
She gasped when consciousness hit her. Her mind blinked at the abrupt awakening and her spirit tried to scurry back into the protective warmth of none being. Something would not let her. Some knowing told her the birthing process was finished and the solace of the womb was forever closed to her.
Strong arms around her tried to make this all right. A quiet, shhhhing lullaby reached to surround her with comfort. Both efforts almost succeeded. Then a familiar, deep, masculine voice broke through both with unwanted news.
"You are safe, Quaquay. The Manitou is dead. You are safe, you are safe!"
Quaquay. The name startled the young Odawa woman and yanked her mind into a sharp awareness of the dream/awake separation. An immediate question followed.
"Quaquay. Bear Woman?"
The same, masculine voice, her brother's voice, answered her.
"Small Bear made the great give away for the People. Mukwah named this new person who came back to them."
Small Bear----no, Quaquay, now---let herself relax into her memories.
The Vision Quest. Finally confronting the Manitou who plagued her and tried to claim her all of her life. Four days and nights of fasting and of fighting. The final attack---no way to survive it---taking the Manitou within her body---diving into beloved Lake Mitchigan---drowning----
Realization struck as viciously as reality.
"Kaw! I am dead----"
The voice and the arms were there again, shielding her from both.
"Only the part that was Small Bear; only the girl."
"But my body!"
"No one knows about this. Nagamowin felt it die. The Clan Mothers came with the drums when he screamed for them. The drums called the dodems."
"This is so," another beloved voice rumbled.
This time it was her father's voice, her true father. The stability he represented held her while she tried to understand this new place in her world.
"When the drums called, Minwaabi, Mitigomin and I came to find you," he went on. "You will come home now, Quaquay; and we will speak of this when you are stronger."
The woman of the Bear found herself lifted into strong arms before she could answer. She recognized the sway of Mitigomin's stalwart walk next; and then a gentle dip of her body into another equally powerful grip. The rocking beneath her told her she was in a canoe. The sleep that claimed her yet again told her nothing more.
Quaquay's next awakening was in a waginogin. The structure was familiar to her, but it was not her own. She tried to sit up to take in her surroundings. Arms held her back, bringing her close to the body holding her.
The soft voice of her husband whispered into her ear next, quieting her.
"Let it be, Bear Woman. We are both weak and need the rest."
"We are both weak..."
Quaquay understand what the Singer was telling her. She did not fast alone, nor did she battle alone. Nagamowin was with her every moment, undoubtedly eschewing sleep as well as food while he prayed for her. She made this Give Away for the People, he made them for her.
The woman of the Bear touched these ideas with a new Knowing. She watched then, as both sacrifices danced between them, telling her it was time to let him go. The Knowing saddened her, but she did not have time to grieve it.
They both knew when she walked out onto the sands they would be dead to one another when, or if, she returned from her Vision Quest. They understood know that Maconse, Nagamowin's beloved wife, was gone. A champion of the People stood in her place.
Quaquay sighed. She never wanted this. The Clan teachers spent years giving her the skill and the knowledge to become this powerful policewoman, but it was never anything she sought for herself. The days with Nagamowin, the sparse amount of time she spent being a wife, and a woman of the community, these were the small things she wanted.
"But now I am Bear Woman," she thought. "And I must see to the needs of my People!"
She told the Singer this as she moved out of his arms.
"The Vision pulls me," she said heavily. "It needs to be told, and quickly. The People do not have so much time that I may waste any of it for my own wants."
Nagamowin let her go. His hand lingered on hers for a moment, though, and Quaquay understood. It was not to deter her, but to let her know his support was still with her, whichever person she needed to be.
The message was brutal and emphatic. The People were dying. Shauganosh ways were devouring those of the Odawa, and the coming disaster could not be stopped.
Quaquay's family heard her words, words they knew they were being entrusted to translate for her among the People.
"Two tasks come back with me from the Spirit world," she began. "One the People must bear. The other will be carried by this Quaquay. Both have enemies they must fight, knowing they cannot win the battles before them. Both must hide the old ways to keep them safe, and wear the new."
Quaquay's words stopped for a moment, waiting to settle into the ears and hearts of the loved ones around her.
"There are paths you must choose in this battle," she finally went on. "The Manitou showed me there are many ways to fight a terrible thing, ways the enemy will not expect, and so will not see quickly.
"Hiding can be one of these ways. It is the one I choose, the one Spirit showed me. This Quaquay, she must be powerful for the People. The Clans have given her their wisdom and their skills. Now it is time for her to use them against the monsters roaming Wauganauksee and the waters around it.
"The Shauganosh will be afraid of such power. What they fear they must destroy, enh? The Shauganosh, then, can not be allowed to know it exists. The Manitou taught me the strength of disguises, so I will hide Quaquay and her power in a mask. I will walk among the shadows of the Shauganosh and become the mouse in their caches. They will see what this mouse does, but not the small, quick brother doing them."
She paused again, carefully putting other words together.
"Hiding is a good weapon," she continued. "Running, too, can be a strong ally for the People. In this fight to save the old ways, I think some of us must run from this enemy who comes against us. The ones who will die inside if they are forced to change, it is good for them to run. Maybe to the Manitoulins. Maybe to the deep woods. Shauganosh eyes will not see them in these places, maybe for a long time; maybe even for the next seven generations to come.
"I think, too, that if many leave this place, the Shauganosh will see they are gone and try to find them, so some of us must stay. When we do, we must hide where the Shauganosh will not think to look. Hiding inside of ourselves, this is a good joke and the Shauganosh have no humor to understand it.
"So we will wear their clothes. We will go to their God houses and we will make ourselves in all ways to be like them. But we will not be like them. In our hearts, in our spirits, we will be what we have always been. We will be the People, and we will keep the ways of the People away from eyes who do not want to see them, and ears that do not want to hear them.
"Gashkitoon, you taught me symbols to remind me of the Grandfather Directions, the Spirits of the East, the South, the West, and the North. The Jesus People use these same symbols for their own reminders. It could be then that the touching of the head, heart, and shoulders has its own language, enh?
"Jigishkode, you gave me the strength of nurturing and of the quiet, strong way of tending to others. A heart like this is a good place to hold the ways of the People until they can take them back again.
"Minwaabi, you endured, my uncle. You lived through a place and a space when too many others died, and you kept yourself alive. This gift of the badger, too, will be much needed by those of us who choose to hide.
"Sarah, the cards hid with you when the Shauganosh owned your body. Your lessons are very strong with me for this. You became yourself, and you did not let your heart or your spirit belong to anyone.
"Mashkawa, you have protected the People well. You have been a Warrior in this, and though I am a Policewoman, I think these things are much the same, enh? And I will try to be as strong as you are, imbaba. Always!"
Quaquay stopped, not knowing how to say what she needed to say to the last two people waiting for her words. All of the people around her lived within her heart. These two, though, had ever been the closest, and were the most difficult to address.
"Nagamowin," she finally began. "Maconse will always be yours, enh? And Quaquay will never forget this. If we lived in a different time---"
Bear Woman stopped her regrets before they began. These were things Nagamowin and Maconse dealt with, even before his courtship. The powerful policewoman left them, returning them to the drowned child who had a right to them. She turned the words she started to say into a question, and moved on with what had to be said.
The question already had the answer before it was spoken. Quaquay still
put it between them to honor her husband's right to choose his way.
"Singer, will you go with me to the town? Will you be my husband there, and make a life with the woman I will become among the Shauganosh?"
Quaquay saw the conflict in the man's eyes when he looked at her to answer. This was replaced with sadness, and a slow shake of his head.
"I would die there, Bear Woman. To push the power of who I am into the ways of those people, this I cannot do. I will go into the deep woods, to the places they cannot find, yet. This is the way for me."
Bear Woman nodded. She knew this was the only way of balance for one so full of the wild beauty around him. Any other would kill him; if not his body, then surely the wonder of who he was.
She turned to her brother, then; to the friend, and playmate, and strength who had walked with her and guided her all of her life. This was the first time she consciously used her skills in disguise to change her voice. She understood her longing for his support would come through clearly if she did not. Then, this brother, ever her protector, would put away his own needs to care for hers.
Quaquay knew those times were past. If he stayed, the roles would be reversed. She was the protector now, the policewoman who would keep the People safe from the monsters around them.
She kept her voice steady when she made certain he understood this.
"And you, Mitigomin? You will be a power for the People however you choose. It could be you will stand as a Warrior in Wikwenkong if this fight goes to that place. It could be you will protect the People in the deep woods. If you stay in this place of Shauganosh, though, you will need to wear a mouse's disguise as well."
|The book continues with Difficult Choices. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.|
Readers who have followed this story from the beginning will be familiar with the characters in this chapter and the incidents referred to. I am including some clarifications here for those who came to the story late.
Quaquay (kwa-kway): Bear Woman.
Manitou (Man-eh-too): Spirit. The Ojiwa dialect uses Manitou to mean spirit. The Odawa dialect uses it to mean bad spirit. Mnido is good spirit.
This Manitou claimed Small Bear when she was a very young child. Small Bear battled it to save her People and herself.
Kaw (a crow calling sound): No, negative, not
Nagamowin (Nog-in-mowe-in): Singer, used here as a name. Nagamowin is Small Bear's husband and
the closest friend of her brother.
Clan Mothers: The Odawa are matriarchal. The Clan Mothers are the leaders of the individual Clans that make up the Odawa society.
Drums: There are many kinds of drums among the Odawa People. The ones referred to here are the drums used to bring the Clan into contact with the Clan dodem, or animal spirit that guides them.
Dodems (dough-dems): The Odawa believe the People of each Clan are descended from the animal whose spirit now guides them.
Minwaabi (Min-wah-bee): Strong eyesight, used here as a name. Minwaabi is one of Small Bear's mentors. He was a member of the Michigan Sharp Shooters in the Civil War. He was captured at Petersburg and imprisoned in Andersonville.
Gift of the badger: Fierce tenacity.
Mitigomin (Mih-tee-gowe-min): Acorn, used here as a name. Mitigomin is Small Bear's older brother.
The other speaker here is Mashkawa (Mash-cow-wah): Strong; strong as an oak. Mashkawa is the father of Small Bear and Mitigomin.
Waginogin (Wah-g [hard g] in-oh-g [hard g] in): A home generally made of birch bark. It is shaped like a Quonset hut.
Triad: Body, mind, and spirit; that which makes up a human.
Seven Generations: Many Native People believe that they must consider each of their acts in the light of how it will affect the next seven generations.
Manitoulins: The Manitoulin Islands in Lake Huron. These were, and are, part of Canada. They were, and are, a sanctuary for many of the Anishnabe People. Wikwenkong, a primary area of settlement, was never ceded to the government and continues as a sovereignty today.
Wikwenkong (Weh-quen-eh-con): This is the way the Odawa in Northern Michigan pronounce the word. They also refer to the reserve as 'Wiki'. See above.
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