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The Song of Hiawatha Pt.6
Bear Scars was placed in the healing lodge and watched over constantly by both Hiawatha and Morning Star. The healers attending to him applied mud mixed with special herbs to quickly restore his wounds. An unpleasant tasting broth was fed him to return his health and stamina. A special bark was given to chew that helped him relieve the great pain he was in.
Hiawatha was worried for his old friend and constantly stood vigil during the daytime. After he had done some short hunting sojourns. Hiawatha often provided ample meat for several families and all the members of Bear Scars' tribe considered him to be a valued member. Always forgetting the he was of the Great Mountain and not of the Great tree. This never ceased to amaze Hiawatha, how easily and readily he was accepted among Morning Star's people. It did not go unnoticed how loyal he was towards Bear Scars and everyone knew he was deeply in love with Morning Star.
Morning Star had asked for parents' permission for Hiawatha to place his sleeping mat next to hers in the longhouse her family resided in. At first her mother, Doeskin Turtle, raised an eyebrow, but Morning Star assured her Hiawatha would always remain well mannered. Morning Star added “that she completely trusted Hiawatha with her life and always would.” The smile on her mother's face indicated she knew something that possibly Morning Star did not. Her father, Handsome Water, was at first, a bit put out, but he already knew of Hiawatha's reputation as a warrior and hunter. He would soon become very proud of Hiawatha's association with his daughter.
Morning Star's younger sister, Talking Bird, was constantly flirting with Hiawatha and always asking impertinent questions. Morning Star finally had to step in and put a stop to Talking Bird's constant chatter. Telling her “to go outside and play with her friends and quit bothering him.” Hiawatha thought the little sister was delightful and didn't mind her very immature attention. She looked like a much younger version of Morning Star and he pretended that Talking Bird was much like his love must have been like at her age. However, he would never dream of contradicting Morning Star's obvious attempts to have him all alone to herself. Something he would always eagerly desire. He wished he had his flute right then and there. He desperately hoped he would not die without knowing the wonderful expression his song would bring to Morning Star's beautiful face. And death seemed to be following him like a wandering star in the night.
The first night the two slept next to each other in the longhouse, they both felt a yearning that proved not only frustrating, but very painful. Hiawatha did manage to reach out and grab Morning Star's hand. At first, her instinct was to pull her hand away, but she simply couldn't. This small bit of contact both heightened and yet somehow relieved the tension that was building between them both. Hiawatha couldn't wait to get her to his special cave and play the song that would lock up her heart forever. He wanted to complete the circle upon which she had originally set her feet. Even though he knew he already had her heart. And so apparently did everyone else. The love between these two was as obvious as those first sprouting flowers that announced the season of Spring was emerging upon the mother.
After a single full day had passed, Bear scars was starting to awaken but seemed still very weak.. Hiawatha noticed that several large new scars were now forming on Bear Scars shoulder. “Those scars only make you look much more fierce.” exclaimed Hiawatha. Bear Scars gave a low expression of amusement with a coughed laugh. “You could put a big snake tattoo over them and no one would notice them.” added Morning Star.
Bear Scars cough-laughed again and then slowly said. “I already have a big snake, elsewhere. Why would I choose to cover up my proudly earned coup marks?”
Everyone could then tell that Bear Scars was getting better. His natural sense of humor was returning .A very good sign.
That evening, just before dusk, everyone was gathered around the fire to eat the evening meal. Morning Star, Doeskin Turtle and even Handsome Water were busy preparing various parts of the meal. This included roast turkey, roasted corncobs, mashed squash, beans, along with freshly baked honeyed corn bread and the usual onion and salt flavored (corn gruel) referred to as “sopke.” Talking Bird had gathered earlier in the day gathered now ripe in season blackberries for dessert, but she decided to mix them in with her sopke. Apparently she considered this mix quite tasty, what with all her pleasant facial machinations upon taking her first bites. So Hiawatha tried some and liked the mix as well. “Talking Bird was going to make a good cook,” he secretly thought.
Bear Scars had been transported by litter to Morning Star's Longhouse at her request. She felt that Bear Scars would want to improve much faster just so he might get away from Talking Bird's constant chatter. However, she really thought he needed the company. She would always be grateful to this huge warrior, who risked his life to save not only hers, but also the life of the man she deeply loved. Hiawatha took some of Talking Bird's blackberry sopke mix over to Bear Scars. His first taste brought a great smile to his face. “This is really delicious.” he half mumbled. After about one minute of rapid gulping, Bear scars eagerly offered his wooden bowl back up for more. Talking Bird immediately rushed over and offered to fill up his bowl with the most pleasant of smiles. Morning Star gave Hiawatha a bemused look and pointed at the two with her eyes. Hiawatha thought this was very amusing. Bear Scars and Talking Bird. The sister was nearing the age for bonding. An interesting idea. It made Hiawatha laugh a bit.
Hiawatha was truly enjoying these very “family” like moments. Hiawatha's parents had both been killed when he was only a young teenager and he once even had two siblings. They were taken long ago by the Algonquins and Hiawatha never saw either of them again. A sister and a brother. He was raised alone by an uncle, whom he had the greatest respect for. This uncle, Wolf Kindness, was one of those Iroquoian males that preferred not to be around only one single woman. His uncle liked the attentions of several. And he never seemed to be without. Sort of like Bear Scars.
This pleasant family experience caused Hiawatha to think about having his own family as soon as possible with Morning Star. He was specifically going to ask her to journey to his cave with him tomorrow and play her the song she had waited all her life to hear. Another evening's rest and Morning Star would be forever his. Hiawatha was quite eager for her to hear that haunting music he had suffered so much pain to learn. He now knew that she deeply loved him, but he still wanted to provide her with her long awaited desire to hear the most beautiful music she would ever know.
Hiawatha had gone to check up on the White Canoe early that morning and saw that it had turned white again. He was checking out how it appeared and noticed that two village boys, running close by, could not see it and almost ran right into it. Even though the canoe was very visible to Hiawatha. It must have some of the magic of the mask; he thought “It, too, apparently can remain “unseen.”
Everyone was thoroughly enjoying the meal, when suddenly a commotion was heard out near the edge of the village. Warriors began rising up from their evening meals and running out from their longhouses from every direction to see what was happening. Many with weapons in hand. Hiawatha was one of the first to arrive at the source of the disturbance. Two exhausted and heavily panting warriors were stumbling into the village. They were from a hunting party, that had gone traveling further out for game for over three days distance; they slowly moved into the center area of the longhouses. Yelling at the top of their voices: “The Algonquins are coming. Hundreds of them. A huge war party is only a day's distance, if not less. All our companions are dead and we just barely got away in time to warn you. We have raced all the way.”
Where upon these were the last words of one of the warriors, who dropped dead on the spot from exhaustion. The other was taken to the healing lodge for recuperation and immediate food, water, and much needed rest
Bear Scars' village was relatively small and consisted of only about fifty families. Combined in around 30 longhouses. And only half the males were of the age to fight. About 60 warriors in total. However, many were off on hunting expeditions. And a group of 8 warriors had just left to go visit the ocean peoples and conduct commerce with the shell traders. They left to obtain more wampum shells and also get larger shells for necklaces, ear and nose pieces and for dress decoration. This was also the time of the year that rare blue and green shells were obtainable as well. A good supply of furs, quill work, leather and carved pipes went with these same men. Plus, some sacred tobacco for trading and smoking while negotiating the trade terms. Always a very pleasant endeavor. There might also be salted or smoked rare dried fish and maybe even some fresh oysters to bring back as well. But the return of these men would not be for several days.
This left only around thirty five warriors still left in the village. Even as fierce as this particular Iroquoian band was, they knew they would not be able to protect their families from so many Algonquins. Especially with Bear Scars out of commission. He was worth 10 warriors when up to full health.
Runners were immediately sent to the nearest two villages of Bear Scars' people, but both were four to five days away. This would mean about a 9 to 10 day arrival and then return. The Algonquins would be here within a day.
Hiawatha was greatly worried for his friend. He appeared still too weak to travel on his own, let alone fight. “What to do?” Hiawatha thought. He would have to protect his friend, save Morning Star and also all of her people. Hiawatha decided his only choice was to place Bear Scars into the White Canoe and risk losing it by forcing it to travel the four days journey to his village as quickly as the canoe could move. He would call upon his own people to come to Bear Scars' tribe's aid. They were still technically allied. The people of the Great Mountain with the people of the Great Tree. The main problem was the time involved. If Hiawatha could get the canoe to his own village within a day, it would still take another four to get back to Bear Scars' village by foot. Running and only just resting could get them back here at best within 3 days. Which would mean probably four days going and returning. There was no way the many warriors at Hiawatha's potential command could fit into his magical canoe. At best it could only hold five men. And this might make it too heavy to move very rapidly. Hiawatha had every intention of allowing the canoe to rest, if it made it to his people without turning completely dark. Hiawatha had no way of knowing what all this might entail in affecting this magical conveyance, but he was willing to risk it to save Bear Scars' people.
But what to do about the fifty families still left back here? Hiawatha was not going to leave Morning Star either, so that meant at least three in the canoe. Which Hiawatha was well aware the White Canoe was very capable of handling. He just wasn't sure that the canoe's magic would last. It was, however, the only hope of getting help to Bear Scars' people within the fastest possible time.
A war council meeting was immediately held. Normally, Bear Scars would have been war leader, but he was too weak. Three Arrows, an elder warrior, was chosen to take his place. Every one of the women quickly agreed he would be the best choice.
Three Arrows decided it would be best if all the villagers were to gather up necessary survival materials and abandon the village. Then rapidly move in the direction of Hiawatha's people. This could cut down on the amount of time Hiawatha's help might be forthcoming. Hiawatha felt it was a very good plan and if everything went well, it might just work. Three Arrows was definitely the best choice to replace Bear Scars. Hiawatha had the greatest respect for the selection the women in Bear Scars' village had made. Hiawatha was highly confident in Three Arrows leadership abilities. The elder's suggestion to abandon the village was emotionally difficult, but strategically excellent. The Algonquins would come, find it empty, would then take from the village whatever they could use and burn it to the ground. The Algonquins would split their forces in attempting to find the direction Bear Scars' people had gone. Which wouldn't take them that long, as the Algonquins were every bit as good at tracking as any Iroquois. But it would definitely slow down their pursuit. Three Arrows felt that any village can be rebuilt, but lives cannot be replaced.
With the decision made, Hiawatha, Morning Star and Bear Scars thus began their journey to get help from Hiawatha's people. Bear Scars was showing greater ability to support his own weight, so getting him to and into the White Canoe was not difficult. Morning Star was severely conflicted over leaving her family, but also did not want to be parted from Hiawatha, either. However, her mother and father both pleaded with her to go with Hiawatha. They wanted her to be safe. And both of them believed it was more likely to occur with him. Hiawatha was grateful they had persuaded her to go with him.
In his haste to get to the White Canoe and reach his own village, Hiawatha had left the mask back in the longhouse of Morning Star's family. He didn't think he would need it, but he didn't want to lose this marvelous device into the fires that the Algonquins would most assuredly start. However, it was now too late to return to retrieve it.
As he was approaching the White Canoe, supporting Bear Scars by his shoulder, he was startled to see that the mask was there inside it. This mystical object never stopped amazing Hiawatha. He hoped he would one day understand how all this amazing magic was actually occurring.
Once Hiawatha, Morning Star and Bear Scars were safely and securely within the White Canoe, Hiawatha began his meditative preparations to command the canoe to take them as swiftly as possible to his village. He closed his eyes and performed this contemplation.
Meanwhile, Three Arrows and the rest of the Iroquois warriors were gathering all the village inhabitants together along with only the few belongings they could easily carry. This lightened burden would hopefully expedite the trek towards Hiawatha's forces.
Three Arrows had sent a small group of warriors to meet the onrushing Algonquins in a desperate attempt to slow them down and give his people more time to reach safety. Three Arrows had chosen two young orphaned brothers, Sneaking Wolf and Fire Walking, plus one older unmarried warrior, Two Hand Knife for this assignment. All three were exceptional archers and were especially good at hiding high up in trees. There was one spot in particular, that Three Arrows hoped that these three men could reach before the Algonquins did. At this location, it would be very possible for three men to hold the Algonquin hordes temporarily back by an ambush. Possibly for at least an hour or more. The War leader acknowledged that this was basically a suicide mission. The three warriors eagerly embraced this opportunity to help protect their people.
The three Iroquois reached this ambush location near a shallow spot in the river that the Algonquins would definitely have to cross to reach the Iroquoian village. Especially, if they wished to reach it much more quickly. Any other path would have required at least another quarter day's journey.
It was a wide clearing about 600 feet deep in from the river bank and about a mile in both directions along the Iroquoian side of the river. Grasses and small bushes stood no more than two feet above the ground. Several varieties of trees, many with thick trunks formed a dense barrier beyond the 600 foot mark. The three warriors placed themselves about 500 feet apart from each other for maximum arrow coverage effect. Each was high up in his tree and could see clearly in every direction at the front of the forest. They were well hidden within the foliage. They had draped leaves around their waists, necks and each wore a headdress made up of leaves. Black, brown and yellow splotches of bear grease paint were placed over various parts of their bodies to camouflage their body shape. They had brought several quivers full of arrows with them. And each carried two bows, in case one became defective. Each was instructed only to use sign language to communicate. They then patiently waited.
Several hours passed. Sneaking Wolf saw several warriors emerging from the forest on the other side of the river. At first there were only a few. Then hundreds of Algonquins came out of the forest. Sneaking Wolf had never seen so many of the enemy gathered in one place before. He immediately estimated there were somewhere between 400-600 warriors coming their way. All were tattooed and heavily war painted. War club bearers and archers in the hundreds. If those archers could locate where the arrows were coming from, it wouldn't take very long to bring Sneaking Wolf and his brave companions down. However, he knew they had to try. Sneaking Wolf had instructed each of his fellow warriors to purposely aim each arrow, if possible, from a different direction within the trees and to wait a few seconds before launching another arrow. After the first arrows struck, the Algonquins would panic and either fall immediately to the ground or retreat back into the woods. At first they would not know for sure how many archers were present. The longer these three could keep them guessing the better. Those first arrows had to be right on the mark. Sneaking Wolf wanted to delay the Algonquins as long as possible before he and his men were actually located and killed.
The Iroquois waited until the Algonquins were in range of more accurate fire. The first arrow struck its mark right in the nearest Algonquin warrior's head. The second arrow brought down a large warrior in the groin and the third missile took out another ugly tattooed male in the chest. The reaction was exactly as Sneaking Wolf had expected. However, the vast majority of the Algonquins quickly retreated back into the safety of the forest. Only about 20-30 remained visible on the side of the river bank the three Iroquois were on. The forward Algonquins had quickly dropped to a prone position under the covering safety of the high grasses. Sneaking Wolf aimed for one starting to rise up from his prone position and hit him squarely in the throat. Two other warriors attempting to rise were immediately taken out by the other two archers as well.
The Algonquins were slowly crawling on their bellies towards the tree line containing the hidden archers. Sneaking Wolf could see the close by grasses bending with movement, so he aimed an arrow at a spot where he saw the grass in motion. A great cry of pain emerged from that spot and the grass stopped moving. Fire Walking also managed to hit one of the prone crawling enemy as well.
Then there was a loud cry of many warriors rapidly emerging from the distant forest on the other side of the river. A cacophony of screaming and whooping men. An obvious attempt to distract and intimidate how ever many archers were hidden in the trees. Which the Algonquin leader had determined were very few. A rush of his warriors might even send them fleeing. Suddenly one of the prone Algonquins rose up and launched an arrow straight at Sneaking Wolf's position. Then two other warriors also rose up launching arrows in the same direction within the trees where Sneaking Wolf was stationed. One arrow struck him in the ankle, which he desperately managed to keep from crying out as a result of the sharp pain, but then another struck him squarely in the chest, killing him instantly. Fire Walking got a quick arrow off to the kill first archer, before he was able to drop back down. But Fire Walking had revealed his position in the process and was the next to fall, Two Hand Knife made a good effort to hold back the Algonquins for at least another ten minutes and then was struck several times by a flurry of well aimed arrows. These three brave Iroquois had managed to forestall the Algonquins for well over an hour. Time that would permit their people to move closer to safety.
The Algonquins were now across the river in force and heading towards the village of The Great Tree. This horde of warriors, from the Village of Three Clans, were being lead by the famous war chief, Yellow Club. A huge man, in his thirties, with a powerful and magnificent physique. He was considered to be exceptionally tall for an Algonquin at 6' 5” and secretly referred to as the “giant.” Yellow Club was known to have counted over twenty coups in just one battle alone. He was rumored to have many eagle feathers in his possession, two copper blades and several very beautiful wives. One of them was even a captured Iroquoian woman. He was known for always painting his very heavy stone war club in the brightest yellow and stood out in any battle with this particularly singular choice of weapon color. There wasn't a warrior on either side not intimidated by the sight of this giant man coming towards them. He would shave his hair on one side of his head and wore a long shell interlaced braid on the other side hanging directly alongside his ear.
He was distinctly recognized by placing a series of long red war stripes running from the top of his head down to his chin on the shaven side. A truly frightening masculine presence. And he was on his way to destroy Bear Scars' people
Hiawatha had placed Bear Scars into the White Canoe along with Morning Star. He closed his eyes breathed in and out slowly and envisioned the route he wanted the canoe to take. When he opened his eyes again, he was astonished to find himself immediately at the outskirts of his own village. A journey that took only minutes. Plus the canoe had not grown darker, but was now even whiter. The look on Morning Star and Bear Scars' faces was priceless. “It was as if we were back at my village and then suddenly here.” uttered Morning Star. “and I do not remember moving at all” she added. Bear Scars was utterly silent. Dumbfounded more than likely. Hiawatha was learning new things about his canoe with every effort at its use.
The three removed themselves from the canoe and Hiawatha placed it in an out of the way secure location. He knew it would never be accidentally seen in the place he had stored it. He placed it high up in a great tree. Moreover, the canoe seemed to be getting whiter by the minute. Hiawatha did not know what to make of this increasing whitening, either.
Bear Scars was still a little weak. But the White Canoe transit managed to invigorate him somehow. Bear Scars managed to proudly walk unassisted with Hiawatha and Morning Star into Hiawatha's village. Bear Scars was a proud warrior and wanted to greet Hiawatha's people at the best appearance he could muster. Hiawatha had nothing but high esteem for Bear Scars' attempt at dignity. And was greatly honored to be seen alongside this great and legendary warrior.
Bear Scars quickly estimated there were at least 75 very large longhouses. This included his guesstimate of around 130-150 potential warriors. He also noticed the huge fields of corn, squash and beans. This was a very prosperous village...and definitely in a very fertile location.
Hiawatha immediately contacted Wolf Kindness, who was the current war leader of Hiawatha's tribe. Wolf Kindness was a fierce warrior, but was also known for his joyful humor and gentleness with children. “Where have you been?” spoke Wolf Kindness. “We all thought something terrible had happened to you. That is until one of Bear Scars' people came to us and gave a short summation of your journey to help locate a special woman of Bear Scars' people. A very beautiful lady called Morning Star.”
Wolf Kindness held out his arms to receive Morning Star, greeting her warmly with:”You must be this Morning Star?” Your beauty is exceptional. I can fully appreciate Hiawatha's willingness to pursue and rescue you.” Welcome to the people of the Great Mountain. Morning Star smiled at Wolf Kindness and responded: “it is my great honor to meet the people of Hiawatha's heritage.” Wolf Kindness then interjects: “And not only do you come back to, us my son, with a White Rose woman, but the legendary Bear Scars as well.” Bear Scars eagerly greeted this enthusiastic welcome with: “It is my highest honor to meet the brave, prosperous and fierce people of the Great Mountain and the people of my great friend Hiawatha.” Hiawatha immediately followed this with, “I'm sorry to interrupt the pleasantries, Uncle, but we must hurry. Bear Scars' people desperately need our help as quickly as possible. We must move as many warriors towards his village and without any delay.”
Wolf Kindness immediately called to all the village warriors to gather around him. Within a very short time about 112 warriors were by Wolf Kindness' side. “Gather your weapons, carry light amounts of food and water and be prepared to move as quickly as we all know how to do. Fifteen minutes later about 120 plus Iroquois warriors were moving rapidly on their way to meet Three Arrows and his people. The White Canoe's swift passage had given Hiawatha at least one day less to get to Three Arrows. A time saving that would prove very important.
Bear Scars seemed invigorated by the thought of battle and simply refused to remain back at the village of the Great Mountain along with the minimum group of warriors left behind to protect the village. So Hiawatha obliged him by permitting him to join the march towards his own people. “ I won't stop for you if you fall behind” uttered Hiawatha.” and if you do, please just return back here for recuperation. Worrying about your safety isn't going to help me focus.”
“I won't falter or let you down. Of this I swear.” returned Bear Scars. And the great warrior was true to his word. Hiawatha was amazed at the physical resources Bear Scars could seemingly draw upon. Only a day before, this huge warrior was flat on his back and as weak as a new born baby.
Hiawatha couldn't get Morning Star to remain behind either. Which was his principal intention for bringing her with him. To insure she was safely protected in his village. She simply refused to leave his side. Hiawatha was not happy at the thought of putting her near any danger, but he also knew not to disagree with her choices. He secretly admired her decision to be with him no matter what the danger. And after what they had already endured, so far, proved she could definitely hold her own. Morning Star would prove most invaluable in the upcoming conflict. She had certain abilities yet unseen by Hiawatha. Morning Star could command all animals to do whatever she wished. As long as she felt very little harm might come to them. Not because the animals were not willing to sacrifice their lives for her, but merely because Morning Star could not embrace the thought of harm being unnecessarily inflicted upon them. Morning Star and all other native peoples believed that many animals willingly offered their lives up for the purposes of food. However, special rituals of gratitude were necessary whenever any animal's life was taken. To fail to do so meant a vengeful result would occur to that individual. Or to his or her people if the proper respect was not shown to any life taken to insure the continuation of life.
Morning Star had already sent a huge flock of birds to harass the oncoming Algonquins. Mainly to slow them down. And she had already asked for forgiveness from these birds for any harm that might befall them. The birds had answered her through a form of spiritual communication only accessible by a White Rose woman. The birds had expressed to Morning Star's mind that “they were all willing to die to save her people.” This caused Morning Star to profusely weep.
Three Arrows' people were moving as fast as reasonably possible. But people with children cannot move very fast. They could easily have moved far faster without them. Children can be very contrary and very stubborn. However, no parent is going to leave their children despite any particular child's recalcitrance. Even as frustrating and annoying as this might be. Three Arrows had wisely placed most of his remaining warriors behind his people to take the brunt of any Algonquin approach and to protect the women and children up in the slowly moving front.Some of the warriors in the rear were lifting the slower children up and quickly moving them forward as a form of game. Which delighted the children. This activity did help everyone move more quickly. Which Three Arrows highly recommended. But, the War Leader knew they were still moving too slowly to escape the onrushing Algonquins. He would have to come up with hopefully another plan to slow them down a bit more. If possible. He needed at least another day if there was any hope of receiving help from Hiawatha's people. He was running out of time. Things were looking very bad. He considered having all the remaining warriors turn and meet the oncoming Algonquins in an all or nothing attempt to delay them, but this would leave the women and children totally defenseless. This would only be his option of last resort.
The Algonquins quickly deciphered which direction the empty village inhabitants had picked up and moved towards. Yellow Club had assumed they were moving only to escape, not realizing it was part of an elaborate plan. The Algonquins were unaware that they were now merely an hour from reaching and destroying Three Arrows' desperate band. The flames and smoke of the Iroquoian village could now be spotted in the far distance by those who had escaped its fate. Three Arrows was saddened by the sight of so much burning and now lost, but continued to hurry his people as best he could muster. Which now looked seemingly impossible.
Yellow Club came up the rise of a tall hill and could then see glimpses of the escaping Iroquois in the distance. He reckoned that they were at about an hour's swift pace away. It wouldn't take his warriors very long to reach and exterminate every one of them. Yellow Club presented a leering smirk. He loved to kill. It would appear he would soon get his fill of death.
Then the sky suddenly began to darken. The sun was becoming blocked by a huge dark mass. Yellow Club was, himself, becoming a bit intimidated. A great blackness was spreading across the sky. A very eerie sound was also accompanying this expanding cloud. A hideous sound of both anger and vengeful intent. Yellow Club, himself, became frightened as he began to realize what was descending towards him and his many warriors.
Morning Star's birds had arrived.
To read Part 1 click here