They were called the Chaco Anasazi. They built thirty-foot-wide roads that crossed miles of mountains and mesas and constructed five story buildings which had more than 800 rooms. Their priests and warriors presided over the conquered populations of Chaco Canyon via an extensive system of signal towers that could send messages across the vast distances day or night. Messages could be sent easily, and warriors could be dispersed to quell any rebellion within hours of the start of an uprising.
The Anasazi believed their destiny was charted in the paths of the moon, sun, and stars. The moon had reached its maximum three times since the Chacoans conquered the First Moon People. The Chaco matrons had built their Great House high atop First Moon Mountain, and their red-shirted warriors stalked arrogantly through the villages, taking what they pleased. But the gods can only stand so much human arrogance.
Young Ripple of the first Moon People had no desire to become a Dreamer, but when Cold Bringing Woman, the goddess of winter, appears at his high mountain camp, she sends him on a perilous quest to destroy the hated Chacoans. But Ripple will not face the task alone; he is aided by his stalwart friends on this mission.
But the blessed Chacoan Sun Webworm and his Dragonfly Clan matrons will brook no insurgency. In retaliation, Chacoan war chief Leather Hand and his warriors embark on a campaign of terror so gruesome it remains unrivaled in the annals of prehistory. It all comes to a climax atop the mountain we now know as Chimney Rock. In the white light of the lunar maximum, the Pueblo gods will dance--and an empire will be engulfed in flames and mayhem.
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KATHLEEN O'NEAL GEAR is a former state historian and archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has twice received the federal government's Special Achievement Award for "outstanding management" of our nation's cultural heritage.
W. MICHAEL GEAR, who holds a master's degree in archaeology, has worked as a professional archaeologist since 1978. He is currently principal investigator for Wind River Archaeological Consultants.
The Gears, whose First North American Series and Anasazi Mystery Series, are both international as well as USA Today bestsellers live in Thermopolis, Wyoming.
People of the Moon
First Day SUN CYCLE OF THE WATER SERPENT, THE MOON OF PRAYER FEATHERS The mountains are quiet and cold. The stone upon which I sit sends its chill up through my flesh, into my spine. Cold. The world is cold. Even this sunrise spilling across the landscape below me in a blaze of orange-yellow reflects its cold in the purple shadows cast by the buttes, canyons, and peaks. I look into eternity. There, distant in the southwest, the light narrows to focus on a rising column, a pillar of billowing pink climbing into the sky: the Rainbow Serpent. For five years now, it has been pumping steam and lava from the underworlds. Sometimes ash drifts down like brittle flakes of snow. At other times, it is a fine dust that catches glints of sunlight. Here, so far from the source, we observe it as a feathering of gray on open containers of drinking water. Signs and portents. They weave around me, and I no longer care. Once I fought against them, seeking to save the people. Now, I no longer seek to influence Power, only to let it wash over me, through me. My lover is dead. His name was Badgertail. He kept me safe for twenty summers--and it is still a miracle. I see him as a young man, tall, with a squat toad face and the burly body ofGrandfather Brown Bear. The blue spiders tattooed on his cheeks dance when he smiles. I rock back and forth to ease the pain in my chest. Blessed Spirits, how I miss him. For over a sun cycle, I had to watch my Badgertail grow more transparent each day, until he became a skeleton with kind and loving eyes. Even at the hard, lonely end, his love shone like a fire through his suffering. I keep that last glimpse of his living eyes. When he died, it was as if some grasping force inexorably pulled the guts out of my souls, ripping away their essence and leaving me nothing but the painful hollow of memory. Now I yearn for Death. We are old companions, more intimate than lovers. Sometimes in the midst of crowds, but more often among wounded or sick people, Death stands so close my legs will not hold me. I must sit down. Even when I am alone and warm, and my belly is full, I catch myself staring at the doorway, anxious, as though my heart hears Death's soft footsteps just outside. I long to reach out, to pull Death close, to feel it wind around my shoulders and tighten about my waist. I want its chill to cup my breasts, and stroke my throat. Death's cold thrust will spread from my womb through my hips and into my bones. As it slips around the base of my skull and lies metallic on my tongue, I can finally let go. Then, and only then, will I be free to find Badgertail again. Meanwhile, I wait. And watch. People have been coming to me for some time now, braving the "Mountain Witch" to ask if I know the Rainbow Serpent's purpose. I tell them, "Look to your souls. The monster that lurks below is risen. Let loose, it brings death to those it bites." They listen wide-eyed, sober, and chastened. But they do not understand. Some monsters rise from the depths. Others lurk just below the surface. Monsters are everywhere. In the distant clouds, I see figures. They fly noiselessly over the morning-mottled desert below my mountain. Silent. Shifting. Cloud People. They are aptly named, for I see human forms there, winged, wearing masks that are at once beautiful and grotesque. They Dance with the trailing streamers of the Rainbow Serpent. Brother Sky mating with Grandmother Earth. From the corner of my eye, I am aware of a misshapen form pirouetting through the dew-silvered meadow. There, in front of the white-barked aspens, he is but a flicker of movement, a sleight of the eye. "What is being born, old friend?" I ask. Like me, his attention, too, is riveted on the Rainbow Serpent where it crawls upward to insert itself into the sky. I hear his voice whispering to my souls ... . Ah, yes. Of course. In the end, all human endeavor comes to this. I am more than a witch. I Dance the darkness, whisper with the dead, and smile down upon the dying. I have witnessed the deaths of great kings and seen empires Dancing toward their dissolution. That is why I was chosen. To see the signs. To know the future. I rise on stiff legs and draw a deep breath into my aged lungs. My world is about to end. The signs are here. The future is here. And the Rainbow Serpent is the proof. I lift my arms and step down from my rocky perch. Closing my eyes, I sense Brother Mud Head. He sways this way and that, his feet shuffling in the Dance. I match his movement, my uplifted hands mirroring his. Together, in a state of lethal bliss, we Dance the death of a nation. Copyright © 2005 by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear
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