The epic tale that began in People of the Longhouse continues in this second book of the thrilling new Iroquois quartet by New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors and archaeologists Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear.
War Chief Koracoo and Deputy Gonda of the Standing Stone People have successfully rescued their children, Odion and Tutelo, from Gannajero the Trader. Known as the Crow, Gannajero is a figure out of nightmare―a witch who steals children. Odion's friend Wrass is still held captive, along with several other children, in Gannajero's camp, and Koracoo and Gonda are determined to save them all.
This time, Koracoo and Gonda have allies: a battle-weary Mohawk war chief and a Healer from the People of the Dawnland, who have also lost children to Gannajero. These bitter enemies must learn to trust each other and find common ground. Will they be able to put their differences aside and rescue the children before they are sold and carried off to distant villages―and lost to their families and homes forever?
With their trademark mastery of American prehistory, Kathleen and Michael Gear tell a very human story of love and courage set against the backdrop of violent and endemic warfare of the Iroquois nations prior to the founding of the League of the Iroquois.
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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 holds a master's degree in archaeology and has worked as a professional archaeologist since 1978. He is principal investigator for Wind River Archaeological Consultants.
Together they have written the North America's Forgotten Past series (People of the Morning Star, People of the Songtrail, People of the Mist, People of the Wolf, among others); and the Anasazi Mysteries series. The Gears live in Thermopolis, WY.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Dawn Country
OneNightfall had silenced the mountains. No owls hooted; no trees snapped in the cold wind that swayed the branches. There was only the faint roar of the fire in the distance.Sonon pulled his black cape more tightly around him and studied the frozen ground. The warriors' feet had hewn a dark swath through the frost that glittered in the gaudy orange halo. His gaze followed their trail to the burning village. The Dawnland People had called it Bog Willow Village. Yesterday it had contained over one hundred houses.He hadn't expected the village to be this bad.As he walked toward it, ash fell around him like fine flakes of obsidian, coating his cape and long hair, turning them gray. The forty-hand-tall palisade that surrounded the village had burned through in too many places. That had been their doom. They must have watched in horror as the enemy streamed through those gaps and raced across the village, killing everything in their path.He turned back around to stare at the victory camp. Hundreds of celebrating warriors danced to the sound of drums and flutes. Most were from the Flint or Mountain Peoples, but the war party had contained a few Hills People warriors, too. He knew them from their distinctive tattoos, and the designs painted on their bows and capes.On the far side of the camp, near the river, captive women and children huddled together, shivering, watching their captors with wide stunned eyes. Before dawn came all would be sold and marched away to enemy villages. The lucky ones would be adopted into families and spend the rest of their lives trying to forget this night. The others wouldn't have to worry about it.Sonon took a breath and let it out slowly.There were still times when he woke to the sound of screams that existed only inside him. For many summers he'd thought they were the cries of his twin sister, and he'd been ravaged by guilt. When he'd finally realized the voice was his own, the pain had eased a little. The day they were sold into slavery, he'd seen only eight summers. He wasn't a warrior. There was nothing he could have done to save her--or himself.He clenched his fists so hard his nails bit into his palms. He had to go down there, into the village. No man wished to admit he was afraid, but ...He forced his legs to walk. At first, only a few bodies lay alongside the trail, but as he neared the palisade the number increased. Desperate villagers must have fought to get outside and run headlong into a line of waiting archers. Bodies, bristling with arrows, had piled up around each gap in the defensive wall. The last few to make it outside probably had to shove their way through a mound of dead.Sonon carefully stepped around the carnage and ducked through the charred hole in the palisade. The heat struck him first. He threw up an arm and squinted against the glare to see what remained of Bog Willow Village. In less than twenty heartbeats he was sweating, struggling for air. The smoke was so thick it was almost impossible to breathe.Five paces away an old woman sat on the ground with her face in her hands, rocking back and forth in dazed silence. A few other survivors stumbled past. They moved methodically, searching for loved ones or bending to collect precious belongings: a dropped pot or basket, children's toys.I'm over here. See me?Sonon stopped, and tiny tornadoes of ash spun away from his sandals. They whirled through the firelit shadows. Was it just his fatigue? It sounded like a boy's voice.Cautiously, he veered around a collapsed wall and began searching the debris. Twenty paces later, he almost stumbled over the child.Two small arms extended from beneath a buckled wall.Sonon knelt and pulled the boy from the heap of smoldering bark. Most of his hair had been singed off. He'd seen perhaps six or seven summers. For a time, he just held the boy in his lap and listened to the crackling roar of the fire. Somewhere in the conflagration, muted voices shouted names ... and went unanswered. Occasionally, orphaned children darted by.When he could, he staggered to his feet and carried the boy between the burning husks of two houses, then stepped through a gap in the palisade wall and trudged down to the river's edge, where he gently rested the boy on the shore. In the wavering glare, the boy's half-open eyes seemed to be alive and watching him.Why do I only hear them when the struggle is over? Are the voices of the dead only audible to those trapped in eternal night?Sonon tenderly adjusted the boy's cape, pulling it up around his throat to keep him warm. "It's all right," he said. "I'll make sure they find you. Your clan will take care of you, and you'll have no trouble crossing the bridge to the afterlife. Your ancestors will be waiting for you."Though he was a man of the Hills nation, he knew the ways of the Dawnland People. They believed that the unburied dead became Ghost Fires, angry fire-beings that could not cross the bridge to the afterlife and were forever doomed to remain around the deteriorating bones. The Bog Willow Village survivors would not leave their beloved relatives to that terrible fate, not if they could help it. That meant someone would come looking for this child. His body would be ritually cleaned and prepared for the long journey; then his family would sing him to the afterlife. Having the boy out here in the open would make it easier for his relatives to find him.Sonon wiped his soot-coated face with the back of his hand and looked out across the river to the opposite, willow-choked bank. Beyond it, towering black spruces caught the reflections in the water and seemed made of translucent amber wings. The river itself, coated with ash, had an opaque leaden sheen.He stood up and turned back to the village. For ten heartbeats, he just breathed and studied the palisade. People from distant places did not understand that each log was a Standing Warrior. Among their peoples, the angry souls of dead warriors were excluded from the Land of the Dead, so they moved into trees. They remained in the wood for centuries, until the tree disintegrated and their souls were forced toseek new homes. It was these trees that the People cut down to make their palisades. That meant that every log was a warrior still keeping guard, still protecting his or her people.He wondered what the Standing Warriors must be feeling. Not so long ago, they'd watched this little boy racing happily across the plaza, seen him playing ball and dish games with his friends, heard his laughter ringing through the village on quiet summer afternoons. Their grief must be unbearable.Sonon whispered, "No one could have held off such an assault. It wasn't your fault. You did the best you--"Voices drifted from the river. He turned.A birch-bark canoe quietly slipped through the smoke, parting the river like an arrow, heading south. An old woman rode in the bow. She was dressed like a man and wore a long black wig, but a few greasy twists of gray hair stuck out around the edges, framing her deeply wrinkled face. Even if she hadn't been in disguise, he would have known her. A thousand summers from now, as he walked the earth alone, he would hear her footsteps in his nightmares.Four children lay together in her canoe, crying. Three warriors with paddles swiftly drove them forward. Close on the heels of the first, another canoe pierced the darkness--with three more captive children.As the canoes passed, waves rippled outward and washed up on the shore near the dead boy, leaving delicate ribbons of firelit foam at his feet.Everything about tonight felt strange and surreal. As though Sonon was locked in a trance and could not wake, his heart thumped a dull staccato against his chest.At least a few of the children had escaped. Earlier in the evening, he'd helped them ... as much as he could.When the canoes vanished into the darkness, he looked at the western mountains. He couldn't see the pass through the smoke and falling ash. The trail the escaped children had taken was the fastest way back to the lands of the People of the Standing Stone. But there would be many others on that trail: survivors of the village slaughter, orphaned children, and a few wary men who'd left the victory camp early, trying to beat the onslaught of warriors who would crowd the trail just after dawn.Very softly he called, "Stay strong, Odion, and you'll be all right. You'll--"I'm here. Right here. Please find me?Sonon squeezed his eyes closed for several long moments. It was a girl's voice.He clenched his fists again; then he tramped back up the hill, ducked through the gap in the palisade, and trotted into the roaring inferno to search for her.Copyright © 2011 by Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear
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