fiction series

Act 2: Danger, fear... by Steve Hart

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The sense of danger overwhelmed Timpoochee like a gathering darkness.

He quickly surveyed the trees, the moss, the shrubs around him; the rocks that yielded the great oaks, the silverbell and basswood around him.

His fear urged him to dash up the mountain, to the safety of the spruce and the hemlock.

But the water called him back. That clear, flowing stream, refreshing and life giving. The creatures within it, fish and frogs and salamanders.

In an eddy at the bank’s edge Timpoochee peered into the crystal reflection of the sun spirit dancing on the surface of the long man...

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Act 30: Just like Old Hunter... by Steve Hart

Yufala stirred the fire and sat back down beside it. There was always a fire in the council house, even in the summer.

“The deer were the next to hold council,” he said. “Chief Little Deer presided and the council lasted from one full moon to the next.

“Finally the deer decided to send rheumatism to every hunter who killed a member of the deer clan unless the hunter first prayed for pardon.

“The deer council sent word of their decision to the nearest settlement of people, explaining how the prayer of pardon should be offered whenever it became necessary for one of their clan to be killed by a hunter.

“Even today,” said Yufala. “When a hunter has to shoot a deer the prayer of pardon is offered. Immediately, the spirit of Little Deer arrives to ask the spirit of the slain deer if the prayer of pardon was heard. If it was not, the spirit of Little Deer follows the trail of the hunter to his house and enters invisibly to inflict the offender with rheumatism, crippling him forever.”

“Just like Old Hunter,” Timpoochee shouted. “His bent and sore hands and legs come from his visit by Little Deer.”

“That is the legend,” Yufala replied. “It is said Old Hunter did not know the prayer to offer. He was inflicted shortly after he returned from a hunt. It happened when I was just a small boy, too young to remember.”

Timpoochee thought of the many times he’d listened to Old Hunter tell stories of the old days on the mountains and Long Man.

“Old Hunter is one of my favorite people,” he said to the others. “Despite the legacy of inattention and carelessness on the hunt, he still has many valuable lessons to teach if anyone had the patience to listen.

Through the dim light of the council house and out the narrow opening Timpoochee saw the dark, crinkled face of Old Hunter, beaten and molded by an eternity in the elements, bent over the placid, ruddy face of Grandmother Ama as he yelled into her bad ear instructions for weaving the basket. Even though his knotted hands wouldn’t allow him to work the reeds he new better than anyone how to make the best baskets. With his oversight and grandmother's still youthful fingers the pair made the finest baskets anyone had ever seen. 

Even in the council house, Old Hunter could be heard yelling his instructions into Grandmother Ama's ear. She nodded and smiled her acknowledgement. 

It seemed, in that moment, nothing would ever change. 

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Act 31: Each has its use... by Steve Hart

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“The next to hold council were the fish, reptiles and amphibians,” Yufala returned to his story of the Medicine.

“They decided to send dreams of snakes and hellbenders to each hunter who killed one of their tribe. That is why even today we still dream of snakes sometimes.

“Finally it was the birds, insects and smallest animals’ time to hold a council,” Yufala continued. “Grubworm sat as chief.

“Each animal was given a chance to tell of the various crimes committed against them by humans. The frog claim his back was covered with sores because a human had kicked him. The bird claimed its feet were burned when man roasted him over the fire.

“After each animal gave its own version of human wrong, the council held a vote to decide man’s guilt and decided to punish humans by creating diseases to inflict offenders after their crimes.

“Grubworm grew more excited and happy with each new disease.

“At last, the animals decided to make menstruation sometimes fatal to women. That excited the Grubworm so much he leaped into the air with joy and fell right off his stool. He fell so hard he could not regain his feet and has been forced to crawl around on his belly ever since.

“When the plants, who were friendly with the humans, heard what the small animal council decided they took it upon themselves to provide a cure for each of the diseases devised by the animals.

“All the trees, shrubs and herbs, even the grass and moss came to the humans’ rescue with a cure to nearly every disease named by the animals.

“Thus came the Medicine,” said Yufala. “And each of the plants has a use if only we learn how to use them.”

He stood up, turned and walked toward the door of the council house.

“So, you see, if we learn the ways of Yonega we can learn the Medicine for him just as our ancestors learned the Medicine to use against disease.”

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Act 33: The rumble grew louder... by Steve Hart

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“Quiet that talk!” Timpoochee barked at this brother.

“We will have no more talk of “when I am leader.’ No one has been selected Ugvwiyuhi to follow Yufala. It’s foolish for you to talk that way.”

“From where you sit it is foolish, brother,” shot back Cornstalk. “It interferes with your own designs. And those of others.”

Cornstalk glared at Raven Wing.

“No one has any designs except to learn what is intended for the future of our people,” Timpoochee retorted. “Why must you always make trouble for yourself and others by your foolish and narrow ways?”

The argument was interrupted by a low, rumbling noise in the distance, well away from the town but loud and building. The council house suddenly shook violently.

The students looked at each other, surprise and fear gripped them all.

The rumble grew louder. The earth shook again.

The noise came from the west, toward Long Man.

Yufala burst into the council house as the noise became deafening and the ground shook so ferociously Timpoochee could barely keep his balance.

“Run for cover!” screamed a voice from outside, high up a tree. “Animals!”

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Act 34: "Run for cover!" by Steve Hart

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In the chaos, warriors grabbed bows, arrows, tomahawks and anything the could find to try to fend off the charging animals frightened by the shaking ground.

Trees crashed to the ground as the rumbling continued. Bushes and shrubs shook and uprooted or were smashed by the thundering hooves of deer and bear.

Yelling war hoops at the top of their lungs, warriors hurled arrows and spears at the animals, trying to steer them away from the village. Spears felled some of the large animals as most of the hurdling dark mass veered just north of the town.

Still, several bears bears charged helter-skelter into the community, knocking over cooking pots and racks of drying fish and animal skins.

Houses shook, some falling. Others moved intact some distance from their original spot.

Women grabbed young ones and dashed into shelters as the terrified beasts charged through the village.

Timpoochee ran for his own house.

“Swift Deer!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. “Mother! Run for cover!”

He ran with all his speed toward the house in the center of town as the echoing thunder of moving earth and trampling beats tore into the plaza.

Across the way, Old Hunter and Grandmother Ama were slowly making their way toward safety in Yufala’s house. Old Hunter struggled in his pain to help his old friend reach safety before a wild creature ripped them apart.

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Act 36: May be one more to bury... by Steve Hart

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Timpoochee leaped into the town plaza and raced back to the council house where several other students, including Cornstalk, stood shaken with glazed-over eyes looking at their surroundings and each other.

From out of the settling dust and smoke Yufala limped into the gathering.

“The white man has caused this in some way,” he grunted to one of the elders. “I have warned them not to hunt so close to our land.”

Timpoochee and Cornstalk, leaning into the council house, overheard their father’s talk among the elders.

“Our people will need a leader who will stand strong against Yonega,” Cornstalk said to his brother, his face displaying a certain self-satisfaction.

“Our people will need a leader who will try to understand Yonega,” Timpoochee replied.

“You both dream silly dreams,” blurted Raven Wing, still steaming from his argument with Timpoochee. “You are both an embarrassment to the study of the Medicine.”

“Watch your tongue, crow-fly, or you will find it lying in front of you in the sand,” Cornstalk shot back.

If anything, he was always ready for a fight.

“Your mouth should be shut, laha,” Timpoochee stepped in between Cornstalk and Raven Wing.

“Stay out of this, little brother,” ordered Cornstalk. “This is between the crow and me.”

“I’m trying to save you both from banishment. We can’t do this just now. Look around you, at what has happened - the shaking ground and trampling animals. Yufala needs all the strongest hands to help him repair our town and bury the dead.”

“There may be one more to bury,” shouted Cornstalk as he shoved Timpoochee to the side and lunged into Raven Wing with fury.

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Act 37: Know the Medicine, my son... by Steve Hart

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The fighters fell to the ground under the force of Cornstalk’s initial blow.

Raven Wing countered with repeated blow to his wiry opponent's back as they rolled closer to the fire.

There was nothing Timpoochee could do to stop it.

Raven Wing threw Cornstalk from on top of him and leaped back to his feet in time to defend himself against another attack. As Cornstalk lunged again Raven Wing stepped aside kicking the skinny boy in the butt as he slid past him.

The others around Timpoochee shouted their approval at the action as the shadow of Yufala covered the fighters.

Cornstalk slid head first into the chief’s stout legs as if he’d hit a wall.

Yufala looked down at the pair, fury in his face.

“Our town lies in ruins,” he shouted, grabbing Cornstalk’s arm and nearly twisting it off.

“Some of our people are dead, including Old Hunter, and yet here are the students of the Medicine brawling like dogs!”

Panic gripped Timpoochee’s heart at hearing of the old man’s death.

In tears, he ran from the council house to the chungke yard.

A heap of broken bones and trampled flesh lay just beside the chungke mound in a pile of drying blood.

Timpoochee gazed silently at the bruised, scarred remains of the old man as Yufala moved slowly to his side.

“A frightened and confused bear took Old Hunter’s life,” Yufala whispered as he placed his right hand on Timpoochee’s shoulder. “It was a life scarred many years ago by not know the Medicine well enough.

“Know the Medicine, my son. All of it. And all its lessons in the winds so your people will not also become victims. It is our only defense.”

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Act 38: The Sun was shining bright... by Steve Hart

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The days following the earth-sharking and bear rampage were dark days for Timpoochee and his people.

The restoration of the town, the public displays of mourning and ceremonies of burial were difficult, days the town had not experienced - ever.

Following the burials, the most celebrated of which was Old Hunter, the fire in the council house was extinguished and replaced with a new fire which would see the town through until Green Corn.

The entire community immersed itself in the water of Long Man to purify it from the tragedy.

Yufala’s family felt the pain especially hard. Old Hunter had been close to the family, a member really, because of Grandmother Ama. Now, as the oldest living member of the town she was taking the loss in severe pain, physical and emotional.

“How is Grandmother” Timpoochee said as he stepped gingerly into the house to help his mother apply some of the Medicine prepared for the old woman.”

“She is resting,” Swift Deer replied, quietly. “The Medicine is relieving her outward pain but not her inward pain.”

Timpoochee moved closer, bent down, kissed his grandmother on her forehead.

“Rest, Grandmother,” Swift Deer said softly. “I will soak your bruised arms and legs with this mud of frost-root and burdock.”

The sun was shining bright on the town, the first time it had done so since the ground-shaking. That was a good sign.

“Would you like to feel the warmth of the sun,” Swift Deer asked Grandmother, who could barely hear.

She knew the answer, of course. Timpoochee helped lift Grandmother Ama outside the house, into the sun where they reclined her on a palate already warmed by the bright sun.

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Act 40: A fire stirring within... by Steve Hart

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Timpoochee squinted his eyes, trying to see if he could spot a bowl of sofkee on the ground outside Rising Fawn’s house.

“You have repeated the conversation we had the other day, haven’t you mother.”

“Perhaps I had a word or two with Rising Fawn’s household,” Swift Deer replied in mock defense. “There is nothing wrong with that. It's time you start thinking about young women.”

For some time a fire had been stirring in Timpoochee. He wanted desperately to experience the same pleasure with a girl described by the older students of the Medicine.

There was in the community an easy sexual climate for the young, as there was in most towns in those days. The young girls and boys were encouraged to experiment with each other before getting married. After marriage, polygamous relationships were strictly forbidden and punishable by death if discovered. Courtship or marriage within one’s clan was forbidden, too, considered incestuous.

Timpoochee paid attention to Rising Fawn often since the days when they were young. She was a delight to watch. Her shining skin the same beautiful color of the cedar branch after it’s rubbed to a golden hue. Timpoochee watched her at public ceremonies, her bright black hair shimmering like a crow’s feathers, her breasts bouncing with her graceful rhythm only just enough to display their firmness and through them the strength that is within her.

Just a season younger than Timpoochee, Rising Fawn had been watching him, too. He noticed.

It was not only the color of his skin which made Timpoochee stand out nor, even, his stature as son of Duweuwewanidatsi but also the sharpness of his features and his manner, the way he smiled patiently, his attentiveness to the elders, his physical strength and his abilities on the water.

Timpoochee was not the only in whom a fire was growing. It was growing within Rising Fawn, too.

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Act 41: Taste of its promise... by Steve Hart

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“Mother,” Timpoochee said, still peering out the door in the direction of Rising Fawn’s house. “If she has the bowl outside do you think she would allow me to taste of its fruit of promise?”

“There is only one way to find the answer to your question, my son,” Swift Deer replied with a broad grin.

It was the custom of Timpoochee’s people that once families had discussed the possibility of marriage between two offspring the girl’s family placed a bowl of sofkee, or corn meal, outside its home beside the corn crib.

If the young woman was interested in the advances of a particular boy she would allow him to steal up to the bowl and from it take a spoonful. If she is not interested she was instructed to run him away before he could get to the bowl.

Inside Rising Fawn’s house she and two older women were still working to repair the damage from the bear attack. Rising Fawn’s father was away, on a full moon’s hunt. He was not due home for several more days.

“Are you keeping an eye on the bowl?” asked one of the older women as the young girl perched inside the doorway, fashioning a bowl from a mound of moist, warm clay.

Rising Fawn was becoming a bit dispirited.

“Yes, Uji, I am watching the corn meal but no one is coming. Are you sure you talked about this with Swift Deer? Maybe Timpoochee is not interested in me after all.”

“He is interested,” said Rising Fawn’s mother. “I have seen the way the watches you. I know that look. He is interested.”

“Wait...mother!” Rising Fawn suddenly perked up. “He is standing outside his house, talking with Swift Deer and looking this way!”

“Quickly, daughter, crouch down so he will not see you. If he does he might just keep going.”

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Act 42: A beautiful elk so sweet... by Steve Hart

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Timpoochee saw no one inside or outside the house as he moved as nonchalantly as possible in the direction of Rising Fawn’s sofkee bowl.

In the town, many people milled about and Timpoochee did not want attention attracted to his adventure, not this time. A few people looked up to notice Yufala’s son but no one seemed to pay him much mind.

He approached Rising Fawn’s house without much notice, or so he thought.

As he bent down toward the bowl a noise sprang from inside the house; maybe a girl’s giggle? He was so burning inside he could not be sure.

Suddenly, acting very much like a rooster, he resolutely dipped his finger into the meal, drew his sofkee coated digit to his mouth and tasted. He’d never tasted corn meal so sweet.

He kneeled in silence.

Nothing happened.

No one came running to chase him away.

The fire boiled up inside him and thought he might explode from its heat.

Still nothing happened.

He stood for a moment, which seemed to him like an eternity.

Noticing a stick on the ground nearby, Timpoochee began drawing in the dirt.The sketch became a map which showed the path to his favorite - and secret - place of quiet by the river.

“Maybe a beautiful elk will follow me to this place after the sun dips below the mountain tops,” he said softly but, he hoped, loud enough for Rising Fawn to hear him from her hiding place just inside her doorway.

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Act 43: Not sure of anything... by Steve Hart

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Even though the middle of the moon of small rain, the night sky was clear and the moon shone brightly on the trees and water as Timpoochee sat silently in his special thicket, waiting for Rising Fawn.

His sanctuary was a very special place, not only for him but in the beauty and tranquility of itself.

Up a creek only a short distance from Long Man and hidden from the river entrance by ferns, holly & hemlock. The water gurgled as it rushed across tree roots, rocks & logs near the river bank.

It was his place of refuge from the moment he found it as a young boy. It was his solitude, his thinking-place, his quiet in a noisy, changing world he did not fully understand. He shared it with no one. It was his and his alone.

And, yet, he offered to share it with Rising Fawn because it seemed right somewhere in his being.

Every sound Timpoochee heard that night became Rising Fawn breaking through to the small clearing. The barking frog suddenly silent became a signal she was near. The squeal of the squirrel bird heralded her arrival. Even the lonely whippoorwill, off in the woods, called her name. But as each sound faded back into the woods, Timpoochee realized she was not there.

His heart pounded. Blood pumped through his veins with the force of rushing water on the river. His soul wrenched with both the anticipation and desire of her arrival and a chasm of fear she would not.

These feelings were new for Timpoochee. He wasn’t sure of anything. Nothing seemed real and, yet, everything seemed all too real.

Visions in his head offered glimpses of what could be. Angst in his heart threatened to tear apart his very soul.

Suddenly, without warning or signal, the brush parted and through the opening danced effortlessly the girl of raven hair, clear dark skin and eyes that shone like the sparkle of the water dancing in the moon’s glow.  

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Act 44: Like my dreams... by Steve Hart

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“Rising Fawn?” whispered Timpoochee. “Is that you?”

She said nothing at first but stepped slowly into the thicket.

The moon shone on her breasts, making her even more desirable to Timpoochee by moonlight than she was in the day.

“Timpoochee,” she whispered back, in a voice which sounded like it had been taken straight from a nest of bees, sweet thick liquid.

“I followed you tonight because we must allow these feelings to find us, wrap around us, enclose us.”

“Seeing you right here, right now is like my dreams during slow days on the river,” Timpoochee said. “I have thought of you often for so many moons I cannot remember. A fire deep inside me calls your name over and over.”

“I have come to you find out what those feelings are all about,” replied Rising Fawn as she stepped forward onto the soft bed of moss.

Timpoochee rose from the ground to meet her.

Rising Fawn’s breech flap covered her from the waist to the middle of her legs. Her hair was plaited into wreaths, turned up and fastened on top of her head by a string of beads. She was slender, graceful when she moved, just like her name. Her hips were barely broader than her shoulders.

Timpoochee was clad in his flap of dried and stretched deer skin. He was dressed as if for a journey, although he planned on going nowhere else. His leggings covered his calves to protect him from thorns and bites in the woods. He was wearing the mantle of a student of the Medicine. It was white with a stuffed owl head on the back, glass beads hanging down.

With bodies shaking they embraced, her naked breasts barely touched his naked chest, nipples stiffening with the glancing caress of rapid breaths.

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Act 45: Suddenly one not two... by Steve Hart

“Let the fire within us guide us and keep us warm, tonight,” Rising Fawn said as Timpoochee embraced her, nearly exploding with heat from deep within.

Though he was light-headed with the energy from her presence, Timpoochee managed to slip the beads from Rising Fawn’s hair. It fell gracefully, like an eagle sailing downward toward the earth, cascading to her waist.

Bodies shaking, they fell to the blanket and soft ground.

As the moon shone brightly, the two young people searched with wonder for their feelings, sensations enveloping them with thousands of tiny light points.

He entered her and she surrounded him. They melded together and were suddenly not two but one person, intertwined, above and beyond any physical presence, not of the world as they had known it to that point. The sweetness, the love overwhelmed them and they flew together in some distant, magical realm.

For the next few nights, Timpoochee and Rising Fawn met in the thicket for love-making, swimming and talking over their thoughts.

“My mother and the Tcki know we have been spending out nights together, Timpoochee,” said Rising Fawn suddenly one night, as they lay on their backs, naked, looking at the moon which was growing wider each night with their love.

“That shouldn’t concern us,” Timpoochee replied. “We have been given the freedom to explore each other. Our families have talked. There is no cause for alarm.”

“Do you know the stories told about you by the Tcki?” Rising Fawn asked abruptly.

Timpoochee jolted to his knees. He heart felt suddenly as though it had been pierced with an arrow.

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Act 46: Stories told in muffled voices... by Steve Hart

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“They say you have the blood of Yonega and that is why your skin is lighter and your face sharper,” Rising Fawn whispered as Timpoochee kneeled over her.

“They say your mother returned with Yufala from a hunting trip. They say she is of the Creek clans.”

“Hompita haya” Timpoochee grunted, cutting off Rising Fawn. “Woman, your skin and spirit and love are like honey from the trees but your tongue is the sting of the bee which guards it. Why do you say these things?”

“I don’t say it to hurt you, Timpoochee. I would never hurt you. “I want to know all about you. I want to know everything.

“They say, too, your mother left her people to live with a white man in the low country. They say Cornstalk is the son of a Creek man and you are the son of Yonega. They say Swift Deer suddenly appeared with Yufala on his return many years ago.”

“My mother and family are respected by our people,” Timpoochee demanded through gritted teeth. “My grandmother is a Beloved Woman and my father is our leader. If what you say is true why are we not cast aside like the useless bowels of a fish?”

“Is that not why the stories are told in muffled voices?” Rising Fawn answered. “Do the Tcki dare offend the Ugvwiyuhi? You will one day be a great leader. Of that I have no doubt. You are part of my people.”

“Our people,” Timpoochee interjected. “Your people are my people.”

He grew impatient.

“We are one in the same. The other people are Yonega. If I am one of them why do I not live with them? Why do I not come to you from their towns and forts and not from Long Man?”

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Act 47: Even I do not know... by Steve Hart

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“Calm yourself, my love,” Rising Fawn whispered, gently rubbing Timpoochee’s back. “My feelings for you do not depend on the tales. I knew of the legend long before I knew of the fire which burned the name, Timpoochee, in my heart.”

“Then why bring it up at all? Does the bear care from where he came? Does the eagle care into which river he dives for a trout? What right have you to care about my past, my history? We are here, now. I have laid down for you my feelings. Should it matter what has gone before? We have tasted the sweet fruit of each other. Should the past make that fruit taste any different?”

“Timpoochee, your body is strong and your mind is quick. But you do not understand the ways of the woman,” replied Rising Fawn, growing a bit agitated herself.

“I must know these things to know you. I must know of your past to see your future. The fox doesn’t trail the possum without knowing she sleeps in the sun and travels in the moon. It is important to me to know what makes your beautiful skin the color of clay and not the color of the plum.”

“Then you are just as foolish as the Tcki,” Timpoochee shot back. “Does knowledge of the possum make the fox any more hungry for her? Why should you know when I have only heard only whispers of what you described? Even I do not know the truth. How can the Tcki and Rising Fawn know all the answers?”

Timpoochee jumped to his feet and ran quickly into the forest, away from Rising Fawn and away from the town.

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Act 48: He realized how foolish... by Steve Hart

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“I can’t go back and face the old women of town,” Timpoochee said out loud to the trees.

He’d been walking all night and most of the day, following the river.

He knew he would eventually reach the town of Settaco and the central town of Chota but was still deep in the Long Man’s great canyons and judged Chota to be another half-day’s journey keeping the setting sun toward his left shoulder.

“What will Rising Fawn think of me now?” he muttered. “She will judge me unable to make peace with my own being. She will no longer want me.”

Long Man was different in these deep gorges and canyons. Quieter but teaming with creatures along the banks and huge fish in its water.

Timpoochee had to be careful with Long Man. Its currents could be swift and deadly without warning and what seemed like peaceful eddys could sweep away a hunter before he knew it.

And, of course, the further he ventured the closer he came to Uktena’s hiding place.

Focusing on his surroundings helped clear his mind. He realized how foolishly he’d acted with Rising Fawn the night before.

The sun was very hot this day, even in the deep gorges of Long Man and Timpoochee stopped several times to gently dip himself in the cool and healing waters to cleanse, both outwardly and inwardly.

Because he left in such a huff, he was unprepared for a journey of more than a day. He would have to find food and even though only part way through the journey of his Medicine he knew enough, maybe, to survive for a while longer. And he knew how to catch fish without nets or hooks.

“Maybe I go on,” he said. “Maybe I stay here and wait for the sun spirit to move me to the underworld and save those I love any more anguish.”

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Act 49: I am fire people... by Steve Hart

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Timpoochee searched the river for a pool filled with fish.

“Uga would be good,” he thought.

Before he could look very far he found himself standing over an eddy teaming with trout.

Slowly, so not to disturb them, Timpoochee reached for the pouch tied around his waist. He emptied part of the pouch into the pool.

In only a very few moments, the fish came floating to the surface, belly up.

Timpoochee scooped as many as he could carry in his arms and returned to the small clearing where he’d started a fire.

Placing the fish on sticks above the fire, he collected blackberries and strawberries from a nearby thicket and together with the fish had quite a meal.

He wondered as he ate why Rising Fawn brought up the old tales from the town’s elder women. He wondered, too, why it was so important that she and the old women know the truth of his heritage.

“I am Tsalagi,” he said out loud to the woods. “I am fire people.

“I have been raised Tsalagi, taught the ways of Tsalagi. I have fished and hunted in Tsalagi world. My father is leader of our town, respected among all Tsalagi.

“It is of no importance what events preceded my life. What matter is what I do with my life as given to me by the Bearer of Breath. It is what I do for my people and myself which will determine what my life has been; not some old tales.”

Tired of worry over the long night and day and filled with the feast of trout and berries, Timpoochee finally relaxed and fell quickly asleep by the glowing embers of the fire.

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Act 50: What they know... by Steve Hart

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Timpoochee was awakened at the sun-spirit’s first light by the rude screeching of martins as they circled back and forth scooping unsuspecting insects from the chilled morning air.

As if usually the case with growing Tsalagi boys Timpoochee’s first thought was of food - and where to find some.

He had eaten enough blackberries the night before to fill him for a while. He wanted something more filling.

Rabbit would certainly taste good on this brisk morning, he thought, and stood up to survey his surroundings for a likely thicket.

He launched off into the woods from his encampment, up the hill, away from the river and before long was crawling under dense brush and trees.

Just as he entered a small clearing he spotted a small but plump creature seemingly sitting frozen across the clearing.

The rabbit’s eyes seem fixed on something away from Timpoochee. It had not even been moved by the noise created when the would-be hunter crawled through the brush.

Despite his hunger, Timpoochee didn't want to offend the creature or hinder its focus for fear of revenge by its rabbit brothers.

“That is just how the old women have seized Rising Fawn,” he said to himself quietly. “They hold her motionless, waiting for their poison to strike at her feelings.”

But even more than the talk of the Tcki, Timpoochee was disturbed most by realizing he does not know what the old women seem to know. He doesn’t know what his parents - if they are his parents - seem to know but do not say.

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Act 51: I must find the truth... by Steve Hart

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“What does Cornstalk think, really, of all this talk of the old Tcki?” Timpoochee thought to himself as he gazed into the morning fire.

“Maybe that’s why he doesn’t try his hardest to understand the lessons of the Medicine. What do these stories - if they’re true - mean to the future of our people?”

Cornstalk, two years older than Timpoochee, was of course in line first to succeed Yufala as leader. But Timpoochee also recognized Cornstalk to be incapable of leadership. His slowness of mind, his self-centeredness, rendered him incapable. He long ago realized the elders talked much more with him than with Cornstalk.

“The stories have persisted for a very long time,” Timpoochee thought. “I must find the truth and deal with it before another season.

He snuffed his morning fire, restored his campsite and began walking toward the river.

He decided to visit Chota. He would be welcomed there. Perhaps some answers are to be found in that largest of towns.

To get there he would have to cross Long Man at some point. But where? The thought of Uktena weighed heavily in his mind.

He slowly made his way downstream as the mountains around him rose to even greater heights.

A faint noise from upstream caught his attention. A boat, he thought.

Stopping and hiding behind a clump of bushes he waited as the almost imperceptible sound, clearly paddles in the water, drew closer.

As soon as it came into his view Timpoochee recognized the long, slender craft.

“Yufala!” he said out loud.

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