Two brothers went hunting together, and when they came to a good camping place in the mountains they made a fire, and while one gathered bark to put up a shelter the other started up the creek to look for a deer. Soon he heard a noise on the top of the ridge as if two animals were fighting. He hurried through the bushes to see what it might be, and when he came to the spot, he found a great Uktena, the dragon-like horned serpent, coiled around a man and choking him to death. The man was fighting for his life, and called out to the hunter: "Help me, nephew; he is your enemy as well as mine." The hunter took good aim, and, drawing the arrow to the head, sent it through the body of the Uktena, so that the blood spouted from the hole. The snake loosened its coils with a snapping noise, and went tumbling down the ridge into the valley, tearing up the earth like a waterspout as it rolled.
The stranger stood up, and it was the Asga′ya Gi′găgeĭ, the Red Man of the Lightning. He said to the hunter: "You have helped me, and now I will reward you, and give you a medicine so that you can always find game." They waited until it was dark, and then went down the ridge to where the dead Uktena had rolled, but by this time the birds and insects had eaten the body and only the bones were left. In one place were flashes of light coming up from the ground, and on digging here, just under the surface, the Red Man found a scale of the Uktena. Next, he went over to a tree that had been struck by lightning, and gathering a handful of splinters he made a fire and burned the Uktena scale to a lump of coal.
He wrapped the coal in a piece of deerskin and gave it to the hunter, saying: "As long as you keep this you can always kill game." Then he told the hunter that when he went back to camp, he must hang up the medicine on a tree outside, because it was very strong and dangerous. He told him also that when he went into the cabin, he would find his brother lying inside nearly dead on account of the presence of the Uktena's scale, but he must take a small piece of cane, which the Red Man gave him, and scrape a little of it into water and give it to his brother to drink and he would be well again. Then the Red Man was gone, and the hunter could not see where he went.
He returned to camp alone, and found his brother very sick, but soon cured him with the medicine from the cane, and that day and the next, and every day after, he found game whenever he went for it.
(James Mooney: Myths of the Cherokee; https://www.gutenberg.org/files/45634/45634-h/45634-h.htm)
This chapter is written in the points of view (POV) style. The caption of the POV for the characters will be ADAM, the RainBoy, Wa-Ya, the CherokeeBoy and TOM, who wants to be a Cherokee also.
It was late. Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes Tom Ellington was still bone-weary. Checking his phone, the time read already eleven, checking the messenger, no message at all! The house was silent. His parent should have left already. Merciful his father had left him sleeping after a three-hour night flight from Tulsa to Nashville and another four-hour drive by car to Dartsborough. He relaxed on his comfy mattress after having to use the hard straw-filled pad in the small riding school at the border of the Cherokee reservation. He was glad he had insisted to stay at the rather primitive school instead of attending lessons at a more fashionable place.
He had learned a lot, not only to handle horses and hiking on horseback in rough terrain, but also to get along with girls fascinated by horses. The main problem with these girls was they seem love horses more than boys. Being the only boy in a bunch of girls he had to spend his days and even the evenings with horses also. Being introduced to the other students at the beginning he had hoped to lose his virginity to one of the girls, but no! Even at the closing party of the riding course, he didn't get further than to second base.
For two weeks without any information from his friends, he was eager to get in touch with Wa-Ya and Adam, with Mel and Emma. He contacted Wa-Ya first, then Adam, but in vain. He got no callback. It just seemed they didn't exist at all. However, he got Mel, and the message was, "Great u r back! Emma and I r on a trip to Nashville. Contact u in the evening!" Getting concerned Tom decided to drive with his small red Datsun to Sparrow Lane 15 to check what was wrong.
Without breakfast, he jumped in his car and about 15 minutes late rang the doorbell at the RainBoy's Family's home. As nobody came to the door, he decided to drive around the block and check the other entrance of the house on Chickadee Lane. Knocking at the door for more than a minute or so a whining, slightly crackling voice from the inside called on him, "Go away! Broder and Decker are not around! Come back later!" "Come on Lilek, it is me Tom, Wa-Ya's friend. Let me in, I need to know what's the matter is with Wa‑Ya and Adam. I tried to message them!" The door opened a crack and the face of a bleary-eyed Lilek stared at Tom. "They left two days ago for the Tsul ‘Kalu Forest," Lilek explained with a weak voice. "Aunt Cuhtahlatah is missing for more than two weeks." Dabbing the tears from his eyes, "Nobody knows where she went, nor what happened to her. The tribe was worried." Lilek cleared his throat, "The eldest called on Wa-Ya for help. He is the only one to know the hidden ways through the Tsul ‘Kalu Aunt Cuhtahlatah is using. Only Wa-Ya Adahy, the "Wolf in the Woods", is able to find Aunt Cuhtahlatah." Tom immediately got worried. The missing of the tribe's medicine women was a bad sign in times of Covid 19. Anxiety struck him, boosted by Lilek's behavior. Following Adam's brother inside, he inquired, "Can I help Wa-YA? Can I do anything for Aunt Cuhtahlatah?" Lilek shrugs his shoulders, "Not, at the moment. Wa-Ya does not want help. He has to handle it alone he told us. He only allowed Adam to come along."
Sitting on a swivel chair opposite Lilek's studying the small boy closely, Tom dared to ask, "But that's not the reason you are so sad, am I right?" Lilek sniffled, "Since Tiger is gone, I am feeling so lonely. The Corona Virus has Grandpa carried away and I could do nothing! I feel sooo sad, so lonely. I miss him every day. He wasn't only the Granny I never had; he was my big friend!" Tom didn't know how to answer. Seconds passed in silence., Then Tom walked over to Lilek sitting on his bed, kneeling down in front of him, he looked into his eyes, "I know it is sad, I know Tiger's death is devastating for you." Taking Lilek's both hands into his, "But you still have Adam and Wa-Ya, you have Broder and Dekk. They are here for you."
Suddenly Tom's face went bright as an idea formed in his mind, "I am here for you too, Lilek." Smiling self-consciously, "Would you like to be my friend Lilek?" Now it bubbled out of Tom, "Lilek, I need a friend too. I really need one. I need one just like you do." Staring shyly down at Lilek's folded hands, "Do you know why? Hakan has left to become a ranger! Wa-Ya has his Adam, Emmy and Mel are close and I, I have nobody. I need a friend! Would you mind if we pool our sadness, our hopes and wishes and become friends?" As Lilek looked surprised and unbelieving, Tom tried to lift Lilek's reservations, "I know, I am four years older. You will become a freshman soon, while I will be a senior. Maybe the other students will wonder about our closeness, but that should not keep us from becoming friends. Let's start today, please, let's start today" Lilek was super surprised by Tom's proposal. His mind was spinning. He was not sure what Tom's proposal meant. He just stared at the ground and shrugged undecided. He didn't know what to answer.
Riding in the passenger seat in Tom's Madza for the first time Lilek felt like a little king. His cloudy thought vanished in a flash; he leaned back in the seat and enjoyed the fresh air on the ride to the center of Dartsborough. He was even more surprised when Tom parked at the main square just across the town hall in front of a small Chinese restaurant, famous for its delicious food. They were welcomed by a young waiter who seems to know Tom well and smiled. They were seated at a typical Chinese carousel table and politely asked for their order.
Tom chooses the food while Lilek remained silent. The four dished served tasted even better than one Lilek remembered from home. More fun was to come, as the food was served on a turntable, and they could serve each other by turning the carousel back and forth between them.
"Satisfied?" Tom asked when the plates were clear. "If you are still hungry you can order some more, or we can go to the ice cream parlor beside the Town hall for some dessert. "No! I am full. Thanks, Tom!" Looking up to Tom, Lilek said in a small voice, "The meal was delicious, and I had so much fun. Tom, I never can pay you back! Thanks, Tom." The senior just smiled getting red ears, "You are welcome, Lilek! Remember friends have to be treated like kings and you are my prince." Leaving the restaurant he asked the future freshman, "What now? Ready for a swim?" Smiling happily while he opened the car, "I know a swimming hole about three miles downstream. Would you like to come along, have fun in the cool river and chill?" Lilek just nodded with shining eyes and 15 minutes later they scrambled down to the small sandy beach adjoining the swimming hole.
The shallow water was refreshing. Playing around for about 20 minutes the heavy meal and horsing around claimed its toll and Tom looked for a place in the shade to chill. Snuggling up to Tom Lilek fell asleep. He was happy like had never since Tiger's final fare-well.
Tom woke up because his nose was tickling. Imagine it was a fly. With eyes still closed he tried to scare the insect away. As the tickling continued, he opened his eyes. Lilek was squatting beside him, a blade of grass between his fingers and smiled. "While you slept, I had time to contemplate your question of this morning. It's not about I fancied your invitation, not about your fancy car or you taking me to this great place, it's because of you! If you still would like me to be your friend, then the answer is: Yes!" Lilek leaned over Tom, kissed his cheek and a bashful smile crossed his face.
Seconds later the noise of old bike bells, and the voices of girls and boys disturbed the peace of the late afternoon. Four girls and six boys around the age of Lilek scrambled down the steep riverbank to the waterhole and without giving attention to the two friends made themselves comfortable on the sandy beach. Just one of the boys, a weedy redhead asked, "Is it your car? I like it!"
The engine of Tom's small Datsun was still running, while he tried to persuade Lilek to visit his ancestor's homestead the next day. "I tell you Lilek, Wa-Ya liked the place when I showed him around last year. He taught me a lot about the mindset of his Cherokee ancestors. Do you know the painting he did in art class? No? Didn't Wa-Ya show the drawing to you?" Tom shook his head in surprise. "You will see it when you join Oakville High. It's now in the homeroom of our class. It depicts all the divine characters ruling the Cherokee universe." Now Tom got carried away. "I collect relics of the times the Cherokees were the kings of the Appalachians….. . "
Just this moment Broder's new Toyota RAV dashed into the driveway nearly crashing with Tom's Datsun. Broder jumped out, "I nearly got a heart attack! I didn't expect you around." Shaking his hand, "Hi Tomy, I didn't expect you! Neither Adam nor Wa-Ya are around. They are up in the Tsul ‘Kalu looking for Aunty Cuhtahlatah. She's missing." "I know, Lilek told me this morning and now I am waiting for news, anxiously. I want to help Wa-Ya and Adam to find Aunty Cuhtahlatah! She is something special!" "So far no fresh news. The last information was, the boys will be back in the evening from a two days search. Then they will get in touch with me." "It would be great if you inform me immediately, I am really, really sad." Turning the key to start the car, Tom suddenly stopped. "There is something important to ask you, Broder. Will you allow Lilek to come with me to our old homestead on the hill? And….," then self-conscious "and allow Lilek to stay overnight with me up there." Getting a questioning look from Broder, he added, "I got a Tipi like the prairie Indians used to have and want to test in the field." Broder as well as Lilek looked questioning. Lilek was the first to react, "You have neither told me about the tipi nor the overnight camp out. Are you inviting me to join? I am not an expert in camping. I never joined the boy scouts?" "Sure, I do! I didn't tell you, because I wanted to get the permission of my parents before." Turning to Broder again, "Would you agree Broder and allow Lilek to camp out with me?" waiting for Broder's consent, "I promise to care for him like my small brother!"
Broder got the call at a quarter past eleven PM. The line was bad. A lot of crackling and dropouts obscured Adam's message. "We just……b..back. No trace of Aunt Cuh…tahla….tah. She is still missin….g. Wa…..-Ya is worr ..iied. He rememmm…bers every place he was with her." "I will call on Dec to mobilize the Rangers. If he asked…." "No, no way! We ha…ve to find her, Wa-Ya and I! I'm serious! There a h….eavy storm out….summer storm….. " Then the connection broke. Broder tried again and again, but he couldn't get in touch with Adam anymore. Now he really was worried. He called Dec. But even the police didn´t have success to the boys up in the mountains.
Wa-Ya and Adam had returned from a two days search operation just half an hour before and Wa-Ya had went immediately to inform the elders of the community about their failure. Aunt Cuhtahlatah had been missing for two whole weeks now. All Adam was told by Wa-Ya and the clan elders that she had wanted to go a place close to the Big Bald Mountain, the Utawo?kvta. Only Aunt Cuhtahlatah knew its location, or she pretended to know it, because she had visited it when she was a small, light-footed girl. When she had been asked for its name, she couldn't recall it or pretended not to remember it.
After a short night, Wa-Ya aroused Adam from a deep sleep, shaking him, "We have to leave before daybreak because nobody has to know the way we take to Aunt Cuhtahlatah destination." When Adam looked up rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, "Just hurry, I have packed out backpacks already. Here is yours!" Stumbling out of Aunt Cuhtahlatah's house they had used, Wa-Ya assured him, "Now I know the place, I remember even its name, we just have to find it."
Adam was just too tired to protest, strapping on the backpack he just he was wondering at its weight, but didn't think further. Plunging into the darkness of the broad-leaved forest he followed Wa-Ya without questioning his decision. Gradually the beaten track became steeper, and conifers superseded the birches, oaks and tulip trees. Later the sun became visible between the treetops he became hungry, "Wa-Ya, my stomach is grumbling, let's have a break and have breakfast!" Adam undid his backpack, and his eyes grew wide. The bag was empty with exception of a frayed blanket, a dented metal cup and a knife in a sheath of grey fur. "Where is my food, the army ration pack, my bottle, the first aid kit?" Staring at Wa-Ya, "Did you take all out? You want to starve me to death, to die of thirst? Do you want me without my med kit? Are you crazy?" When Wa-Ya didn't answer, "Waking me up at before the break of day, taking me to a trip to place nobody knows but an old scarecrow?" Wa-Ya, leaning on a big tree, smiled slightly not surprised by Adam's accusations and then his face became serious, "Remember what Cuhtahlatah told you when you met her the first time in the Tsul ‘Kalu? I have dreamed of you Adam. You are Little Wolf's friend. Wa-Ya needs you as you need him. You remember?" Looking at the clouds flying over the sky, the pointing at the trees, the brushes, the mountain peak visible at the horizon, "In Dartsborough I needed you. I was a wide-eyed boy living first time in a white world. Here however in the Tsul ‘Kalu you need me. You have to survive in the Cherokee world! You and I are now becoming one person, two versions of one person. We need to be one person to find Cuhtahlatah and the place she chooses to stay now!"
To Adam's surprise Wa-Ya opened his backpack, and withdrew a bottle with a dark potion, "Take a sip of this black drink, it's a strong tea prepared from the roots and the bark of the Sassafras tree, of wintergreen, of cone flower and tobacco and some secret plants. The secret ingredients are only known by war women. This drink will give you strength and make you untiring, fearless and daring. In old time Cherokee warriors had to drink it before they went to war or do a raid. But that not the only preparation for a bold adventure. The warriors had to abstain from eating for seven days to purify their bodies before their daring."
Adam was upset. He didn't think of himself as a guy who was looking for fights, he didn't think of himself as a soldier, a warrior. Anyway whom should he fight up here in the wild forest? He was shaking his head in disappointment, "No Wa-Ya, I am no warrior. I am your brother, but I am no warrior. I strive to reach my goals by peaceful means!" Wa-Ya shook his head with a knowing smile presenting him a shining bowie knife, "Don't you know you are a warrior, my brother? You are a warrior for peace, for the simple people, for the wounded nature! This knife was added to your backpack, not for fighting and killing others, but for staying alive in a unknown hostile environment. You have to find food in the forest, the big Tsul' Kalu, by your own." Bowing his head Wa-Ya pulled out a small package from the bag wrapped in soft deer skin offering it to Adam. "Open it Adam. It's a present Aunt Cuhtahlatah, the last warrior woman of the Cherokee. It's a headband young warrior are wearing. You have to wear it with the feather of a hawk, the Tlanuwa Ta wo di. But you have to find the feathers by yourself on the way to the secret place she is now!"
The headband Wa-Ya presented to Adam was made of soft deer skin. It was about finger wide and embroidered with small glass beads. Wa-Ya wrapped it around Adam's head and explained, "Now you just have to find a wing feather of a hawk. If you find a second you have to dye this feather red and weave to the first feather and they will give you strength and boldness." Taken by surprise from these gifts Adam and the announcement he was a warrior, he also was worried, "I never will rob a hawk of his feathers, nor am I brave enough to catch such a beautiful bird, nor mean enough to shoot such a bird!" "No, my brother warrior, you have to learn a lot to become a Cherokee. You have to learn how to live from the wood and on the way to Aunt Cuhtahlatah, you have to find the wing-feathers of a hawk."
Wrapping the headband around his head Adam looked at Wa-Ya. CherokeeBoy had done on his headband also. In contrast to Adam's new one, it was worn and a wing feather of a hawk was attached tangling down on the Wa-Ya's back beside his dark blue-black shining braid. Adam admired the feather work of the big wing-feather, with its dark brown barb on one side and a cross-striped barb on the other of the shaft. To the quilt of the big feather, a red-colored plume and shiny white downs feathers were wrapped. Adam got self-conscious, would such a headband fit to his short light brown hair? Wa-Ya noticing Adams's embarrassment comforted him, "The headband looks great and fits your hair color perfectly. You just have to grow your hair longer and adorned with the fitting feather you will look like a young warrior." When Adam still seemed uncomfortable he encouraged him, "Will I look like a warrior, not like a Hippy or a Gypsy? Didn't you know several of the Cherokee keenest warriors were of white descent?"
Reminded by the growling of his stomach Adam looked at Wa-Ya for consent and after he got an encouraging smile, he took a sip of the dark brew. The scent of the brew surprised him. It smelled of flowers and herbs. Therefore, its bitterness surprised him. The drink immediately made his stomach growl more. But when the growl subsided the feeling of hunger was gone, and he felt kind of elated and ready to follow Wa-Ya who resumed the track to the place Aunt Cuhtahlatah was hiding.
In wide serpentine the eroded forest road was climbing up the steep slope of the Utawo?kvta. Hikers had beaten narrow shortcuts into the undergrowth of the hardwood to shorten the way to the bald top connecting serpentine to serpentine. We used the shortcuts, initially trails of Deer and Grey Foxes. Explaining this to Adam provoked immediately the uneasy question, "Wa-Ya, are these trails by bears or wolves also? I'm not eager to meet one of these beasts!" Wrinkling his nose, Wa-Ya shook his head, "Don't worry, wolves are extinct in the Appalachians and the Black Bear, doesn't like trails smelling of sweaty hikers."
Just minutes later the noise of breaking wood grew louder, and deep grunts followed by short snorts came closer. Suddenly a dark-brown deer its white tail raised like a flag crossed the trail with one jump. A wink of an eye later a far bigger deer broke through the underbrush. Its coat was snowy white and its ten-pointed rack far stronger than the one of dark deer. The mighty deer halted for a moment eying the two trespassers, inhaling their scent with quivering nostril and turned with a impatient snorts to chase the smaller buck.
"Did you see the antlers of the white stag? Did you notice the color of its coat." Lost in thoughts for a moment, "I am stunned. I never have heard of deer with a white coat living in the Appalachians, nor has one of my clan members! It's not the rutting season either. During summertime, the bucks stay together, as do the does!" Scratching his head and eying Adam puzzled, "It must be you, Adam! You are lucky! You must be something special Adam. The Heavenly One, Galvlaadi'ehi, must love you!"
Adam was taken aback by Wa-Ya's words. Nor did know how to explain these words, nor could he imagine as extraordinary, neither to be chosen. Therefore, he decided to take on the next part of the trek, while he focused on the rustling and rumbling resounding from everywhere around. "Wa-Ya, do you hear the noises accompanying us the whole time? That is not the song of birds!" Adam turned and waited for the CherokeeBoy. "The noises? You can`t hear them in the town but in the Cherokee forest smaller animals are everywhere, in shrubs and trees, in grass and herbs. Shrews, squirrels, wood rats, mice, weasels are searching for food and friends. In the Tsul ‘Kalu the critters can still be allowed to live untroubled by hunters. They just may meet a hiker once in a while." Pausing a moment, "However there are animals living up here which live noiselessly. Harmless critters like frogs, toads and salamanders are abundant too, but you can run into dangerous animals also like timber snakes and green snakes." When Adam seemed to get nervous, he calmed him down. "You don't have to be afraid. Snakes love the sunny places and not shady trails." This calmed Adam down. However, when the next bird, a dove, left its hideout flapping hits wings Adam got alerted again. But when a woodpecker announced his presence by drumming on a hollow tree, he got excited because he knew the sound.
In the late afternoon Wa-Ya and Adam had managed to hike about halfway up to the top of the Bald Mountain. Adam still hadn't complained about an empty stomach nor a parched throat or tired legs. "Adam, the dark drink has transformed you. You are moving like a young warrior now. Aren't you tired and thirsty?" "When I think of it, my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth." Shaking his empty hiking bottle Adam turned it upside down with a resigning grin, "It's empty!" "Mine also! We have to find a spring to replace our water supply." Pointing to sky where the sun was slowly disappearing behind the high trees, Wa-Ya announced, "It's time to look for a place to stay for the night."
Following Adam up the steep trail Wa-Ya thought to himself, Adam has really metamorphosed. All morning long he has always been walking some steps behind me, complaining about the early rise, about this new hiking boot, about his coffee thirst and his empty stomach. After the first sip of the dark drink however, he took the lead. He even complained my slacking pace. He hardly looked back and if so, it was to be sure he took right turn at a junction. At their next stop Wa-Ya took a deep breather and praised Adam, "The head band and the Bowie knife attached to your belt has changed you from a timid white high-school kid into a young daring Cherokee warrior. From now on you will be to make your way through the Tsul' Kalu without my help." Adam however shook his head violently, "No never! Maybe during daylight, but in the dark I would fail badly. I will always need your help!"
As the shadows of the trees grew longer bit by bit and the darkness began to veil the trees, Wa-Ya stopped studying the surroundings closely. Adam got impatient, "Why are you stopping? Don't we have to keep up to reach the top tonight?" "The top of the Big Bald Mountain, the Utawo?kvta? It's still too far away, like a four- or five-hour hike. We will not make it tonight, we have to find a place soon, one with water and a shelter. Let's leave the hiking trail when we hit the forest road next time and follow the serpentine uphills.
When they hit the forest road next time Adam checked the eroded roadbed up and down, "Do you expect a hotel up here? I guess we have to sleep in the shrubs." Wa-Ya scratched his head, "If I'm right, there is an old shelter close to the next hairpin turn. It's down by a small brook coming down from the mountain. Let us take the road." Wa-Ya's memory was right. At the next turn, a steep footpath went down into a narrow valley with a brook. From the distance, the trickling of the brooklet could be heard.
Beside the brook tugged to the steep ridge was a small hut of rotting logs. Its moss-covered roof sheltered a square platform of rough planks. The roof didn't seem solid enough to withstand the rain in summer and the snow blown down in winter from the mountain top anymore. The platform was on posts and somewhat elevated from the ground. The hut opened to the brooklet and was furnished with a wooden bench in the back only. Otherwise, the shelter was empty except for some dented pots on the wall and of a heap of dry leaves in the back. In front of the hut was a fire pit surrounded by stones. The fireplace seemed not to have been in use for years as the ashes were mingled with leaves and broken branches.
"That's it, our hotel for the night!" Wa-Ya proclaimed mockingly, "The best quarter the Tsul ‘Kalu has to offer. You have to get used to sleeping on the planks without a mattress, get along without a shower and coffee for breakfast." Adam grinned back, "There is no refrigerator either and it's water instead of milk and honey for you." "And there is no steak either, you have to search for mushrooms and beetles or dig for earthworm for supper!" "I would prefer mushrooms to beetles and earthworms, provided they are eatable." Remembering the talk in the morning, "Wa-Ya you told me warriors have to abstain from eating the days before an important event, are we supposed to eat at all?" "Right White Boy, but we are not on the warpath, we are in a search of Aunt Cuhtahlatah! That's an important difference."
Adam climbed up the steep incline to look for a spot hidden by sight by shrubs to relieve himself. Studying the slope, he noticed yellowish-red mushrooms with vase-shaped caps. "Wa-Ya, Wa-Ya" he called, "I found our meal! It looks like a fire from the distance." Studying the mushrooms Wa-Ya nodded his approval. "You are lucky. You found one of the most delicious fungi of the Tsul' Kalu. It's the Chanterelle. It will make a great meal. I wonder why it is already growing. It's early in the year, but up here the fall may start earlier."
Cleaning one of the dented pots they found in the shelter, the water was soon boiling ready to prepare the dish. While Adam cleaned the mushrooms, Wa-Ya was looking for some herbs to improve the taste. Further down the brooklet wild leeks were growing at a clearing. The leaves of the spring flower had already withered but their strength had migrated to the bulbs. Therefore Wa-Ya pulled out a handful of them to add to the mushroom dish after whittling it into slices.
The dish of Chanterelle was more delicious as expected by Adam. Burping he assured Wa-Ya, "I never had such a delicious meal like tonight. I didn't expect you to be such a perfect chef. Who taught you?" "Nobody, I do it by intuition!" Checking the fast-darkening sky and then the nearly burned-down wood in the pit, Wa-YA pointed to the shelter, "It's time to prepare our place for the night. The sun is nearly down and soon it will be pitch dark. Let's use the glow of the fire as long it's still possible."
They spread the dry leaves they found in the shelter to make a padding, covered it with one of the blankets and their bed was ready. Sparing a bath in the icy spring water Wa-Ya hopped in the bed, while Adam started to strip. Dipping the big toe of his right foot into the brooklet, he hollered, "Whew, it's cold! I better do without a bath also." This reaction enticed a hearty laugh by Wa-Ya, "Warriors on the warpath should not behave girly!" Then he giggled, "Come on my baby boy, save your body heat. The nights up here get pretty cold, and I don't smell like a flower either."
Snuggling up to Wa-Ya under the blanket, Adam suddenly felt his tired, aching legs. He nearly conked out immediately. But Wa-Ya wasn't tired and wanted to know, "According to your Christian lor, Adam is the first human being. Right? Together with Eve, they enjoyed the Garden of Eden, till they decided to willfully to break their creator's order. Cherokee have a first couple also. But they never were expelled from paradise. From the beginning, they had to toil to make a living by hunting and farming. Kana'ti, the hunter, was the first man and Selu, his wife, planted corn, squash, wild onions, polk salad, wild green beans and other vegetables" Despite the darkness in the shelter, Wa-Ya tried to look Adam in the eyes, "Kana'ti and Sel were the ancestors of the Ani-Yun-Wiya, The Principal People, while Kana'ti means Lucky Hunter and Selu Corn."
"According to the bible," Adam corrected Wa-Ya, "Adam was no huntsman, he was a tiller and herdsman. They are different in this respect, as far I can see." Sighing he continued, "Adam and Kana'ti can never be the same!" then resignedly turning away from Wa-Ya he thought if I were Kana'ti, who would be my Selu? Guessing Adam's unexpressed question Wa-Ya raised himself, brushed Adam's hair lightly aside, touched his cheek with the lips. "We don't need to change our names to live our lives. Adam and Wa-Ya are the perfect match."
Around midnight Wa-Ya and Adam were finally snoring exhausted. When the breeze from the peak of the Utawo?kvta? has died down, the crescent of the moon was reflected by the water of the brooklet and low noises by the little creatures filled the night, a loud ok-ok-ok-ok-ok-buhooh shook Adam out of his sleep. The ok-ok-ok-ok-ok-buhooh was repeated every other minute and was sending chills up and down his spine. The rays of the moon filtered through the open front of the shelter and bathed the planks of the platform in a silvery grey. A big bird fluttered noiselessly in front of the shelter, his wings throwing dark shadows on the floor. Feeling scared he shook Wa-Ya out of his sleep, "What is this, the noise, it makes me creepy! It looks unnatural?" "The hoots?" Wa-Ya answered dozily, "It's the song of a Hooting Owl I would say. Cherokee consider owls embodied ghosts. Their wings don't make noises." Rubbing his sleepy eyes, he explained, "Cherokee ghosts can be benevolent or malicious. You don't need to be afraid, the little people, the Yunwi Tsunsdi', watch out for us. Come on, let's sleep on!" Wa-Ya pulled Adam closer, spooned and the song of the owl became their lullaby.
In the morning, while they climbed up the slam trail back to the forest road, they passed an old oak tree. Perching on one of the lower branches were four grey-white downy feathered balls with crooked peaks and big eyes. These followed every step of the passing boys. "These are probably the reason the big owl was hooting the whole night. She was guarding her fledglings, making sure, we the intruders, would not endanger its offspring." Wa-Ya pointed out. "They look so nice. I would like to cuddle with every one of them," was Adam's reaction, "Do you seriously believe owls are ghosts, harbingers of bad luck?"
Passing the spruce-fir forest in the late midmorning, they reached the treeless mountaintop around noon. On its highest point, someone had put together a small observation deck of flat fieldstones permitting a panorama view. Pointing to the north, Wa-Ya explained. For the Cherokee, every cardinal direction has its special color and meaning. The color allocated to the North is blue, a deep and dark night-blue, it spells trouble and defeat. The one for the East is crimson like the sunrise. It implies recovery, victory and success. White is the color of the South. It's a shiny white, bright like the sunlight on a cloudless sky summer day. It signals peace and happiness. The color of the West is the darkest. It's black, jet black, like a moonless night. It represents eternal peace, death."
While Adam still pondered what this would mean for their endeavor, Wa-Ya began to explain, "Aunt Cuhtahlatah has left for a last hike, the hike to the eternal peace, to the Other Land nobody has returned from." Looking into Adam's questioning eyes, he continued, "I know for sure since she had left our headbands on the table, yours and mine. She wanted us, to go for this hike. My headband is already adorned with featherwork. One I gained, by proving I am a real Cherokee. You will have to gain yours on the way to the place Aunt Cuhtahlatah is heading." Startled by the solemn words, Adam remained silent for a long time, then he couldn't hold back his questions anymore, "Why the Other Land? What is the Other Land? Where is it situated? Will we find it?" "I wasn't there! I do not know the way. But I know how to find it. How it looks. Aunt Cuhtahlatah told me about the Other Land when I was a child. She told me over and over again. She told me so often that I thought it an old folktale of our tribe. But it's not!"
Wa-Ya invited Adam to sit down beside him on the platform pointing to the sun in the south. "That place is not in the west! It's not the dark place. It's in the south, the sun is always shining, and the rain is warm. We have to find this place. From up here, we should be able to see it. It's on a hilltop. The slopes are heavily wooded with the most beautiful trees you can imagine, with dogwoods, beeches, tulip trees, apples, cherries, and oaks. Their broad leaves never fall, they stay green all year around. The small dogwood flowers in white, pink and red, while the mighty tulip tree opens its blossoms to heaven. There are acorns, nuts and beech-nut in abundance. From the distance, the top of the hill looked like a wide meadow. But up close you become aware of its garden. There are patches with corn, squash, pumpkins, beans and sunflowers growing all year long. You can find patches with persimmon, pokeweed, coneflowers, onions and other vegetables like medical herbs, used for all kinds of diseases."
"This looks more like a paradise to me, not like the world we are living in. Does it really exist or is it just a children's story?" Adam shook his head questioning. "I do not know. Aunt Cuhtahlatah told it like it was real. She always assured me that she had been at this place as a small girl." Closing his eyes and thinking back Wa-Ya began with a far-away voice, "My first memories tell me, that I lived in the woods with animals as my friends, with squirrels, chipmunks, racoons, minks and weasels. Even a red fox came around up and on. One day a big animal with a long furry coat came to visit me. It seemed to be high as the sky. It bends down, lifted me from the ground, smiled and then put me in a cradleboard and carried me away on her back."
" I slept away in the papoose and when I woke up I saw many faces stared down at me. I got scared and cried. Then the big animal bent down, smiled and let me suck a mixture of pounded nuts, meat and water by a bird's quill from a soft pouch of leather. Soon I got used to her always smiling face. When I grew up, I learned she was the sage, the wise woman, the medicine woman of the clan. She also was Ghigua,the Beloved Woman of the clan, acting as a kind of judge. Everybody called her Aunt Cuhtahlatah." With a dreamy look into the distance, "Once she found me and now it's my task to find her." Turning to Adam, "I need your help, Adam or should I call you Kana'ti?"
Looking into the hazy distance, Wa-Ya was sure the blurred, green spot between the two steep and jagged mountains was the place he was in search of, Aunt Cuhtahlatah childhood paradise. "Adam, look there, the green spot amidst the steep, rugged peaks. This must be the place. Aunt Cuhtahlatah always told me I will spot it when needed. I will see it at the right time. Now it's the time. Let's start."
Climbing down the trail from the top of the Utawo?kvta, the Bald Mountain, didn't turn out easier than climbing uphill. Mostly they could walk down the sandy trail well worn by hikers. However, from time to time they skidded down, and were stumbling over roots and sharp stone slaps, scratching their legs and arms on blackberry shrubs. In the evening they had made it to the valley between Bald Mountain and the next, but smaller mountain and decided to look for a shelter. They found the hut even more ramshackle than the one of the night before. The spring close by was just a waterhole. Neither mushrooms nor other edible plants were around. Too tired from the long hike, they decided to sleep early.
Around midnight Wa-Ya was woken up by wild noises in the air. Looking up, he saw dark birds against the night sky heading south talking with each other with the croaking voices of hoary men, flapping their scrawny wing-like arms of ghosts. He attempted to understand their crow, crow. In vain! Then they were gone, southward. Wa-Ya tried to fall asleep again, but his brain was running full speed. Suddenly anything fell in place. Aunt Cuhtahlatah told him about the Raven Mockers, the dark birds robbing the dying of their life, tearing out their heart unless a medicine man wasn't present to guard the dying. He was only sixteen, but she had taught him about herbs and healing since he was a toddler. He shook Adam to live. "Kana'ti! Adam! We have to leave. Aunt Cuhtahlatah is on the brink of death! She needs us."
Back on the bumpy forest road, they walked east through the silent night waiting for the sun to rise. Shuffling along drowsily the sound of country music echoed through the valley. Adam listened. The lines: Wasted on You, Wasted on you, he remembered, having seen the young, mustached singer on a TV-show. Wallen was his name or something like this. The noise of the music swelled up and was drowned out by the sound of the engine of a heavy pick-up truck. The motor noise tore Adam out of his half-sleep. He looked back over his shoulder, and saw the car approach its headlights dimmed, but the inside of the cab ablaze with light. The music had switched to another song with a frightening chorus: line them up, line them up, knock them back, knock them back. He got the flutters, knocked Wa-Ya into the roadside ditch and dived into it himself. A sudden rumble of tires and the vehicle was gone. Climbing back to the road, a streak of light plunged the roadside trees in white light and the pickup truck in reverse came rumbling back its taillight switched on. By instinct, Wa-Ya and Adam jumped back into the ditch. Blinded by the light and frightened by the high speed of the nearing monster Wa-ya pulled Adam back into the ditch and into the roadside shrubbery.
With screeching tires the car came to stop, the passenger door flew open and a bearded man with a scattergun jumped out checking the forest cursing, "Damn beasts! I'll get you!" Pulling the trigger, two shots broke the silent night and leaves of trees and shrubs were torn down by pellets. The driver joined the bearded pit-bull terrier on the leash. Turning the dog loose, he commanded the dog "Search" frightening the animal with a kick. The dog gave a howl of pain, but he obeyed his tormentor, delved into the shrubs on the roadside and began the search.
Meanwhile Wa-Ya and Adam moving along the road side scared to the heart, decided to hide in between the trees of the hardwood forest. The small dog rooted in the ditch, picked up their trail and went straight for the tree hiding the two. Adam's hair stood to an end not only out of fear but also having an aversion to strange dogs. Wa-Ya on the contrary knelt down and drew the dog closer by whimpering like a puppy. The pit bull came closer, sniffed Wa-Ya's hands and then began to wag his tail. When he tried to lick Wa-Ya's face, the Cherokee began to whisper in its ear using words in Tsalagi Adam didn't understand. Now the dog whimpered like a puppy also and begged to be fondled. When his master whistled it return reluctantly to the car.
While the pit bull was searching for Wa-Ya and Adam the bearded guy had taken out a bottle from his pocket and both men were nuzzling its content in turn. After the dog was back, they lit cigarettes and drove away country music blaring. The last action of the bearded guy was to throw the empty bottle out of the front side window.
Back on the street Wa-Ya picked up the emptied bottle and smelled, "Booze!" he just commented, and Adam added, "Bloody red-necks, mistaking us for bears." "Bears?" Wa-Ya answered, "They hate Cherokee. They tried to shoot us!" Three to four miles further down the forest road a foot trail headed to the south. Happy to leave the road they took the small path through the hardwood forest hoping not to be bothered by drunken roughnecks no more.
Around noon Wa-Ya and Adam had crossed the hardwood forest with its high trees and crossed the forest line of shrubs to a wide valley. Hungry as they were they picked the green, still unripe fruits of the dogwood to fill their stomachs. About an hour later they arrived at a water course flowing westward. In most places, the creek with its fast-moving water was just about 20 feet wide. Wa-Ya chose a place, where the creek was dammed up and the water was sluggish. Studying the water carefully he explained, "Rivers are called "Long Man" by our folk. Rivers are sacred and the animals living in them are sacred also." Pointing at a trout chasing flies at the surface, "The trout is sacred too, but because we are hungry, we are allowed to catch it." Taking off his shoes and clothes he waded into the water and kept still till a trout began to nibble at his legs. With a swift move, he caught it behind the gills and brought the trashing animal to Adam. "Don't let it slip back into the water, that's our supper!"
Soon a small fire was burning in the shade of the willows at the riverbank and Adam was roasting the gutted carcass on a spit. While they enjoyed the unexpected meal a yapping noise came closer. The pit bull terrier, Wa-Ya had appeased at their unexpected meeting, came running whimpering in pure joy. Wagging his tail, he jumped up to Wa-Ya and tried to lick his face, then he turned to Adam, looking at him expectantly and after an encouraging "Come, come!" the dog repeated his welcome message. Adam nearly split his sides with laughter, "You got a fan, Wa-Ya. Just some words and you bewitched this beast." The dog seemed to understand the message, put his head in Adam's hand and seemed to smile.
The arrival of the dog called back the terror of the attack Wa-Ya and Adam were experiencing, when the bearded man directed the volleys of pellets of lead shots in their direction. Up to now, they had blocked out their fear. Adam voiced his fears, "Does the dog imply the rednecks are coming back also? Will they hunt us like animals?" Wa-Ya studied the dog, "His leash is missing. I think took the first opportunity to escape his tormentors. I am pretty sure he did!" Thinking the situation over, "I guess you will agree Adam, we have to try to reach the wood as soon as possible. In the plain, we can hardly hide!"
While they crossed the creek Adam asked Wa-YA, "We can't call the dog "Dog". He deserves his own name. What is "dog" in your language, in Tsalagi?" "Dog is Ghili. His fur is light brown and the name for a brown dog is Gihli wodige. We should it Wodige. I would prefer Wodige and not just Dog, as for Cherokee dogs are not pets. Dogs are work animals. In old times they had to draw goods by travois or carry them on their back. In bad times they even were used for food." "I like Wodige already, I never could eat him." Shaking his head wondering, "Look Wa-Ya, he is eyeing us, as he knows that we are talking about him. Come on Wodige! Come on be a good dog!" Wodige wiggled his tail and accepted his new name on the spot.
Afraid of being hounded by their nightly attackers in search of the dog, Wa-Ya and Adam set a high pace to reach the cover of the forest on the other side of the valley. Needless to say, Wodige took the lead, his nose close to the ground investigating the tracks left behind by other animals. However, at crossings, he waited, turned to his new masters the nose in the air and the left forepaw risen to signal attention.
In the shade of the tall hardwood trees, Wa-Ya and Adam relaxed for the first time since the dog had found them. Then they took the trodden path ascending in serpentines up to the top of the hill. Tired to the bones because of the early rise shortly after midnight and the permanent fear of being hounded by the nightly attackers they finally made it to the forest edge bordering the green plain on the hilltop.
In its shape, the upland resembled a well-vegetated dome. Wide fields of grass were interspersed by rows of hedges, clustered by small coves and tall solitary trees encircled by shrubbery as waymarks. The green hills stretched off to a distant horizon. "Aunt Cuhtahlatah always told of a settlement with a longhouse in the center, smaller houses huddling around it, small gardens and a spring carrying holy water." He studied the plain over and over again. "As far I can see, there is no sign of a settlement, not even of a single house." Wa-Ya slumped- down destroyed to the ground. Adam could feel the disappointment overwhelm his friend. He embraced him and he tried for a way out, "Look, the mighty tree at the top standing tall against the evening sky. From up there, we can inspect the whole plain. If there are houses, they should be seen. Let's hurry, it's getting dark."
The sinking sun in the west painted the plain in a yellow red, streaked by the blue-black shadows of trees and coves. Scanning the plain in the fast-growing darkness Wa-YA's sharp eyes discovered a pattern resembling the layout of a village. "Look, Adam! There at the edge of the southward slope at the edge of the forest are relics of broken houses." "The remnants of the village, Aunt Cuhtahlatah has been talking about? I can you imagine she is hiding down there; the houses seem all to be broken." To raise Wa-Ya's hope, "Let's go down there before the darkness engulfs everything."
The wood frame of one wall and part of the attached roof of the large council house had still withstood the times. The others were crumbled as were the walls of the rectangular houses once inhabited by the clan. In the dark shadow of this wall suspended on ropes a wooden porch swing dangled. Crouched in the swing Aunt Cuhtahlatah was sitting, recognizable only because of the brightly colored shirt and a headband embroidered with colored pearls and white seashells. Her eyes were closed as if she was listening to a song coming from faraway. Wodige had found her. He had settled down to her feet, his head humbly on his outstretched front paws, eyes open. As Wa-Ya stood in front of her, she opened her eyes, and her eyes lit up, "I knew you will come, my son. I knew you would shoo away the Raven Mockers. Last midnight they tried their best to get my heart, but the power of your thoughts overpowered them. They left with the morning light. Wa-Ya my son, I am glad Galvladi'ehi, the heavenly one, Unetlanvhi, the creator, gave you to me." Wa-Ya bowed his head. Without a word he got down on his haunches and looked up to her.
Then she directed her eyes to Adam, using the Cherokee name of the First Hunter, "Kana'ti, no one can win a battle without a friend. From the first time I saw both of you both side by side I knew for sure you are destined to be one." She fiddled on her headband, disconnected a feather work and gave it to Adam. "A warrior needs the feather of the hawk going to war. You have to earn it. But I give it to you now, as my time is limited."
Then she turned to Wa-Ya, using Tsalagi, the language of the eastern tribe of the Cherokee. She seemed to teach Wa-Ya the secrets he had to know as a future leader of the clan. He asked and she answered, she asked, and he answered. She sang songs and he responded. Darkness spread and Adam's eyelids went heavy. He crouched down and fell asleep. He dreamed of his mother back in Elmridge. About the time they spend together, about her sudden disappearance, and her dead. When the sun crossed the mountain tops in the morning Adam woke up, freezing in the cold mountain air. He was torn from sleep by a song in Tsalagi:
We n' de ya ho
We n' de ya ho
We n' de ya,
We n' de ya,
ho, ho, ho, ho.
He ya ho, he ya ho,
Ya ya ya
Later he learned that it was the Cherokee morning song, which can be translated like this:
I am of the Great Spirit, it is so.
I am of the Great Spirit, it is so.
I am of the Great Spirit,
I am of the Great Spirit,
It is so, it is so, it is so, it is so.
Great Spirit, it is so, Great Spirit, it is so
Great Spirit, Great Spirit, Great Spirit
While Adam listened to the antiphonal singing of Aunt Cuhtahlatah and Wa-Ya he remembered another song:
Laudato sie mi' Signore, cum tucte le tue creature,
spetialmente messor lo frate sole,
lo qual è iorno, et allumini noi per lui.
He had listened to the Canticle of creatures more than once in a church he visited with his mother when he was a small child,
Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
who is the day and through whom You give us light.
His heart ached and tears trickled down his cheeks. When the sun was up, Aunt Cuhtahlatah was gone.
When the sun was up, Wa-Ya went to the spring to fetch water. With a wet cloth, he first washed the face of Aunt Cuhtahlatah, then her hands and feet. He had asked Adam to dig a hole into the ground, where the fire pit of the council house had been. Adam covered the soil of the open grave with fresh grass and all the flowers he could find nearby. In the bed, they bedded the corpse clad in the colorful shirt Aunt Cuhtahlatah had loved so much. Wa-Ya sprinkled the corpse one last time with the water of the spring, then they covered it with more grass and flowers and finally with soil.
They decided to build a pyramid of the relicts of the settlement, of beams, stone slaps and strips of turf. Wa-Ya consecrated the burial site with spring water, then spread his arms and bowing to the sun at its zenith, Wa-Ya intoned the song. For me, it sounded like the one which woke me up this morning. He repeated the lamentation three times and then bowed to the east reciting a prayer, "Cuhtahlatah, flower of the Cherokee. Your mother called you Wild-Hemp, to honor the brave Cherokee woman avenging the killing of her husband by white enemies. This was more than two and half centuries ago. You lived up for your people! Your glory will last forever. The grass, the flowers, the moon the sun will be one with you. Unetlanvhi, she loved you, love her back!" Then he bowed to the south repeating the prayer, then to the west and at last to the north, now singing "We n' de ya ho, We n' de ya ho, Ya ya ya".
The Cherokee have seven cardinal directions. After some moments of deep in thought, he sprinkled water on the ground, to comfort the lower world, then turned towards the dome of the sky, to praise the upper world and his spirits. Finally, he embraced the space around us, the center we are living and always will. After a last glance at the pyramid of planks, stones and sods of grass, he turned to Adam, "Kana'ti, my brother, Aunt Cuhtahlatah is now at the place she dreamed of her whole life. You and me, we have to leave now and continue the task she has started."
Al the time Wodige had waited patiently, observing the sad ceremony. Now he jumped up, full of joy and ran ahead to trail down into the valley. The way downhill seemed to be far shorter than the one uphill. After they stepped into the sunlit valley at the border of the hardwood forest Wa-Ya decided to hide the entrance to trail up to the plateau by shrubs and branchy tree limbs. "We have to care that no one, neither a ranger nor a hiker or rambler breaks the peace of Aunt Cuhtahlatah, especially not the roughnecks we met the day before." Cleaning themselves in the creek coming from the mountains, they arrived at the forest road when the sun went down behind the trees. Adam thumbed a ride with the next car coming along, the car of Rangers. The two men eyed the inquisitive from behind the windshield, slowed down, stopped at the next turn in the road and then came back driving in reverse.
"Two boys and a dog? Adam and Wa-Ya, am I right? Stupid boys! Damn, the whole county is in search of you? Get in. You can`t imagine how much commotion your disappearance caused! Stupid kids! But nobody told us about the dog." The old ranger said this with a grin to his partner, "I told you, they would turn up as soon they are hungry as a pack of wolves." Turning to the boys, "Hop in!" Wa-Ya climbed in first. When Adam commanded Wodige to jump into the car, he refused to get it. Adam tapped on the seat to animate the dog to enter the car. He refused and withdrew to the road shoulder. Sitting there, he knocked with his tail to the ground his head tilted. When Adam climbed into the car, Wodige turned away and ran straight in opposite direction the car was supposed to head. Distressed Adam closed the car door and they departed. Through the rear window, Adam and Wa-Ya saw the dog sitting down staring at them disappointed. When the rangers looked curios, Adam explained sadly, "It's an odd story, I may tell you later. For short, Wodige, that's what we called him, found us and was a great companion. I thought he will come with us." "Don't be sad Big Boy, it's a stray dog probably from a farm ten miles away. He will find you, if he decides to. I bet you 10 bucks."
Throwing the Boys' bars of granola, the interrogation began. While Adam stayed silent Wa-Ya used his meekest voice, "We didn't find her in the places she usually visits to collect herbs. I know them all! We expanded our search to places south of Bald Mountain. Now after four days we gave up the hope to find her. Either she turns up on her own or she is gone." Adam figured out Wa-Ya's arguing. He seemed to resign, "She has known the Tsul ‘Kalu for more than eighty years. She knows the forest better than I know my pocket. She knows every trail, every brooklet and every tree." Shaking his head, "She knows how to survive. She will be back if it's her time!"
While the older Ranger discussed the prospect of success of a large search party with Wa-Ya and Adam, the younger one tried to get in touch with Marlow Dekker. When he called up Sparrow Lane 15, a boyish voice answered. The whoops convinced him he got Adam's younger brother on the phone, therefore he put Adam on the line, "Your younger brother, I guess. He is so excited he is stuttering!" he laughed relieved, "Take the call, Boy!"
"Adam, is it you? Why didn't you call? Are you ok? Is Wa-Ya ok? Did you find Aunti?" Lilek didn't stop asking, till Broder pried the phone out of his hands. After a sigh of relief and a long, long sermon of a son's duty Broder informed Adam, "Dec will pick you up. He is already with Wa-Ya's clan up in the Cherokee village." Then Broder couldn't find an end to questioning Adam, till he finally stated, "You can't believe how we missed you, you and Wa-Ya!"
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