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The Speaker
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-492-8
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
eBook Length: 562 Pages
Published: September 2007



From inside the flap

In a world where magic has to hide itself, Sooneawa is no ordinary Native American girl. She has a special gift and a special friend and a talent she doesn’t even know about yet. With her talkative feline friend, she heads off to college to study veterinary medicine. Along the way, she finds a few friends, both magical and otherwise, a young man who is rather… anti-magical, and one very powerful, very power-hungry young wizard who will stop at nothing to possess her.
Oh, and did we mention the powerful Native American spirit that has marked her for its own?

The Speaker (Excerpt)


THE LEGEND OF UKTENA

The Cherokee have a tale they tell, of a monster they call Uktena. This creature is not exclusive to them, but it is their story you find most common. What follows on these pages is my compilation of those tales, my version as it features into my story. It will help you understand the undercurrent of the tale.

There are tales of a serpent-like being, horned like a deer, with seven bands of color around its neck, or seven spots depending on the storyteller, great moon-like eyes and a single, scintillating jewel in the middle of its forehead. This creature lives in deep, still waters, sometimes in rivers, or deep caverns. Where it lives no wildlife thrives. For miles from its resting place you hear no sound, not bird, animal or insect. To stray within its reach is to risk hearing its call. Animals will raise their heads suddenly and just walk off, hunters set down their bows and walk away, never to be seen again. To come upon it waking is death. To come upon it sleeping is death. Something about it draws the viewer towards rather than away. But some… some can break that spell, some are overcome by the fear of it and flee. For them something far worse than death awaits. When they return home, it will be to find their loved ones dead in their stead.

Uktena can be killed, however. Its heart lies beneath the seventh band. Should an arrow find its way there it too can die, and the hunter’s loved ones will be safe. The jewel in its forehead is powerful magic. It can give one insight to the future, heal, bring good hunting and great luck for the tribe of the one who keeps it, but it is a dangerous thing to keep and few wish that responsibility. It binds itself to its keeper, demands things of him, marks him for all to see.

 

Chapter One

Beyond the Door


"It is a full scholarship," said Seven Trees pausing to take a puff from the decorated pipe being passed about the Council circle. Her old voice was still strong in the dim, smoky room. "So… there will be no financial burden on the tribe. Not to mention a huge opportunity for our little Silver."

Elk Whistle accepted the pipe from her with a chuckle. "You should look again, Seven Trees. Our Sooneawa is not so little any more. She is a grown woman."

"Not yet," snapped the sullen voice of Cold Heart of the Mountain. "She is still only 17. And until that time all decisions of her fate are ours to make. And I say she stays here."

"Daki’inde!" exclaimed Seven Trees. "How can you ask that of her? She dreams of being a vet and here is her chance, her only chance I might add, to go to University to become one and you want her to throw it away? When was the last time one of the People was extended such generosity?"

"Exactly," she humphed, jabbing the air with a bony finger. "When? Why now, eh? What good ever came of what the white man has to offer?" She shook her head, sending the wooden beads adorning her braid wraps rattling. "No. It is for her own good we keep her here. She is a magic child. We cannot allow the white world to corrupt her or steal her from us."

"She may be magic, Daki," came the calm voice of the chief, Falling Elk, "but she cannot make magic. As such, her absence will be no hardship to the tribe. Her return however, will bring us great things."

Cold Heart turned to the old chief. "Not what I have seen," she sniffed imperiously. "Great tragedy will befall if she leaves the protection of Silver Rose Mountain. She will suffer at the hands of those white devils, be tainted by them."

The Chief, to her surprise, nodded. "Lizard has visited me too, Daki’inde. He brought me powerful dreams and I tell you this, if you ask her in ten years if it was all worth it, she will answer unequivocally yes. Either way, it is her choice to make."

"She is my niece, old man," she growled, desperation beginning to mar her judgment. "Don’t you forget that. As her only living relative--"

"Don’t argue with me, old woman," he said with a calm voice that nevertheless cut her off as sharply as if he had snapped. "You gave up the right to do so ten years ago, when your sister died. You decided then that you did not want to deal with a child and surrendered her to the tribe for raising, even though that meant you would not inherit her property. If the girl wishes to go to this Cordel University, then I say she should be allowed."

"The girl is a Speaker, Falling Elk," she said. "We cannot allow the whites to find out we still possess magic. She is too valuable, I tell you!"

At this, another woman spoke, this one older than them all. Her hair was so white it was almost translucent, and her braids fell in coils on the floor. Behind her on a short perch stood a raven easily a meter tall with an ancient gleam in his fierce black eye. Her own eyes were nearly solid white, clouded over by cataracts she refused to have removed. "The child a Speaker may be, but she is not a Memory. As such, it matters not if she leaves us because she can never leave us."

Seven Trees frowned, passing the pipe to the older woman with a small bow. "How can that be, Spider?"

The old hands reached for the pipe, found it without error though she never turned her face. Only the raven’s head moved to watch. "Think about the girl’s name, child," she said, took a long puff of the pipe, let the smoke slowly curl up and around her head, making strange shapes in the air which the bird watched intently. "She will take us with her wherever she goes. She will always be in the ’shadow of the mountain’."

"Just because her name loosely translates to Silver Rose Mountain, and I mean loosely, does not…"

"Loosely," Spider said. "Which places her in the shadow of the thing."

Cold Heart tried one last argument. "What about her Niijii Manidoo? It is unlikely that the school will let her bring a pet. It is not safe for her to go without him," she added with finality.

"Actually," grinned Elk Whistle, his eyes dancing, "I have read these… pamphlets. One of the six dormitories are encouraging the students to bring a pet, something small and undisruptive. There is a group of graduate students running an experiment on the campus, testing the theory that students allowed animals will be calmer and more receptive to study and thus get higher grades. Gaganan will not be a problem."

"I still say…"

Spider had had enough. "Cease your prattle, girl. You make my head ache. You have lost. Accept this with grace."

"We are agreed then, all but Daki’inde?" asked the Chief.

Everyone nodded, even old Pipestone who had sat swaying silently to some tune only he could hear throughout the whole argument.

"Then the child will be allowed to accept the scholarship." Cold Heart silently fumed, refusing the pipe when it was passed to her. "Now we sit and smoke," said Falling Elk, accepting the pipe. "Mmmm, good tobacco, brother. Some of your best I’d say."

"That’s the deer tongue," nodded Elk Whistle.

Seven Trees tossed another small braid of dried sweet grass into the fire, watched the fragrant smoke curl towards the hole in the domed roof. No one acted as if they noticed when Cold Heart of the Mountain stormed out of the Council chamber, slamming the ’flap’ closed, except for Pipestone who only half turned his head before holding out his hand for the pipe.

Outside, Sooneawa waited with two of her friends. Tuwe and Memenqwa were seated on the fence just outside the stone wigwam where the Council met. Most of the official buildings on the Silver Rose Mountain Reservation were made of modern materials, but shaped to resemble Native dwellings. Sooneawa leaned back against the fence post, fiddling nervously with the feathers adorning her braid wraps. She stood as the door opened, watched her aunt storm out in a black mood and her heart leaped. She waited until Cold Heart had passed out of earshot before turning to her friends. "Ninoshenh Daki’ is furious!" she said, barely able to contain her excitement. "That can only mean one thing!"

"You’re being allowed to go!" Memenqwa finished for her, hopping off the fence and throwing her arms around her friend with a squeal.

"Congrats. You are coming back for the wedding, right?" said Tuwe.

Memenqwa looked up at him, stunned. Suddenly she hit his knee. "What the hell kinda proposal is that?"

He blinked, "You mean I haven’t asked you yet?"

"NO!" she growled, her fists on her hips.

"Damn that Lizard… I’ve got my dreaming and reality mixed up again."

She jumped him, knocking both of them backward over the fence, rolling in the grass. "I’ll show you reality!"

A large cat, possibly of the Maine Coon variety, with a white belly, chest and legs and a black back walked up and sat down next to Sooneawa. He peered over the bottom rail at the tussle. *At it again, are they?* he purred.

Sooneawa nodded, setting a foot on the fence and resting her arms on the top rail. "Yup."

*What’d he forget this time?*

*To ask her to marry him. Thought he had already asked her,* she mewled.

The cat sighed, looked up at her. The white point that aimed up between his tufted ears from his nose almost bisected his face, leaving the black cap looking more like a mask or cowl. He blinked his green-gold eyes at her. *So when are we leaving?*

The undecipherable argument from the couple in the grass was becoming more frequently punctuated by giggles as they rolled closer to the underbrush.

"Haven’t been told officially yet. So I don’t know."

He hopped up onto the fence post. His bulk made the process look much more precarious than it was. *I saw your aunt. Heard her fume. Convinced you are going to run off with some white man and get your heart broken.*

She snorted. "More like afraid I am going to dilute the bloodline farther."

*I may be just a cat. But I don’t think she likes you very much,* he observed.

*Resents me more like.*