"Cherokee Rock," Chapter One --
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Chapter One — Enoli
Ten-year-old Enoli (ᎡᏃᎵ E-no-li, “Black Fox”) sits with his legs crossed beside his mother, Ahyoka (ᎠᏲᎧ Ah-YOH-kah, “She brought happiness.”)
On the second circumference of a double circle, they hold their places in a ring behind Paint Clan’s men. Their family’s space sits empty in the front row.
The mother smiles at her son and nudges him into the primary ring.
He moves with apprehension and eyes the men who do not notice the intrusion.
She pats her son’s back and leans closer to his ear. “You are the man of our lodge, Enoli. It’s time to replace your father.”
A tall, older woman with traditional male tattoos from her hairline over face, neck, and shoulders stands and addresses the gathering, “Our warriors fight with loyalist rangers against the colonists. We have no protection. Old Tassel, my friend and First Beloved Man, urges us to make peace with these whites who move into our lands. We must listen. He is wise and loves our people.”
In July 1780, this council deliberates in a central clearing of a warm weather encampment in the northwest corner of what will become the State of Georgia.
Prominent in dress and attitude, the gathering’s war woman presides.
Many open to the air lodgings surround the council circle. Young tree saplings, cross beams strapped together with sinew, form their roofs of bark and animal hides. Underneath families store possessions on platforms.
Other rough-hewn log cabins in the village feature wide doorless entries covered by suspended deer hides.
This night, lodge ground levels for sleeping sit empty as their inhabitants surround a central community bonfire that releases sparks, embers and smoke into the sky.
Mohi, ᎼᎯ, the Paint Clan’s shaman across the circle from the war woman, leaps to his feet. “Joseph Martin, Indian Agent for the Americans at Chota, sent word to the colonial’s Governor Patrick Henry. My friend Dragging Canoe warns that Virginia and North Carolina send an expedition. A thousand over mountain men in a fleet of dugout canoes under Shelby and Montgomery invade on the Tennessee!”
The older war woman with the face markings motions for the medicine man to return to his seat, “Years past, my son died in battle with British and white loyalists! The colonies fought their war with Britain and now against us. They faced the strongest army in the world! I say it’s time to lay war clubs aside. We must seek peace.”
The group’s shaman stands for a second time.
He surveys the circle of men warmed by the fire.
For display, he nods respect to his tattooed adversary. “I listen. These words I heard before. Yes, we fear the white settlers, for they are a few that represent many. They take our earth, kill our animals and have modern weapons. Let us control our own lives and destiny! I understand we cannot fight alone. So, join Dragging Canoe and scalp whites before they drive us from our homes!”
“Shaman Mohi,” the old woman sits and stares directly at the medicine man, “the spirits of the animals, of our world, of this fire and that moon above walked with you healers for generations. Stories of the great Stone Cloud are still told around our fires.”
Enoli sits near Mohi, and the healer’s physical presence and powerful demeanor captivate his attention.
The old war leader’s voice weakens, “Since settlers came with their weapons, tools and the black holy book, your shaman’s powers weaken. They say the son of Stone Cloud still summons spirits from Cherokee Rock, but the Paint Clan watches our holy man’s talents drift away as the smoke from this council fire.”
“Do as you wish, old woman,” the Paint Clan’s spiritual leader brushes a hand across his mouth and nose against the smell and mist from the fire, “but Dragging Canoe returns soon.”
“He is a war leader and does not understand the ways of peace as a shaman should,” the leader points at Mohi.
The shaman notices Enoli, the newest young man at the fire.
He stares at the boy. “Old men and the mothers of youngsters long for peace, but many of our young and strong will join our cause.”
War woman rises to her feet. “Dragging Canoe is also young. Yes, he is a brave fighter.” She points at Ahyoka and Enoli. “Let our mothers and our young and strong make this decision for themselves.”
Mohi stomps a foot and spits into the council fire’s edge. He bends and grasps warm black ash dampened by saliva between fingers.
The shaman smears black in two lines across the boy’s cheeks.
His protective mother pulls her son into her arms.
The warrior mutters with disgust and stalks from the meeting into the darkness.
Enoli watches the shaman’s exit, touches the ash on his cheeks and his chest swells with the pride of new adult responsibility.
The next afternoon, adulthood status reverts to play as the young man skips along a trail beside his mother.
She carries a basket. “I was proud of you last night. You sat in the council with men.”
“I did not feel like a man, Mother. I felt like a captive wolf cub.”
“It reminded me of when I was your age.” She grasps her boy’s hand. “One evening, around our campfire, my grandfather told me of a battle that goes on inside grownups.”
“When cubs become wolves, Enoli. He said two wolves fight inside us. One is evil. It is anger, and its cubs are envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, and greed. They feed on arrogance, self-pity, guilt, and resentment,” she looks at her son to assure herself that he pays attention, “also inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
“Evil wolves eat bad things. Do you think I am a bad wolf?” Enol stares into his mother’s eyes.
“No Son. The other wolf is good and what I pray to the Great Spirit you become. Its cubs are joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, and kindness. They feed on benevolence, generosity, empathy, truth, compassion and faith.”
Enoli thinks for a minute. “How do you know which wolf wins?”
His mother looks at her boy. “The wolf that wins is the one you feed.”
Enoli smiles, and she releases his hand, “But now, enjoy boyhood. It is a beautiful day, and you will grow up soon. I have berries to pick.”
Enoli runs ahead and plays.
She sings an ancient lyric in the hills and gathers blueberries, “I am of the Great Spirit, Ho! I am of the Great Spirit, Ho! Ho! It is so. It is so. Ho! It is so, it is so.”
Her son sneaks through the brush and his imagination scouts for white colonists on behalf of the British.
Around the two, summer heat colors the brush a parched green.
The woman spots berries and stoops to gather the delicacies into a double shell basket of woven reeds. “I am of the Great Spirit, Ho! I am of the Great Spirit, Ho! Ho! It is so. It is so. Ho! It is so, it is so.”
With a head full of recent fireside stories where warriors battle white settlement encroachment onto native lands, the youngster imagines the British and their Indian allies staged against colonial settlers.
Enoli scouts for a detachment of soldiers and scans the terrain ahead for white trimmed blue coats and shiny brass buttons. He ranges forward before the column and looks back.
Ahyoka hums her tune and adds more fruit to her basket.
The boy hears movement in the brush and ducks behind a tree.
Two farmers, colonialists with muskets, wait in ambush between two trees and a Huckleberry bush.
The boy scrambles from the foliage to behind rocks and peers over their tops.
Two figures wait, not armed men, but a man and a woman.
The female, a ripe chestnut burr hue and covered with fine prickles, crouches in the brush. The male behind her looms as a choke berry colored shadow.
Ahyoka joins her son in concealment. “Wait,” the mother touches his shoulder, “I see them.”
“Those are not British or settlers.” The lad seeks comfort. “I am afraid.” He grips a small knife in a beaded sheath at his belt.
“No, Enoli. They are Kosvkvskini (Evil Ones.) The woman’s voice trembles in fear. “Run, bring Shaman Mohi and don’t look back.”
The mother grasps her son’s shoulders and shakes. “Promise me you won’t.”
The boy disobeys.
At the top of the hill, Enoli stops and looks along the slope.
Enoli’s mother drops her basket of blueberries, and they spill. She sings a song to the mountain spirit. “I am of the Great Spirit, Ho! I am of the Great Spirit, Ho! Ho! It is so. It is so. Ho! It is so, it is so.”
The covered with prickles woman approaches.
With hands upraised and eyes on the sky, Ahyoka stands and faces the threat.
She opens and spreads her arms, the universal symbol of greeting or capture.
The evil shadow draws close and, porcupine aggressive, expels pricks.
Spines pierce Ahyoka’s skin and stimulate red pimples.
The Kosvkvskini cackles as she circles Enoli’s mother, arms outstretched.
Her prickly cactus skin erupts into a spinal barrage that speckles the air thick as fire ash.
The male sings as he follows his mate and sweeps into a sickly dance around the boy’s mother. “I am of the Great Pox, Ho! I am of the Great Pox, Ho! Ho! It is so. It is so. Ho! It is so, it is so.” As he touches or shadows Ahyoka’s skin, lesions fester and become black pustules.
Enoli flees and his lungs ache with each breath. Brush and branches whip his face and shoulders as he crashes through the bramble.
After an hour of effort, he bursts into the clan’s encampment and stops the first adult, an older man.
“A Kosvkvskini attacked my mother! I must find Mohi!”
Color drains from the elder’s face as he cowers away from the name of the evil spirit.
The gentleman stumbles but points at an open to the air structure.
Several people, an extended family, live in the dwelling owned by their family matriarch.
Enoli runs to the indicated lodge. “Mohi!”
The shaman steps from his home. “Enoli. What do you want? You took your place at the council fire last night. You must wish to fight with Dragging Canoe.”
“No! My mother sent me,” the boy gasps for breath from running. “She picks berries but… but…?
“What’s the matter? You’re old enough to go to war, so speak!”
“A Kosvkvskini attacks mother!” He points over the ridges that surround the village. “She needs a shaman.”
The medicine man laughs, “They are legends, Son. Only white settlers attack our people. Times have changed.”
“You don’t believe me?” Enoli looks at the shaman. “My mother is of the Paint Clan. You want to be the medicine man of our clan. Protect us. I saw them!”
“You say,” Mohi preens before others who, disrupted by the noise, step out of their cabins and lodges to investigate, “describe the Kosvkvskini.”
Enoli glances at the onlookers, “A woman and a man, she first, with burning eyes and skin the color of ripe chestnuts. Her skin is burr hue and covered with fine prickles. The man is more of a shadow and follows with yellow eyes. His long arms open to embrace you. They were Kosvkvskini. My mother said so and sent me for help.”
Mohi and the onlookers stare in stunned silence.
One bystander breaks the frozen reaction, “Mohi, protect us from this evil!”
“Silence! You don’t control me and I’m not afraid of old evil spirit legends.” The medicine man reenters his lodge and withdraws a medicine bag. “Lead me to your mother, Enoli.”
Bystanders applaud and shout as the youth and the shaman jog from the village. “The Great Spirit protect Mohi, the Paint Clan’s beloved shaman!”
The boy and the healer trot into the hills.
They retrace the young man’s steps as clouds gather over distant ridges. At a run, the two eye distant lightening. Darkness sweeps above the horizon.
“The signs are not good.” The shaman follows through bramble, and thorns tear leggings and moccasins. “What did you see?”
Without breathing hard from the running, the younger Enoli sweeps his hand across the sky. “Two spirits, a man and a woman. They came from behind a bush. My mother sent me for you. I ran but looked back. The woman cast spines which the man turned to black sores.”
Mohi stops. “The white man’s smallpox!”
The boy spins to face the medicine man. “Why do you stop? She’s over the next hill.”
“We must bring help to carry her body,” the healer turns to retrace his steps.
“No!” Enoli rips his knife from his belt and brandishes it toward Mohi. “Coward! You fear the pox! We help my mother now!”
The older man stares at the knife and into the boy’s eyes.
He whips a fist against the youngster’s wrist and knocks the weapon loose.
Enoli lunges to retrieve the blade. His ribs suffer the thump of his opponent’s foot and the boy rolls in pain.
The older picks up the blade. “I am the shaman leader of the Paint Clan, you little nothing! Your mother has the pox. She could give it to us. For the sake of the clan, I will not take that risk. We do this my way. Do you understand?”
Enoli squirms on the ground with both hands pressing sore bones. “I understand you are a coward and hide behind your medicine bag while my mother needs help!”
Mohi slams a second foot into Enoli’s stomach, and the boy expels air.
His last vision of consciousness frames the Paint Clan’s shaman silhouetted against deep clouds split by distant lightning.