Serpent Daughter – Snippet 09
He had to keep silent, too. That was the game. So, quiet as a butterfly, Ma’iingan ignored the marks on the ground and stalked through the forest.
His sons were both healthy. Ayaabe had been healthy from birth, but his son Miigiwewin had been born in a ritual fault, and had not prospered, until Ma’iingan had traveled deep into Zhaaganaashii lands and brought him a healer. In the months since, Miigiwewin — who also had the second name Giimoodaapi, given to him in an act of rebellion by his uncle — had shot up in height, though he remained quite thin.
“Baabaa!” Father. That was Ayaabe, who could not contain his excitement. Ma’iingan pretended not to have heard, looking inside a hollow tree and lifting a rock to look beneath before Ayaabe’s repeated calls to be noticed became so much that he had to find his son.
“Ingozis!” he cried, scooping up his son and kissing him on the forehead. My son! “Now, do not tell me where your brother is.”
“Gaawiin ingikendansii,” the boy said. I do not know.
Miigiwewin, whose second name meant he laughs in secret, was a good hider, because he was very quiet. Ayaabe wanted to be heard by his father at all times, and now followed close at his heels as Ma’iingan crept through the forest, but Miigiwewin had yet to speak a word in his life.
After ten minutes of searching and listening, Ma’iingan gave up and resorted to tracking his second son. The boy’s footprints led directly away from the glade in which they had been playing, in a straight line. Ma’iingan and Ayaabe followed the footprints, Ma’iingan singing a song to his son to keep him amused even as his own heart beat faster and his fears of wild animals and other dangers grew.
When he found Miigiwewin, he nearly ran the boy over. His son stood perfectly still in the center of a small clearing.
Ma’iingan laughed and picked up both his boys. “Miigiwewin! I have found you, and now it is your turn to look for us!”
“The man with wolf ears just left,” Miigiwewin said.
They were his first words, and Ma’iingan nearly dropped his son in astonishment. “Wolf ears?” he asked. Ma’iingan’s name meant wolf, and his manidoo, the several times Ma’iingan had seen it, had taken the form of a shining man with a wolf’s ears.
“He said he has been calling you, but you have not heard him. You are too distracted. He said you might listen to me instead.”
Ma’iingan set his boys down. He smiled, though his limbs shook. “Listen to you say what, Miigiwewin?”
“I am Giimoodaapi, Father. A second messenger is coming, and you must not miss this one. For the good of all of us, you will have to leave.”
Rememberest thou this place? the Lord Protector asked.
Oliver Cromwell, the Necromancer, inhabited the body of a child. It was a vehicle he had taken during the recent Imperial attempt to take the city of Cahokia. The child stood pale and naked, with white, empty eyes, beside the stone wall encircling a church outside Boston.
Lucy is buried here, Ezekiel said. His betrothed. Dead in a carriage accident years ago.
Both men spoke without using their tongues. In Ezekiel’s case, his tongue had rotted away as his body had grown cold. Nathaniel Penn and his Indian ally had called Ezekiel a wiindigoo, an ice cannibal.
Ezekiel had resisted the description, but it was apt. His muscles were cold as ice, and he ate the flesh of men. He traveled at night, or avoided roads, or veiled his face. A man whose appearance was as terrifying as he knew his now was could stand scrutiny if traveling with an armed company — as the Lazar Robert Hooke had done through the streets of New Orleans — but risked being attacked if caught alone.
Ezekiel had followed the summons of his master Cromwell, heard in his dreams and in quiet moments in his thoughts, to this church by traveling at night, and now the two stood side by side in darkness.
I have told thee a partial truth, the Necromancer continued. I am here to tell thee the higher truth, and to offer thee a choice.
Ezekiel Angleton, once a priest of the order of St. Martin Luther and now a walking corpse, knelt before his master.
Upon the Mississippi, I told thee that I was no haunt. That was a partial truth, my son.
Yaas, My Lord, Ezekiel said.
I have had the first resurrection, Cromwell said. And upon the Mississippi, I administered the same resurrection to thee, as thou hast since given it unto others.
Yaas, My Lord.
The second resurrection awaits us still. In that resurrection, our flesh will be restored to perfection, and escape the rot of this world. It is to this end that we wrap our fingers around the Firstborn throat, and it is to this end that Thomas Penn serves us.
Yaas, My Lord.
Cromwell paused briefly, as if to let Ezekiel consider. If thou wish it, I shall administer the first resurrection to Lucy Winthrop.
Ezekiel trembled. Did he dare hope for so much? He raised his hands in supplication to his master —
and then saw his own dead, white flesh.
My Lord . . . will Lucy be but bones, after these long years?
Cromwell rested a cold child’s hand on Ezekiel’s shoulder. I can give her flesh. But she will not be as thou rememberest her. She will be as I am, and as thou art.
Ezekiel thought of Lucy sitting beside the Winthrop hearth, rosy cheek and fair ear pressed against the bell-shaped end of the courting stick. He remembered the warmth of her body in his bed, separated and yet bound together by the bundling board. He had never before or since slept in a bed so warm.
Or, Cromwell continued, we may await the time when we may administer the second resurrection to her directly.
Ezekiel heard the soft plop of drops of liquid falling into the grass. He touched his face and, in the light of the stars, found that tears moistened his fingertips.
No, My Lord. His body shook and he touched the earth with a hand to steady himself. The time is not ready for her. If we are to bring Lucy Winthrop back into this earth, I would bring her into a perfected world.
Cromwell nodded. Then we must go to Philadelphia, and perfect the world.
~You should think of this as an act of healing,~ Isaiah Wilkes said.
Wilkes was dead.
~Yes, that’s definitely what you should think. Rescue is healing, isn’t it? ~ Jacob Hop countered. ~We are rescuing the land from the scourge of Simon Sword, and perhaps also rescuing Kinta Jane Embry.~
Hop was also dead.
~We are healing the land, ~ Wilkes added.
Nathaniel and his two familiar spirits — living men who had died and chosen to stay in Nathaniel’s service — rode a horse that was also a drum across a rolling plain beneath the starry sky. Nathaniel was alive, but had the ability to enter this land of the spirits and the dead, and to travel within it. He rode now to fulfill a promise.
In life, Isaiah Wilkes had been the head of a secret society called the Conventicle. The Conventicle had been founded by old Benjamin Franklin himself, and it existed to be the secret glue keeping together three allies who had sworn to stand against Simon Sword at his return. The alliance had fallen apart, and been killed in his efforts to reassemble it. An agent of his, a woman named Kinta Jane Embry, had survived to continue the mission. Nathaniel had promised Wilkes he would find Kinta Jane, and try to help her if he could.