Council Of Fire – Snippet 32
Skenadoa had helped escort Joseph from Onondaga to Fort Johnson as soon as he was recovered enough to walk. To the young native, every sense seemed enhanced, every perception sharpened as he traveled across the land toward Johnson’s home. Birdsong, tree signs, and even the way in which the sun filtered through the forest canopy seemed to hold new and special significance. When they reached Fort Johnson, the older man had remained for a time and then took his leave of the great house, traveling west to see what he could learn.
Joseph had always been skilled at tracking and following trail-sign; among his tribe and clan he was highly regarded. But this was new and different–something had happened when he had confronted the Konearaunehneh. Perhaps he had been chosen by the Great Spirit and would now be a shaman rather than a warrior–a prospect he dreaded. Shamans did not run along trails or hunt in the woods. Prophesying and visions were for old men.
Except . . . he had experienced a vision. And nothing ordinary, like the coming of rain or the quality of the hunt–it was a vision of the whole world and its boundaries, with only mist and darkness beyond.
“This is healing up nicely,” Molly Brant said, carefully wrapping a clean bandage around Joseph’s right hand. When her brother didn’t answer, she said, “Are you listening to me?”
Joseph had been daydreaming, seeing the vision again in his mind, and watching motes of dust drift through a strand of sunlight coming in through the window.
“Of course I’m listening to you.”
“It didn’t seem that way.” Molly smiled, and Joseph, as always, was put in mind of how beautiful his sister was. She spoke and dressed like a European but had the features of an Iroquois–and that was important, especially now, since she carried Sir William’s child. She was just starting to show, but it clearly did not keep her from the many household tasks that she performed and oversaw for him. “You were lost in your dreams.”
“I keep thinking of my vision. Sir William questioned me about the edges of the land . . . I’d never thought that the land had edges–that the Great Water went on and on until it reached the white man’s home.”
“The land, and the water, is on a great globe. You know that. If you travel beyond the lands of Europe and across–I don’t know, Russia or Cathay, you come to another great water, and then around to where you started. The English have done that, sailing their great ships all around.”
“That’s not what I saw.”
“You had a fever, something to do with the attack of the . . .” she placed her hand on her belly and lowered her voice. “Konearaunehneh,” she said, as if she were trying to make sure that her unborn child did not hear the word. “Who is to say what your mind may have imagined?”
“So you don’t think it’s a true vision. Is that what you’re saying?”
“I don’t know,” she said, tying the bandage in place. “I don’t know quite what to say about it. It is all beyond me, matters for men of science or shamans or some such thing. Who believes that the world can change from the way the Great Spirit made it? Do you?”
“I don’t know either. I only know what I saw,” Joseph said, standing up. He placed his hands gently on his sister’s shoulders. “And I believe it came from the Great Spirit, and it is the way that the world really looks now. Sir William thinks it is a true seeing also.”
“He does not believe in the Great Spirit, Joseph, no matter what he says to the sachems of the Haudenosaunee. Why would he think this now?” She gently shrugged off Joseph’s hands and picked up a cloth, wiping her own. “Get well and rest, then go home. The world hasn’t changed.”
“Have always been there, in the darkness, waiting to invade the world of men. This is a time of war, Joseph–it must have smelled blood.”
When Skenadoa returned to Fort Johnson, he was not alone. Joseph and Molly Brant and Sir William Johnson watched as two dozen Indians–men, women and children–walked between the stone gateposts into the front yard of the house. They were burdened with possessions and accompanied by animals–they had come to Fort Johnson to stay, at least for a while.
They were not the first such refugees. By now, somewhere on the order of two hundred people had gathered in the shelter provided by Fort Johnson. Most of them were crowded into the compound itself, but others clustered against its wooden palisade. The majority were Mohawks, but not all. There were Onondagas, Oneidas and Tuscaroras there too, and even one small group of Hurons.
The Hurons–or Wyandot, as they were also called–spoke an Iroquoian language but were traditionally hostile to the Six Nations. Something very frightening must have happened to drive them to seek refuge in Mohawk lands.
Skenadoa gestured to the others and walked forward. Sir William stepped off the porch and into the yard, where the two men consulted quietly for a short time.
Johnson turned and called into the house; three servants appeared, and he gave orders to assist the natives in settling onto the grounds. Then, without a word to Joseph or Molly, he walked into the house.
Skenadoa stood alone in the yard, gazing up at the sky as if there were answers to questions hidden there. Joseph walked up to him, and the older man looked down.
“What is happening?”
“There are more of them,” Skenadoa said. “Out there.” He gestured westward, the direction from which he had come. “Flying Heads, and worse. They have heard the call, and they answer.”
“Heard the call? What do you mean?”
“When the world changed, young brave,” Skenadoa answered, “things awoke from their sleep. Many things. They had no goal other than to darken the sky and frighten . . . but a strong man could harness those things to his purpose.
“Sir William has an enemy toward the sunset,” he added. “A runner came to their village–” he gestured toward the people in the yard who had recently arrived–“and told them that since they had taken up the calumet with Warraghiyagey, they no longer belonged to the land.”
“So they came here,” Joseph said. “For protection from . . .”
“The strong man.”
“Does the strong man have a name?”
Skenadoa spat, a deliberate gesture. “I will not speak it here, but yes, it is a name that Warraghiyagey–‘Chief Big Business’–knows well.”
“One of our people?”
“A Seneca.” The westernmost people of the Confederation–the “guardians of the Western Door”–had long been inclined toward the French rather than the English. They were fierce and independent.
“Does he speak for all of the Seneca people?”
“No one opposes him, at least now. Whether all will come when he calls–it depends on what he offers or if they fear him. With Flying Heads at his command, they might fear him a great deal. But there is one thing that is certain, young brave.”
“What is that?”
“The Covenant Chain is broken. Now let us go in and see what ‘Chief Big Business’ has to say.”