Council Of Fire – Snippet 37
Part IV: Orientation
Ye monsters of the bubbling deep,
Your Maker’s praises spout;
Up from the sands ye codlings peep,
And wag your tails about.
–Cotton Mather, Hymn
The broom star has made old things new
The Ohio Country
Spring had not quite come to the land; the days were lengthening as normal, but the nights were cold, and the wind was stiff. It should already be planting season, but the ground was hard and unyielding; the sun seemed distant and the shadows it cast seemed dull and stark. Guyasuta did not know whether this was some sign from the Great Spirit, and Sganyodaiyo gave no insight except to say, Brother, these are the strangest of days.
That was nothing he did not already know. He walked through Logstown without giving away his unease: he had made his choice, and the people who looked to him as their chief did not need to have doubts. Sganyodaiyo remained in his house, neither walking among the people nor speaking to anyone other than Guyasuta himself–and to the Great Spirit, of course.
On the cold afternoon when the messenger returned from his mission to Warraghiyagey, Guyasuta sat in front of his own house, watching people pass by, offering nods and greetings. He had stopped to pack and light his pipe when a shadow passed in between him and the sun; he looked up to see someone standing before him, arms crossed in front of him.
“Friend Shingas,” he said, beckoning to a seat beside him. It was courtesy only: the Delaware chief was not one he would necessarily call a friend, but since the tribe had been driven from Pennsylvania into the Ohio country, more and more of them had settled in Logstown–including their young, headstrong chief.
“There are rumors,” Shingas said.
“There are always rumors. What now?”
“Flying Heads,” Shingas said. “And Maneto, in the great river. I had thought those things to be nothing more than legend, to frighten young children. But these stories do not come from children.”
“Of course not.” Guyasuta took a long draw on his pipe, and after a moment offered it to the Delaware, who did the same. “Because they are not legend.”
“Should I be joyful or fearful?”
“When it comes to such things, Friend, one should always be fearful. They do not make distinction between the tribes and the whites–Flying Heads attacked the Council Fire of the Haudenosaunee. The Great Spirit is angry with the People of the Longhouse for becoming too close with the English and French. The whites are intruders on our land–”
“I do not need to be told that,” Shingas interrupted.
Guyasuta was a young man by any measure, and only the separation of the tribes in the Ohio country from their Haudenosaunee overlords had elevated him to a high position among a less numerous people. But Shingas was younger still and burned with hot anger at the injustices done to the Delawares, particularly over the last few years. To Shingas there were only enemies and rivals–no real friends.
“The Haudenosaunee must renounce their alliances and turn their back on the whites,” Guyasuta said. “All of the things that come to them as gifts and trade goods are things they must do without.”
“Yet the whites will still have them. Ships come across the sea and bring more every season.”
Shingas was about to reply but stopped, his face a mask of surprise. “What do you mean?”
“The ships will not come any longer. Sganyodaiyo has seen that the world is changed since the coming of the broom star.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You will in time.”
Shingas frowned. “What am I to tell my warriors, Friend Guyasuta? That the broom star has made old things new, that the sky and the earth have traded places, and all because one Seneca brave, who cannot bear the light of the sun, says so?”
Guyasuta took us his pipe again. “Yes.”
“The Delawares are not prepared to accept that. Not from you, not from anyone.”
“Why? I know it is not because you are afraid, or that the Delawares are afraid.” Guyasuta smiled as Shingas frowned even more. “It is because you do not understand.”
“I said that.”
“You did. And I am prepared to make it clear to you–or, rather, Sganyodaiyo will make it clear. He will explain to you what has happened, and what is going to happen next.”
“When will this happen then?”
“Soon. I am expecting a messenger. When he comes, I will find you, and we will go to Sganyodaiyo–and he will tell you of the sky and earth and old and new and all will be clear.”
The messenger came to him as he stood before Sganyodaiyo’s house. The man had ridden hard without sleep for two days but showed no sign of weariness.
“Tell me what Chief Big Business told you.”
“He was not happy with the message you sent him, Chief,” the man said. “He knew what the broken arrows meant.”
“Did he also know of the Flying Heads?”
“Yes. The young Mohawk was at his stone house, recovering from injury.”
“The one called Joseph. He found a way to destroy a Flying Head, but it burned his hands.”
“I did not know there was a way to defeat them without a shaman’s medicine. That is . . . interesting. What did the white chief answer to the message?”
“He spoke these words: ‘I will deliver words personally to your chiefs–after I kill their braves and burn their longhouses.'”
“Those words exactly?”
“Yes, Chief. After he told me I should leave before I was hunted for sport. I thought reporting to you more important than my personal honor, but I will unsheathe my tomahawk and blacken my face to avenge it when you walk to war.”
Guyasuta placed his hand on the young brave’s shoulder. “Of course you will, my friend, and I will welcome you by my side.”
At a nod, the messenger departed for some much-needed rest, and Guyasuta went into the house of Logstown’s shaman and fellow chief.
Though the sun was grim and wan, it was very bright compared to the dim interior of the simple house. The ground floor was divided into two rooms, one each to the left and right of the front entrance. There was a rough stair at the far end of the short hallway that led to the sleeping chambers above.
A young man, younger than the messenger, stepped out of the left-hand room, with the air of someone looking to repel intruders; when he saw it was Guyasuta he relaxed.
“Kaintwakon,” Guyasuta said, and extended his hand. They grasped forearms. “How is he today?”
“Awake, at least,” the young man said. “My brother is too often lost in dreams. He does not like to be interrupted when he sleeps.”
“It is bad medicine to interrupt a shaman’s dreams,” Guyasuta said. “But I have need of his counsel.”
“I can see–”
“I will go in myself, Kaintwakon. If he does not wish to be disturbed, he can be angry with me and not with both of us.”
Sganyodaiyo’s younger brother looked relieved and stepped aside so that Guyasuta could enter the left-hand room. It was spare and neat, with only a few things–a sleeping pallet, a small table–visible in the dimness. A thin blanket separated the far part of the room, and through it Guyasuta could see the shadow of a seated man, rocking slowly back and forth.
He stepped forward and pulled aside the curtain. Sganyodaiyo looked up as he stepped into the sectioned-off chamber, which was stuffy and close, warmed by a fire in the fireplace. The shaman was seated cross-legged on a somewhat thicker blanket that covered the floor; there were a number of small items–carved wood, bone, three feathers, a few pieces of colored stone–spread out before him in some pattern that Guyasuta could not discern.
“Shhh,” Sganyodaiyo said, and passed his hands, first the left and then the right, over the objects. When he was done, it seemed as if several of them had shifted position, though Guyasuta could not be sure.
Guyasuta waited patiently. At last Sganyodaiyo looked directly at him, as if noticing for the first time that he was there.
“The whites are stirred to anger,” he said, slowly gathering up the objects and depositing them one by one into a leather pouch by his side.
“They are coming to try and punish us, Brother, like little children who defy their father.”
“It is how they view it,” Sganyodaiyo said. “The Great White Father is displeased, and will not spare the rod, as they say.”
“They are afraid.”
Sganyodaiyo stared at Guyasuta, the fire reflecting eerily in his eyes. “There is reason for them to be afraid, Brother. They have only seen the beginning of our power.”
“The Great Spirit has shown this to you?”
Sganyodaiyo did not answer. He reached into the bag and drew out a small circle of pale cloth, three small stones which had been roughly carved into human figures, and a small piece of dried snakeskin.
“The Great Spirit,” Sganyodaiyo said, “has given me the power to bring forth his servants. He does not show me what He has done–I call on them myself.” He extended his hand over the snakeskin and said, “Maneto.” He then touched the circle of cloth and said, “Dagwanoeient.” Finally, he pointed to the three carvings and said, “Genonskwa.”
When he looked up again at Guyasuta, his eyes were dark, reflecting none of the firelight.
Guyasuta was a warrior. He had fought both with other Senecas and with his brethren in the Ohio country, more and more independent of the Haudenosaunee. He had charged at other natives and at whites, he had used axe and arrow and musket. He would have said, and would have fought any who disagreed, that he feared nothing.
But looking down at the seated shaman with eyes filled with darkness, he felt something near panic. The stone figures began to shake and then slowly struggled to their feet. They turned in unison to face Sganyodaiyo and stiffly bowed.
“Genonskwa,” Sganyodaiyo said. “Stone Coats. Each one will summon two more until there is an army of them.” Sganyodaiyo stared at Guyasuta. “They will march to the English fort at the Forks of the Ohio and they will tear it apart stone by stone.”
“And then, Brother, they will advance on even more important targets . . . until there are none left.”