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 The Eleventh Hour

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The Laughing Stranger
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Join date : 2013-08-29

PostSubject: The Eleventh Hour   Fri 13 Jun 2014, 16:04

As the Prodigals approached the Cherokee village, winding their out of the woods and over the small fields, they realized it had changed. Before it was a like a crude imitation of a white settlement with mean pine-slat huts and a few small wood houses; now the buildings were surrounded by a jagged stockade of sharpened logs, backlit against the night by the reddish glare of low, open flames. They could hear the throbbing beat of drums in their gut, and as the pack drew near the gate, the air filled with screaming chants and bellowed curses in Cherokee, Algonquin, and broken Spanish and French. Hundreds of Indians occupied the village, drinking, milling, rioting. A few fights had broken out and the Garou could hear grunts and muffled screams, see the flash of knives in the moonlight. The honed senses of Gaia's hunters could detect sour vomit and pitch, and the scent of cheap wood being reduced to ash. Some of the homes were ablaze, including Richard Field's handsome cabin toward the center semi-circular ring of dwellings. A concentrated knot of onlookers stood in a gathering in front of Chief Bowl's house. Tall Kickapoo with hawk feathers in their hair alongside bare-chested Shawnee warriors, their faces daubed with orange and black. Cherokee men and women were with them, yelling, arguing, while some were drunk almost insensate. A band of savage looking natives stoped their heated discussion and turned toward the pack as they approached the chaotic scene. They sized up the newcomers, gazing through smeared and haphazard warpaint, their smiles cruel and foolish. Like the many of the Indians they appear to have been drinking, and the Garou could hear the slosh and clink of near-empty jugs. One of the Cherokee slurred out several glottal words that might have been a challenge.

Richard Field's firm voice floated above the rabble, and for a moment the drums fell quiet. "We are not your enemies, brothers!" The man's long dark hair is wild and uncombed, and standing on Bowl's porch, trying to calm the gathered, increasingly irate crowd, he seems small. The front door opens and Chief Bowl is helped outside by Mrs. Fields, tears streaking her face, her dress torn and caked with soot. The elder is let down gently into a sitting position, where he rests in a faded old blanket, immobile and disinterested. Mrs. Fields retreated back inside wordlessly, without glancing at the crowd, the burning house, or her husband. Richard Fields continues to address the gathered tribes: "We have protected you from the white men so far, and we will continue to do so. Our enemies seek any excuse to destroy us, and now, spilt blood will avail us nothing." His voice is angry but his eyes are pleading. "Brothers, allies, trust us. Together we can-" The negotiator's words are cut off, drowned out by a deafening boom as he flies back against the wall like a broken doll thrown by an incorrigible child. Big Jim, his bright paint marking him as warchief of the Shawnee, steps onto the porch, hefting a smoking single shotgun. Wearing a patched, once-expensive suit coat, loincloth, and precious little else, Big Jim's face is streaked with orange-red warpaint, black grease smeared around his eyes, making them look like deep pits. He snapped his heavy breech-loaded weapon open and calmly reloaded as he spoke, his words slow and measured. "Trust must be earned, my people. These men," he gestured on either side, first at Bowl, and then to the seeping red tatters that had been Fields moments before. "These men, they have squandered their authority. Perhaps the Cherokee wish to walk the Trail of Tears again? I ask: who is fit to lead you against the white demons now?" Silence reigned, the gathered natives either too shocked, too frightened, or too inebriated.

"I am."

All eyes were on Bowl as the ancient rose from his seat and stood pointing a time-bent finger at Big Jim, who turned to face the elder with a look of bemused pity. Bowl's voice was soft and measured, and his old black eyes shone with Luna's light as he spoke. "I am the high chieftain of the Tsalagiyi Nvdagi. By this authority, I judge you a murderer, a friend-killer. You are guilty."

"You are nothing."

Big Jim's smile faded into pained disgust, but he did not have time to lift his gun. The large warrior gasped and clutched at his chest, eyes bulging. His tongue stuck from his mouth, changing colors, from red to dark red to a morbid shade of purple. He stumbled blindly down the steps of the porch and began violently convulsing, his own bloodthirsty Shawnee bodyguard afraid to draw near the twitching body. With cold rage, Bowl speaks, his voice a roar that belies his frail frame. "We shall never walk the Trail of Tears again. Do not become prey to your own dark hearts or descend into in-fighting. The white men have broken their promises, despite the people of the Cherokee Nation and their allies bending over backward to please them. Now, at the end of my time, I see that peace is folly. Appeasement is folly. Though I will not lead you to attack our neighbors, I will do my best to lead you to safety, away from the Texas soldiers and whatever fate they have in store for us to the north. We will go west, beyond the reach of the white men." The crowd is still for a moment, but then a wild enthusiastic whoop escapes one of the onlookers, and it releases the tension like flood waters. The Cherokee cheer and chant, and a few begin singing. The Kickapoo and Shawnee joined in, heedless of their leader's death. Somewhere nearby, a fast, deep series of drumbeats resumed their relentless march.
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