I realized I haven’t shared a preview in a while, and I’m not sure if I’ve shared one from The River People at all. The below preview is several chapters into the novel, during the summer games. I’m finishing another Native American short story for publication called In The Land of Huckleberries and Wokas. More on that later. (Soon, hopefully!)
The River People
The old oak sat on top of a hill, with branches perfect for sitting and keeping a lookout. As expected, Fast-Runner was there, but she wasn’t up in the tree. Her injury, River-Song supposed.
“Where have you been?” River-Song knew she had to speak now that they’d seen each other. After glancing at her, Fast-Runner lowered her face.
“I can’t go into the village,” she said, “I’ve never lost the race in all the years I’ve run.”
River-Song sat down a little ways from Fast-Runner. “Your foot got caught in a hole, I saw it! You could have won.”
The other girl looked away. “No, I didn’t. Everyone heard what Walks-with-Pumas said. His father didn’t allow that name out of pity. Pity! He’ll never marry me now.”
Forgetting their rivalry, River-Song asked, “Do you still want him as your husband?” This is how they used to speak to each other, as close friends. Almost like sisters.
Fast-Runner sprang to her feet. “That is what you say now? If he marries me, you’ll pretend you never wanted him. But I know.” She left angry.
River-Song watched her, too interested in her quick pace to call after her. Fast-Runner didn’t favor her leg anymore, or even limp. Even while Fast-Runner disappeared into the trees, River-Song told herself there was no reason for her to have faked an injury.
Everyone knew she was the fastest woman in the tribe – she had proved it four times now! Had she thought River-Song would somehow beat her this year? In her own mind, River-Song would rather lose a fair race than pretend to fall. She decided not to consider the possibility.
Instead, she gazed out at the lands around them. The blue sky went on until the earth ended, presiding over the hills and valleys, the streams glistening as they trickled and flowed over rocks and falls. The oaks of the valley gradually mixed into pines and cedars.
The cedars were their sacred tree, giving them the long planks of wood with even grains. Yellow cedar was the softest, so they carved spoons and bowls from them. But the red cedar had better grains, splitting into long planks for their houses and canoes. Their babies slept in red cedar cradles. They carved their weapons from them. They beat strips of red cedar and twined them into mats, clothing, and baskets. A good weaver could make a basket to hold water.
Maybe, someday, she would name a son for the beautiful tree that gave them so much. Strength and flexibility. Yes, Cedar-Tree would be a great name for a leader.
Hearing footsteps in the twigs and grass, she turned to the visitor, a young brave that she felt fond for. “Cleaver-Fox, are you coming to keep watch?”
“I wanted to see all the land.” He joined her. “You are happy after winning the race.”
She found herself wishing that there had been no race. “No, little brother, I don’t know what to think about it. I don’t feel as if I really won.” She had talked to him many times about things she kept from others because she trusted him and knew he was wise. But he looked surprised that she told him this.
“Didn’t you want to win?”
She wouldn’t tell him that. “I didn’t want Fast-Runner to lose like that.”
“People talk of nothing but you and Fast-Runner. And Walks-with-Pumas. Many women want to marry him.”
River-Song was no longer one of those women. “I want what’s best for our people.”
He broke into his wide, handsome grin. “Then maybe you’ll wait for me.”
“Oh, you are like a brother to me!” She pushed him playfully. “Though sometimes I have wished you were old enough. I wish I were married now, with children on the way.”
“I think you will marry someone greater than Walks-with-Pumas.” His smile vanished.
Description: River-Song’s father, Chief Sits-and-Thinks, is growing old and sick, but he trusts in her to lead their people. Her best friend has become her rival as they compete to marry the big chief’s son. But as River-Song proves herself to him, she begins to see he isn’t the man she thought. Then she must use her gift of words when a wandering band of braves seek a new home with them. They speak her mother’s language so she can understand them. River-Song feels pulled to their leader but confused about her place in the tribe. Can this young girl hold her tribe together as the new braves join them, and again when hostile warriors attack their valley?