This excerpt is from Lame Bird's Legacy
If Rides Well had any premonition about the tragic event that, before the sun set, would change his life forever, he would have been riding back to his family while the early morning stars still lit the sky. But he felt no presentiment, no hunch, no omen, no warning of what was about to unfold. So, he resisted the urge to roll out of his blanket and brace the crisp, predawn cold. Instead, he lay on his back, watched the stars retreat from the advancing dawn and listened to the last of night’s sounds: the gurgling stream that had lulled him to sleep, the stamping of the horses’ hobbled hooves as they moved through the trees at the meadow’s edge, one final yap from the coyote whose howling had disturbed his sleep throughout the night.
The sound of footsteps directed his gaze to the stream. He saw Elk Leg splashing cool water on his face. Rides Well turned back for a moment and watched the dark sky slowly turning light. He clinched his blanket tight with both hands under his chin, sealed off the morning chill and reflected on his good life.
He had just completed his boyhood vision quest when he rode to the buffalo country with some of Flint Necklace’s warriors. When he returned three summers later, he pushed seven horses in front of him. Alone in his thoughts, Rides Well felt a private smugness when he recalled how none of the Real People, the Nimi’ipuu, noticed his damaged right leg when he dismounted and led his horse into the growing crowd of villagers. The leg wanted to buckle when it first touched the ground, but he willed it to be strong. Now, some nine summers later, he lay on the ground and moved his toes to see if he could resurrect any semblance of that old wound. He ran his fingers down the back of his thigh and felt the ragged scar while his thumb rested on a matching scar just above the top of his knee. For an instant, he felt again that sudden fear when the Blackfeet discovered his raid on their horses. Thinking on it, he became embarrassed at the way he panicked in his flight. When he pressed hard where their arrow had pierced his leg, he conjured up the dull ache that accompanied him for the time it took him to fully recover. He ceased the rough massage of those old wounds and let his fingers caress the spot where the arrow had entered. He allowed his mind to bask in the adoration of the Nimi’ipuu when they learned he had stolen the horses from their feared enemy, the Blackfeet. From that time on, the Nimi’ipuu called him Rides Well.
Rides Well felt a surge of pride as he thought on how he used his newly acquired warrior status and the captured horses to court Swan Woman and her family. In the end, he and his family would add another twenty-one horses to the captured seven before he could claim Swan Woman as his bride. The thought of Swan Woman broke his moment of reflection. He threw back the blanket and jumped up. He reached down and tapped his sleeping friend.
“Wake up,” he said. “Elk Leg shames us. Already he catches his horse and makes ready to go. We must ride hard to reach home before the sun goes tomorrow.”
That same morning, Swan Woman climbed out of her summer lodge. She stretched, faced the sun and surveyed the cloudless sky. The long rays of the early morning sun reached out, but didn’t quite find her. She shivered. Before long, she thought, the snows will come.
Already, three sunrises had come and gone. She knew the hunt didn’t always go well. Maybe the elk lured them away into the hills or down into the canyons. It had happened before. She felt a certain sense of urgency. She shivered again.Click here to return to book