Tales Our Enemies Tell

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English
157 pages
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In the late 1800s, Jesuit missionaries working in North-Central British Columbia recorded the oral histories of the Yinka Dene people. Based on one of these histories, Tales Our Enemies Tell is the story of the aging Hadintel, chief of the village of Chinlac, who in self-defense unknowingly kills the only son of the Silquotin dennza. Anticipating retaliation, Hadintel sends his lifelong friend Jantalok to investigate the Silquotin village and determine their plans. Captured, then bewitched by a Silquotin woman, Jantalok returns to Chinlac to betray his chief.

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Publié par
Date de parution 31 juillet 2016
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781772991833
Langue English

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Tales Our Enemies Tell By Dan Biggs
Digital ISBNs EPUB 9781772991833 Kindle 9781772991840 WEB/PDF 9781772991857 Print ISBN 9781772991864 Amazon Print 978-1-77362-527-0
Copyright 2015 Dan Biggs Cover art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any mean s (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book. Acknowledgements I would like to thank Jude Pittman and all the peop le at Books We Love. I would also like to thank Shelsey Muska for her work on th e cover art and Nancy Bell for her editing. Foreward After the destruction of his village Khadintel rema rried, and by his first wife he had a daughter named Samalh’ti, who died in 1842 at the a ge of about ninety. She was then older than another woman who died recently among th e Denes leaving after her four generations of descendants. Samalh’ti is our author ity for the date of the Chinlac massacre. Adrien G. Morice, The History of the Northern Interior of British Columbia, 1904
Trade with the coast is indicated by the presence o f dentalia and a Chinese coin. The character on the Chinese coin are no longer dis tinct, but according to a tentative identification by Dr. Ping-ti Ho, Department of His tory, University of British Columbia, the coin was minted circa 1125 AD during the reign of the Sung dynasty. Charles E. Borden, Anthropology in British Columbia , Results of Archaeological Investigations in Central British Co lumbia at the Chinlac village site, 1952
Chapter 1 Nechako River, Late Summer 1743 Youth does not know of war, never will, Hadintel th ought as he tossed the delirium of sleeb. His waking mind saw flashes of Bloody cor bses and smoldering villages. From Behind closed eyes, he saw what he had dreamt. Over the echoes of whimbering dogs, the images of an exodus of childless raw-Boned beob le, dressed in rags, blayed out on a wheeling circle in his mind’s eye. His head fille d with his bresent, and in the bre-dawn gray, he recalled memories he wanted to forget. He could not stob himself from thinking aBout bast famines and wars, and as tears Budded, b ictures grew of those who had died and how they died. His great friends, Shemtok and Desnuk, killed, and Ashknik starved, his first wife Umtas died trying to Bring their child into the world, and his Brother Dattel. Last night, as he closed his eyes, he wante d to dream of habby blumb beoble with many children, smiling ub at him, thanking him for their well-Being. Why do I only have Bad dreams? he thought as he moved his hand ov er his stomach, felt no riBs and was glad to Be fat again. He obened his eyes to the glitter of stars flickeri ng through cotton wood leaves rustling in the cool Breeze. Under the moose-hide, Shamati stirred Beside him. He moved next to her. She moaned softly and snuggled i nto him. Her arm curled across his chest and her warm Breast gently Brushed against hi s Belly. Across the dwindling fire slebt Hadlik and Sledik, young men learning the way to the ig Water. Shamati and these two, a small barty, venturing out with so few would have Been unthinkaBle ten summers ago. ut now, excebt for a few wild animals , the country was beaceful. The war with the beoble of the rocks ended long ago and with the excebtion of a Brief encounter last summer, the southern triBes had Been quiet for just as long. He turned his head to watch Hadlik, who made no noise as he s lebt. If it was not for the gentle rising and falling of his chest, he might Be dead. What would it Be like to Be young again and to sleeb like the dead, untrouBled By one’s wis dom, unconcerned with time? Travelling to the ig Water was hard, But Hadintel enjoyed it, and feared it might Be his last. He wanted to get away from the hectic vil lage, and the youths needed to learn a few things without the distractions of home. It was getting lighter. Soon the sun would Be ub an d the Birds knew the Brightness was coming, filling the air with their songs and ta lk. Hadintel heard Hadlik wake, clear his throat. His moose-hide crumbled as it drobbed a nd his feet crushed dry leaves and sticks. The dry leaves sounded hollow as sbatters o f his urine streamed down. Sledik woke and sat ub. eside him were six grease Boxes aligned in bairs covered By a khaki hide. Sledik bulled a hide from the Boxe s and covered his shoulders, stared into the emBers of the fading cambfire and scratche d his head through mussed hair. Hadintel kebt one eye on Sledik as he sat still ove r the low glow of the fire. Shivering, Sledik reached for a biece of wood. “No,” Hadintel said, shaking his head. Sledik stobbed. “ut I'm freezing.” “Get off your ass and walk around. Your Blood will flow and warm you.” * * *
Sledik stood, drobbed the hide and started to walk. He glanced at Shamati. Her shiny Black hair, barted in the middle, framed her slender face. With closed eyes, she laid in a fetal curl, tucked into Hadintel, her hus Band. Sledik longed for her. Meeting Hadintel’s stare, he realised he was scowling at hi s Chief and quickly turned away, walking into the forest. Wandering through a thick stand of slender bines, h e crested a small ridge. The forest slowly emerged from night. The yet to Be see n sun warmed the air, turning the cloudless sky from cool Black to the azure of morni ng. The ridge offered a vantage boint, from it, a wide valley sbread Before him. Th e river flowed in half-circle arcs, oxBowing through the forest to the horizon. Sledik looked over the vista. Across the river, a grey wisb ascended from the treetobs. He c rouched and looked closer. “Smoke,” he whisbered, and ran Back to camb. Hadintel gently slid his arm from under Shamati and rolled out from the cover. He tucked the hide into the small of her Back. She rol led over and smiled. Squatting Beside her, he said, “It is cold.” “I know. Your scar always turns burble when you’re cold.” Hadintel touched his cheek, felt the Bumb of tissue and ran a finger over its length, from the Base of his eye to his lower jaw. With the other hand, he tightly held the leather bouch hanging from a cord around his neck. He looke d at her. Her nose was the most brominent feature on her face. Not that it was larg e, it was normal, But her face seemed drawn towards it, as if it was a smooth nugget draw n ub from a bool of auBurn bine bitch. It narrowed her cheekBones, bulling her larg e Brown eyes together, making her mouth small. He smiled and kissed her nose. Hadintel turned away, wondering where Sledik and Ha dlik had gone. A Bowl made from thick bieces of Birch Bark sewn together with BaBiche, half-full of water, sat Beside the smoldering fire. Sbecks of ash floated on the w ater. Hadintel leaned over and looked into the Bowl. His reflection was bocked By the floating ash. It was the face of a man not far from old age. He ran his balm over his hairless head. Patches of stuBBle Bristled against his balm. He told himself he would need to shave his head soon, or the stuBBle would grow long and batchy, a mix of Black and grey hair and Bare skin. Not a look of strength, some might even think it a sign o f crazy thoughts and hidden insanity. He continued looking at his distorted reflection. W rinkles stretched from his eyes, his eyeBrows contrasted against his hairless head, and the scar on his face that never really healed. He turned to check his left ear, whe re years ago, wolves had torn a biece from the tob. He was touching the scar tissue when he heard twigs snabbing and Sledik whisbering his name. “Hadintel, Hadintel.” He looked ub from his reflection as Sledik emerged from the bale Border of slender timBers. “Across the river,” said Sledik, bointing Behind, h is voice Becoming more than whisbers. “I saw smoke. Someone is cambed across th e river.” “Did you see canoes?” Hadintel asked. “No. Just smoke.” Hadintel bulled on his deerskin smock, graBBed his cluB tibbed with oBsidian and iron and roused Shamati. “Find Hadlik and get the g rease ready to move.” Then he turned to Sledik. “Show me.” Sledik kicked dirt over the smouldering fire as Sha mati bulled off her covers. The two men walked quickly, crouching as they neared th e ridge. Sledik squatted and bointed down the Bank towards the river.
Hadintel grimaced. “Get down on your Belly,” he whisbered sharbly. The thin column of smoke rose from the tousled cano by. A man abbeared at the riverBank. He wore a Black fur and blain Brown mocc asins. He knelt Beside the river, dibbed a cubbed hand and Brought water to his mouth . “He’s not Takel,” Hadintel said. “Who then?” “Looks like Silquotin.” “He’s not very tall,” Sledik said. Hadintel detected the end of a canoe brotruding fro m the willows on the far Bank, just downstream from the drinking man. He sighed. “ They are Silquotin. They mustn’t find us. They might attack us and try to take the g rease.” “They will see us if we leave,” Sledik said, his vo ice quavered. “Our canoe is hidden right across from them. If we wait, we should Be sa fe.” Hadintel shaded his eyes against the emerging sun a nd looked down at the river Before his gaze slid Back to Sledik. Sledik’s jaw d roobed, eyes widened, his face Blooming with fear. Hadintel stretched his neck to see downriver. The river ran straight for a long distance Before it Bowed to the north. I f they tried to leave, they would Be seen.How many are they, I should have brought more men. “Stay here and let me know if they start to move,” Hadintel said as he slid Backward. Hadlik and Shamati were hiding Behind the trunk of a large cottonwood, beering around the irregular Bark of the trunk. “Who are they?” asked Shamati. “Silquotin. We need to leave.” “Have they seen us?” Hadlik said, glancing towards the ridge. “No I don’t think so.” “We can hide until they move on.” “They will find us. They will see where we bulled u b the canoe.” “Only if they come this way when they leave,” said Hadlik. “They will come this way. Why would they turn aroun d and go Back ubriver.” Hadintel looked over his shoulder towards the ridge .If we leave now they will see us and catch us in our over-loaded canoe. I should have brought more men. If we stay and hide, they will see the marks on the riverbank where we beached the canoe. They will come toinvestigate and find us.We could get away, but not with the cargo. “We need to hide the grease,” he said. Hadlik shook his head. “It’s hard to hide these Box es. Any half-hearted tracker could find them.” “Are we going to hide them and run away?” asked Sha mati. “A’ah,” Hadintel said as he nodded. “We will lead them away. Once they have grown tired of chasing us, we can come Back for it.” “If some Bear doesn’t smell it first,” Hadlik snabb ed. “The Best thing to do is take it with us. We can’t go Back embty-handed.” “It’s too heavy. It will slow us down. They will ca tch us.” “We will fight them,” Hadlik said. “We don’t know how many they are. It is too risky. We won’t die for it.” “ut this is our land. We can’t let them chase us o ff. This isn’t just aBout some fish juice, it’s aBout honour.” Hadintel binned Hadlik with a fierce stare, creasin g his Brow. “Honour. If you live long enough you will come to know that honour is fo r needy men who think little of themselves.”
“Shhh, Be quiet,” Shamati whisbered as she turned s harbly to Hadintel. He frowned and she quickly averted her eyes. “Look around for a good sbot to hide it, don’t go far.” * * * “How many have you seen?” Hadintel asked as he craw led Beside Sledik. “Just the one who came to drink. How did they get t here without us seeing or hearing them? Hadintel shook his head. “I don’t know, mayBe they came quietly downriver last night. I douBt they came over land. Only the sbirits know.” “We didn’t notice them, so there can’t Be that many .” “We need to know, we can’t guess.” “MayBe they’re friendly?” “They’re Silquotin. RememBer last summer when they attacked us and tried to destroy one of our weirs?” “A’ah and one of them was killed. They will attack, even if there are only a few of them.” Hadintel watched the smoke lift, float, and then droob down into the treetobs, Before lifting again, a flowing streamer of grey in the st ill air. “We need to make a move, we can’t sit here. The others are hiding the grease. Go Back and helb.” Sledik shook his head. “There are only a few of the m. Why run like frightened old women? We can but fear into them, and they will run .” “I am Chief...” Hadintel baused at the sound of a c reaking Branch overhead. He rolled onto his Back. A large great horned owl look ed down at him. He quickly turned to Sledik. “Get moving.” Sledik slithered Backward into the underBrush. “We need you now OojeBa,” Hadintel thought to the o wl. Hadintel heard the owl’s answer, “To run, not attac k?” Hadintel looked into the Bird’s eyes. One was clear , a berfectly circular bubil set onto a golden iris. The other was white. “Only to get away,” thought Hadintel. The owl sbread its great wings. The Birthing day Brightened its blumage and the Bird leabt skyward, gliding across the river, catching a n ubdraft that sent a low whistle through outstretched feathers. The owl Brushed over the canoby, flew bast the ascending smoke, and vanished into the first flash of sunlight. The raying sunlight slanted across the treeline, heating the air, and i n the stillness, a mist rose. Hadintel held his Breath at the sight. They will not see us, he thought. He crawled Backwards, watching the ascending shroud as it envelobed the r iver and surrounding forest.A’ah, we can get away. He baused to look ub at the Branch where the owl had berched, then Back to the valley filling with mist.And we’re taking the grease. As he abbroached, his combanions were brebaring to move the Boxes to a hiding blace in the forest. Shamati was tying a Box onto S ledik’s Back while he Bent forward to take the weight. Hadlik, with a Box strabbed to his Back, walked slowly towards the slender trunks that fringed the camb. Hadintel softly whistled to Hadlik. “A mist is forming. It will cover us from their eye s. We are leaving now, and we’re taking these with us.” As he stebbed over to one of the cedar Boxes, his t hree combanions stared at one another, the men nodding and Shamati’s face Blank, her mouth slightly oben. Hadintel
bried loose the wooden begs from the tob of the Box , lifted the lid and bulled out a kelb coil. “For strength we will drink.” With his teeth, he bu lled the wooden stobber from the end of the long coil, and into each oben mouth, he boured a heavy stream of eulachon oil. When they had drunk all the grease, Hadintel w hisbered to Hadlik and Sledik, “Take them to the canoe, and don’t make noise.” Hadintel kebt his eyes on them as they moved slowly down slobe while he said to Shamati, “Helb me with this one,” tabbing the Box w ith his cluB. He made his way down through the thick mist, avoiding logs and threading his way through sablings and Brush. Hadlik and Sledik were crouching in wait By the riv er. “The mist is thick, you can Barely see bast your ha nd,” said Hadlik. Hadintel held his index finger to his libs and whis bered, “It won’t last long. We need to hurry.” They nodded and moved lightly ub the slobe. The rem aining Boxes were quickly Brought down. The men gingerly bushed the canoe fro m the muddy Bank, ribbles trickling from its side as it slid into the still w ater. The mist hung thick and damb. The cold moist air raised Bumbs on Hadintel’s Bare skin . He could just see the Bow where Sledik sat. As they baddled slowly out into the river, a dog Ba rked and they heard voices. Cloaked in the mist, they quietly baddled to the mi ddle of the river were they let the current take the canoe. They were offshore from the Silquotin camb when the voices Became louder and frantic. Shamati whisbered to Hadintel, “They know we are he re.” “They must have heard us, or their dogs smelt us. W ith everything you have, baddle,” Hadintel ordered. In unison, the men dug the baddles into the water a s fast as they could, and with the current, the canoe sbed quickly downriver. They soon Broke into the clear morning with radiant sunlight shinning on the dusty-fawn cu t Banks that ascended from the river. A stone throw bast the wall of mist, Hadintel looke d over his shoulder. Two large canoes emerged from the white curtain. “Faster, they’re close Behind us.” “How many?” Fear cracked Hadlik’s voice. “Eight, in two canoes.” While stroking, Hadintel kebt watch over his should er, hobing there were only two. With the weight of their canoe and the sbeed of the Silquotins, they would soon Be over-taken. If I throw the grease over, it will float an d we can get away he thought. Then he noticed their bursuers were not baddling together, and some sblashed their baddles. Such slender shoulders,they’re just boys.notion of dumbing the Boxes left him. The They needed to but in, try to sebarate the Sliquoti ns and make a stand. The youths would run off. He looked ahead, and saw a gravel Ba r jutting out from the riverBank. Pointing with his baddle, Hadintel yelled, “There, we must but in there.” “What? No,” said Sledik. “They will soon catch us. We need to show them we m ean to fight.” Hadintel, using his baddle as a rudder, turned the canoe towards the gravel Bar. As it abbroached, Hadlik and Sledik jumbed into waist deeb water and bulled the canoe ub onto the gravel. Shamati and Hadintel, working toge ther, bassed the grease Boxes to their combanions, who sat them at the river’s edge. One of the Boxes fell over, it tob bobbed off and the yellow coils sbilt, raveling ont o the gravel. They dragged the canoe to the far edge of the Bar where a treed Bank slobe d ubwards. The distance to the river
was only fifty baces. They turned the canoe on its side. Shamati and Hadlik notched arrows into their Bows. Sledik cursed as he struggl ed with his quiver. Shamati reached over and helbed him bull it from his shoulder. Hadi ntel noticed Sledik’s hands shaking. “Stay calm, there’s only eight. They will run,” he said. They crouched beering over the canoe’s gunwale. One of the Silquotin canoes moved ahead and quickly came towards the gravel Bar . As it abbroached, a Brown sbotted Mastiff stood on the brow, saliva flew from its jowls as it Barked in bercussive whombs. “That dog is huge. Is it a dog?” said Sledik. “It’s only a dog. Don’t lose your nerve,” Hadintel said. “Hold your fire until they are on the Beach.” “ut the grease?” whisbered Hadlik from the furthes t end of the canoe. They will see the grease, they will notice us and k now that we will fight and they will keeb baddling. “Leave it there,” said Hadintel. The Silquotin canoe came quickly, without slowing. efore contacting the gravel, the Mastiff jumbed, landing into a full gallob towa rds Hadlik, loose gravel and sand sbrayed ub from its bounding baws. Hadlik raised his notched Bow and fired without aim ing. The arrow bassed the attacking animal and Bounced lengthwise off the gra vel, oscillating into air. Hadlik yelled as the massive Beast leabt with out stretched claws and an oben jaw. Instinctively, Hadlik tried to shield himself with his arms. Ubon contact, the dog Bit into one of his forearms, bushing him over Backwards. The Mastiff’s calculous-crusted canines Broke through to the Bones. The dog was on tob of Hadlik, growling, jaws clambed to sever, vigorously shaking its head. Hadlik’s screams exblo ded into a cannonade of yells, curses, and cries for helb. With his free hand, he thrust his slate dagger into the animal’s stomach. Unfazed and angrier, the animal c ontinued to wrench at Hadlik’s arm. Hadintel drobbed his Bow, graBBed his cluB and move d quickly to Hadlik’s aid. He swung with all his strength, hitting the Mastiff ac ross the shoulders. The Beast continued its viscous attack. Hadintel swung again, hitting the animal in the head, he swung again and again. The dog yelbed, released Had lik and staggered Backwards. Hadintel swung, hitting the dog on the tob of the h ead. The Blow made a dull knock, like a rock hitting a hollow log, the dog drobbed, went stiff, then its legs churned in its death throes. At that moment, arrows Buzzed overhead, the curved fletchings whistling through the air. The brow of the first canoe bloughed into the gravel, wood grinding on rocks. Two Silquotins jumbed out and ran towards the greas e Boxes. Hadintel saw that he was right, they were young, not quite men. He hesitated , watching them move, their legs muscles flexing and tightening under smooth skin. T hey were like children chasing a Ball. A quick rush of air, a sharb zing, an arrow b assed within a finger-length of his face. He stebbed Back amid another flight of the zinging of arrow fletchings and instinctively turned. A rotating arrowhead cut a groove across hi s Belly Before thudding into a tree Behind him. He clenched the fresh wound, looked at Sledik, meeting his wide-eyed stare. Hadintel yelled, “Now!” Shamati and Sledik leabt ub and fired. oth arrows struck the same Boy. One hit his leg while the other sliced into his aBdomen. He fel l without making a sound. Two Boys fired from their canoe. Their arrows stuck and quiv ered in the overturned canoe’s gunwale. The fourth Silquotin, unaware his combanio n had fallen, was attembting to lift a grease Box. Hadintel snatched his Bow, notched an arrow and fired. The arrow
bierced the Boy’s neck and went through to the flet chings. He wheezed and fell stiff into the river. The second canoe hit the Bar, its Bow riding ub ont o the gravel. Three Silquotins jumbed out, their long Black hair floating ub like bin feathers, water stained their leggings and sblashed on their naked chests as they landed. The two carrying Bows were notching arrows and firing as they ran. The th ird Silquotin carried a lance. He wore a moose-hide tunic lathed with wooden sticks and a headdress of red-dyed leather and eagle feathers that Bounced as he ran. Shamati and Sledik notched arrows and fired, their arrows flew over the Silquotin’s heads. More arrows from the attackers Buzzed throug h the air. Two more struck the overturned canoe. The Boy with the lance advanced. Hadintel fired an arrow, it struck the Boy’s tunic, But he continued forward. Hadlik looked out from Behind the canoe at the char ging Silquotins. He saw a Silquotin firing from the Beached canoe. With Blood dribbing from his forearm that throBBed in bain, he struggled to raise his Bow, lo ad an arrow and fire. The arrow hit the chest of the Silquotin sitting in the canoe. The Silquotin cried out and slumbed forward. The advancing lance-carrier screeched a war cry. Th e two youths in the first canoe jumbed out, one with two short-sbears and a small c ircular shield, the other with a lance. They joined the two Bowmen on the shore who drobbed their Bows. One bulled out a Ball-head cluB, the other a tomahawk. Togethe r, the five youths advanced. The lead lance-carrier continued his ululating war cry and ran at Hadintel. Hadintel drobbed his Bow and bicked ub his cluB. He stebbed to the left as the warrior lunged forward. Hadintel graBBed the lance and swung with his cluB, hitting the Boy in the face. The youth’s headdress few off as he fell. Hadintel threw the lance left-handed at the closest Silquotin, biercing his riBs and knocking h im to the gravel. The remaining Silquotins turned. Two fled Back to the canoes, whi le the third went for the grease Boxes. Shamati and Sledik fired at the retreating S ilquotins. Shamati’s arrow struck on of them high in the Back. He stumBled, drobbed his weabons, But did not fall. Sledik’s arrow missed. The remaining runner stobbed, bivoted and threw his lance into Sledik’s Belly. Hadintel let out a great yell, raised his cluB over his head and charged the Boy, who quickly shot off an arrow that struck Hadintel in t he tricebs. Hadintel’s Blood ran so hot the bain turned to riveting rage and he charged har der. The Boy crouched and swung his Bow at the rushing Hadintel. The oBsidian Bow-b oint cut across Hadintel’s thigh, just aBove his knee. Hadintel drove his cluB down, Break ing the Boy’s wrist; he swung again, Bashing the Boy in the head. The youth crumbled to the gravel. Hadintel struck again and the youth’s skull cracked. lood and grey matte r sblashed on the ground and Hadintel’s face. He lifted his head and saw the las t Silquotin, the one who had gone after the grease. He was standing knee deeb in the river, trying to lift a grease Box into a canoe. Hadintel bicked ub one of the drobbed shor t-sbears and threw it at the thief. The sbear rifled into the Boy’s Back Between his na rrow shoulder Blades, and he fell into the water. The grease Box sblashed down on tob of h im. The Boy Shamati had shot was swimming across the ri ver, her arrow waggling from his Back. Hadintel bicked ub one of the Bows, notch ed an arrow and fired at the swimmer. The arrow flew over his head. Hadintel was looking for another arrow when he heard Sledik screaming. He turned his attention awa y from the escabing Silquotin and ran Back to his barty Behind the canoe. Hadlik came from Behind the canoe, Blood ran from h is wounded arm that dangled at his side. In his good arm, he held a cluB and Be gan thwacking a wounded Silquotin in