A lone Kiowa warrior loosens rawhide straps that stitch together his shirt. The fringe on the sides accentuates each motion. He removes the garment and feels a morning chill against his muscular chest, which looks like it belongs to a chiseled statue. Enhanced by his reddish-brown skin, his rippling abdomen muscles flex.
Pink scars stand out in stark contrast to his permanently tanned skin. Some are small and indicate his skill and speed. The deepest, ugliest scars are the ones he's most proud of. "Proof of my magic," he would say when he would tell his sons war stories.
He hears the frenzied barking of dogs, which makes him suspicious. Sleepy-eyed warriors dressed in nothing but buckskin loincloths abandon the warmth of their tepees. They yawn and stretch themselves awake.
Lazy, Lone Wolf thinks to himself, wiping his grooved face.
His jaw flexed, he slowly scans the distant tree line with determination. He glances at the crackling fires and then up at the sparkling stars, which are beginning to fade in dawn's early light. His high cheekbones lift and make his almond-shaped eyes squint.
"Barking dogs. Predawn. This is no coincidence," Lone Wolf grumbles.
As the tribe slip into their leggings and blouses, a brave points at the dogs and says, "They just started."
"We are about to be attacked. Awake the women and alert the warriors." Lone Wolf speaks with a calm, firm mouth and a decisive tone. His authority is not questioned. The brave leaps to action with Lone Wolf's dismissive sign.
"Hey ya at ah hey!" The brave runs over to a wide drum and pounds on it, whooping the war cry.
Lone Wolf wraps his long silky black hair around his fingers and twists it into a bun. He pins it in place with a thin fish bone as the war cry travels from tepee to tepee. His wife and children quickly grab his war dress and weapons.
Lone Wolf's wife, Grass Woman, appears with a noble eagle-feathered war bonnet. She proudly places it on his head and fastens the chinstrap. The tallest feathers in front represent Lone Wolf's most epic battles. The smaller feathers mean less to him, but they are still recorded victories. A long trail runs down his back and nearly touches the ground.
"I will gain many feathers today!" Lone Wolf says, reaching for his weapon of choice, a bleached elk shoulder blade, which has been sharpened and spiked. Dried rust-colored bloodstains indicate the weapon's extensive use. His son holds the weapon out to him, smiling when his father receives it.
His oldest son, Two Moons, hastily paints a rectangular black square around his dark brown eyes, to keep him focused.
"My love for each of you swells with pride every time you prepare me for battle!"
"Father, it is our honor," Two Moons replies as he sharpens the corners to his war paint.
Grass Woman ties a leather pouch of magic to Lone Wolf's waistband and kisses him on the cheek. "May you kill many enemies, fill my arms with their scalps, and return without harm," she prays aloud, looking at her sons.
Lone Wolf glances at his wife. "You magnify my love for you with these sons you have given me. Ah-hoe, Grass Woman, you are my beautiful little woman."
She blushes, then scurries about grabbing this and that, anything he may need for the fight.
"Hurry. We haven't much time!" Lone Wolf orders his elite band of savage Dog Warriors.
Within moments Two Moons has his father's face, neck, chest, arms, abdomen, and back covered in red paint. Dipping his finger in black, he quickly smears a wolf's image over his father's heart.
"Darken the light areas with streaks," Two Moons orders his younger brother, Weasel Tail, as he begins covering himself in red paint. Aged sixteen and fourteen, the boys are not virgins to war, but they are not seasoned Dog Warriors, either. Two Moons looks up to his father. "I pray to the wolf that you will be swift, powerful, and deadly."
Weasel Tail rests his fingertips on his father's head. "I pray to the wise owl that you will have courage, cunning, and above all, wisdom."
Their father closes his eyes and listens to their prayers. He feels the increase in his heartbeat as it matches the beat of the drum. Thump, thump, thump...
He reflects on the word "wisdom" of his son's prayer and envisions his previous enemies' conquered faces. One by one he plays out the mistakes they made. He sees their leg muscles flex, their heels rising as they step too far forward or their muscles relax, heels staying on the ground as they shuffle back.
Watch the toes. Toes tell you everything! he thinks, mentally preparing himself. The drum keeps time.
Elderly women and children frantically run around and dump thick bushels of moss on crackling fires. Flames swell at first, then create a lingering smoky haze that billows and hovers.
An old woman orders a young boy, "Go fetch the medicine man, Onendah. Our smoke is not working properly. It will never mask the village like this! We need his magic."
The tribe divides itself into those who can fight and those who cannot. Some women remove their beaded buckskin tops and expose their bare breasts. With the help of their husbands and children, they paint themselves red like the warriors. The elderly, the young women, and the children hastily paint their own faces and clothes brown and green to match the colors of the forest.
"Don't forget your brother," Glances Then Glares says as she straps her son Makes Trouble to a papoose. His sister, Kida, slides her arms through the cradle's straps and secures her brother to her back. When she's finished, Glances Then Glares looks up at the enemy, then down at her daughter. She leans in and kisses her surprisingly calm daughter.
"Go now to the safe place I showed you!"
Kida retreats and dissolves into the forest with the others.
Glances Then Glares wipes a tear from her eye. She grits her teeth, grabs a bow and a stash of three-foot-long arrows with four-inch feathered fletch-and-steel tips. The arrows are painted with similar symbols of magic, which identify her tribe, her falcon god, and wavy symbols of the wind to guide her aim true. Grooves carved in the shaft allow blood to ooze out, while the tips are loosely fastened so that when the enemy pulls to extract them, they stay in place.
Chaos turns to order as the entire tribe readies for war in less than fifteen minutes. Lone Wolf raises his weapon high in the air. Painted warriors quickly circle around him.
"Put fear in their hearts before you shatter them! A heart filled with courage will not break. A heart filled with fear blows apart like withered leaves."
"Ha hoe!" the warriors shout in unison. Their voices echo off in the distance and send a message to their unseen enemies that the Kiowa are not afraid.
Surrounding their chief, the men show their crude weapons of war. Some hold iron-cast tomahawks, while others ready weapons of their own creation. Some have carved spikes or wrapped deer-hide tomahawks with round stone tips. Others have spears. Most warriors have shields with sacred animals painted on them.
Some greet the unseen foe with smiles, some with frowns. Everyone feels the thrill and responds accordingly.
"Father, we are ready," Two Moons shouts.
Lone Wolf stomps his foot and leads the whooping Kiowa war cry.
"AIYE YA-AYE HI WHA YA!"
Their voices unite in one loud roar, echoing off the distant pine trees surrounding their clearing and sending the ravens soaring. The black birds hover in the summer sky like black demons, circle appraisingly, and caw. The vile ravens perch outside of the fray, jeering at the players.
"Do you see how they would not land on those trees over there?" Lone Wolf asks his sons.
Two Moons nods.
"Why do you think that is?"
A word: Ever been in a fight? Ever had to fight for your life? Your family? Your children? I ask you, the reader, what would you do? If you would like to see a trailer of Harvest Moon, check out https://www.instagram.com/p/BnzH9F1nq4G/?_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=qaqs9kmtvnut
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