The white arrow spirals once and makes a distinct thud when it pierces the doe's rib cage.
The deer's muscles tighten, and it turns and sprints away.
To Kiowa's shock, he has hit his target directly in the heart.
Kiowa looks at Paw for his approval. "I hit her! My first deer!"
The pain that sank his heart and made him cry is replaced with a fire that eviscerates his sympathies. Now he is a predator and will only grow stronger with each kill. Only the thrill of the kill remains, until the deer releases a loud high-pitched squeal. Its knees buckle as blood spurts out of the wound. Its head lowers, and it struggles to rise. Its eyes blink slowly, then gloss over. Its energy slowly fades, and the light of life blows out.
Pa, invisible until he stands, pats Kiowa on the back. "Well done, Nephew!"
Kiowa tosses his bow to the ground. He sits down and wraps his arms around his knees and lets the tears flow. Moon Beam walks up beside him and rests his paw on his knee.
"Onendah was right. Your heart is stronger than your mind."
"She was my friend."
Paw glances at the deer, then back at his nephew.
"I felt as you did on my first hunt."
Kiowa looks up and wipes tears from his eyes.
"I know not why the Sun God requires us to kill, but I know that it will get easier on the next one."
"Will it ever stop hurting?"
Paw looks at Kiowa and frowns. "It is not that the pain goes away but when you kill so often, you become numb to it. That is the way of the hunter. When you are older you will seek a vision."
"What will my vision tell me?" he asks, wiping tears from his red cheeks.
"One of two things. It will show you a great medicine or it will show you the warpath. The spirits will then show you what magic symbols to paint, and that is how you will live the rest of your days."
"What symbols did they show you?"
"I could not see any animals or magic symbols. I could only see paw prints in the sand and in the sky." He motions with his hand. His long black hair catches in the wind and blows like strings of silk.
For the first time Kiowa understands the red line under his uncle's cheeks. Those were warrior marks, not medicine marks. His uncle is undoubtedly a warrior, though his knowledge of magic has convinced Kiowa that his uncle is as powerful a medicine man as Onendah.
"Do you understand?"
Kiowa nods, acknowledging that he understands, but his emotions swirl. What if I don't want to be a great warrior? The question shakes the foundation of everything he's been taught.
Paw interrupts his thoughts. "Your father would have wanted to be here for this. He would tell you"—he imitates Lone Wolf's voice—"'You have to be a warrior like me!' I am glad that I am here with you, so that I can tell you to be whatever your vision tells you to be."
Seasons pass like clouds slipping across the sky. Paw prepares Kiowa for the defining moment of his life the way a mountain lion trains its cub. He teaches Kiowa and his friend Makes Trouble how to track the buffalo herd's hoofprints.
Kiowa takes the lessons seriously.
"Every living thing that walks the earth leaves a footprint and a trail. A fresh, moist print will tell you how close you are. A dry one will tell you how many days. A deep one will most likely be a bull since they weigh more than the cows. A shallow print could be an old, weak buffalo or a starving one. Now tell me what you think." Paw instructs, then questions.
"Buffalo are similar to deer in the way mothers know their calves' calls, but not nearly as graceful. In fact, they are husky, stinky, slow-moving animals. But they are perceptive and, unlike the deer, every buffalo that can attack will. Hunting them requires incredible patience," Kiowa answers.
"And you, Makes Trouble?" Paw prods him in the ribs with his finger. "What are your troublesome thoughts?"
"I am going to keep my thoughts to myself. Kiowa has said enough," Makes Trouble replies with an empty expression.
Paw teaches the young men to stay low and stalk on their bellies. He is so accurate at reading tracks, he can predict within the hour where the buffalo will be. Among the herd's tracks, he sees an unmistakable horse print. The horse's tracks run parallel to the buffalo, and Paw gets the distinct impression that they are not alone.
Moon Beam crawls up beside them and rests as flat as he can beside Kiowa. He even flattens his ears to prove that he can lie as low. They remain like this until nightfall.
Early the next morning Kiowa whispers to Makes Trouble, "Do you know why you are here?"
"I think so. I'm here to hunt buffalo," Makes Trouble whispers back.
"That is true, but that's not why you are here."
"Why am I here?" Makes Trouble puckers up his lips and crinkles his brows together. "You must know, my would-be brother."
"My uncle asked me to pick someone to leave the rabbit circle with. I chose you."
"Does this mean we will be brothers in war for all of our days?"
Makes Trouble smiles. "Oh, this makes me so happy. I was going to pick someone else, but when I asked, he said he already had a partner."
"Look there, boys. Do you see that?" Paw interrupts.
Makes Trouble and Kiowa instantly spot a white buffalo galloping across the emerald grass.
"The Sun God has sent us a sign," Paw declares.
Author's words: Oh how the boys grow fast. It seems like just yesterday they were fishing, hunting rabbits, making trouble. Now they are young men on their first buffalo hunt. I wonder what will come next, maybe a raid? Wouldn't that be fun? Get some pay back on the Cheyenne?
Well if you're like me you don't want to wait. If you don't want to wait for these chapters to be uploaded and released every day, hop on over to Amazon where you can find the book, "Harvest Moon," in kinlde/book format. If you'd like to see what I think these characters look like, hop on over to instagram: harvestmoonofficial. Till we meet again.
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Kiowa and Anoki lock hands and stare into each other's eyes. They listen intently to Onendah, the medicine man, officiate their wedding. "Yours is a forbidden love. Because you are from a war tribe, Kiowa, your people will not let you marry this pea...