Chumana, the snake maiden, had come to the village the summer before with her husband and young child, but after her husband labored hard to build a small pit house, she piled his belongings outside in front of the house. She was divorcing him. No one knew why.
The man was furious. He went away in a rage, but weeks later he returned with two companions, frightening men with faces painted red and black, decaying animal heads hanging over their shoulders, vulture and eagle feathers woven tightly in their hair, and most startlingly of all, teeth filed to points as if they were coyotes or wolves.
They strung Chumana from a piñon tree, ripped off her clothes, and began to torture her. Her screams filled the village. Tuwa remembered the Village Chief rushing into Grandfather’s house and saying, “Plumed Serpent Warriors are here!” Fear was in his eyes.
With a grim determination Tuwa had never seen in him before, Grandfather gathered the men of the village and walked to where the warriors were whipping Chumana with thin scrub oak branches stripped of leaves. Tuwa and the villagers watched from nearby. Chumana’s adrenaline-pumped ex-husband restrained her son.
Grandfather called, “You must go,” and began walking toward the Plumed Serpent Warriors. The one who seemed in charge stood with a smirk on his face. The other laughed maniacally, baring his brown-stained pointed teeth.
“Who are you, old man?” demanded the lead warrior in a taunting voice, his plume of filthy feathers making him seem monstrously large.
Grandfather stopped an arm’s reach in front of the man, his gray hair gleaming in the sunlight, his turkey-feather robe rustling with the breeze. “I am Tokpelamongwi of the village of the Twin War Gods. You must go. Now.”
The warrior looked Grandfather over carefully from foot to head. “Do you know who I am, old man?”
“Yes,” said Grandfather. “I do.”
The warrior laughed derisively. “You are a child-stealing foolish man who has grown too old,” he said.
“And you have lost your path and grown evil,” Grandfather said. The other warrior’s eyes darted from his leader to Grandfather, unsure of what to do. Chumana’s son whimpered.
The lead warrior’s eyes looked over Grandfather’s shoulder to the watching villagers and hissed, “Is he back there? I would like to see him.”
“You did not think that when he was born,” said Grandfather. In a quick, fluid motion he grasped his staff in both hands and butted the head firmly against the solar plexus of the warrior and pushed hard. The warrior stumbled backward. “You must go now!” bellowed Grandfather. The warriors reached for their stone knives, but Choovio’s father, Natwani, and a dozen other men stepped forward with arrows in their bows.
“As you wish, Tokpelamingwu,” said the warrior as he stood up, twisting Grandfather’s title to mean “sky mother.” He motioned to Chumana’s ex-husband. “Come. We will take your son and make a flesh-eater out of him.” The boy did not go willingly and Chumana cried out. The lead warrior turned and hurled his knife at her, piercing her left thigh. One of the archers fired an arrow that missed, and Grandfather held his hand to stop further fire. The lead warrior laughed and the other warrior joined them.
“We will be back, old sky woman,” the warrior called. “We will be back!”