An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.
When the sun dagger pointed its blade of light at the mid-summer’s mark, the village chiefs from the Southern Alliance met with the village chiefs from the Northern and Western alliances. For a month, workers from the clans within the alliances scent stonemasons to build their ceremonial kivas in the foundation block of the Totec Canyon great house, which had been under construction for a generation.
Three days before the feasting began, each alliance responsible for one day, the Northern Alliance last, in honor of The People’s origins from the north.
But the true power discussions began hidden in a dim but cool back room of the great house, where the top chiefs and their top advisers smoked dried hoona plant supplied by the southerners. The first day they laughed uncontrollably and got nothing done. The second day they mastered their laughter but consumed all the sweet corn dumplings that had been prepared for the last day of the feast. The last day, they mastered their hunger and gave themselves new names.
Southern Horizon claimed he should rise to the top seat of power, and after a whispered conversation between Northern Star and Western Glow, they agreed, under the condition that special runners be sent to them during the snow-free months to keep them supplied with hoona plant.
“It will be so,” said Southern Horizon, standing to emphasize his rank over the others. “In exchange for hoona, those from the west will supply timbers for constructing this great house and those from the north will supply game and labor.”
Western Glow, his eyes glassy, said, “We will fell the timber, but you northerners must carry it.”
Northern Star, who had drunk a considerable quantity of corn beer in additional smoking several large bowls of hoona, said, “The clouds are dark,” and passed out.
Western Glow and Southern Horizon looked at him with envy and power-quaffed corn beer and kept bowls of hoona glowing until they, too, passed out. The advisers followed suit, save for one, a straight thin man with a crude tattoo on his forehead showing a full moon rising between two columns of stone. He stood as still as a column of stone until the light faded with evening and Southern Horizon woke with a start and sat up. He blinked his eyes at the standing man.
“Who are you to be standing over us?”
“I am Kwa, sky watcher from the Village of the Twin War Gods.”
“Sit down before you embarrass yourself.”
“Sit down!” Southern Horizon bellowed with such volume that it woke the others except for a couple of advisers.
“What?” asked Western Glow. Northern Star glared at Kwa, but said nothing.
“This inferior sky watcher has the nerve to stand over us,” said Southern Horizon.
Western Glow rubbed his eyes and looked at Kwa. “What is the meaning of this?”
“I have something to tell you,” said Kwa.
“We discussed this,” said Northern Star. “Now is not the time.”
“Now is the time,” said Kwa. “I am leaving now. I have more important duties back at the Twin War Gods.”
Northern Star made a slashing gesture, indicating he cut himself off from anything Kwa might do.
“Supplicants must come to us on their knees,” said Southern Horizon, his voice as rough as gravel.
“Through the cliffs of the Twin War Gods,” said Kwa, “I have recorded the movement of the moon over eighteen-and-one-half years, when it repeats its cycle.” Kwa spoke with his chin up and did not make eye contact with anyone. “Falcons, messengers to the stars, nest on the cliff faces of the Twin War Gods. There is more there to see and learn of the spirits in the sky. In lieu of logs and labor, we will offer knowledge of what we know of the sky spirits.”
Southern Horizon shook his head. “We have the light daggers on Sun Mesa. We need no more knowledge.”
“As you wish,” said Kwa. He turned to go.
“Wait,” said Northern Star. “He is wrong to be so brash, but what he says is important.”
Southern Horizon made a hawk-and-spit sound.
“I will trade labor for your knowledge,” said Northern Star.
Western Glow looked from Northern Star to Southern Horizon, and finally nodded. “I will trade logs for your sky spirit knowledge.”
“And I will not trade hoona for your insolence,” said Southern Horizon.
Kwa looked them each in the eye then and held their gaze. Southern Horizon looked away quickly and pouted. Northern Star narrowed his eyes, but finally nodded. Western Glow held his look only a moment before nodding and looking away.
“We will build a bonfire when anything of significance happens,” said Kwa. “If you are interested, send runners.” With that he left their presence and did not look back.
# # #
I use Twin War Gods a lot in these stories. Do you realize this means a pair of twin cliffs or spires, known in the present day as Chimney Rock, Colorado (see the picture at the top of my blog)? Or am I losing people by this reference?
Note: Hoona is derived from the Hopi word for “intoxicate,” hoonaqtoyna. Kwa is derived from kwa(’at), in which the ’ indicates a glottal stop, and which means “Grandfather.” Kwa is the father of the main character of my novel, called “Grandfather.”