Sitting Bull is a great historical character, and his tribe spent time in the Cypress Hills in Saskatchewan immediately following the Battle of Little Bighorn. He crossed the border in order to avoid the extermination of his people by the American Cavalry. For an indigenous American, he had an excellent grasp of White Man Politics, he understood that safety lay in the Canadian side of the border. Still, he remains something of an enigmatic person in history. A great leader by any standard, his visions he had before Rosebud make an excellent legend. I felt that legend could be made into a story. I know this reads like a first chapter, and maybe it is. But I need to write more of this setting before the rest of this will ever come to light. Enjoy.
The woods came alive with movement, and warriors moved into the clearing. They brandished the antique carbines, revolvers and tomahawks. They were painted for war, yet they moved in silence.
“Join with us, mighty Sitting Bull,” Louis said,” and perhaps we can avoid bloodshed.” Louis’s spirit burned with an inner fire. At that burning, the advancing warriors stopped, and looked uncertain.
Then, from the woods, a figure appeared, in full war regalia, Sitting Bull. Two others flanked him. Crazy Horse and Fool Bull, the Medicine Man, followed their chief to the fire where the Riels remained seated. In the darkness, hundreds of forms moved. The great leaders of the Sioux Nation sat cross-legged near the flames, joining the Riels, not one had yet spoken. Warriors sat around the fire, filling the clearing, yet leaving a respectful distance around their leaders and those that dared parley with them.
Marie handed Louis the peace pipe. Louis was surprised to find he was able to handle the pipe as though he were physically present. Louis lit the pipe and passed it around the fire. When members of the circle had smoked, Fool Bull spoke to Sitting Bull in their own language. Marie couldn’t follow it. Sitting Bull translated.
“He says that while you,” and he gestured to Marie, ”belong in this time, he,” gesturing now at Louis,” is like us, a product of the past.” Crazy Horse scowled.
Fool Bull spoke again and Sitting Bull raised a hand, quieting him.
“He says that both of you possess great medicine.”
Crazy Horse spoke to the Great Chief.
“And he advocates killing both of you, to protect what is the Sioux’s.”
The Riels remained quiet.
Sitting Bull gazed at Marie’s black and silver uniform. He recognized the coat of arms, and the lettering. “However, I would like to know more before doing anything.” His gaze rested on Marie, “Who are you? And what do you here?”
“I am Marie Riel, an officer in His Majesty’s North West Militia Police, here on the order of the Commander of Fort Walsh. This is my grandfather, Louis Riel, Metis leader.”
Sitting Bull smiled. “I know of him.”
Louis returned that smile. “As I know of you. Your victory at Little Bighorn helped convince me that victory was possible for my own people.”
Sitting Bull’s smile vanished. ”I won a battle, and lost a war.”
Louis spoke, ”It appears I’ve lost both. We are here to talk to you about the future of your Talisman.”
Sitting Bull translated back to his two most trusted advisors. As Sitting Bull reached the end, Crazy Horse was angry, and spoke in heated fashion. Fool Bull nodded at Sitting Bull’s words, and said nothing.
Sitting Bull said, ”You probably know Crazy Horse as an honourable man. However, he hasn’t been the same since that last betrayal led to his death. Its infected his spirit.”
Louis said,” My granddaughter tells me that there is some danger of it falling into the wrong hands, like those of Deseret.”
“I know of the Mormons. They would convert us all, and use that which we protect to further their own God’s ends.” He spat into the dirt. “What of this Great White Father? Is he any better?”
Marie licked her suddenly dry lips. She considered the question carefully. She could lie, or exaggerate, but she felt that would be recognized for what it was. She decided on the truth.
“Some. The First nations that were powerful enough to oppose him, he made as allies, and accepted their leaders into the ruling class. The Northern leaders run virtually autonomously, he bothers them not, collects his taxes, and has treaties to repel invasion. The areas that were well settled at the time of his rise to power tend to have others as leaders. He, himself, is European, a white man. His laws, for the most part, tend to be just, but as in all such systems, there is bias to the ruling class. He opposes Deseret ambition.”
Sitting Bull laughed. Some of his braves echoed the laughter. He translated for Fool Bull and Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse gripped his rifle. Fool Bull said something in reply. Sitting Bull nodded to it.
“We will reveal what you have called the Talisman, which is my Medicine bag. My medicine will test you. You will be asked a question, and my medicine will determine the truth of your heart. If you are found wanting, you will be killed by my braves.”
Louis started forward, but Marie waved him back. “I will accept your test,” she said.
Sitting Bull raised his hand, and chanted something in his tongue. The grass on the ground exploded outward. An obviously ancient, ornately decorated bag rose from it, made from buffalo hide. Sitting Bull’s outstretched hand caught the worn strap. Fool Bull leaned close to the old chief.
Sitting Bull placed his hand in the bag and withdrew a small handful of small grey fragments.
“Are you ready, half-breed?”
Louis frowned at the term, but Marie accepted it as if it were an award. That surprised Louis. Marie nodded to Sitting Bull.
“To whom is your greatest loyalty?” As he asked the question, Sitting Bull jerked his hand, releasing the fragments.
Marie hesitated, and as she hesitated, the grey fragments hung unmoving in the air, as if waiting for her answer.
Finally, in small whispered voice, and registering surprise on her own face, she said,” My people.”
Her answer released the fragments. They fell to the ground. Fool Bull and Sitting Bull leaned close and studied the fragments, engaged in a whispered conversation.
Louis looked at his granddaughter, with renewed interest in her. When Fool Bull and Sitting Bull ended their conversation, Riel turned back to them. He already knew the results of their medicine. He wanted confirmation of it.
“She is the one I have prophesied all those years gone,” said Sitting Bull, surprised.
There was an absolute stillness in the clearing, and then the braves stood up, and began to disperse. A decision had been reached.
“Our Medicine is now yours. Be careful with it. In this bag are hundreds of finger bones of the chiefs and Medicine men of my people. I place my ancestors in your care. My tribe may rest. We are needed no longer.”
With those words Fool Bull and Sitting Bull rose and faded from the clearing. Crazy Horse, however, leaned across the fire, one hand in a fist. At first Louis thought he would strike Marie, but he merely placed a single finger bone in her lap. In Cree, he said, ”I would follow him into Hell, but my spirit’s work remains unfinished. We will meet again, you and I. Until that time comes, you must have this. His bone.“ He gestured to where Sitting Bull had sat in the clearing. He turned to Louis,” You have raised a warrior. If you think you have done nothing here, know that your presence saved her life. Without you, we’d have killed her like the others.”
And with that, Crazy Horse whistled. A skeletal stallion galloped into the clearing. With a laughter that chilled the marrow of her bones, he leapt upon the back of it and rode it away. Horse and rider vanished before reaching the edge of the clearing. His laughter, like ice in winter, lingered in the otherwise still and silent air.
Marie looked at the sky and realized the sun would be up shortly. It was time her Grandfather left. Louis sensed this.
“I know I must be leaving shortly,” he said in French, “but I would like to say something, granddaughter. Whatever road you embark upon, know that I am proud of you, and if you need me, look to me. Somehow, I’ll be there.”
She nodded to him, a tear creeping out of her lone eye. She couldn’t remember the last time she cried.
Louis went on, “How did you get that scar on your face, granddaughter?”
“A Daemon clawed me on a mission, a year ago.”
“You are of my blood.”
Louis reached a hand out to touch the scar, and Marie screamed in pain. Just as quickly, the pain was replaced by warmth. She hadn’t realized she had closed her eyes to his ghostly touch, but when she opened them, her tears ran from both.
Riel’s spirit form collapsed. He was exhausted. As the sun crested the horizon, he began to fade, going back to the Hell that would become Batoche, so long ago. “My gift to you….” His voice faded, even as his image did.
She wept for a while, freely and without restraint. She felt she finally knew her inheritance. She had got to know her ancestor, and somehow an emotion she’d thought dead within her, love, was alive in her being.
When she had recovered, she grabbed Sitting Bull’s Medicine. The Bones that he had tossed were nowhere in evidence on the ground, and a quick search proved it. She thought they must be in the bag; perhaps a ghost used ghost bones. Gingerly, she opened the Medicine bag, and placed Sitting Bull’s bone inside it. For an instant, she thought she could see the Sioux chiefs welcoming Sitting Bull among them, but that image, like the ghosts of the night, was gone in less than a heartbeat.
She gathered her pack, swinging it over one shoulder, and picked up her laser rifle.
As she walked back to the road to await the patrol, she wondered what she was going to say to Alvarez, and later, Retriever Commander Van Keldt. This Medicine belonged to her people. She must ensure that it would remain in the First Nations. Its destiny was tied to hers. She embraced it willingly.
She stepped to the side of the road, and awaited the first leg of this new journey. Despite being awake for over 30 hours, she felt remarkably refreshed. She smiled. The hills, unburdened of one secret, silently watched.