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Alkamar, the village in the moonlight

Little Eagle was well looked after by the chief's wives. In the early days Scarface was afraid that the little boy might die. But Scarface relaxed once Beak's son began to scream and wave his limbs about. He would sit for hours and watch the child. After a while he even lost interest in his own children.

The fourth summer after they had found him, Little Eagle had grown into a wiry little kid. His eyes were dark and deep-set, he smiled often and wide, and his black hair stuck out all over the place. Now it was clear that the boy had inherited the large, hooked nose which had given his father his name. No-one ventured to call him a pretty child, but the mountain people had never set much store by pretty faces. It was more important that he should turn out to be a good hunter. Everyone assumed that the son of Beak would be a great provider for the village once he grew up.

Little Eagle wandered about the village, babbling away to whoever he met. He looked at the whole tribe as his family. Of late the chief had little time to look after the boy, and the responsibility fell on all those who remembered Beak.

"He looks like his father," said one old woman as the boy ran past chasing a puppy's tail.

"Yes, doesn't he," replied Scarface with a smile.

The old woman smiled back. The chief had changed a lot in the last four years, it seemed to her. That scar was less prone to glow, and more often Scarface took part in the evening songs round the campfire.

That evening Little Eagle returned to find the door of the earthen hut closed. As he was about to pull back the rug Scarface emerged. A well-aimed kick sent Little Eagle tumbling across the grass.

"From now on you sleep outside," said Scarface.

Little Eagle was bewildered. He got up, confused, and approached the door-opening. A second kick sent him flying again. This time he didn't get up. Without a word Scarface disappeared into the hut and let the rug down.

The wolf dogs around the village were treated better than Little Eagle, as they were fed regularly, and were seldom kicked or beaten. Little Eagle ate what he managed to scrounge from the dogs, but the pack did not willingly share their bones, and he always bled from bites and scratches.

During the day Scarface worked him. The boy collected roots, twigs and edible plants. He scraped deerhides, rubbing away with brains and stretching the hides to dry in the sun. He colored dried skins and cut them up. Little Eagle would begin in the middle of the hide and work his way outward in circles, cutting the hide into a long strand, thinner than a little finger. If he didn't cut evenly he was beaten. Rope-cutting was difficult, and he was often beaten. He sewed shirts, moccasins and long leggings, but never wore anything but the rags Scarface tossed him.

Sometimes Little Eagle tried to hide from the chief. Then he would be roundly beaten, and he soon abandoned this idea. He had also tried to creep into other huts during the night. But Scarface saw to it that no-one sheltered the son of his dead enemy. Anyone found doing so could be sure of incurring the chief's wrath, for his old rages had returned, and now Scarface was worse than he had ever had been.

In the winter Little Eagle lay curled up with the dogs outside the huts. Warmth from the fires inside seeped through the walls, and Little Eagle did not freeze to death. Sometimes, when Scarface was looking the other way, Tamara or one of the other women sneaked food to him. Little Eagle always wolfed it down, so that no-one should see that the chief's orders had been disobeyed.

One night Sister Moon, the old medicine woman, came to him after he had curled up with the wolf dogs. Her long white hair was combed, and she wore her finest embroidered deerskin dress, like she was invited to a celebration.

"Come with me, Little Eagle," she smiled to him.

He looked at her in fear. "Scarface will hurt you," Little Eagle whispered. "He has promised to hurt all that take me in."

She just smiled. "Come with me, Little Eagle," she smiled to him. "It is your birthday today. Six years old you are, and I have a gift for you. Have no fear for an old woman like me."

Little Eagle followed her, dazed and scared, but his eyes opened wide as he entered her hut. The medicine woman had prepared a little fiest, with juniper rolls, sweet nut cakes, salty deerfat to chew, all the sorts of food he had only dreamed of tasting.

He was so conscious of his smell and dirty clothes that he dared not sit down. But she pointed to a clean blanket and told him to sit there and eat all he wanted.

Afterwards, when his belly was bursting, he looked at her, and there was hope in his eyes.

"But I nearly forgot!" she said, clapping her hands. "You must want your gift now?"

He merely nodded, as it was over midnight, and he was too tired to really want anything.

"Go to sleep now, Little Eagle, and your gift will come to you."

For a while he wondered what kind of gift that was, but she sang for him till he fell asleep, all the while brushing the hair on his forehead. When he slept, he dreamt of a woman in a cave, and a warrior standing beside her.

Winter covered the hills with snow, and frost smoke from a wild river drifted towards the cave entrance. But inside cave the warrior fed a fire and packed blankets round the woman. The woman must be Omeh, his mother, he knew, and the man Beak, his father.

And then he saw himself by his mother's breast, newborn and blue, but eyes open to the world. And he saw the light in the eyes of Omeh and Beak, and there was no fear in his heart.

The dream would last forever, but then the enemy soldiers came riding up along the open river, headed directly for the ford below the cave. Beak hung his head. There was no way to avoid being discovered.

He could escape, but Omeh was too weak to outrun horses. His mind raced as he bundled a little dried meat and a flask of water in a blanket, making the bundle as light as possible.

"You leave now, Omeh, you and my boy."

"And you?"

"I wait here."

"And die?"

"I leave the hardest part for you, my love. It is cold and dark, and you are tired. But you have to find the clan and go back to them."

Omeh nodded. There was truth in his words. And so Omeh left, with the boy child bound tightly against her skin, her heart singing with pride for her man, never thinking of her own weariness.

And when the soldiers reached the ford, there was a creature of darkness waiting for them. The river ran red that night, and only the stars watched while Beak held the ford for his wife and son to escape.

Then morning came, and the dream was over.

Little Eagle woke hearing howls of rage outside. Fearfully he stuck his head under the rug across the door. Sister Moon stood there facing the angry chief, and behind them stood the rest of the clan. Her face was tired, as if she had not slept that night, but her eyes were clear, and her back straight.

Sister Moon faced the clan, looking through Scarface like he was air. "The white eagles have spoken to me, and this is their message: When the warrior of the night returns to the clan, and asks you to leave the Mother Mountains and fight for him, that will be your salvation. Until that day, you shall know no honor. Shame will be the food you eat, the water you drink, the wind you breathe."

Something snapped inside of Scarface. He struck the medicine woman with one mighty blow to the side of her neck. They all heard something break inside her, and she tumbled like a ragdoll.

Little Eagle leapt forward without a word, fingers like claws, teeth bared like the dogs he slept with, but Scarface just swatted him aside. The chief turned towards his tent, blind to anything but his own anger.

"Look at me, I am not done," a hollow voice said. "Scarface, you will live till you see the one-armed man. And then you will wish you never had lived."

The medicine woman swayed in front of the clan, eyes rolled white, head lolling and blood pouring from her lips. A voice spake through her from far away:

"And you, Little Eagle, all I ask of you, is to remember me. When the world trembles before your feet, and you can find no love for mankind in your heart, remember the old woman that died to give you one last warm night. And you will now how to repay me."

A pair of white eagle wings flapped over the old woman, and she lay dead on the ground again.