A little of Chapter 1 from Crow in the Hollow
Chapter 1: Suqata
You could see them coming across the snow-swept landscape from miles off, moving with the steady, weary plod of the defeated. One by one, surrounded by men on horseback with shouldered muskets, the prisoners marched down unknown trails, bound together by their hands; the men in front, followed by the women, and lastly the children. Most kept their heads down, avoiding the foreign eyes of their captors–all except for one boy near the end of the line, wrapped in tattered skins. He was not a remarkable or noteworthy child; skinnier than most, though they all were thin, and darker than most, though they all had dark, autumn-colored skin. His black hair had grown long in the weeks since he was found and taken, and it now hung unkempt across his narrow face. He had wrapped his arms close to his body against the cold, and he held his hands balled in small, tight fists. Out of them all, only he kept his oddly piercing blue-grey eyes set on the horizon. The boy, Suqata, wanted to see what was coming.
He had survived weeks of the howling wind and freezing rain, his body bent against the storms, watching as others fell along the way. He had staggered past them on the road as they lay, left to snow and wolves. Their captors never blinked an eye for the sick or the wounded. There was nothing to do for them; it was their fate. Now, after so many hard days, Suqata finally stopped walking and their destination stood just over the next hill, still miles away and yet obvious by the billows of black smoke rising from its center. Suqata had heard the other children speak of this place before. Through a dozen small comments, pieced together from broken tongues he could barely understand, a picture had formed in the young boy's mind–a picture of the place where the great king pines were cut down and where the outlanders took their slaves. They called it simply the camps.
They were brought in through two heavy wooden gates, banded with dark iron and topped with vicious points that looked to Suqata like the teeth of some ravenous animal. The streets were cold, wet mud that sucked at his hide shoes and all about him he could feel the stares of the outlanders as they watched the new slaves arrive. Suqata couldn’t stop himself from shivering no matter how hard he tried. Everything about that place felt alien to him, from the close, stale air filled with the ringing of hammers to the raucous sounds of men working. There were no children there, only men, horses, and the immense wood and stone longhouses. Wagons pulled by huge teams of oxen trudged down the caked streets, while teams of workers and slaves filled them with stacks of cut logs that rivaled the height of the buildings.
Suqata’s mind reeled, his senses struggling desperately to keep up with the changes around him. Everything, from the flashes of light coming from the smithies to the harsh calls from the working men, filled him with pangs of fear. Even the smells of the place seemed hostile. It was a mixture of strong, acrid smoke, spices, and the copper tang from the forges that burned his nostrils and filled his eyes with small, stinging tears.
The encampment was built on the edge of the forest line just beyond the swaying tops of distant trees, over which Suqata could see the mountains. Even here, he could feel their inexplicable pull, as the forest beckoned to him from beyond the camps' high walls. The scraps of clothing he had wrapped around himself for warmth were now worn to threads, and his thin legs hardly had strength enough to stand. Still, at that moment there was nothing he wanted more than to stand amongst those tall trees again. Gone were the soft sounds of the wind, and the rustle of branches overhead. Every memory before that quiet forest had dimmed to the point of nonexistence. It was his home, as far as he knew, and now it felt oh so far away.
The new captives spent their first days in wooden pens while they were being sorted, but by sunup all the prisoners had been separated from their kinsmen and mixed with other captured tribes. The Sandokee boatmen from the south, with their dark mahogany skin and tattooed faces were placed side by side with Tonaskowa hunters of the golden plains. Few knew the other’s tongue, so no one spoke. Suqata sat alone, his hands still clenched in tight fists, although more than one of the women had reached out to comfort him. Their faces were always drawn and tight with sadness until they noticed his eyes: his piercing blue eyes. “Silent One,” they whispered. He had the eyes of the Chinequewa. Their hands would then withdraw, leaving Suqata alone again. In the night, as Suqata lay staring into the darkness, he would hear someone start to sing one of the old song-prayers. One that all the tribes knew, even in their separate tongues: “Oh Great Spirit, the One Voice who sang the world into being. Shield us from evil. Deliver us from the dark.” They sang quietly into the night, though none of them heard a reply.