Go to Part 1
The dawn of the new day found men posted through out the yard, while others worked the ranch. The men had drawn up their own schedules to trade off the work and days off. To no surprise, Ellie and a few of the women from The Settlement, when they heard of Rebecca's antics, came to offer their help. Ellie, as the duly elected head of The Settlement told Cassie when they showed up at the house two days later.
"It is our duty to help and protect our friends. Especially when one of their own had turned on them."
The women would not take no for an answer and made preparations to move into the barn. Maude put a quick stop to that and invited them to stay in the house.
They knew it would take a few days for anyone to show up, but they prepared anyway. As the first week drew to a close, Cassie decided to ride out to the South pasture. She was not sure why she chose that section, it was just a feeling that she had.
"Would you like some company?" Victoria who had sufficiently recovered from her illness asked.
Cassie was torn between her desire to protect the younger woman and her desire to have her company. "I would like that." she answered.
Cassie saddled their horses while Victoria helped get a a lunch for them and extra water. Ellie met Cassie in the barn and saddled another two horses.
"Going somewhere?" Cassie asked.
"Ruth and I decided to come along. Do you mind?"
"Would it do any good to say no?" Ellie shook her head no. "Then I do not mind at all."
"Good because if you had said no, we would have followed you any way." Ellie said with a smile.
With their lunch and water safely stored in their saddle bags, Maude handed Cassie her rifle. She accepted it without hesitation. They rode out slowly. Their journey to the South Pasture was uneventful. The fields that were usually lush and green now held only brown, brittle stubble. Cassie checked the water level of the river near the wheat and corn fields.
They rode at an easy pace to the pasture where they checked the fence and the area. They had not gone too far into the pasture when Cassie heard a sound that should not have been there. The four dismounted and walked the horses to a stand of trees that stood on the edge of the pasture. She handed her reins to Victoria and pulled her rifle out of the scabbard.
"You all stay hear. I want to check out a noise I just heard."
Cassie headed into the trees. It did not take long before Cassie called out. "It is okay to come in."
They tethered the horses and followed the path Cassie took. They found her on the ground holding a ball of fur. Its hind leg was caught in a noose trap. The dog whined. Cassie talked softly to it as she tried to remove the trap from its leg. Ellie went back to the horses and removed a canteen. She poured some water into her hat and placed it near the dog's mouth. They watched it lap at the water greedily. The dog sensed they were friendly and quieted. Cassie took her knife and cut the trap lead. After that she was able to remove the noose end from the dog's leg. The leg was rubbed raw from where the dog tried to get it off. Once free the dog limped around the women and sniffed each one. It returned to Cassie who was still on the ground, and lay its head in her lap.
"Looks like you found a friend." Victoria said. Cassie nodded and petted the dog's head. "What are you going to do with him?"
"It is a her. What would you like to do with her?"
"Well she is hurt. You can not leave her here. She will not be able to protect herself or run from danger."
"So you want to take her back with us?"
"Sure, Granny can have a look at her leg. She is used to my bringing wounded and sick creatures home."
"Cassie, I don't think she will be able to walk to far on that leg." Ruth stated
"I can carry her." Victoria volunteered. "Or you can. She seems to be comfortable with you."
Cassie smiled. She stood, picked up the dog and carried her to their horses. She handed the dog to Ellie until she climbed into the saddle and held out her arms. Cassie placed the dog across her legs. The women mounted and they started back.
The dog rested comfortably on Cassie. She felt safe. Her instincts told her that she could trust this human who freed her from the trap. This human who talked softly to her was different from the voices raised in anger that she was used to. She sighed.
"What are you going to name her?" Victoria asked.
"She may already have a name. She could belong to one of the other families around here. There could be a lot of reasons why she is here. She could be lost, a runaway, or even abandoned. What bothers me is where did that trap come from?"
No one had any answers.
Maude and Granny sat on the porch and watched the four ride out. Each woman was silent as the figures got smaller and smaller as the dust settled behind them. Maude sipped a glass of lemonade while Granny drank her tea. When the tea was done, she stared into the bottom of the cup for a long time.
"Are you getting any messages from the leaves, Granny?" She asked.
"Reading tea leaves is for medicine show phonies. I have better ways." Granny replied.
"You certainly do. Have your dreams ever been wrong?"
"Yes, once. When I was younger and the dreams had just started, I dreamt that I would marry the son of the Village Shamans. They were a very powerful couple."
"I was banished from the tribe, when they said my vision caused the death of the Chief. I was lucky I was only banished. I could have been killed for offending the spirits."
"Was there a reason why you were banished instead of killed?"
"Yes. The Chief was my father. My Grandfather and Great Grandfather were both members of the Elder Shaman Council. They argued that I was a special child. One that was destined to follow their paths and become a powerful Shaman. That was why I was being trained to be a Shaman, even though I had not yet finished my training. The spirits had marked me as their own, when I was born and to kill me would anger the spirits. So they let me live."
Maude was surprised to hear a chapter of the old woman's life that she had not heard before. "How were you marked by the spirits?"
Granny bared her shoulder to show Maude the birthmark she had. It closely resembled a wolf's head. "Brother Wolf marked me as his own. He claimed me." She said as she pulled her shirt up.
"But you were just a child."
"I had seen my twelfth Winter. I was on the verge of womanhood. As was our custom, I would have my womanhood rites within the next year. It would all depend on when I started my moon cycles."
"Woman hood rites?"
"The first time a girl has her moon cycles is a very special time in a girl's life. It signifies that the has become a woman and can take on a woman's responsibilities of marriage and having children. The tribe did frown on any girl who married before her fifteenth year. She goes into isolation for the duration of that first cycle. The only person who can see her is the girl's mother, who instructed her in what her new duties would be. The girl could not leave the lodge until the village Shamaness determined if she was properly prepared for what was to come." She stopped and looked out into the yard. "Once the girl-woman had been accepted as ready for the ritual to come, she is allowed to leave the lodge. The girl-woman must be strong enough to complete the ritual. The end of which is the dance. If she is, then there is a great feast. If she completes the dance, the new woman's father will get together with the Chief and Elder Shaman and set a price for her."
"Price?" Maude asked
"Yes it could be anything from grain to horses to furs."
"The girl has no say in who is to be her husband?"
"In some cases yes. If there is a brave that she likes and likes her, she can talk to her mother, who then will talk to her father. The girl can not talk directly to her father once she completes the dance. If the brave has status in tribe that is equal to or greater than the girl, they would be allowed to marry. Because I had very high status in the tribe, my price would have been very high. There was only one brave that had equal status.
Is that why you had dreams of Victoria because you faced the same thing?"
It is possible. I never had a Womanhood Ceremony. I was banished before my moon cycles started.
To be continued...
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