Indian princess & Spanish grandee meet in Tejas in 1785
|The formatting here does not, usually, come out as written, particularly with spacing. This work is copyrited by me.
The origin and meaning of the name Tonkawa are unknown. They called themselves Titskan-Watich, 'Natives.' They were inveterate rovers, planting nothing, but subsisting entirely by the buffalo and other game, the fruit of the mesquite and cactus, and wild roots. They dwelt in buffalo skin tepees or brushwood shelters, were notable horsemen, and carried the bow, spear, and shield with the usual headdress of feathered cap and buffalo horns on ceremonial occasions.
The sun bore down with vengeance as though it would bake and eat everything it touched. there was the slightest wind from the south, and the woman was grateful to be under the tree's shading branches. It required many acorns to make the oil, the seeds were so small. The tree was young and proud but did not give the great shade of its huge ancestors that could be seen rising like solitary mountains dotting the low hills and creek banks. Nor did the tree give the abundant acorn seeds the woman now gathered, but there was a calling to her for she felt its spirit. Perhaps it was the tree's youth that matched her own, its energy broadcast to her as she filled her acorn sacks along the creek. Perhaps it was the tree's aloneness, for it stood apart from the others.
The woman felt her own aloneness, for she had left the other women to gather roots and, seeing the tree, went to it and touched its skin and knew its spirit.
She felt another aloneness also.
Fourteen seasons the buffalo had come since she was born on a clear, star-filled night beside the Lampasas. Fourteen seasons and soon, the herds will return again her people prayed, for the buffalo was their life, its absence their death. The woman knew her own season was upon her, and she must marry soon or shame her father, who was hers, and the lodge's chief. Her spirit was cold inside her chest. She was not warmed by the honor of her engagement to Hawk Catcher, for he chilled her heart and saddened her spirit. She must marry this man when the buffalo return for her father and Hawk Catcher's father had agreed many seasons ago that this should be. Their union would join the lodge's bravest blood with the true princess and produce warriors who would kill the Spanish land takers and the Comanche barbarians that raided and murdered her people.
Her people wanted only the peace of their huts and acorns to gather for oil and buffalo to kill for its meat and tendon and hooves and hide and all the other parts that the beautiful beast gave to them. They called themselves Titskan-Watich, for their stories told of a people who loved the land and had been with the trees forever. They came before the Spanish and before the Caddo. They were a people before the Catin Comanche spoiled the land with her people's blood.
Yes, she must marry her warrior and give her father and her husband's father many sons to become warriors also and avenge the spilled blood or her ancestors. She would sing the Warrior's Mother's Song sending her sons to take scalp and sing again their praises to the women as they gathered acorns or washed or cooked. But her spirit was cold. It was not warmed with dreams of honor and warrior sons.
She was not comforted by thoughts of being prized of all women with marriage to the best of her lodge's hunters. An emptiness was upon her heart; a sadness that came into her dreams, making her rise in the night to walk at the river and speak with it asking its wisdom. She knew her aloneness as this tree must know its own.
She had walked the two miles from her father's lodge and thought now of the cool river in which she had bathed at dawn. The tree gave her what sun protection it could, and she hurried, wanting to fill the last of her hide sacks. This is a good tree she thought and knelt to brush away the twigs and leaves searching for the acorns from which the women took oil. The oil would soften and make supple the deer and buffalo skin her people used for covering their bodies and huts. The oil would be rubbed into her own skin to protect it from the sun's relentless, drying, fire. She would return to the women at the creek and begin the walk to their river.
The woman stood. Something came on the wind; the gentle breeze rustled the tree's branches, and a hawk called alarm to its mate. She scanned south for her home was there and the safety of the men's bows and lances. The woman's skin grew tight, her nostrils flared, her ears worked to catch a new sound. Comanche!
She quickly crouched and went behind the tree where she knelt. The rider was moving fast, his long, black hair flying in his pony-made wind. He came toward her then veered off to head for the tree line at the creek. Her sisters were there! The woman arose quickly, her skirt pulled up above the knees to help her run as the deer ran. She would warn her sisters and fight the hated Comanche intruder. Just as she approached the dry-brown grass at the edge of the tree's boughs, her vision caught another rider, then another. As she glanced toward the new horses, her head struck a low tree branch with such force, she was felled and laid still.
Following the Comanche's path, the two riders galloped fast on superb horses, their manes and tails floating straight on the onrushing air. As they turned toward the creek, a shot rang out, and the lead rider fell rolling, rolling until finally coming to a stop in the tall, dry grass. He lay quiet. His companion's horse leaped over the body and continued its determined blood chase.
The woman awoke with the musket's boom and sat up. She was confused, and her vision swirled for a moment. She looked at the branch that had arrested her flight to the creek, not recalling it being so low before. Suddenly, she remembered the Comanche and stood, careful to evade the branch this time.
Now another musket report broke the air's stillness. This time it came from the trees at the creek. The woman began running toward the sound, her feet silent on the grass. She saw the riderless horse and knew it for a Spanish mount, not the bare pony she saw first.
Covering ground quickly, she almost fell over the body and only paused for a moment to know he was dead. She heard voices, men's voices of hate and challenge. Where were her sisters? Grunts and oaths sounded closer now as she entered the tree line and jumped the tiny creek.
Her senses were acute as she stopped beside a large pecan tree. Listening, watching with dark eyes quickly adapting to the darker woods, she heard an anguished wail then the Comanche death song. It was cut abruptly rising to its finish and ended with a sickening gurgle. The woman crept low, moving directly to the sound. She saw a Spanish warrior standing over his kill, his knife stained with the hated blood of the enemy of both their tribes.
The man did not take scalp nor mark the dead body. He replaced the knife, bent to retrieve his wide-brimmed hat, and seemed to pause then fell to one knee. The woman watched as he swayed for a moment, then fell heavily onto his face.
She moved closer, catlike, silently, her own knife gripped tightly in her hand. Only the Comanche were despised more than the Spanish, and she was prepared to kill this man where he lay. Approaching from behind, she moved ever more softly, breathing silently, stopping only a pace from the man. Then she saw his blond hair and the blood along the forehead where the hair thins and becomes a face. She had never seen a Spanish so close. He lay still, eyes closed. The woman knelt and touched his ear, then his cheek. His face was smooth, yet the Spanish were a bearded tribe. She then knew his youth and knew he was not yet enough seasons to make a man's beard.
She knew then that she would not kill this Spanish and squatted beside him studying his heavy clothes. She saw the silver of his buttons and belt, the silver thread woven through the dark material of his pants and tunic. She would take his buttons and knife, leaving him here.
She would find her sisters who had fled to their lodges, and she would tell her father of the Spanish; how he had killed the Comanche then died of his own wounds. Her betrothed would return to take scalp praising this woman to the other lodge women. Thinking these things and about to rise, the woman was startled to see the Spanish move and moan. She raised her knife, then paused. The Spanish was too wounded to overpower her and she would have him know it was a woman who would kill him.
The man moved slowly over to his back. His eyes fluttered, and his mouth twitched. His hand went to the gash in the scalp.
The man opened his eyes wide and drew a terrified breath as his vision was filled with a dark woman holding a poised knife over his chest. He felt his death then felt his heartbeat for she paused, the dagger rose over her head, she stopped, seemingly frozen for she did not move. The man was too weak to react, unable even to make his cross sign, and felt his arm fall helplessly to the dark, moist ground of the pecan tree.
The woman was in shock. She had never seen nor had she heard night stories of Spanish with eyes a pale, sky blue. His blond hair was known to her people as "The hair that was stolen by the raven," for it was almost without color. Even in the semi-light of the pecan tree, the Spanish had hair of gold. The sun felt sorrow for the raven's theft and gave to the Spanish hair of sun rays. It was his eyes that froze the woman. She felt for a moment that he had no eyes at all then could tell he was focusing on the knife she held aloft. She lowered her hand slowly but kept the knife ready for use. She stared into the man's eyes, feeling drawn to them.
The man watched as the knife was lowered. He then saw the woman's face and body. He was startled and taken aback, blinking with disbelief, not fully aware whether he gazed upon a native woman or a tree spirit come from the ground or perhaps the huge pecan that rose over them. Her face was as a maiden, for its youth could not be denied. It was painted with two lines from the edge of her raven-black hair down, down across her nose and under it and stopping only for the lips then moving again to the chin and finally to end at her throat. He followed the lines and when they ended, his gaze continued down to her breasts. He was again caught in surprise. She wore only a skirt and thin moccasins. Her breasts were astonishing drawing his eyes, not letting his gaze wander. Each was also lined but in circles. The black paint rings drew and held his attention, for they seemed to concentrate his gaze, directing it to her nipples. There were circles beginning at the darker area and growing larger as the circles expanded until the largest almost touched in the valley. Two more lines, vertical, fenced the belly hole. He looked at her hands and saw more dark paint on their backs. He was not displeased by the woman's body or the art of her paint. He had not seen such a painted woman before but, after his initial shock, accepted her and did not find her unattractive. The breast circles captured and held his gaze as though they were lariats thrown around his eyes then pulled, forcing him to stare.
He began to collect his strength and tried to speak. Wanting to say soft words but knowing nothing of her tongue, he merely whispered cooing sounds asking her to put away the knife for he would not harm her. He told her he was high born and very rich and that his father would reward her for her kindness if she would find his horse and clean his wound. His gaze moved from her doe eyes to her breasts and back and to her breasts again.
The woman heard the Spanish talking softly to her. She felt his eyes on her body and watched as he studied her breasts and face and hands. She felt no fear, nor did she recoil from his gaze. She was a woman and a princess and knew her breasts stood proud in their youth. She wondered if the Spanish women's breasts were likewise painted and if they painted their faces, and if they walked among their lodges feeling the warrior's admiration.
"I will make talk with you Spanish," she said but knew from his stare that he knew not her tongue. She swept her hand in an arc enforcing her words. "Titskan-watich, all this land is my people's land, we are the natives, and my father is a great warrior chief. My people are Titskan-watich, the natives. We are called Tonkawa. My people came before your people, and the Spanish killed us with sickness even as my people made you their friends. Your people do not talk with the spirits. Do the Spanish have spirits? My people talk with the land and the hawk and the tree. We kill the buffalo and honor his spirit, for he gives us life with his body. The Spanish cut the trees burning the land, and dig the earth making it grow tall grass where the tree once lived. The Spanish build stone houses and do not move to follow the buffalo but only grow the tall grass. I think the Spanish do not have spirits to teach them and I am sad for the Spanish.
The man could not understand her words but knew he was being told of her people. Her hands moved lyrically, gracefully in her telling. He recognized only the word, Tonkawa. His father and uncles had told many stories of their wanderings in the old days and of their ancestors who knew the Tonkawa. They were an ancient people. They had come to the missions many years ago and were once friends with the Spanish people. Many died from the disease that was called after its appearance, small-pocks. The man smiled though his head seemed to have a heart in it, for the pounding was a torment to him.
Pointing to himself, he said to the woman, "Julio. I will be Don Julio Diaz Lopez Ignastico. My father is rich and powerful and owns much land. I will give you a silver coin now. When my father dies, I will be the Don." The young man slowly came up on an elbow and reached into his blouse pocket. He found a coin and offered it to the woman. She reached out her free hand, the knife still in the other.
While she looked at the coin, finding a ray of light to move it under, the man looked at her body again. He did not find her beautiful, for her face was too round, and her paint marks were barbaric, and she smelled of the buffalo. Her skirt was unadorned and of plain deerskin. Her breasts and hands held his gaze. The women of his people seldom exposed their bodies more than face and hands. He had never seen a woman's breasts but knew their function and knew their power to excite his senses. This woman was not beautiful as were the women of his age and people. She was far from the delicate beauty of the woman his father had chosen for him two years ago.
He knew his role as an heir for he had been trained from birth. He knew the union between his family and their neighbor would increase their land and power by several times. That union was his marriage to Valena Pelar Conception Menendez. The marriage would be in a year.
Yet, this woman, this savage, had an earthy spirit that beckoned him. She moved as a deer, graceful and assured of her place with the land. She could have killed him easily but did not. He felt a great urgency to touch her, especially her belly and breasts where the dark lines seemed to capture his attention; perhaps that was their reason he wondered. His head throbbed, and the drying blood pulled at his hair. He was not self-conscious of his staring at the woman's body for he knew he was a man in God's image and born to rule over these barbaric peoples. He imagined himself a benefactor, one who would someday bring them to his religion and send teachers so they may learn his language.
He wanted to touch her, his mind and eyes coming back to her body and the simple, childlike wonder she showed in the coin. She smiled and made bird-like sounds holding the shiny silver thing this way and that to catch the light. She looked closely at the writing and the figure then, finally, glanced toward the man on the ground.
This is a good thing, she thought, this Spanish thing. I will give it to my father for it will please him greatly. The Spanish looks hard at my body; do not the women of the Spanish mark themselves for beauty or are they ugly and thin for they do not live under the su nor do they paint their bellies to make their wombs fertile.
I will see a woman of the Spanish someday. Perhaps I will fight with one and test her bravery; perhaps I will take her scalp or make her a slave.
The man again began to rise. This time, he came to his knees then, using the pecan tree's rough trunk bark, managed to stand. The woman also rose and backed away. Her knife was at her side, relaxed in her hand.
He swayed, and the light seemed to leave his sky eyes. She rushed to him, diving under his arm and lifting with her shoulder, she supported his weight. He did not fall but leaned against the pecan, his breathing labored.
They both saw her knife lying on the ground but, knew now neither would harm the other. They felt this before, but, once their bodies came together, they knew the other's spirit, and all fear went out of their eyes. She helped him lean against the pecan then retrieved her knife returning it to her skirt. "Come Spanish," she said. "My father and his warriors will be here soon. You must leave or you will die."
Julio could not understand but knew she was worried. His thinking began to clear and he wondered why this woman would be alone on the land.
He reasoned that she would not be left for long and he must find his horse then find his friend shot by the Comanche. His throat burned with thirst. He would drink from the creek if he could get there. The first of his steps were unsteady and the woman again supported his body, her shoulder under his arm.
He was aware for the first time his hand on her bare waist and, despite the thunder inside his head, he felt a stirring in his loins; her skin was alive with life! Unlike the women he had touched before, their cold correctness making him afraid to offend them, this woman was as the earth. The woman he was to marry seemed a marble statue like the statue of the Virgin at the mission in San Antonio, hard and cold and without life.
She led him toward the creek and felt his weight on her shoulder. She felt the smooth fabric of his tunic and touched his chest as she steadied him. Then, her thoughts seemed to leave her for a moment and gather where the man's hand pressed into the lower back, just above her skirt.
His touch was hot as though his hand burned of fever. The heat of his hand moved deep into her flesh and spread to her womb and breasts and face. She could think of nothing but the hand on her back and how strange it made her feel.
Often, she had been held by her warrior, who would take her as a wife. They would often steal away to meet at the river where they sang whispered songs to each other, and she would bath his body with the river's cool water. He held her close to his young and powerful chest, his arms encircling her. Never had she felt the stirrings within as she felt now with this Spanish.
They waded the creek and drank from their hands. The man was unsteady. She knelt beside him, cupping water to bring to the wound in his scalp. Cleaned, the wound could be seen as deep but not long. It began to bleed again, and the woman found spider's silk to put there, and the wound ceased its flow. As she washed him, her hands felt unsteady. She would look into the sky-blue eyes and pause her hand's attention.
Each time, he also looked into her eyes. Each time, it seemed to them a spirit reached out, that the other's spirit was so close. They did not think about this for there was no reason for it; it was there and they felt the other's power, the other's aliveness.
They found the man's companion and took his pistols, knife, and coins. The woman showed respect for the dead man as she sang a low chant, her people's death song. She motioned the need for haste and retrieved both horses. The Comanche horse was not in sight. Julio knew he must hurry but felt a strong need to stay with the woman. They went to the oak where she retrieved her acorn sack. From this higher plane, they could see a small dust cloud to the south and knew it was the warriors from her lodge. Before mounting his horse, Julio used this sign to express his gratitude to the woman. He touched her face gently, and she put her hand over his. He mounted slowly, fighting the head thunder, and paused to look down at the woman. She held his gaze then, using sign, seemed to tell him she would return to the tree at the full moon next. Neither was sure the other understood their sign yet both knew they did not want this encounter to be the last.
"Go Spanish, my people come. I will return to this tree when the mother moon is large again, with stars in her belly.
"I must go now, Tonkawa woman. I cannot fight all your warriors alone, but I will return with men from my father's ranchero, and we will hunt the Comanche. I must see to my friend's wife telling her of his bravery before he died. Do not be here in two days, Tonkawa woman, tell your father to move his people up the Lampasas for my father's men will kill your warriors."
Julio again touched his chest and said his name. He pointed at the woman raising his eyes in question. She did not repeat his name but pointed to him and said, "Sky Eyes," in her tongue, then touched her chest and said, "Night Dove." Julio knew she was telling him her name and tried to pronounce the impossible word. She laughed.
Julio was startled and, for a second, felt embarrassed by his ignorance. No one would have dared laugh at him on his land but this Tonkawa woman's laugh was as the song of a cardinal bird, gay, and light. Finally, her eyes became serious. The woman again pointed to herself then made the soft, cooing sounds of the mourning dove.
Julio's expression became one of recognition, and he smiled, saying to her, "La Coo Ca Roo." She nodded then watched as the man rode to the east, his friend's horse in tow.
He would ride well around the Tonkawas, turning south to cross the Lampasas below the falls. He would tell his father and lead men back to this place where they would hunt the Comanche and kill them. Julio did not want this woman or her people harmed but could not trust that his father's men would not kill every man, every woman, and every child whether Caddo, Tonkawa, Comanche, or any peoples not of their own, Spanish blood.
He rode quickly for several miles then slowed for it seemed each beat of his horse's hooves on the hard ground beat a second time in his head.
At nightfall, he stopped to rest and await the light. He was within his father's land but made no fire lest he be found and killed as he slept. At dawn, he rode again, arriving at his hacienda just after noon. His mother and sister saw to his wound, made him comfortable, and then left as his father entered the bedroom.
"Juan is dead father. I killed the Comanche who killed Juan. The Comanche was a noble fighter and brave and gave me this wound. We must return to find the Comanche and drive them from our land."
"In time, my son. You must rest and lead us to this place where we will find Juan and the Comanche."
Night Dove met her father and warriors of her lodge. She told them of the Spanish and the Comanche who fought, showing them their bodies. She did not tell them of the one she called Sky Eyes. When her betrothed found the prints of three ponies and could not understand how the Comanche had died so far from the fallen Spanish, Night Dove told them of her own accident with the tree and hitting her head had saved her life for it kept her unseen in the tall grass. She did not know how the Comanche had died, she said. She wondered why she was not telling her own people, her own father the truth but could not. She thought of the days until the next full moon and of the touch of the Spanish on her skin. The Comanche was scalped, as was the Spanish rider.
Night Dove returned to her lodge and met her warrior at the river in the night's covering shadows. When he held her, she thought of the Spanish. When he spoke, she heard the Spanish and his strange tongue. When they parted, she went to the lodge of her father and slept fitfully, her body tense.
A fortnight passed, and her father called to her. "My daughter, it is time. The wedding dance will be when mother moon is again fertile with her star children. Hawk Catcher's father and I have made this choice, the gifts have been exchanged, and you must prepare yourself to move to your husband's lodge." "You are my father and have chosen my husband well. I will obey my father's wish."
Night Dove did not feel joy. She would be Hawk Catcher's wife and give him sons. But, the tree called to her each night in her sleep.
She looked each night at the moon and knew it to be growing fat with stars in its belly. Two days before her wedding dance, the warriors left their lodges to look for a band of Comanches that had come into their land. Night Dove left the river and went to the tree. She told her sisters she must gather acorns alone to make oil with which to give her husband that he might rub her skin on their wedding night. Night Dove went to the tree at dawn. She gathered acorns but did not return to her lodge when her sac was full. She waited there. She waited and talked to the tree and touched its skin. She saw the branch that had caused her to fall, and it was barely within reach of her raised arm. How, she wondered, had she run into it so hard that strange day?
Julio recovered from his head wound but not for five days did he leave his bed. His father took men and went to the tree and found Juan's body and the Comanche and sign of the Tonkawa. They buried Juan where he had fallen and left the Comanche to the coyote. For two days, the men rode north and east away from the river. The Tonkawa lodges had not been moved as Julio had told Night Dove they should. The Spanish men did not go to the river, nor did they see a Comanche or a Tonkawa warrior. They returned to the hacienda and ranchero.
Julio talked of many things with his father. He was reminded of his inheritance and the land he would someday own. He was encouraged to spend more time with Valena Menendez and that he was old enough to take her to be his wife. It was important to Don Ignastico that grandchildren be born before he died.
Julio was his only son, the name of his ancestors must be kept alive and made stronger. Julio knew of these things but his sleep at night was restless. He saw the tree and the Tonkawa woman in his dreams. He walked in the night, watching the moon grow fat. On the day before it was at its fullest, he rode to the tree.
He camped at the Lampasas and rose at dawn riding the final miles at a lope. He did not expect to see the woman. He did not know what he would do if she were there. He told himself he only desired to see Juan's place, where his friend was buried, and to visit again the creek and the tree. Riding up to the tree, he dismounted and tied his horse. He sat at the tree's base and drank from his flask. In a moment, he would walk to the creek.
Night Dove saw the Spanish come to the tree. She was in the darkness of the woods at the creek and kept still. Her heart was racing, and her breath came in short, shallow droughts. She watched as he sat and watched him drink. The tree called to her, and she walked to the man.
Julio saw her as she came across the small creek. The sun lit her raven hair, and her painted face and breasts could be seen from many yards away. He jumped to his feet and started to walk to her, but caution made him wait, made him stare into the tree line to see if there were perhaps Tonkawa men there. She walked with grace and lightness; she walked with the fluid movements of a hawk in flight. His legs felt weak, and he did not move from the tree.
Night Dove saw the Spanish rise and saw, for a moment, worry on his face then gladness as he smiled to her. She moved into the tree's protecting shade and came to the man. Silently, they looked into each other's eyes, hers black as a moonless night, his the pale blue of the midday sky. Each raised their arms, and each stepped into the other's. Their embrace was silent and long. The woman felt his heartbeat through her hands on him. She felt his heart through her cheek that rested upon his chest.
Julio knew the joy of a woman's body pressed into his own; he felt the rise and fall of her as she breathed against his chest and felt her skin as he stroked her face and neck. "Mi Paloma, you have come, and you have wanted me to come. I have dreamed of the tree; it has called to me, and it has called to you. The tree is wise. You have been in my mind and have grown in my heart all these days."
"Spanish, the tree came to me in the nights. I could not sleep, for when I closed my eyes, I saw your eyes of the day sky, I saw the tree, and I saw my marriage to Hawk Catcher. Sky Eyes, I will marry in two dawns; this I must do."
"Mi Paloma, how I wish I knew your words. They speak to my heart as I speak to yours. My father must have me marry his choice, and I must father grandsons for him. This I must do."
They remained for long minutes after each spoke looking into each other's eyes for the meanings of the words their ears could not understand. Night Dove took her arms from his waist and moved her hands to her deer skirt. She untied the leather thong from her waist and allowed the skirt to fall to the dark, soft ground. Julio did not move. He saw, for the first time, a woman's body in its splendor and felt a rush of desire that seemed to cloud his vision while weakening his knees. His hands felt moist, and he wiped them on his suede tunic. She stood still, looking into his eyes.
"I will be your woman today Sky Eyes," she softly spoke to him. When he did not move, she held her arms and said again, "Lie with me, Sky Eyes, cover me with your body.
I am a woman, and your spirit will enter me and be joyful. Here, under this tree that will shade and protect us, we will be one, our spirits will join and walk together to the river where I will bathe you, and you will feel refreshed."
"Mi Paloma, you give me your body, do you give me your heart? Do you love me as I love you? I have never before covered a woman nor felt a woman's power. Will you rob me of my strength, or will you make me stronger? Is this what the tree foretold in my sleep?"
They embraced then parted as the woman began removing Julio's tunic, then his linen shirt, then his britches. She knelt while he leaned against the tree, and she removed his boots. In a moment, he was unclothed, his desire strong and calling to her. She reached into her acorn sack and took out a mat woven of grass to put on the ground, then she lay upon the mat. Night Dove reached up, her eyes and hands calling the Spanish to her.
Julio knelt, looking long at this woman before him. He covered her, and his hard, impatient, strength entered her. He did not move at first but remained silent and still. The woman's black eyes were so close, so deep were the twin pools of her eyes. They told him of surrender and love. Her hands and arms encircled his neck, her legs locked behind his drawing him closer and deeper into her. She would have his spirit inside her for this was a woman's joy, the reason the doe follows a buck and the mare, a stallion. She would follow this man and she would be open to him, show him the welcome of her body.
Julio knew for the first time the awe and magic of a woman. He knew then the meaning of a bond, a bond created when two souls join and become one heart. He felt his spirit flowing into her and hers into him filling each with the other's life force. He understood in a flash of brilliant light brighter than the sun. He was of the earth as this woman was of the earth, and all the living things upon the earth rejoiced in their ascending souls.
Night Dove had not given thought to her movements or what her body was saying to the Spanish Sky Eyes. She had no consciousness of time or place, only the wondrous joy of answering the call of her soul as it commanded her hands and arms and legs to open and welcome this man to her. His body was on her, then in her, then entwined throughout her. She felt complete as though, for the first time, she knew her role and place on the earth. Her world was this man, this moment. She felt his spirit join with hers to walk among clouds. She was one with the deer, the tree, the grass, and they knew her joy.
Julio could not speak for he was unable to find words, his feelings too new to describe or even understand. He lay beside the woman. They were quiet and at peace with their thoughts. He took her hand, unable to break contact with her.
"My dove, I saw into you," he finally whispered. "My heart is large with your love, the thunder in my chest becomes quieter now."
He rose and felt free and unashamed of his nakedness in front of her. He went to his horse, retrieving a small, cloth-wrapped package. Kneeling beside her, Julio handed the little gift to Night Dove. She sat up and unwrapped it with a girlish delight. Opened, the cloth revealed two, small silver hair combs. She smiled so beautifully. A sunray came through the tree's canopy, struck the silver, and reflected back into her eyes. The sparkle there made Julio's heart light and joyous.
The couple walked, nude, to the creek, wadded, and sat in the shallow stream cupping hands full of cool water to pour over each other. The walk back to the tree, through the tall grass, dried them as the sun was strong. They embraced and laid upon the blanket where their love was again shared. Later, the sun's harshness softened by late afternoon, they parted, Julio to the river then home, Night Dove back to her lodge and preparation for her wedding the following night. She could not tell him, for she had not the Spanish tongue. Even had she been able to mouth the words, he would not have understood. She would carry out her duty to honor her father, and she would marry Hawk Catcher and have his sons. Sky Eyes was her first love; she did not feel there would be another and knew their love's hopelessness. She was Tonkawa, he Spanish; their peoples would never let them be together in happiness, never.
Julio rode slowly, his thoughts running together, of images and feelings crashed through his mind at the same time. He was aglow with love for the Tonkawa woman, would turn around and take her home with him; he would come back every full moon and meet her under the oak. He would forget her and honor his father and marry his own kind. He would be the Don. He did not love Valena Menendez and never would yet he would marry her. He would father many sons to keep the name of Ignostico powerful and feared throughout this great land of Tejas. He would turn around and take his Dove away with him and father her sons. He would return on the new moon.
The wedding dance, feast, and present exchange were all complete. Night Dove belonged to Hawk Catcher. He brought a horse and lifted her onto its back then, without speaking, walked out of the lodge camp toward the river. There, he turned upstream and walked another two miles in silence, nor did Night Dove speak. Hawk Catcher stopped and gathered branches and made a small shelter for them. She carried water from the river and prepared their meal. She brought her husband food. He smiled, ate, and motioned for her to go to the shelter. Hawk Catcher went to the river and bathed, then joined his wife. He was neither tender nor brutal with her. She knew his strength and gave him honor with her body. She felt nothing. Hawk Catcher went back to the river, bathed, and mounted his pony riding downstream to join his warrior brothers. He returned after two days searching for the buffalo. He rode back to the lodge. Night Dove walked behind in respect for her husband.
The buffalo came, and the Tonkawa men hunted. The women worked the hides and dried the meat. Night Dove accepted her husband each evening as was her role and place as his wife. Each night, sleeping restlessly, she dreamed of the tree and the creek and the Spanish. She would awake to walk at the river. She would sit looking up to mother moon, watching her grow large, her belly again filling with new stars. On the dawn of the full moon, she left the lodge of her husband and went to the tree.
Julio worked the land of his father and saw Valena Menendez twice. They went through the elaborate courting rituals with chaperons present and talked of their families. One late morning, Valena managed to evade her aunt and rode to a pond where she and Julio spent an afternoon talking. Julio was ever the proper gentleman, for that was the easier way to hide his lack of emotion for the woman. She did come into his arms before departing for her home and kissed him lightly on the lips. Julio did not hear the tree's gentle rustling nor the creek's softness. When Valena kissed him, he only heard a dove in a nearby tree. It cooed, then flew away rising, and disappeared into a still sky. She felt aloof to him, without the earth spirit about her. Julio was not drawn to her, nor did he think of her except as the woman whom his father had chosen to mother descendants, to keep the name of Ignostico strong.
Julio slept lightly. His dreams were visions of a large tree and a woman there. Each time he reached for her, she melted into the tree becoming one with the dark body of it. He would see her reaching to him, bringing him into the tree then down its body and into the soft, dark earth. They would emerge at the creek and love there, lying in the water as it washed over their bodies joined together. She would fade then and he would see her melt into the tree, her arms outreached as the branches outreach to embrace the air and sky and earth. Julio dreamed this dream each night until two days before the full moon. Then, without conscious thought, without doubt, he packed his horse and rode away to the tree.
Night Dove saw him come when still a mile away. She climbed into the tree and watched his golden hair, her heart light with joy. They met again and loved again and departed. For three full moons, they met and loved. Julio did not notice the miles. Night Dove did not feel her husband's spirit when he covered her. Hawk Catcher did not beat her, nor did he treat her any different than his horses. That was the way of her people.
Sky Eyes filled her days with work. At night, her dreams and thoughts were only of the Spanish. He brought her gifts, which she buried on the way to her lodge. She made him small gifts of leather.
When the lovers met on the fourth full moon, there was a coolness in the air. Julio had come to know her body well and saw the growth in her belly. He put his hand on it and looked in her eyes, and she smiled. He was very worried yet very happy. He did not know she was married and she did not know he was not.
They had exchanged a few words in each other's tongues but too little to explain such complex things. Their communication was far older than language.
Each full moon, she would return to the tree. Each full moon her belly was larger with child. On the seventh moon, they were almost discovered as Hawk Catcher, and four lodge brothers came into the trees beside the creek. The lovers were sleeping under the oak and would not have heard the Tonkawa. Fortunately, Julio's horse had been tied to graze on the other side of the rise behind the tree and could not be seen from the creek. Suddenly, several acorns dropped from a high branch of the oak striking both the sleepers. They awoke instantly and heard the Tonkawa.
Julio crept to the grass edge watching the men. He was prepared to fight them, wanted to fight them but knew he could not win against their number. Night Dove came beside him. he pointed to one of the warriors then to her belly. Julio stared at her, then understood. He understood why she could be with child in her village and felt betrayed by the woman. He left her, crawling back to the tree to sit, opposite the Tonkawa, against its heavy trunk. His thoughts swirled. He decided to leave, never to return. Quietly, crouching low, he began to move through the tall grass toward his horse.
Night Dove came after him. She caught his arm and stopped him. He could not look at her and felt cold at her touch. She knew his rejection and allowed him to go.
The next month's moon babies came and left for the heavens. Night Dove and Julio did not meet, and their dreams became torments to them. They fought these dreams by night and fought their thoughts by day. The days were long, sometimes cold, but the coldness inside them was far deeper, for their souls were chilled. The moon grew large again. Night Dove felt her baby moving, wanting to be born. Two nights before the moon was at her fullest, the Tonkawa woman dreamed of her baby.
She was called to the tree where her baby emerged from its body, a mist.
She heard it cry for her and, when she approached to take it to her breast, she saw that it had eyes from the sky and its hair was sun gold. She woke with a start holding her belly, tears rained across her cheeks and she shivered with fear. Would her baby be of the Spanish? If so, it would be killed, and she would be stoned or driven from the lodge, her husband shamed. He would kill them both to regain his honor. She must flee!
Julio had remained awake for two days dreading sleep for it brought dreams of the Tonkawa woman. Always her belly was large, always her husband was there. Two nights he stayed from sleep then could not fight his fatigue. He dreamed of the tree, not the woman. He saw the tree, alone on the barren plain, its huge arms seemingly calling to him. He went to it and saw the great trunk, dark and foreboding. Then, from the bark came a vision that gathered from the mist and collected into form.
The form became heavier with definition then became a clear image. It was a child, and it cried. He approached to comfort it. A branch seemed to part, letting moonlight through the leaves. There, in his arms, the baby opened its eyes, and they were blue! And its silky hair was the dark gold of early sunrise! He knew Night Dove's baby was his! He must go to her for, if her baby is born, she and it will be killed. He must go to her now!
They met at the tree. They embraced and cried their happiness, for they knew the life Night Dove carried had been made in love, and it was their love. Julio knew she could not return to her lodge; he knew he could not take her to his home. He knew this before leaving and gathered all he could for a journey. He could pack only a little, or he risked too many questions from his father. He had silver coins and food and extra powder and shot for his pistols and musket. He had but his own horse and no extra clothes or blanket, and the nights were bitter cold. Night Dove had left with nothing but a buffalo robe and the clothes she wore. Her breasts were covered by a deerskin jacket that offered some protection from the chill.
They left immediately, knowing that the Tonkawa would search if she did not return by midday. Julio elected to travel north, away from his father's land. He felt the Oklahoma territory would be their best chance as Tejas was very hostile to native peoples. His own would never accept them. He gently placed her on his horse leading it by the reins, walking slowly.
He knew her time was close and wished he could stop, build her a shelter from the wind and make a fire to warm her.
But he knew he must not stop for that would be death for them both and death for their child. All day, he walked north. They stopped only to rest the horse for an hour and eat some corn he had brought. Night Dove felt their baby kick and move with increasing strength. She understood the need for haste and prayed she was strong, and their baby was strong, for they had many miles to go ahead. She did not feel the cold. She seldom took her eyes off the back of her Spanish man and felt safe with him, for she knew his power as a warrior.
Night Dove felt at her side. The sack there was tied securely to the saddle. It contained acorns from the tree, their tree that had come to her, its spirit telling her of her baby's eyes and hair. The tree must also go to the new lodge, and its spirit would be there through its own babies, its seeds.
On the third day, they were without food. Twice, they had seen men in the distance, and twice also Julio saw Comanche sign. He feared using his musket or pistols to hunt for game, and the winter spirit did not offer food for their bodies. Night Dove found a few roots and some bark, but they were starving and so cold.
On the fifth day, Julio cracked and roasted the acorns from the tree over a small fire. That night, as they lay under the buffalo robe, beside a stand of cottonwood trees. Night Dove began to bring their baby into their world of stillness and cold and hunger. She labored through the night, never crying out though her pain was great. Julio began to build the small fire higher, but she stopped him; it was too dangerous for the light could be seen and the smoke could be smelled for many miles. There were bandits and Comanche and Spanish all around them; she would just be cold.
Just after dawn, the sky clear and a hard frost on the ground, a woman child was born. The early sun rays caught and danced in its still wet hair, its golden, flaxen, sun-colored hair. She opened her eyes and, yes, the tree had known. They were twin sapphires of deep, dark blue. Her skin was dark like her mother's, and her cry was strong. Julio's pride in and instant love for this tiny spirit was immense. He wanted to fire his pistols and yell at the world of his happiness, and his love. Night Dove smiled and took the love child to her breast and covered it with the buffalo robe, and there they rested. Julio hunted with his knife and found a few pecans left by the squirrels. He brought water to his love, holding her as she drank, looking again at the wonder that slept against her.
She rested that day and night then, mounted on the horse and holding their child, she followed her Spanish north. Many days they walked, finding little food but staying alive. Finally, weak and exhausted, they crossed the Red River into Oklahoma. Night Dove approached a group of Kiowa women. She carried the child they had named Morning Sun.
She was given meat and corn and a blanket. Night Dove returned to Sky Eyes, who gave her a Spanish coin to take to the women. He held their child and kissed her with many loving kisses. The Kiowa women took the piece of silver and told Night Dove where best to go for help and safety.
Another week of travel brought the three to a place where Julio was able to trade silver for land to farm and buy two horses and 20 cattle. On the land was a small, sod shack, and there they made their home. On the first night of the end of their journey, she came to her man, reached into her skirt, and brought out a small sack she had sewn there. She opened it and, taking his hand in hers, poured into it five acorns from the tree. In the morning, they planted the tree's spirit close to their home.