One morning Trailing Sky rose from the bed she shared with her husband in the cave set in the high canyon. She saw that Eagle Speaker had left before dawn to hunt. They had not eaten fresh meat for over a month, as the larger game had a tendency to migrate towards the east during the day while resting at night in the canyon valleys nearby. So he changed his pattern of hunting to track the mule deer as they grazed before sunrise. She dressed slowly, watching and becoming very aware of the shamanic energies arising within her. She stood very still at the lip of the cave, observing the first rays of daylight caressing the valley below. She swayed back and forth, rooted in one spot, and concentrated on her husband. She could clearly foresee the danger.
Without waking her friend Long Willow, she took down her powerful long bow from the cave wall, selecting Eagle Speaker’s four best arrows. She knew that this day she would need every one of them. Though Eagle Speaker had left carefully so his tracks were scarcely visible, she drew on the experience shaped by her mountain home, where she knew the trace of every creature wherever she went. Quickly she found Eagle Speaker’s footprints and followed them eastwards. She noticed a rock cache with small animals that Eagle Speaker had hunted along with four broken arrows. Not the game he was looking for, but nevertheless vital to keep them alive. She carefully replaced the rocks exactly as they had been built. The tracks then led her to a dried up gulch where she saw the heavier print of his forward foot.
She stilled herself again sensing the shamanic energies. This was the place he had stood to shoot a larger game animal from his bow. Eagle Speaker had stood in that exact spot at dawn, drawing a steady bead on a large mule deer with his last arrow. His previous arrows had shattered on impact and he noted in his mind the tree he had fashioned these arrows from. His final arrow was made from stronger wood and he knew it would deeply penetrate the unaware mule deer in his view, starkly outlined by the early morning sun. As he released the arrow from his bow, his prey moved in the same instant. The strong, swift arrow did not provide a clean kill. It went deeply into the mule deer, high in the muscles of the left foreleg. Eagle Speaker whispered a prayer to the mule deer for causing unnecessary suffering. He proceeded to follow the wounded creature to end its misery. The erratic and painful trail left by the dying mule deer strayed into Tonto Apache territory. Eventually he caught up with the mule deer, exhausted and on its knees, close to a sandstone butte reaching up into the morning sky. He dispatched it with his hunting knife and enacted a simple ceremony of gratitude by cutting out part of the heart and liver, placing it on a natural rock altar. He put tobacco by the stone as an offering to the animal, then became acutely aware that he was no longer alone. He had been spotted earlier by a scout who called in two other warriors to corner this stranger hunting in their territory. One of them – the smallest – started to climb the sandstone butte, while the other two approached in a pincer movement that provided no escape. Eagle Speaker saw all three of them and knew they would kill him. He had only his hunting knife and a bow without arrows. A spontaneous shout echoed in his mind as he silently called out to Trailing Sky for help.
And there she was. Standing with her bow fully drawn, Trailing Sky commanded the edge of a clearing close to the sandstone butte. She was well shielded from sight by small ash trees. Her first arrow sent death to the scout climbing the butte and he fell with a heavy thud on the rocky floor below. This surprise pre-emptive attack made the tallest warrior move towards her at the edge of the clearing, but an arrow was already coming his way from her bow. It went right through his throat. As he turned, dropping his weapons while clutching at his throat, her third arrow went directly through his heart killing him instantly. The third warrior was in fierce hand to hand battle with Eagle Speaker and had gained the upper hand, throwing Eagle Speaker against the rock wall of the red sandstone butte. As he raised his battle axe to strike a death blow, Trailing Sky’s fourth arrow, shot with great accuracy, entered below his armpit, through his chest into the heart. The warrior fell forward and Eagle Speaker tore the battle axe from his hands and finished the death process with a swift smash to the skull. It was all over in a matter of seconds.
Eagle Speaker stood there with the battle axe in his hand, breathing heavily as Trailing Sky, with the stealth of a mountain lion, approached the two other scouts, now motionless on the ground. Her hunting knife was drawn, but there was no need. They were both dead. She walked slowly towards Eagle Speaker and he fell to his knees in front of her and wept. Trailing Sky lifted him up and gently wiped his tears away. Eagle Speaker’s voice came out as a sob. “You heard me..”
“My husband, I heard your scream long before you uttered it in your mind. I have been tracking you since dawn, knowing the danger that would befall you.”
He knew he would never understand her gifts of seeing and felt humbled by her presence in his life. Trailing Sky was filled with gratitude that his life was still with her, as she feared the dislocation that a different outcome that day would have created.
Eagle Speaker’s strategic sense quickly re-asserted itself. “We must take the arrows out of the slain Apache scouts and from the mule deer. Leave the bodies right here, just where they have fallen. The animals and vultures will come and scatter their remains and cover some of our tracks.” Trailing Sky nodded her consent. The sun had begun to rise and they knew they had to be meticulous. They created a false trail to a pass in the canyon wall that led to the southern plateaus. Retracing their steps to the killing ground by the clearing next to the sandstone rock, they began the painstakingly slow removal of all trace of their passage westwards. Eagle Speaker took care to relocate the rock cache he had built for the small animals he had killed – two rabbits and two small grouse. He retrieved his shattered arrows and scattered the rocks in the pinyon forest, leaving one dead grouse for vultures to find and scatter their unmistakable presence over their tracks.
It was nightfall before they got close to the safe haven of their cave. Trailing Sky stopped and gave the small grouse call. Long Willow loomed out of the darkness, with her long gun leveled at them and her battle axe slung over one shoulder. She had stationed herself at a hidden juncture of the trail leading to their cave, ready for the worst. She had sensed the same foreboding that drew Trailing Sky out at dawn, but did not have her gifts of seeing. Trailing Sky whispered to her briefly what had happened. Long Willow nodded silently and beckoned them to go on to the cave while she checked that they had not been followed. She returned several hours later in the dark. They did not light a fire, wrapping themselves in blankets and animal skins for warmth. They humbly offered prayers for the three slain Apache scouts. They did not leave the cave for a week, surviving on dried berries, water and their scant supply of dried meat. Long Willow maintained a sharp vigilance during this time, her long gun trained on the trail far below. No-one came their way.