Pocahontas slips out from the village in the early hours of the morning, sneaking away to see the pale faced devil who was invading the land. Looking for the strange glowing yellow discs. She doesn't understand they thought such things would be buried in the dirt. But, she thinks, maybe if she can make them understand, they can share the land. The forest is vast enough for a hundred different tribes.
Kocoum sighs and wonders when he became a baby sitter to Powhatan's daughter. She was beautiful, brave and strong willed. And a complete pain in his ass. He set out, intent on grabbing Pocahontas and returning back to the village. She's easy to track, her footprints set clearly in the earth, as if she'd wanted to be followed. It made him frown, because she knew better then that.
He hears the man before he sees him, crashing through the underbrush like a wounded bear. Talking to himself and slowly turning to look at the trees. It's obvious that he's lost. More obvious that the colour of his skin is pale, his hair a strange unnatural shade of red that Kocoum has only seen in the ocher found by the cliffs on the riverbank.
The warrior crouches in the shadow of a spruce, watches the man pass him, unaware of another human being not even five paces away. It's disgusting, the way they've shut themselves off from everything holy. He feels the tree against his palm, the dirt under his feet, the wind across his skin. All of them speaking to him, telling him that this one means no harm.
He can't argue with that, so instead of leaping out and striking, spilling the white mans blood into the dirt, he follows silently. Watching and waiting for a sign. The strange words fall on his ears, useless and harsh.
“Where could he have gone? I just saw him.” Thomas sighs and slouches against a tree. This entire forest looks the exact same. Every tree identical to the next, and for a moment he feels frightened that he'll never get out of here. The hair on the back of his neck prickles like someone is watching him and he whirls around.
Just his imagination. He stops, tries to get his heart to stop racing. But the feeling persists. Something is out there, watching him. He doesn't know how he knows. But at this moment in time it's like something changes, even the air feels different. Charged.
“Hello? Is someone out there?” Thomas' voice wavers and he clears his throat. “John? John, this isn't funny.”
Nothing. Not even the air stirs.
Thomas takes a step backwards. He never should have come out here alone. He could be back at the camp right now, still huddled on his cot under his blanket. But the Governor wanted to see John, talk to him about the savages they'd shot earlier in the week, and Thomas had been the one sent to find him.
Thomas figured John had gone off to see the native girl he'd been introduced to a few days prior. Pocahontas or something like that. Strange name, though it suited her. It seemed untamed, wild even. The feeling of someone watching him increased and he turned in a slow circle. He didn't even have a gun for Christ sakes.
What if it was some sort of wild animal? Or worse. One of the Savages they kept hearing about. Ben Lipton told stories of men who were taken from work camps on raids, throats slit and hair shaved off. He called it scalping. It sounded like a terrible way to die.
Kocoum stays motionless in the shadows, barely breathing. The man whirls around and seems to look right at him. But he showed no signs that he's seen Kocoum. Just calls out again in that strange language, voice wavering in fear like a child afraid of the dark.
Wind rustles through the grass, blowing through the leaves on the trees. Telling him to bring this one back alive. Kocoum listens. Bad things happen when one ignores the spirits. He waits until the pale face has turned, looking into the dark parts of the forest opposite him.
He stands, moving swiftly and silently until he's behind the white man. One strong blow to the back of the head has the man crumpled to the ground and drooling on the dirt. He won't be out long, Kocoum didn't hit him that hard. But for a moment he worries that this pale creatures is as fragile as he looks.
Wind scrapes nailess fingers across his skin and he obeys. He drapes the man across his shoulders like a deer, though he weighs less then Kocoum would have imagined. He seems to be skin and bones, hardly any muscle on his skinny frame.
Kocoum takes a moment to curse the spirits for dumping this paleface in his path when he had other duties to attend to. But Pocahontas will return to the village, of that he's certain. For now he'll take the white man to Powhatan, let the Chieftain decide what to do with him.
Thomas comes to halfway back to the village. He's woozy and it takes him a moment to realize that he's being carried through the forest. He catches a glimpse of black hair cut into the strangest, most terrifying style he's ever seen, and a face that seems carved from granite.
Thomas stays silent and wonders if anyone will even notice he's missing until John comes back to the work camp. Ben Lipton constantly talks about these people, how savage they are, exploiting any sign of weakness from their enemies.
Thomas prays that his death will be fast, and that they'll tell his young wife back home that he died a hero.
“Why did you bring this pale face to me?” Powhatan asks, looking down at the boy kneeling in front of him. “Did the spirits tell you to bring him?” Kocoum remains silent, he hates admitting that he can hear the spirits as clearly as any shaman. His silence is an answer in its self and Powhatan turns to the woman at his side. She looks as ancient as the earth, though she is anything but fragile and Kocoum can remember having his ear twisted many times by her in his youth “What can you see?”
Alawa crouches and unfolds a piece of deer hide, worn soft over time. She dips her hand into a pouch on her hip, coming out with a handful of smooth river rocks. She tosses them gently onto the deer hide and puffs at her pipe for a few moments. She looks up at Kocoum, face solemn, amusement dancing in her eyes.
“Wind favors him.” Alawa remarks casually and Powhatan glances down at her, both aware that wind also favors Kocoum. “He is a rare one. A two-spirit tied to another, denying what he knows is truth.” Kocoum stayed silent, pondering at the words that made little sense to him. “His journey is a long one, for both him and the one he is tied to. It will not be easy, but it will bring favor and prosperity to us all.”
“The fates have spoken.” Powhatan says softly. “He cannot go back.”
“It would be easy enough to-” Kocoum is cut off by Powhatan, who's tone of voice leaves no room for argument.
“He knows where this village is. He stays here. You have brought him here, a thoughtless action that could have cost many lives. He is your responsibility from this day on. Teach him our ways, show him to respect the earth. How to speak in our tongue.”
Kocoum gives a tight nod and dragged the pale face to his feet. He would hold his tongue, for fear of saying something he would regret.
“You should feed the boy.” Alawa says, teeth clamped around her pipe. “He looks hardly more then skin and bones.” Kocoum grunts in what passes for agreement and pushes back the fur in front of the door. He shoves the pale face outside and heads for his sister's house, where he knows he'll find something cooking on the spit.
Thomas had been sure he was going to die when he'd been dragged into a small hut and shoved onto his knees. Sure he'd be held down and scalped, but there was only talking in a language he didn't understand.
The old woman stones on a scrap of deer hide, then smiled at him in a way that made him feel safe despite the surroundings. More talking. The older man sounded grave when he spoke, though amusement shone through his eyes.
He had no idea what was going on, and it wasn't until the savage that had knocked him out in the forest pulled him up from the floor that he started worrying again. Of course they wouldn't kill him in here, too private. They'd want to kill the white man in full view of the entire village. Hundreds of people jeering at him like the public executions back home.
Before he could say anything, attempt to plead for his life, he was dragged off. Pushed outside where he blinked into the sun. A moment passed and Thomas wondered if he should attempt to run. He glanced at the tree line, measuring the distance with his eyes. But before he could even turn himself in the right direction he was being shoved forward. A huge hand wrapping around his bicep and dragging him forward until he was pushed him down in front of a fire.
A woman sat across from him, turning a large piece of what looked like venison on a spit so it didn't burn. She looked up at the savage and then back at him, and Thomas imagined that this must be his wife. She was beautiful, in a wild way and he glanced away, embarrassed..
The dress she was wearing covered very little, and though he'd conceived a child with his wife, he could count on one hand the number of times he'd seen her naked in front of him. She smiled at him and cut off a large chunk of venison, handing it to him over the fire.
He looked down at the meat in his hands and then back up at the savage who rolled his eyes and mimed eating. Were they going to feed him before they killed him? His stomach growled loudly, reminding him that he'd had little more then hard tack and salted cod the night before.
The savage mimed eating again and Thomas took a bite. If they were going to kill him, he might as well go out with a full stomach.
Awenita smirked at Kocoum. The glower he shot her did little to quell her smirk. They'd been raised in the same home after her parents had been killed in a raid. Raised as siblings. Others in the village saw him as a warrior, one of the best hunters. She still saw him as the annoying ten year old that had pulled her hair and put snakes in her bed.
The pale man looked at her, then blushed and looked away. It was amusing to saw the least, more amusing when Kocoum had to show him that the meat in his hands was food. She could foresee a time of great teasing. Mocking her brother for suddenly becoming a mother hen for this strange pale man. She clucked at him.
“Hold your tongue.”
“The last time you told me to hold my tongue, I made you eat dirt.” Awenita smiled serenely and turned the venison on the spit so it didn't burn. “The boy looks terrified. He probably thinks you're fattening him up so we can cook him.” Kocoum glanced down at the man, who did indeed look frightened.
“Where did you find him?” Awenita raises an eyebrow at her brother who ignores her in favor of making sure the white man finishes the entire piece of venison. “Is this like the otter with the broken paw?” Kocoum glares at her and she grins. “It's good you're taking care of the pale face. I don't think he'd survive on his own. He's just skin and bones.”
“Awenita.” Thomas jerked, nearly dropping his venison. The woman was looking directly at him. He blinked at her and she repeated the word, patting her chest. It could have been any word, but he had a feeling she was trying to tell him her name.
“A-won-ita.” He repeated, trying to get the inflection down properly. She smiled and nodded, then pointed to the man looming over him.
“...Ko-ko-um.” The man grunted and Thomas shifted away slightly. At least he had a name to go with the face now. Awenita pointed to Thomas. “Thomas.”
“Yes. That's very good.” He smiled, wondering how fast he could teach her to speak English. She seemed to be bright. He could teach her to become civilized. Like a proper English woman. It cheered him up to think of it, like a special project.
“He seems smart. I wonder how fast we can teach him to speak properly.” Awenita said, still smiling at Thomas who smiled back
“He's not a dog you can teach to sit.” Kocoum snapped.
“No, he's a pale face. Less then a dog. But if I can teach a dog to sit, you can teach a pale face how to speak our language.” Awenita sliced a thick hunk of venison off the spit and handed it to her brother. “You might as well eat now. You won't have much time watching this one. He's quiet now, but I have a feeling he won't stay this way for long.” Already Thomas was looking at the tree line like he was getting ready to bolt.
The sun sinking beyond the tree line when Pocahontas stepped back into the village. Nakoma rushed to greet her, face lit up with an expression that the Chieftain’s daughter knew meant gossip. She hid a wince and hoped it wasn't anything to do with John. She'd been sneaking out of the village to meet with him for more then two week now, and she was more then a little surprised that no one had noticed yet.
“Where have you been?” Nakoma asks, gripping her arm tightly.
“I was with Grandmother Willow.” It's an excuse that very few people ask about. Alawa will give her the look that always make her flush, feeling like a child again. And Kocoum usually seems to know when she's lying. It's a little annoying to say the least. “What's happened?”
“Kocoum found a white man in the woods.” Pocahontas holds her breath, she'd only left John an hour ago, plenty of time for Kocoum to follow her even though she hadn't seen him all day. She had the feeling her father would have married her off to him years ago if he wasn't two-spirit. “He's in the village now.”
Pocahontas rushed off, leaving Nakoma standing alone. The girl rolled her eyes and set off after her friend. The white man was too skinny to be anything but funny to look at. But what did she know about such things, maybe Pocahontas liked skinny white men, it would explain a few things about where she went every afternoon.
“Thomas?” She knew that strange shade of ocher-red hair. She'd met the man before, he'd been with John out in the forest. Looking for the wild onions and tubers she'd shown John how to find before. Thomas had been polite and kind, easily flustered when she'd smiled at him.
“Pocahontas?” He blinked at her. “What are you doing here?”
“This is my village. What are you doing here?”
“I was looking for John. The Governor wanted to talk to him. I got lost, and then he snuck up behind me and knocked me out. Next thing I knew I was here. I don't know what's happening. Is he going to kill me? Because if he is, can you ask him to make it quick.” Thomas points at Kocoum who's watching them talk with quickly narrowing eyes.
“You knocked him out?” She turns to Kocoum and nearly flinches at his expression. It's blank, which might be his default, but his eyes are darkly furious.
“Your father has charged me with your care. You've been leaving the village for two weeks and the lies about fishing and berry picking are getting old. I came across him in the forest.”
“So you dragged him back here?” If she can just get his attention away from her leaving the village, keep it on Thomas. “He's not a spy if that's what you're thinking.”
“He's a pale face.” It was the one belief Kocoum stood by, and though he would have been upset to hear it, it was the same belief he shared with John Smith. If the skin colour was different, the other person was an uncivilized savage. It had frustrated her, trying to get through to John that she wasn't ignorant.
That her people considered him to be the savage, uprooting trees and covering streams in dirt. Slaughtering animals, not to eat or for their furs, but simply to say they had killed them.. And all for what? Some strange golden disc that glowed like the sun? She felt the anger at him and his people rise up and pushed it back down. Anger wouldn't help Thomas.
“Of course they can be trusted. They're people, even if their skin is a pale.”
“They killed my warriors while we watched them kill the land. They aren't people. They're worse then animals.” Kocoum's voice was quiet, but she could hear the hatred in it. It worried her, for John's sake as well as Thomas'.
“And yet this one still lives.” Pocahontas lifted her chin in indignation, daring Kocoum to contradict her. To tell her he was only alive because of her father's disapproval.
“To kill him would be to anger wind.” That took her by surprise. It wasn't often Kocoum admitted that he could hear the spirits. He was one of the few males in the village that could hear them as strongly as she could. If wind was protecting Thomas, it meant he was guarded by the same spirits that favored Kocoum. They were matched, by forces stronger then even the strange metal rope John had shown her.
Goosebumps ran up her arms at the thought. She had wondered if she and John were matched, but none of her spirits said so. None besides Grandmother Willow even acknowledged his existence next to her.