The Fiery Cross

Author: P Hana

Page 248

   

Oh God, oh God. . . .

Where are they?

IT WAS AFTERNOON of the next day before we managed to collect Brianna, Roger, and Ian and retire privately to Jamie’s study without attracting unwanted attention. The night before, the haze of fatigue, following on the heels of Ian’s sudden appearance, had combined to make almost anything seem reasonable. But going about my chores in the bright light of morning, I found it increasingly difficult to believe that the journal really existed, and was not merely something I had dreamed.

There it was, though, small, but black and solid on Jamie’s desk-table. He and Ian had spent the morning in his study, immersed in translation; when I joined him, I could tell by the way Jamie’s hair was sticking up that he had found the journal’s account either deeply absorbing, terribly upsetting—or possibly both.

“I’ve told them what it is,” he said without preamble, nodding toward Roger and Bree. The two of them sat close together on stools, looking solemn. Jemmy, having refused to be parted from his mother, was under the table, playing with a string of carved wooden beads.

“Have you read through the whole thing?” I asked, subsiding into the extra chair.

Jamie nodded, with a glance at Young Ian, who stood by the window, too restless to sit. His hair was cropped short, but nearly as disordered as Jamie’s.

“Aye, we have. I’m no going to read the whole thing aloud, but I thought I’d best start wi’ the bit where he’s made up his mind to put it all down from the beginning.”

He had marked the spot with the scrap of tanned leather he customarily used as a bookmark. Opening the journal, he found his spot and began to read.

“The name I was given at birth is Robert Springer. I reject this name, and all that goes with it, because it is the bitter fruit of centuries of murder and injustice, a symbol of theft, slavery, and oppression—”

Jamie looked up over the edge of the book, remarking, “Ye see why I dinna want to read every word; the man’s gey tedious about it.” Running a finger across the page, he resumed:

“In the year of Our Lord—their lord, that Christ in whose name they rape and pillage and—well, more of the same, but when he gets down to it, it was the year nineteen-hundred-and-sixty-eight. So I suppose ye’ll be familiar wi’ all this murder and pillage he’s talking about?” He raised his eyebrows at Bree and Roger.

Bree sat up abruptly, clutching Roger’s arm.

“I know that name,” she said, sounding breathless. “Robert Springer. I know it!”

“You knew him?” I asked, feeling a thrill of something—excitement, dread, or simple curiosity—run through me.

She shook her head.

“No, I didn’t know him, but I know the name—I saw it in the newspapers. Did you—?” She turned toward Roger, but he shook his head, frowning.

“Well, maybe you wouldn’t, in the UK, but it was a big deal in Boston. I think Robert Springer was one of the Montauk Five.”

Jamie pinched the bridge of his nose.

“The five what?”

“It was just a—a thing people did to call attention to themselves.” Brianna flapped a hand in dismissal. “It’s not important. They were AIM activists, or at least they started out that way, only they were even too nuts for AIM, and so—”

“Nuts? W’ere nuts?” Jemmy, picking the only word of personal interest out of this account, emerged from under the table.

“Not that kind of nuts, baby, sorry.” Looking around for some object of interest to distract him, Bree slipped off her silver bracelet and gave it to him. Seeing the puzzled looks on the faces of father and cousin, she took a deep breath and started over, trying—with occasional clarifications from Roger and me—to define things, and give a short, if confused, account of the sad state of the American Indian in the twentieth century.

“So this Robert Springer is—or was—an Indian, of sorts, in your own time?” Jamie tapped his fingers in a brief tattoo on the table, frowning in concentration. “Well, that corresponds wi’ his own account; he and his friends apparently took no little exception to the behavior of what they called ‘whites.’ I would suppose those to be Englishmen? Or Europeans, at least?”

“Well, yes—except that by nineteen sixty-eight, of course they weren’t Europeans anymore, they were Americans, only the Indians were Americans first—and so that’s when they started calling themselves native Americans, and—”

Roger patted her knee, stopping her in mid-flow.

“Perhaps we can do the history a bit later,” he suggested. “What was it ye read about Robert Springer in the papers?”

“Oh.” Taken aback, she furrowed her brow in concentration. “He disappeared. They disappeared—the Montauk Five, I mean. They were all wanted by the government, for blowing things up or threatening to or something, I forget—and they were arrested, but then they got out on bail, and the next thing you know, they’d all disappeared.”

“Evidently so,” Young Ian murmured, glancing toward the journal.

“It was a big deal in the papers for a week or so,” Brianna went on. “The other activist types were all accusing the government of having done away with them, so that stuff coming out of the trial wouldn’t embarrass the government, and of course the government was denying it. So there was a big search on, and I think I remember reading that they found the body of one of the missing men—out in the woods somewhere in New Hampshire or Vermont or someplace—but they couldn’t tell how he died—and nobody turned up any trace of the others.”

“Where are they?” I quoted softly, the hair rippling on the back of my neck. “My God, where are they?”

Jamie nodded soberly.

“Aye, then; I think this Springer may well be your man.” He touched the page before him, with something like respect.

“He and his four companions all renounced any association with the white world, taking new names from their real heritage—or so he says.”

“That would be the proper thing to do,” Ian said softly. He had a new, strange stillness to him, and I was forcibly reminded that he had been a Mohawk for the last two years—washed free of his white blood, renamed Wolf’s Brother—one of the Kahnyen’kehaka, the Guardians of the Western Gate.

I thought Jamie was aware of this stillness, too, but he kept his eyes on the journal, flipping pages slowly as he summarized their content.

Robert Springer—or Ta’wineonawira—“Otter-Tooth,” as he chose henceforth to call himself had numerous associations in the shadow world of extremist politics and the deeper shadows of what he called Native American shamanism—I had no notion how much resemblance there was between what he was doing, and the original beliefs of the Iroquois, but Otter-Tooth believed that he was descended from the Mohawk, and embraced such remnants of tradition as he could find—or invent.

It was at a naming ceremony that I first met Raymond. I sat up abruptly, hearing that. He had mentioned Raymond in the beginning, but I had taken no particular note of the name, then.

“Does he describe this Raymond?” I asked urgently.

Jamie shook his head.

“Not in terms of appearance, no. He says only that Raymond was a great shaman, who could transform himself into birds or animals—and who could walk through time,” he added delicately. He glanced at me, one eyebrow raised.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I thought so, once—but, now, I don’t know.”

“What?” Brianna was looking back and forth between us, puzzled. I shook my head, smoothing back my hair.

“Never mind. Someone I knew in Paris was named Raymond, and I thought—but what in the name of anything would he be doing in America in nineteen sixty-eight?” I burst out.

“Well, you were there, aye?” Jamie pointed out. “But putting that aside for the moment—” He returned to the text, laying it all out in the oddly stilted English of the translation: Intrigued by Raymond, Otter-Tooth had met with the man repeatedly, and brought several of his closest friends to him as well. Gradually, the scheme—a great, audacious plan, stunning in conception—“Modest, isn’t he?” Roger muttered—had been conceived.

“There was a test. Many failed, but I did not. There were five of us who passed the test, who heard the voice of time, five of us who swore in our blood and by our blood that we would undertake this great venture, to rescue our people from catastrophe. To rewrite their history and redress their wrongs, to—”

Roger gave a faint groan.

“Oh, God,” he said. “What did they mean to do—assassinate Christopher Columbus?”

“Not quite,” I said. “He meant to arrive before 1600, he said. What happened then, do you know?”

“I dinna ken what happened then,” Jamie told me, rubbing a hand through his hair, “but I ken well enough what he thought he was doing. His plan was to go to the Iroquois League, and rouse them against the white settlers. He thought that there were few enough settlers then, that the Indians could easily wipe them out, if the Iroquois led the way.”

“Perhaps he was right,” Ian said softly. “I’ve heard the old people tell the stories. When the first of the O’seronni came, how they were welcomed, how they brought trade goods. A hundred years ago, the O’seronni were few—and the Kahnyen’kehaka were masters, leaders of the Nations. Aye, they could have done it—had they wished to.”

“Well, but he couldn’t possibly have stopped the Europeans,” Brianna objected. “There were just way too many. He didn’t mean to get the Mohawk to invade Europe, did he?”

A broad grin crossed Jamie’s face at the thought.

“I should have liked to see that,” he said. “The Mohawk would have given the Sassenachs something to think about. But no, alas”—he gave me a sardonic look—“our friend Robert Springer wasna quite so ambitious.”

What Otter-Tooth and his companions had had in mind was sufficiently ambitious, though—and perhaps . . . just perhaps . . . possible. Their intention was not to prevent white settlement altogether—they were, just barely, sane enough to realize the impossibility of that. What they intended was to put the Indians on their guard against the whites, to establish trade on their terms, to deal from a position of power.

“Instead of allowing them to settle in great numbers, they might keep the whites bottled up in small towns. Instead of allowing them to build fortifications, demand weapons from the start. Establish trade on their own terms. Keep them outnumbered, and outgunned—and force the Europeans to teach them the ways of metal.

“Prometheus redux,” I said, and Jaime snorted.

Roger shook his head, half-admiringly.

“It’s a crack-brained scheme,” he said, “but ye do have to admire their League nerve. It might just possibly have worked—if he could convince the Iroquois, and if they acted at the right time, before the balance of power shifted to the Europeans. It all went wrong, though, didn’t it? First he comes to the wrong time—much too late—and then he realizes none of his friends have made it with him.”

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