Monday, June 6, 2011

Party Excerpt, "DRAGON & HAWK"

Here is a taste of Dragon & Hawk:

Evan is recovering from injuries he suffered in the cave in--and fighting to break free of addiction to morphine...

July burned, hot and dry. Sometimes it seemed Evan became the Devil Himself. Nothing she did was right.
“Why can’t you learn English? I don’t understand all that Spanish. What the hell is ‘estay-darlay’?” He scowled at her one day.
Lo siento, señor Evan. Estedár means to stretch. You must stretch the muscles in your leg so the scar does not affect your walking. You’re limping again, unbalancing other parts of your back and ribs.” She worked with him, ignored his tirades.
“Why do you always make me hurt? I swear you enjoy seeing me in pain! Leave me alone.”
She shook her head. “One more set of exercises, then we go for the walk.”
“No! Damn you and your walks!”
There was a growl to his voice, a hint of resentment Reyna hadn’t heard before, and it gave her pause. A flash, a fleeting image of a dog impaled upon a sword—no, she chided herself. His frustration talks. He didn’t mean his words.
She smiled and lugged him down the stairs to head toward the livery stable. La gente de mi madre—my mother’s people, the Maya—tell of naguales, animal spirit guides in this world,” she began. “Every person has a naguale, according to his own spirit, or her own personality. Native people here call them ‘totems’.”
“And what would mine be, then?” he asked, still grumpy.
She studied Evan’s strong profile a moment. “A naguale retains that animal’s strengths and weaknesses. I’m not sure yet what yours is. ”
They reached the stables. His smile lit the sun when he saw his roan stallion in the corral. Evan rubbed the horse’s muzzle affectionately over the rail. The animal pushed his head against him, nudged him gently.
Reyna smiled to see their tender reunion. A good man treated animals as friends. Seemed appropriate that his horse was red.
“When can I ride?” he asked when they turned back.
She looked sideways at him. His cheeks were flushed, sweat dotted his brow. Tiny lines of pain furrowed the sides of his eyes. The limp was slight, but there. “Not yet,” she replied. “A few more weeks. Perhaps una bruja blanca  could help if we knew what your totem was, ask it to strengthen you.”
“What’s a ‘brew-ha’?”
Bruja is a woman, brujo—a man,” she explained. “A shaman. You would say, ‘witch.’”
Evan scoffed. “I don’t believe in witches.”
She shrugged. “Brujas can change into their naguale forms, go about as animals. Someone with a rabbit naguale changes into a rabbit, for example. So, be careful when you hunt. Talk to the animal first to be sure it doesn’t answer. Then can you be sure it’s not a bruja.”
Evan laughed. “But what language would you speak to it?”
“Matters not,” she said. “A bruja understands all when she is her naguale.” She saw in his smile he wasn’t sure if she was serious or teasing. Let him guess. At least he’d overcome his dark mood.

They walked a little farther through Bisbee each day, exchanging stories of their cultures. One muggy August morning, she told him of Cochise, Great Chief of the Nide. The county had been restructured and named to honor him only a few years before. “Nide, The People is what they call themselves,” she said. “‘Apachu is a Zuni word for ‘enemy.’ You could have no fiercer foe than to betray the Nide.”
“Ah,” he said, “The same could be said of DreigiauDragons of Cymru.”
“Dragons?” She turned quickly to him, concerned.
“Heard then of dragons, have you?”
Reyna slowly nodded. “Nide Creation legend tells of Dragón ViejoOld Dragon. A vile, baby-eating monster. Wise—and extremely evil.”
“Welsh dragons aren’t evil—well then, some were, mind. All were fierce, though—breathed fire, ate huge herds of sheep—oh, and the occasional maiden or baby now and then.” Evan laughed at her astonished, worried look. “’Tis myth, Señora, just stories. But the symbol of Cymru is the Red Dragon. That actually came from the Romans, mind you now, but another tale says two dragons—one red, one white—fought a duel to determine who would rule the land. The Red Dragon won, for it was born of the valleys of Cymru—that’s Wales—and loved the land so deeply it would rather die than live under the rule of the White.”
Evan lifted his chin, proud. “So the people of Wales are known by the Red Dragon, for we too are fierce and love our land deeply. Not evil, is it then? Wherever there are Cymry—that’s Welshmen—well, there Dragons be.”
She recalled Nide legend, and inwardly trembled. “Eres tú dragón—you are Dragon.”
He smiled. “Certain sure. Dw i’n waed coch cyfan CymroI’m pureblood Welsh.”
Her heart stopped, flipped, beat again. She was unsure if it was because his totem was terrifying, or because his eyes were bright, his smile mesmerizing. He spoke, but she didn’t hear his words for the pounding in her ears. She couldn’t catch her breath.
His bemused smile gleamed. “Señora, the story. What happened? The dragon?”
“Old Dragon ate every baby Woman had,” Reyna said, distracted. “She found a way at last to hide her last son, teach him magic until he grew big enough to hunt. The Boy tricked Old Dragon, killed him with four arrows. Old Dragon fell down a huge cañon, ]his bones now the boulders at the feet of the mountains.” She blinked, shook her head, trying to dispel her uneasiness.
He watched her closely, and it unnerved her. “Señora? I upset you with talk of dragons?”
She forced a smile. “No, of course not.” She didn’t want to tell him Dragón Viejo had been the fiercest enemy of her totem, Halcón. Hawk. No. His spirit guide couldn’t be malicious Old Dragon, not Evan. No, I refuse to believe it. Dragons of his land must be different creatures than the Ancient Ones. She remained quiet as they turned and headed back, speaking only when they reached the boardinghouse.
“You wish to return there, to this ‘Comb-ree,’ someday?” she asked as they climbed the steps.
“Yes, I do,” he replied. “Especially when here is hot and miserable like this. I miss the green valleys, trees, flowers, water flowing in little streams everywhere. Soon as I get the money for the passage, I’ll be taking my brothers home.”
An intense wave of loneliness surprised her, but she chose to ignore it. And also chose to forget her apprehension about dragons.

~Jude Johnson
 Author, Dragon & Hawk
Available from Champagne Books
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Maria said...

Thanks for the excerpt, sounds like a good story and very interesting with the native folklore and spirit guides!

Jean P said...

Great excerpt, so interesting hearing about different folklore.

Jude Johnson said...

Thank you Maria and Jean. There was so much more to the Old West than cowboys shooting everything up! :-)