Without Wounds-Chapter 11- Crossing

Arriving at his sacred cave along the icy sea, Yuta began the prayers to select a proper birch tree for Deramo to continue his voyage across the Great Water. Yuta was silently contemplating,  for he had to create a new type of craft and he feared to offend the Great Spirit and his Ancestors. With dread,  Deramo hollowed out the canoe; he was headed again across the cruel and violent ocean.

Within the cave, Yuta created a coded message to his sons and daughters, providing them with gems and pearls gained from a lifetime of living on the sea. On a large piece of rawhide, he stringently reinforced that his sons and his daughters must continue the work of the Guardians. He had gone to the Mother Sea and had seen the Sickness of the Wigwam Canoes himself. He asked that his sons and daughters speak at the powwows for him asking that the trade of the Runner be enhanced to display the cache of Europa weaponry.  The sick Ships of Silver Hats must never touch the Land of the People. All of the Spirits of  Bears, Buffalo, Trees, Rivers, Lakes, Rocks, and even the Snows would leave, if the People allowed any Silver Hat Canoes.

He drew pictures of the horse and ask that Guardians search inside the White ships for a large dog like the llama of the Warm Water People. He showed that this animal should be allowed to roam among the People. He had seen the horse in his dreams and felt that it was another great power of the White Faces. He cut his long braid, wrapping it in a white deerskin for his beloved Bright Eyes. A signal that he had gone to the Ancestors and he wished her to walk with him.

He filled his pack with simple beads, turquoise and fine shells. He took many of the cross totems after finding one for himself, made of  finely carved teak. His heart burned within as he lay the cross beneath his totem. He stashed a few of the crosses. The others, he scattered into the bay as he turned to help Deramo complete the canoe.

They had argued over its construction. Deramo saw no purpose in the two sharp bottom blades nor the odd outrigging to one side. Yuta had explained that in heavy waves this stabilized the craft of warm water people. Even with the prayers, Yuta worried if it was an offense to invent new canoes?

Oh, Great Spirit
I hear your voice in the storms
your breath gives life to the fishes
hear me, I am unimportant and frail,
I need your strength and wisdom.
Bless this canoe so it may travel far
to a place beyond the red sunrise
May my hands respect all the creatures you make
make my ears sharp to hear your call.
Make me careful so that I may respect all equally
I submit this canoe as an offering to you
Let me learn the lessons you have
hidden in every flower and grain of sand.

 I Prepare a noble final song to go into clouds.

When my time comes

I am not filled with fear
for I shall return

and return to live my life again

Deramo heard the pitch and timbre change in the songs. He knew the low, odd keening of the Death Chant, he had heard it many times when disaster, death, and destruction had occurred to the People. He knew Yuta would say that this was the Way of The Spirits, but he had a new idea.

At the hot sun rest time, he pulled his bag of corn from his belt. He sorted out the colors onto a rock. “Yuta?” He showed him one yellow kernel among the many colors, swept his hands to show the breadth of the land. He named the kernel, “Deramo.” Yuta nodded. It was hard to stay awake after a full meal near the fire and Yuta was in no mood for more questions from Deramo. He was feeling old in his joints and pain in his teeth and he missed the medicines Bright Eyes administered to his shoulders.

“Yuta!” Deramo had spread corn again on a rock away from the others. All yellow kernels. Deramo lifted a beautiful multi-colored bit into the sky and with the sacred motion, he named it Yuta and placed it on a tiny canoe. He sailed the canoe through a tiny puddle and placed it with the yellow kernels. He spoke in Algonkin and signed with reverent gestures.

“Come with me over the Sea, My Beloved and Honored Adoptive Father. So that you may see Giant Dogs of my people.”

His moment of anger at Deramo’s disrespectful tone passed suddenly but the concept took some time as the men bickered over the details. This required prayer, fasting and cleansing on both their parts. Deramo smiled under his cloak. He knew Yuta wished more than anything to see horses.

Yuta took of sacred herbs and mushrooms and to hear voices of his Grandfathers. He felt the terror and the distinction of this Calling.  For three days he prayed and brought the visions. While Deramo tended to the fires, smoking cod from the Bay, he worried that he had asked too much of his father. Yuta emerged looking a bit worn and worried himself and wearing an ornately carved cross of teak over his Tortoise Shell. Yuta had joined the tribe of Too Many People.

His totem had told him that his new son could not survive the trip from the Inuit Lands, find the land and ice bridges, and get the Stories to The Far Away Leaders correctly. The Land of Too Many People must hear the decrees of the Grandfathers directly.

They made heavy parkas of wolverine; shoes of layered hides filled with feathers; pemmican from ducks, gulls, berries, maize; collected fire starting materials; made simple fishing nets. They found  clay smoldering pots with thick bases and old food cooking baskets from rubbish heaps. Yuta took old water bags to be filled with air to wear over their shoulders. The air bladders would keep their heads above water if… no, when the canoe capsized in heavy seas. Yuta left a handful of beautifully etched shell beads near the women’s working area as payment.

Deramo fussed, “Don’t we need more food? Do you know it takes at least two seasons to reach The Far Away Land? How we eat and should we not gather more fresh water? We need make sails and masts? How carry firewood on this tiny craft?”  His nerves were rattled by the simple supplies.

Yuta was ignoring him.

I seek strength, 

In other lands

I wrestle only with my worst enemy

I fight my greatest adversary

my own fears and sorrows.


Make me always ready to come to you
with unsoiled hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading summer,
my Spirit may come to you without disgrace.

He smiled, “My Son, I shall call you Ringed Squirrel for you always are gathering in fear of the cold of Winter.”

They plodded far to the north along a jagged coastline, where the trees began to thin and the ground was frozen in all seasons. Deramo wondered, did Yuta understand that one could not march all the way to Europa?

They were far into the freezing North Sea, Deramo knew by the movement of the stars. Sometimes they paddled the canoe through icing waters, other times pushed it across bumpy glaciers or light snow on the tundra. The waves were terrifying, some far worse than the hurricanes on his voyage but food was plentiful. Since they appeared to be merely one more beast swimming along the frost, fearless loons, plovers, and seals were simply snared as the two paddled past. Water was gathered from floating chunks of ice and defrosted in their water pouches. Deramo felt like an idiot instead of a learned man. The solutions were so simple.

Yuta would make short work of game, saving pelts, feathers, blubber, and bones. He stuffed the feathers into their boots and mittens, tucking the pelts along their necks and arms as the cold intensified. He used parts of the seals to waterproof their clothing and to add to their buoyancy when they were washed overboard into the subzero waters.

He built fires in the heavy clay bowls. They tended hot embers as they traveled adding fat, guano, dung, wood scraps, and bones. The embers heated round rocks that were placed into their food baskets to slow-cook stew. Sometimes, they would slide the heated volcanic rock into their mittens or boots for warmth, especially if they were drenched by waves. They rarely camped on the land as the intoxicating cooked meat scent drifted before them, alerting any human of their advance.

Sometimes they stopped for a time to rest on huge sheets of rough ice. Deramo shook his head. If only he had known these survival techniques during his long voyage. But their ability to use nature wisely is what made The People honorable.

Even on the islands of ice, Tribes lived. Yuta did not know all of the Tribe names nor their words. But gestures passed between them across the frosted waves. Greetings.  Peaceful passages wished. Directions given, without a loss of a single paddle stroke. The Algonkin Tribes were not always on good relations with some of the Inuit People. Yuta wasn’t willing to meet up with a hunting group. Occasionally they were required to offer up a token for safe passage or directions. Yuta had predicted this and left precious stones or beads near shores by huts of stone and sod. He feared less for these isolated people as he hoped the bitter temperatures killed the evil spirits of plague.

Wild, icy waves rushed over the canoe and put out fires in the clay chimneys again. Yuta quickly restarted the fires with fresh tinder and flint stones. Deramo pulled his air bladders closer. If not for the odd outrigging, the canoe would have tipped all their possessions overboard.

Possessions. As if these meager supplies could be called possessions.

For what must have been the hundredth time, Deramo rubbed his forehead. What were Europeans thinking? They had no business in these places. There were no foods that they enjoyed, no houses, no clothing, no gold, no horses, no chariots. In his Queen’s viewpoint he could summarize the last year in a few words: trees, grass, ice, fish, bison, trees.

Yet, the theme of the Azteca had become his own.  He believed if the vast Center Land was disturbed, a major interference might occur among the two continents. A global  tree burning or mass carnage, he had imagined.  Maybe burning of forests could obstruct movements of air that controlled, sea currents, fish swarms, or bird flocks. That was obvious in many countries of Europa that had denuded forests, laid waste of farmlands, and now people starved in dank, foul air, thick with the smoke of charcoal and peat.

They had time for language lessons for Yuta. Deramo coached Yuta in common phrases in fundamental Spanish, French, Italian, and Anglo. He wanted to be certain that Kings and Queens heard words regarding the Lands directly from the Native. He hoped that his logbook might reinforce the concepts. One that would not be popular in these countries.

Lepe Deramo worried as they swayed in the sickeningly rough sea; he tried to think of a place to land where Yuta would be safe and accepted. There were hostilities among the Tribes of Europa, too. He was glad that he had a few more months to ponder how to introduce Yuta. How to make him a valued member of Court? How would he be allowed to demonstrate Songs of the People and the intricate harmony of a vast realm?

The Queen had subsidized his voyage of exploration. It was to her that he owed his first allegiance, well, maybe his second. Yuta noted the frown and offered berry pemmican. “Hoo. Ringed Squirrel?”  Delectable and soothing. Yuta had put a relaxation herb in the hard biscuit. Deramo smiled at him and received a coy smile in return.

“My thanks to you, father and Earth Mother.” He said it aloud in three languages. They must adjust to speaking more and use the signs as secret codes between them, just in case things went sour. Something essential hinged upon this first meeting royalty. Failure meant the end of the Sacred Lands and Her Tribes. Progress of ships across the ocean would result only in destruction and conflict. The herb calmed his nerves and agitated stomach.

He suddenly realized that he felt too warm in his wolverine parka. He panicked. Was he becoming ill? Had he caught a plague in the cold? No, God, please. He clutched at his crucifix. Not when he was so near to Europa. Yuta nudged him fully awake.

“Squirrel, now where?” With his new and somewhat disarming smile, Yuta questioned in English, French and Spanish.  “I have reached the end of my knowledge of the ice lands. I am dependent on you, Son, to finish the journey.”

Shock rippled through Deramo. How was this possible? By the look of the shore and the constellations, they had arrived in Anglo Lands in less than two months. Yuta had used the icy islands as stopping points to a shortcut around the frozen top of the earth.

3 comments

  1. Let me try 1st comment again, I know it will not be as good. Loved the richness of details, I know the author but am amazed at the depth of knowlege of the tribes and geography. I rarely read anything but facts/hist. anymore. I simply couldn’t stop, kept thinking “just one more chapter.” The poetry/prayers added one more dimention. Thank you. For the record, I don’t often find things that are well written boring. I read the first part of Mitchner’s (sp?) books with interest.

  2. In addition to my prior comment I immediately wanted to read the next books–about the the white-faced people, how it went when they got to the country they were going to and the book about about the court of royalty and much much more.

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