Author’s Note: I ended up taking this entire prologue out of the final version of Falling From the Ground, but you can still read it here and get a little way back backstory. Enjoy!
Falling From The Ground: A Short Prequel
The Singing Bow
Branches lashed his bare arms and thighs. Each breath filled Kar’s chest with embers, but when finally he burst panting through the trees and felt the cool sand under his torn feet, peace blew over him with the breeze.
Behind him, Dul signaled the other hunters. Kar knew they had found him. It made him smile.
Hardly breaking his stride, Dul panted, “Your vision quest brings death to Lenapehoking! Obey the manetu! Destroy the bow!”
Kar felt its reassuring weight in his hands. Dul was a fool. This bow shot no arrows. Instead of one string, the singing bow had five stretched tight between its curved stone horns. And when Kar plucked them, the bow sung with a beauty to make him weep.
Full of fire, Kar reached the structure of huge, blue-gray blocks and climbed like a spider to the broad flat top that stretched toward the Great Water like the floor of a longhouse.
“Kar, please,”’ Dul begged from below. “In your youth do you not know what this place is? This longhouse was built by the manetuwak. It is a place of great evil, forbidden to us since before the time of our grandmothers’ grandmothers. To stand there is death!”
“Yet here I stand.” Kar smiled as he watched the mighty hunters tremble before the wall. He plucked the singing bow so its tones could sting their fear. “He That is Magnificent revealed himself to me, Dul. He bestowed this gift so that I might lead my people to serve Him.” The sunrise warmed Kar’s bare shoulders. “Have you not eyes, Dul?” Kar’s breath came in quick gulps. He trembled with excitement. “Grandfather Maple is a pathetic old man!”
Dul slowly approached the base of the wall. His hunters followed him, but Kar noticed how, in their fear, they kept their distance.
“Grandfather Maple is a great shaman!” Dul shouted up the wall. “He speaks with the voice of the manetu. Your insults will not please them.”
“Do not pretend to know what pleases the spirits!” Kar shouted down. His anger burned, but not for long. Kar closed his eyes until the giddy joy danced again from his chest to his cheeks. “I have seen He That is Magnificent, who is mightier, even than Kishelemukong the Creator, who is just another of Grandfather Maple’s lies! The Lenape will be powerful if we obey He that is Magnificent. You wish me to go back, so that a withered old man in a bearskin and a mask can murder me!”
“Grandfather Maple will remove the leaves from your eyes that block your vision.” Dul pulled his arms free from the two hunters who tried to hold him back. He hesitated at the base of the wall and then Kar watched him reach for the stones, cautiously, like the wall was a copperhead snake.
“You see, Dul, you can touch these stones,” Kar called from above. “We have been taught a lie. This is not the wigwam of the manetuwak. Evil spirits do not haunt this place. It belongs to He That is Magnificent. He welcomes us here so that we may serve Him. To stand here is not death. It is life.”
Kar watched Dul haul himself heavily up the stone blocks. On the sand below, the other hunters looked at each other, nodding and pointing. Timidly one and then another reached out to graze the wall with their fingertips. Once they saw that the stones were safe to touch, they quickly followed after their leader.
Kar’s feet did a small dance all on their own. Soon they will see.
When Dul reached the top of the wall, Kar had already backed away across the flat table of stones, far out of his reach. Nimbly, he climbed down the back wall and ran toward the edge of the Great Water, where an enormous stone lay supported by two others standing on their ends, forming a cave-like entrance into the long finger of rock that stretched into the Great Water. At the end stood another finger, this one as tall as a hill.
Inside the stone finger, the tunnel held a darkness that had never been scattered by the sun, but Kar had been down the path many times before, deep under the Great Water. He That is Magnificent is my eyes and my hands.
“Why must you enrage the spirits, Kar?” Dul’s voice echoed from the entrance above. Kar knew the hunters must have stopped, too afraid to follow him inside.
Kar felt the glee in his voice as the hot, damp, air filled his lungs to shout, “The manetu are just shadows of the mind.”
Dul sounded closer in the darkness, but his voice quavered, “Think of the Lenape!”
Kar only ever thought of the Lenape. Of leading them to greatness. “Those who follow He That is Magnificent shall rule Lenapehoking and beyond. Those who do not serve Him shall feed Him.”
Through the darkness, Kar ran through the winding tunnel to the last wall of the last room. His fingers knew where to find the stone stump as they had many times before. Kar fitted the base of the singing bow into the hollow at the top of the stone stump.
Kar heard the uncertain footsteps and frightened breath of Dul and his hunters groping the shadows behind him. Dul’s whisper slinked timidly, swallowed by the darkness. “Kar?”
Dul’s uneasy sounds spread warmth in Kar’s chest. “Your shaman is made of masks and rattles,” Kar felt the voice of crushing power that was not his own boom through him. “Now your path lies with me!”
Kar’s fingers plucked the strings of the singing bow exactly as He That is Magnificent had guided him in his dreams. The darkness filled with pale, blue light. Kar saw the hunters’ faces and he knew their hearts were frozen lakes of fear. This filled Kar with warmth.
With trembling, ecstatic fingers, Kar found the song in the five glittering strings of the singing bow. Its music made the wet air heavy with beautiful weeping and with glorious dread. Silent giggles of anticipation quivered his chest as Kar watched the last wall pulse with growing blue light that swirled in a mist around Dul and the other hunters. When they saw what lay beyond the wall, in their terror, they screamed and screamed. Warm tears flowed down Kar’s cheeks. It is so beautiful.