Bill Dugan_War Chiefs 04

Bill Dugan_War Chiefs 04 by Quanah Parker Read Free Book Online

Book: Bill Dugan_War Chiefs 04 by Quanah Parker Read Free Book Online
Authors: Quanah Parker
Tags: Fiction, Historical, Westerns
belongings lay scattered everywhere, bits of cloth charred at the edge, broken arrows, dried meat in piles in the dust.
    Here and there, Nocona saw the body of a dead horse, its belly bloated, its legs stiff as driftwood. And the flies were swarming around every bloated corpse, dog, horse and human being. Moving toward the ruins of a tipi that lay on its side, its buffalo skin covering charred to wavering sheets of ash, he bumped against a food basket. It fell on its side, and something moved. He thought for a moment that a scavenger of some sort had been hiding in the basket, but whatever it was stopped and lay still only a few inches from the overturned basket.
    He dropped to one knee for a closer look, leaning over the basket and peering at its contents. It took him a few moments to realize it was a human head, the black tongue swollen like rotten fruit in its mouth, the eyes hidden under a pulsing mass of insects.
    He gagged then, and his stomach emptied itself before he realized what was happening. Helay there in the dust, his body wracked by convulsions, and he knew that he had to find his own tipi, knowing that there was no point, knowing that any hope White Heron or Little Calf might have survived was foolish, but still, he had to see for himself. Getting to his feet again, he staggered toward the center of the village, his eyes darting this way and that, fixed dead ahead rather than on the wreckage all around him.
    He found where his tipi had been, and saw that it, too, had been overturned and burned. The hide covering was charred ash, the lodge-poles like black bones in the fading light.
    He found her almost at once, lying on her back. Her head, at least, had not been severed, but her buckskin dress had been torn, and her legs were splayed wide. Her throat had been cut, and her fists were clenched in the agony of her dying.
    He knelt beside her, his head falling to his chest. He didn’t want to look at her, but he couldn’t not. Steeling himself, he opened his eyes again, brought his fingers to his lips then reached to brush hers with the tips. An angry fly buzzed, landed on his hand for a second, and he swiped at it with his other hand, the sharp crack of the slap echoing off into the night, the mocking buzz of the unharmed insect darting past his ear for a moment then disappearing.
    He looked at the sky then and knew that everything he feared was becoming real. Thingshad to change, and kneeling there next to the body of his wife, the wreckage spreading around him all the way to the edge of the world, he no more knew how to change them than he knew how to fly.
    He would learn.
    But not before the Osage were made to pay.

Chapter 6
    May 1836
    E LDER JOHN PARKER STOOD on the rough wooden porch, his hands already dirty from morning work, although it was not yet eight o’clock. He looked at the sun a moment, then turned to holler back through the open door behind him.
    “Looks like another scorcher of a day, Granny. A little hellfire to keep us honest.”
    Mrs. Parker joined her husband on the porch, drying her hands on an apron. “Sometimes I wonder why we came here, John. The weather can be so unbearably hot. Lord knows, there’s not a whole lot to recommend this place.”
    “Never easy doing God’s work, Granny,” he said. “You ought to know that by now, if you know anything at all. Nobody ever said it would be easy work bringing the Good Lord to the heathens.”
    “And we have precious little to show for all that hard work,” she said. “You haven’t madeone convert in the year and a half we’ve been in this godforsaken place.”
    Parker shook his head. They had had this conversation a thousand times before. And deep down, he was almost as discouraged as his wife, but there was no way he was going to let her know that. “Come on with me a minute, Granny,” he said, reaching back and closing a big fist on her apron, then tugging her gently but firmly toward the single step down to the hard-packed

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