Time of the Eagle

Time of the Eagle by Sherryl Jordan

Book: Time of the Eagle by Sherryl Jordan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sherryl Jordan
brought out, women began wailing; a high-pitched, trilling sound strange to me, full of a wild and frightening grief.
    People came running from all the tents, and a great crowd went down straightaway to the funeral ground. I lingered on the edge and watched for a while. Bizarre funeral rites they were, sickening to me. While Gunateeta chanted and prayed and limped around waving long trailing banners red as blood, men began chopping up the bodies of the dead. The birds were already there, waiting. Arms and limbs of the dead were cut up and the flesh stripped off and laid out on special stones for the birds to devour; but some of the organs and the bones were kept, wrapped in red cloths and buried with the heads on the far side of the ground, under pyramids of stones. Tall sticks stood in the stones, bearing funeral flags marked with prayers and sacred signs.
    I did not stay till the end, but went back to Mudiwar’s tent and sat by Kimiwe. That day there was no midday feast, and Kimiwe told me that people fasted on funeral days. She was talkative, cheerful, and healing so rapidly that I expected to go home very soon. In the afternoon Mudiwar and his family came into his dwelling. Many of the women were still weeping. Ishtok came and sat by me, his face solemn.
    â€œMy father is worried about the others in the healing tent,” he said quietly. “Gunateeta is in so much pain, she forgot half the prayers on the funeral ground. She is no longer being a good healer. It’s a serious matter for us.”
    Even as he spoke, the chieftain came over.
    â€œShinali woman,” he said. “Show me this healing you’ve done on my granddaughter.”
    It was the first time he had shown interest in Kimiwe’s healing, and as I obeyed I was aware of people gathering around us. While the chieftain examined her wounds, Kimiwe smiled shyly up at him. She said, calling him by the Igaal name for grandfather, “It doesn’t hurt anymore, Mor-bani .”
    â€œNo hurt at all, little one?” he asked gently.
    Kimiwe shook her head. “I want Avala to look after me all the time, Mor-bani , not the grumpy lady. I don’t like her.”
    â€œThen I shall have to go and see the grumpy lady, as you call our esteemed holy one, and hear her words on the matter,” said the chieftain, and then he went out.
    By this time there were many people gathered outside as well, talking quietly, their faces astonished and fearful. Straight to the healing tent the old man went, and the people followed, falling over themselves in their eagerness to see what would happen. I stayed behind and was binding Kimiwe’s burns again when Ramakoda came in.
    â€œAvala! My father’s calling for you. Come—now!”
    I hurried out, and he took my arm and almost dragged me to the healing tent. “My father’s gone in, even though it’s forbidden ground to him,” he said. “Name of Shimit, things are happening this day!”
    As we neared the healing tent the crowd parted to let us through. Then the entrance to the tent was in front of me, and I was choking in the smoke that poured out, pungent and suffocating. The chieftain’s shoes were in the entrance, where he hadkicked them off. From inside he called my name again, and he sounded angry. Ramakoda prodded me and I went in.
    Darkness and fetid heat engulfed me. I retched at the stink of human sweat, blood, urine, vomit, and suppurating wounds. The buzzing of flies filled the air. In a fire pit in the floor burned something earthy and foul, its fumes too stinking to breathe. I could hardly see but after a while made out the sick lying in their filthy clothes on the dirt floor. Many were moaning quietly, and some entreated the chieftain for mercy; others were silent, near death.
    Coughing a little, Mudiwar was standing on the other side of the fire, and Gunateeta was sitting near him, slouched over on a little stool. Noticing me, she jerked

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