The chief’s son was back. But there was no wild cheering for his return to the tribe. Word had gone on ahead. The whole village had turned out to welcome the son and his white-man friend.
The chief’s son who had turned to the white-man’s god. Caught in the act of betraying his brothers. Bringing a white-man to spy. The white-man who had slaughtered many braves.
Between two lines of hostile faces, the captives were led to the centre of the village. The silence was eerie. Bodie felt a knot in his gut. This couldn’t turn out good.
The silence was unnerving. Surrounded by hundreds of Sioux. Walked through a sea of hostile looks. Bodie felt their hatred boring into him. Drawn on a noose through their never-ending crowd.. a hopeless steer dragged to the slaughter-house. How many of their brothers had he shot? It didn’t take any imagination to figure out what they wanted done to him.
His captors had treated him badly. The ropes they used to tie him were pulled tight. Their eyes looking for the wince of pain. Slapped across his head .. a hard resounding slap that made Bodie’s blood boil, though nothing he could do about it but glare. Shoved and barged .. making clear their contempt for him. He had to expect that. They’d seen him shoot their brothers. There had to be bad blood.
On the walk down to the plain, though, only Bodie had been bound. Clearly they didn’t trust him. Or it was his build that had them intimidated? Still on his knees Jacob’s brother had ordered Bodie’s hands tied. Arms raised above his head, strong rawhide was twisted around crossed-over wrists. Pulled to his feet, more rawhide was looped through his elbows and pulled tight across his back. Digging his tight-bound hands into his belly.
When the braves retrieved their horses, it amused the young chief to fashion a noose out of Bodie’s own lasso. Taking it out on him .. they’d seen him shoot their own .. they wanted him shamed. Jacob’s brother handed the lasso over to a brave .. honoured to lead the white-man into the village, a noose around his neck. Like some tamed horse. The brave made the best of that honour .. showing the white-man his hate.
Only Bodie had been tied-up, though. For a while he thought he’d been sold out. Why hadn’t they tied Jacob up? Obvious reason .. he’d betrayed Bodie. This was a set-up. The chief’s son winning his way back in with the tribe. But, as Bodie stumbled along, hauled by the neck down towards the village, he knew that couldn’t make sense. Everything about Jacob said his conversion was sincere.
More likely, Bodie thought, they seemed to trust Jacob .. that he would not try to fight back or escape. He walked ahead of Bodie between the braves’ horses. Not tied, free. But closely guarded, his escorts either side like a cat about to spring. Jacob was just as much captive, Bodie realised. Just not tied. It was as if the Sioux all understood some code. Red Fox was facing up to his destiny. He was born Sioux – Jacob understood. He had a debt to pay. And it was like Jacob accepted he could not escape his destiny.
Walked past hundreds of hate-filled eyes. Tied, no chance of escape. And as they were walked on to the centre of the village, the lines closed-in behind them. Blocking off any chance of making a run for it.
“My father’s son has returned.”
No cheering or greeting. Stood in the midst of a hostile silence. The pair of them were surrounded.
“Bringing this white-man with him. Whose hot rifle has killed off many braves.”
Bodie had been keeping marauding Indians at bay as the workers slaved laying track under the hot sun and inched the new track further west .. through Indian territory. And inevitably getting closer to the Black Hills. The railroad company knew the hills were sacred to the Sioux nation. But still the track was driven on.
“Bringing the Iron-Horse to trample over our sacred lands.”
And the pair of them had been caught in the act. Jacob had been helping his new friends. Betraying his tribe to the White-men. Spying on his own people .. warning this hated enemy of his own tribe. Getting them ready to defend itself against his own people’s attack. An attack to stop the railroad committing sacrilege on sacred land. For tem, a complete act of treachery. Bodie feared the worst.
The young chief put the tribe’s anger into that single word.
“Betrayed his people. Betrayed his father. Betrayed his beliefs.”
With every word the chief was addressing the tribe. But his every look was only for the returning brother. Accusation fierce in his glare.
“Bringing the white-man with the hot rifle to spy on us. On his own people.”
Jacob could do nothing but stare him back.
“This white-man with his deadly rifle. Brought here to kill. Brought here by our brother Red Fox.”
Betrayal. Jacob knew he was doomed. And they’d not let him get away.
“Taking the white-man’s god for his own. Making the white-men his own.”
The chief spoke quietly .. almost in a whisper. But the words came out in a hiss.
“Red Fox is no more. His spirit will be cast from our earth.”
The chief paused. Bodie saw the man’s muscled chest rising and falling as he drew breath to calm down his anger. Still glaring at his brother, he spoke the sentence. A sentence of doom.
“With nightfall we light the fires ……”
➼ ➼➼ ➼ ➼ ➼ ➼➼ ➼ ➼