The night Nuva was born was like too many other nights that
across the land shrieking like a spirit come face to face with Masau,
God of Death, himself. But
it was barren, as all the winds that season had been.
It brought the cold, but no snow, not even a cloud to shadow the mesas. A
Tiyo huddled against a
juniper trunk where he could keep a wary eye out for
coyotes and cursed. The wind meant a miserable night and most likely his uncle's
wrath the next day. Mana, fat as a cow though she was only a goat, had been restless
all afternoon, and Tiyo was sure she was ready to kid, goats always
the worst weather for birthing.
Her babies would have rough going in this cold.
if they died, his uncle would probably blame Tiyo, as if it
were his fault that Mana had
bred late and had to kid in the fall when
the wind blew endlessly, sucking the life from
Tiyo's eye caught a motion
among the goats bedded down in the hollow. His hand
tightened around his
bow. But it wasn't a
coyote. Mana bleated and
struggled to her
feet then sank back to the ground, as if Tiyo's very fears of her kidding had brought
pass. Grabbing his
bundle of rags, he ran to her side.
Now his uncle's best
goat--she usually had triplets--would probably lose her kids
even her own life to the cold. If
he had been closer to home, he could
have sheltered her in the goat pen
that sat below Second Mesa. He
could have run
up the twisting, rocky trail to the village on top, to his uncle's house on the plaza,
and sought help.
But there hadn't been any grass or forage within a day's journey
of the mesa since the snows
stopped coming, and it seemed that every day Tiyo
took the goats farther from home.
Still, his uncle expected
miracles and Tiyo wished with all his heart that he
could provide one. He didn't want to see the anger twist his uncle's face or
the words spat out like rattlesnake venom. Hear him ask, to anyone within earshot,
why he had to be burdened
with such a clumsy child, too young to be any use,
why Tiyo's mother
couldn't have raised her son before she died.
Mana heaved, breaking her
water, and the first kid came sliding out. Tiyo rubbed
at it furiously
with a rag. Hadn't his
uncle known that Tiyo's mother had had no
choice, that when Masau called
there was no refusal? Tiyo
wiped the kid dry and
felt the inside of him chill the way it always did
when he thought of his mother. He
had shed no tears the day he had helped carry her body to the crevice
and cover it
with stones, but the cold he carried within made the wind
now seem warm by
A second kid followed and
then a third. He dumped the
bundle of rags over one
while he dried the other, racing against the
wind's deadly bite. Finally,
they were dry.
He tried to coax Mana to her feet so that the babies
could nurse. But Mana wouldn't
"Get up!" he said
angrily. Couldn't she hear
her babies crying as they shivered
in the cold?
Then he saw it. Another kid, a fourth, slid to the ground, bloody and still.
he thought, but instinctively picked it up, wiped its face
and blew gently into its
With a snort and a shudder, it began to breathe.
Mana struggled to her feet
and nuzzled her babies, calling to them in urgent,
throaty tones while
they bobbed underneath her thrusting for milk.
Tiyo held the last born in
his arms. A doe, so tiny
that with her long Nubian ears
she looked more like a rabbit than a
goat. He knew what his uncle would want.
He'd want her dressed out and in a pot of boiled corn before
"Puny," he'd say.
"She'll only rob the milk from the strong ones.
And there was no milk to
spare, Tiyo knew. Not while
the Cloud People ignored
their prayers and the land lay gasping for
The doe trembled in his arms
as he fingered the handle of the knife at his side.
But then she suddenly cried out and nuzzled him, and he was
undone; the cry was
too close to a human infant's.
Releasing the knife, he rooted through the pile of rags
clean one and rubbed her dry. He
pulled away one of the other kids and gave
her a turn at Mana's teat.
Finally, Mana lay down heavily and the other three kids crowded
the little doe inside his shirt and eased to the ground, bending over
Mana and her kids to use his back as a windbreak.
Suddenly tired, he forgot about
coyotes and wind and even about
his mother, and fell asleep.
The silence woke him, the
silence and the sun on his back. He
sat up, stiff and
disorientated, jolting the little doe awake so that
she cried out in a high, plaintive
The other kids wormed out from under him.
Mana lumbered to her feet,
and the kids began competing on wobbly
legs for her milk.
He put the little doe on the
ground to try her legs. She
was pure white and her
coat glowed in the light of the rising sun.
Watching her stagger about, the only
white against the dull
browns and greens of the desert, he named her.
To the west,
he could see the sacred mountains that his people
peaks--but they had not been
white once in the last three winters.
So he named the little doe
for his heart's desire, for his people's desperate need.
He called her Nuva, snow, and plotted to hide her from his uncle.
Tiyo was sitting by the goat pen, a stone and stick enclosure
built at the base
of Second Mesa, when he saw someone on top start down
the trail that wound its
way to the bottom.
Maybe it was his uncle coming to check on the herd.
the village houses, made of the same white and tan
limestone that formed the bulk
of the mesa, blended so well with the
dusty brown rock as to be almost invisible.
Every four days, Tiyo brought
the goat herd in for a night so that the villagers
could add some milk
to their corn and beans. They
would be adding some meat,
too, this time, butchering the weak and the
sick. Better in a pot of corn than in a
coyote's stomach, but the
winter had been hard and the weak were beginning to
strong. Another year
without rain and Tiyo doubted that there
would be any herd at all.
What would his grandmother
have thought of that? She
had started the herd
from three does and a buck left behind when an
Anglo family fled the reservation
at the beginning of the war that
emptied the world. She was only a child then, but somehow she and the goats had
fought their way through the long years of sickness
Bahana goats, the villagers called them, because they had
the Anglos, but his grandmother had always insisted that they
were purebred Nubians,
the best milkers of any breed.
When she died, just three years ago, there were over
in the herd and the villagers had long since learned to depend upon the
yogurt and cheese they produced.
Tiyo sat while Nuva slept
curled beside him, her head on his leg, and watched the
trail until he
recognized his uncle. He
must have run all the way down the mesa, for
when he trotted up to Tiyo,
he was panting from the exertion. "You're
on top, Rainmaker," he said between gasps. "In the kiva."
Tiyo winced. What had he done? His
uncle only used that name when he was
angry--an insult to Tiyo's mother
and her far-flown ideas.
He jumped to his feet, rousing Nuva.
"Tiyo's dog" the villagers called her because
followed Tiyo everywhere, never straying from his side.
There had been some
anxious times for Tiyo at first, those days
just after Nuva's birth when he had watched
for his uncle, hearing his
footsteps in the rattle of every breeze. But his uncle hadn't
come on the first day or the next, and
while Tiyo waited, Wuuti, the old doe, delivered
and lost her kid.
When his uncle finally showed up, on the fourth day after Nuva's
birth, Tiyo was able to pass the little doe off as Wuuti's.
"She had twins, uncle,
but only this one lived," Tiyo told him.
His uncle scowled as he
watched Nuva guzzling milk from Wuuti's teat.
by the size of that one," he said.
"That doe's getting too old."
But he had accepted
the story, and the Nuva had thrived on
Wuuti's milk and Tiyo's love.
"You'd better not take
that goat into the kiva," his uncle now said sourly.
might end up on the altar. On the altar and then in the
chief's pot." He gave
laugh and Tiyo winced, then stroked Nuva's neck.
"What does he
want?" asked Tiyo.
His uncle spat into a
greasewood bush, which Tiyo imagined was grateful for
"What does anyone want
these days? A miracle.
A way to stay here and not
be dead by the end of summer.
But what he wants you for, I don't know.
sure he does. Masau
should have called that old man to the underworld a long time
Sometimes I wonder if they aren't working together -- Masau lets
the old man
live in exchange for his keeping all of us here to
Tiyo stared. How could anyone think that the old chief was a two-heart, a
who traded others' lives for his own?
"Well, I'm not going to
stay here and dry up till I die," said his uncle, easing to
ground with his back to the sun. If there's no water here, there's got
to be water
just have to go find it."
"Or find the renegades
instead," said Tiyo.
"Better that than starve
to death." He waved a
hand toward the trail. "You'd
better get up there."
Tiyo started up the trail,
Nuva on his heels. Near the
top, a spring dribbled out
into a little pool.
He stopped as he always did to get a drink, cupping the water in
his hands and averting his gaze, lest a water serpent catch his eye,
enchant him, and
rry him down to the underworld.
But this time when he dipped his hand, his fingers
came up muddy.
The pool had shrunk to a puddle and the spring's dribble to a
damp patch on the rock.
The top of Second Mesa seemed
to Tiyo like the top of the world.
beneath seemed to stretch endlessly under the hard
blue sky, broken by protrusions
of red rock and distant flat-topped
mesas. To the west stood Nuvatukya'ovi,
without its coat of white.
Tiyo left Nuva by the
entrance of the kiva, worrying some after his uncle's talk
in pots, and climbed down the long ladder alone.
The chief sat at the other
end of the dark, oblong room. No
fire had been lit.
Tiyo crossed over to him and sat on the dirt floor beside him, in front
of a sand painting and some prayer feathers.
"I've come as you asked,
grandfather," said Tiyo, giving him the traditional title
The old man turned and faced
him, gentle eyes in a ancient, sunken face, and
preliminary: "Let me
tell you a story."
This was the last thing Tiyo
expected. The time to tell
stories was during the
cold moon before the winter solstice.
That was when all were supposed to tread
lightly on the earth and
let it rest, and so the people gathered in the kiva and listened
stories that recounted their history.
But winter was loosening her grip now
and the season for
storytelling was over. So
why one now?
The old man began it in the usual way, his voice almost chanting.
"A long time ago there
lived a man. We have forgotten which mesa he came from."
The old man paused, the
sadness in his eyes reminding Tiyo that before the
war, his people had
lived on all three mesas, each group with their own stories to
Now, the few that were left struggled together on Second Mesa, pooling
their stories but often forgetting the sources.
"The man belonged to the
Tiyo's heart sank. So that
was what this was about.
"The village leader came
to this man and said: 'Our best spring is dying.
need a rainmaker to carry the transplanter jar to a living
spring and fill it there with
Then he must return, running the whole way without stopping, and
jar in our spring, so that the living water can take root and
renew it." The old man
"Yes," said Tiyo.
The traditional response.
"The leader said to the
man: 'You have lived a pure life for four years. Will
be that rainmaker?' The man agreed, and after many prayers and
ceremonies in the
kiva, he was ready to go."
"Yes," said Tiyo.
"Four days he ran, as
fast as he had strength to run, until he reached the spring.
He offered his pahos to Paloloqang, the serpent that owned
the spring, and said:
these prayer feathers, O Paloloqang, and let me fill my jar, that this
might bring life to our spring at home.
And send us clouds that we might have rain."
"He stayed by the
spring, resting for the journey home. On the fourth day, he
to the serpent and filled the jar.
Then he began to run. He
must make the whole journey without stopping."
"Yes," said Tiyo.
"But on the way back,
the rainmaker came across some evil men.
cried, 'a rainmaker.' The men beat the rainmaker; they grabbed the jar and drank
water from it. Then they taunted him saying, 'We are still thirsty.
If you are a
rainmaker, where are the clouds? Where is the rain you are supposed to bring?
Our springs are dry and we
"Yes," said Tiyo.
"The men beat the
rainmaker until he fell on the ground thinking surely he would
his people would die, too, for he had lost the living water.
He stretched out
on the ground and began to pray.
He begged the Cloud People to hear him; he asked
People. Finally, he called
on the serpent, Paloloqang, to bring rain and
save him. Even as he
asked, a cloud formed above the men.
It was small at first, but
it quickly grew until it was dark with
anger. The cloud poured its
wrath upon the
men, torrents of water falling from the sky, until they
all washed away in the flood."
"Yes," said Tiyo.
"Except the rainmaker.
He was unharmed. But how could he return to his village?
The water had been lost.
Sadly, he picked up the transplanter jar, expecting it to be
empty, and found to his surprise that it was full.
But would it still work? As
wondered, the cloud took the shape of a serpent. 'Take the water and return,' said
For it is my water.' Then
the rainmaker took the jar and ran
back to the mesa without
"Yes," said Tiyo.
Beaten almost to death, but he ran back to the mesa?
was this leading?
"There he planted the
jar in the spring, and soon it had new life; it was no longer
"Yes," said Tiyo.
He waited for the old chief to go on.
But the old man sat
silent, limbs trembling, eyes closed for a
At last, he looked intently at Tiyo. "Your mother said she
belonged to the
So that was it, after all.
Tiyo felt his face heat up in shame.
grandfather, that the rainmaker clan died out a long time ago. Before the Bahanas,
way back, even before the Spanish first came to the mesas."
"There were still people
of the rainmaker clan at the time of the Spanish," said
"Your mother said that one of them, a young woman, was
the Navajos. She
passed her clan line on to her daughter and her daughter's daughter,
so on, until, in the times of the Bahanas, the daughters of this clan rejoined the
"I know what she said,
grandfather." Had she
ever talked about anything else?
"Tiyo," she used to say whenever he disobeyed,
"You carry my blood, you carry
my clan, the rainmaker clan passed through generations of women."
And when he'd
slip into her lap for a hug, she used to whisper in
his ear, "It's been prophesied:
will live to see you bring rain to your people." But she hadn't seen it, she had died.
Tiyo scratched at dirt floor
of the kiva, trying to ease the anger out of his voice.
"If my mother were right, why didn't my grandmother or
kinship in the clan?"
"How do you know they
didn't? The clan passed in
secret from mother to
"All those generations?
I don't think it could happen."
Another long silence.
Then the old man said: "I
believe your mother."
"What does it matter?
If the clan somehow survived, it died when she died."
thought of his mother, bent over the grindstones or filling the green corn leaves
with sweet corn pudding as she sang the old songs. Always
working, even through
the pain at the end, but no one seemed to remember
that. Only this crazy idea that
she couldn't leave alone. He felt the
cold inside him grow. "She's
dead," he repeated.
the clan with her."
But the chief didn't seem to
hear him. "Our best
spring is dying," he
said in a
remote voice. "I need a rainmaker to bring it water from a healthy spring,
the life back into it."
His uncle was right, thought
Tiyo. The old chief was
lost in dreams, unable to
help his people.
This time Tiyo couldn't hide his anger.
"If you want to save your
people, move them to a place with water. A place where the corn will grow."
"I hear your uncle's voice through your lips."
The old chief spoke calmly, but
he choked on the last of his words and coughed violently.
"Your uncle thinks I'm a
two-heart," he said when he got his breath back. "But
this body gives me no joy any more.
Only pain." He smiled sadly. "Your
doesn't know how much I'd like to die before I hear of another
villager dead, before
I see the land thirst another day under the
rainless skies, knowing my prayers have
failed and my people have lost
His hand grasped Tiyo's arm,
and Tiyo felt its weakness as it trembled against
"We will all die here if we don't get rain this season.
But there is nowhere
else to go.
The clouds have forsaken the world, Tiyo, and the sun is drying
it up. I
know. I have seen
Had he seen it? Tiyo
wondered, or had the gods abandoned the old man, leaving
memories of the powers he once held? The old man's hand shaking against
his own arm drained Tiyo's anger, but he found no hope in the old man's
so, grandfather, what is the use of a transplanter jar? All the springs will be
"When I saw the vision
of the dying world, I saw a spring flowing sweet and
strong. The great
water serpent, Paloloqang, swam there, calling to the clouds as
calls her lover. The spring
was where the two rivers meet, the large and
the small, near the bottom
of the world.
Tiyo knew of it, the place
where the two rivers met. Before
the war, his people
had made regular pilgrimages there.
It was a long hard journey, four days at least,
treacherous descent to the bottom of the great canyon.
A journey one could
easily die on.
Another round of coughing
racked the old man's body. "You
make the choice,
Rainmaker," he said hoarsely. "Take
the transplanter jar and fill it where the two
rivers meet, or go with
those who are leaving the mesa."
Tiyo sighed. What good were choices when neither of them held out any
Did the old man
actually think Tiyo could make the journey alone?
But the chief sat
waiting, and Tiyo's skin burned from the old
"My mother was wrong,
grandfather," Tiyo said finally.
"I'm no rainmaker.
I'll do as you ask."
Planting season was only a moon's cycle away by the time Tiyo was
leave. He had
spent much of that time in the kiva, learning from the old chief the
ceremonies and secrets he would need to accompany him on his journey.
learned, too, how to make and bless the pahos, the prayer feathers that he would
take to Paloloqang.
When he wasn't in the kiva,
he was running, Nuva bounding beside him--up
and down the mesas, over
jutting rock and through the soft, gripping sand--
conditioning his body
for the grueling ordeal ahead.
The rest of the time, it
seemed to Tiyo, was spent eating. Once
news of the
journey was out, a day didn't pass but several villagers would come to him, and
food from their own scant supply.
"Take |this," they would tell him.
"You need to be strong for your journey.
Eat so you can run fast." He
at first to refuse, but the chief reprimanded him.
"Let them do their part," he said. "They can't
run, but they can feed the runner."
Those who didn't have food
gave advice -- how to run so that he would not
tire quickly, how to keep from falling victim to the serpent, and, most often, how
avoid the renegades.
No one that Tiyo talked to
had actually seen a renegade. Some
said they were
Bahana, some said Navajo, some said Mexican.
Some claimed they were all those
races mixed up.
"But they speak the Bahana
tongue," said one old man, thin and withered as last
stalks. He and his wife had
invited Tiyo for a bowl of stew. Tiyo
across from them on the floor of the one-room stone house and spooned down the
boiled corn as
the old man talked.
"How do you know?"
"My brother saw them
once, before he died. He
went on one of the trips to the
great river to get salt. He was hunting
a rabbit in the great canyon and almost ran right
"Not a village,
really," his wife offered. She
had evidently hear
"They live in the open without houses."
"But that's not
all," said the man, leaning forward to make sure he had Tiyo's full
attention. "While he was creeping away--now he was the rabbit--he ran past the
renegades' bone pile." He paused for dramatic effect. "It
was filled with human skeletons."
"Bahanas!" said the wife with contempt.
Tiyo heard echoes of his
mother. "An evil
tongue for an evil people," she would
say in disgust when she
caught Tiyo and his grandmother conversing in the language
Anglos. But Tiyo's
grandmother had ignored his mother and had taught him
She needed, she told Tiyo, to hear the sounds of her childhood.
In spite of the stories, it
wasn't the Banana-tongued renegades that worried Tiyo--
Nuva. He felt her warmth at
night as she lay curled beside him and dreaded
his return from the
journey. Dreaded it because
the feeling haunted him that if
somehow he made it back, he would not
find her there. If he left her,
would be put with the herd.
But would the goats accept her now? They had been
known to butt a newcomer to death.
He worried, most of all,
about what his uncle might do with her.
When his uncle
had first heard about Tiyo's decision to go, he had stormed up to the kiva.
shouting that had gone on between him and the chief was still moving the mouths
of the old
women in the village. His uncle had emerged tight-lipped with smoldering
eyes, and had marched
past Tiyo without a word. Tiyo thought his
came from fears that Tiyo would get killed on the
journey, but he didn't know if the
anger was out of concern for his welfare or
because his uncle would lose a worker.
was, since that day his uncle had only spoken to him in terse commands.
What would his uncle do with Nuva?
What if he moved from the mesa while Tiyo
was gone and took the
goat herd with him?
And so Tiyo worried, because
he had no choice but to leave her. Five days |
before the journey was to
begin, he put a leather thong around Nuva's neck and
took her to his
uncle, who was with the goat herd half a day's walk to the east.
His uncle said nothing as they approached.
Tiyo handed him the strap.
"I go into the kiva tomorrow," he said.
"Four days of fasting
and prayers to the gods to save you from your own stupidity,"
answered his uncle, but his voice was mild.
Tiyo watched an ant crawl
over his toe. "What
will you do with her?" he asked,
He was surprised to find
himself in an embrace, his uncle's arms thrown roughly
"I don't look for your
return, foolish son of my foolish sister," he said gruffly,
"but if you do come back, your goat will be here."
He pushed Tiyo away as
abruptly as he had embraced him. "Now
get to the kiva
and see if you can make the Cloud People remember us."
Tiyo turned then and fled
back toward the mesa, hoping with each step to escape
the sound of Nuva's frantic crying. But
it echoed through his mind long after he had
reached the mesa and
gone down into the kiva.
Then came the four days of
fasting--eating no meat or salt--and the final rites and
to sanctify the journey. Tiyo
attached eagle feathers to the slender
sticks that he had carved, a
hand's length long, and he and the chief blessed them,
asking that these
pahos would be acceptable to the serpent. The
old chief taught
Tiyo sacred songs, handclasps, and names, making him
swear to keep them secret
even at the cost of his life.
Then the chief summoned his
sister, a renowned potter, to the kiva.
been fat and jovial when Tiyo first knew her; now she showed her bones like the
of them. But she hadn't
lost her smile and she climbed down the ladder beaming,
taking great care with a pot in her hand.
It was the transplanter jar.
"See?" she said. "It's
perfectly formed. This is a
sign." She sat on
the ground and held the jar so they could view it.
It wasn't very
big, the size of a small muskmelon, and it was
turtle-shaped--flat on the bottom so
it could rest against a woman's
back or a man's chest and rounded on top, with a
short, narrow neck that
widened slightly at the lip. A
handle looped out of each
side. In the center of the rounded top, she had painted a serpent, black with
plumes extending out of its head, and red fire breathing from
its mouth. A corn cob,
to size, served as the stopper.
"It was nearly a day's
journey to get the right clay," she said, "but it was worth
Tiyo and the old chief thanked her warmly, and she climbed back
out of the kiva,
The old chief blessed the jar
and set it carefully aside next to the pahos. Then
beside the altar--a sand painting of the serpent that he'd created on
first day of the fast and surrounded with pahos and sacred
clay figures. He began
to sing in a voice so soft that Tiyo couldn't catch
all the words, though he knew it
was a song about Paloloqang.
The song had many verses, but finally the old man
and sat still, almost trance-like in his concentration.
After a while,
Tiyo stole a glance at the bedding piled at the
other end of the kiva.
"We are not done
yet," said the old man.
Tiyo blushed and waited, but
the silence stretched so long that if the old chief's
eyes had not been open, Tiyo would have thought him asleep.
His own eyes watered
and begged for rest.
At last, the old chief turned
to him. "Now I must
teach you how to call the
serpent," he said.
Tiyo blinked and suppressed a
The old man nodded.
"Long ago, before our people came up from the south,
Paloloqang taught a young boy and girl his secret name.
He taught them,
then, the way that they should pass it on, and
told them to whisper it to the village
Only one person was to have the power to use that name at a time,
when death threatened was that person to pass it to another."
Suddenly, Tiyo was no longer
"Help me up."
Tiyo lifted him to his feet
and bore his weight, supporting him as the old man
clasped his arms
about Tiyo and whispered the name in his ear.
He hugged Tiyo
hard and said, still clinging to him:
"There is only one place that you may ever speak
When you stand before the pool, place the pahos at the
edge of the water
and call Paloloqang in a low voice by his true name
saying, 'I offer these pahos to
Hear me please, and bring my people rain.'"
Tiyo nodded and gently set
the old chief back on the dirt.
"Remember, too, don't
fill the transplanter jar until after you have rested and are
Fill it last, thought Tiyo,
because once it is filled, I must run back to the dying
stopping, without ever putting the jar down, lest it take root in the
The chief sighed and gestured
to the bedding. "No
more prayers," he said.
They would rise before dawn,
and when the sun appeared on the eastern horizon,
Tiyo would be on his
way. He slept fitfully,
dreaming of serpents and water, hearing
over it all the plaintive cries
of a goat.
The cries weren't his imagination.
When he came out of the kiva, Nuva leapt up
against him as he had
taught her not to do, a broken strap dangling from her neck.
"Nuva!" he scolded,
and then despaired. What
was he going to do with her now?
looked helplessly at the old chief.
"Can you find someone to
watch her?" he asked, but the old man gaped at Nuva
as if he'd
never seen her before. Then,
to Tiyo's astonishment, the old chief cupped
her head in his hands and
bent over her, stroking her face.
"It's a sign," he
said, his eyes still on Nuva. "Take
Was the old chief crazy?
Did he forget how little food Tiyo was carrying?
the pahos tied together and slung like a quiver over his
shoulder, and the transplanter
jar in a leather netting against his
chest, he had room only for a few bundles of corn,
his knife, and a
water jar strapped on his back.
"She'll have no food or
water," he said.
But the old man didn't seem
to hear. He straightened up and said in a stern voice,
slow me down. She won't be
able to make the journey."
The old man clutched Tiyo's
arm with a ferocity that made him flinch.
take her. The
goat will live and return with you."
Tiyo hesitated. Maybe she would have no problem keeping up after all the
running they had done together. But
it was foolishness to risk all their careful plans--
it was craziness.
The chief's fingers dug deeper into Tiyo's arm.
return. I swear
How can you know enough to
swear? thought Tiyo. Reluctantly, he untied the
strap round Nuva's neck
and called to her and then started down the trail.
So, with Nuva by his side,
Tiyo ran over sand and rock, under the sun's fierce
light and the deep
blue of the sky, allowing the rhythm of his legs to dominate his
and set the pattern, leaving his mind free to wander through the dreams
ran alongside him. Sometimes
he felt as if he and Nuva were running in place while
the world slowly moved past
When they stopped to rest, Tiyo gave them each a few swallows
of water, then
he stretched out under the sun while Nuva ranged from
bush to bush, eating as fast
as she could fill her mouth.
At night, he lie in a wash
where the sand was soft, and Nuva would lick the salt
from his neck
while he watched the moon, each night a little less rounded, finish its
journey across the sky. Sometimes
he woke late in the night, after the moon had
gone,and felt the calm of
the stars, so clear and so remote.
Each star was a world,
he'd been told, or a fiery sun.
The mystery of it kept him awake while Nuva, her
head on his
chest, slept until the sun's first light.
Early on the fourth day, they
reached the rim of the great canyon.
stopped Tiyo cold. Peaks and buttes rose from the
bottom of the earth where the
great river ran, as if a giant
playing in the sand could not make up his mind where
It seemed impossible that there could be a trail to the bottom, but the old
chief had promised that Tiyo would find a marker.
They skirted the canyon's rim
until almost midday before Tiyo
spotted it--stones stacked beneath an outcropping
of rock that was filled with ancient carvings.
Several sticks protruded from the
stones, remnants of pahos with the feathers now long blown away.
the shrine was a trail.
He didn't like the look of
it. Narrow and jutted, the
path twisted down the steep
He had run up and down the mesas for as long as he could
but the depth of the canyon made the rim seem higher than ten
Tiyo picked his way down at a
walk. By the time the sun was leaning to the west,
his legs bore scrapes
and bruises, and ached miserably, and his ankles trembled from
constant strain of going downhill.
He began to worry that they wouldn't make it
to the bottom by
dark. The thought of a
night on the trail made him push his legs
faster in spite of the danger.
Nuva, he noticed, followed quietly behind, sure in her
untiring. She had done
better on the journey than Tiyo imagined possible.
Why had he worried? He
was grateful for her company, grateful the old chief had
At last they reached the
river, nothing more than a busy stream now wandering
through the immense river bed it once had filled. Tiyo
sank to the ground and
scooped the icy water to his mouth till his
stomach hurt. Tired and
could barely make himself get up again and continue, but the
sun was low and
he hoped to find the spring before dark.
They followed the river
until, round a bend of sheer rock, the canyon walls
wide. Not far upstream, another, smaller canyon funneled into it,
but he could see that this river bed was dry. Was this the place where the smaller
river met the large one?
From the shrunken size of the large river, Tiyo was not
that no water ran in the smaller. He
searched for the trees that would signal
the spring's presence.
Unless the old chief had been wrong and the spring was dry
He was about to give up and
find a place to bed down for the night when a
motion caught his eye high
against the canyon wall on his side of the river. In the
it took him a moment to make it out. When he
did, his heart dropped.
In all his worries about finding the spring, he had forgotten
that he might
encounter people along the way.
He couldn't see any fire; the rise of the land in a
hills reaching to the canyon wall blocked his view.
But the gruesome
stories about the renegades crowded his mind.
Calling softly to Nuva, Tiyo
scrambled up the first hill. From
the top, he could
see the cottonwoods clustered against the canyon wall.
The spring must be there.
the right of the trees, barely visible now in the darkening sky, the smoke rose.
A camp of some sort, he guessed.
He crept along the ground, keeping to what
cover he could find,
although in the dim light he doubted he could be seen. He
another small rise and then down a slope to the edge of the trees
The trees blocked his view of
the fire. He wanted to get
closer and see what
the situation was before he tried to find the spring, but he didn't dare take Nuva
nearer for fear they would be heard if she cried out.
He debated whether to
move Nuva deeper into the trees so that she
wouldn't be visible to anyone coming
up from the river but decided
against it. The dark of the
night could hide her, and
there was more danger of her being heard than
seen. Every step into the
a step closer to the camp.
This was as good a place to leave her as any.
Setting the pahos on
the ground, he stripped off the leather strap that had
bound and held
them over his shoulder. One
end he put around Nuva's neck,
making surethat the knot couldn't
tighten and choke her. The
other he tied to
a young cottonwood,slender enough not to take up too
much strap, but strong
enough to hold under pressure. It was a short
tether, but he planned to be back
soon. Nuva lay down without complaint,
tired, he was sure, from the long trip
down the canyon.
Stay that way, he begged her silently, stroking her face in
farewell. Don't cry out,
please. Darkness, he knew, would not last long for the
moon would be
When he couldn't see his hand
in front of his face, he left Nuva and made his
way towards the fire, now visible as flashes of red and orange in the night.
angled to the right, he ought to run straight into it, something he didn't want to do
until he was
sure there was adequate cover. Instead,
he headed forward toward
the canyon wall, hoping the rocks might shield
him as he approached the fire.
He worked his way through the
trees, but before he'd gone far, he heard another
sound, the drip of water on water. Even as he
heard it and stepped more carefully,
his foot jammed into a rock and he toppled forward, his hands splashing as they landed.
With a speed more instinctive than conscious, he jerked himself
the dirt, then cautiously stretched out a hand.
He felt a ridge or short wall of rocks
in front of him as far he could reach on
either side of him. Leaning
over the ridge,
he lowered his hand until the icy grip of the water
He had found the spring. In
the dark he had no way of knowing how far the pool extended or how deep it might be but it looked as if the only way he'd get to the
canyon wall in the direction he was going would be to swim.
He shuddered at the thought--the cold black water with the
serpent at the bottom--and turned away
from the pool and toward the
Softly, silently he crept
toward it until the smoke stung his nose and snatches
of voices floated
above him like pieces of ash. Just as he feared, the trees began
thin. Afraid to go any closer, he climbed a cottonwood, inching up until he
could see the camp clearly.
A small group of men, five or
six maybe, sat close to an enormous fire.
the fire, Tiyo caught the glint of water and was surprised
that the pool extended this
of the men fed the fire chunks of wood, and others dragged logs and
branches to the clearing from the trees.
No women, Tiyo noticed. Just men, skeletally thin. Never, even with the hunger
on the mesa, had Tiyo seen a
group of people who looked so starved. Their skin
stretched over their
bones, making their faces grotesque. They wore filthy, ragged
pants that were ripped off at the knees. It was hard to
tell in the firelight,
but Tiyo thought they had the light-colored hair
and beards he had been told belonged
to the Bahanas.
From the emptiness of the
camp and the absence of women, Tiyo guessed that
they didn't live there.
Was it a hunting party, maybe? But how long would they stay,
how would he ever fill the transplanter jar if they didn't leave?
He could find a place to hide upstream for a few days, but how
long would he
last living among the rocks with nothing to eat?
And how could he ever hide Nuva?
She would need to forage, and if their hunting party found her .
He thought about it.
If he hurried before the moon rose, he could whisper the
in the dark at the pool's edge and fill the jar now.
But he was exhausted.
could he ever make it back to the mesa, running without stopping?
Somehow he had to, because to
wait with Nuva was to invite discovery.
filled the jar now, by the time he reached the trail up the
canyon he'd have the
moonlight to light the trail.
It chilled him to think of it, the canyon trail by moonlight,
not as much as the thought of being in the hands of the renegades.
He eased to the ground, and
slipped back through the trees to where Nuva was
She was sleeping, head curled on her back, snoring slightly as
goats do, and
didn't so much as move when Tiyo took the pahos and left
again. He would untie
on his way back, after he filled the jar.
When he reached the edge of
the pool, he replenished his water jug and tied it
on his back. Then, carefully sticking the pahos in the rocks lining
the water, he
bent his face towards the pool and whispered the serpent's
true name, saying: "I
offer these pahos to you. Hear
my people's prayers and send us rain." And help
Please help me run.
For an anxious moment, Tiyo
wondered if he would get a response from the
serpent, but no sound came
from the water. He could make out the shape of the
pool now, and it was
much bigger than he had imagined. He
remembered the glint
of firelight on water at the camp and realized the
pool extended farther than he could
He had to hurry. Already
the moon was on the horizon, bathing the world in light.
transplanter jar over his head, he
plunged it into the icy water. His fingers,
cold and awkward, fumbled
with the knot to reattach the filled jar against his chest,
but at last
it was secure.
He ran back towards Nuva,
racing the moon, dismayed at how much more he
could see. The shapes of trees and rocks took on detail and cast long shadows.
He moved as fast as he dared; he couldn't risk falling and
breaking the jar.
Then, just as he was almost
to where Nuva was tied, he heard voices, heard loud,
rough laughter. In a panic, he darted into the shadow of a tree, but remembered
jar--he wasn't allowed to stop.
He ran toward Nuva, crouching, keeping to the
shadows as much as
possible, thinking that the voices were coming from the camp
But then their torches flared ahead--they were coming up from the river,
the same way he and Nuva had come earlier.
The trees hid her from the camp but
offered no protection from
that direction. How stupid
of him not to have hid her
inside the trees! And then it came to him--it was a trail the renegades
on, a trail leading to the pool, the same trail Tiyo and
Nuva must have fallen onto
earlier. And Nuva stood tied right in the
middle of it, under the bright moon, waiting
to be caught.
He raced toward her, but even
as he saw her, standing taut in the moonlight, she
let out a loud bleat. He hesitated, his hand on the sacred jar.
The men must have
If he rushed up and cut her loose, could they outrun the
Maybe. . .maybe.
. .but if he got caught, his people died with him. Only a second
to decide, a second to weigh the risks of losing
the jar, his people's lifeblood, against
the chance to save Nuva's life.
A second to realize there was only one choice he
he cried silently. "Nuva!"
And he ran back into the shadows, away from her, not able to tell
if the screaming
he heard came from Nuva or from inside himself.
He circled, hoping to rejoin
the trail below the men before they thought to come
looking for him. Shouts of discovery rose from where Nuva was tied.
Even as he
sickened over what that meant, he hoped it would give
him a little time. Moving from
shadow to shadow, as fast and as low to the ground as he could, he listened for
footsteps behind him.
Someone was coming, he thought, and looked back over
shoulder. Nothing moved. Suddenly, two shapes sprang at him from the
He reached for his knife, but
one of them seized his arm and wrenched it
backward, yanking it brutally behind his back. The
other hit him in the stomach
so hard that for a moment he couldn't
breathe. He twisted away from them, his
arm hurting as if it were being
ripped out of its socket. Then his other arm was
He kicked wildly at the man who had it, but a blow from behind
his legs out from under him.
He fell face down into a clump of grass,
still pinned behind him, throbbing.
Somehow the jar had remained intact.
They tied a rough, scratchy
rope around his wrists, then another through his
tightening it till he couldn't think for the pain.
The two men pulled him back
to his feet and without speaking, half-dragged,
half-kicked him back to
camp. Whenever Tiyo lagged,
they jerked the rope round
his elbows, sending spasms of agony through his shoulders. He watched his feet,
moving where his captors wanted.
Abruptly, they stopped.
They held Tiyo tight, one on each arm. Tiyo looked up
face of a man, tall, bearded to the chest with matted red hair.
Tiyo guessed, from the deference of his two captors.
"We got him," one
of them said. "Trying to run back towards the river like
The leader slid a dirty
finger down Tiyo's cheek. "Only one?"
Over the answer, over the
shouting and commotion at the camp, Tiyo heard
the bleating of a goat.
"Damn Indian," the
bearded man said softly. "Thought you could climb a
tree and spy on
us?" He grabbed Tiyo
under the chin and pushed his head back
until Tiyo thought his neck
would snap. "Not a lot of meat on this one."
Then his hand moved to the
jar. "What's this?"
Tiyo stared in horror, unable
"What's this?" the
man repeated. He took the jar by the narrow neck in one
out a knife with the other and sliced the strap holding the jar round
neck. Then he smacked the
jar across Tiyo's face.
Tiyo gasped. He searched for words, but found only pain singing through
his mind like the wind in a cave, like the wail of a goat.
An impatient voice somewhere
behind Tiyo asked, "Are we going to eat that goat?"
And the bearded man gave an
ugly laugh and tossed the jar on the ground where
it still didn't break.
"Goat today, boy tomorrow."
He took Tiyo's face in his hands,
bending so close that Tiyo
gagged from the foulness of his breath.
"Ever been roasted
alive?" He gestured to the men holding Tiyo.
Tiyo backward toward the fire.
The flames sent spasms of agony up and down his
back, and in
spite of himself, Tiyo screamed.
The leader laughed again and
motioned to the men, who pulled Tiyo away from
the flames and released him, though the ropes still bound his arms behind his back.
"Just so you can look forward to it," the bearded man
said. With a sweep of his leg,
he tripped Tiyo, pushing him down on his back.
lay there, the pain from the burns and the pressure on his arms almost
unbearable. He wriggled over to his side.
There was a moment of bliss as the
pressure came off his arms,
but the burns throbbed unmercifully.
But the rope should have been
burnt also. If only he
could find a weak spot.
worked his hands, blistered and raw, against the rope.
And then he heard
Nuva's cries clearly.
He saw one of the men drag her, struggling, bleating, near
of the men grabbed her feet, and held her upside down by the legs so
he hung head down. Another
put a knife to her throat.
Tiyo thrashed against the rope, but it wouldn't give.
Maybe the fire... He rolled
closer to the flames.
"Easy! Don't kill her
outright," he heard the leader say.
"Just enough of a cut
so she can bleed out real slow. The meat's better that way."
The man with the knife moved
his hand and a thin red line marred Nuva's white
But before he could draw the knife away, Nuva screamed and
it, deepening the gash so that the blood flowed freely. The
men holding her feet gave
way and she dropped to the ground.
Lunging to her feet, she darted toward the
trees and for a moment
Tiyo's hopes soared, but then one of the men caught the
her escape until another man could fling himself at her and pin her
They pulled her up, two on
her back legs and one at her head, and the blood
poured down her shoulders and back, crimson staining the white until all was red.
She stopped struggling and sagged, limp in the men's hands.
dead," said the bearded man and swore heatedly at the others.
"Dress her out."
Dead, thought Tiyo.
As dead as the transplanter jar lying broken in the fire,
as his people's hopes. He
turned hard, rolling into the fire.
Let it burn
away the ropes that held him helpless while all that
he loved died, and if the rope
didn't give way, let the flames consume
He heard the shouts of the
men around him, but the fire searing his flesh,
searing his soul, made them seem distant, as if in another world.
His world was
fire and pain, and he writhed with it, crying out
|because he could not contain the
roaring with the rush of the flames, "Paloloqang!
And then the men's shouts
changed to screams of terror and there were flames,
nothing but flames raging higher and higher, white hot, blackening the sky with the
the whole world burning around him, through him, Masau's fire come to
take him to the underworld, his death fire rising to the stars.
And just as suddenly, the
fire melted and washed over him cold and wet, numbing
him, soothing him,
until he could hardly find air to breathe. Rain.
Finally, it stopped.
Tiyo lay, eyes closed, stillness covering him like a blanket.
Then a voice spoke. "You called my name."
Tiyo opened his eyes.
From the center of the pool rose a serpent, as large as
Tiyo had seen, with brightly colored feathers growing out of its head.
"You called my
name," the serpent repeated.
Tiyo whispered, "Paloloqang?"
said the serpent.
Had he got it wrong then?
He couldn't think.
"I am Paloloqang, but
that is not what you called me."
The secret name, then.
Tiyo should have known. It was only to be whispered
pool and in his agony he had shouted it for all to hear.
He waited for the
serpent's anger, but the serpent didn't speak. Did he want to hear it again? Tiyo
waited, the silence lengthening. Finally, he tried it.
My Father-My Mother?
And the serpent moved, but it
wasn't one, Tiyo realized. There
Two serpents so
intertwined he could scarcely tell one from another.
"Give it to me the way
you received it."
The way he received it? He
saw himself in the kiva, supporting the old chief,
embracing him as he received the name. But the serpent--serpents, Tiyo corrected
the center of the pool. How
could he do that? He stretched his
arms and legs tentatively and was hit
by a wave of pain and nausea.
He couldn't stand so he
rolled, each movement a thousand knives in his skin,
until he reached
the pool, thinking he might drown when he hit the water and not
much if he did. But as soon as his hand broke the surface of the pool, he
was swept up to the
serpents, encircled by them, only now it felt like arms clasping
him, burning through him,
caressing him as a parent might caress a child.
He whispered the name as his
whole being seemed to split apart from the light
that coursed through
him. It made him ache with
a yearning that he knew would
never leave him, joy so intense that it was almost too painful to endure, and through
"My son. I will send rain."
It was the last thing Tiyo
remembered. He awoke under
a bright sun, and found
himself stretched out on the sand by the pool.
Had it all been a dream? Lying
the warm sand, he wondered. But
he had only to think of the serpents and the
yearning came back,
He moved and his hand hit something.
Sitting up, he saw that it was the
transplanter jar, blackened from the fire but intact, the charred corn cob stopper
neatly stuck in
place. He stared at it, amazed, and then looked around the camp site.
The bodies of several men, black and stiff, lay not far from him. Did the rest escape?
looked around anxiously.
And then he saw her. Nuva.
Once white as her name, she now lay bloated and
rotting under the sun, her coat black with flies and crusted blood.
Nuva! He stared, motionless, until his eyes hurt from the looking,
but what he
saw, again and again, was Nuva tied to the tree, Nuva left to the renegades, while
he ran the other way. And each time it played in his mind, the memory of the
faded and the cold inside him grew.
Finally, he turned and walked backed toward the river.
He could do nothing for
her now except give her a proper burial.
She at least deserved that.
until he found a yucca plant, then cut the root out
of the ground with his knife,
peeling away the outer layer. With a stone
he pounded the root until the pulp was
soft enough that it would yield
suds when wet.
Then, kneeling beside Nuva,
he cradled her face in his arms, gently washing
the crown of her head with the yucca suds. This
was the rite of burial; she would
be sent to the underworld cleansed.
When he was finished, he
hoisted her over his shoulder and searched the canyon
wall for a crevice deep enough to contain her. He
would not leave her to decay
beside the bodies of the men who killed her, would not let her bones mingle with
climbed until he came upon a big enough crack, and dropped her in.
And then he piled the stones upon her, one after another, just as
he had piled them
on his mother. And,
just as he had shed no tears the day of his mother's burial,
now stayed dry. But the
cold inside him soaked through his bones and
sent icy fingers up and
Returning to camp, he picked
up the transplanter jar. He
had that, at least.
Something to give his people.
He started down the trail. The
running made him suddenly aware of his body,
of the strength in his arms and legs, of the absence of pain. He looked down at
in wonder. No burns or bruises. He ran with a strength he had never
before known, with a
speed he had only dreamed about.
The god had healed him.
The thought of it made Tiyo sick with anger, made
to shatter the jar against the rocks. He was whole while Nuva lay rotting
in a crevice.
Why the one and not the other?
He pushed his legs as fast as
they would carry him, helpless in his wrath, running
from the god, running to the old chief whose promise stabbed at him every time he
remembered the knife at Nuva's throat. And as he
ran, the coldness he first knew
at his mother's death deepened with
every step until he felt frozen through the very
center of his being,
and he marveled that his heart didn't stop altogether, trapped in
block of ice inside him.
He didn't stop until he
reached the spring at Second Mesa and placed the
transplanter jar in it,
but once on the way he slowed a little and looked back
He saw a small cloud.
The sky was black with clouds, and the air hung heavy with the
rain by the time Tiyo reached the kiva. It was dark inside, too, so dark that Tiyo
thought at first no one was there.
But then he made out the old chief's shape,
sitting without a
fire at the far end of the room.
"Grandfather," he said, announcing his presence.
old man struggled to his feet and shuffled over to Tiyo, arms
But Tiyo stood back and
didn't touch him.
The old man dropped his arms
and faced Tiyo, silent.
Finally, Tiyo said,
"You told the story wrong about the rainmaker."
The old man raised his
eyebrows and Tiyo spoke again.
"You said he came back
The old chief said nothing
and Tiyo wondered if he could see that Tiyo had
frozen, that there was nothing left now inside him except the suffocating cold.
"I'm sorry," the
old man whispered.
"You swore she'd come
"I know," said the
old man. "I thought I
had to. When I saw the
goat, I knew
what Paloloqang would ask of you.
And I didn't know if you would be willing
to give it."
"You had to lie
The old man said in a tired
voice, "We would have all died, Tiyo."
I was wrong. It was your
choice and I tried to make it for you.
I tried, but
Tiyo closed his eyes and saw
Nuva tied to the tree as the men bore down upon
her, saw himself abandon her as he tried to save the jar.
It had been his choice and
he had made it and now the spring would have water, but he felt no joy from it.
Only the cold freezing him solid.
"No," said Tiyo,
"I'm sorry, Tiyo."
The old man's voice was husky and he coughed, his whole
shuddering with the spasms. "When I knew who she was, I knew what her
be. But I was afraid of
couldn't keep the anger out of his voice but the old chief didn't
He stared at Tiyo steadily as if waiting. . .and suddenly Tiyo heard what he
"Knew who she was?"
"Your mother, Tiyo.
Back from the underworld in the form of a goat to
son. To help him become a
rainmaker and save his people."
It was a long time before
Tiyo could speak and when he did he said, "I don't
"When I looked into the
goat's eyes that morning, I saw your mother's face."
Tiyo stood motionless and the
old man sighed. "Believe
what you will. But
." he leaned forward and placed a trembling hand on Tiyo's arm,
sorry. I prayed that I
might live until you returned so that I could ask
His voice was now a coarse
whisper. "I know how
much you loved her."
Who? Did the old man mean Nuva or his mother?
It was more craziness,
this idea that they were the same.
And yet, he heard his mother's voice coming
unbidden into his
mind: "I will
live to see you bring rain to your people."
filled with images:
Nuva dangling a broken strap the morning that he left, Nuva
out just as Tiyo thought he might be able to cut her loose and
slip past the renegades.
"Please," the old man's eyes were wet now and the
effort it cost him to stand
showed in the sweat lining his face. "Forgive
Tiyo searched for his own
anger and saw instead the worry the old man carried
for the villagers, felt its weight and knew it was as heavy as the rocks that
tried to speak, to move, but he was frozen.
Surely if he bent his neck, it
And if he didn't, the cold would kill him. He wrenched the gesture
from his body, a nod.
The old chief spread his
arms. "Then come here.
Bless me before I go to the
He drew Tiyo to him, and
clung to him, weeping comfort and forgiveness.
Somehow, the touch from the old man's frail body ignited a coal deep within
heart and a tiny part of him began to warm. But his own eyes stayed dry.
Finally, Tiyo helped the old
man to his mat. "I'm
going to find my uncle," he said.
"Be careful," said
the old man as Tiyo tucked the blanket around him.
rain in the air."
And his face split into the widest grin Tiyo had ever seen on
Tiyo climbed out of the kiva
and started down the trail leading to the bottom of
the mesa. A flash startled him, made him raise his head to the clouds.
to rain. Before he could
move, a drop hit him squarely in one eye and
then the other.
And it was as if those drops ended not only the drought outside
him, but the drought inside as well, and his eyes began to brim with their own water.
as the rain poured upon the aching, thirsty land, Tiyo's eyes poured out
grief that had frozen his soul.
"Nuva!" he cried
with sobs that racked his whole body.
It didn't matter whether or
not the old chief was right and they were the same.
He cried for them both, and cried for the world in which choices
that saved could
also kill, cried until the cold inside him warmed into
a pain that was fiercely,
And finally, when there were
no more tears, he sprawled on his back and gazed
with wonder at the rain upon the land.
Susan J. Kroupa 2001