Children of the Dawnland (North America's Forgotten Past Series)

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9780765359865: Children of the Dawnland (North America's Forgotten Past Series)

Twig is a talented Dreamer. Sometimes she has spirit dreams―dreams that come true. But her mother has always discouraged Twig from exploring her powers for fear that they would turn her strange, like the reclusive witch-woman Cobia.

When Twig begins to have nightmares about a green light exploding from the sky and causing widespread destruction, she must find the courage to defy her mother and learn to become a Spirit Dreamer. Helping Twig on her quest are her best friend, Greyhawk, and Screech Owl, a shaman who has been banished from the village. Together, they must persuade their people to leave the land of their ancestors and journey to the mysterious Duskland, far from only home they've ever known. Can Twig convince the Elders that she is a true Spirit Dreamer―before it's too late?

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About the Author:

Kathleen O'Neal Gear is a former state historian and archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has twice received the federal government's Special Achievement Award for ""outstanding management"" of our nation's cultural heritage.

W. Michael Gear holds a master's degree in archaeology and has worked as a professional archaeologist since 1978. He is principal investigator for Wind River Archaeological Consultants.

Together they have written the North America's Forgotten Past series (People of the Longhouse, The Dawn Country, People of the Mist, People of the Wolf, among others); and the Anasazi Mysteries series. The Gears live in Thermopolis, WY.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1

ADEEP, AGONIZING GROAN trembled the air, and Old Mother tern tipped her wings to dive closer to the Ice Giants. Below her, glaciers stretched for as far as she could see. In places, the ice had broken and cracked, forming great dark canyons where she could see no bottom. In other places, massive blocks of blue ice resembling jagged mountain ranges thrust up so high they raked the bellies of the Cloud People.

Another groan erupted, followed by softer whimpers, and she tilted her white wings and headed south.

Old Mother’s flock regularly flew great distances. She had seen much of the world in her forty summers, and knew something was changing. The air and oceans were growing warmer. Flowers were blooming earlier in the spring, and the short-faced bears were waking up from their winter slumbers earlier. Even more disturbing, in just her lifetime the size of the meltwater lake to the south of the glaciers—where her flock nested—had almost doubled. Once, she had tried to find the far western shore of the lake. She’d flown for twenty days straight, and never found it. The lake seemed to go on forever. Every summer, the water rose and forced her people to build their nests farther and farther south.

Unfortunately, that had not stopped the humans from hunting them.

That was her mission today. She was scouting for human hunters.

She flapped her wings harder and flew out over the vast blue lake. Icebergs the size of small mountains floated in the water, bobbing and twisting, and far to the south, she saw the smoke from the human campfires. It rose into the cold air and created a gray smear over the treeless tundra. Old Mother tilted her tail and angled down toward the village.

The humans made strange nests. She had watched them erect the wooden pole frames and cover them with mammoth or buffalo hides, and wondered how such nests could ever be safe for their children. When a fox attacked a tern nest, the fledglings could leap up and run in less than a heartbeat. Human children, on the other hand, could be cornered in their hide nests and slaughtered. She had seen that happen, for all was not well in the world of humans. They seemed to be constantly at war with one another, and they—

Old Mother’s eyes widened. Far below her, she saw a line of children walking toward the lakeshore, in the direction of her flock’s nesting area.

Her heart raced. She soared down for a closer look. Each child carried a hide bag. In terror, she let out a high-pitched squeal to warn the rest of the flock, and dove straight for the last child in line—a boy with a dog trotting at his side.

CHAPTER 2

GREYHAWK LET OUT a shriek, and Twig spun around in the trail to look. The afternoon was freezing cold. Every time Twig exhaled, a crystalline halo encircled her heart-shaped face and frosted her long black hair.

“Where’s Greyhawk?” she asked.

Rattler, Twig’s friend, stopped to wait with her. “I don’t know. I don’t see him at all.”

Rattler was Twig’s age, twelve, but much prettier than Twig. She had a beautiful oval face, with slanting eyes and a broad, catlike nose. Silky black hair hung to her waist.

The other ten children in the egg-gathering group filed down the trail with their heavy buffalo coats shining, leaving Twig and Rattler far behind. The hide bags they carried over their shoulders swung at their sides. Their leader, an old woman named Snapper, was hobbling out front with her thin white hair whipping in the wind. As she did every spring, Snapper led the children to Ice Giant Lake to collect bird eggs. The rocky shore was covered with tern nests and seemed to be a fluttering, squealing sea of white. When they returned home at dusk, the entire village would boil, bake, and scramble eggs for supper.

“Twig, I think we should go on,“ Rattler said. “Snapper will be very angry if we fall too far behind.”

“I know, but I have to wait for Greyhawk. The Thorn-back raiders have been prowling the trails, stealing children to take home as slaves. Grandfather told me last night to keep watch for them.”

“All right, silly girl. I’ll see you sssoon,“ Rattler hissed, sounding very much like a snake, and sprinted away as fast as she could.

Twig adjusted the bag on her shoulder and looked for Greyhawk again. Where could he be? They’d been walking since long before dawn, and had traveled much farther to find the terns’ nesting ground than last spring at this time. Grandfather said that the world was changing, and by next spring the lake would flood their village, and they would be forced to move again.

But moving wasn’t unusual. Her people moved theirvillage constantly to match the movements of the animals. In the autumn, they moved into the southern forests to harvest walnuts, persimmons, and acorns. Then, just before winter set in, they moved far south to hunt buffalo and white-tailed deer. Finally, when the spring thaw arrived, they moved back to the shore of Ice Giant Lake to fish, and to wait for the terns to return to their nesting grounds.

Rattler shouted, and Twig spun around in time to see Grizzly, the village bully, trip Rattler and send her tumbling head first to the ground. Rattler leaped to her feet, and she and Grizzly got into a shouting match. Elder Snapper was hurrying to break them up.

Twig turned back and called, “Greyhawk?”

Yipper, Greyhawk’s dog, barked. Greyhawk had gotten Yipper as a puppy when he’d seen three summers. Since that day, they’d never been apart.

Twig waited for another fifty heartbeats; then she ran back to find them. She stopped when she saw moccasin tracks veer off the trail and head toward a big pile of tumbled black boulders.

“Greyhawk?”

Yipper barked again. “Greyhawk, where are you? Answer me!”

From inside the boulders, she heard him call, “I’m not going, Twig.”

“Oh, Greyhawk, you’re going to get in trouble!”

A cascade of gravel rolled out as he and Yipper climbed higher into the boulders.

Twig followed their tracks, and found Greyhawk crouching among the highest boulders, watching the other children heading for the nesting grounds. Yipper, who was half wolf and pure black, wagged his tail when he saw Twig. He had yellow eyes that seemed to glow even in broad daylight. Greyhawk, on the other hand, scowled at her. A bloody gash marked his cheek.

“What happened to you?” she asked, and pointed to the gash.

“A tern dove right out of the sky and smacked me in the head!”

She squinted at him. “Well, come on. We have to go.”

Greyhawk nervously wet his lips. He had a moonish baby face, with large brown eyes and a small nose. “Elder Snapper will never miss us. We’ll just wait here until everyone comes back with their bags full of eggs; then we’ll sneak into line and go home.”

“Of course she’ll miss us,“ Twig said sternly. “Do you want to get punished when you get home?”

Greyhawk slumped down on a rock. The long fringes on his hide sleeves were shaking. “You go on without me, Twig. I don’t want you to get punished, too.”

Greyhawk was two summers younger than she, ten, and one of the smallest boys in the village, which meant he got teased a lot. And the hat he wore today hadn’t made things any easier for him.

Twig propped her hands on her hips. “I wish you hadn’t worn that hat. That’s why everyone has been teasing you. You look stupid.”

“Don’t you remember what the terns did to me last spring? They hate me.” He adjusted the hat. Made from woven strips of rabbit fur, it looked like he was wearing a dead cottontail on his head.

“They’re just birds, Greyhawk.”

“No, they’re not. They’re evil Spirits straight out of the darkest underworld. Just wait, you’ll see. They’ll peck my brain to pieces.”

Terns ferociously guarded their nests. A person did have to be careful, but it didn’t take long to fill a bag with eggs, so it was over fairly quickly, and mostly fun.

“Greyhawk, if you don’t go, Snapper will tell your father, Reef, that you spent all day hiding in the rocks. Is that what you want?”

Greyhawk’s mother had died when he’d seen barely three summers, and his brothers and sisters had died in an epidemic, so he tried very hard to make his father proud of him. That was one of the reasons they’d become best friends. Twig’s father had died, too, before she was born. At the time, they were the only two children in the village with just one parent. She and Greyhawk had both been sad and lonely until they’d started talking to each other.

“I’m not going, Twig.”

She sat down on the rock beside him and looked out at the nesting grounds in the distance. Old Snapper kept turning around and looking back up the trail. Was she counting heads? It wouldn’t be long until she realized they were gone. Twig tried to think of something to say that would take Greyhawk’s mind off the terns, something even scarier.

In a low voice, she said, “If you think terns are scary, I... I had the dream again, Greyhawk.”

He jerked around to stare breathlessly at her. “About the flaming ball of light?”

“Yes.”

Twig had dreams that came true. Her people called them Spirit dreams, because Spirits from the Land of the Dead brought the dreams.

“I think Mother’s afraid I’m a Spirit dreamer.”

“Why would she be afraid? She’s the village Spirit dreamer.”

“Yes, but truly great Spirit dreamers are terrifying. They can see the future, and call down fire from the heavens to bur...

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