The rickety old buckboard entered the small Pennsylvania town of Hawk's Run carrying an unusual cargo. Old Matt Skinner was never one to pass up an opportunity to make an honest dollar (or a dishonest one for that matter), and when the Englishman and his exotic wife offered to pay him for passage to the town he eagerly grasped the opportunity. Of course it was not Skinner's way to show eagerness. In fact, he put on a great display of reluctance. The trip to Hawk's Run would spoil his plans for the entire day, he explained, (while in fact he had already planned to go into town for supplies), and, he added, reading the rugged Englishman's face in a glance, if he did haul them into town he would most likely lose twenty dollars--a considerable sum of money in 1838. The Englishman, studying Skinner's weather-worn, unshaven face with shrewd blue eyes that told the old man that he understood the situation perfectly, said he would gladly pay him twenty dollars for passage--thirty if the old man could provide him and his wife with blankets for additional warmth during the long ride to Hawk's Run in the open wagon. The deal was made and wrapped in blankets that smelled suspiciously of horse, Professor Jonathan Ethan Grimstone and his Egyptian wife, Neti-maat-Iusaset Nehemauait entered the small town of Hawk's Run.
The ride was rough along the frozen, rutted dirt trail and the springboard floor of the wagon did little to make the bone-shaking journey any easier. After old man Skinner brought the two mules pulling the buckboard to a halt with a rough pull on the reins and a string of cuss words, Grimstone jumped to the snow-covered ground then helped his wife from the vehicle. Happily they returned their horse blankets to Skinner and after retrieving their few bags, the professor paid the old swindler his thirty American dollars. Grimstone was an archaeologist and Egyptologist and his dealings with the locals in foreign lands taught him many things, one thing being that you never paid a man for his services until after they had been rendered. He had learned this lesson the hard way as a younger and more trusting man, paying an African guide before setting out only to awaken after the first day's journey to find himself alone in camp, his guide and bearers having silently slipped away in the night with all of his supplies, leaving him with little else but the never before fired revolver at his side. It was quite a joke on the Brit, the African thought, and he had gotten quite a good price for the young professor's supplies. Of course, the price he eventually paid for his cleverness turned out to be a very high one. Although expected to get lost and die in the jungle, Professor Grimstone suddenly showed up at the guide's mud and dung walled hovel, beat him soundly and took the thief's ill-gotten gains. When he turned away from the dishonest guide, content to consider the matter settled and ready to look for a more reliable guide, the African grabbed his machete and made for Grimstone's back with the intention of running him through. Just before the dark-skinned man could drive his blade home, the young professor suddenly turned about on an instinctive whim, realized what was about to happen, and leaped quickly to his left. When the would-be murderer wheeled about with his weapon upraised, Grimstone pulled his new British revolver from its scabbard and fired it for the very first time. The bullet drilled a hole through the African's forehead and before he realized that he was dead and dropped into the dust an expression of complete astonishment appeared on his face. He had underestimated the young white man.
Professor Grimstone, now a much older and wiser man, was determined to never again give someone the opportunity to make the kind of mistake the African thief had made.
"Tell me, my good man, where might I find a reliable guide around here who can lead me into the mountains?" Grimstone's voice was cultured, but with a hard edge.
"You aimin' to go into the Alleghenys this time o' year?" Skinner's breath was bad, his teeth rotting, and the foul puff of frozen air made the Englishman whince. "'Tain't no time to be goin' up there. Best be waitin' for the Spring thaw."
"I haven't the time to wait," Grimstone replied. "I believe I am very close to what I am looking for."
"An' yer plannin' to take the missus with ya?" Skinner looked at the pretty dark-skinned face of Neti Grimstone, saw the bit of coal black hair not covered by her wraps, and thought it odd to see a "squaw" with such clear grey eyes.
"I would follow my husband to the judgment halls of Osiris if that is where he wished to go."
"You ain't no Injun, are you?"
"Can you direct me to a reliable guide or not, Mr. Skinner?"
"I can," the old man answered, turning back to the professor, "but I cain't guarantee nuthin' else. Man would have to be right crazy to go into them moutains this time o' year. And besides," Skinner added, spitting some of his chew into the snow where it made a vile brown stain, "them moutains are haunted."
Skinner spat into the snow again then looked back up into the tall Englishman's bright blue eyes.
"Yep. Haunted. Filled with the spirits of all the Injuns that was killed around these parts almost a hundred years ago. O'course, we mostly bought all this land from them heathens fair an' square, but there was more than a bit o' trouble with them afore and after, an' my daddy was one o' them who put them Injuns in their place." Skinner made to spit again then seemed to reconsider. "Worse than the haunts, though, is them that's still livin' up there."
"You say that there is a tribe living in the mountains...still alive?"
Grimstone was visibly excited by the prospect.
"Well sure, ifn they're livin' up there they're still alive!" Now he decided to again defile the pure white crystals at their feet. "Devil's own ifn you ask me. Ain't regalar redskins. Worse than pow wows they is. Practice witchcraft and sorcery. Every one of 'em the Devil's spawn. Folks 'round these parts leave 'em alone. Other Injuns 'round here steer clear of 'em. S'posed to be powerful medicine."
"Bad medicine?" Grimstone asked, having some understanding of the local colloquialisms.
"Well...Injuns speak of 'em with a kind o' respect, but they're afeared of them fur sure." Skinner reached into his mouth and pulled out a filthy brown mess of chewed tobacco, then stuffed it into his coat pocket for later, unconcerned about the lint and fleas that it might there acquire. "Best be reconsiderin' your plans, mister."
"Thank you for your concern, Mr. Skinner. Now could you tell me where to go?"
For a moment the old man thought to do just that, but he figured that the Englishman was already bound for hell so he simply pointed him in the direction of the only dry goods store in Hawk's Run and said that he should look for an old Indian named Joseph Long House.
Grimstone thanked him, grabbed his bags and with Neti by his side, strode briskly to the establishment Skinner had directed him to.
Professor Grimstone was a man on a quest and he was rapt in the excitement of the quest's end with a promise of more than he had dared hope for.
While it has become a generally accepted fact that the ancestors of the so-called American Indians were nomadic hunters of Asian Mongoloid stock who had come to the Americas over the Bering Strait in a succession of migrations during and after the last glacial period when it was still above sea level, it was Grimstone's theory that some of those early people had come from the Delta valley, the ancient land of Khem, Egypt, and the professor had been following a remarkable fossil trail which had led him finally to Hawk's Run, Pennsylvania. Following the trail, Professor Grimstone grew certain that the people he was trying to track down had retained a great deal of their ancient heritage because of a high degree of civilization that they had attained even well before the dynastic period of Egypt. While similar beliefs might be found among the ancient settlers of the Americas and the prehistoric peoples of Asia, it was his dream to find these people whose roots were in the Delta valley. He hoped to find their remains and learn what he could of them, how they developed, how they had lived and how they died, and the prospect of finding living descendants of those prehistoric nomads made him feel again like a young man on his first dig.
To find living beings who could prove his theories of migration and a predynastic origin of the Horus mythos filled Grimstone with elation.
Although raised in a respected British family of wealth and educated in the finest schools in England, Jonathan Grimstone often incurred the wrath and ridicule of his scholarly peers and the British aristocracy. Because of his theories he was branded a lunatic and ostracized. Of course, Grimstone cared nothing for his fellow scholars, who seemed more content to prove the established "facts" correct rather than to dare to even question them. More than once Grimstone nearly came to blows with his contemporaries, being a hardy man with wide shoulders, a strong back, and rough manners by the standards of the average British gentleman, and once he did let the tempest break, knocking a most disagreeable fellow to the ground with a single jab to the man's glass jaw. When the other man came to he called Grimstone a "great bloody beast", a descriptive phrase that followed him everywhere after that, and then proceeded to get him dismissed from the university to which he had been attached. The other young archaeologist, you see, was the son of the university's president. Grimstone felt certain then that the president had married a female dog, for his adversary was most certainly a son of a bitch.
While Grimstone's theories were scoffed at along with the theory that the ancient Americans were descended from the lost tribe of Israel, and another theory that declared that the Native Americans were descended from the Welsh, his marriage to Neti was probably most damning of all in the eyes of the British aristocracy. In the first place she was considered to be a "nigger", an Egyptian "whore", and in the second place, since they were not married by the Church of England their coupling was considered to be illegitimate fornication and a sin which could only one day produce a "bastard".
And so, Professor Jonathan Ethan Grimstone, with his beautiful Egyptian wife, Neti, followed the fossil trail from the ancient land of Khem, down through Canada, to the Mississippi River, and finally into the northeastern section of what we now call the United States of America. He was alone, but for his faithful Neti, and without financial backing of any kind.
Professor Grimstone encountered small bands of the Lenni Lenape along the way, those Native Americans we call the Delaware, along with bands of the Susquehenna, Cayuga and Onodaga Indians. All of these treated him well and with great curiosity, which he considered quite civilized behaviour from natives whose numbers had been decimated by warfare with the white man and diseases brought to the new world from the old--whole tribes of Indians forced out of their ancestral homes and pushed westward to suffer further at the hands of the invaders from across the ocean. He discovered that Neti, with her dark skin, long thick black hair and cool grey eyes, attracted a good deal of attention and respect. She possessed the dark, aquiline features of many of the Indians in that part of the country, yet her light eyes set her apart from the dark-eyed Native Americans. She intrigued the "redmen" and Grimstone's commanding air demanded respect.
In southwestern Pennsylvania Grimstone found the remains of an ancient village that he was told had been abandoned long before the coming of the white men. The village had been situated near the Monongahela River and so naturally this lost and nearly forgotten tribe, for lack of a better name, later came to be known as the Monongahela People. For many days Grimstone and Neti poked about the scanty remains of the village, she having long ago learned how to dig for artifacts without destroying them, and it was on that small hill, within the circular village that had once been surrounded by a palisade, that she found a delicate item which caused Grimstone to lift her in the air, laughing more gaily than he had laughed in a long time, then crush her to his chest and kiss her. The item was once apparently used to hold back the long hair of a woman, or perhaps it had been worn in an Indian brave's long hair along with the feathers that told the others of his tribe his station in life or how many men he had wounded or killed in battle. It was a beautiful thing carved from a tortoise shell, the tortoise being the creature that held the world on its back according to the beliefs of most woodland Indians, and it had been painstakingly etched with the figure of a hawk. Grimstone almost burst with excitement for the representation of that mystical bird was somewhat different than one usually found among Native Americans and resembled more the symbol of the Egyptian Hawk-headed sun god, Horus the Avenger.
No one, to this day, knows what became of the Monongahela People--why they left their villages in southwestern Pennsylvania before the coming of the white men, or where they went. Were they utterly annihilated in warfare with other tribes or wiped out by disease? No one knew and to this day no one knows, but Grimstone, while he could not be sure why these people left their villages, felt certain that they did not die in the village he examined. Perhaps they simply migrated to some place that possessed greater isolation from neighbouring tribes. Whatever their reason for moving to a different location, Grimstone felt certain that their natural course would lead them into the Allegheny Mountains, for high places were sacred to them.
Professor Grimstone and his wife Neti entered the warm confines of the dry goods store old man Skinner had directed them to. It was a simple structure filled with just about anything anyone could possibly need, from canned goods to chamber pots. As the Englishman and his Egyptian wife entered the establishment the proprietor was making change for a customer, a large woman in a gingham dress and a heavy wool coat. "Thank you," he said with a genuine smile, "and please come again." The woman turned, smiling, gave the newcomers the once over as she passed, nodding curtly, and then left the store.
"Good day, sir. May I be of assistance to you?"
Ardley Jefferson was a little man, almost fay, oddly youthful and ancient looking at the same time. His golden hair was so thin it appeared as if a cloud rested gently about his shiny pink skull, and the small wire-rimmed glasses that he wore made him look as much like a bookkeeper as a store clerk.
"I will need provisions," Grimstone replied, glancing over at the old man sitting near the wood-burning stove in the middle of the floor, a wide-brimmed, round-topped hat on his bowed head, completely hiding his features. "However, I am at the moment interested in hiring a guide and I have been directed to your fine emporium."
"Emporium." Jefferson let the word roll off his tongue. "What a fine word...and so rare to hear someone in these parts speak like that. You are from England? It's your accent. Definitely not German...or Welsh for that matter. Now...you are looking for a guide?"
The man sitting near the old black cast iron stove raised his head and wise old eyes studied the tall Brit.
"Where do you want to go?"
Grimstone turned to the old man who had made the inquiry.
"This gentleman is Joseph Long House," Jefferson said behind the professor, "and if it is a guide you want you can do no better than him."
Grimstone and the old Seneca Indian studied each other without shifting their steady gaze from one another's eyes.
"Grimstone. Jonathan Ethan Grimstone. And this is my wife, Neti."
As Long House looked to the woman, his head tilted to one side and he seemed to focus his eyes more sharply.
"She is Egyptian," Grimstone said. The old Indian nodded as if he knew what that meant while the Englishman pulled up a chair and sat down across from Long House. "You are familiar with the mountains here?"
"You wish to go into the moutains?" the old man said, tearing his eyes away from the woman's face. "What is there that you wish to find?"
"People...I hope...if not, at least the remains of their last village."
"People?" Joseph Long House grunted and shook his head. "You white men are crazy. First you chase all of the people out of the land and then you want to find them in the places where they no longer are."
"Then there is no hope of encountering those that I seek?"
The Seneca shrugged. His face was wrinkled and would have made him appear wise even if he were not, and there was something of the look of a Chinaman about him, partly because of the long whispy mustache and beard that adorned his rough-hewn face.
"There are some people in the mountains. Iroquois. Seneca. Not many. Not any more. And there are some crazy white men in the mountains too. Who do you look for?"
Grimstone reached into his long buckskin coat and pulled out an oil rag in which he carried two things almost sacred to him. The first item that he pulled out to show the old Indian was the tortoise shell clasp with the hawk etched on it. This he handled as if it were a holy object, fragile and precious. Grimstone handed it to the old man who seemed reluctant at first to touch it, but then held it carefully in his gnarled hands as if it were a serpent that might strike him dead at any moment.
"Are you familiar with the markings?" Grimstone asked.
The old Indian nodded as he studied the clasp.
"I have not often seen anything like this, but yes, I am familiar with the sign of the hawk."
"There is this as well." The archaeologist proceeded to unwrap the second, much larger object as he spoke. "That clasp I found in a place not far from here where three rivers meet."
"Yes. I know the place. A white man named Pitt once had what you call a fort there. For a crazy white man he was not bad. Almost human." Never once did Joseph Long House take his eyes off of the artifact as he held it in his hands, turning it over and over again.
"And this I discovered in my wife's homeland, far beyond the ocean."
The Seneca looked up just as Grimstone lifted the final layer of cloth from the other object, revealing a long iron-alloy dagger with the hilt made in the shape of a hawk's head--the design very similar to that etched upon the clasp. Grimstone offered it to the old man to hold and study more closely, but Long House waved it off, showing no desire to handle the ornate Egyptian dagger which showed not the least bit of damage despite its obvious antiquity.
"Do you know where I can find more artifacts...more things...like these?"
Joseph Long House handed the tortoise shell clasp back to the Englishman.
"You cannot go into the mountains now. It is too dangerous. And I am too old to take you."
The ancient Indian turned away from Grimstone as if to say That is my final word on the matter.
"Please." Both Grimstone and Long House turned in the direction of Neti as she spoke, her voice soft and lilting. "Please help my husband. You know where we can find such things. I can see this in your eyes."
"Yes. I know that you can, woman. I know because I have seen such eyes as yours before, but not among my people or your husband's."
"Please help us. You can. I know that you can."
Joseph Long House studied the woman's face for a moment then let his shoulders drop with a heavy sigh.
"Your weapon is unusual. I have never seen anything like that before. And the metal is not like even that which you white men use. But the markings...these I have seen, when I was a much younger man and lived among my people...and you can still find such things with those markings." Joseph Long House again looked directly into Grimstone's eyes. "It would be better for you to journey into your Christian Hell than to go into those mountains in search of such things."
"Why?" Grimstone asked. "I am not afraid of this abominable weather."
"You would be wise to wait until things turn green again, but that is not why I say to you do not go into the mountains in search of such things."
"Why then? Is it because," Grimstone said with a smile on his face, "the Alleghenys are supposed to be haunted?"
"Spirits are not the only things that haunt the mountains," the Indian said with so much seriousness that it completely wiped the smile from Grimstone's rugged face. "The...people...who made those things...they haunt the mountains."
The Egyptologist's face lit up with tremendous exuberance.
"These people are still alive?"
"I have not seen them since I was a very young man...but yes...they still live high in the mountains."
"Mr. Long House, you must take me to them!"
"I would rather pray to your Christian god than to go anywhere near the Sun Hawk People!" Coming from a man who was by far no mission Indian, that was as definite a no as any man could deliver.
"The Sun Hawk People." Grimstone tasted the words, savouring every syllable.
"Please, sir," Neti begged. "Please help my husband."
"Woman," the ancient said, "I am helping your husband. You do not want to find these...these...people."
"Because they are bad medicine?" Grimstone asked.
"They are powerful medicine. They are not like other human beings...not exactly. They are...different. The Sun Hawk People look much like the Seneca and the Iroquois, much like many human beings, but..." Joseph Long House grabbed Grimstone's forearm, his hands like the talons of an eagle, his face intensely alive. "When I was a young man, much younger than you are now, my people lived not too far from the Sun Hawk People. We did not bother them and they did not bother us. Until one day. Our people were hungry. Our hunting grounds were spoiled by white trappers. So we sent out a hunting party into the hunting grounds of these people you seek. It was no longer like the old days and it was not unusual for men to look for game in the hunting grounds of another tribe. It was sometimes...sometimes..."
"Tolerated?" Grimstone offered.
"Yes. Tolerated. We had all come to understand hunger," the old man shrugged. "We believed that even the Sun Hawk People understood, though they are a very private people. We were not wrong, I think, but something terrible happened that day. One of the young braves of the hunting party was over eager. He saw something moving in the brush and fired an arrow into the leaves." The strength in Joseph Long House's hands seemed to dissipate. He released Grimstone's arm and fell back into his chair, a far away look on his face. "A boy was killed. A boy of the Sun Hawk People." The old Indian looked up into Neti's clear grey eyes. "A boy with eyes like yours...the eyes of a medicine man."
Joseph Long House looked back into Grimstone's face.
"We were too afraid to even approach the boy. We thought he was dead and we just stood there. I did not mean to shoot him. It was an accident. I thought he was... But it doesn't matter. I shot the boy. Then before we could leave that place, his chest, which had stilled, suddenly heaved again and he made a great gasping sound. It is true, you know, that a medicine man...a great medicine man...can hide his heart so that no man may kill him in any normal way. He was only a boy, but he was also a great medicine man. Much younger than me, but already more powerful than any medicine man the Seneca had ever known. He was killed and he came back to life."
Grimstone for a moment was about to argue with the old man, reassure him that the boy could not have died and then returned to life, that he must have only been stunned when the arrow struck him, but the look in the old Indian's eyes told him that his belief could not be shaken and it would have been pointless to refute his belief.
"The boy stood up and looked at us with those eyes...eyes like the sky in winter...the arrow still in his chest, then he threw his head back and howled, howled like a wolf, and his cry was heard and answered...answered by many wolves. They were all around us! I looked this way and that. It was growing dark and in the bushes I could see the eyes of many wolves shining. We were a small hunting party of weak, starving boys...hardly men yet...and there were at least twice our number of wolves everywhere we looked. Then I turned back to the boy as he lowered his head and looked at us...looked at me. His cold eyes burned into me. He reached out his hand and it looked like a claw. The boy looked as if he were pulling something out of the air and I felt a pain in my chest. He was taking my heart! He was pulling the heart right out of my chest even though there was a distance of many strides between us! When I thought I could stand the pain no more, after falling to my knees, he stopped. Suddenly. He just stopped. Then he threw his head back again and howled, and the wolves came. I was too weak to fight, and the others...they did not fight well enough. Everyone of them was killed, torn apart by teeth as sharp as that knife you have. Everyone killed...everyone but me...and it was all my fault.
"I was not touched. The wolves came nowhere near me. I looked up. I was crying like a child...I do not feel ashamed to say that now...and I asked him 'Why?' That is all, just 'Why?' And he understood.
"'Because I am Sly Wolf,' is all that he said. 'Because I am Sly Wolf.' Then he pulled the arrow from his chest. I saw almost no pain on his face, but it must have been very painful, then he put his hand over his wound for a moment until it was covered in his blood. I wanted to run when he came towards me, but I could not get up off of my knees. I could not move. I do not know if it was because of fear...fear of this boy coming near me or fear of the many blood-stained wolves still standing around me, panting...but I could not move. Soon the boy stood before me. He pressed his bloody hand to my chest and held it over my heart for what seemed like a very long time. It burned. His blood burned like fire. I do not invent stories to amuse white men. Sly Wolf's blood burned my flesh. I cried. The tears flowed from my eyes, and he looked into them...deep...and then said, 'Your people will eat tonight, but you must never again hunt.'
"The boy turned and walked away and I never again went out with a hunting party. I could not. But that night, as I was returning to my village wondering how I would explain the deaths of my companions while I yet lived, there were the sounds of great joy. Everyone was happy...until I told them what had happened. Sometime after the boy, Sly Wolf, left me, the sound of howling wolves frightened everyone in my village. Some of our braves went out to chase the wolves away to protect our women and children. When they went into the underbrush, the braves found no wolves. Instead they found rabbits, birds...even a small deer. Each dead animal had been freshly killed. All bore the marks of the wolf, yet none had been spoiled. The wolves killed the game for my village...not for themselves. The boy had sent them. He told them what to do. He told me that my people would eat that night. That is why I never hunted again. It was part of the price I had to pay."
Joseph Long House was silent for a moment, then he leaned forward and gently laid his gnarled hand, the strength gone out of it, upon Grimstone's forearm.
"He was just a boy, younger than me, but he was of the Sun Hawk People. Do you see why I will not lead you to these people and why I tell you not to go? They are powerful medicine...and it is best to stay away from them. We moved our village the very next day. We moved it far from that place. And since then..."
The ancient Indian's words trailed off as he leaned back into the simple wooden chair, its joints creaking with his meagre weight.
"It is a very interesting story, Mr. Long House. Really. One of the most interesting stories that I have ever heard, and I have heard many, but you really cannot expect me to believe it...not all of it."
Grimstone was not trying to be rude. Joseph Long House could see the sympathy in his blue eyes and hear it in his voice. White men seldom believed such things--unless they were alone--and it was dark.
"You do not believe my words," the Indian said, "but do you believe your eyes?"
Joseph Long House unbuttoned his white man's shirt and pulled it open. Grimstone's eyes went wide and Neti gasped as they looked upon his shrunken chest, for there was thereon, as if burned into his flesh, the perfect print of a small boy's hand.
"If you go into those mountains in search of the Sun Hawk People," the
Seneca Indian said, "you will die there."