Keezheekoni


Ahusaka was still. He contemplated the judgment he gave to the man from the caravan.

Making someone a skinwalker is a horrible death if not released. The arms are secured behind the back with strong cordage where it is unlikely that a man could release himself. A wet, poorly cleaned hide serves as a mask. There are no eye holes and it is secured to the head.

The recipient of this punishment is permitted to wander in a panic, trying to release himself.

Inevitably, someone will inflict a painful blow or throw something at the skinwalker.

Ahusaka had watched a few men die this way. The Heron had planned to make it last.

Wispy Sapling was adored by the Heron.

Unfortunately for the Heron tribe, a scout from Northwich released him from his plight as he wandered in the woods.

The Brother released him and sent him on his way. The punishment would have lasted quite a while without intervention.

Ahusaka’s thought of his adopted daughter.

She was in high spirits outwardly.

The tribe had worked together to keep her safe. They had comforted her and tried to make her feel special.

He would continue to watch her. Ahusaka knew of silent suffering.

Ahusaka thought of his childhood and the old ways he was brought up in.

There were a lot of people venturing North in recent years. Things were changing.

As Ahusaka contemplated, Wispy Sapling sat beside him.

“Father, tell me the story of how you received the scars on your arms and shoulders.”

Ahusaka smiled.

“My little sapling, I have told you the story many times. Time and again you ask. It is simple. I fell from a tree and onto the rocks when I was young and my mother sewed me like a jacket and wove me back together like a basket.”

Wispy Sapling sat with her father. She felt safe with Ahusaka. When her real father had died, he was quick to make sure her and her mother were cared for.

“I have heard this story many times, father. I want you to tell me the truth. It is said that you tamed the thunderbird.”

Ahusaka was startled. “Who said such a thing?”

“The elders told me.”

“Father, I am the daughter of the proud and noble Ahusaka. You have said it yourself. You said you would keep me and watch me grow into a great big tree.

When I was little, you said birds would nest in my branches. Those were sweet and tender words. When I was small, you carried me on your shoulders and we would go on long walks.

You said, fly little bird, be free! I would wave my arms and pretend I was an eagle or a thunderbird.

When no one is around you look to the North wistfully. Your hard, dark eyes become misty and you say “I miss you little friend. I wish for you to sit on my shoulder once again.” You say, “fly little bird, be free.”

Tell me the story, father. The elders told me about it, but I want to hear you tell it to me.”

There was a long pause. Ahusaka smiled with his eyes. He loved his daughter.

“Long ago a boy from a village had a reputation for hunting small game.

He frequently took squirrel, hare, racoon, dove and trout from the forests and streams with snares and traps.

As he grew, he became adept at hunting deer and elk.

His friends became envious of his skill and challenged him to hunt a pequin.

A pequin is an evil creature that sits in trees and screams in the night. They are from another world and do not belong here. They are red and withered looking. The skin of the pequin burns when it is touched. They weigh as much as a man and ambush the unwary.

The young man set out to take on this challenge. He gathered his his bow, knife, and spear and set out on his own. He headed east towards a large village of foreigners he had met in a place they called Northwich.
The young man would travel east of Northwich to where the pequin congregate. He thought of his objective. He had seen pequin in the forest before and he had avoided them. They seemed to take pleasure in the misfortune of other creatures and they had the means to do so with their touch alone.

The young man would travel east of Northwich to where the pequin congregate. He thought of his objective. He had seen pequin in the forest before and he had avoided them. They seemed to take pleasure in the misfortune of other creatures and they had the means to do so with their touch alone.

The young man had seen seen them and their tracks. He had never seen a pequin eat. He wondered if they got nourishment from the fear of other creatures in the forest. He thought of the stories passed through generations of the pequin. Were they like a plant, receiving sustenance from the earth? Their nature and habits would be important if he were to hunt a pequin. The young man was deep in thought when ahead, and to the east, he saw great billows of smoke.

The village of Northwich was a burning inferno. A group of enormous birds with long necks flew around the smoke.

The young man retreated under the canopy of the forest and watched. If he was not mistaken, flames protruded from the mouths of the birds. They reminded the young man of a winged serpent or lizard. The young man had sat in councils and ceremonies all of his life and had never heard of a creature breathing fire.

He could hear the screams of the village. Despite the few war parties he had followed, death and burning shocked the young man and yet he could not take his eyes away from the destruction. The few fleeing souls were picked up by the winged serpents and dropped to their deaths.

The young man recoiled in fear and did his best not to show it. He was a warrior. He told himself over and over, “ I am not afraid, I am a warrior.” The young man remained under a canopy of trees.”

There was a long pause.

Wispy Sapling broke the silence. “ Were you the young man?”

Ahusaka looked far away. “I have never told anyone this story. Yes, the story is my own.”

Wispy Sapling was curious and unabashed. “Father! Tell me the story! You must continue!”

Ahusaka continued.

“ I had heard the elders and seasoned warriors talk about the thunderbird. I waited a full day after the birds had left. I focused so intently on the devastation that a pequin shrieked and jumped on my back.

I turned and drew my knife and began stabbing wildly at the pequin. It’s screams were as terrifying as the pain I felt when it touched my skin. My skin burned when we fought. The pain was intense and I knew I was fighting for my life. When I stabbed it in the ribs, the pequin scrambled up a tree. I nocked an arrow and released. The pequin stared at me and gave an ear splitting howl. He fell from the tree and lay dead on the ground.

I looked at my body and felt great agony in my back. I burned everywhere. I had many blisters on my body and thought that I might die. The closest water was in the village of Northwich and I made the choice to approach the burned village to care for my wounds. I bathed myself and rested for several days. I retrieved the skin from the carcass and learned that the skin does not burn after it has been washed in a stream. The water bubbles up violently when you wash the skin. I did not have to travel to where the pequin reside to gain my prize.”

“but what about the thunderbird, Father?” Wispy Sapling asked.

“I heard crying noises of an animal or person in the village. I listened to the source of the sound. Inside a stone building, a strange looking bird was tethered to a stand. It became excited when I approached. When I went to release the bird, it pecked at me, not letting me near. I managed to hold the bird in such a way that it would not thrash around by tucking its head into one of the birds wings. I then released it from the tether. Still holding the bird, I yelled, “be free, little bird!”

And thrust it into the air. The bird flew away and I felt good for the battle with the pequin and the deed I had done in releasing the bird. I had no sooner taken a couple of steps when I felt sharp talons on my shoulder and there was the bird I had released. It had flown to the stone house and retrieved the tether. I put the tether on the bird and the bird relaxed.

The bird had powerful talons that made me bleed on my shoulder leaving deep cuts. This was not an eagle or an osprey, this was a young thunderbird. I was elated and thought of the great honor that would be shown to me at the village. And indeed it was so. When I arrived with a pequin pelt and a young thunderbird attached to an aching shoulder, I was celebrated in song and story. I was given many gifts. While everyone agreed that Northwich was burned to the ground and its inhabitants destroyed, thunderbirds were a stretch of imagination. The elders and the elders elders had seen thunderbirds and not one story or experience spoke of fire breath.

I spent time with the bird and learned through observation that she was trained to be tethered.

I named her Keezheekoni.

Keezheekoni hunted with me and would bring small animals and drop them at my feet. She then perched on my arm and waited impatiently for me to feed her. She would not eat on her own. It was necessary for me to feed her by hand.

Keezheekoni went with me everywhere. When I spoke, it was as if she understood. She responded in her own language. We became very close. We went everywhere together and ate together. I became quite attached to her.

As she grew, I made a perch for her. She was much too big for a lanky young man’s shoulder. l looked at my shoulder and arm genuinely for the first time since I had found her.. I was scarred from her talons. I loved that bird with everything and I did not care. I think Keezheekoni understood and she followed me by walking like a bat on all fours or flying overhead. I made a new tether and affixed it.

Every feeding was by hand. She had an incredible appetite.

My childhood friend, Magaskawee did not like that Keezheekoni was tethered and hand fed. She wanted me to let the bird go. “Thunderbirds are meant to be free, Ahusaka.” She said.

Some of the young men brought fermented fruit to Keezheekoni to see if she would like it. She consumed large amounts of alcohol and was not drunk. Her crop area swelled when she drank.

This was the beginning of the end.

Keezheekoni was the size of a large eagle when she began drinking fermented fruit. She became obsessed with it and demanded more by screeching. The elders were concerned for the health of the bird. Thunderbirds eat meat.

Several warriors came and began taunting Keezheekoni in a playful way. They did not understand that she was sensitive to harsh words.

We heard a clicking sound from the bird. This was a sound I was unfamiliar with. Keezheekoni belched and a foul smell emanated. The clicking sound repeated and flames appeared.

Keezheekoni chased a warrior and he was almost burned by the flames. I called Keezheekoni and tethered her to a heavy branch.

I consulted with the elders and they determined we must release Keezheekoni far away so she would not harm anyone. I reluctantly agreed.

I remembered Northwich.

Perhaps they had raised thunderbirds and fed them fermented fruit like we had. We concluded that the alcohol somehow ignites in the crop. We resolved not to let this happen to our village again.

I released Keezheekoni from the branch and she followed me.

Keezheekoni instinctively knew what I was doing when I began walking north. She wanted to be kept. All of her life she knew captivity. She landed on my shoulder as I walked and began cleaning me gently by pulling on my skin and hair with her beak. Her vocalizations were pleading. I loved that beautiful bird. I did not want to give her up. It broke my heart that she knew I was taking her away.

” you are not meant for a tether, little thunderbird,” I told her. “You are meant to be free.”

I was saddened and depressed from what needed to be done. I had connected so well with her.

I spent many days traveling north to where the thunderbird reside. I spoke to Keezheekoni and encouraged her.

Aa we drew near the Northern lands, Keezheekoni’s eyes looked up to the sky ever frequently. She could see her kind in the air.

Keezheekoni was imprinted upon to be attached to her tether and she did not want to leave it.

I knew she was conflicted and I encouraged her. ” you are born to fly, Keezheekoni! Higher than the eagle or the osprey. I will always be your friend, but you don’t belong tethered to a perch in a man’s dwelling. You are a thunderbird!”

As we stopped we came to a high point in the terrain. I removed her tether and positioned Keezheekoni on a rocky perch.

“This is where you reunite with your family little friend!”

Keezheekoni was timid and afraid.

Today I would push her out on her own.

I built a fire and she flew off, knowing I wanted to cook something. She returned shortly with a large rodent and flew off again. An enormous thunderbird flew overhead and screamed. I imagine that it could have picked me up if it chose to. I was so close I felt the rush of the wind from its wings. Keezheekoni returned with a hare and opened her mouth to be fed. “No, winged one, today you eat by yourself.” She screamed and reached for the tether with her beak. She wanted me to attach it and feed her. I snatched the tether up and threw it into the fire. Keezheekoni screamed and displayed her wings angrily. She leapt on me and attacked. I covered my face with my hands and tried to push her away with my legs. I was beside myself with emotion. I did not want to let her go and knew I must. Magaskawee was right. The place for a thunderbird is in the sky in the wilderness.

“No, winged one, today you eat by yourself.” She screamed and reached for the tether with her beak. She wanted me to attach it and feed her. I snatched the tether up and threw it into the fire. Keezheekoni screamed and displayed her wings angrily. She leapt on me and attacked. I covered my face with my hands and tried to push her away with my legs. I was beside myself with emotion. I did not want to let her go and knew I must. Magaskawee was right. The place for a thunderbird is in the sky in the wilderness.

The bird stared at me. I felt as if we could communicate by that alone.

I did what I knew I had to do. “You have to eat by yourself little bird. No tether, no hand feeding.”

I dressed the hare and left the rodent where Keezheekoni left it. I began eating. She screamed at me. She was offended I would not feed her and burned her tether.

She looked at the rodent for a long time after I had eaten the hare. She reached down and picked up the rodent. I encouraged her to eat and she did.

“see, you don’t need a tether to eat. You were tricked all along. It is ok little friend, you were tricked as a baby. You are not so little anymore and now you know. You don’t need me either, friend.

You are a powerful creature. You can soar in the air, high above the eagles. You are a thunderbird. It is time for you to go and make it in the wide expanse of the sky.”

The thunderbird screamed a blood curdling scream that sounded like anguish and flew off.

I have not seen her since. I miss Keezheekoni and watch the sky for her every day. I imagine I am talking with her sometimes.

That is my story, Wispy Sapling.

Ahusaka was silent.

Author: The Storyteller

Don't count the lions. It will make you afraid and slow you down.

11 thoughts on “Keezheekoni”

  1. Plz put a search widget on your site. 🙂 This way, when you reference things, I can search faster!!!
    THIS WAS AWESOME!
    I am looking forward to when it is finished! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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