A Journey in the Mountains
By: Julia W.
Maryland, Age 10
I looked in the water at myself. My carroty orange-red hair hung in two braids to my waist. My green eyes stared back at me. I looked fierce from the outside, but I was shaking on the inside.
It had been months since the Indians and my village made peace. This was something I was to do for both of us, for white men and for the Indians. I thought of Katya, my new Indian friend. I thought of Autumn, my new baby sister. They were both so different, but I loved them just the same.
The creature that had been stealing our food had to be slayed. And guess who they chose to go and do the dirty work.
Do I even have to tell you?
I was terrified. I had never seen the creature itself, but I had heard numerous stories about it from my neighbors. Several men had died trying to protect our vegetables and meat. The creature had slain them, just to get to our food. Even the Indians had been harmed from them.
I stood, making sure my sword was tied around my belt. And then I marched into the mountains.
I was only sixteen, but I could handle a sword better than any man, run faster than any Indian. I was by far the best of them all.
As I hiked up the mountain, my hand lay rested on the hilt of my sword. I was expecting hideous monsters to pop out of the bushes or from behind trees, but nothing surprising happened. Finally my buffalo canteen ran out of water and I veered off course to refill it at the river.
The water was ice cold. I splashed some on my face. As I filled the canteen with water, I heard a noise behind me. I quickly capped the canteen and whirled around, ready to draw my sword.
A maiden, wearing a tattered blue dress, leaned against a tree in despair. Her arms and legs were covered with scratches. Her breathing was jagged, her eyelids drooping from lack of sleep.
I tucked my canteen of water into my pack and raced to her side. I helped her up and asked, ''What is your name?''
''I am Rain Cloud,'' she murmured between gasps of air. ''Help—I was attacked by lion bear.''
Her head tilted towards mine and I looked into her gray eyes. I helped her towards the river bank and had her lay down on a bed of grass. I tore a piece of my clothing off and dunked it in the water.
There was a hiss behind me and I turned again. The maiden was standing on her feet. But she was no longer a maiden.
Her gray eyes were glowing blue. Long, metallic fingernails sprouted from her fingers. Her ripped dress was mended, with a dark blue cloak wrapped around the top.
''I am Nokomis, goddess of the earth. Bow before me, mortal, or feel my wrath.''
I thought for a moment. I was obviously in a state of trouble. What could I do to get out of it?
I turned and jumped across the river, my feet lightly touching stones in the water. On the other side, I murmured a spell the Indians had taught me.
Nokomis snarled. ''How dare you run?''
''Come and get me,'' I taunted.
She stepped forward but was quickly sucked into the water. A wail arose from the water. ''I, Nokomis, Goddess of the Earth, curse you, foolish mortal, to be forever lost from your kin!''
I felt something come out of the water and jam itself into my chest. Curse or no, my people needed help, and I wouldn't stop until I did what I was sent out to do.
Walking on, I realized that I was a bit shaken from the experience with Nokomis. A serpent arose from a bush and I kicked it away, still staring down at the ground.
My feet stopped walking at the entrance to a cave. It was the cave of the ferocious beast that had been damaging my people's food supply. The people, may I add, that I was now cursed to be forever lost from.
I walked in and looked around. It was nothing fancy, just a grassy ground and a pile of—yuck—bones in the corner.
Red eyes glowed from the darkness. ''Who dares awaken me from my sleep?'' a voice boomed. It seemed to be coming from everywhere around me.
''I, Jacqueline Holkins.''
''Why have you come? Have your people finally chosen to make peace with me?''
''No,'' I said. I waited for the monster to come out of the dark, but he didn't. ''Come out,'' I coaxed. ''I brought you something.''
''What is it? I cannot see. I have been blinded, you know.''
''I...It is a gift. A deer my people have killed.'' Panic wedged itself in my throat. My eyes welled up with tears. My father had died in the arms of this creature, and now I was just about to join him up in the big wigwam in the sky.
My hand sook at the hilt of my sword. I was glad the monster couldn't see.
''Bring it to me,'' the voice ordered.
I grunted. ''It is too heavy for me. I cannot lift it. You must come forward.''
The monster sneezed. ''Is it in my cave?''
''Yes. It is but an inch outside.''
I was thinking that I could bring him outside of the cave and fight to my death. But unfortunately, it was going to take some time for him to come out.
''Is it day?''
The monster howled. ''I cannot come out to the sun!''
''Oh, the sun has just set! It is plenty dark now.'' A bead of sweat trickled down my cheek. My hands were clamming up.
There was a thud as the beast stood up. ''Follow my voice,'' I said, walking towards the exit.
I continued to talk. ''The deer is a heavy one. Lots of meat on her bones. She will cook well over a fire.''
''I do not smell meat.''
''We're getting closer,'' I said.
When we were out in the sun, I drew my sword. But there was no need to.
The monster howled, clutching his eyes. ''The sun! The sun! It has blinded me once, now it is killing me! Oh, not the sun!''
The red and scaly monster evaporated into nothing. A big weight came off my chest and I let out a shaky breath. I was alive. I was okay.
And I was also cursed from my people.
The sky seemed to open up. ''Come with me, Jacqueline. Come join me in the sky.'' It was Manitou, the god of life and the supreme ruler of the gods.
It is now that I live in the sky with Manitou, the god of life. I can look down at my villagers and friends. My baby sister has grown into a warrior. And life is okay.