The day had aged three trees to the east by the time the body washed up on the banks of Lake Sanguine. When the women who had been fetching water came scurrying back into the camp, they were all talking at once, eyes wide with shock. Soaring Eagle listened in stoic interest. His expression did not change as the women prattled out their tale, wailing and pointing in the direction of the lake. Lifting a hand, he silenced them and turned to his chief warrior, muttering a low command. The warrior gestured to two braves and the three of them disappeared behind the chief’s lodge.
From where she stood by the cooking fires, Bright Star waited with bated breath for them to return.
Her husband had been gone too long. Just a routine scouting mission. That’s what he had told her when he left, but she had had a premonition even then and begged him not to go. He had laughed at her, a soft loving laugh, and kissed her on the top of the head, then flung himself up onto his horse in one fluid motion and rode out of the camp without looking back.
One of the young braves rounded the chief’s lodge in swift stride and spoke to Soaring Eagle. Was that a nod in her direction? Bright Star stared at the exchange from where she stood, trying to make out the words. Her blood froze in her veins when the chief’s solemn eyes settled on her.
When she saw the chief’s wife shuffling toward her, she knew what the news would be.
“Bright Star.” The older woman leveled her gaze into Bright Star’s face, a hint of sorrow in her deep black eyes. Her knees buckled beneath her. The camp whirled around her and the muscles in her abdomen constricted, causing the child within her to squirm in revolt. Then the darkness encompassed her; the light of day dissolved from her view and her head swam with the dizzying sensation of falling from the sacred mountain. Her last conscious thought.