He couldn’t stop the feeling of power he had inside as he raced through the thick woods on such a wonderful horse. Mama will be so surprised when I walk through the cabin door for dinner! He laughed again, so relieved to be heading home. She’ll call someone to fix my leg and we’ll go on just as before. She was wrong about God. I didn’t need His help to get out of there, I didn’t even need to pray. I can do it all myself.
In his state of ecstasy, Isaac failed to see the camouflaged coil ahead of him! A loud rattling was the only warning the snake gave. Squealing, the horse danced to the left, where the fast moving river rushed over stones and rotting wood. Rearing up on it’s hind legs, Isaac lost his hold on the horse’s mane and plunged into the cold water.
Sparks exploded in his skull as his head slammed into something hard. It wasn’t quite hard enough to knock him out, but he became very dizzy as he spun around in the icy water.
He had never been a strong swimmer. No matter how many times his father had tried to teach him, he had always ended up thrashing and gulping down mouthfuls of water. His father had always been there to help him and hold him up. Now there was no one except him, and the river was winning.
Coughing, sputtering, and crying out, Isaac managed to hold his head above the water for a few seconds at a time. He regretted trying to escape. Why had he been so foolish to think it could be so easily accomplished? Why hadn’t he watched out for obstacles on the trail?
Isaac screamed as something caught hold of his shoulders, he thrashed about, frightened that he was about to drown.
Suddenly, he felt himself being pulled onto shore. Before he knew it, he was lying on the bank of the river. The strong hands rolled him over and slapped his back. Water spewed from his mouth, and he could suddenly breathe again.
The strong hands rolled him back over and loosened the collar of his shirt. Blinking away the stinging grit in his eyes, Isaac tried to see who had saved him from the river.
“Don’t move. It will make the bleeding worse.” The young warrior was bending over him, looking into his face with a troubled expression. “Why would you steal my horse?”
Isaac felt a flame leap into his face. He had no answer, only shame.
“My father, the chief, is very upset you ran away. Our people are known for their kindness, but--”
“Kindness?!” Isaac interrupted, finally working up some spunk. “Your ‘people’ broke my leg and wanted to leave me behind in the clearing! You call that kindness?”
“I thought I, at least, had been showing you kindness. Your friend--the little boy?--isn’t treated kindly.”
“He belongs to Akando.”
“My uncle. My name is Kesegowasse.”
“Your name is Kess-ego-washy?” A hint of a smile played on the Indian’s lips and he shook his head.
“No, Kesegowasse. You’re fortunate my name means ‘swift’. You were half-drowned when I found you. You’re Napayshni now.”
“I don’t understand—what’s Napayshni?” Kesegowasse helped him to his feet and pointed back to the trail.
“Listen here: my name is not Napayshni. It’s Isaac! Isaac Bradley. I’m fifteen years old and I’m not an Indian!”
“No! You listen!” For the first time Kesegowasse became firm, and he backhanded Isaac’s mouth so hard it burned. “You’re an Indian now. You’re my father’s son. You are my brother. You are Napayshni.” Isaac’s lips trembled as he tried to hold back his tears.
“I’m Isaac. Isaac Bradley!” A single tear made a trail down his face and he hastily brushed it away.
“You are Napayshni.” From a small wooden keg, Kesegowasse plunged his finger in and brought out a grey paint. “Here, you’ll wear this now.” Isaac trembled as the large fingers touched his cheeks and slid across them to make a pattern. “You’re my brother now. You are Napayshni.”
No. I’m Isaac. Isaac Bradley. As they started back down the trail, Isaac again riding the horse because of his leg, the young boy reached up and touched the dry paint.
Remember. Remember who you are, Isaac Bradley.
When Kesegowasse led him back into camp, the sun was beginning to set. Isaac could hardly believe how far he had made it on the horse before being thrown into the river. Smells of cooking meat rose from the fires as women flitted about, making the evening meal. Children ran around, playing a game of hide and seek in the shadows, while the men sat by the fires, chatting.
The moment they set foot into camp, the people everywhere fell silent, staring at the captive, as he was led down the path towards the largest and most ornate wigwam. Isaac looked down at his hands and tried his best not to cry.
He practically fell into Kesegowasse’s arms as the warrior drew him off the horse. He was completely exhausted and freezing cold.
The room Kesegowasse carried him into was dimly lit and smoky, but it was warm. As he dropped off to sleep, he heard the muffled sound of angry voices rising and falling. I don’t even care right now. Isaac mumbled. I just want to sleep.
Isaac nearly screamed as he felt a sharp tug on his broken leg. In fact, the pain was so intense it forced him right out of his nest of blankets and up into a sitting position.
He saw Kesegowasse and a large white haired man handling his leg. Crying out, Isaac tried to pull away.
“Shh, now—shh, little one.” Distracted for a moment by the soft, dove like voice, Isaac turned his attention from his leg to the person kneeling beside him.
A woman, with long brown hair, deep blue eyes, and a round pretty face gently pushed him back down onto the blankets. “You must stay still. You're very sick.” As another wave of pain washed through him, Isaac moaned and pressed himself back against the blankets.
“Who are you?” he somehow managed to say.
“My name is Chenoa. I’m Kesegowaase’s mother. Now hush and swallow this.” A cupful of something hot was held to his lips and he swallowed obediently. It tasted bitter and he nearly choked on the first swallow, but after a few sips, the liquid had a strange effect on him.
His eyes became heavy and he felt so comfortable, that he settled back, feeling almost no pain.
“Lie still, Isaac darling.” Gently, she helped him lay back onto his cot. “You're quite feverish dear, but this tea will help.” It was sweet and hot, making his insides feel better.
“Thank you, mama.” As he closed his eyes, he felt his mother’s fingers brushing through his hair again and again. Her sweet voice rose in a soft song, lulling him to sleep.
Isaac smiled faintly. He was glad she was so near and was relieved to be slowly awakening from this horrible dream he had been in for the past few days....
But as he opened his eyes, the pain of reality hit him. His mother was not the one stroking his hair and he was not at home. He was still here, still in the Indian village, and he still had that awful grey paint on his face.
To Be Continued…