Spirit Island by Adelle Laudan

Chapter One

With the arrival of traders from the Wolf Clan, a cloud of apprehension rolled in and billowed above the Wikwemikong Reservation. It wasn’t unusual for different tribes to come to the island with offers of trading their wares for furs. This time, things were different. This time, a certain Mohawk, who went by the name Kosumi, had openly expressed his interest in her.

Nara knew her parents expected her to be married by now. At twenty-one years of age, she still hadn’t found the right man to share her life with. Only one man ever made her heart race and left her tongue-tied and he left the Island over five years ago. Unfortunately Tokoda never returned, not even for his parents’ funeral.

Balanced upright in the canoe, Nara gave the shoreline a cursory glance before pulling her deerskin shift over her head.  With eyes closed, she celebrated the freedom this secluded spot gave her.

In the beginning, the Creator made Spirit Island in order to have a place to call home. He took the cleanest air, and the freshest water, along with all the plants, medicine and food He’d ever need. Even today, many came to the Sacred Island to speak to the Great Spirit.

The hopes and dreams of her ancestors carried in the breeze prickling her bare skin. A sense of well-being filled her heart, and there was no doubt, the Great Spirit still made Mnido-Maniss his home.

Nara dived into the cool water, revelling in the sensation against her body as she came up for air. She stretched out on her back and stared up at the twinkling stars. What story did they tell as they danced to the rhythm of their own music?

The rattle of shaking branches caused her breath to hitch, and she slipped under the blanket of water to hide her nakedness. Someone crouched in the bushes, the whites of his or hers eyes illuminated by the moonlight. Nara swam to the side of the canoe and struggled to slow her breathing. Cautiously, she peeked over the canoe’s rim and searched the shoreline.

I saw someone, I know I did. Where did they go? Has someone been watching me all along?

The mere thought of a stranger seeing her naked repulsed her. Movement caught her attention, and she froze.

Between her and the shore, the water swirled. Nara’s jaw dropped as a ghostly apparition rose up from the mist. Without knowing how, she knew it to be the Underwater Princess of stories told so many times around the campfire.

The beautiful native princess turned her head to face the bushes, her blue-black hair settled in layers around her shoulders. With a flick of her wrist, a gust of wind came out of nowhere, whipping the prickly rose bushes into a frenzy.

Suddenly, a man’s pain-filled cry resounded across the river, and a figure shot up from behind the bushes and tore off into the darkness of the forest. As quickly as the wind had risen, it calmed. The princess smiled satisfactorily in her direction before fading into the night. In her wake, a gathering of fireflies flew upwards until one couldn’t tell them from the stars.

Nara reached in the canoe for her deerskin shift and pulled it down over her damp hair. Without a sound, she slipped back on board and gazed out on the calm, glass-like water. Since the day her father taught her to guide a canoe, this had been her special place. Never before did the Underwater Princess appear.

Many times it felt as if someone else shared this space with her, but she always thought it to be the Great Spirit. Perhaps it was, or perhaps more than one spirit loved it here as much as she did. Nara shivered and dipped her paddle in the lake. The birch bark canoe her father built sliced through the water effortlessly.

Who had been hiding in the bushes? Whoever it was, they got quite the lashing from the barbs of those prickly rose bushes. To think the Princess Misshepeshy saved her. The same princess who so many years ago saved her tribe from the imminent ambush of the most feared of all the tribes—the Sioux.

Like a beacon in the night, the light from her father’s fire drew her to shore. She smiled upon seeing him walk down the path toward her. Despite knowing he’d give her the ‘talk’ about her midnight excursions and how it wasn’t safe to be out alone at night, Nara stepped out of the canoe and wrapped her arms around his neck.

Enape stepped back and laughed. “Careful, you’re going to knock us both down.” Her father returned the affectionate gesture and hugged her tight before holding her at arm’s length and searching her eyes. “What’s gotten into you?”

“Can’t a girl hug her father without having a reason?”

His brow arched. “Most girls, yes. You…?” He shook his head. “I guess it’s pointless to try and get a straight answer from you tonight?”

An unfamiliar rumble filled the night. Nara turned to her father. “What is that?”

Enape shrugged. “Sounds like a motorcycle to me.”

* * * *

Home.

Home to where the scent of sweet grass pervades the crystal-clear skies.  A home left over four years ago and never once revisited…until today. Tokoda followed the procession of vehicles from the Chi-Cheemaun, his helmet hanging from his handlebars. It wasn’t needed on the island. He set his feet down and took in the sight unfolding before him.

Manitoulin Island—taking a step back in time, even in the dark of night. A place the Great Spirit Gitchi Manitou set aside as his home, with the bluest sparkling water, the brightest twinkling stars, and the most beautiful glistening quartz rock.

None too soon, the line inched forward until finally the open road yawned ahead of him. He eagerly anticipated reuniting with his three sisters, but wished it were for other reasons than their parents deaths. Given the circumstances, he couldn’t stop the bitter resentment of having to come back and put all of his hopes and dreams on hold.

Tokoda shifted gears and eased back on his Harley. His headlight cast a glow on the silver birch, maple and sumac trees standing majestically on either side of the road, as if ensuring he made his destination, Wikwemikong.

He inhaled deeply and released the air slowly. If he paid close enough attention, the lingering scents of prickly roses and wild blueberries hung in the air. His mother’s favourite… Sadness washed over him with the memory of exactly what brought him back to the island. His parents were in a boating accident and drowned, leaving the care of his three sisters to him.

It took six months to catch up to him on the road with the band. The guys were less than impressed with the sudden turn of events, but understood his need to be with his sisters. Six months, topsCome winter Colt Harley cuts our first demo and I can carry on with my life in the band.

A familiar sweetness permeated the air, and the taste on his lips told him he was almost home. This time of year the thick syrup ran freely from the sugar maples, and preparations were made to make everything from soap to candy to the maple syrup they poured so liberally over much of what they ate. Gaining a few pounds during his time here was pretty much a given.

Tokoda sighed resignedly and practiced a smile before turning his bike down the dark gravel road leading to his village. Ready or not, here I come.

One Response to “Spirit Island by Adelle Laudan”

  1. Ms. Priss January 30, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    Adelle, I love this chapter and waiting patiently for the next one! Keep up the great writing!

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