My prize is an Authorgraphed (signed by me) Kindle copy of The Witchy Wolf and the Wendigo (book 1 in the ongoing series) ~ a modern tale drawn from ancient Native American myth and modern urban legend.
Play all month long. The more you play, the greater your chances of winning! My participation day is June 7th.
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1. Read my excerpt here.
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3. Follow this link to The Romance Reviews site and look for my name on the participant list.
4. Scroll down to my question and choose an answer from the multiple choice.
Question: After Livie and John perform surgery on the dog Living accidentally hit with her car, they discuss the curious thing they found tied around the animal's neck. What is it?
In this scene Ash watches helplessly as Aiyanna's ancient burial mound is destroyed for urban development. As her grave guardian, he takes this defiling very hard. With nothing left to live for, the shaman has thoughts of taking his immortal life.
Nothing remained. Even the precious pearls, the burial gifts from her water people, had been dug from Aiyanna’s otter mound and carried away. The diggers came for nearly two moon cycles, then one morning the woman who led the others came alone and walked the flattened ground.
Ash took the form of a fox and watched from the bushes as she pulled a packet from her clothing. She sprinkled something over the soil and his keen fox nose caught the familiar scent immediately. To his surprise, this white woman had made an offering to his wife’s spirit by sprinkling tobacco here. He knew this action for what it was – respect. It gave him much to think about that night.
The woman and the diggers didn’t return after that. And a cold rain fell for days. He felt the ancestors cry with him for the defiling of Aiyanna’s resting place. Within days of the rains stopping, thundering machines came. They tore down the trees and the thickets and scraped the area flat until all traces of the once sacred ground were removed. To add to the insult, the tobacco offering was not allowed time enough to pass into the soil.
In that moment Ash found he wanted to do them violence. He wanted to take the form of a bear and tear those men limb from limb, or to take the form of an eagle and drop stones to crush their skulls. But despite their irreverent destruction he was not a man of violence. He was a Midewi: a holy man dedicated to healing. More than that, he was a man chosen by the Manitou to walk in two worlds. No matter the emotion that filled his heart at this time, violence was not, and never would be, his path.
He heard the men while they ate their mid-day meal. They pointed at him and spoke in words he mostly understood. “Holy shit. Look over there at that fox! I didn’t know they got that big.”
The other one replied, “Whoa, you’re not kidding. That’s the biggest fox I’ve ever seen. Speaking of big, did you see that rabbit yesterday?”
“Yeah, I wished I’d brought my .22 to work. I have my granddad’s recipe for a fine fricassee. You can use rabbit or squirrel.”
The other man laughed. “That S.O.B. would have fed an army!”
The machines eventually lumbered away and silence settled on the air, disturbed only by the occasional rustle of falling leaves in the fast-approaching twilight. The silence was an illusion, Ash knew. It was only an absence of the noise he’d experienced for days. These people immersed themselves in constant noise. The only true silence was found in his dreams.
Filling his lungs with a slow deep breath, his body changed form. Growing taller, the fur and claws disappeared into his skin. Within seconds, Ash stood as a man. Aiyanna’s resting place was gone, and with it the grove of oak trees, and the sumac, and the plum and raspberry thickets as well. Even the creek bank was unrecognizable on this side. It was all gone, as was the charge he’d been sworn to. There was nothing left to do but end this existence.
Looking down, his eyes spied a single pearl left in the track they’d left behind. His gaze fell to a fist-sized chert nodule lying on the ground next to it. Yes. There’d be only small effort on his part to work a stone and fashion a knife. As quickly as he had taken his human form, he returned to that of a wolf and headed toward his hidden cave. Death was not something an immortal considered, but he had no reason to live. Distracted by thoughts of suicide, Ash stepped into the road.
Yawning, Olivia rolled the car window down. As desired, the cool evening air hit her in the face and roused her a bit. Having come close to hitting more than one deer over the years, she needed to stay alert on this dark two mile stretch of road, notorious for deer activity. She clicked the high beams on to expand her range of vision. Another yawn took her and she turned on the radio. Finding the inane talk radio chatter unappealing, her gaze momentarily strayed from the road to the dial. She looked up in time to see a large husky walk right in front of her car. The horrible thump that followed confirmed her worst fear. “Oh no, oh no.”
Pulling off to the shoulder, she ran to the bleeding, unconscious dog. Another car pulled up behind her. The driver hurried over. “Oh the poor thing! I saw it happen. He walked right in front of you.”
Between them they managed to wrap the dog in Olivia’s jacket and get him into her car. Speeding back to the clinic, Olivia grabbed blindly for her cell phone. Feeling the touchpad like Braille, she speed-dialed her boss, John Redleaf. “John, it’s me. I know you and Cora have an evening planned, but I really need some help. Can you give me just an hour of your time?”
“Of course Liv, what’s wrong?”
“I ran over a dog.”
“I’m not sure. First glance says compound fractured leg for sure, bad road rash, possible internal injuries, there’s pink foam coming out of the mouth and nose.”
“Sounds like a punctured lung. Anything else?”
“I can’t tell. It’s too dark to see.”
“I’m leaving now.”
“I’ll meet you there. Thanks, John. Tell Cora I wouldn’t ask if I thought I could handle this myself. This is a nasty compound fracture. If the dog’s going to keep his leg, he’s going to need surgery.”
Three hours later, washing up at the sink, knew they’d done all they could for the dog. Olivia’s quick action saved the leg and hopefully the animal’s life as well.
Intent on getting a better look at the amulet they’d found tied around the dog’s neck, John ran the carved bird stone under the water. No larger than a small plum, its smooth surface had been worked by hand until the form of a bird was achieved. The fact the animal wore it suggested they’d been treating someone’s pet, but if he hadn’t cut the bloody cord himself, he’d swear they’d just performed surgery on a wolf or a wolf–dog cross. “I’m not so sure that’s a dog Livie … with that snout, it’s more likely a wolf mix.”
“I believe you’re right. I’m thinking malamute–wolf or husky–wolf cross, myself. Look at those dark markings on the head.”
John nodded. The animal was darker than the average wolf, but definitely wolfish. “Malamute’s a good guess.” He held the small figurine out to her. “But whatever he is, this isn’t an everyday dog tag. He’s obviously somebody’s pet, though I can’t imagine the purpose of a pet wearing a bird stone.”
Taking it, Olivia blotted it dry with a paper towel. Simplistic in its rendering, the stylized bird was similar to Native American artifacts she’d seen in museums. Gift shop souvenir, she thought.
John examined the unconscious dog lying on the table. This was a full-grown adult, obviously well cared for, and he had no tartar on his teeth. No sign of the usual wear to the enamel that came with age either. In fact, his gums, coat, and eyes were all clear of disease and healthy — perfect, actually. John found that curious. A niggling thought entered his mind. Picking the bloodied cord from the trash, he unwound a bit and exposed fresh pale fibers suggesting the cordage had been recently crafted. A memory took him. This was dried stinging nettle, the same material his grandmother used on the reservation. The dog’s owner could be Potawatomi or perhaps Anishinabe, like himself. He turned back to the animal with renewed interest. “I think we’re looking at a rez dog.”
“This far south?” The nearest reservation was Lac du Flambeau, nearly six hours away by car.
“It might explain the bird stone versus dog tag. Very few tagged dogs on the rez.”
The doorbell rang setting off a barking terrier, three mewling cats, and a howling basset hound. It was Cora with a bucket of chicken in one hand and a bag of side dishes and essentials in the other. Seeing his wife, John smiled from ear to ear. “Now that’s why I married you woman! Gi zah gin.”
“I know you love me,” Cora laughed. “But you love more that you’re about to be fed. I figured you’d both be starving by now.” She gave Olivia a hug. Her words laced with concern, she said, “You’ve had quite a night. You okay?”
“The whole thing makes me terribly sad. I didn’t see him, he just stepped out in front of me—”
Her boss cut in, “But your quick attention likely saved his life, Livie. Accidents happen. Animals don’t understand roads are dangerous. To them it’s just easier ground to walk on.”
“I know, but still … and I’m so sorry I ruined your date. I know you guys plan them rain or shine.” Olivia looked at the pair sheepishly.
Cora waved her apology away. “It’s not a big deal, Liv, really. There’s one more concert in Elk Horn’s town square on October 15th. And besides, that one will be more to John’s liking, anyway. He doesn’t care much for reggae.”
“Reggae?” John laughed. “Oh, I see. You weren’t planning on telling me until we got there.” He cast a grateful eye at the younger vet. “You saved me, Liv.”
“Listen to you. You talk like our date was a trip to the dentist!” Cora teased.
Olivia laughed and shook her head. She really loved these two — their banter, their kind hearts, and especially the way they looked at each other. John grew up fairly isolated on the reservation. He actually loved immersing himself in the world’s cultures and Cora scoured their area, looking for anything he might enjoy along those lines. There was no doubt they loved each other dearly. She should be so lucky.
Cora passed out the paper plates. “So bring me up to speed here. What happened?”
Olivia relayed the details of the accident over dinner.
Stuffing the last bit of biscuit into his mouth, John went to the sink where the bird stone sat on paper towels. He handed it over to his archeologist wife. “Take a look at this, aajigade.”
Olivia told her, “We found a souvenir.”
Holding it, Cora looked at John expectantly. “A bird stone?” The bird had been carved from grayish-green banded slate. It was finely done, the surface smooth all the way around. She pulled her reading glasses from her purse and looked again. Small score marks were visible, suggesting the piece had been polished with handfuls of fine sand. She’d seen dozens of these in her career. “It’s a nice one, and it isn’t a souvenir. This is the real deal, several thousand years old I’d say.”
“I thought so. Look at the cordage.” John pointed to the counter and the bloodied cord sitting there on paper towels.
Cora examined the hand-twisted cord with an archeologist’s eye. It looked recently made. Half of the length was stiff with dried blood, the other half unraveled. She rolled it between her fingers. There was no mistaking the silky fibers. Dried nettle.
“What are you seeing when you look at those?” John asked.
“I’m seeing expertly-made cordage and a Late Woodland era bird stone.”
“The stone was tied around the dog’s neck with that cord.”
She looked at them in disbelief. “The dog was wearing this?”
The pair nodded. John rubbed his chin. “I’m thinking res dog. I’m also thinking he’s half wolf or more.”
Cora turned the stone in her hands. What would a reservation dog be doing three hundred miles from the reservation? And why on earth had it been wearing an ancient artifact?
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