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  • The fire burned hot, casting away shadows from most of the people sitting around it. The sweet smell of the burning logs and ceremonial herbs wafted fragrantly through the air, vivid reminders of sings and ceremonials gone by.

    Tall Bird sat in his position of honor, as he always did. His legs folded underneath his arms, which were gnarled and scarred. The light from the fire was kind to him. His face was a mass of wrinkles and scars during the daylight. But at night, particularly when he was telling the people about the World and the gods, the light softened that tapestry, making him look both younger and wiser at the same time.

    Rock Lizard poked a long branch into the depths of the fire, shifting the wood and setting off a shower of sparks. The younger children chased them beyond the light of the circle, mostly as sport, but also to ensure no spark turned into an unintended secondary fire.

    Settling back, Tall Bird's eyes reflected back the light from the fire and his face grew somber. "The Plains people will be returning here soon. They will not talk, so we must fight them."

    The warriors around the fire nodded, but the older ones cringed inside at the thought of fighting the Plains tribe. Too many lost. On both sides. Much grief and sadness in these times.

    Finds Water, a powerfully built warrior in his prime years, looked around at his people and stood. "We share this land with many other tribes and people. It is not necessary for us to fight and die. But when we are threatened, the Earth will drink deep of the blood of our enemies!"

    Sitting back down, many of the warriors around the fire nodded and agreed, particularly the younger warriors, many of whom had seen few if any battles.

    Tall Bird stared deep into the fire. "The People didn't always fight other tribes. At the beginning times, we were all at peace. None of the first peoples fought or made wars."

    There was much murmuring among those gathered around the fire. Finds Water crossed his thick arms and looked incredulously back at Tall Bird. "No wars? No fighting?"

    Tall Bird nodded gravely, the fire light flitting in and out of his eyes. "My fathers told a story of how war came to the People. I should tell it to you."

    Murmurs of assent from around the fire.

    Tall Bird pulled his knees under his chin, and began to speak.

    "In the beginning times, Dancing Woman brought her people to many places. Some on the plains. Some in the hills. Some in cliffs like our neighbors."

    This he said nodding toward the pueblos on the other side of the ridge.

    "Even some by great waters, waters so vast you could not see the other bank. For many seasons, the people all spoke the same language. There was no war because there was plenty for everyone. The corn grew, and the rains fell. Our hunts were successful. Our children were happy and our wives satisfied."

    Chuckles from around the fire, and some elbowing. Tall Bird smiled.

    "War came from across those great waters. My fathers told of a warrior race -- a race of men so terrible they had no women. They were ugly and brutish and had forgotten how to walk in beauty."

    Murmurs from around the fire. Finds Water gestured broadly and said "We would have met them in battle and defeated them. And their blood would have fed the Earth."

    Whoops and agreement from the warriors around the fire. The younger men looked up to Finds Water, a warrior's warrior.

    Tall Bird motioned for quiet and he was accorded that respect.

    He continued "The people did not know how to make war. We hunted, but we used our spears for game not for war. We had no bows, no war clubs. We did not fight each other. So, at first, the slaughter of the people was unbearable. So many killed. The men from across the water were fierce and worshipped a bloody god, a god that is heard in the storm. And these men took our women and killed our children."

    Angry words from around the fire now. Warriors looked grimly at each other, touching their knives at the belts or making fists. Tall Bird motioned for quiet and continued.

    "We lost many people before we began to learn about war. Brother Eagle and Brother Coyote taught us many tricks and much cunning to help us defend ourselves. We learned to kill, to maim and to hurt. We learned to use our hunting skills for killing men instead of game.

    "And slowly, the fierce thunder worshipers were driven back to the water. All of the people of the Earth fought them, fiercely and with much bravery. Many more men were lost, but we were not slaughtered like buffalo. We fought like men.

    "Finally, we drove the thunder men back to their water hogans and they went back to their bloody gods. But they left us with much anger. All of the blood and fighting enraged the people and it was difficult to find beauty on the Earth. We began to fight each other. Taking land and possessions from each other. Learned to hate each other. All because of these terrible men who taught us war."

    Silence from around the fire. The flames were much lower and Rock Lizard again poked at the embers and flaming logs. The children in the shadows watched the sparks but chasing them was no longer the sport it had been earlier.

    Finds Water stood, his massive hands out to his brothers. "We remember how to walk in beauty, how to give thanks for our good. But we must also remember our fathers who fought the thunder men, and not allow our women and children to go under the feet of the Plains people. It will not happen!"

    The warriors around the fire nodded, and gestured back.

    Tall Bird was quiet, the fire still bright in his eyes. All eyes turned towards him.

    "Yes, Finds Water, we will not let the Earth take us before our time. But we will never have peace with these people of the Plains. I am afraid it will be the end of us or the end of them. There will be no peace for us."

    Angry words from around the fire and a young warrior yelled "Why do they hate us? What have we done to them? Why must we kill them in order to live?"

    Tall Bird stood. The fire bathed him in its gentle light, reflecting off his braided hair that still showed glints of yellow through the white. He was dark like his brothers, but like many, the sun was harsh to him, burning his light skin and causing pain if care was not taken.

    "We do not look like them. We do not act like them. They will never make peace with us because they say we do not belong, that we must leave."

    Tall Bird's blue eyes flickered in the firelight. He looked around. The warriors were strong and committed, their yellow hair worn proudly in warrior braids, their long beards knotted with feathers. Tall Bird touched the shiny medallion on his chest. The hammer symbol, faded from many years of handling, was almost invisible in the dim firelight.

    "Our fathers watch over us in this fight. Brothers, sisters, we must not let our ways die or our children suffer. We will fight to the last. The last Anasazi, our proud people, will shout to the sky that we were brave and that we fought with honor."

    The blonde men and women around the fire nodded, murmuring to each other.

    The moon was riding over the peaks now, and the wind stirred a little, buffeting the flames. An owl hooted, a bad premonition.

    Despite the warmth, Tall Bird shivered, the breeze shifting his long beard, covering the hammer.

    "And the Great Father, Odin, he will see us through." Tall Bird said, and sat down, staring deeply into the dying embers.

    Song: "Circling Cimarron" by Coyote Zen
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