Thursday, May 19, 2011

F3 - Cycle 31 - The Lone School Marm and the Art of War

Prompt: Write a story of a negotiation and have your characters use at least two tactics
I've used a Plant and an Expert in my story.Genre: Any
Word Count: 1000 words
Deadline: Thursday, May 19th, 2011, 4:30 pm EST

This is part 3 in a series. I think it stands on its own, but here are the first two parts, if you'd like to read them.
Part 1: The Lone School Marm
Part 2: The Lone School Marm Speaks

"We meet again," George said. 

"Indeed," Big Horse replied. "Come, join me in the home of my fathers."

Big Horse opened the flap of the tepee and stood aside so George could duck through the door. George paused before entering and looked at Big Horse for a moment. It was unlike him to be so formal. As he turned and entered the enclosed space, he expected to see the usual trappings of their annual negotiations: hot food, whiskey, tobacco, a warm fire and soft furs and skins to lounge on as they whiled away the hours discussing the fine points of boundaries and water rights.

Instead, his eyes found the steel blue eyes of a young woman, who returned his gaze with defiance and grief. He was stunned silent by her presence, his mouth agape. She held him in her power, which was amplified by the swirling smoke, sparks and an aroma of burnt sage and roasting meat. 

Big Horse tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to George's usual spot. George moved slowly to his place at the fire and dropped into his seat. He continued to examine the strange woman. 

"Big Horse..." George started to say.

"No," Big Horse replied. "No questions right now. No negotiations. The spirit world demands our attention." 

"The spirit world?" George replied, stunned. "Since when do you care about the spirit world?!?"

"I've always cared," Big Horse said. 

"Huh," George grunted, "Could'a fooled me."

"This is Susannah," Big Horse explained.

"Hello, Susannah," George replied, "I'm George Shaw."

"Mr. Shaw," she clipped and nodded her head slightly. "You're Doc Shaw's youngest brother, aren't you?"

"Dr. Charles Shaw?" George asked. "Yes, ma'am, he's my brother."

Susannah exhaled slowly. She looked at Big Horse and nodded slightly.

"George," Big Horse began, "The spirits have spoken to me in my dreams. It is time for war, as it was foretold to me during our negotiations last year." 

"War!" George shouted, "Are you crazy, Big Horse? You can't go to war!"

"Yes, I can," Big Horse replied. "And I will, with your help or without. Preferably with it."

"Since when did you put any stock in spirits and dreams?" George pressed. "After all these years we've bickered back and forth over technicalities. You've always been the one to be reasonable. I've never heard you talk about the spirit world unless it was an Indian holiday."

"It's true, old friend," Big Horse sighed. "I haven't been impressed with what our shaman has been trying to drill into my head for thirty years. I prefer to put my faith in what I can see and touch and talk to. Contracts, boundaries, goods and services...these things will guarantee our success as a tribe and as part of a new nation."

"That's right," George said, "You and I have worked towards that for ten years now. And you're saying suddenly that the spirits have moved you to war? I don't understand..." George drifted and turned to look at Susannah again. 

"Susannah is a harbinger," Big Horse explained.

"A what?" George replied.

"A harbinger...her arrival here confirms my vision is true. Her story completes our story."

George looked back to Susannah. "I'm waiting."

Big Horse began...

Last summer when we parted, I packed up a bedroll and some spiritual items to make remake my vision quest, as I have done every year since I was twelve. Every year, nothing happens. I camp, I enjoy the wilderness and the silence. My heart calms and I'm able to return to the business of our tribe's interests. But no vision. As you have pointed out, I am pragmatic and not bent by hokus pokus. I do not let intangibles govern my movements.  

But this time was different. As I prepared the herbs and said the prayers. I inhaled, I exhaled. The great stillness returned to me and I began to relax after a wearing week with you. As I sat perched on my rock, I was visited by Mother Warrior. She stood before me and shook her spear and shield at me. She called out and the Thunderbird swooped down on me and struck my heart with lightning. I was being called to a quest, George. Mothers are angry as men stand by and talk. The blood of children spills on our territory and yours. Warrior Mother won't stand for it and will not leave me alone. She cursed me until I do something about it. Ever since then, I could not get the song "Oh, Susannah" out of my head...until, that is, Susannah showed up yesterday morning. 

"Mr. Shaw," Susannah said. "We need your help.I have been tracking Dirty Dan's gang ever since they murdered most of my students at the old Prairie Schoolhouse. The closer I got to them, the more I began to understand that they aren't just a band of mavericks. They're one band of many bands of mavericks, loosely held together, but working together nonetheless. Working together to destroy our way of life...Big Horse's way of life. They want money, dominance, and flesh. It's time that men of consequence stand up and take action, lest all the women and children here are killed or enslaved and the men recruited forced into hard labor."

"Now, I remember you," George remarked. "My brother wrote to me about you, said you were on the run and dangerous."

"I am both of these things," Susannah admitted. "But I am also a warrior and spiritual mother to a graveyard full of innocent children. Which danger scares you more, George Shaw?"

"But war...we just got done with one!" George moaned, as he ran his hands through his hair. "It nearly broke us."

"It's not much, sir," Susannah said as she reached behind herself, "But it's enough to pull something together, don't you think?"

She opened a satchel George remembered. It was his brother's satchel that their father had given him when he started his practice. It was also stuffed to overflowing with paper money and gold. More than George had ever seen at one time. 

He looked at her again and his vision shifted. She was glowing gold and red. Her eyes boiled and she seemed to be ten feet tall. Tears began to stream as he felt her pain pour out of her soul and into him. She was anointed by vengeance, it was undeniable. And what was another war, anyway. At least this time there was money and it was summer. 

"War it is, Susannah." George replied. 

Big Horse nodded and began to pray. 


  1. Great story with a good negotiation. Very mystical. The characters and story are solid but the language seems a little off. Having an Indian Cheif who uses words like "pragmatic", "harbinger", and "hokus pokus" seems kinda odd unless he had a college education. It doesn't ruin a great tale but it is a little distracting. I'm so glad you have returned to the school marm. She is such a wonderful character that she deserves several returns. Well done dear!


  2. Hi Doc...I wanted the Indian to be more in tune with white culture than his own. That's why I used that kind of language. I did it to make his transformation more dramatic.

  3. Thanks for clearing the language of chief up I had assumed he could speak in the manner from having 10 years to discuss treaties and the like with George. I liked Susannah very much, I think her character was just right, matter of fact with just enough edge, very well done. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wonderful story... I loved the negotiation. The schoolmarm does intrigue me... her past. I shall have to make time to read the two stories that precede this one.

    I too was put a little off balance at some of the words the chief was using, but then realized that this was part of his assimilating of the white man's culture... looking at it that way, makes great sense.

    I also enjoyed the mystical quality of the story.

    Very well, done! Thank you!

  5. I very much enjoyed this, will have to read the other two stories when I get a chance.

  6. I was caught out a bit by the language but then I thought of all the time Big Horse would have had to be speaking with George (and others) over the years and the terminology would inevitably bepicked up.

    I will have to hunt out the other stories to get the full impact of this one - but it's certainly very atmospheric! Well done!

  7. Thanks, everyone, for your feedback. I may have to build in a little background for Big Horse so the language makes more sense.

    This is the first time I've busted the limit, so I didn't feel like I could add more. But maybe I'll rework it for the sake of the bigger story.

  8. Ok...I adjusted the beginning and Big Horse's language makes more sense now. What do you think?

  9. I read your story after you made the adjustments and Big Horse's choice of words makes perfect sense to me. Grand story. I'm glad to see you continuing the story you began earlier.

  10. I really enjoyed this. It really can stand on its own because there's enough of the characters and background here. But still, it makes me want to go back and read the previous ones to get even more. There is a very mystical quality about this story, and it was a terrific use of the concept of negotiation. Well done indeed.

  11. Hmmmm.....well I guess I'll have to wait for the revenge moment in a future installment. No fair! But good writing - thanks for prompting me to come over and read.