Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Whatever You Do to the Animals"

This poem is spillover from the November 6, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "soldier / sailor" square in my 8-7-18 card for the Fairy Tales Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by a pool run by [personal profile] ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the Iron Horses thread of the Polychrome Heroics series. Read the sequel "Reaching Out to Rescue One Another."

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features a tribal reservation, references to hunting, a deer girl running naked through the woods, implications of sex slavery, emotional upset, nonverbal communication, hunting down an intruder, a graphic fight scene including justified offensive use of superpowers, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward. This is a major plot point, though, so skipping it would leave a big gap.


"Whatever You Do to the Animals"

[Tuesday, September 1, 2015]

Warshirt slipped through
the woods at the eastern edge
of the Blackfeet Reservation.

Autumn brought cooler weather,
a welcome relief after summer's heat.

A narrow trail wound through the evergreens,
now and then breaking out into meadows
of grass and wildflowers just beginning
to turn from green to gold. Burrs
clung to his jeans as he went.

He wore a tawny leather jacket with
short fringe and just enough beadwork
to distinguish it from the mainstream style.
That and the jeans protected his skin
from the sharp edge of the wilderness.

A lone doe drifted through the woods
ahead of him, slow and silent.

Warshirt dropped a hand to
his belt and slid a counter bead
down to the end of the thong.

He had four strands of ranger beads:
bone for does with fawns, copper for
does alone, steel for fawns alone,
and brass for signs of bucks in rut.

The elders had asked him to go out
and observe the deer, so he was
keeping careful count of what he saw.

Once the fawns left their mothers
and the bucks started preparing
for the breeding season, then
it would be time to hunt.

So far, Warshirt had seen
one doe with fawns, two without,
a lone fawn, and a couple of rubs.

It wouldn't be much longer until
one of the elders casually mentioned
wanting a taste of fresh venison.

A brisk chill wind blew through the brush,
flinging his long dark hair in his face.

Warshirt looked up, scanning the sky.
It was clear and blue, with high white clouds
making mares' tails all around the sun.

That meant good weather today,
possibly another day or two more,
and then a real chance of rain
as the weather fronts shifted.

Warshirt grinned and headed
down the slope, where the trees
thinned out and meadows opened up.

He was nearing the reservation's edge,
but that was okay -- deer didn't pay
any attention to human territories,
wandering across the lines.

The open spaces might make
good places to plant feed plots
for the deer and the birds.

This part of the reservation was
ranch land for a while before the tribe
bought it and rolled it into their holdings,
so it could use some extra care.

Warshirt had learned that
whatever you do to the animals,
you also do to yourself.

That made it prudent
to take good care of them,
because they'd return it.
Besides, they were all related.

Suddenly he saw a flash
of rust dappled with white.

That was definitely odd.

It was late in the year for
that pattern -- most fawns
were losing their spots -- and
it had looked pretty big for a baby.

Well, sometimes a deer grew up
with its spots intact, just like some
were born black or white instead of
the typical reddish or grayish brown.

Warshirt eased down the trail,
trying for another glimpse.

The elders would certainly
want to know about anything
so unusual, because it might
affect the hunting this season.

You never knew for sure what
the Four-Leggeds might want,
but you had better pay attention
and try to find out, or else they
would leave you to starve.

He saw the motion again,
deer-colored but not quite
deer-shaped, as if it was
stretching up to browse.

He thought he glimpsed
a flick of ear, a tuft of tail --
it was making its way through
some pretty dense brush.

Then he got a good look,
and gasped in shock.

It was a girl.

She ran upright,
like a Two-Legged,
but she had deer ears
and hooves instead of feet.

She had long, wavy copper hair
and a thinner coat of gingery fur
dappled with white spots that
covered most of her body.

Warshirt could see all this
because she was stark naked.

There was a terrified deer-girl
running nude through the woods.
This could not be anything good.

In an instant, Warshirt shifted
from casual scout to alert warrior.

He shifted his course so that he
could get behind her, putting himself
between her and whatever she
might be running away from.

He felt confident that no matter
what it was, she probably was
not the source of the trouble.

She came out of the brush
onto a stretch of bare rock
and picked her way across
the uneven footing until she
came to the trail he had followed.

"Hi there," Warshirt said softly.
"You look upset. What's wrong?"

She whirled to look at him,
her eyes sad and scared.

The damp pad on the end
of her nose twitched a little.

Then she charged.

Warshirt was so surprised
that before he could react,
she crashed into him and
he had a furry, sobbing girl
clinging all over him.

"Okay," he said, "okay,"
although it really wasn't.

He had no idea where to put
his hands. At first he just
held them out to the sides.

Then, slowly, he settled them
on the tops of her shoulders.

She wasn't one of his people,
not with that fire-red hair and
pale skin under the fur --
and yet she was.

She was as much deer
as human, and his instincts
were screaming at him
to keep her safe.

People with totem gifts
were precious, a sign
of the spirit's favor.

If you took care of them,
you earned respect; and if not,
you dishonored yourself.

The girl pressed against him,
her whole body trembling.

"You're safe now," he said.
"I will protect you."

She looked up at him,
cup ears flicking.

The wind blew, stirring
the grass and the trees
around them. She shivered.

"You look cold," Warshirt said,
shrugging out of his leather jacket.
"Here, take this. It'll keep you warm."

Slowly, carefully, he reached out
to drape it around her shoulders.

She pulled away from him
then, scanning her backtrail
with a clear look of fear.

"Are you injured?"
Warshirt asked her.

She hesitated, then
shook her head.

"Is something chasing
you?" he asked.

She pointed down
the slope that she
had just climbed.

"All right, I'll deal with it,"
Warshirt promised. He
pushed at her shoulders,
gently turning her around.
"Do you see the trail there?"

She looked back at him, nodding.

"Good," he said. "Follow it. You'll
find a fallen tree with a big root ball.
Hide under there until I come for you."
He gave her a nudge. "Go on -- run."

She ran, so fleet over open ground
that she blurred, disappearing
into the trees almost instantly.

Warshirt moved down the slope
until he came to the brush.

Then he stepped off the trail
and melted into the thicket,
without leaving a single strand
of his long dark hair behind.

He hummed under his breath,
not wanting a war song to give away
his position, and his medicine power
wrapped itself around him like armor
against the coming battle.

Oh, there would be a battle.
He could feel it in his bones.

His power was warning him
to make ready, to stand as
a warrior defending the land.

Warshirt trotted downhill,
moving swiftly and silently.

He went on and on, without
seeing any sign of motion, yet
he never doubted the warning.

Something had driven the girl here.

She must have come far and fast
to get so much of a lead on her pursuit.

Warshirt was nearing the edge of
the reservation. In a few more miles
he'd have to decide whether to keep
hunting or turn back and take care
of the fleeing girl instead.

The shrubs thickened into
a copse of trees, blocking
the view ahead of him.

Then he heard the sound
of something crashing
through the brush.

A tall rangy man
appeared, wearing
a quilted vest over
a long-sleeved shirt.

He was middle-aged
with dark, receding hair
and weathered skin.

Warshirt checked
his position. He was
at least a mile from
the inner markers and
another beyond that
to the outer ones.

Drifting close to
the intruder, he said,
"This is Blackfeet territory.
Turn and leave at once."

The man whirled to face him.
"Don't you tell me where
to go," he growled.

Warshirt gazed at him,
face perfectly blank.

"I am a tribal warrior,"
he said. "Leave now,
or I will deal with you."

"I can't go back until
I find my property,"
the intruder said.

Years of training
allowed Warshirt
to remain impassive.

"What did you lose?"
he asked the man.

"Something valuable ...
a pet," the interloper said.
"I'll find it, then leave."

"No," said Warshirt,
"you will not."

The stranger drew
a survival knife and
swung at him.

Warshirt flowed
out of the way,
easily evading
the clumsy stroke.

Then he slapped
the man over the head.

"First coup!" Warshirt cried.

His medicine power flexed,
ripping away a part of
his enemy's energy.

Warshirt's awareness
of the land increased,
leaving the intruder
less able to get by
in the wilderness.

He never knew what
he'd gain from an enemy
when he counted coup.

It always gave him a rush
of energy, though, which
helped him win a fight
even though it would
fade slowly over time.

The older man staggered
back, then lashed out
with the knife again.

Laughing, Warshirt
let the long sharp blade
slide harmlessly over
his bare forearm.

He was a Shirt Man:
in battle, nothing could
manage to wound him.

He struck another blow
against his enemy.

This time his power
stripped away the ability
to navigate outdoors.

Since the knife didn't work,
The intruder tried punching
and kicking him instead.

That didn't work any better,
and Warshirt tore loose
one after another of
his enemy's skills.

Finally he had taken
enough that the man
collapsed to the ground,
moaning in misery.

Warshirt kicked him
in the head and watched
the long form go limp.

Then he reached down
and efficiently frisked the man,
removing the survival knife,
his wallet, his vidwatch,
and his hiking boots.

The cash was folded
and stuffed back into
the man's pocket.

Warshirt sang a song
of victory as he bound
his enemy's hands and feet
with the bootlaces, then lashed
them to a hawthorn bush.

He wouldn't be getting of out
that, even if he did wake up.

Warshirt took his vidwatch
out of his pocket and then
called the tribal police.

He described the situation and
sent them the intruder's location.

They would come and deal with
the offender, and maybe that would
teach him that whatever you do to
the animals, you do to yourself.

Warshirt checked the knots
one last time, just to make sure.

He looked up, checking the weather,
and the sky was still a clear blue
feathered with fine white clouds.

He located the trail, not far from
where the scuffle had led them.

Then he went to find the girl.

* * *

Notes:

Warshirt (Will Big Head) -- He has light copper skin, brown eyes, and slightly wavy dark brown hair to his waist. He is tall and muscular with broad shoulders. His heritage includes Lakota, Blackfeet, and Kiowa. He speaks English and a little Plains Indian Sign. He prefers crafts with traditional techniques and all-natural materials such as leather and porcupine quills. He gets the beadwork from female relatives and sews it in place himself; in return, he helps them with heavier work like carving. He joined the Army straight out of high school and never went to college. He is fixated on the glorious past of his people, and not very good at adapting to modern life. He also leans toward problem drinking.
Shirt Man is a traditional term for a warrior so adept that he went into battle protected only by his shirt, not a shield or any other armor. It works for offensive and defensive tactics. Counting Coup allows him to drain Qualities or Powers when striking an opponent instead of causing physical injury. The advantage over simply damaging his opponent to take them out of the fight is that Warshirt can use that energy to restore lost levels of his own abilities.
Since returning home from the war, he can't seem to stay out of trouble, and keeps picking fights with other tribal soups. His nemesis is Blazing Grass. But he once propositioned She Walks in Mist while drunk, and she smacked him, so now all the Iron Horses dislike him.
Origin: While on tour in Afghanistan, his commanding officer got seriously ventilated in a firefight. Warshirt gave up his own protective gear to shield the casualty, then charged the nest of insurgents wearing nothing but his fatigues and killed all twelve of them. He returned without a scratch on him.
Uniform: On duty, he wears traditional buckskin regalia consisting of a fringed warshirt with horsehair tassels and loom-beaded strips with a diamond pattern, over fringed pants with shell buttons and fringed moccasins that come just above the ankles. He carries a war lance with a bone point and beaded shaft for counting coup. Off duty, he tends toward scruffy hand-me-down clothes.
Qualities: Master (+6) Courage, Expert (+4) Veteran, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Kinesthetic Intelligence, Good (+2) Traditional Crafts
Poor (-2) Stuck in the Past
Powers: Good (+2) Counting Coup, Good (+2) Shirt Man
Limitation: Counting Coup only works when the enemy is not injured. Shirt Man only works in combat, and does not protect against everyday hazards.
Motivation: To maintain traditions.

Spotted Deer (Fina Hamilton) -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long wavy copper hair. She has deer features. Her nose widens into a moist pad. Her large ears are mobile, set low on her head. She has a soft pelt of light reddish-brown hair dappled with white spots. Along the sides of her jaw the pelt thickens, almost like muttonchops, an undesirable trait resulting from deer genes mixing with human genes. Her mouth and chin remain bare, a deliberate feature so that men do not feel like they're kissing another man when kissing her. On her back, a darker reddish-brown stripe appears from the waist downward, leading to a tail with a dark top and a white underside. Fina has well-developed scent glands that give her Pheromone Powers. She is digitigrade with deer hooves, but her hands remain human. She has enhanced senses. Her primal traits come from fallow deer, chital, and white-tailed deer. Her human heritage includes American, Scottish, and northern Italian. She is currently somewhere between 14-16 years old.
Fina lives in Montana, where she has been held captive by a pervert for over a year. When he took her to his hunting cabin near Cut Bank, Montana, she escaped. From there, she fled onto the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, where Warshirt found her and gave her sanctuary. Since she wouldn't tell him her name, he called her Spotted Deer. Despite her human heritage, Warshirt felt an uncanny affinity for her due to her deer traits. Animal powers are revered in most tribes.
Origin: Mad science torture. Her stepfather sold her to human traffickers, and Carl Bernhardt bought her from them. His experiments caused her to develop deer traits. Later he sold her to a wealthy client as a sex slave, because he was frustrated by his inability to control the cheek hair completely and found the muttonchops displeasing.
Uniform: None. She is kept nude.
Qualities: Good (+2) Observant
Poor (-2) Trauma Survivor
Powers: Good (+2) Deer Traits
Spotted Deer has Danger Sense, Super-Hearing, Super-Jumping, Super-Smell, and Super-Speed. Well-developed scent glands also give her Pheromone Powers.
Vulnerability: Prey instincts. She is easily spooked and finds it difficult to calm down afterwards. Her need for belonging comes from herd instincts, and is hard for her to resist even when people mistreat her. However, the flight instinct supercedes this.
Motivation: Survival.

Adult fallow deer (from Europe) can have spots, and the coloration is right, although the spots usually don't form lines.

The chital (from India) is more prone to having spots that form lines.

Neoteny is the retention of juvenile traits longer than usual, sometimes even into adulthood. That can be an individual quirk or a species trait. I've heard of white-tailed deer that never lost their spots, although I couldn't find a specific reference to it online. It's not usual but is known.


Osborne Colter -- He has tinted skin and brown eyes. His wavy black hair is cut short and receding on top. He wears a short scruff of mustache and beard, and his beard is going gray. He is tall and rangy, fast on his feet. Osborne is 45 years old. He lives on the Merry Acres Ranch south of Saint Mary, Montana and on the west border of the Blackfeet Reservation. The ranch has two houses close together, and a log cabin farther away in the woods. Osborne lives in the cabin. He runs a small whorehouse of soups with animal traits, locking the girls in the white house and letting johns stay in the brown house.
Qualities: Good (+2) Badass, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Navigation, Good (+2) Pimp, Good (+2) Wilderness Skills
Poor (-2) Judgment

* * *

“Whatever you do to the animals, you do to yourself.”
Ben Mikaelsen, Touching Spirit Bear

The Tribal Relations Report shows a map of reservations in Montana. This map shows the area around the Blackfeet Reservation, and here is a map of Glacier County. These maps show some important history.

The Blackfeet Nation holds about 1.5 million acres on their reservation including 8 large lakes, over 500 miles of streams, and other bodies of water. The land itself includes mountains, forests, and grasslands. Native people view the boundaries differently than the mainstream does, too.

This sign marks the entrance to Blackfeet Reservation, and this one marks the Indian Agency in Browning. The T-American herd of buffalo is thriving and provides an important source of food and supplies for the Blackfeet nation.

Here is the forest in the Blackfeet Reservation near Merry Acres Ranch.

In Montana, the deer hunting season typically begins in early September for archers. While state hunting seasons do not apply on the reservation, which sets its own parameters, the same biological cycles do. In T-America, tribal hunters are discouraged from killing deer during the time when does are pregnant or raising fawns, unless the population gets too high. The elders observe the deer to see when maturing fawns separate from does and/or bucks begin to show signs of rut. Typically the elders indicate the permissible hunting time by asking someone to bring them a deer.

Deer signs include fascinating information about the rut and its phases. The antler growth cycle is part of this, and you can watch a video of antlers growing.

Ranger beads form a type of abacus, originally used for counting paces. However, they can count anything you want. Learn how to make a set of ranger beads. Warshirt's brass ranger beads look like this.

Knowing about cloud types and behavior allows you to predict the weather. Mares' tails mean good weather today and possibly for the next day or two. But they also tend to precede storms by a varying amount of time. Watch for two key clues of storm formation: thin high clouds getting lower and denser, or low puffy clouds towering upward.

As fawns age, their white spots typically fade. These videos show fawns on August 22 (spots fading but still visible) and September 14 (spots mostly gone).

Human trafficking is a serious problem in Terramagne, more in some countries than others, and especially for young soups who have less ability to defend themselves. This includes America and its reservations. It also impairs access to care. Among the ways that victims enter the system is when stepparents sell their stepchildren for sex. There are even lists of prices. Know how to help stop human trafficking.

In theory, the Blackfeet Reservation adjoins Glacier National Park along a relatively straight line. In practice, the two areas surround some private property that deckles the edges. Inholdings are parcels of private property inside public land, such as the park. Reservations have complicated laws about who controls the land and how it can be transferred; because these have changed somewhat over time, some parcels are privately held. In T-America, the core lands of a tribe are currently protected from being sold out via allotment. Many tribes aim to acquire more land, which can be rolled into the reservation either as part of the core or as marketable property which can be sold or used as collateral for loans. Often what they put up for collateral is lease rights, so there are parcels being used by outsiders for pasture, crops, timber, etc. They also have right of first refusal on land for sale inside the reservation, and some special interest rights in land adjacent to it. Relationships with neighbors vary from allies to neutral to hostile. Look at Saint Mary, a town on the border between Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier National Park, and you can find plenty of property for sale ranging from houses in town to sizeable ranches.

A survival knife is a big rugged blade designed for heavy use in the wilderness. It also makes a formidable weapon.

Counting coup involves striking an enemy for humiliation rather than injury. Many tribes across the Great Plains practiced this custom. It is a form of dominance fight, which minimizes the risk of crippling injury or death.

Hawthorn is a spiny shrub or small tree native to Montana. Yes, Warshirt is being a dick by tying his enemy to a thorn tree, but that also greatly reduces the chance of him getting loose.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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