Standing beneath a young cottonwood near the
Hunkpapa village, Small Bird leaned her head against
its rough trunk, her head resting in a vee. High above,
a golden eagle soared lazily across the crystal-blue
sky, spiraling downward in an ever-tightening circle.
The majestic bird spread the feathered tips of its
wings, dipping one to glide on the dry breath of the
The rich golden browns of the bird’s plumage stood
out against the pale blue sky: a calm, soothing sight for
Small Bird. Lower and lower it soared until it chased
its own likeness across the mirror surface of the nearby
Without warning, a covey of sharp-tailed grouse
took flight. The eagle let out a cry and swooped after
the smaller birds. Its sharp talons shot out and snagged
its prey. With a sharp downward beat of its wings, the
powerful hunter lifted its head to the sun, reversed
direction and flew off.
Watching the powerful bird, which one minute
gave the appearance of gentle beauty, then showed the
powerful predator within, set Small Bird’s heart
beating as fast as that of the eagle’s prey.
Around her, the spared grouse settled back into the
14 White Dusk
treetops. Quiet and peace descended once more. But
not in Small Bird’s heart. The sight of the eagle
making a kill left her feeling edgy.
Wambli, the spirit
of the eagle, presided over war parties, hunters and
battles; his appearance today, the day before her
marriage to Swift Foot, did not bode well.
She closed her eyes, seeking comfort in the warm
breeze, the soft rustle of leaves overhead and the soft
chirps of birds fluttering from branch to branch. All
creatures had to eat. Even the golden eagle. The killing
had meant nothing.
She deliberately glanced around, finding beauty in
the land. But the vision of the eagle remained a dark
shadow in her mind, obliterating all happiness.
Seeking strength, Small Bird dug her fingers into the
deep furrows in the cottonwood’s trunk as she sought
to anchor herself. To admit the truth of the eagle’s
No. It could not be.
“It is a sign you must heed.” The deep, familiar
voice echoed her thoughts.
Small Bird turned her head to the side. Her brother
stared intently at her, worry darkening his eyes and
lining his mouth. Neither sibling spoke. Both knew she
understood the appearance of the eagle. She paid
attention to details and listened to the spirits, and they
guided the way. But this was one truth she wanted to
Regardless of her wishes, Lone Warrior voiced her
fears and deepened her trepidation. Small Bird ran
Susan Edwards 15
sweat-slicked palms down the sides of her deerskin
dress. “It does not change anything.”
Lone Warrior stalked over to her. “It changes
everything. The spirits warn of death.” Anger
deepened his voice. “Do not do this!”
Small Bird kept her gaze locked to his. “
a great hunter.” She held out one hand to stop her
brother from interrupting. “Swift Foot is also a great
warrior and hunter. Perhaps
Wambli came to remind
me of this.” She didn’t believe her own words. Had
that been the truth, the eagle would not have made a
kill. He’d have just shown himself.
Lone Warrior’s eyes narrowed. He towered over
her. “The eagle warns of death. Yours. Are you so
foolish that you would ignore this sign? The enemies
of Swift Foot will seek you out.”
Small Bird shrugged. She wasn’t so foolish as to
discount entirely the warning of death. But arguing
with her brother wouldn’t change anything—
especially the union between her and Swift Foot.
Warrior loves you,
she reminded herself. He worries,
and doesn’t understand that the past has shaped your
“There will be peace between the Hunkpapa and
Miniconjou. I know this to be the truth. Are they not
talking of peace? Many Horns of the Miniconjou
brought many gifts to show that Hawk Eyes and his
people wish to end the war.”
Disgust filled Lone Warrior’s voice. “It is a trick.
They will attack and kill again. As the wife of Swift
Foot, they will seek you along with him. As they killed
16 White Dusk
the parents of Swift Foot, they will kill you and him.”
He spun away to pace along the bank.
After several taut minutes of silence, he continued,
“I cannot allow you to put yourself in this danger.”
Small Bird sighed. His words held truth. Over the
years, the Miniconjou had tried many times to kill the
son of Runs with Wind. She knew they might continue
to hunt him down—and as his wife, her own life
would be in danger too. Yet though it scared her, she
accepted her fate. The past had set her on the path that
had led to this marriage between her and Swift Foot.
And the fact that the Miniconjou were willing to talk
peace reassured her. Deep in her heart, she had a goal:
peace would be achieved, and she would have a hand
Staring out across the shallow stream, Small Bird
watched leaves from the tree at her back drift down to
the water and float away. Bits of dried grass in sparse
patches between boulders on the other bank waved
gracefully; and upstream, several small toddlers played
in the water, their mothers keeping close watch over
them. Yet the peaceful scene did not put Small Bird at
ease. Lone Warrior’s words were very troubling.
How could she convince him that it was far too late
to change her mind? Her brother, and many of their
tribe, had been against the marriage and the joining of
these two Hunkpapa tribes from the beginning; it put
them all at war with the Miniconjou.
Lone Warrior had even tried to talk her father into
refusing the marriage offer. But deep in her heart,
Small Bird had known this was her future. She’d
Susan Edwards 17
turned down many suitors before Swift Foot, sure in
her belief that one day her life would merge with his.
And now it would—no matter the consequences.
The welfare of her people weighed heavily on her
shoulders. Small Bird’s emotions whirled, leaving her
confused and even a bit frightened. Responsibility
could be scary. Sometimes she longed for ignorance.
Caught in the turbulence of the past like a rock or
twig sucked up in a whirlwind, she pushed away from
the supporting strength of the cottonwood tree at her
back. Blinking against the reflected brightness of the
sun on the water’s surface, she allowed her sight to
blur. The sharpness of the scene softened. Colors and
hues merged as the stream turned silvery-white,
framed with swirls of green, brown and blue.
Come to me,
she commanded. Knowledge came to
her in many forms. Thoughts. Feelings. Sometimes
dreams. As knowledge of this fate had.
Slowly the brown blur took on the shape of a young
boy with black hair. He wore a big grin as he waved at
her. The scene soothed her. This child—her child, hers
and Swift Foot’s—represented the future and gave her
the faith she needed to believe she
had a future. One
shared with a great warrior: the warrior who’d saved
her life at the age of three.
The image of the boy faded at the sound of Lone
Warrior’s angry voice. “This is not the time to let your
mind cloud with silly dreams.” Small Bird’s brother
glared down at her.
Small Bird didn’t bother to tell him that what he
called her “silly dreams” were visions that often spoke
18 White Dusk
of the future or explained the present. She’d kept her
talents mostly to herself, speaking of them only to her
tribe’s medicine man and her father. It was this dream
of the little boy combined with her past connection to
Swift Foot that had ensured her choice of husband.
Swift Foot’s uncle, the old chief, and Wind Dancer,
Swift Foot’s tribe’s young shaman, knew of her
abilities as well—but she had asked them not to reveal
the truth to others. She had no desire to become
a tribe’s holy woman. Her role lay in
becoming a wife and bearing a child.
Small Bird waited patiently for her brother to leave.
Nothing he said would change the course of her future.
Sighing, she put her hand on his shoulder. When it
came right down to it, she really didn’t have a choice
in the matter. Knowing this was her destiny didn’t
make it easy to accept, but her brother’s continual
arguments made it worse.
“I must do this,” she said softly.
“Then you are a fool.” Lone Warrior grabbed her
by the upper arms and held her firmly. “Like that small
bird the eagle snagged in his sharp talons, you will be
taken by Swift Foot’s enemies.” He released her but
held her gaze. “
Wambli warns of death. If you go
through with this foolish marriage, you will die.” Once
more, bitterness filled his voice.
Trembling beneath the heat and conviction of her
brother’s words, Small Bird turned away. She hated
the weakness and fear his prediction elicited, yet all
she could do was hold on to that bit of hope the dreamchild
brought her. By this time tomorrow, she’d be
Susan Edwards 19
Swift Foot’s wife.
Lone Warrior forced her to face him. “Have you
forgotten that you nearly lost your life because of this
man you seek to marry?” His voice vibrated with
Memories intruded, blurring everything around her,
flashes of remembered senses.
The pounding of her heart, which matched the
pounding of the horses’ hooves carrying the enemy
toward her hiding spot.
The rumble of the ground beneath her chest, the
terror of being alone.
The acrid smell of smoke mingling with screams
that had seemed to last a lifetime.
She’d been so young. She hadn’t understood death,
but she’d been sensitive to the grief around her. And
confused. She remembered how scared she’d been in
the days following the attack, when women slashed
their hair short and cut their own flesh. She shuddered,
the vision of a woman chopping off the tips of her own
fingers haunting her.
Small Bird drew a deep breath and forced the
nightmare away. She had to make Lone Warrior
understand. Though he was not a chief, the warriors of
their clan of Hunkpapa looked to him for leadership. If
he refused to give his allegiance to Swift Foot, who
was to become her tribe’s new chief when she married
him, then the rest of the warriors would also withhold
loyalty, which would only cause tension and strife.
Sliding her arms free of his grip, Small Bird
20 White Dusk
reached out and took his hands in hers. “I have not
forgotten that day. I will never forget. So many
died…” Her voice broke.
Lone Warrior jumped in. “Do you not care that you
may meet the same end?”
Small Bird closed her eyes, her grip tightening on
his hands. “You know I care,” she whispered.
“Then I will speak to our father. I will tell him
about the appearance of
Wambli. He will agree that it
is a sign.” Lone Warrior turned to leave.
Small Bird grabbed his arm. She loved her brother,
hated to see him so worried, but could not allow him to
interfere. “No. Do not. No more fights. They will not
change what will be.” She tightened her hold on his
arm to prevent him from leaving.
For long moments, brother and sister stared at each
other. Finally, Lone Warrior inclined his head. “This
does not make me happy, but I will respect your
Relieved, Small Bird glanced down at the ground to
show respect. “Thank you, my brother.”
Shouts to her right brought her head up. A group of
five exuberant boys ran past, forcing her to step back.
Smiling sadly, she longed for the carefree days of
The boys skidded to a stop when a woman
appeared from around a huge boulder. Leaning heavily
on a thick stick, she hobbled over the rocky ground.
She wore a long shapeless dress with no decoration.
Not even a simple row of colorful quilling adorned the
yoke. No row of swinging fringe had been added to
Susan Edwards 21
soften the plainness of her garment. A long length of
softened deerskin covered her head and hid her face. In
her free hand she clutched the edges of a wide strip of
leather that encircled twigs and sticks.
After a moment’s hesitation, three of the boys ran
in circles around the old woman, taunting her. One
youngster picked up a rock. “Show us your face, old
woman,” he shouted. “Show us your face.”
Small Bird gasped at the rude display of the boys—
they were from her tribe. The two from Swift Foot’s
were silently backing away from their new friends.
Ashamed of the children’s behavior, Small Bird rushed
forward. Lone Warrior followed.
“Enough!” she said. Engrossed in their cruel game,
the boys didn’t hear. Without warning, one leaped
forward and snatched the woman’s head covering
Startled, the woman whirled and tried to take it
back. Her crutch fell from her hand and she lost her
balance. Her lame foot buckled beneath her and she
fell with a cry. Staring down at the woman, the three
boys froze in horror.
Small Bird held her breath, her heart beating fast.
Anog-Ite was a legend. She had been a very beautiful
and vain woman who had married
Tate, the Wind, and
borne him four sons: the four winds. As time passed,
she’d become more and more conscious of her beauty,
and devoted less time to the welfare of her children.
22 White Dusk
Enamored by her face, Sun invited the wife of
to take the seat beside him at the feast of the Gods.
took the seat, usurping the place of a goddess: Sun’s
Shan, the Great All-Powerful Spirit,
decreed that Moon would no longer be Sun’s
companion. That was his punishment. But condemned
for her vanity, ambition and negligence,
punishment was harsher. She was banished to the
world to live without friends—and with only half of
her beauty. The other half of her face became so
horribly ugly that the sight of her terrified any who
looked upon her.
The screams of the small boys brushing against the
woman here, the fallen crone, shook Small Bird from
her glazed horror. Double-Faced Woman was only a
myth. Gazing down at the fallen woman as she turned
her head to the side, Small Bird was caught by wonder.
She’d always thought her cousin Moon Fire to be the
most beautiful woman alive, but this “crone’s” face
held an ethereal beauty she’d never before seen. Small
Bird heard a gasp from her brother.
Turning, she saw his jaw had dropped. He stared at
the woman as if unable to believe what was before
him. Rolling her eyes, Small Bird returned her
attention to the shaking beauty on the ground.
Compassion won out over superstition. She bent down.
“Are you hurt?” she asked. She reached out to take
the woman by the arm and help her up.
Startled, the woman pulled back and tried to scoot
away. “No! You must not touch me!” She cried out as
Susan Edwards 23
a sharp rock cut her palm. Small Bird frowned. The
backs of the woman’s hands were scarred, and she
gave a hiss of pain.
Small Bird couldn’t help her own escaping gasp of
horror. While one half of the woman’s face was a
study in perfection, the other had been ravaged by
scars and was grotesquely misshapen. The woman
rolled, using her hands to hide her face.
Lone Warrior stumbled back.
Frozen in place, Small Bird stared down at the
woman. All background noise faded. A sick feeling
crept through her.
All of her people dreaded the spirit of the Double-
Faced Woman. She was very cunning, and she loved
to frighten women who were with child to give them
pains. She lured hunters away with her beautiful face,
then frightened them senseless with her horrid half.
And worst of all, if a woman dreamed of
became a Double-Woman Dreamer—ugly and scarred
and a curse her self.
Lone Warrior pulled Small Bird away. “We must
Realizing she was still gaping at the cowering
Small Bird slowly rose. As she did, her gaze
fell on the woman’s leg. Long scars and puckered skin
marred the shapely limb.
Suddenly Small Bird knew who this was. “Willow
Song,” she murmured, staring down at Swift Foot’s
cousin. Everyone knew of the terrible injuries the girl
had suffered the day her mother had been clubbed to
24 White Dusk
death, how she herself had been close to death for
many months. But Small Bird had believed the stories
of her mutilation to be gross exaggeration. It seemed
they weren’t. She reached down to offer comfort and
reassurance to the woman.
Lone Warrior gripped her harder, stopping her
gesture. “Do not touch her. You will be cursed.”
Small Bird shook him off. “No,” she said softly.
“This is Willow Song, cousin to Swift Foot.” She
glanced up at her brother and saw the understanding
dawning in his eyes.
Small Bird called out in a gentle voice, “Willow