Yiska focused on remaining deathly still and slowing his quickened breathing so as not to be heard. Squeezing his eyes shut, he concentrated. It was silent in the forest. Yiska exhaled slowly when a branch suddenly snapped just to the left of him, it's noise like a gunshot in the still air. Yiska shot to his feet and whirled around, notching a brightly painted arrow in his willowy bow and letting fly. A moment later he heard the body of the deer hit the ground. His hunt had been successful. Yiska stepped lightly through the trees and knelt at the fallen creature's side. Pulling his arrow from its flesh, he bowed his head and silently thanked the great Spirit of Creation for the animal's sacrifice which would sustain his life. Once finished, he opened his eyes to claim his prize. Someone was staring back at him.
Yiska gave a cry and stumbled to his feet. Standing across the carcass of the deer was a lean woman with widely tangled hair and barley any clothing, save for a bronze animal pelt she had slung over her shoulders. She was dirty and stood slightly hunched, almost as if ready to spring. With a sudden motion, the woman tore open a pouch hanging about her neck and blew a fistful of white powder into Yiska's face. The boy felt his body seize up. He could not have run even if he wasn't a warrior. Yiska was forced to stare into the woman's face and he couldn't help but notice her eyes. They were a deep golden color, like those of some great cat, and they seemed to glow faintly in the dying light. Yiska was ensared by her eyes.
"You will remember me young Yiska," she spoke in a voice like coals burning at the bottom of a fire, "for your name foretells that Night has Passed, yet the darkness for you is only just dawning." Then the woman began to laugh and as she did, her laughter turned from the deranged cries of a lunatic to something more animal, screams of bloodlust and rage. Yiska thought he could remember those sounds from dark nights huddled inside his home with his mother, who would tell him they would soon go away, the animal never came to attack humans.
As she laughed, Yiska crumpled to the ground and the woman stopped, bending over him and gently rearranging his limbs so that he was completely spread out on the ground.
"For what your father has taken from me, I will seek my revenge," the woman snarled over Yiska's unconscious form "for my name is Haseya, 'she rises' and rise I shall from the ashes of my family."
Then, with a guttural cry, the woman shrugged herself into Yiska as though he were no more than a coat. The boy's eyes snapped open and he would have screamed in agony, but his body was no longer his own to control. Against his will, he found himself rising to his feet and setting off towards his village, faster than he had ever moved in his life. An alien power had taken hold of him, and he was at its mercy.
The village of the Navajo was settling down for the night. Fires had been extinguished to burning coals and nearly everyone was asleep. In a small hut near the outskirts of the village, Ajei, was tending to her last duties of the night. Her grandmother was sleeping in the next room and Ajei had bid her goodnight on the pretense that she had some last minute sweeping to do before bed. She was really waiting up for a certain someone, someone who had captured her heart. Ajei knew Yiska was betrothed to another. He was the cheif's son and must have a fitting bride, not just any pretty girl from the village with a head on her shoulders. But his wedding was not until the leaves fell, and Ajei liked to think Yiska didn't care about her father's wishes regarding his heart as much as she didn't for her grandmother's concerning hers. Tonight they were to meet for a few precious hours. So by the light of the dying fire, Ajei swept by the door and waited.
Sometime later, Ajei woke with her head pillowed in her arms and her broom lying across her lap. The moon was much higher in the sky, and she realized several hours must have elapsed. Her heart was heavy with the realization that Yiska had not come to see her, but her feelings suddenly turned to fear...what if something had gone awry with his hunting trip? As she brushed herself off and contemplated what to do, Ajei became aware of a presence outside her house. Her heart filled with joy. It was Yiska at last. But as she moved towards the entrance to her home, Ajei hesitated.
"Yiska?" she whispered. There was no reply. Ajei squared her shoulders. Something did not feel right. As she stood listening, she could have sworn she heard footsteps outside the window. They were slow and muffled, almost as if they belonged to something with padded feet.
"Yiska?" Ajei whispered again, her voice quivering. She whirled around at the sound of scratching just outside the door.
"Yiska if that is you, show yourself. It is late and I am frightened." Again the girl received no reply. She was just about to dismiss the sounds and go to bed when a shadow threw itself across the moonlight streaming from the kitchen window. It was a human shadow. Ajei ran to the window and peered out.
"Yiska!" she called. There was no one to meet her at the window. Ajei sighed and folded her arms. A face appeared in the window. It was covered in hair and had deep golden eyes. Fangs protruded from it's mouth to hang over its lower lip. It smiled. Ajei screamed and the creature vanished.
"Ajei?" the girl's grandmother had woken up in the next room. "What is it child? Why did you cry?"
"Ama' Sa' ni! 'grandmother'!" Ajei yelled, running into the old woman's room "There was a monster at the window!"
"What are you talking about Ajei?" Ajei's grandmother was wide eyed and alert.
"There was a face in the window Ama' Sa'ni! It had golden eyes..." Ajei flung herself into her grandmother's arms.
Suddenly, there was a voice from outside. "Ajei? Can you hear me? I've tracked a fearsome beast to your house. You must come outside to escape it, I fear it will run into your house."
"Yiska?" Ajei cried, pulling her face from her grandmother's shoulder. "Is that you?"
"Please hurry Ajei, bring your grandmother!"
"We must leave Ama' Sa'ni," Ajei said frantically, trying to pull her grandmother to her feet.
"No Ajei, do not listen to it!" her grandmother said.
"What do you mean? That is Yiska's voice I hear, he is trying to save us from the beast I saw!"
"No child," said Ajei's grandmother, "I fear a curse has come to our village. What you hear outside is not your friend. It is the yee naaldlooshii."
"The skinwalker?" Ajei breathed.
"It is using it's powers to speak with Yiska's voice."
There was a deafening crash as something broke through the front door. Ajei fell to her knees in terror. The monster she had seen outside the window now entered the room. It was only slightly human now, it's body was sleek and rippled with the muscles of a giant cougar.
"Why do you not come to me my Ajei?" the beast spoke with Yiska's voice.
"Leave us in peace!" Ajei's grandmother commanded and the beast turned its eyes towards her. It laughed, a high screaming noise, and then it began to change. It's one body became two, the fearsome cat vanashing back into the body of a haggard woman, and Yiska. His form slumped to the ground, hollow and inanimate, meerly a second skin. Ajei cried out in fear and sorrow.
"You will remember me," the woman cried, "I am Haseya, she who rises in many forms. Many years ago, this boy's father attacked my village with his warriors. He spared no one, not even my children. For this I have sworn revenge." The woman looked up, clutching a fistful of powder in her hand. "I shall have my revenge."
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