I laughed softly and glanced over at the Braves a few fires over. "I don't know, they are all very handsome and nice..." I replied, trailing off as my eyes landed on Wind in His Hair as the Brave laughed at something one of the others said.
"Ooo, I think I know who she favors!" River-song said as the women laughed loudly, attracting the attention of my father as he walked over.
"Evening ladies, what seems to be so funny?" he asked.
"The Brave that Songbird favors is all." River-song replied. Dad laughed softly and nodded before getting up and moving over to the Braves, sitting beside Wind in His Hair.
The rest of the night I continued to glanced over at the Brave before Blue found her way over to us, bleating at me as she settled down beside me, munching on some grass under her. I smiled and rubbed the buffalo calf on the head, talking with the other women until the fires died down.
After I was able to excuse myself from the other women I headed to my teepee, silently slipping inside and laying some grass in the fire pit, the glowing coals burning brighter at the fuel as I placed more logs on top of the small flame before I took out my small Bible and opened it, picking up where I had last left off.
The next morning when I climbed out of my teepee I was met with smiles and greetings from everyone, the Tribe members each wishing me a happy birthday as I made my way to the herd to take Nightmare out on a ride. After catching the little mare I boosted myself onto her back, not bothering with a bridle or saddle as I turned her to the open prairie and I let her slowly build up from a walk to a run across the long grass as we ran I heard someone coming up behind me and turned to see Smiles A Lot, Otter, and Beaver, racing after me, the three boys laughing as they pulled alongside me when Nightmare dropped back a bit. I laughed and waved in greeting before we all curved our horses back toward the village. I smirked at the boys as they urged their horses faster.
"Let 'er buck, girl." I whispered to Nightmare as I leaned over her neck, getting a good grip on her mane as she shot forward, easily passing the boys who stared in shock as we widened the gap between us. When we reached the edge of the village I let Nightmare slide to a stop, some of the villagers having stopped to watch the race. I gave a mock bow on Nightmare as she snorted and tossed her head. I slowly rode her away from everyone, not liking how she kept tossing her head up and down like she was. As I stopped her beside the herd and dismounted she let out a hard cough, shaking her head again. I patted her gently on the neck as Smiles, Otter, and Beaver rode over.
"What's wrong, Songbird?" Beaver asked as I felt along Nightmare's throat, moving as the mare coughed again.
"Go and get Stone Calf please. Something is wrong with Nightmare." I replied as she coughed again. The three boy's eyes widened and they turned and ran off quickly as I urged Nightmare to lay down, seeing her legs shaking as she coughed again.
"What is wrong, Songbird?" I heard the Elder ask as he walked over to me.
"Something's wrong with her. Nightmare can't stop coughing and she's shaking badly. She's never done this and we've gone on longer runs much faster than that. Stone Calf, what's wrong with her?" I asked fearfully as the man knelt down next to me, listening as Nightmare let out another hard cough.
"It sounds like she's sick. Very sick, go and get my medicines, Otter." the Elder ordered, sending the boy off. The rest of the morning was spent treating Nightmare for her sickness. She soon stopped coughing and seemed to regain some energy after an hour of treatment, getting to her feet.
"She will be okay now, but she cannot be ridden. Maybe by children, but not by yourself or it will kill her." Stone Calf told me softly as I patted the mare gently, rubbing her cheek.
"Ever?" I asked softly. The Elder simply nodded sadly, patting my shoulder.
"She will still live, Songbird, she is not leaving you so soon. Give thanks that you came and got me before the sickness spread to her heart." the Elder told me gently before he walked away.
I simply stayed silent, staring at the ground as I rapped my arms around the mare's neck. Nightmare blustered hoarsely at me and I left her lift a leg, wrapping it around my hip as she pressed her chin to the back of my shoulder. I let out a sad chuckle, tapping the mares leg after a minute so I could step back.
"You're a good girl. Go join the others." I told her gently, patting her on the rump as she walked over to the herd. I slowly walked away, keeping my eyes down as I walked to my teepee and slipped inside, sitting on the soft furs inside and simply watching the smoldering fire pit. After a while I heard the sound of the flap door opening before Kicking Bird slipped inside.
"Hello, Songbird." the man greeted.
"Hello, please, sit." I told them, motioning across the pit. The man at down and Kicking Bird smiled at me.
"Tonight we will have a ceremony for you in honor of your coming of age. We will sing songs to the skies for you and eat and dance. My wife would like to help you get ready. She never had a daughter to dote on and she thinks of you as her own." Kicking Bird told me gently. I smiled.
"I would love for her to help me. I never had a mother to dote on me when I was young." I replied, nodding.
"That is another reason I have come to your teepee. I wish to ask how you came into the care of the Lieutenant. You are not a white child, are you Songbird?" the man asked, causing me to tense.
"No. I am not. I came to the Lieutenant when I was a babe. He had found a village that had been torched by the Pawnee. I was the only one left alive in the village." I replied softly, not looking up to meet the man's eyes.
"What tribe are you from, Songbird?" Kicking Bird asked softly as I finally met his eyes.
"Comanche. My tribe is the Comanche." I replied, seeing the man's eyes widen in shock as I went back to poking the coals.
"Well, you are a member of the Sioux now. You and your father." Kicking Bird told me gently. I gave the man a grateful smile and nodded respectfully to him.
"Thank you." I told him softly as he stood.
"I must return to my wife to give her your answer. She will come to you when it is time."
He told me as he nodded before leaving the lodge. I smiled after him before settling on my bed and picking up my Bible, beginning to read again. As the sky began to darken Turtle Dove, Kicking Bird's wife, entered the lodge with a basket.
"Are you ready to be doted?" the woman asked with a laugh. I smiled and nodded as she walked over and sat the basket down, taking a brush from it and quickly moving behind me, brushing my long hair gently. After brushing it thoroughly she put it into a braid and smiled at me before she took the basket and pulled out a pretty deerskin dress.
"It is tradition that the girl who is to wear this dress is to decorate it herself with small trinkets." Turtle Dove told me gently as she laid the dress out on the furs. I smiled and nodded, taking out a small bag, gently pouring out the small pile of trinkets the people had given me. Turtle Dove smiled as she helped me place the trinkets on the dress, attaching them to the soft skin at the seams before helping me slip it on when we were finished.
"You're ready now." Turtle Dove told me gently as she placed her hands on my shoulder, smiling at me tenderly. I smiled back before following her as she left the lodge, the two of us heading toward a large bonfire outside of the village line. I smiled as I was greeted by many of the tribe, being pulled over to the other women as some of the men began to play drums and they showed me how to dance. I caught on quickly and soon was dancing with the women as if I had been doing so my whole life. When the music wound down Kicking Bird walked over to me with my father, placing a hand on my shoulder before turning to the Tribe.
"Tonight we Celebrate the coming of age of one of our own! Songbird has brought us great joy in the past weeks we have known her and her father and we welcome them into the Tribe with open arms!" the man called as he turned to me and hugged me before allowing me to rejoin the other women as we continued to dance.
The Celebration went long into the night, past the time when the men grew muddled with wine and food and had to be taken to their lodges by their wives. I stayed up a bit longer after everyone else, watching the stars as the fire slowly died, not noticing the pair of eyes that watched me with a tender look as I finally got up and headed to my lodge.
The next morning was like any other, I helped the women cook breakfast, played with some of the children, tripped over Blue a couple times, and even helped make some arrows for the Braves before I headed back to my lodge for a short nap. When I reached my lodge I saw Wind in His Hair sitting on his horse, holding the rope of a small tiger striped dune mare.
"Hello, Wind in His Hair, would you like to come inside?" I asked with a smile as I stopped beside his mount, rubbing his nose before patting the mare beside him.
"No. Here. She's for you." he muttered blushing as he shoved the rope holding the mare into my hands before turning his horse and rushing off.