By Raven Hail © 1986
Issue: July, 1986
Blackfox was a Conjurer. He could perform all kinds of magic. When he hunted small animals, he never carried a bow and arrow. He chanted a magic song and the animal fell down before him. He didn't need a blowgun to shoot birds. He held out his hand and charmed them to come to him. His magic was strong, because he only took what he needed for food.
One day when he was sitting under a tree waiting for a squirrel to appear, he heard strange music. He followed the sound to a place where it seemed the loudest. It was a plaintive melody and he could just make out the words:
I am beautiful as the Red Bird,
And powerful as the Brown Panther;
I follow the white path,
And I am never blue.
He looked all around but could see nobody. There was a grapevine swaying back and forth between two trees, as if someone had been sitting on it. He was disappointed. Whoever had been singing and swinging had disappeared.
The song came again, but still there was no one in sight. Only a tlunti'sti', a partridge, perched on an old tree stump. It was a plump, tender bird, well worth carrying home for dinner. But when he tried to sing his magic song, he couldn't remember it! He was completely under the spell of this strange new song. Over and over again he listened until he was singing along, and at last he learned it by heart.
The song ended and the bird flew away.
Blackfox was puzzled. Either he had lost his magic, or had met with a magic that was greater than his own. He didn't hunt any more that day.
A few nights later there was a big ceremonial dance. Visitors came from far and near. Blackfox wasn't much of a dancer, but he came to watch and to visit with his friends. There in the line of dancers was the most beautiful young maiden he had ever seen. Her long black silky hair hung loose at her back. Her big eyes reflected the firelight. Her skin was golden as the Sunland. And she moved with the ease of a tawny panther, as the drumming swelled to one great heartbeat.
He immediately fell in love with her. He stumbled over his own feet getting into line behind her every time a dance was called. She was a turtle shaker who never tired of shaking the shells. All night they danced and danced. There was little time for talking.
"What is your name?" he asked
"I am called Partridge."
"And your clan?"
There was a moment's hesitation. She spoke so softly he barely heard. "Like panther..." And then she repeated with more assurance, "Yes, Panther Clan."
He started to protest that he knew of no such clan, but the call to the dance interrupted. She found her place in line and he had no choice but to follow.
When the dancing was over at sunrise, he noticed that instead of going toward the river with the others, she started off in the opposite direction. He followed close behind. But he stopped to greet a friend for just a moment, and when he looked again she was gone. He walked on a way and flushed up a brown partridge bird that flew directly into the sun. But his Partridge had disappeared. Finally he gave up the search and went to join his friends.
In the days that followed, he kept thinking about her. And the strange new song kept running through his head; whenever he was alone he sang it. And called her back, for it was a magic song of love. She came again to dance, but they were so happy with each other that she hardly danced at all!
He wanted to be married at once but she said no. She explained to him that she was from another world and could never be his wife. When she told him that it was time for her to go, he kept insisting that she must stay a little longer. She waited until he fell asleep; then she stole away and started back to the Sunland. He soon awoke and missed her. He hurried to find her and bring her back.
When he reached the top of a hill, he could see her there beside the pathway. She was searching for partridgeberries among the green leaves under the trees. But the berries were all gone; it was too late in the year.
He came up quietly behind her and set about casting a magic spell. He touched his fingers to his heart and then to the leaves, saying;
"My heart, Take it, Eat it!"
A beautiful red berry in the shape of a heart appeared. He repeated this four times.
She saw the bright berries and was tempted. She tasted one, and finding it delicious, ate it all.
The magic worked. Now Partridge had a human heart and could love and marry just like anybody else.
She gathered the rest of the berries and called them "Ani" for they were "human hearts. These were the first Strawberries. Never again would she be without them in her new home."
Blackfox and Partridge lived happily together to a ripe old age. Many children and grandchildren appeared like magic, the Ani-Sahi'ni "People." And although they grew up to be Conjurors and were known as the "Like Panther-Spirit" Clan, they were only people after all.