When her friend, Swamp Lily, disappears, Soft Morning Mist suspects foul play when a lecherous, old man from the Hatchie River tribe accosts her. The mournful howls of a dog lead her to Swamp Lily’s body. As rumors of suicide circle, she fights to prove it was murder.
Excerpt: Cold beads of perspiration ran down Soft Morning Mist’s face and onto her neck in the sweltering thatched hut. The drops tickled as they trickled down the crevice between her bare breasts.
Surprised at her nakedness, she did not understand why she was dressed in only a short, white deerskin skirt. Instinctively, she crossed her arms to hide her protruding nipples. Only small children and married, nursing women of the Chickasaw tribe were allowed to bare their breasts. She was neither. None of this made sense.
Through the open doorway, the white-hot brilliance of the midday sun generated oppressive heat. Her hut was situated on a grassy mound of earth. Similarly constructed huts spanned out around her. It was a village she had never seen before, full of gardens with beautiful flowers. She sniffed the air and smiled as a variety of fragrances titillated her nose. These surroundings didn’t resemble any of the Chickasaw villages she had ever been in. It didn’t have the telltale long footpath that led from one end to the other. There weren’t any familiar round log houses constructed for winter warmth. Where was she?
The sudden awareness of a presence behind her prickled her skin. As she struggled to turn her body, a rope bit into the flesh around her ankles. An old woman’s voice spoke in a dialect she hadn’t heard since early childhood. Dancing Swallowtail, her grandmother, had taught the rival Natchez language to her. Dancing Swallowtail had been born a Natchez, but the hated Choctaw had taken her captive.
Later, during a raid of her prisoning village, a brave Chickasaw warrior named Bull Elk had rescued her. He fell in love with her at first sight. They married, and she gave him four, brave Chickasaw sons. They were all dead now, except for Soft Morning Mist’s own father, Twitching Weasel.
The woman’s voice reminded Soft Morning Mist of her grandmother, but she knew it could not be. Both Dancing Swallowtail and Bull Elk had died in a fire when she was twelve winters old.
As she listened to the nearly forgotten language, the dialect gradually became clear. The hair on the back of Soft Morning Mist’s neck and arms stood on end. The wicked voice flowed into her mind like ice water seeping from a moss covered rock wall. The spirit of death couldn’t have sounded more evil.
The woman paced to where they could make eye contact. “You’re wondering what you’re doing here and who I am. Let me start by saying, I hated Dancing Swallowtail, my half-sister. I sold her as a slave to the cruel Choctaw traders. That’s right, I paid them to take her captive.”
She came closer. Her stinking breath assaulted Soft Morning Mist.
“I’ll never allow you to become the future Great Sun’s mate. I’ll see that you accompany his sick uncle into the world beyond. There’ll be no poison to render you unconscious, providing you with a merciful death. You don’t deserve that courtesy. Suffering is what you’ll get. I see now that selling Dancing Swallowtail to the Choctaw was not enough. Maybe killing you will finally appease my loathing.”
She rose and walked to a place where Soft Morning Mist could no longer see her. From the darkness came laughter: a steady trill that grew into a cold, gushing stream.
“No Natchez marriage for you, granddaughter of Dancing Swallowtail. Only death.”
visiting relatives in a small, rural community in Arkansas. Finding
magic in this place, it is the setting for many of her novels. Her
love for southern fiction led to the writing of her upcoming novel, A
Killing Among Friends, and also, Return to Rocky Gap. Her work has
appeared in From the Depths Literary Journal and Belle Reve Literary
Journal. She writes an eclectic blog titled, A Pinch of Me, on
Tumblr. She was previously an independent bookseller, owning and
operating Kindred Books for seven years.