A clearing with white and black stones in circles–seven circles where seven chiefs had been buried. Why did he know that? The hairs on his arms raised-up. He realized something loud and clear as if someone had spoken to him.
The California Mountains were enchanted with sunshine and fresh air, famous for healing sick people. But this place–whatever that energy was–was jacked up way too high. Petr felt his neck hair bristling, and suddenly he was terribly thirsty. A big temblor of fear hit his gut and blossomed out into his first irrational thought:
Whitemen don’t belong here–and don’t get out alive.
He tried to laugh but his throat was so dry it felt cracked, and he choked. He put a pebble under his tongue, an old trick he had learned in the Nevada desert when they had no water all day every day.
Go on! You know he wants you to go on. You mean (he wanted to laugh but couldn’t)–
The deer? And where was the deer, anyway? This was a box canyon, for sure, no way out. The buck was in here. It had to be. He wanted to get a good long look at that big white buck. He walked for five minutes.
There was an ending backwall, a steep red cliff, and for some reason it was shimmering like a gold lake. Like what Tom Stoddard found and couldn’t find again? Another blast of fear hit him in the gut. He stopped.
If there was a lake–where was its outfall stream running down from it? All lakes had them. Where was it? He scanned a gully for a seasonal stream, and there wasn’t one. Maybe there was no gold lake, either. His skin went cold as if from winter wind, but there was no wind. Just beyond the chieftain graveyard was something that made him freeze. It was so stunning he swallowed his pebble.
Upthrust from the canyon floor was a thick quartz tongue, pure white, unbelievable. It was streaked with veins of gold. He coughed up the pebble. His knees crumpled, he gasped, “Holy mother of Jesus!”
He crawled until he gripped the cool slipperiness of the thing; pulled on it, but it didn’t budge. It was rooted in the earth. He patted it reverently, whispering, “Mama, Papa, Annabel, look what I found.”
The gold-streaked tusk proved no gold hunter had been here before, except maybe Tom Stoddard. Who claimed he’d left this place…this very place…in a hail of arrows!
“Must see…must see if it’s true,” he whispered. He had to go see–go see the lake.