A murder of crows descended upon the two decaying bodies in the desert. Waves of heat shimmered across the Oasis of Mara as the crows savaged the corpses.
Nearby, sitting under a palm tree, Akuuki watched the crows get chased away by two large turkey buzzards who claimed the bodies as theirs under the blazing Mojave sun. The sight didn’t faze Akuuki.
He was a Chemehuevi, but had many Serrano, Cahuilla, and Mojave friends and relatives scattered throughout the high desert.
The two men being ripped apart by the vultures were renegades who broke into his hidden cache and stole his food. Despite the Spirit Stick he put in the entrance of the small cave, they violated it.
When he silently snuck up on them they were packing their belongings into backpacks. He saw the red piece of blanket that was wrapped around his stash get stuffed into one of the backpacks. It was enough.
Pulling back on the hard hickory bow he sent an arrow into the tallest man’s body! The other man turned and pulled his bone hunting knife from his leather belt and threw it at the same time Akuuki’s arrow pierced his heart. The knife flew harmlessly past Akuuki who was already walking up to his kill.
He pulled the arrow out and looked over at the other man. He had an arrow protruding from his back and was crawling towards a bow and quiver near one of the backpacks. Akuuki walked over to him and grabbed him by the scalp. In one swift motion he pulled his head back, revealing his throat, and slit it with a steel Spanish knife that he had taken from an enemy.
Now he was faced with a hard decision. He was counting on his cache to extend the search for his parents murderer. The unforgiving Mojave Desert didn’t allow for many setbacks. He still had a few days food left and was able to refill his canteens from the fresh springs there.
The murderer he sought had established a reputation as an evil shaman among the people. Almost everyone in the desert feared Atok the Cruel. It was rumored he could fly, or turn himself into a coyote if he wanted. His ability to shape shift was legendary among the Serrano who claimed the old man was immortal.
Akuuki did not fear Atok. He very much wanted to find him and to make him pay for brutally murdering his parents. He knew all the tales told at firesides about the shaman, but they didn’t scare him. His desire for revenge was all-consuming. After sending his parents off to the spirit world in proper fashion he set out after Atok.
From all the stories he heard Atok had a lair near the summit of the mountain called Avi-Kwame by the Mojave, and Yuman. His tribe, the Chemehuevi, called the place Agai. Stories of Atok’s cruelty terrified the children, and made adults uneasy at every telling.
It didn’t matter why he killed his parents. When neighbors suggested that Atok killed them because Akuuki was hunting in his sacred grounds, he angrily chased them away. He couldn’t live with himself unless he went after Atok, and at least, tried to kill him.
The thought that he might have been the reason for their violent death infuriated him.
It took him two days to reach Agai. Standing at the summit of the mountain he scanned upward but didn’t see anything that caught his attention. It occurred to him he would have to walk around the whole mountain to find where the shaman lived.
He was down to his last meal when he started searching the summit’s circumference. That night, after making a cold camp, he ate the last remaining slice of boiled plants and the hearts of mescal that were pounded into a slab by his mother months ago.
In a dream, a wild spotted cat came to him and whispered into his ear, “Of silver, Atok is in fear. It’s touch is enough to send him away from here.”
When he woke in the morning he looked at his knife. It was a fine Spanish blade and the handle was wrought from silver. His people were familiar with the white metal that almost made the white man as crazy as the yellow metal did a 100 years ago.
He felt a pang of hunger as he prepared himself for the day. An hour later he came upon a cave opening.
“Atok you coward! Come face me! I am Akuuki. I’ve come to kill you!” he shouted.
An arrow came from the darkness and struck him in his left shoulder! He staggered backward and broke the deeply embedded arrow off as he drew his knife. Atok was standing in the entrance with a bow and laughing at him!
“Fool! You dare search me out! For that, I will eat your eyeballs while you’re still breathing!” he roared, while running towards him.
Akuuki held his ground and took the charge! They thrashed about on the desert sand as Akuuki plunged his knife into Atok’s body without apparent effect. When they blade snapped off, he took the silver handle and shoved it into Atok’s mouth!
The effect was immediate; Atok’s body stiffened and began decaying on top of Akuuki! The gods were so pleased with the evil shaman’s death that the skies opened up and rained upon the Mojave Desert for the first time in a year.
When Akuuki, whose name translates to ancestor, died many years later his story became a legend told around campfires of the Chemehuevi.
As It Stands, this tale is a nod to Native Americans who’s rich verbal heritage includes classic stories of good versus evil.