Instantly Shalah turned to me and inquired about my wounds. He looked at the hole in my arm and at my scorched legs, and from his belt took a phial of ointment, which he rubbed on the former. He passed his cool hands over my brow, and felt the beating of my heart.
“You are weary, brother, and somewhat scarred, but there is no grave hurt. What of the Master?”
I told him of Ringan’s end. He bent his head, and then sprang up and held his hands high, speaking in a strange tongue. I looked at his eyes, and they were ablaze with fire.
“My people slew him,” he cried. “By the shades of my fathers, a score shall keep him company as slaves in the Great Hunting-ground.”
“Talk no more of blood,” I said. “He was amply avenged. ’Twas I who slew him, for he died to save me. He made a Christian end, and I will not have his memory stained by more murders. But oh, Shalah, what a man died yonder!”
He made me tell every incident of the story, and he cried out, impassive though he was, at the sword-play in the neck of the gorge.
“I have seen it,” he cried. “I have seen his bright steel flash and men go down like ripe fruit. Tell me, brother, did he sing all the while, as was his custom? Would I had been by his side!”
Then he told me of what had befallen at the stockade.
“The dead man told me a tale, for by the mark on his forehead I knew that he was of my own house. When you and the Master had gone I went into the woods and picked up the trail of our foes. I found them in a crook of the hills, and went among them in peace. They knew me, and my word was law unto them. No living thing will come near the stockade save the wild beasts of the forest. Be at ease in thy mind, brother.”
The news was a mighty consolation, but I was still deeply mystified.
“You speak of your tribe. But these men were no Senecas.”
He smiled gravely. “Listen, brother,” he said. “The white men of the Tidewater called me Seneca, and I suffered the name. But I am of a greater and princelier house than the Sons of the Cat. Some little while ago I spoke to you of the man who travelled to the Western Seas, and of his son who returned to his own people. I am the son of him who returned. I spoke of the doings of my own kin.”
“But what is your nation, then?” I cried.
“One so great that these little clanlets of Cherokee and Monacan, and even the multitudes of the Long House, are but slaves and horseboys by their side. We dwelt far beyond these mountains towards the setting sun, in a plain where the rivers are like seas, and the cornlands wider than all the Virginian manors. But there came trouble in our royal house, and my father returned to find a generation which had forgotten the deeds of their forefathers. So he took his own tribe, who still remembered the House of the Sun, and, because his heart was unquiet with longing for that which is forbidden to man, he journeyed eastward, and found a new home in a valley of these hills. Thine eyes have seen it. They call it the Shenandoah.”