From the American southwest to a secret society in Turkey, the paladin Richard Oort and his ward Mosi try to stay in front of their enemies, but the world is at stake—and time is running short. We hope you enjoy this excerpt from The Edge of Dawn by Melinda Snodgrass.
Mosi Tsosie was scared.
The family had moved their flock of sheep to BIA land near the edge of Chaco Canyon and built a hogan. Grandfather was very traditional and refused to let them use a prefab building. They did carry the logs in the bed of the pickup because trees were scarce to nonexistent out by the canyon, but the sod was cut from the earth, and the logs were chinked with that same soil, and it had five sides and a door facing east as was proper.
Mother had selected that site for summer grazing because there had been a lot of rain in western New Mexico and the grass was high. Grandfather, being traditional, had wanted to do a ceremony in the canyon near the pueblo of Wijiji. And her father, who was an excellent potter and silversmith, knew he could make a lot of money selling to the sunburned tourists who would be filling the campground.
That was all normal. What wasn’t normal was her brother, Abel.
Abel was smart, really smart. He wanted to become a doctor after he finished high school. A lot of people laughed at him because Abel wouldn’t even start high school until the fall, but Mosi knew he would do what he said. Abel was that kind of person.
At the end of the summer session at the boarding school at Sheep Springs, Abel had been given a computer along with everyone else at the school. The computers were fun, with colored cases instead of the usual white or black or silver. Abel’s was a deep purple like a sunset after a rainstorm.
Dad was proud of Abel, so he had bought a wind-powered generator so Abel would have electricity even while they were following the flock and doing ceremonies and selling pottery and bracelets. Abel spent all his time on the computer.
But Mosi had seen the grotesque, twisted faces in the screen. Not normal people-faces of friends on Facebook, or LiveJournal. They had Internet only when they were in Gallup or Farmington, but these faces kept appearing on the screen even way out here among the canyons and the mesas. At first Mosi thought Abel might be stealing the Internet from the rangers at Chaco Canyon, but she’d snuck over to the computer and checked, and there was no signal. Which meant the faces weren’t part of the white man’s technology; they were spirits or witches.
They whispered to Abel late in the night when everyone else was asleep. Mosi would lie in her sleeping bag watching the shadows jump on the walls of the hogan as the fire in the potbellied stove died to embers, listening to the guttural voices and shivering.
Mother and Father were tired at night, slumbering so deeply they didn’t hear the voices. When Mosi tried to tell them, they ruffled her hair and gave her a kiss and talked about what an imagination she had. Now Mosi wished she had never started telling stories. Then they might have believed her.
Mosi went with Grandfather on the morning he performed the ceremony. She had helped him gather crow feathers and tied them with yarn left over from Grandmother’s weaving. Grandmother had died over the winter. Mosi suspected the ceremony was for Grandmother because Grandfather had loved her very much, but he wouldn’t say. He just let Mosi help while never explaining.
They had placed the fetish in an adobe tower halfway up the cliff above the ruins of Wijiji. Navajos had built the adobe tower against the back of a large red boulder where white people wouldn’t find it. Partly because they were lazy and partly because they were told by the rangers not to leave the trails, and most of them obeyed the rules.
Grandfather used his stick to help him descend the cliff. Mosi bounded ahead of him. At one point the scree shifted beneath her feet, and it was like skiing on rocks. She reached the canyon bottom, dumped pebbles out of her tennis shoes, and tried to figure out how to tell Grandfather about the faces.
The side canyon that held Wijiji faced west, and the sun was setting. Fingers of light flowed between the rocks, turning them to gold and rose. High overhead a crow rode the thermals, turning in lazy circles, the shadow of his wings sweeping across the sand and sage. The broken walls of the pueblo scratched at the indigo sky, and the stacked stone gleamed as if a fire had been lit inside the sandstone.
They began walking down the road in the center of the canyon. Dust puffed up around their feet like blown dandelion fluff. They passed a tourist in shorts, tank top, and hiking boots, thrusting two ski poles into the dirt to propel her along. Her blond braid bounced on her back, and her nose was red.
For some reason, the sight of the silly girl burning in the desert sun gave Mosi the courage to speak to Grandfather. She smoothed the sleeve of her long-sleeved shirt, averted her eyes, and said in a rush, “I think there’s a skinwalker or a witch in Abel’s computer. Maybe a lot of them.”
Grandfather grunted and spat out a glob of phlegm into the dirt.
“Skinwalkers don’t use modern toys. Nor witches, for that matter.”
“But I’ve see—”
“It’s not possible.”
And that ended the discussion. Sometimes being traditional wasn’t such a good thing, Mosi decided.
That night the faces were whispering most intently to Abel. Mosi wondered if they knew she had tried to tell. She decided that tomorrow, when Abel went out to their latrine trench, she would take the computer, run into the desert, and throw it away.
Thinking of the latrine, Mosi realized she needed to pee. She slipped out of her sleeping bag, slid her feet into her tennis shoes, and pulled aside the blanket that covered the hogan’s door. The night air brushed against her bare arms and legs and crept through the thin material of her nightgown, raising goose bumps. In just a few hours the sun would rise, and heat would once again dance above the rocks, but right now it was night in the desert and it was cold.
She went to the latrine and listened to the patter as warm pee splashed down into the trench. She wiped with a tissue and buried the paper in the dirt. Back at the hogan, she pulled aside the blanket and froze as a new scent hit her nose. The smell of woodsmoke, beans, chili, and sweat had been replaced by a sweet cloying aroma. She had smelled it often enough before. Whenever Mother butchered a lamb or a sickly sheep, or when father and Abel brought home rabbits they had trapped.
But there were no lambs or rabbits in the hogan. Just people. The moon was rising late this night. The silver light entered the hogan and glittered in her brother’s eyes. He was holding the big butcher knife their mother used to shank leg bones. It dripped blood. Mosi had only a moment to react to the sight of her grandfather, head thrown back, throat cut, before Abel lunged at her.
Mosi screamed, stumbled back, and ran. Abel was older and taller, but Mosi was quicksilver fast, and she had spent every day playing outside around the hogan and she knew the ground. Abel had spent his days in conversation with the witches and didn’t.
There was a thud, the crackle of broken brush, and a string of curses from Abel. Mosi clenched her fists and ran harder until she reached the barbed-wire fence that separated the national park from the BIA land. She slipped through the wires, felt her nightgown catch on a barb and tear, along with a bit of her skin. It stung, and she felt a tiny trickle of blood.
She heard Abel’s harsh breaths behind her, but not too close. She ran until the stitch in her side felt like a knife and her throat burned. Past the visitors’ center. On toward the small cabins where the rangers lived. She didn’t like to turn to the government men and women. They often tried to drive her father away so they could sell their own souvenirs, but it was another mile to the campground, and she wasn’t sure the tourists, many cocooned in their giant RVs would be of much help.
And the rangers had guns.
Copyright © 2015 by Melinda SnodgrassThe Edge of Dawn goes on sale August 4th. Pre-order it today: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iBooks | IndieBound | Powell's