Authors: Patricia Rowe
Beneath the backwaters of the Dalles Dam on the mighty Columbia River lies a mound. It is all that remains of the ancient
gathering place where people came to trade for the abundant salmon and began the first union of ancient clans that would someday
be a nation. Here a migratory tribe led by women had settled; here they had merged with other early peoples; and here, if
you look carefully, you can still see a Woman’s face carved into the cliffs above the gorge. Later Indians called her She
Who Watches. But her real name was Ashan… the Moonkeeper. And this is her story…
CHILDREN OF THE DAWN
AND DON’T MISS THE EXTRAORDINARY FIRST BOOK ON PREHISTORIC AMERICA BY PATRICIA ROWE
KEEPERS OF THE MISTY TIME
“Enthralling… beautifully written, about real men and women you will care deeply about. Fans of Jean Auel and Linda Lay Shuler
will eat this one up and clamor for more.”
—Naomi M. Stokes, author of
The Tree People
“A compelling and thought-provoking tale that impels the reader on a mystical journey. Ms. Rowe’s lyrical prose and powerful
storytelling ability are sure to garner her legions of fans.”
“Ms. Rowe weaves a tale set in prehistoric time that is spellbinding and mesmerizing…. This one is a ‘keeper’—outstanding—a
book you’ll enjoy no matter how many times you read it.”
Keepers of the Misty Time
WARNER BOOKS EDITION
Copyright © 1996 by Patricia Rowe
All rights reserved.
Warner Books, Inc.
Hachette Book Group
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New York, NY 10017
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First eBook Edition: October 2009
Dedicated to Don
who makes everything possible
on our 25th anniversary.
INE THOUSAND YEARS AGO, ANCESTORS OF THE
Plateau Indians flourished in southern Washington State. Hunter-gatherers who were led by women, the People of the Misty
Time left a legacy of artifacts, legends, and petroglyphs carved in black basalt.
From high on a windswept cliff, a woman’s haunting stone face looks out over the mighty Columbia River. Her large solemn eyes
are gracefully ringed. Owlish horns perch above curved eyebrows. She Who Watches, known as the Moon-keeper, Ashan (Ah-Shan’),
is the heroine of an ancient legend:
A woman was chief of all who lived in this region. That was a long time before Coyote came up the river and changed things,
and people were not yet real people. After a time, Coyote in his travels came to this place. He saw the approach of conflict
SHAN TRUDGED ACROSS A WIND- SWEPT
plain in the tabu land, with her mate Tor beside her. The Shahala people—eighty men, women, little ones, and grayhairs—followed
like a line of ants, carrying packs and pulling travel poles heaped with their belongings and a share of the tribe’s. Ashan
felt as if she were dragging the whole tribe behind her, instead of just her travel poles.
she thought, looking at the notch she’d cut in her staff this morning.
Autumn will soon be winter.
A howl wavered on the wind, trailing sharp yips, making the hair on her neck stand up. She reached for Tor’s arm.
“It’s just a songdog.”
Ashan felt foolish: The Shahala chief, startled by a coyote.
“This stupid wind,” she grumbled. “It changes the sound of things.”
Her mate of six summers laughed.
“It’s a good thing your name means Whispering Wind. You can make friends with it; learn its language. The Creator sends more
than enough to this place.”
“This is not just ordinary wind, Tor. It’s so cold we shiver, so dry it drains us, so loud we can’t hear each other talk.
to make friends with such a beast.”
“It’s not always like this,” he said.
It had been like this for days. But she said, “Don’t tell me,
Tor. Tell our people… tonight, when the wind won’t let them sleep.”
“I’ll do whatever you say tonight, but now we should go on before they lay down their burdens. We should put many steps behind
us before the land swallows the sun.”
She looked at the late afternoon sky. He was right. The people were bunching up behind, waiting for their chief to tell them
what to do. Ashan raised her staff and thrust it forward. She leaned into the horsetail strap across her chest, into the wind,
into the future, and urged herself onward. She heard grumbling as people fell back into step behind her.
Tor said, “You will see, Ashan. The Great River is near.”
“You’d better be right. I don’t know how much longer they’ll follow us.”
“They have no choice, my love,” Tor said, smiling.
“Every creature has a choice—whether they know it or not is the question.”
As she walked, Ashan held a pebble in her mouth to quiet hunger.
It gives up little water and less food. Sleep doesn’t even refresh us. What am I doing to my people?
The Shahala loved and feared Ashan. She healed, punished, and taught; settled arguments; remembered legends; knew what needed
to be known about animals, plants, seasons, rituals, and magic. Most important, she spoke with spirits so people would know
what to do. The tribe could not survive without a Moonkeeper. And so they had obeyed when Ashan said they must leave their
ancestral lands and move to a new home that only Tor had seen.
No one thought they’d still be wandering after thirty-nine days. It had been a terrible journey. They’d been lost in mountains.
A river had cut them off; Ashan carried the ashes of two who drowned in the crossing. And now these endless plains where they’d
been forced to stop many times while the warriors hunted. Ordinary things felt forbidding to weary, discouraged people. The
sun glared without warmth. The wind—with nothing to slow it but pale, flattened grass—moaned as if grieving; it searched out
every gap in the leathers and furs they wore.
Even a coyote,
sounds like a lost, lonely spirit.
Everyone hated the tabu land, but Ashan knew they must cross it to reach their new home: Spirits had shown her in dreams.
A Moonkeeper was the only one strong enough to journey with spirits in the darktime world, and wise enough to understand what
they said. Dreaming was forbidden to ordinary people. Babies were most in danger, too often taken by evil spirits who tricked
them into the dreamworld before they’d been taught how to stay out of it. Any morning a mother could find a perfect little
baby shell—empty and cold. Until little ones were old enough to understand, mothers shook them many times each night.
Ashan’s mate, Tor, who obeyed no one, enjoyed how dreaming felt, and lied when asked about his sleep. By dreaming his way
to personal and tribal disasters, he proved to people why they shouldn’t dream. But when her son, Kai El, kept dreaming no
matter what she did, and didn’t seem to suffer, others wanted to try. Knowing she couldn’t prevent it, she had warned them.
“Dream if you must, but you might not come back. Your dreams are a game you play with yourself. Do not think they are like
mine. Spirits speak
to the Moonkeeper. Evil speaks to all others.”
No matter what others might see in the darktime world, or what use they made of it, the Moonkeeper’s dreams must be heeded
as spirit messages. Otherwise, why would people obey her?
When Ashan had dreamed about a better life on the shore of a huge river, the Shahala had abandoned their homeland. Most of
them had set out in hope, except grayhairs who grieved from the first. But day by day, winter’s tightening grip had turned
hope sour. Even the breath of the tribe’s guardian, Shala the Wind Spirit, had become their enemy—tearing at the tabu land
as if to push the intruders back, as if to push the sun and moon back.
Ashan spat out the pebble.
hate this place.
She remembered Shahala land and swallowed, for she would never see it again. The summer home on Takoma’s forested flank, where
Coyote made the First People in the
Misty Time. The winter home in the Valley of Grandmothers, where many horses once roamed, where trees kept the wind from going
Ancestor Cave. Anutash. Never again
Though many wanted to go home, they could not. All the horses had died. The people would starve without their winter food.
The Moonkeeper didn’t doubt her vision of the future, but on this late autumn day in this comfortless place, she worried about
the strength of the tribe. Hungry, worn-out people, who believed they were lost. How to keep them going? How to keep herself
Tears rose behind her eyes, but she knew how to stop them.
Look at the ground, keep moving your feet Don’t let them see what’s inside.
Two little girls ran up to Ashan.
“May we walk with you, Moonkeeper?” Kyli asked.
“You are welcome,” Ashan said, smiling. Little ones could raise a weary soul just by being around.
They carried light packs, but were too young to pull travel poles. Only hands and faces peeked out from the warm skins that
covered them from head to foot. Matching Ashan’s stride, the little girls whispered to each other.
The one named Kyli liked to talk. The other was shy, with a shy name Ashan couldn’t think of.
Kyli said, “Wista wants to know if we are going home soon.”
Wista—Ashan remembered now—daughter of Keeta and Kowkish. Just five summers. Some people, especially the young, had to be
told more than once. Hope died harder in them.
The Moonkeeper’s voice was kind, but firm.
“We are not going home, Wista. Not ever. We had no winter food because the horses died out. We were getting hungry, remember?”
“I told you,” Kyli said.
hungry.” Wista’s bottom lip stuck out.
Ashan put her hand on the little girl’s shoulder.
“You won’t be hungry much longer. I dreamed of a new home with plenty of food. Spirits Who Love People showed me the way.
Always remember, Wista, the Shahala are Amotkan’s favorite tribe.”
Kyli said, “My brother says we are the Creator’s
the Moonkeeper thought.
must watch him.
“You know how boys are,” she said, giving them a look that showed how much better it was to be a girl.
Ashan remembered last night. Kyli’s brother, Hamish, and two of his friends had left the camp, a strange thing to do—on this
windswept plain, people liked to stay near the nightfire. With the trained ears of a Moonkeeper, she had followed them into
the dark, and heard what they said.
“There’s no Great River in this tabu land. No sheltering cliffs, no food forever.”