The following is a short story set in the world of Coyote and Crow. It will likely appear in the core rule book. Waya’s Lesson is meant as an introduction to the world of Coyote and Crow, both in tone and theme. It also is at the heart of why the game is called Coyote and Crow. I hope you enjoy it.
Waya knelt in the shrubs, holding as still as she could. She’d practiced her slow, quiet, breathing, the way her edidu had taught her. Her dark brown eyes were locked on the doe not twenty yards from her. Hidden birds chirped nearby. A light breeze rustled the tree tops far above. A frog splashed in the pond that Waya’s prize was drinking from. The doe turned its head slightly to watch it hop away.
Letting a long, easy, breath seep from her mouth, Waya moved her hand down smoothly to her calf to activate her boots. They were form fitting and covered in light brown scales, like a symmetrical waterfall of tiny leaves falling from her knee. An almost imperceptible hum brushed her ears as they powered up.
Just one touch, she thought. One touch of the doe’s tail before the Adahnehdi . This was her last chance. How many times had she waited in this glade? How many times had she tried and failed? Well, no more. She’d been practicing with the boots for weeks. This time she’d feel that doe’s tail and no one could say that she’d only managed it because of the Adahnehdi .
With the frog’s distraction fading, the animal returned to drinking at the pond and Waya made her move. She sprung from the bushes, and sprinted in an arc around the pond. The boots hummed as they powered her strides, altering her weight and adding force to her every step.
They had limited power though and Waya knew she had to close the distance between her and her quarry quickly. Pumping her legs, she flew around the water’s edge, mud and leaves flying from behind her feet.
The doe’s head popped up. For a split second, their eyes met and then it turned and ran. It sprang over a blackberry bramble and accelerated out of the glade. Waya zig-zagged between two rocks and then vaulted over two moss covered logs. She was moving faster than she ever had and the doe was in reach. Waya’s heart pounded.
This was it. She leaped, hand out stretched – and grabbed nothing but air, as the doe darted to the left at the last moment, hopping over a small earthen crevice that fed a trickle of water into the pond. Waya stumbled and slid into the dirt. The hum from her boots faded, their power expended. The animal pushed through a thicket and disappeared.
Exasperated, Waya stood and dusted herself off. She began the long walk back through the glade and home, holding back a stream of tears that threatened her cheeks. She was so despondent, her head held so low, that she almost didn’t see her edidu sitting on their porch until she was almost to him.
“Your eyes have been pointed to the Earth since I saw you on the horizon. I take it that you didn’t touch it?” Waya shrugged, unwilling to actually admit her defeat. “Not even with the boots, huh?” He invited her to sit. She plopped down next to the old man, her elbows on her knees and her face in her hands. She felt older than thirteen.
A moment of silence passed between them and Waya considered getting up and going to bed early, with the sun still sinking down behind the trees she’d just left behind. “I think you need one more story,” the old man said firmly as he watched the orange glow on the horizon. The soft lights of Cahokia would be flickering to life to the south soon. Behind the house, the soft murmur of the Ohiyo River helped cool Waya’s riled emotions.
She didn’t answer him, but she didn’t get up either. Waya’s edidu reached out and stroked her hair. “One last chance for me to tell you a story. After tomorrow, you’ll be among the storytellers.” He paused a moment, but Waya still didn’t move. “I think I’ll pick the story,” he said. “I think I’m going to tell you about Coyote and Crow.”
Now Waya did look up. “I’ve heard that one already, Edidu!” She hated the whine in her own voice.
The old man grinned, “Not for years. And I think this is a good time for it.”
Waya didn’t have the energy to argue. Instead she crossed her arms over her knees and put her forehead down. “Okay,” she mumbled.
He leaned back on the porch, putting the palms of his hands on the worn wood behind him. Looking up at the sky fading slowly from blue to black, he said, “In the days before your grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather, Crow flew home to her nest on a night much like tonight.”
~ ~ ~
Crow was done for the day and about to settle into her nest when she felt the warmth of Great Mother approaching from above. Great Mother’s gentle voice came to Crow and she told Crow that the jet black bird had been chosen for a very important mission because of her speedy flight and keen intelligence.
Below Crow, in a hollowed out log, Coyote had been sleeping but Great Mother’s voice woke him and he stretched and yawned and listened to conversation above, knowing he hadn’t been seen.
Great Mother told Crow that very soon a long darkness was coming and that the world would be changed for generations to come. There would be starvation, war, and disease. Many animals would disappear from the world altogether, ice and snow would pile up and the prayers of the suffering would go unanswered.
Crow cried with this news, but Great Mother did not comfort her. Instead, she told Crow that worst of all she, the Great Mother, would be leaving the Earth. And with it all the animals, plants and people would be left to fend for themselves.
Coyote cried silently in his log as Crow begged Great Mother not to leave.
Great Mother told the Crow not to despair, that one day she would return. Crow lamented that without Great Mother they would all perish. In his log, Coyote nodded silently in agreement with Crow.
But Great Mother told her that that was where Crow’s mission would come in. Great Mother was going to impart the people of the world with a series of gifts, powerful gifts, that would help the world survive until Great Mother returned and she needed Crow’s help in delivering these gifts.
Great Mother asked Crow to fly to all of the tribal elders to tell them to prepare for what was to come. She gave Crow a large cloth sack filled with the gifts, telling Crow to spread them to every tribe. Great Mother told Crow to be strong and watch over the other animals. Then She sailed off into the sky, leaving a bright purple trail in the early evening above that was visible to all the people of the world.
Crow took her job very seriously and decided she needed to examine the gifts to best understand how to distribute them. She found a wide branch and opened up the large bag. Spreading out the contents, she wondered at the gifts the Great Mother had left humanity. It was an array of seeds. Brightest among them were purple ones, glowing like the trail She had left across the heavens.
Before she could decide on a plan though, Coyote emerged from his hiding place and said, “I’ve heard what Great Mother told you about the fate of the world. I’d like to help you. Time is short and together, we can spread Her gifts faster.”
Crow knew that she couldn’t always trust Coyote and that sometimes he had his own agenda. But Crow also knew that she had very little time and that Coyote could be almost as quick as she was. “Coyote, we must go to each of the tribes and tell them of this disaster and of Great Mother’s departure. We must also give them one each of each of these gifts that will help them through these difficult times ahead.
Coyote was eager to get a look at these gifts, at what power the Great mother was bestowing upon the humans. What could they be? Crow up on her branch said, “Wait a moment and I will separate them into smaller piles and make smaller bags, one for each tribe. Then we shall divide the bags up. We will meet back here when we’ve delivered them all.”
Coyote agreed. Crow tore apart the bag and laid the seeds out across the branches and began forming a small pile for each tribe. Then, taking the scraps from the bag, she wrapped the seeds up and tied them off with bits of string from her nest.
Down below, Coyote waited eagerly. When crow was done, she brought down all of the gift bags and placed them in a pile. “Take half. Travel quickly. Tell the people what is coming. Tell them that Great Mother has gone but will return and until then to use these gifts and survive.”
Coyote said, “You can trust that I will accomplish my mission, friend Crow.” Crow felt satisfied with their arrangement and flew off north with her gifts and Great Mother’s dark message.
Coyote ran off to the south for a bit, but soon stopped. He put the packages of gifts on the ground and decided he wanted to see what was inside. Opening one sack, he was slightly disappointed to see only seeds. But he knew they must be powerful seeds. He looked in another sack and saw that not only did it too have seeds, but that it contained exactly the same seeds as the previous bag. Opening them all, he was not surprised to see that each bag was identical.
Coyote thought this was boring and with a glimmer in his eye, he decided to add some mischief to this solemn task. He took all the seeds and sorted them by type, making piles. Then he began refilling the bags with all of one color. He separated these new bags into piles of all the same type and assigned them a direction. “All of the tribes to the southwest of me shall get these seeds and all of the tribes to the southeast of me shall get these seeds, and so forth.”
And so it was that Coyote delivered his bags of seeds and Great Mother’s news across the land. Sometimes he appeared to the people as Coyote. Other times, he arrived dressed as Crow, just to have fun. Other times, he’d show up as Rabbit or Hawk. It was always amusing.
Finally when the work was done, he returned to Crow’s nest to meet up with his friend. But Crow didn’t return that night. This delighted Coyote at first. “I’m smarter and faster than Crow.” But Crow didn’t return the next night either. This began to anger Coyote and finally, worry him. “Where could my friend have gone?”
At last, Crow returned and Coyote was relieved. “Where have you been my friend? What took you so long?”
Crow cocked her head and smiled. “You must be so much faster than me Coyote. Or perhaps you took smarter routes. But at least our task is done and we have delivered each of the seeds to each of the tribes. As the Great Mother asked.”
Coyote looked thoughtful and said, “Well, that’s not entirely true, is it?” Crow cocked her head, but said nothing and Coyote grinned a mouth full of teeth. “As I heard it, the Great Mother gave no instructions at all on how to hand out the gifts. It was you who ordained that each tribe should get one of each of the seeds.”
Crow peered down suspiciously at Coyote. “What have you done, Coyote?”
“I made things a little more of a challenge, that’s all. I took all of the seeds of a type and took them all off in one direction. All the people still got the message and they all still got the gifts. They just didn’t get the same gift. I think it will be much more interesting this way.”
Coyote waited for Crow to rage and berate him, maybe even to try and peck him. But Crow just sighed and looked up to the sky. Coyotes eyes narrowed. Then it dawned on him. “You knew I would do this, didn’t you?”
Crow looked at Coyote with one eye, then the other. “Not specifically, but I knew you couldn’t resist playing a game, even in this bleak hour.”
He grew more suspicious. Coyote said, “What actually took you so long? Why were you gone so many days longer than I was?”
Crow looked down at Coyote with something that Coyote thought might be pity and it angered him. Crow sounded tired when she spoke. “I left the greatest gift out of all of the bags. A shining glittering purple seed. I did not trust you to deliver it fairly. And it seems I was right to do so.”
Coyote’s expression turned to shock. “But if you gave it to only half the tribes, won’t the people war over this great gift?”
Crow nodded. “They would. Which is why instead of giving it any tribe, I spent the days spreading the seeds into the clouds, over all of the lands. Every tribe will have this gift, whatever it is. It may just take some time to sprout.”
Now it was Crow’s turn to expect Coyote’s anger. She waited for his rebuke. Instead, Coyote laughed and howled. “Well done, Crow. You tricked me, which is no easy feat. Let us sit back, watch the world unravel and see what people do with their new gifts.”
The old man went quiet.
Finally, Waya said, “And the seeds weren’t really plants, but wisdom and knowledge and technology.” Her edidu nodded. “And the purple seed was the Adahnehdi . But edidu, if Coyote thought that giving the purple seeds to half the tribes would start wars, then why did he divide up the other seeds the way he did? Wouldn’t that start wars too?”
“Maybe. Maybe not. Some say Coyote wanted us to fight each other for the power of the gifts. Others say that Coyote new that if you have something your neighbor does not and they have something you do not, then it becomes an opportunity for both to prosper and become friends. Waya, do you see now how the story of Coyote and Crow relates to you touching the deer?”
Waya thought hard. “I have to know the difference being smart and being wise?”
Edidu shrugged. “Sure. But also, always have a back up plan.”Article || Tags: Connor Alexander, coyote, Coyote and Crow, crow, fable, first nations, games, Indian, indigenous, indigenous futurisms, Role Playing, wayas lesson