"Our wait is over, Joseph. Were stickin it to the Whateleys, and were doin it right now!" Little Running Bear towered above the old Sioux like a mountain of rage. The braves around himyoung men mostly, brandishing ugly weaponsnodded their heads in agreement. Behind them, the Sioux encampment lay in ruins. Some teepees and lodges burned with fitful intensity; others lay scattered like sticks after a storm. The scent of blood was in the air, and carrion birds gathered in the growing gloom. Somewhere, a woman was sobbing.
Joseph Eyes-Like-Rain gauged his words carefully before responding. "Vengeance on the Whateley family will not achieve our purpose. It will only blunt it."
"To hell with our purpose!" Little Running Bear snarled. "They ran their tamed demon through our camp like a damn tornado. It killed six people! Are you sayin we should just sit back and take it?!"
"No. But ask yourself why it came now and not earlier. Ask yourself why it chose helpless targets instead of those that could fight back. Was it to hurt us? Or to draw us into an ill-timed and emotion-driven attack?"
"Does it matter?" a brave in the crowd called.
Bear nodded fiercely and began again. "Weve been sittin here, watchin this town sink lower an lower, because you said we shouldnt act. Thats fine." He thumped his warclub on the ground for emphasis. "But when somebody pushes me, I push back! And the Great Spirit help anyone in my way!"
"Listen to me, Iroquois. We must conserve our strength. You dont know the horrors that await us at the end of this."
"Wrong! I seen a little girl with her guts ripped out today, Joseph. That thing killed her for them because they thought it would be funny! I dont stand there and take that for nobody! Not for you, not for this town, and not for those monsters and their sick jokes!"
"Please, Little Running Bear." Joseph shook his head. "Please do not do this."
"You said it yourself, Joseph. We gotta take those inbred devils one way or another. Were just gonna do it sooner rather than later!"
"You cannot kill them without help. You cannot do it by tearing our Union to pieces."
"Its too late to play it coy! You want to wait until the sun falls for an evil that never comes, you do that." He turned slightly towards the crowd and raised his voice. "Me, Im gonna cut me a Whateley heart out tonight!"
A chorus of shouts answered his call. Little Running Bear turned on his heels and sprinted towards the camp entrance, his club raised high above his head. In an angry cloud of dust, the other men followed him.
"Stop it! Cant you see that they intended this?! Its just what they want! ITS JUST WHAT THEY WANT!" Joseph yelled.
But for all his shouts, the braves continued to tear out of the camp, sending whoops and war cries into the evening air. Joseph clenched his wrinkled hands in frustration as he watched them go.
Presently, he felt a comforting presence behind him and a touch linger on his shoulder. "Theyre just angry, Father," John Bloody-Knife soothed. "It will be all right."
"No, John," Joseph whispered, his eyes filling with tears. "It wont."