Victor Strongheart followed the sounds drifting to him in the wind like the sweet, clear tinkling of wind chimes over the babble of flowing water. They were the chatterings and laughter of females where there should be none, but who was he to mistrust his own ears.
The warrior-lord moved with a hunter’s stealth as he followed the path parallel to the river. As the sounds grew louder, he dropped into a crouch and almost belly-crawled his way until the swimming hole came into view.
It was a beautiful spot, clear and deep, with a large, smooth boulder perched on the edge of the water, great for jumping into the river. Surrounded by sheltering trees and shrubs, it was the perfect place to bathe and frolic. That was exactly what the dozen or so young women were doing.
Strongheart realized what he was doing was not in any way dignified. However, the most honorable man in the world would be hard pressed to pass by a flock of naked young ladies and not stop for a tiny, indulgent glimpse. A wicked smile spread across his face as he settled to do some strategic and absolutely necessary spying.
Out of the water came the most tempting water nymph any man could imagine. The young woman made her way up the boulder to join her friends. Long, dark, wet hair clung to smooth shoulders and down her slim back to drip over the deep curve that gave way to luscious, firm buttocks. Thighs, long and smooth, met at the juncture where a small triangle of space between the legs could be seen.
As the beauty bent at the waist to gather her wet hair and squeeze the water from it, a full view of her fleshy little mound, pink, moist, nestled under her perfect ass, rewarded his appreciative eyes. She stood, turned, tossed the wealth of wet hair over her back, and raised her face to the sky, seeking the warm kiss of the sun upon her face. From round, firm breasts crowned with pebbled, rosy nipples, dripped iridescent fat drops of water.
“Enjoying yourself?” whispered a voice next to him, and he almost flew out of his skin.
“Hush, my friend,” he whispered, “that we may enjoy the view a bit longer.” As the two men watched, other lovely females came out of the water and climbed the boulder. Some squeezed out long, wet tresses. Others settled down with knees slightly apart to allow their intimate nooks to dry out in the sun, and a few sat combing their hair with hand-carved wooden combs.
One young lady, lush and soft like a mouth-watering peach, arranged herself on the smooth boulder while a friend rubbed her limbs with a white cream scooped out of a small clay pot. Beside him, his companion’s breath caught at such a tempting sight. “Such treasure to be had among the Choctaw,” the lord said to his friend.
A few moments later, a rider crested the rise on the far side of the river and rode down the embankment. She wore baggy trousers of faded-black cotton, a white, long-sleeved tunic belted around the waist, and a dark length of cloth wrapped around the head and shoulders to protect her from sun and wind.
“Annasai,” the young woman’s voice rang out from her perch on the horse. “Your father sends for you. The visitors are expected any time now, and he wants you at his side and looking presentable when they arrive.”
“No,” the beauty who first caught his attention called back. “The day is too beautiful to spend with boring old men. You go, Setiyah. You stand for me.”
The rider took a deep breath, considering her options. She dismounted and, not bothering to tether her mount, walked down to the boulder. “You know I can’t do that. You are the chief’s daughter. I’m only his niece. It’s your duty to be there. Are you not curious to see the man who will become your husband?”
At this point, Eric Salvo turned to the man who was both his lord and closest friend and grinned. “You are a lucky bastard! That stunning girl is the chief’s daughter. I bet the Accord will not be so hard to keep after all.”
Victor Strongheart, lord of Daniel’s Fork and commander of its warriors, smiled so widely, his face threatened to crack. “Not hard at all.” On the far bank, the argument continued.
“Annasai, quit being such a child and come down. We must dry and braid your hair and make you presentable. There’s little time. Hurry.”
“No, Setiyah. Go back, wear my clothes, cover your head, and stand for me. No one will know the difference. Please, please? Do it for me, my love. I will be there tonight for the feast, I promise.” Annasai pouted her lush lips in a pleading gesture.
Setiyah stood there a moment longer, gazing in frustration at her beautiful cousin. How Annasai always managed to wrap her cousin around her little finger was something Setiyah had long ceased to ask herself. The girls, born six months apart with Setiyah the eldest, were extreme opposites.
One acted like she was the mother, and the other behaved like a child. Where one was serious and contemplative, the other was all laughter and impulse. While one was responsible and sensible, the other was wild and selfish. One was mindful of the future of the tribe, but the other thought only of the moment and her own fun.
Still, Annasai was neither evil nor hurtful, as Setiyah well knew. She was just like a songbird, light, playful, wanting to have fun while her beauty was fresh and her power strong. Setiyah sighed and took up her task.
These were the careless, wonderful days of youth before Annasai had to settle to a husband, children, and the rigors of duty. The last freedom before she had to marry a man she did not know, maybe even an ugly, mean-tempered brute. All because the Accord between the tribes and the territory must be upheld.
Setiyah mounted her horse and left, and the girls all jumped back in the water with much laughter and careless abandon. The two men took the opportunity to make a quick, quiet retreat. Ten minutes later, they were back on the trail with their men.