The eternal enemy of the Wendat was the Iroquois, whose homeland was the area around the Finger Lakes in what is now Northern New York State. They included the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onandaga and Mohawk.
The Enemy From Across the Lake often sent spies into the Wendat homelands - often young men travelling alone through unknown lands. Willow saves a young spy from drowning in rapids near Lake Ontario. He and his friends wonder what to do with him.
Illustration by artist Tom McNeely featured in Enemy Arrows by Will O’Hara
Excerpt from the book
Willow could see that the stranger was young – not much older than himself. He lay face down on the rocks, rolling his head from side to side, coughing violently and spewing water from his mouth and nose. He was tattooed on his forehead and his lips, and a long earring dangled from one earlobe. The other earlobe, freshly torn, dripped blood on the rock. The strap to his fire pouch was twisted around his neck, so Willow loosened it and put the pouch on the rock beside him.
With a sudden shudder, the young man’s body convulsed and water trickled from his open mouth. When Willow raised his head, more water escaped. The young man vomited violently before he began to breathe in shallow, laboured gasps.
Lynx and Loon clambered down the rocks. “Is he alive?” yelled Lynx, as he approached.
“Who is he?” called Loon at the same time.
“He’s alive,” answered Willow. “I don’t know who he is.” He lay the young man’s head down on the rock and stood up to get a better look at him.
“You saved his life,” said Lynx, breathing heavily.
“I was up river from him,” answered Willow. “I knew I could reach him. You couldn’t.”
“But you risked your own neck.”
Willow shrugged. “I couldn’t watch him drown.”
“You could have,” said Lynx, as he examined the stranger’s fire pouch. “But you have a generous spirit, I hope you encounter generous spirits when you travel to enemy lands.” He pulled out a sharp bone knife, some wet tobacco, a bone awl, a piece of flint, a matted clump of white fibres, several arrowheads, and a small piece of rolled birch bark with charcoal lines on it.
“He’s from across the lake,” said Lynx, brushing his hair from his face. “I could tell by his canoe. These arrowheads make it certain.”
“He’s the enemy,” yelled Loon, waving his arms over his head. “A spy – we saved an enemy spy!” Otter came from behind them. He stared at the young man, breathing heavily before he spoke.
"Our canoes have holes in them," he said.
“Someone cut them with a knife.” “He wrecked our canoes,” exclaimed Loon. “And we saved him!” He turned away in disgust.
“Help me carry him to the trail,” said Lynx, stooping to lift the young man.
Loon turned back around. “What are we going to do with him?” he asked. “He’s the enemy. We should throw him in the river.”
Lynx turned to Loon and spoke slowly and quietly. His voice could barely be heard above the rapids. “Then help me throw him in the river.” Loon reached down and grasped a leg, but Willow held his arm.
“Wait,” he said. “I just pulled him out of there.”
“He’s a spy!” repeated Loon.
“There’s still life in him,” said Willow, staring at the young man’s heaving chest.
“A spy who wrecked our canoes!” shouted Loon.
“He is a captured spy,” said Lynx. “He can’t harm us now.” He began to gather the contents of the young man’s fire pouch and put them back where they’d been. Loon unrolled the birch bark and tried to decipher the strange markings made in charcoal. They made no sense to him, so he threw the bark into the river.
“We should throw him in after it,” he said to the others.
“Look at him,” said Willow, raising his voice above the roar of the water. “He’s just like us – doing what we may be doing in a few years. He was nearly killed in the rapids that could have killed us. We can’t throw him back into the river like a dog.”