Prologue - An Angry Drum Echoed: Mary Musgrove, Queen of the Creeks


“Listen to your heart, my Coosa,” Mother Et-Ské used to tell me.

I remember this as I lean forward in my chair on the porch of the plantation house. The ocean’s waves lap leisurely at the shore, as if worn out after a long night’s work. Soon the sea will become angry, and I love an angry sea. I know from the fast-rolling black clouds that rain is coming, bringing thrashing whitecaps and an angry roar. The power of the ocean steals my breath and pierces my soul. Closing my eyes, my mind circles around memories that have been haunting me throughout another sleepless night.

      I hold the letter in my right hand; that same hand that wears the diamond ring he gave me so many years ago. As I whisper the written words to the soft winds, I can feel his strength flowing out through my mouth, and returning to me as I hear them spoken. I sense an echo of nostalgic longing in those words.

      Why is he looking for me after so many years? Perhaps he wants to complete the circle, as we have both grown old. Contemplation makes my heart hurt.

      The early morning mist lifts its thick curtain and the heavy moss-draped oak trees make their daylight debut before my eyes. Rays of the sun turn everything pink--waves, clouds, and even the sandy beach.

      I hear movements in the summer kitchen. My husband Thomas is talking to our bondservant Sarah, asking her to prepare acorn coffee. Soon she will bring it out to me, and again I will have to look into her duplicitous eyes. Can they possibly believe I am ignorant of their schemes? A wistful smile spreads across my lips. To think I trusted Thomas with my secrets and my soul.

      My black wolf pelt, worn and tattered from years of wear, rests heavily on my lap, mildly warming my legs. The amulet Medicine Woman had given me to ward off danger nestles snuggly in a leather pouch around my neck. I gently run my fingers over the smooth fur of the pelt, allowing my mind to drift back to latent memories.

      The pain I had endured fighting for my heritage somehow both softened and empowered me. In the end, as a daughter of both the Creek and English nations, I was able to keep the peace between them.

      I must have dozed off. The coffee is cold on the silver coffee tray beside me. Was I dreaming or is James inviting me to England? My fingers still hold the letter under my black pelt. I pull it out and read it again.

      After more than twenty years, James wants me at his side again. Is this a lifeline, thrown out to me just as I am going down for the last time? So long ago we were drawn together in a merging of souls. With him, I had experienced a renewal of something I’d thought I’d lost forever-a sense of passion.

      As I have frequently done during my sixty-four years, I now turn my thoughts to Et-Ské and ask her for advice.

      Mother, You sit with the Great Spirit of my Indian ancestors and with the Lord God of all men. Please guide me in this final part of my life’s journey. Your truth has led me to places I never intended to go. Now I have been given one last opportunity to recover the hope in my heart. Et-Ské, please empower me to choose wisely.

      I wait for her with closed eyes, listening to the squawking of the sea gulls searching for their prey.

      Write it all down, Coosaponakeesa. Write for your soul; write for your life. When you have finished, you will have your answer. Listen to your heart.

      I rise up slowly and walk toward my room; toward light and air and an uncertain tomorrow. So many things in life are shaded at the edges of uncertainty. Yet I feel hope washing over me as I answer my mother aloud.

      “Yes, dear Et-Ské. I will follow your counsel.”

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