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The Speaker

By Sandra Leigh All Rights Reserved ©



In a world where magic has to hide itself, Sooneawa is no ordinary Native American girl. For centuries her tribe, the Mainganoden, have collected to themselves the wonder workers of all tribes, to protect them, and teach them how to use the gifts the Great Spirit has given them. Nea is a Speaker, a talker of animals, a rare talent among her people. Most who can Talk with animals can only communicate with one kind: birds, canines, deer etc. Nea communicates with them all. What Nea wants more than anything, is to become a veterinarian. With her spirit companion, a great cat named Gaganan, she leaves the reservation to brave the white man’s world to go to college. To her surprise, she meets two of the white man’s version of the wonder worker and a young man who is ‘unmagic’. One she befriends. The other... is a power hungry young wizard who will stop at nothing to possess her. But Nea has a secret beyond her magic, one not even she knows. And another being greater even than the wizard has marked her for its own.



The Cherokee have a tale they tell of a monster they call Uktena. This creature is not exclusive to them, but it is their story you find most common. What follows on this page is my compilation of those tales, my version as it features into my story. It will help you to understand the undercurrent of the tale.

There are tales of a serpent-like being, horned like a deer, with seven bands of colour around its neck or seven spots depending on the storyteller, great moon-like eyes and a single, scintillating jewel in the middle of its forehead. This creature lives in deep, still waters, sometimes in rivers, or deep caverns. Where it lives no wildlife thrives. For kilometres from its resting place you hear no sound, not bird, animal or insect. To stray within its reach is to risk hearing its call. Animals will raise their heads suddenly and just walk off, hunters set down their bows and walk away, never to be seen again. To come upon it waking is death. To come upon it sleeping… is death. Something about it draws the viewer towards rather than away. But some… some can break that spell, some are overcome by the fear of it and flee. For them something far worse than death awaits. When they return home it will be to find their loved ones dead in their stead.

But Uktena can be killed. Its heart lies beneath the seventh band. Should an arrow find its way there it too can die, and the hunter’s loved ones will be safe. The jewel in its forehead is powerful magic. It can give one insight to the future, heal, bring good hunting and great luck for the tribe of the one who keeps it. But it is a dangerous thing to keep and few wish that responsibility. It binds itself to its keeper, demands things of him, marks him for all to see.

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