The ancient medicine woman reached out, snatched Síipuw’s ear in thin, strong fingers, and yanked hard.
“Ow!” Síipuw, thirteen summers old and already taller than Wmíisan, stumbled as her mentor pulled her away from the brewing fight. The woman’s legs were short and crippled, but Síipuw had to quicken her pace to keep up.
“Silence child!” Wmíisan’s voice was harsh and full of ice, leaving the watchers no doubt she would deal with the insolent apprentice for her actions. When she had dragged the girl away from the angry crowd of children, the old woman winked, and despite Síipuw’s fear, she chanced a pained grin.
Once inside the trees, Wmíisan whipped Síipuw forward and released her aching ear. Síipuw scowled and rubbed the offended flesh.
“Maybe next time you will listen,” Wmíisan spat. The woman’s words were full of anger, but her face had softened. “You should not let those jaybirds ruffle your feathers. Arrogant, you are, and quick to anger.” She shook a gnarled finger in the girl’s face. “I may not be there to rescue you next time.”
Síipuw continued rubbing her throbbing ear. If this was what Wmíisan considered a rescue, she’d be happy to do without next time. Besides, she had done nothing wrong. Not really, anyway. Pretty little Osowáno had ridiculed Síipuw the entire morning about her boy clothes. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but all their friends had joined her. Síipuw hadn’t meant to push the girl into the dung pile, but she wasn’t sorry about it either.