Susan heard the excited voices of the children long before she broke from the cover of the trees. She frowned and hefted the buck more firmly across her shoulders, wondering what could have set them off. The other hunters would surely be back by now, but that had never caused this level of commotion in the past. A few more steps, and she scented them. Outsiders.
It wasn't unheard of for their tribe to receive visitors, even this far away from the white man's world. Just because they lived isolated didn't mean they eschewed all contact. Hikers that occasionally stumbled across their community, tourists on the hunt for the 'authentic' native experience, or amateur genealogists who had been told there was some Sioux 'somewhere' in their heritage. Still, it was a rare enough thing that the young ones always squealed with glee at the chance to meet new people.
When at last Susan emerged from the forest, and her eyes had adjusted to the sudden swelling of light, she looked around for the newest visitors to their home. They weren't hard to find: the garishly large black SUV was immediately obvious. Not far from it, a woman and two men were talking to Black Crow, who was leaning on his walking stick. Or rather, the woman was talking to Black Crow while the two men looked on. Interesting, that. But the hundred and fifty pounds on her back was a more pressing concern, so she continued on toward the hanging area.
By the time she finished hanging the buck to drain and age, she'd all but forgotten about the outsiders. It wasn't until she was halfway back to her cabin and she heard Black Crow calling her name that she remembered. She turned and got her first close look at the visitors to their home. The two men could not have been more different. One was tall, thin, and pale, with blond hair and light eyes, like a Viking torn out of time. The other was shorter than Susan herself, stout without being pudgy, and dark of hair, skin, and eye.
It was the woman with them, though, who was the most striking. At first glance, she might have been mistaken for a man. Her sandy brown hair was cut short and above her ears. She wore jeans faded enough that to call them 'blue' would be generous, and a man's flannel shirt buttoned up against the morning chill. But a single look at her face (and chest, Susan noted with a tiny flush) confirmed her femininity. Her face was round, all gentle curves and smoothness. Her green eyes seemed to take in the entire world around her and thank it for existing.