The three-day migraine Bilana had been fighting had finally enlisted the help of the intense South Dakota sun in its efforts to make her bawl like a baby and drop her level of usefulness to that of a used condom.
Awake was better than dead, Bilana thought, but after the day she'd had she might just have to disagree with that sentiment.
Her headache had retreated into a little minor soreness, and the alligators in her stomach had finally stopped trying to chew her new ulcers. And it was all because of her new drugs. Treximat was wonderful at getting rid of the aches and pains, but it also had a habit of knocking her on her ass faster than three shots of moonshine on an empty stomach.
She ran her hands over her face and tried as hard as she could to remember where she actually was. She remembered having to spend some time in a medical tent...
Yes, she was in South Dakota, and there were tents, and she was... Yes, she was covering the Sioux Nation pow-wow, the annual Sisseton-Wahpeton Wacipi in Agency Village.
She had taken her pain pills and sucked down a whole lot of water helpfully given to her by the team of medics in the first aid tent, and then took their advice and found someplace quiet to rest.
Since she could not drive as doped up as she was, and there were more pressing cases of heat exhaustion to deal with, not to mention a few possible heart attacks, she found herself a nice, empty tent and made herself at home on top of some discarded blankets. That her little pallet on the grass was shielded by a few unused tables and chairs was all the better. She was too ill and dizzy to even make it to her car to stash her cameras.
Thinking about the extremely expensive Canon EOS Mark Three reminded her to reach down and check to see if the masterpiece of plastic and circuitry was still around her neck.
When she had found her hiding spot, she was in too much pain to see anything, so she'd wrapped both hands around her camera baby and cradled it as she gave in to the call of her pain meds.
Now, she was relieved to find her main claim to her paycheck was still functioning. She turned it on, and the lens extended perfectly as it hummed to life. She spent a moment staring at her precious camera before other sounds caught her attention. She peeked over the mound of tables and collapsed chairs and saw something that made her catch her breath.
Her client had requested several photos of native garb, and she was now facing the most beautiful examples of regalia, and warriors, she had ever seen. It was almost instinctive for her to lift her camera and line up the shot, breathless at the sheer perfection of the men she was looking at.
There were two of them, one a little younger than the other, and they were facing each other across a circle. Both had high cheekbones and the hooked nose that spoke of their Native ancestry even more than the regalia they wore.
But the regalia was almost otherworldly.
Both men wore straight-cut shirts of creamy white leather. Both shirts were longer than what she was used to seeing, coming down to almost mid-thigh. Up and around both arms and trailing down the chest on each side was a thick strip of black beadwork patterned into broad triangles interspersed with scarlet beads. Running along the side of each beadwork stripe were strips of alternating black and white fur.
There was a difference between the two, however. The younger man's fur strips were not as long or luxuriant as the ones on the shirt worn by the older one. Around each of their necks was a necklace of black beads that glistened in the candlelight that brightened up the tent.
She held her breath as she beheld the same creamy leather that made up their breechcloths. The inverted arrow-shaped swath of cloth came down to their knees and was edged in the same luxuriant fur that outlined the beadwork on the shirt. The strips of black fur touched the ankles of their well-muscled bare legs.
On their feet were ankle-length moccasins of black leather edged in white fur. The fur of the younger warrior was shorter and fluffier, while the fur edging around the ankles of the elder was long and silky, falling to the ground as they began to move faster, spinning and stomping their feet to an beat that only the two of them could hear.