This a short story I started for the contest months back and failed to finish it in time. I decided to finish it finally and here is the completed story. Just thought I'd post it here: IT IS A GOOD DAY TO DIE Icy blue was an orphan. Her earliest memories were moving from town to town with strangers who never settled in one place for long. When she was yet just out of childhood she ran away and wandered the west searching for something she had yet to understand. She was leery of anyone and kept to herself, moving on whenever anyone tried to get too close. As the months rolled along like the streams and rivers dotting the landscape Icy finally settled in the town of Tin Cup. The people here were friendly and generous and Icy found that whenever the itch to move on hit her, she made excuses to herself to wait another week or two. Against her loaner nature she found she liked the town and slowly became a part of the comings and goings of its inhabitants. Yet there was still something missing from Icy's life and it fluttered in the far corners of her mind never letting her be at ease. There was a battle today and Icy was up before the dawn. She headed out of town wanting to be at the battle site early. As she neared the edge of town she saw one of the old soldier veterans sitting and smoking his pipe waiting for the sun to come up. "Goodmorning Icy Blue.", the old veteran said between puffs of his pipe. "Goodmorning to you sir," answered Icy. "Ah, fight today isn't it. Good luck to you and remember that it is a good day to die.", the veterans said with a tip of his hat. "Thank you sir, yes it is a good day to die", Icy said politely but her mind was in turmoil. How can it be a good day to die? She had heard the saying before but she just could not figure that dying in anyway was good. It bothered her that she could not understand and pretended to do so. As she neared the fort that was the site of the battle all was quiet. Icy settled down on the top of a nearby ridge and began cleaning her rifle, thinking on what had happened earlier with the veteran. The silence of the pre-dawn morning was suddenly broken by a voice behind Icy. "Good morning to you little Icy Blue". Icy was so startled she nearly dropped her rifle. She was also mad that she was so preoccupied with her thoughts that she let someone sneak up behind her. She spun and had her knife held out as she crouched in a defensive stance. Sitting behind her was an indian. A very, very old indian. His weatherbeaten face had the look of old worn leather and the lines defining his face started around his eyes and continued down to to his neckline in an unbroken river of age. His hair had the color of parchment left out in the desert sun. Icy could not look away from his eyes. They sparkled with life and long ages of experience that made Icy feel as a new born baby. Icy had lived with the indians at times and she knew she was looking at one of the indian Shamans and one of the oldest alive. "Be at ease my child", said the wiseman with a voice that immediately calmed Icy. "I am so sorry Wise One, I was startled and did not know if you were one of the enemy soldiers.", said Icy putting her knife away. Something suddenly clicked in Icy's mind,"How do you know my name, Wise One?". In answer the Wise one gestured to a spot next to him and said,"Please have a seat little one, yes I know you and I have been watching you your entire life. The time has come for us to meet and to have a talk, please sit I mean you no harm." Icy came and sat next to the old Shaman. "You look hungry Icy, here have something to eat", the Wise One handed Icy some jerky and they quietly sat and ate looking at the slowly reddening dawn. Icy could not stand the silence,"I don't understand Wise One, you know me but I'm not important. I am no one!", said Icy in frustration. The Wise One ignored Icy's plea and quietly talked,"This is the best part of any day, everything is in front of you and you can watch your path beginning like a flower that awakens and unfurls its beautiful petals to the the world." That said the Wise One turned and looked at Icy with those penetrating eyes, "You are not and have never been no one, you are Icy Blue and it is up to you to find the importance in your life. Allow me to introduce myself. I am called Two-and-a-Half-Bears and I have been looking forward to this meeting for a long time." Questions raced in Icy's mind and she opened her mouth so they could explode out like canon fire but Two-and-a-Half-Bears held his hand up gently and Icy fell silent. "We can have questions answered in time, let us get to know each other, there is a fire in you and you have the impatience of youth." Two-and-a-half-Bears said with a grin. They soon were chatting like two old friends. They sat and talked of little things and big things. Icy did most of the talking telling Two-and-a-Half-Bears of her life as a fortfighter and her new town. Two-and-a-Half-Bears interrupted occasionally and asked questions or pointed to a plant nearby and told Icy of hidden healing properties of the normal looking plant. Icy even shared some of her pretzels. It was unusual because Icy loved pretzels and they were amoung her most precious items. Somehow Two-and-a-Half-Bears drew Icy out of what seemed like a fog and Icy was telling the old indian things she had never shared with anyone in her life. "I see you have some new things in your pack, they will help you in the jobs you do", Two-and-a-Half-Bears said appreciatively. "Yeah, they are so hard to get, Tom Bola just came to town. I don't like him. He is the greediest person i have ever met", Icy said glumly. "He promises sooo much and the townspeople spend their hard earned money on dreams. I feel like hitting him with a club sometimes. If you ever meet Tom Bola, please, please Wise One go the other way" Icy said with true concern. "We of the People do not fear Tom Bola. Thank you for your concern Icy, your Tom Bola visited our village a while back", Two-and-a-Half-Bears said with a chuckle. "Oh no, I hope he did'nt take all your gold!", Icy replied. "We of the people are used to dealing with greedy whitemen who wish us harm", Two-and-a-halh-Bears said with a knowing smile. "Oh my goodness, what did you do?" Icy asked. "We ran him off thinking he was going to be scalped even though we don't do that anymore", Two-and-a Half-Bears said triumphantly. "Ha,Ha, Ha, good for you Wise One", Icy laughed. ":laugh:", Two-and-a-Half-Bears said without talking. " ... ... , you know the secret smiley language?" Icy was surprised and thought that it was truly a secret. "Oh, Icy you fill my heart with joy, I do not get a chance to talk with ones so young and energetic very often. Icy we of the People have lived on these prairies for thousands of years. Who do you think taught the secret smiley language to the white man? :indian: did.", Two-and-a-Half-Bears chided with care but yet laughing. Icy found herself drawn to Two-and-a-Half-Bears and she suddenly grabbed the Wise One in a fierce hug. "I really like you Two-and-a-Half-Bears. I wish I could have known you sooner. I never knew my parents or my grandparents but if I did I would want my grandfather to be just like you", Icy said with true feeling. "I too wish that, but it was not the time yet.", Two-and-a-Half-Bears said with regret. "Here now little one let an old man take a good look at you." Two-and-a-half-Bears reached over and gently cupped Icy's face in his ancient hands. He almost reverently brushed a stray strand of hair out of her eyes. "Yes little one it is truly time now.", the Wise One said whistfully. His eyes looked through Icy as if he was remembering something from the past. The next words Two-and-a-Half-Bears spoke rocked Icy's world as nothing had in her life until this moment. "You have your mother's eyes." Nothing could have shocked Icy more. Tears immediately came to her eyes unbidden. Her lips trembled and she found it hard to form words. "You.....You knew....my mother?", Icy said with barely a whisper. "Yes Icy I knew your mother, now let me tell you your story little one." the Wise One guided Icy back to a sitting position. "Your mother was one of the People Icy. She was a brave and beautiful and headstrong. A time came when she fell in love with a white trapper. Your father loved your mother dearly but unfortunately their love was a problem. We of the People are not without our shortcomings and your mother and father were shunned at the time because of their relationship and they were forced to live apart from both the People's and the white man's towns. I would visit them when I could, always in secret for you see it was forbidden to talk with one who was been shunned from the tribe. I was your mother's friend and I could not abide by the law of the tribe at the time. Your father was a good and true man and built a cabin in the far woods and provided for them both. In time their love provided signs that their family was to grow. Your mother was sitting outside the cabin one evening awaiting your father's return. The cabin was on a beautiful small lake and your mother found it relaxing to look upon the beautiful crystal blue waters of the lake. Suddenly a comet pierced the sky and your mother had a true foretelling of two things. First that they would be blessed by the birth of a daughter. In that moment your mother looked upon their lake and named you Icy Blue. Second that their happy life and yours was going to be hard and full of painful trials." "Your mother was overjoyed at your impending birth, but a sense of foreboding crept into her. Your father did not return that night or the next day. On the third day a fellow trapper visited and told your mother that an avalanche had occurred and your father had perished. Your mother hid her broken heart and thanked the man for his news. She gave supplies for his trip back. You see Icy your mother had a strength of heart that I have rarely seen. Your mother was one who never gave up so she set about making your birth ready. I came to the cabin in the day's leading up to your birth and assisted your mother when you came into the world. You were a beautiful baby Icy, but it was your eyes that I remember. They were such small and fierce eyes and I knew then when your eyes stared at me that you were going to have the heart of your mother." "Joy filled the little cabin. As you grew in your first year you and your mother had a bond that was a wonder to look upon. I would visit and never got tired of watching you nestled upon your mothers lap. You were fascinated by a trinket that always was around your mothers neck and you never tired of playing with it. Though you could not talk your mother would tell you stories and tell you about your brave father. Your mother would take you down by the lake and point out at it's beauty and say that the spirits of the lake had named you and that you were the most special daughter in the world. Your mother was happy despite the loss your father. Though you don't remember those were the happiest day's of your life. Fate can be cruel though and the second part of the omen had yet to be done." "There came a time when a rouge band of outlaws came into the area. They were a cruel and heartless group and brought death and pain to the valley. I tried to visit more often but duties kept me away for periods of days. The last time I saw your mother she made me promise to come immediately if anything ever happened. That day came. I was making my way towards your mothers cabin when I saw smoke coming up from the secluded niche that your home was in. I raced as fast as my horse would take me, but I was too late. The scene was horrible. I am sorry Icy but you deserve to know the whole story. In the end your mother was beyond brave and fought with a ferocity that only a mother could. She killed four of the outlaws before she succumbed to her own numerous wounds. The outlaws set fire to the cabin out of spite and were just gone to lick their wounds. They were in no shape to harm the valley any further. I searched for you and could not find you. I braved the spreading fire but found nothing inside. I was heartbroken and sat by the lake and contemplated what I should do. I thought the gods were playing tricks on me by letting me hear your crying voice one more time as a muffled sound barely reached me through the wind. Then I snapped out of my dream and frantically searched for the source of the sound." "The sound led to an animals burrow nearby and I found you alive, swaddled in blankets and placed in safety inside the mouth of the burrow. Your mother had time to hide you before facing the outlaws alone. You were well and healthy. Around your neck was the trinket that your mother never took off her own. She had time to write a letter also. I think she knew somehow that I was destined to find you for the letter was addressed to me. " "We buried your mother that day, you and I next to the lake that your mother loved so much and that beget your name. The cabin burned that day and nature reclaimed the land. I could not take you back to the tribe for there were many who still harbored ill will towards your mother for choosing her life with one outside the People. So I left you with those who would keep you safe to grow into adulthood. The letter written by your mother made me promise to not interfere with you growing up and that I should hold in my safekeeping your birthright. I was never faraway and awaited the signs that the time had come. Today is that day, my years are countless beyond the stars and this may be my last task in this life." With that Two-and-a-Half-Bears put around Icy's neck a trinket. "You have not seen that since the day day your mother died grand-child of my heart", Two-and-a Half-Bears said with pride. Icy took the amulet in her hand. It showed the side of a snarling mountain lion with it's jaws open in a fierce growl. "What is it called?", said Icy while admiring it. "It is called the heart of the Mountain Lion and it was your mother's before you, and your mothers mothers before that. It is older than even I am.", laughed Two-and-a-Half-Bears. "It is the most beautiful thing in the world grand-father of my heart", Icy said with tears streaming rivlets down her cheeks. "Your wear it well little one and be assured that your mother and father are looking down right now and their hearts are soaring to heights beyond the stars in pride over what you have become." "Oh grand-father or my heart I want so bad to see my mother", Icy sobbed. Two-and-a-Half-Beasrs put his arms around Icy and said,"Do not be sad for each day you look in a mirror know in your heart that you have seen your mother." Another sense of calmness enveloped Icy and she closed her eyes and grasped the totem. When she did she felt almost a warmth in the ancient stone. In her heart she felt barriers begin to crumble. She faced towards the sky above with her eyes closed and let out,"RAWR!" RAWR Icy snapped out of her trance and looked above them to a higher part of the ridge. A giant mountain lion stood there looking intently upon the two intruders in the stillness of the pre-dawn. "He is not mad at me is he grand-father of my heart?", Icy asked with trepidation. "No Icy, the spirit of the mountain lion is a very powerful one. The spirit is letting you know that they have judged you worthy to wear the totem," said the Wise One. "Your future is in your hands now Icy, I can no longer guide your way," Two-and-a-half-Bears said quietly at her back. Icy stared right back at the mountain lion and nodded her head in reverence. The mountain lion seemed to nod it's massive head almost imperceptibly then turned and padded away tuning once more to stare at Icy before continuing out of sight. "I must leave you now." Icy spun around and Two-and-a-half-Bears was nowhere to be seen! Icy collapsed in a heap crying uncontrollably. Her hand almost hurt she was grasping the totem so hard. Once again she thought she felt warmth emanating from the talisman. Deep down inside her Icy felt the final barriers in her heart dissolving and she could feel emotions filling up the empty spaces. Now a different kind of calmness filled her. She stood back up and looked up at the stars she could still see. Tears of joy now filled her eyes and began to wash away the tears of sadness. "Thank you mother, thank you father, and thank you grand-father of my heart." Icy let the tears continue to flow and she looked at the fort and Icy knew now that was nothing she wouldn't do for her friends. She would fight for them and with them willing to sacrifice her life in the effort. She grasped the totem once more and yelled, "RAWR", into the brisk morning air. RAWR-RAWR-RAWR-RAWR Icy sat content listening to the echoes filling the valley. Then Icy realized that these weren't echoes they were the shouts of her friends as they emerged from the darkness to stand beside her nodding to each other, hugging each other, preparing for the battle to come. Icy thought back on her morning and once again she grasped the totem. This time she raised it up to look at it and spoke as if to the totem. "YES, THIS IS A GOOD DAY TO DIE"