Friday Night Story

  The Croatan tribe lived on the coast of the continent that would later be named America; amongst their descendants they claim the infamous leader of the Lowrie gang. But this tale is older than that. This story goes back to the first of the European colonists, those that history came to call lost.

The name Croatan derives from the belief that their tribe was a combination of the Cro, fierce, and wrathful elements, and the ’atan, peaceful and wise spirits. Occasionally, a tribesman was born without his corresponding ’atan; discipline and proper rearing could not supplement the missing half of their soul. These men were forced from the village into exile, but often, they would return to make mischief of a violent and villainous sort. To protect themselves, the Croatan would put the Cros to death; to bind their spirits again to an ’atan, they placed the Cros’ ashes inside an earthly vessel of fruit. Because of their strength, the pumpkin became the most popular for this tradition, and a terrifying visage was carved in its side, to keep the angry spirit at bay. The process took years in the time of mountains, not men, but it was believed that as their cell returned to the earth, so would they, where their spirit could be made whole.

In the summer of 1587, after some anxious beginnings, colonists came to Roanoke. Those same beginnings had seen to it that only the Croatan remained on friendly terms with the English. The English children ran freely through the island the two groups shared. One day, they stumbled upon a field with many carved pumpkins, quite literally stumbled, as the first child found them only by putting his foot through one. A second child did the same, and a third, and this continued until the entire patch was a shambles.

Relations with the Croatan chilled; the colonists believed this to be in part because a great drought resulted in a poor growing season, and food was becoming scarce. Then, one evening, the first child born to the colonists, Virginia Dare, went missing. The colonists raided the Croatan village, injuring several of them. It would have meant war, but the chief’s daughter was taken, and finally he understood what had been unleashed.

The Croatan invited the colonists into their village, and they shared food, shelter, and their weapons. But even the combined might of both tribes could not protect their children. One at a time, they disappeared, until their number was equal to the smashed pumpkins of the field.

It was then that the chief’s daughter returned to him, and at first he held her closely. But then he stepped away, and whispered that his daughter was not she. Her ’atan had been chased from her body. He pleaded with his combined tribe for strength, for he knew that what he must do, soon, they would, too, and he put his daughter to death.

One more child went missing, but soon, the other children reappeared. Against one, perhaps, the village might have been able to follow their chieftan’s grizzly example, but with so many families reunited, they could not. The returned children became embroiled in conflict, amongst themselves, the other children, and even the tribe; it was discovered they were planning the murder of the chieftan.

Painfully, the children were forced from the village. Some families left with them, determined to remain together against even this adversity; those families were never heard from again. As the months crept on, children continued to disappear, one or two at a time, sometimes after long intervals. It continued until there were no more children to be taken, and the villagers took what small comfort they could from that.

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