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Clarry had cleared away the few branches that had blocked the side road they had used to get into the farm house, it was now time to move on.
With everything checked for a second time, Clarry watched Liam get settled into the passenger seat with his sawn off at the ready. Clarry did a final check of his own weapons and their position in the Land-Rover. It was time to find some new lands.
It did not take long for Clarry to realise the winter had been far harsher than any other he had seen. The damage to roads and the surrounding land was now very obvious and without the needed upkeep that had been available before the virus, there was little hope they would ever be the same again.
Fences had been broken by the heavy snows and not repaired. Roads had been damaged. Some so badly that Clarry had to find another way around them. Some homes had also been damaged by heavy snow falls as there had been no one to clear it away and some roofs had collapsed under the strain and weight of the snow.
Where fences had been brought down, there were now freed animals wandering over the roads and along the verges. They also now presented a hazard for the two boys in the vehicle.
Progress was slow at best. Even when Clarry finally decided to try a few back roads so they were away from car and truck wrecks, it only served to get them into places that were not even on his maps. Within five days of leaving their winter home, Clarry finally had to admit he was lost. They were in strange lands with nothing on the map to tell them where to go. Clarry decided to just follow his nose and head south west, it was as good a direction as any other he could see.
Without realising it, the time flew by. How long they had been driving around and where they were seemed to lose importance as the two boys tried to live in the new world of today.
A number of times, Clarry tried his hand at hunting. Fortunately for him there was now a marked increase in wild life and although it turned out he was more of an opportunity hunter than a good tracker, he did manage to keep some fresh meat in their diet.
It had not taken Clarry very long to realise he had a great need for the few "How To" books. They had become very valuable. His first attempt at butchery was almost a disaster, although he had managed to take what he hoped were a few choice cuts of meat for their meal that night. When he returned the next morning to finish the job, there was little left of the carcass. It was a lesson he never forgot again.
The days seemed endless and time stood still. There was no longer a feeling of urgency to get somewhere. Their days were more about finding a good place to camp for a few days and for their own safety.
They had been travelling around for sometime. Clarry thought it may have been as much as three months, the time just seemed to get away from them so he was not sure.
They had made a camp by the side of a small stream two days ago. There were plenty of small game and in the stream were small fish that made for a change in diet, although catching them proved to be more fun than beneficial for the pot.
While Clarry had tried to keep an eye on their direction, it seemed at times as though they were going in circles. At first this had worried Clarry until he realised that both of them were really quite happy to just wander.
Fuel for the Land-rover was not yet a problem although it was getting to the stage he had to start thinking about it. It was for this very reason they had stopped where they were to reconsider their next step.
When they had come across an abandoned farm , they would search out any form of garden and look through for vegetables that may have been seeded by last year's crop. It appeared that corn was the most reliable although some other root vegetables also took to the wild and untamed nature of the new times.
Clarry's next move was to find a small town and search for gas in the hope of refilling the large gas cans stored on the trailer and vehicle. By his estimation, they had about three hundred miles of gas left. They would have to find something before then.
Some would have thought that Clarry would become tired of Liam's youthful exuberance. His penchant for relating everything to Harry Potter or one of his other fantasy books, could have driven someone else to despair had they not been so close.
Clarry found it amusing at some of the suggestions made by Liam. The smaller boy's belief in magic and everything in the world was protected by good wizards, only went to make the days more fun for the older boy.
The two boys stayed in the camp for nearly ten days before feeling the need to move. With the maps meaning very little to Clarry now, he turned the Land-Rover west and started to drive. Everything for the last three months had been almost hit and miss. So far they had made out alright so why change a good plan.
They had been driving slowly for two days, Clarry had only a half jerry can of gas left in reserve and knew he had to find some soon. If he failed to get more gas they would be stranded wherever the vehicle stopped.
He had been driving along what looked to have once been a side road. Now it was well overgrown with new growth. Around them were tall ridges and there was little sign of any town in the immediate area.
Most days Clarry only drove for one or two hours. They had not been in a hurry since the winter snows had begun to fall and now in the New Year they just continued with their slow progress. The going was slow and Clarry thought they did not cover more than thirty or forty miles in any one day.
Clarry pulled the Land-Rover to the side of the road, he thought he saw a good place to camp for the rest of the day and that night. There was what looked like a small stream for water and a large flat area to park in. The animals they could see were mainly deer and even the odd cattle that must have turned wild as they wandered around unfenced and free.
Unknown to Clarry there were four pairs of eyes watching them from the surrounding woods. Two pair were higher up on the ridge and well hidden by the tall trees. The other two pair were closer but also well hidden. The sound of birds in the afternoon air was nothing new to Clarry or Liam, it had almost become a part of the everyday sounds, unlike when they lived in Maine.
High up on the ridge above the two boys, the green eyes turned to the darker eyes. Nothing was said apart from the green eyed boy sending out another bird call to the two far below them. The answering call came back from down by the roadside. Those eyes were also dark and even a little amused at what they were watching around the small camp being set up in front of them.
The two up on the ridge communicated in whispers as they watched the two boys setting up their camp. There appeared to be little to fear from them as one was very young even though he never put down a small sawn off shot gun for more than a minute.
The setting up of the camp did not take long. It was obvious the two had had some practice. It was even noticed how they had converted the trailer to being part of their living quarters.
The main concern was the strange vehicle. It was in military colours but was like no other vehicle they had ever seen. For a start the steering wheel was on the wrong side and the squarish stubby vehicle did not look as though it would turn away any bullets, and looked as though it would be very uncomfortable to travel in.
Closer to the camp, the two pairs of dark eyes watched every move of the two newcomers. There was a feeling in the air that the new boys were not dangerous but still, they did not want to take chances. They would wait for darkness and then see what they had to deal with.
The slightly taller of the two leaned back and put his fingers to his mouth, almost immediately the sounds of another bird filled the quietness of the woods. It was the signal to let the other watchers know these two would be staying below to watch. The two high on the ridge looked at each other and smiled, it was time to report back to those in the clearing below their perch.
Clarry now had the fire banked for the night. Their evening meal was nearly ready and the quietness of the surrounding land made for a sense of peace. It was times like these that Clarry gave thought to their situation. They had not seen anyone for months, even driving on roads or past deserted farms had not produced any more people. There were times like now, that Clarry thought they may be the only survivors of the virus.
Clarry looked over at Liam as the younger boy got up from his place near the fire. While Liam checked his shot gun to make sure it was ready if needed, Clarry asked him what he was doing.
"I gotta go."
"OK, but don't go too far, stay within sight of the fire."
Liam nodded and turned towards the dark woods. By this time he was used to doing his business out in the open places. This time he only needed to piss and so looked for a tall tree, there were plenty around. Going to a tree just out of the fire light, Liam juggled the shot gun until he could open the fly on his jeans. As the stream came out, his sigh was audible almost as far as the fire.
Clarry was sitting on a log by the fire, he was just about to remove the cooking pot when he heard Liam coming back. Clarry took a quick glance at his brother and then his heart stopped as he reached for his rifle which was lying on the log beside him.
As Clarry tried to take up his rifle, he felt a resistance and looked down. There was a moccasin covered leg holding his rifle down on the log. Clarry was now in a quandary. Liam was being pushed forward by a slightly taller boy with a vicious looking knife at his throat. Liam's shot gun was now in the other teen's hands.
Clarry could only follow the moccasin covered leg up to its owner. The next thing he saw above the leg was the muzzle of a rifle pointed at his head but the owner of the rifle had what could almost be a smile on his young face as he looked down at Clarry.
"What do you want? Please don't hurt my brother."
The voice that answered him was also young but Clarry heard the underlying threat.
"We don't want to hurt you unless you give us a reason, and the reason will not have to be much."
"Who are you? What do you want?"
Clarry took his eyes off the rifle as he looked to see Liam sitting down on the log on the other side of the fire. The teen behind him stood on guard. Clarry was surprised to see the teen was only partially dressed. He had on a pair of jeans that were tucked into his calf length moccasins but no shirt. Around the teen's neck was a green bead necklace and his long black hair was tied back in a single pony tail.
Clarry quickly glanced at his own captor and gasped. His captor was also young looking. He wore a pair of white cotton trousers also tucked into the tops of his moccasins. Around his waist was a cartridge belt on which he had a pistol on one side and a large hunting knife on the other. Across his chest was a bandoleer of bullets for the rifle. This teen's hair was also long but was not tied back but hung loose over his shoulders.
Clarry gasped again at what he was seeing.
"You're Indians; what do you want?"
The teen beside Clarry smiled.
"Depends on what you do. For now we just want some information, like your names for a start. Then you can tell us what you are doing here. Good answers means good results, bad answers could mean you both go to bed with no hair."
Clarry heard the other teen softly giggle but did not want to take his eyes off the teen beside him.
Clarry gulped as he tried to find his voice. This day was not ending like all the others and he was not really prepared for what had happened. Perhaps they had got lax from not seeing anyone in their travels. Of course, the fact these two were Indians would explain why both he and Liam were so easily caught.
"My name is Clarence O'Rourke and this is my little brother Liam."
Clarry noticed that at the mention of his brother's name, both teens looked at each other and raised both eyebrows and shook their heads while still smiling.
"I didn't know this was Indian land. We've just been going around looking for a safe place to live. If you want we can leave your land in the morning. We don't want to upset anything or anyone."
Clarry watched as another glance was passed between their two captors; he also noticed that Liam was not a happy chappy at being so easily caught out. Clarry also hoped his little brother would keep his temper for which the O'Rourke's were famous. This was not a good time to throw a hissy fit.
Clarry watched as his own captor pushed aside Clarry's rifle with his foot. With a gesture from his own rifle, he indicated for Clarry to remove the pistol from his belt and toss it over beside the rifle. Clarry followed his instructions and waited for whatever came next. He was surprised by the next words from the teen.
"What's in the pot?"
"Stew for our dinner."
"Better take it off the fire or you will be eating ashes."
Clarry looked at the pot and then reached for it while still trying to keep his eyes on the rifle pointed at his head. It had not wavered once since the teen had arrived.
"Smells good, got enough for four?" His captor asked.
"Yeah I think we can make it go four ways." Clarry decided to take the bull by the horns. "Want to join us?"
"That's the idea. Now we are going to put our weapons up. Don't do anything silly that you may be sorry for later, so far you're both doing good, let's try to keep this friendly."
Clarry glance over at Liam and scowled at what he thought the younger boy might try to do. Clarry could see that Liam was wound up as tight as a spring, he hoped the scowl would remind Liam to take things slow and not cause trouble.
Clarry went to the trailer and brought out two more plates along with two more forks. There was plenty of stew. He had made enough for their breakfast in the morning as well, although now it would be mostly gone tonight. Hopefully with the two Indians having full bellies they would not be quite so dangerous.
Clarry noticed the other teen break open the shot gun and then lay it on the log on the far side and away from Liam. He then rested his own rifle on the log beside him as he took the plate from Clarry. As yet this teen had not said a word.
The four boys began to eat in silence until they had had a few mouthfuls of food. Clarry's captor was the first to break the silence.
"Good stew, you cook well. My name is Lazy Rider, I'm of the Comanche Nation. That one over there is called Navajo. He is Dine, or as you whites call them, Navajo, hence the name. Now so we keep this friendly, I'll tell you a few things so you don't get on the wrong side of any others you may meet. We call ourselves 'The People' or, if it is easier, 'First Nation'. To us the term Indian is not liked. So tell me, do you know the Kelly's?"
"Well as you can tell we are from Ireland and there a lot of Kelly's there so which ones do you mean and why do you ask?"
At the mention of an Irish name, Clarry's brogue had grown a little stronger.
"Well they don't talk like you but they have the same red hair and a few other things that are similar. This stew is really good. Now why are you here, what are you looking for?"
"Well as to why we're here, it's simple. I'm bloody lost. What are we looking for? Somewhere safe for my little brother to grow up and not have to be afraid or in danger all the time."
Lazy Rider continued eating until he had finished his plate before answering. Clarry noticed the other teen, Navajo had also finished and was now watching the two boys talk although he obviously had one eye on Liam at all times.
"Well I might be able to help you but it's not only up to me."
As Lazy Rider finished speaking, there came a shout from out in the darkness.
"Hello the camp, two coming in."
Lazy Rider called back into the darkness.
"Come ahead Philippe, we got some visitors for you to meet."
"I can see that. Any of that stew left? Someone was in a hurry to get back here and couldn't wait for our supper."
Lazy Rider looked over at Clarry, getting a nod from the boy, he called back to the newcomers just as they came into the firelight, "Yep, just enough for two scrawny white eyes."
Clarry watched as a tall Latino teen accompanied by a red headed boy walked into the camp leading two horses each.
"Thought you might want your bed back so we stopped to untie them and bring them in. Who have we got here?"
"A couple of wanderers looking for a safe place to settle down."
The two newcomers squatted by the side of the fire. It appeared that the one called Philippe did all the talking for both of them.
"So what's your name?" Philippe looked at Clarry as he lifted the lid on the pot.
"Clarence O'Rourke and this is my brother Liam."
"Oh shit, not more bog jumpers and another damn Liam as well." Philippe said.
Clarry was not surprised to see Liam jump to his feet in anger. His little brother chose the worst of times to show his anger and frustrations.
"What's wrong with a name like Liam, who do you think you are?"
"Calm down little boy. This here is my partner, his name is also Liam and so is his grandfathers. Now that you are here there will be three Liam's. You think that's not going to be trouble?"
Clarry looked over at the teen called Lazy Rider.
"What do you have in mind now?"
Lazy Rider looked at his three companions; once he got a small nod from each of them, he turned back to Clarry.
"We were thinking of inviting you both to come and see our little home. There are others who will make the final decision if you like it and want to stay, but it will be as safe as you can get today and there are opportunities if you want to add to the community. We even have a school going for the young ones." Lazy Rider said this final part with a smile on his face as he looked at Liam.
Clarry looked over at Liam.
His brother looked back and then asked, "Can I keep my gun?"
In reply, the one known as Navajo took Liam's shot gun, opened it to eject the two shells and handed the gun over to Liam. The two shells followed soon after.
"There's your answer." Lazy Rider said. "We like everyone to be armed. You never know when some idiot white eyes will try to take your home from you. Some have tried in the past."
"How far away is this place? I'm running low on gas for the Land-Rover."
"Not far. We just go down this track to the end of the ridge and then turn east and it's about three miles further on. But I think we should all stay here tonight and go there in the morning. It will give the others time to get ready for your arrival."
"They know we might be coming?"
"Yup, they know."
"But how? I don't see any radios on you four, how could they know?"
"Ah...well that's Indian magic. If I told you I would have to scalp you."
Clarry could only look perplexed as the four new comers laughed loudly in the night stillness. They were surely a strange bunch but he could detect no real threat from them and he really needed a safe place for Liam to grow up in. This may be the only chance they get. There had been so little out there so far, and he did feel they needed real help if they were going to survive.
"I think we would like to go with you and see this place. Thank you."
"Well let's get settled for the night. You and your brother get a good night's sleep and we will keep watch just in case. There are other things out there apart from dangerous men."
Clarry nodded and signalled for Liam to join him under the trailer tarp where they had made their beds for the night. As he settled down, Clarry looked out towards the dimming fire, he was just in time to see the four newcomers go to their horses and take off a blanket before hobbling the horses for the night.
Three of the teens settled down in their blanket while the fourth took a seat near the fire to be on guard. For the first time in a long while, Clarry felt he and Liam were safe and he could finally get a good night's sleep undisturbed.
The morning came sooner than he thought although he felt well rested and somehow at peace with the surroundings. It was the first time since the virus that he had felt like that.
Clarry saw that Liam was taken in by something close to the dying fire. His little brother seemed entranced as he stared unashamedly at where the others slept. The one called Navajo was just starting to stoke the fire for breakfast when Clarry saw that instead of three blanket covered bodies, there were only two although one did seem larger than any of the teens had been.
It was to be another few minutes before he saw the answer to the unusual scene. First the single blanket stirred and Lazy Rider popped his head up to quickly look around before starting to get up. Beside him the other pile began to stir and it was then that Clarry saw what had entranced Liam. There was not one body under the blanket, but two and he could see that the older boy Philippe was cuddling the smaller red headed Liam. Now he understood what had caught his brother's attention. The two boys were a gay couple.
Clarry tried to hide the blush that was heating his face as he thought of what might have been going on under those blankets last night. He quickly turned to Liam to distract him from what was going on with the two teens as they argued over who would get the other a coffee.
It was decided to just have a cup of coffee and then move on to the new place where Clarry hoped they might find a safe home. Within an hour they were almost ready to move out.
Philippe and Liam Kelly would go over the ridge while the Land-Rover was escorted through to the clearing by Lazy Rider and Navajo as they had to go the long way round. Ten minutes later and Clarry started the old Land-Rover and followed slowly behind the two mounted teens as they rode their horses towards the far end of the ridge.
It was not long before Clarry saw the two riders point to a side track. Turning down it, he drove a short distance before he came to what looked like a large clearing, only it wasn't what he expected.
The clearing was larger than he thought it would be. On one side there was a line of large trucks and trailers neatly parked under the trees. Deeper in the trees he could just make out what appeared to be a number of wooden cabins spread out and partially hidden by the tall trees around them.
At the centre of the clearing was a strange stone circle and what looked like a small round hut made from tree branches and animal hides.
Off to the side of what he assumed was the main cabin was a large new building and standing out in front of it was a large crowd of people. The one thing he noticed immediately was the fact all of them wore a necklace made from large polished green stones or beads. The welcoming smile on every face did not go unnoticed by Clarry either.
At the front of the large crowd stood a smaller group of six older teens and adults and one small long haired blonde boy who could not have been more than six or seven years old. Why Clarry noticed the little boy was because of the marks of three large scars on the young boys cheek. That and the fact the boy was dressed in a very fancy beaded shirt and of all things, wore a single large feather in his long blonde hair. The little boy had a huge and wide smile on his face as he saw Clarry pull to a halt in the clearing.
Clarry also took note that there were older people there and not only teens or kids. Some of the teens seemed to be paired up with another boy and others were holding hands with a girl while the older ones looked on with affection for all those younger than themselves.
Clarry suddenly felt a feeling of family come over him as he looked at the tableau before him. He almost sighed as he realized that he and Liam were now safe, as long as they were allowed to stay. The first to approach them was a young teen aged Native American boy. The young blonde boy walked beside him as he approached.
"Welcome Clarence and Liam O'Rourke, my name is Ravenhawk and this is my son Little Bear. Will you join us for breakfast? Maria has it ready in the dining hall."
Clarry could only watch as the little boy called Little Bear walked up and took Liam by the hand and said, "You can sit at our table. Maria always gives us the yummiest cookies and we have more fun than the oldies do."
Clarry could only shake his head at the friendliness of the large group. Even though he saw that each and every one there was armed, none of them were threatening. It was as though all the weapons were just a part of their lives. Clarry instantly got a feeling of coming home. There was a peace in the clearing that he had not felt since before the virus. He sighed heavily as he took in everything around him. Yes, he and Liam had found a new home, of that he was certain.
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