THE LAST SHAMAN
The morning was chilly when Antonio woke up and began to stoke the fire up to warm the cabin, he had not heard any sound from the second bedroom, he assumed they were too tired from their escape to be up at this hour.
Antonio suddenly realised he was up and about before the first light of day, he had never been one to rise early, in his previous life before the virus he had had a life of privilege and comfort, the last few months with Ravenhawk had made him more aware of the other side of life.
With the fire going strong, Antonio put water on for their morning coffee and prepared to make breakfast, as he put the grounds into the pot he felt the small hands of Little Bear wrap around his waist, looking down he saw the bright but sleepy eyes of the little guy."What got you up this early Little Bear?"
"I'm hungry but I need to go and it's too cold out there."
"Ok, go put on your warm moccasins and the nice new shirt Ravenhawk made for you and I'll take you out."
The boy brightened up right away and then Antonio understood it was far more than just being cold, the little guy did not want to go out in the dark by himself, it was understandable for one so young, there could be all sorts of things hiding in the dark for a small boy.
Little Bear ran back with a big smile on his face, grasping Antonio's hand he turned towards the door, he was ready to face the cold dark world with his number two daddy protecting him from all the bad things out there.
When they returned back inside to the warmth of the cabin, Antonio saw the coffee pot was boiling, he removed it from the stove and placed it on the side to settle and brew, Ravenhawk would be with him soon, he set about getting breakfast ready, for the first time in his life he felt as though his short life was worth something.
A pair of warm arms surrounded him and a soft warm breath whispered close to his neck.
"Where is my coffee Berdach, must I take you back to bed to teach you a lesson?"
The underlying laughter in Ravenhawk's voice was easily recognisable.
"Ah, my mighty warrior has finally woken up from his lazy ways, your coffee is ready, mighty warrior."
The two teens broke up in laughter as Little Bear watched them with a look of puzzlement on his young and open face, Ravenhawk reached out and ruffled the small boys new growth of blonde hair, Little Bear looked up at him and a wide smile drew across his face as he leant into the gentle touch, he felt so lucky to have such a good new family.
Antonio was just about to place breakfast on the table when they heard noises from the second bedroom, it looked as though their guests had finally awoken, Antonio placed two more plates out on the table, in the centre of the table were two large platters, one with thick slices of cooked ham and a dozen fried eggs the other with bread and fried potatoes.
The three waited for their guests to join them before starting to eat, the meal was eaten in silence and only the sounds of five very hungry boys could be heard in the silent cabin.
Antonio was surprised when the young boy Peter stepped up beside him and began to help with the cleaning up, so far the boy had not said a single word but seemed happy to help, as they worked on the cleanup, Antonio heard Robert ask to speak to Ravenhawk alone, Ravenhawk asked Little Bear to play while he went outside to talk with the newcomer.
After some time the two returned and sat in front of the fire, Antonio and Peter had just finished the cleanup and Antonio poured three new coffees then went to join them, it looked as though something had been decided, it was time for everyone to get it all sorted out so no one was left alone.
Robert Bearclaw was the first to speak once they had all taken a seat, Little Bear was still a bit leery of the newcomers and sat on the far side of Ravenhawk and as close to his side as he could get.
"I must tell you that I am not a two spirit boy."
"I am sorry for your loss." Interjected Ravenhawk
"However" Robert continued but with a strange look on his face. "My brother Peter did select the basket when he was young but as he is still too young yet we will have to wait and see, I have talked with Ravenhawk and asked to be allowed to join you, there is still a lot of winter to go yet and we will be safer together, I would like to ask the Berdach of Ravenhawk for permission to join your family."
Antonio looked a little taken aback at the request, with a blush and a nod of his head he looked at Robert once again, for some unknown reason he felt a sudden sense of pity for the older teen, it was a strange feeling that he would have to ask Ravenhawk about later, it was as though Robert was missing something that the others had, Antonio shook his head to clear his thoughts as Ravenhawk spoke.
"It appears my Berdach has no objections, so welcome to our new family, there is one more thing that we should discuss with all of us here, we are a mixture, both white man and Indios, Robert, you and your brother are of the Bear Clan and I am Raven Clan as are my two brothers, I have had a vision that we must find a new Clan to call our own, if we are to become truly a new family then we should also become a new Clan for these new times."
"Yes I agree but I also think we should still keep our original Clans to remember those who have gone." Robert said.
"Agreed, now as yet I do not know what or who the new Clan should be, when the time comes it will be revealed by the Creator so for now we stay as we are."
Each boy looked at the one closest to him, the strange look was still on the face of Robert as silence descended, he then looked at Ravenhawk and asked.
"Why would you feel sorry for me not being of two spirits, I would have thought you of all people would understand?"
"Yes Brother, I do understand, I told Antonio the story of why we have two spirits, now as you have only one, who is the richer, the Creator blessed us with two spirits so that we had the understanding of both sides so that we can have, and are, the balance between all things, as you have only one spirit you can only see one side and therefore you do not have balance, when you join with a female, she also brings only one spirit and so both are always at war and there is no balance."
"I can understand that but I'm not sure it works that way."
"Oh yes it does, look at your own situation."
"What do you mean?"
"Let me ask you this, why did you travel without help for two days to arrive here?"
"To get my brother to safety of course, why do you ask?"
"That is an example of your warrior spirit, you needed to protect him but he is the one that brought balance against your single minded warrior spirit, without him you would have chosen another route and could quite probably die in the attempt to save yourself, he brought calm thoughts to your mind in your need to protect him, he is the balance you need."
"I'm still not sure what you mean."
"If you did not have your brother with you when your cabin was destroyed, what would you have done?"
"I don't know, I suppose I would have taken off somewhere to find help."
"And where would you have gone to find that help?"
"Well...uhm... I don't know but somewhere."
"Then you must see what I am saying, by having your brother to protect as your spirit dictated, you need to drive yourself to find a place, if he had not been with you, you may have just wandered around until the snow and storms got you, he brought your spirit the balance it needed to make the right choices."
"I think I see what you mean, well with all these boys around I suppose it will be some time before I will find someone to pair with, what now?"
"Now we make plans, we need to go out and hunt, with five mouths to feed we will need the extra meat, can you shoot or do you know the old ways of trapping?"
"No and no, I told you we lived in the city, the only thing we learnt about the old ways were our drums and we don't even have those anymore, they were lost in the avalanche."
"I can make new drums for you both, for the rest I will teach you, you have the warrior spirit so it will not be difficult for you to learn, now for your brother."
Ravenhawk turned to look at Peter; he was sitting silently beside Robert but had evidently been taking in every word that Ravenhawk had spoken.
"Peter, you now have other brothers, I would like to ask you to watch over Little Bear when we are away or busy, can you do this for us?"
Peter blushed and then nodded his head in assent before once again leaning back to partially hide behind his brother, there was also now a look of relief on his young face; he stayed silent as Antonio asked a question of Ravenhawk.
"Why all this talk about being two spirits, I know you told me what it means but why all the worry about it?"
"Long ago, when there were only The People living on this land, those boys who were seen to have two spirits were looked up to and given a special place in the tribe, all The People would look at them with pride because Creator had given them the power of balance, when the white man came he took away that pride with his own religion, either by kidnapping the young to take them to their schools to be taught their ways, or by killing those who disagreed with their teachings, they could not let The People live in peace and under the guidance of the Creator, it took too much power away from their own desires."
Ravenhawk stopped to gather his thoughts before continuing.
"All the tribes held those of two spirits in high regard, even the Lakota but, once the white man came and destroyed the memory of The People, there were those tribes, the Lakota included, who saw the two spirits as a threat to the new ways, it continued even today, there were still many of the tribes that held the two spirit boys in high regard but there were now those who were afraid of them and their closeness to Creator and so they tried to turn others away from the balance a two spirit boy brings to the tribe."
"Well those days are over now, we will have to get along or we will all perish." Robert said. "So what do we do now?"
"Now, you and I will go out and I will teach you to hunt like a warrior, Peter will watch over Little Bear and my Berdach will do what he does best."
"And what's that?"
"Why, protect and keep the home and his family safe while the great warriors are away."
The smile on Ravenhawk's face said it all as he rose from the chair and went to dress for the outside, this time he planned something different, he would use the traps but this time he would make Robert learn to use a bow, they would have rifles for protection but the hunting they would do with a bow, he chuckled to himself as he tried to picture Robert using a bow for the first time, it may even be a good equaliser for his single warrior spirit to see what a two spirit can do that he cannot, a great leveller.
A half an hour later and Ravenhawk and Robert were out on the snow covered veranda, Ravenhawk was showing Robert how to tie on the snow shoes he had made for Antonio, they needed them to make their way to the tool shed to get the Skidoo and traps, Ravenhawk had been thinking of finding some way to fit a small sled to the back of the Skidoo to carry things on, as it was there was not a lot of space for extras once the two boys were in their seats.
It was a tight fit to get the bows and traps fitted on the snowmobile, with a rifle slung over the shoulder of each boy, they were ready to go hunting, with a burst of power they were off into the stark but beautiful whiteness of the winter landscape, Antonio and the two boys watched them leave and then went back into the cabin for some warmth.
Antonio watched and smiled as the two younger boys nervously watched each other and tried to work out if they were going to be friends or not, finally it was Antonio who broke the silence.
"How would you two guys like to learn to make bead necklaces, its lots of fun and you can show the others what you did today when they get back."
Both boy's faces lit up as Antonio ushered them to the table and then got out the many bags of beads that he and Ravenhawk used, with great care he began to tell them how to thread the needles and how long to measure the strings, he told them to think long and hard on what colours they would use and how the necklace would look when done.
It was not long before both boys were starting their necklaces and slowly they began to talk to each other as they made suggestions on colours and designs, with the boys occupied, Antonio went about his other work for the day, the boys would need food during the day and he had to work out what they were going to have for their dinner, there was also the generator to be refuelled and other small things around their new home to do.
In the early afternoon, the two little boys had made a number of necklaces, sometimes they would make one then undo it because they did not like the end result, it kept them busy for most of the morning, by afternoon and after they had eaten lunch, Antonio asked them to help him bring in more wood for the fire that night, the boys were only too happy to be included in the chores, it made them feel grown up and needed.
An hour before dark they all heard the sound of the snowmobile returning, after a little time the two hunters walked into the cabin, they looked cold and hungry as they dusted off the snowflakes on their clothes before stepping inside, their lips were showing blue and their eyes were bloodshot from the constant glare of the whiteness.
Antonio got them hot drinks immediately as they sat down in front of the roaring fire that Antonio had lit when he first heard the sound of the motor, with shaking hands the two boys sipped at the hot drink as they relaxed back into the chairs, the two little boys stood a little distance away waiting for the chance to tell the older ones all about their day.
"So, my mighty warrior, I see you came home without any meat for the table, is your spirit too weak to hunt?"
"Ah my Berdach, keeper of my home, my brother's warrior spirit was strong but unfortunately his eyes were weak, twice he shot at a nice buck but unfortunately his arrow missed so tonight we eat like rabbits on the vegetables of your mighty gardening skills."
"Oh how ever did I get landed with a warrior who cannot hunt for the table, I will carry the shame of this for years to come."
"Never mind poor and weak Berdach, tomorrow we will clear the traps, I'm sure we will find a rat for you to cook for dinner."
"Yech, is that the best my mighty warrior can do, a skinny rat, I think I will have to find a more worthy warrior to protect me if a rat is all you can offer."
"Perhaps we should discuss this further in our bed, perhaps then you will see my value."
"No need, I already know your value in that regard.'
Antonio laughed as he turned back to the stove to check on his stew and vegetables, the sound of chuckles from the others filling his ears as he worked.
"So what happened, you had your rifles you could have got the buck with those?"
"No it would not have been good, Robert does not know how to use a bow yet but he will get better, Creator sent the buck so he could try his luck, if we had used a rifle on this gift it would have been an insult to Creator, the object was to use the bow, if we could not get a clean kill with that then the animal was deserving of life."
By this time Antonio knew how Ravenhawk thought about things and left it there, he looked back to his pots to check once again that all was well, by this time the little ones were showing their new necklaces with pride, they had worked hard in making all of them a new necklace to wear, Antonio smiled as Ravenhawk and Robert slipped the new necklaces over their head and settled them around their necks, the two boys were smiling with pride as they looked at their older brothers wearing their hard worked for necklaces.
"I feel we need a new Clan name." Ravenhawk said as they waited for the dinner to be cooked.
"Why?" asked Robert.
"If all the tribes have been decimated like ours have, then there can't be many people left, for those who want to start a new life in our ways then they should be able to start with everything new. Look at it this way, I am half Lakota and Apache, you and your brother are Arapaho, Little Bear is white and Antonio is part white and part Latino yet we sit here as brothers and family, we all want the same thing, a family and safety, we can only get those things if we start fresh."
"I can see your point, but will it make a difference if others join us later?"
"I think it might but as yet there is only us, it's what we think that counts for now."
"You could be right; can we think on this, after all we are all new to each other and, another thing, what would we call our Clan if we change it?"
"That I don't know yet but, if the Creator wishes it to be so then he will direct us; in the mean time let's think it all over."
"Yes I agree, now when do we go out again to check the traps you set?"
"Tomorrow, it looks like a good day with little wind and no snow and you can practise with the bow again."
Ravenhawk looked at the two young ones, it almost caught him by surprise to see that Peter was sitting with Little Bear close by his side, Peter had still not spoken a single word to anyone but Little Bear, it looked as though he had found something in Little Bear that he liked, Ravenhawk decided to say nothing just yet, it would be better for the young ones to find their own way in the family setting.
The next day was a good one, all the traps were full and the two teens skinned and gutted the catch as they went, the snow underfoot was firm and crisp and the sun overhead made it an easy day to work in.
As they finished the last of the traps and Ravenhawk was getting the Skidoo ready to leave, he suddenly stopped, brought his bow to hand and looked around, his eyes were looking sharply into the nearby trees, something had caught his attention but as yet he could not make out what it was, Robert looked over and saw Ravenhawk's tense attitude, he also began to look around for danger.
Leaving the skinned and gutted Hare on top of the others on the snowmobile, Robert walked over to Ravenhawk's side.
"What is it?" he whispered.
"I don't know, there's something in the trees, it almost feels like it is trying to pull me in that direction."
"That's weird, what do you think it is?"
"Let's wait and see."
"Do you think it's a bear or cougar?"
"No, it doesn't have the sort of feeling, wait."
The two teens stood there trying to see into the dense tree line, finally Ravenhawk made a move towards the trees his bow at the ready, Robert was close on his heels as they neared the dark greenness, he suddenly realised there were no birds singing or other woodland noises, the hair on his arms stood up and a strange sensation began to grow in him.
"This way" whispered Ravenhawk as they entered the trees.
Robert followed close behind, his bow also drawn ready to release its arrow into whatever was trying to trap them, slowly they moved deeper into the trees, the thick snow around them dampened any sound they might have made, Robert noticed that the strange feeling was getting stronger as they moved deeper.
All sound was hushed, even the soft crunch of their snow shoes seemed hushed more than normal, it was with a start that they suddenly came out into an open glade, the soft hiss of Ravenhawk's breath went unnoticed by Robert as he looked at the strange scene before him, what he saw just could not be, not here in the middle of winter with the thick piles of snow all around.
Before Robert could gather his senses, he heard Ravenhawk begin to sing as he laid his bow on the ground and stepped out into the glade, Robert suddenly recognised the song, while he had not been taught a great deal about the old ways he did recognise the Spirit Song of Creator, it was the first song he had to learn for the drum, without even realising it, Robert began to tap the arrow on the bow with the same cadence as he would for a drum.
The glade rang to the sounds of the song and tapping as the two teens walked into the centre, the green grass and yellow flowers were a total contrast to the rest of the land around them, the trees around the outside of the glade were heavy with snow yet here, in the centre of the trees it was all green grass and flowers.
Above them the sun shone almost with summer warmth, in the peaceful glad were animals which would normally have been afraid of any intrusion or would have been food for others that were there.
Deer and rabbits stood eating alongside two black bears who were picking red berries off a bush, a cougar was lying in the sun at the centre of the glade and four turkey were hunting for food in the grass, through the middle of the glade ran a small stream, the soft sound of its water running freely over small stones was like bells on a dancers ankles.
Robert could not get his head around it, what he was seeing was impossible, even in his wildest dreams he could not think of something like this ever happening, it was surreal and unworldly yet he moved forward with Ravenhawk by his side, he had not realised he had continued the tapping sound in time to the song until they came to the small stream, the animals seemed to take no notice of them at all.
Ravenhawk stopped and finished the song; he then lifted his hands with the palms open and began the prayer to Creator.
"I know that I am made and created in the Image and likeness of the Divine."
"I know that the Divine Creator is ethereal and not material."
Robert listened on as Ravenhawk completed the prayer, at the end both boys looked down into the crystal clear waters of the small stream, the bed of the stream seemed to be made of fine coloured pebbles, nearly all of them looked as though they had been polished by the ages but the ones that stood out should not have been there, in fact, as far as Robert knew, they should not even have been on this continent.
Roberts one love before the disaster of the virus, was Lapidary, the collecting of semi precious stones, he even had the machinery to make his own beads and to carve stone but it had all been lost in the avalanche back at their first cabin and so he was easily able to identify the mass of unusual stones on the bottom of the creek, nephrite jade but it was impossible for it to be here.
The Jasper and many coloured agates he easily understood but the nephrite just should not be in the stream, Ravenhawk stood as still as a rock as he looked down into the stream, Robert waited by his side silently, he felt there was something going on that he did not understand but Ravenhawk did.
The very time seemed to stand still and Robert had no idea how long they had been standing there, a soft nudge on his thigh made him look down, it was one of the deer, a small fawn rubbing its head on his thigh, the absolute trust in Robert made him relax as the little fawn continued to rub its head up and down his thigh, it was a surreal moment that Robert would never forget.
Ravenhawk turned to Robert and said the first words for what seemed an eternity.
"We will be known as the Green Stone Clan, you are to gather as many of the green stones as you can and they will be made into necklaces for all of us so that others will know, you have the skills to drill them and Little Bear must string them in his own pattern."
Robert looked shocked as he heard this, he had not told any of his new friends that he was into stone collecting, how could Ravenhawk have known about it, but there still remained the problem of drilling the small stones, he had none of his tools or drills, Robert could only nod his head and begin to gather the stones as he had been told.
All the time he was collecting the stones, the little fawn was by his side, even after his pockets were full and his back pack was heavy with the small green stones, Robert could still not get the strange experience out of his head, at a signal from Ravenhawk they turned and walked out of the glen, Ravenhawk was now singing a different song as they left, Robert was to learn it was called "The Song of the Quiet Land"
They finally made it back to the waiting Skidoo, Robert could still feel the tingling all over his body, his head felt light as though he was in some sort of mild fever, he looked at the calm face of the younger teen.
"What just happened?"
"You were in the presence of the Creator, it was his way of telling us to go forward and that we had good hearts to make the new clan strong and honest, come on, jump on here and let's get home, I'm hungry and we have a lot to tell the others."
Robert could only silently follow the command, he also was now feeling the need to eat, it had been a long and somewhat strange day, one that he would never forget, deep inside he felt he now needed to make a new drum so he could continue with what he had been learning from his father before the virus, it seemed even more important now than before.
The long ride back seemed to take forever but finally the cabin came into view just as the sun was sinking low over the trees surrounding the cabin, from inside came the laughter of two boys and the smell of fresh cooking filled their nostrils as they dismounted from the snowmobile and carried the heavy pack of stones and fresh meat into the waiting warmth of their home.
Before sitting down to dinner, Robert emptied his pockets and pack of the stones, placing them into a wooden bowl, he then left them near the fire where he sat, he noticed that Little Bear's eyes glowed as he saw the mass of green stones, it was as though the little boy knew what they were for, but that was another impossibility, or so Robert thought.
Dinner had a comfortable family feel to it, it all seemed right that they were all sitting at this table in the warmth of the cabin. Talk was about the day's events and what each had done with his time, Little Bear seemed to be sitting on needles, his eyes going to the bowl of stones every few minutes, it was as though he could not wait to touch them.
With dinner finally over, Little Bear went to the bowl and began to pick up different stones and study them one by one, there were more than enough to make necklaces for everyone and the shape of the stones were as different as the place they came from.
Little Bear inspected each one and began to lay them out in lines which represented different necklaces, some were round, others oval and more were square shaped but rounded by the movement of water and sand in the river, there were triangular shapes and even thin slivers that looked like long needles, Little Bear patiently laid them all out.
Once the stones were all in long rows, he began to change the patterns, the other boys sat and watched as the little boy concentrated only on the lines of green stones, everything else around the little boy seemed not to exist; there was a peaceful quietness about the cabin until Little bear looked up at Ravenhawk.
"Daddy, there's no holes in the stones, how can I make some necklaces if there are no holes?"
"Perhaps Robert can find a way to help you?"
Little Bear looked at Robert with hope in his eyes.
"Can you...can you?"
"Well I could but I don't have the tools to do it, I know how and what to do but I need special tools and I lost all mine in the avalanche."
Little Bear's face was crestfallen at this news, with desperation on his face he turned to the only one that always had answers for him.
"Daddy Ravenhawk, we have to get some tools to make holes, pleeease."
The older boys almost broke into laughter at the begging tone of Little Bear, how could anyone refuse such a heartfelt plea, Ravenhawk smiled at Little Bear.
"We will try to find a way but you must be patient, there are no shops open for us but we will try to find a way."
The simple belief in the infallibility of Ravenhawk's word was enough for the little boy, if Ravenhawk said it would happen then it would happen, of this Little Bear had no doubts at all.
When the two youngest were looking tired from their day, they were sent off to their beds, Peter took Little Bear by the hand and led him off to his room, he then stayed with the little boy until he was fast asleep and then went to his own bed, it seemed that Peter had taken charge of watching over the smaller boy.
The three older boys sat and talked late into the night, most of the conversation was about how to find the tools Robert needed for the stones, it was finally decided that Ravenhawk and Robert should take a trip to find a town that might hold the tools needed.
As they talked on it became clear they would also have to keep the generator running so Robert would have power for the tools, Ravenhawk knew they had enough gas for the generator for the winter but they would soon be out if they had to run it all day long for Roberts needs, they would have to find a way to get more, to this end they put their heads together to work out how to make a sled to fit behind the skidoo to carry the gas cans that lay in the tool shed, they would also have take a few extra for the machine as they did not know how far they would have to go to find what they needed.
Antonio placed a couple of large logs on the fire as they called it a night, there was a lot to do the next morning and they now needed to get to their beds and some sleep if they were going to solve the new problems that had arisen.
In their shared bedroom, the two teens looked down at the young face of Little Bear as he slept peacefully in the middle of the large bed, there was a simple innocence in the peaceful look on the small boy, Ravenhawk slid his arm around Antonio's waist as they stood and looked at the little boy, it all felt right and they both sighed at the same time at the peace surrounding them.
The next morning dawned clear and crisp, winter was well settled in and the boys had now become accustomed to the chill mornings and fine days, at breakfast the older boys talked over how to build a sled, it was something new to all of them and would take some trial and error before they came up with a workable unit.
By late afternoon they thought they had finally come up with a workable sled, most of it was built with willow and spruce slats but the runners had come from the broken skidoo that had carried Robert and Peter to the cabin.
The end result looked a little crude but seemed to work well enough on the single trial they took, the attachment to the skidoo had been the most difficult but was overcome finally by Robert.
For the next two days they all planned the trip away, the sled would have to carry food as well as fuel and the empty gas cans, Ravenhawk decided on preserved fruits and dried jerky for their food, they would have their rifles with them for hunting if they needed it.
It was decided to make the most of the good weather and for them to start out the very next morning early and so they packed the sled that night in preparation for an early start.
While the two were away, Ravenhawk told Antonio to keep the little ones close to the house and to keep his eyes open, they had not seen any people around all the time they had been in the cabin, but Ravenhawk did not want to take chances, Antonio was instructed to take a rifle with him wherever he went just in case.
There was barely any light at all the next morning as the two teens got ready to leave, Ravenhawk gave Antonio a warm hug and said they would be back as soon as they found what they needed, they had decided that they would travel nonstop except for refuelling the skidoo, as the days were so short.
The previous night they had talked over which way to go, to the North were the older pair they had had trouble with so that was out, Robert and Peter had travelled from the south and had not seen any towns in that direction so it left only East or West, the boys decided on West, it was as good a direction as the other, if they found no town they would have to come back before they ran out of fuel although they would still have about ten days worth before that time came.
Antonio stood on the veranda with the two little ones standing each side of him and holding one of his hands each as they watched the skidoo disappear from sight, the sound of the high revving motor slowly disappeared from their hearing as the skidoo went on its mission, it was going to be a lonely time thought Antonio as he turned back towards the cabin door, the two little ones following him in silence, they also felt the loneliness without the two older boys around.