THE LAST SHAMAN
The two teens had been travelling for two full days, it was now in the early hours of the third morning and they had just finished refuelling the skidoo from the third gas can on the sledge, this was now almost their point of no return, once this tank full was empty, they would have to turn back as their fuel would be too low and they might jeopardise their chance of returning to the cabin
At each refuelling stop they had changed over as driver, while Ravenhawk was competent, Robert proved to be quite the expert, even with the heavy sledge behind them and had been able to make better time and distance than Ravenhawk had been able to do.
When nightfall was close, they would stop and start to prepare for their sleep, They would start by donning the snowshoes kept on the sledge and then both would tramp side by side around in a large circle to flatten and firm the snow, once done, Ravenhawk would go in search of fire wood from under the snow laden branches of the trees while Robert erected the fancy modern nylon tent.
At night they would sleep in two thick arctic sleeping bags, on the first night Robert had been amused when Ravenhawk had removed his thick hide boots to reveal a thick layer of fresh straw wrapped around his feet, Robert could not resist a small grin and ask Ravenhawk where he got his fancy socks from.
Ravenhawk looked at his smiling companion and, with a small smile of his own, asked.
"Are your feet warm and dry?"
Robert was wearing modern fancy ski boots made from some sort of plastic, his trousers were snow proof and his jacket was a wild red colour and heavily padded, unlike the home spun clothes of Ravenhawk.
"Well yes, at least they are dry, why?"
"Mine are both warm and dry as well as that I also have dry straw to start the fire with, if you look in the sledge you will see a small salt bag with fresh straw in it for tomorrow, my boots are made from Elk hide, it is naturally water proof if you tan it in the proper way, the hair on the outside protects the hide underneath."
"Then why are my feet dry but cold?"
"Your plastic boots only protect you from the moisture not from the cold, if you want to keep your feet warm you should wear two pair of socks made from pure sheep's wool, the lanolin will protect them from moisture but you need two pair with those boots."
"Thanks, I'll put on two pairs tomorrow."
Robert had watched Ravenhawk unbind his feet from the warm straw and then lay it in the large, round, low sided pan set in a round shallow hole in the snow close to the opening of the tent, he then added some thin sticks gathered from under the nearby trees and set a fire starter under the small mound, lighting it Ravenhawk sat back and watched as the fire soon took hold, they now had a well contained cooking fire burning brightly in the large pan.
Ravenhawk pulled a wire grate from the nearby sledge and laid it over the top of the pan and then placed a small kettle on top after filling it with fresh snow, the two boys sat back and chewed on jerky and added bights of the fresh bread Antonio had baked for them as they waited for the snow to melt and the resulting water to boil.
Robert seemed fascinated by it all, Ravenhawk seemed to know just what to do and how to do it, he then realised how much he and his brother had missed out on by being forced to live in a city and not out in the wilds like his forebears used to do, Robert felt a sudden sense of deep loss, where the feeling came from he did not know but he felt he had been missing out on something his whole life.
An hour after leaving their last campsite, the two boys came over a high snow bank and saw the snow capped roofs of a large town ahead of them, from their vantage point they could see no movement but they did not want to take any chances just in case their eyes were deceiving them, after a short stop to survey the town below them, Ravenhawk put the machine into gear and they went forward, the town looked large enough for them to find what they were looking for.
As they were about to enter the main street, Ravenhawk thought he caught a faint movement out of the corner of his eye, had he not taken immediate notice of it, things may have been different, with a sudden swerve of the machine he took them both towards the cover of a nearby alley just as something buzzed past his ear, the loud crack told him they had been shot at from one of the buildings further down the street.
As Ravenhawk slewed the machine sideways, another shot rang out and he felt the tug on his right sleeve as the bullet passed close by, too close; with the reflexes of a cat, Ravenhawk swerved the heavy machine so it was side on to where he thought the shot had come from, at the same time the heavy makeshift sled tipped over and Ravenhawk grasped the front of Roberts jacket and pulled him off the machine with him just as a third shot shattered bricks on the building behind them.
Everything seemed to happen in a split second but Ravenhawk's mind worked even faster and they were both behind cover in what seemed a fraction of a second, Robert was still trying to work out what was going on as he fell into the snow with Ravenhawk's tug, both boys squirmed around and pulled the rifles from their shoulders as another shot rang out in the still morning air and whined its way into the empty air leaving only a faint dusting of red brick dust behind.
Robert was crouched down behind the sledge while Ravenhawk was behind the skidoo, as it was still running he reached up carefully and switched it off to save gas but, as he pulled the keys from the machine, three fast shots rang out and he heard the solid clunk of them hitting the other side of their transport, from the sudden smell of gas he knew they would not be returning to the cabin on this one.
As he lay behind the now silent machine, Ravenhawk suddenly heard the softer pop of two small weapons, to his ears they sounded like small .22 rifles, not a lot against what he thought were the high powered weapons that had fired at them, the only comfort he had was that the smaller pops were coming from another direction and were not aimed at them.
Jacking a round into the chamber of the 44.40 he eased his head around the front of the machine, at the same time he heard Robert do the same with his rifle, Ravenhawk was lucky enough to catch a small movement and a puff of smoke from the top of a three story office building further along the street, it was too fast for him to get a good look at the person but the puff of snow close to front of his machine told him that's where they were being targeted from.
Ravenhawk pulled his head back as he tried to think of a way out of their present predicament, there was a lot of open ground between him and the shooter and with snow shoes on he would not be able to make it fast enough, the snow that lay around was far too deep to be able to run through it, with a gesture and some signals, he got Robert to start to untie the snow shoes from the top of the sledge, at least he could get ready if the opportunity offered itself at a later time.
Ravenhawk took another look around the front of the skidoo, he was just in time to see two more people start to fire across the street from them at another target which seemed to be the ones with the small calibre rifles, the two he could see soon let it be known that they had semi automatic weapons as they sent a long blast of fire at the opposite targets across from them.
Ravenhawk now had something to work with, the worst one was the shooter on top of the building that gave him a wide arch of fire, the two inside the second floor of the building would be restricted in the view, for Ravenhawk it meant only one thing, he had to get rid of the man on top of the building before he could do anything else.
Ravenhawk hissed softly to get Roberts attention, when the other boy turned to look at him, Ravenhawk whispered just loud enough for him to hear.
"I can see them, they're in that three story building about half way down the street, I want you to fire at the parapet at the top of the building, don't try to fire to fast, just a slow steady fire, I want him to think there's only one of us left; aim about a foot above the parapet and about half way along, when I get a sight of him I'll know where to watch for when he starts to fire back at you and for all the god's sake, keep your head low, make as much sue of the sledge as you can."
Robert nodded his understanding and then checked the loading on his 30.30 while Ravenhawk flipped up the ladder sight on his own rifle, it looked to be about two hundred yards to the building and then he was shooting upwards, he would have to allow for the extra height when he sighted the person up there
Robert began to fire slowly and evenly while Ravenhawk kept out of sight but his eyes were fixed on the roof top of the building, he watched as the first two shots from Robert raised dust near the top of the red brick frontage of the building, after that Robert was able to fire above the parapet and Ravenhawk watched with all his concentration fixed near the centre of the top line of bricks.
Robert had fire about seven rounds when Ravenhawk saw the first sign of movement just to the right of where Robert was aiming, he whispered for Robert to duck down and out of sight as he lifted his own rifle to his shoulder and aimed at where he had seen the movement, he had chosen correctly and it took only the slightest of corrections to bring the man's upper frame into his own sights.
The man on top of the building took aim at where Robert was hidden behind the thick boards of the sledge, it took only a fraction of a second for Ravenhawk to note that the man was using a high powered hunting rifle, Ravenhawk sighted carefully at the lower stomach area of the man, this would allow for the natural lift of shooting up hill, if he did this properly as he had be taught by his second uncle then the shot should hit the man in the upper chest, he knew he would only get this one chance, there would be no time for a second shot.
Ravenhawk waited as the dark shape of the man fired at where Robert was hiding, his shot was mixed with the others sounds of the two men lower down but their shots were still aimed across the street from where they hid, as the man on the top of the building stood without fear and jacked another round into the chamber, Ravenhawk fired.
Robert raised his head when he heard Ravenhawk fire and they both watched as the man straightened up and then, in what seemed like slow motion, threw the rifle from his hands and stepped back as though stunned, the two boys watched the rifle slowly spin over the side of the building and almost flutter into the packed snow at the base of the building, the man above still stood with both hands clasping his chest until he also began to slowly slump out of sight.
Robert looked over at the impassive face of his young companion as he stood firm with his 44.40 rifle still sending a small dribble of smoke from the barrel into the crisp morning air, their silent reverie was broken by the sounds of more shots from the others in the building but they were all directed away from the two teens but it brought them out of their own daze.
Ravenhawk whispered to Robert to free the two pairs of snow shoes, they would have to go after the other two men before they could do anything else, after strapping on the snow shoes, the two boys lifted up and Ravenhawk traced out their passage to the building while staying out of sight of the men above who were still keeping a fast rate of fire going across the street to the answer of the smaller pop of the others hidden from them.
Robert was amazed at how easily Ravenhawk could move with the awkward snow shoes, it almost seemed the other boy had been born wearing them as he quickly backtracked down the narrow alley to get out of sight of the last two men.
Ravenhawk had taken a sighting on the building and had worked out that they could go back and around without begin seen, if they were lucky they might find a back door into the building without having to go near the front.
Robert tried as hard as he could to keep up with the seemingly effortless strides of Ravenhawk as he took them back down the alley, they soon came to a cross lane that would lead them back to the end of town, once there they could cross over to the other side without being seen by those still in the building, Robert found it hard going to keep up with the easy strides of Ravenhawk, it was as though the other boy was gliding over the top of the snow without putting his feet down.
At the end of the cross lane they saw the wide empty street that they would cross, Ravenhawk knelt down and peered around the corner to make sure that they would not be seen when they crossed over, as a further precaution, he raised his rifle to his shoulder while he signalled for Robert to cross while he kept guard.
When Robert was well over half way and should have been out of sight of the men hiding in the building, Ravenhawk rose to his feet and followed quickly, the continued sound of the rifles still echoing in the morning air, sometimes the heavy sound of the men they were seeking and other times the lighter pop of those opposite, it was beginning to sound like a real battle going on and, as yet no one had noticed the lack of fire from above.
Ravenhawk led the way to the back of the row of buildings at the end of the block, he now had to move cautiously along until they came to the three story building, the only one of its size in this block, if he could now find a back entrance into the building they stood a good chance of taking the men by surprise.
As they turned the last corner, Ravenhawk was surprised to see what looked like a huge tracked vehicle parked at the rear of the building they were headed for, he had never seen one like it, the front was a large square looking box with wide tracks on each side, it was very evidently made to work in snowy conditions, attached to the back was another square box like trailer, also with wide tracks, it would be able to carry a lot of equipment, it was painted in camouflage colours and was much like a military vehicle.
Ravenhawk turned his eyes away from the strange vehicle, they had more pressing things to think about than that, with consummate ease and caution, he led his friend to the rear of the building they had marked, once close enough it was easy to see how the men had got inside, the small rear door was hanging off its hinges, it was going to be easier than he thought.
Ravenhawk suddenly realised that somewhere, deep inside his belly, his blood began to bubble and sudden thoughts of old battles rose to his mind, it was an age old feeling of all warriors, the need for battle and the desire to win at all costs, this was something he had never felt before and yet it was as old as time itself.
Ravenhawk though his senses were increasing as he moved silently inside the dark rear of the building, the sounds above him of the automatic weapons was now loud and clear and even echoed in the otherwise stillness of the empty offices, Ravenhawk gripped his rifle a little tighter as he crept towards what looked like a set of wide stairs leading upward.
With a quick glance over his shoulder to make sure Robert was close behind, he began the climb as silently as he could make it, which for his people was practically soundless, he did not hurry, he did not want to take any chance now they were this close to men with automatic weapons, they would only get one chance to finish this.
As they neared the top of the last set of steps before the second floor, Ravenhawk signalled for Robert to go to his belly like him and crawl carefully up the last few steps so their heads would not be seen until the last second, easing up slowly, Ravenhawk slowly popped his head above the last step, the corridor in front of him was empty but he could hear the two men firing to his left and right.
Stopping to think for a second, Ravenhawk decided they should not split up, they would both go to the left first, when that one was out of action they would retrace their steps and go after the last man on the right, it was obvious the two men had taken separate offices at each end of the upper floor, as he set the final plan in his mind and was relating it to Robert, they both heard the loud shout of the man to the left.
"Hey Barney, can you see the little fuckers?"
The reply came from the right and sounded like an older man.
"No, the little fuckers keep dodging between different windows, what are we going to do?"
"We'll just have to keep at them until we get them, what about Riggs, he should have been able to see them from up there?"
"Don't know, he was trying to sort out those two on the skidoo but I haven't heard anything more from him, he must have got them and is just waiting to get a clear shot at these others."
"Ok, well the best we can do is keep their heads down until he has a clear shot, but make sure you don't hit the girl, we want her the most."
"I know, I know, don't worry I'm being careful, it's those two kids that I want, can you imagine those little fuckers shooting at us with fucking pea rifles, what the fuck are we, fucking rabbits?"
"Don't let it get to you, they're kids, sooner or later they will make a mistake and we'll have them both."
There was no answer from the other end of the building as Ravenhawk stood up in a crouch and began to move towards the voice on the left, as he moved as silently as a shadow, he heard the man start to fire again, the burst of fire filling the empty corridor with its harsh sound as the empty shells rattled onto the floor at the gunman's feet.
The firing was coming from the last office at the end of the corridor, slowly and silently Ravenhawk, along with Robert at his side, crept up to the open door, the loud sound of the automatic rifle filling their ears with its harsh rattle.
Ravenhawk took a very fast glance around the door and saw the man at the window with the military style rifle to his shoulder, the loud blast of sound as he fired another burst echoed in the empty room as Ravenhawk pulled his head back quickly, he had seen what he wanted to and now it was time to take action.
Ravenhawk motioned for Robert to kneel down so he was below the level of the man's eyes, he would shoot from below and Ravenhawk would shoot from a standing position, Ravenhawk got ready, he checked Robert and then said loudly.
Both boys slipped into the doorway and fired at the same time, the two bullets hit the man in the middle of the back and drove him forward, his rifle falling from his hands as he broke through the window with the force of the combined shots, Ravenhawk, followed by Robert, dived through the doorway and turned to watch their backs, there was still another one in the building and it was only seconds before they heard his loud yell.
"Tupper, what the fuck was that, Tupper, hey where are you?"
Ravenhawk grasped Roberts arm and led him to the right of the doorway and along the wall until they were crouched down by the rear wall, their rifles pointing at the open door, breathing heavily they waited for the man to appear, they were sure he would get inquisitive and come to find his friend when there was no answer to his call.
Time seemed to stretch out into hours although only a few seconds had passed since they had heard the man call out, it was not long after that they heard the sound of heavy footsteps coming towards them from the corridor, there was little stealth in the heavy tread and the sound of the man's voice echoed in the empty hallway.
"Tupper, what the fuck was that? Hey what's going on? Tupper you stupid fuck, where are you?"
The sound of the steps and deep voice came closer to the open door as the two boys breathed deeply and waited with the patience of hunting cats, the man was close and it was only seconds later that they saw the black barrel of a rifle coming through the open door, it was soon followed a large beefy man, his eyes directed at the broken window.
The man paused and then looked to the left of the door for his friend, it was then something must have warned him that all was not well, as he turned his head to the right he saw the two kneeling boys and began to swing his weapon in their direction, he never felt the two bullets hit him, one in the centre of his chest and the other in the middle of his forehead, it was over before he could take in the scene before him.
Ravenhawk rose with the look of a hunter in his eyes whereas Robert found he was shaking from the cold bloodedness of his actions, not in his wildest dreams did he ever think he could come to this sort of point in his life, before the virus he had been in a good home with caring parents, a funny brother who at times could be a real pest but at least it was a safe place, very unlike today.
Ravenhawk sensed that his friend was not feeling the best about the ambush so he reached over and rubbed his shoulder to let him know he had done the right thing, in this situation they had little option although it would still take Robert some time to realise that point, the world had changed and not all of it was for the better.
Ravenhawk took the lead, going to the broken window he waved towards the opposite building and then raised his voice to call whomever was hiding in there.
"Hey, we're friends, we've got rid of these guys, can we come over there?"
Ravenhawk spied two slender rifle barrels poke through two of the opposite windows on the first floor, there was just the faintest of views of the two heads behind the barrels, one was a redhead and the other was very blonde but that was all he could see, from the dark depths of the building came an answering call.
"Who are you?"
"My name is Ravenhawk and my friend is called Robert, we don't mean any harm we just want to find some fuel and goods and then leave, can we come over there to talk?"
There was a long pause before the voice called him again.
"Ok, but you have to leave your guns in the doorway until we know you don't mean any harm to us."
Ravenhawk looked at Robert and nodded his head as they both turned to the door and began the descent to the ground floor, once there they leant their rifles against the doorway and stepped out into the open with their hands spread to show they were now unarmed, from the other side they saw a movement in the dark doorway and then two teens and an older girl stepped out into the open, the two teens of about sixteen, held a small .22 rifle each and had them pointed in the boys direction although not in an immediately menacing way.
The startled look on the three newcomers faces almost made Ravenhawk grin as they saw who the two new boys were, the redhead was the first to speak.
"You're Indians! How...how did you get here?"
"We have a cabin two days east of here, we came to find things we need for the rest of the winter, who are you?"
"My name is Dean, this is my best ever friend Karl and my sister Margaret, we come from around here, we thought we were the only ones left alive."
"I don't think so, there must be others left but spread all over the country, do you want to stay here or would you like to join us, the more of us together the safer it will be for all of us."
"I don't know, we can survive for a while here, there's still plenty of food in the shops we can use."
"Well, if it's ok by you can we go and look for the things we need, it will give you time to talk things over and decided if you would like to join us for the winter."
"Yeah, sure that sounds ok, what do you need, perhaps we can help you find it?"
"Well the first thing would be a new transport, those men shot up our skidoo, I'd like the big truck thing out back of that other building but I don't know how to drive it."
"I think those men drove it here, it's not really a truck but it looks like it's made for snow."
"Wait here, I'll go take a look, I think I might know what it is, if it's what I think it is I can drive it."
Ravenhawk almost smiled as he saw Dean surreptitiously give his best friends hand a small squeeze then run off to look behind the building they had been in before, while they waited the other two stood nervously and watched Ravenhawk and Robert, Ravenhawk then noticed that Robert seemed to be showing a little more interest in Margret when she wasn't looking at him.
While they waited for Dean to inspect the strange vehicle, Ravenhawk tried to think how they would put three extras into the cabin, it would be a tight squeeze but it could be done and they were far enough out of the way to also be safe from roving trouble makers.
As they stood silently and watching the others, they all heard the deep sounding rumble of a powerful motor being started, there was then a roar and something behind the opposite building began to move towards the alley way along the side of the office block, in a few more seconds the strange vehicle appeared, the face and head of dean at the wheel, he seemed to know all about the large vehicle.
When Dean pulled the vehicle to a halt, he shut down the big motor and stepped from the driver's door with a wide smile on his face.
"Just as I thought, this is a snow cat, old Mr. Shaw has one out on his farm but this one looks like a military one, what do you think?"
"I like it." Replied Ravenhawk "We could carry a lot with that but I think we still need a couple of skidoo's, we can't use that just for going hunting, it would scare every piece of game for miles."
"That's not a problem, our dad had the dealership here and for fuel Karl's father had the service station although I don't know how we will get the gas out of the tanks, the power went out months ago."
"Can we go somewhere and get some hot food, we can sit and think it over, there's also other stuff we need and you might be able to help with that as well, have you given any more thought about coming with us?"
"No, not yet, let's go to our place and eat, we've been living in the hotel just down the street, we can talk more there, do you want to grab your guns and follow us, the snow cat will be safe here for now."
Ravenhawk and Robert went back over the street and then followed the three retreating backs of their new friends to the hotel; there was a lot to discuss and plans to make.
Margret turned out to be a very good cook, even though she was just working with either dried or canned goods, the semi lunch she made was plentiful and tasty, Ravenhawk noticed that Robert could barely keep his eyes off every movement she made as the four boys sat in chairs and began to talk over what they might find in the town.
The discussion continued during their hot meal, everyone seemed to get along and this made for easy conversation and trust, Roberts main desire was for his stone working tools, dean told him there was nothing like that in town although they could check the jewellers shop, they may have some of the items there, the rest was working out how to get the fuel up out of the underground tanks of the service station, it was Karl that suggested they try to use a small portable water pump.
The boys thought this over and concluded it may be their best way to do it, the local hardware store would have some in stock for the farmers said Dean, next there was only extra clothing for Little Bear, Ravenhawk had to go into the story to explain why he had a son at the age of fourteen, this led to another explanation about his Berdach Antonio, the surprised look on Dean and Karl's faces brought a smile to Ravenhawk's own face.
Once the lists had been made, the rest of the afternoon was spent tracking down all the things they wanted, the extraction of the fuel turned out to be easier than they thought it would be, Ravenhawk was not surprised that Robert volunteered to escort Margret around the empty town to help with the gathering of a lot of extra food stocks, the three newcomers had finally decided to go with the boys, they were not silly enough to ignore that fact that extra numbers meant extra safety.
By late afternoon they had found everything they wanted, two brand new skidoo's along with purpose built sleds were now sitting fully fuelled outside the Hotel along with the snow cat and trailer now filled to capacity with their goods, they planned to leave early in the morning to return the cabin, Ravenhawk and Karl would ride the two skidoo's while dean would drive the large snow cat with Margret and Robert as passengers.
Ravenhawk smiled to himself when Robert volunteered to ride in the vehicle with dean and his sister, they had hunted through the town to gather extra weapons and ammunition, they would need larger weapons than the two small .22 rifles Dean and Karl and tried to defend themselves with.
They had filled as many gas cans as they could find in the town, the snow cat had two very large tanks for its diesel and could cover many hundreds of miles before refuelling if needed, extra was carried in the trailer along with the gas needed for the skidoos and the generator back at the cabin.
Robert had found a good quality drill and had also found a small water pump from a fish tank, he would need that to keep the drills cool when drilling the hard green stones.
In the jewellers he had found the other equipment he needed including a large number of diamond drill bits, as all these new tools would need extra power, they searched the hardware shop for an extra generator to power the tools, the trailer was now packed tight with all the extras, three large suit cases were filled with new clothes for the two smaller boys as well as extras for the older ones, they were ready to leave as soon as the sun rose.
The first faint glimmer of light had barely showed above the horizon when the sound of the two skidoo and the larger snow cat could be heard echoing in the still morning air, Ravenhawk was mounted on one skidoo out front with Karl beside him on the other, Dean was at the driver's seat of the snow cat with Robert in the passenger's seat and his sister behind them, it was time to leave for the cabin.
The long return trip on the first day was uneventful, when the sun got low in the West, they all stopped and erected the tent, Dean and Karl wanted to share with Ravenhawk and Robert wanted to stay up talking to Margret for a while after the others were ready to get their heads down for the night.
As he settled deeper into the thick sleeping bag and let the tension of the long days drive leave him, Ravenhawk could hear the very soft whispers of the two friends on the other side of the tent, if his assumptions were correct they should be raising the subject to him any minute now, there can be a lot of secrets told in the dark of night when you trust someone.
As he expected, Dean was the one to broach the subject in a whisper so those outside could not hear although they were busy chatting away on front of the fire and would not have heard Dean anyway.
"Ravenhawk, can I ask you a question?"
"Of course Dean, we are friends now; there is no need for secrets with friends."
"Well...uhm... it's like this...ahh...what do Indians think about boys who like other boys?"
Ravenhawk smiled to himself in the darkness, this was going to be very much enjoyable so he thought he would drag it out a little before telling the two boys that he was also one of them, it would make for an interesting night while they waited for sleep to come.
"You are talking about two spirit boys?"
"Ahm...two spirit boys?"
"Yes, boys that like other boys, we call them, two spirits, they have both the spirit of a man and a woman, in many tribes they are revered as being especially blessed by the Creator and are held often in high esteem but, in some other tribes they are looked down on, those few tribes have lost their true attachment to what the Creator gave them, many of the great Medicine Elders were of two spirits and were seen to be closer to the wishes of the Creator than ordinary men, that is why some tribes did not like them, they were seen to hold too much power so they usually feared them and their fear made them try to belittle the boy who showed signs of having two spirits."
"What about your tribe, what did they think?"
"I am of two tribes, one looked upon such boys as being blessed, the other had lost its way and looked upon those boys as weak but their beliefs were based on fear, they had become a little like Whiteman's Indians, they wanted only the Whiteman's power and money and were losing their closeness to the Creator, their biggest fear was that the boys who showed the signs of two spirits would one day be more powerful than they were."
"What do you think of those types of boys?"
"What is there to think about, I have a son and a Berdach, they are my family now that the bad times have come, everyone will have to make changes to the old ways of thinking, how do you think of such boys?"
Ravenhawk smiled to himself in the dark as he waited for the obvious answer, this was becoming a great game as he lay in the warmth of his sleeping bag, only the absence of Antonio curled in close to him gave him thoughts of loneliness while he knew the two other teens had joined the sleeping bags together and were both laying close to each other, this he knew even though he had his back to them.
"Well...we...uhm...think it's Ok."
"Is it Ok for everyone, or just the two of you?"
The soft sound of a gasp from the other side of the tent made Ravenhawk smile even wider, did the two teens really think they were hiding their feelings for each other so well, Ravenhawk waited for the reply.
"How...how did you know?"
"It was not hard to guess or see if you have your eyes open."
"So...so you don't think we are...well...bad?"
"Why should I, I have my own Berdach, that would make me a hypocrite in anyone's eyes."
"A hypocrite? And what's a Berdach, and how can you have a son, you must be younger than us by at least a year or two or is it a thing that Indians do having children so young?"
Ravenhawk could not stop himself any longer, he burst out laughing as the two teens behind him tried to make sense of what he had told them, once he had caught his breath he set about explaining it all to them.
"Both Antonio and I are the same as you, we are two spirit boys but Antonio has decided to take more of the woman's role around the house so he is my Berdach, my wife who is a boy, for him it is an honoured position and in the old ways it was also seen the same by many tribes, our son is a small boy we found in the snow, he was lost, cold and hungry, we took him in and he is now our son, we call him Little Bear."
Ravenhawk turned his head to look behind him, he smiled as he saw the two teens now sitting up with their arms around each other's shoulder and large smiles on their faces, the plain look of relief on their young faces made Ravenhawk smile even wider.
"You knew all this time?"
"Yes, when I saw Dean go for the snow cat I saw you look and lightly touch hands, it was plain then that you had feelings for each other, what does your sister think?"
"Oh she knows, she kept our secret from our parents, they were very strict church goers and would never have understood, in most ways I miss them still but for this I am almost glad we don't have to tell them."
"How long have you been two spirit friends?"
"Since we were thirteen, that's three years now, sometimes it's been hard because we could not spend time together, small towns have a lot of gossip and we had to be very careful."
"Well now you can be free, Robert only likes girls, his little brother lives with us as well and Robert told me he had selected the basket when he was young so he may also be of two spirits but we will have to wait and see when he reaches the right age, so you need not worry, you are among friends now, you can be yourselves."
"Thank you, we really mean it, Thank you, it means so much to us, all these years of having to hide and now we can have some freedom, it looks as though that virus did some good after all."
"Yes perhaps it was time for everything to be cleansed and start all over again, now I am tired so I will sleep deeply and talk more in the morning, good night."
"Good night Ravenhawk, and thank you again."
Ravenhawk lowered his head to the ground and pretended to go back to sleep, he wondered how long the teens would wait before they made their first move to make up for lost time, Ravenhawk was just drifting off as he heard the first soft kisses behind him, he smiled and settled deeper into his sleeping bag, the boys could have their privacy for the night, he drifted off into a deep sleep almost instantly as the sounds behind him got a little heavier.