THE LAST SHAMAN
Liam Kelly Senior looked through the windscreen of the five ton Freightliner, he had got hold of it in a dealership in Los Angeles three days after the mass deaths of the virus, it was his plan to get out of the city if he survived the onslaught of disease, in the passenger seat sat his only surviving relative, his youngest grandson, Liam Kelly Junior.
Liam Senior was now in his early sixties, his grandson had just turned seventeen last month, it had been just over six months since the devastation had taken the world by surprise, he glanced at his grandson, he had been the last of eight children, the true baby of the family of his eldest daughter, he was a quiet and reserved boy who was often mistaken for being a bit of a wimp because he would avoid conflict or confrontation at all cost, only Liam Senior knew the truth.
Liam Senior had served twenty five years in the Marines, five of those as a special forces member, he was known as a tough and uncompromising man who could turn his large rough hands to anything and he was not the type of man you trifled with but, for all his hard bitten ways, when it came to his youngest grandson he turned into a marshmallow, not because the boy was seen as a weakling but because he could see a lot of himself in the boy.
Liam Senior had been the youngest of nine children, the Kelly's were known for their breeding abilities if for nothing else, all through history they had been very prolific now, after the disaster of six months ago, these were the only two left of a large extended family that could have made up the population of a small town just on their own.
His young grandson showed all the traits of the Kelly clan, pallid white skin a face full of freckles and the flaming red almost orange hair, he also was built in the same way, a slender body that gave the impression of being too skinny to hold him up but hid from sight the steel wiry muscles and sinews underneath, Liam Senior already knew the boy was one of those who liked other boys but even for this hard and tough ex special forces Marine, his grandson was more important than anything the boy might want to do or like.
When Liam had retired from the services he was still seen as a young man, at forty five he still had a lot of life left to live but it also was the time the economy took a big hit and his military pension just could not cover his costs of bringing up a family of seven, finally he decided to do what he always wanted.
When he was still a boy he had always wanted to become an engineer but in the practical field, he now had the time to do it, with a grant from the services he was able to undertake night school while he worked in a garage during the day, four years later he graduated as a mechanical engineer, it was a job he enjoyed to the fullest and gave him enough to see all his children married and start families of their own.
Liam had always been there for the christening of each new grandchild but it was when little Liam Junior had been born that he felt something of a tug towards the youngest boy, it also helped that his daughter had insisted that the boy be named after his grandfather, he was the first boy to be named after him so he felt closer to him.
Most of the family lived within a close proximity to each other so they saw each other often, when the disaster hit Liam Junior's family were only a few doors away, Liam Junior had taken ill with the rest but somehow had survived only to wake up two days later to find every member of his family dead in their beds, even though he was still ill from the effects he had somehow made his way to his grandfather's house in the hope someone would be there to help him.
Liam Senior had been sitting in a chair in the lounge watching what was to be the last TV station still operating, the only station he could get was one of the off the grid stations, it was all about conspiracies and the people behind them, had this been any other time, Liam would not have wasted his time watching it but now things were different.
When Liam Junior stumbled through the door he thought he was too late, his grandfather was sitting so still he thought he was already dead until the older man turned and looked at him, Liam took notice of the .45 automatic sitting in the man's lap before he collapsed on the floor and passed out.
The sound of staggering steps took Liam Senior's attention away from what the man on the screen had been saying, he was just in time to see his youngest grandson collapse on the floor, putting the gun aside he rose and quickly went to help his youngest relative, he had a good idea the boy may be the last of his family, he had had no contact from any of the others although there were a large number of them close by.
Liam got up from the chair and hurried over to the boy on the floor, with a strength that belied his still slender 5'10" height he picked the boy up and carried him to the first floor and placed him in bed in the guest room, once he checked and saw that the boy's fever was abating and that the virus had run its course, he went back to the lounge.
Picking up the pistol he looked at it and finally, for the first time in three days, he smiled, now he had something left to live for, that it was his favourite grandson made it even better, he would always mourn the loss of every other member of his family but at least the one he thought was the best of the bunch had survived.
Putting the pistol in a drawer he sat to watch the rest of the program, at first he had thought it all the usual bull shit but now, as he heard more, he began to believe that the man on the screen might just have something.
He waited until the end, the man saying that it would probably be the last time he was on air as he could feel the illness in him right at that minute, the screen went blank then just the fuzzy lines of no transmission showed, Liam switched off the TV and looked for a pad and pencil, he had a boy to look after and it was time to make a list of what he would need for them to survive.
The next day Liam junior looked a little weak but he was able to smile for his grandfather as he sat in bed with a large tray of breakfast in front of him.
"Hey Gramps, are they all gone?"
"I think so Junior, it looks like it's just you and me now, I made a list last night of the things we will have to do, I think it's best we get out of this city and head for the country, perhaps they had better luck,"
"Ok Gramps, I just need a little rest and I'll get up and help you."
"No Junior you stay right there and get better, I'm going out to look around and see what I can find, we may have to stay here for a few more days until I get everything ready, you can help when you're feeling better, for now you stay in that bed and get well, hear me? No running around while I'm gone."
"Good boy, you know you were always my favourite, now I need for you to do what I ask so we can stay safe."
"I will Gramps."
Liam left the boy in bed to eat his breakfast, it was time to go on a shopping spree like he had never done before, the first item would be a good sized truck and with luck he may even find a good new trailer home to tow along for their living quarters.
In the end it took both of them three weeks of hard work to get everything ready just as they wanted it, the boys hidden strength showed up time and time again as he learnt how to overcome some problems with the outfitting, they now had a 5 ton truck fitted with a canopy that carried all their tools and fuel, behind they had a 30' trailer fitted out with all their food and clothing and on the rear of the trailer, Liam Senior had constructed a cage with one end dropping down to make a ramp for the 4x4 motor bike, they were ready for the road.
They had left sunny Los Angeles and driven North East, Liam Senior had surmised that the virus would not survive in the colder climes and it may be a virus free area, now, in the first week of March, they knew better, every town or city they drove through had left the stench of death in their wake, Liam Senior was now sure that very few survived and they were on their own.
Liam had stayed on highways or main roads, he was now driving along a two lane black top through a long wide valley, there were forrests of tall pines on each side and now and again they would see the last small mound of old snow still under one or two tress but in general it was clear going.
They stopped for one or two days at places they liked sometimes when the weather was really bad they stayed longer but as soon as it cleared they would be away again to find somewhere to call home.
Liam looked to his left and saw what looked like a good camping spot under the trees, it was only about fifty yards off the road and the slope leading up to the flat area looked gentle and easy for the heavy truck and trailer to make, he pulled up at the side of the road, even in these times he was careful.
Over the last six months he had been teaching the young teen to defend himself, he taught him how to use and take care of the small arsenal of weapons he had collected, he also taught him to use the crossbow and how to fight hand to hand with the large hunting knife, he wanted the boy to be able to protect himself if anything happened to him, at 65 he was not a young man anymore and he had a lot to show Liam Junior before his time came.
With the heavy truck pulled to a stop he looked at Junior and winked.
"What do you think Junior; that flat area up there looks pretty good for a few days and I saw a small herd of deer just back aways?"
"Looks good Gramps but will the truck make it with the trailer?"
"Well no time like the present to find out, grab your rifle and hop up onto the roof of the cab and keep watch, I'll go take a walk and see if it's firm enough to drive on, if it's good then we can stay here for a while, it looks a nice place and we have a good field of fire for defence."
Junior did as he was asked, everything his grandfather did was for a good reason and he never argued, if the time came when he though the old man was wrong he knew he would be listened to and given all the consideration of another adult, Junior climbed up on top of the cab roof and started his 360 degree surveillance while his grandfather stepped down from the truck, slung his M14 rifle over his shoulder and checked that Junior had his 308 hunting rifle at the ready; only the sound of his heavy steel capped work boots broke the silence of the open plain.
Liam took his time, every few steps he would stamp his heavy boots into the ground to test for soft spots, the rise was gentle and the trucks diff locks should easily handle it, just to the edge of the rise he felt a soft spot and searched for a dead stick to mark it out, if they got stuck here they could be in trouble for days, even with the five ton winch he had added to the front bumper of the truck at the last minute.
Slowly Liam checked the ground where he planned to drive, his one worry was the first dip of about one foot going from the road onto the grass verge, with the weight of the loaded truck and trailer home, he would have to take it slowly, it would be a low ratio and low gear drive with full diff locks but he was sure they would make it to the idyllic camping spot, Liam turned back to return to the truck, it was now or never, they still had plenty of day light left so there was no hurry to get under cover.
Liam returned to the waiting truck and got in calling for Junior at the same time, when the boy was beside him he said.
"Make sure I stay left of that stick about half way out there, you see it?"
"Good, right are you ready for a long rest?"
Liam set the diff locks then put the truck into low range then into low gear, with the engine not much above an idle he turned onto the grass and aimed for the flat spot under the trees.
Slowly the truck ground forward, it was making easy work of the smooth ground and the gentle rise, as they worked closer to the stick Junior called out.
"You're getting a little close on this side Gramps."
Liam turned the steering wheel to the left but he knew he was already too late, the sudden thump and drag on the truck meant the trailer home had not turned as quick and had suddenly broken through the crust, as he glanced in the rear view mirror he felt the rear wheels of the truck also break through with the added weight of the trailer pulling it down, within seconds both units were axel deep in soft ground.
Liam looked at Junior and gave him a wry smile as he swore.
"Well Junior, guess the old man isn't as good as he thought, looks like we got some digging to do, grab your rifle and let's see what sort of mess I made."
Liam switched off the motor and joined Junior outside to look at the mess, both vehicles were buried to their axels, it would take just a little more than a miracle to get them out of this, Liam shrugged his shoulders and stood silently for a minute to survey the problem, he had never been one to rush in when the brain could do most of the work.
"Well Junior if we were going to get stuck, here is as good as anywhere, now let's see how we are going to get out of this, you go and put the blocks down for the trailer legs so they don't sink and then release the fifth wheel lock, I'll go and start to pull out the winch cable, it's only about twenty yards to that first tree, with luck I can pull the truck out then we can see about doing the same for the trailer."
"Ok Gramps, I'll get started."
Liam shook his head in admiration for the boy's go getem attitude, nothing seemed to faze the young teen when things got rough, he only wished he had had men in the forces like this boy of his when it got rough in some of the places he had been too.
Liam went to the front of the truck and released the winch brake, he then began to pull the heavy cable towards the thick tree in front of him, as he did so he could hear Junior working on the trailer legs, the clunk of the fifth wheel brake told him the boy had got everything ready, it was now up to him to complete his own mission.
As he drew closer to the tree the heavy cable felt as though it weighed a ton but he kept pulling, as it dragged on the ground increasing the weight, he thought he would never get to the tree, he then felt his grandsons young body beside him as he took hold of the cable to help, it was only seconds later and the cable hook was around the tree and tucked back over the cable, they were ready.
"You stay here Junior I'll get the truck out."
Liam returned to the truck and started up again, throwing the winch into gear he began the long slow crawl up the cable to solid ground, it took a few minutes more to unhitch the cable from the truck and turn the vehicle around, he would fasten the rear of the truck to the tree then use the winch to pull the trailer free, with luck they would be ready for a hot meal before the sun set.
Liam showed Junior how he chained the truck tightly to the tree, they then both pulled the winch back to the trailer and fixed it in a ring bolt at the front, as the trailer was duel wheeled it should stay up out of the dirt when they pulled, slowly Liam raised the legs on the front of the trailer and had Junior put the heavy wooden blocks away under the front of the casing, the trailer dipped a little but they still had nearly a foot of clearance, he hoped it would be enough.
Liam heard the winch take up the strain, as he fed a little more gas the truck groaned with the weight of trying to free the three and half ton of the trailer home, trying not to let the winch burn out he eased up for a few seconds before trying again, three times he fed a little more gas to the winch but the trailer only moved a fraction, the clinging soft ground would not let the duel wheels free.
As he calmed his nerves, Liam heard junior call out.
"Gramps, we've got a visitor."
Liam got out of the cab and looked in the direction that Junior was looking, what he saw made him almost laugh, he couldn't believe what he saw, it had to be some kind of joke or a mirage; sitting under the trees not far off was an Indian on horseback, it was like a picture out of an old western, he was young and dressed in what looked like buck skins, his hair was a long braid down his back and he held an old style repeating rifle with a bow and quiver on his back, Liam shook his head to clear the vision but when he looked again, the young Indian was still there.
For most of February the weather was wet but they could all feel it warming more each day, as the days passed, things began to take on the look of something permanent, Dean, Robert and Karl had been working on the first extra cabin, it was a little crude but would be enough for an extra bedroom.
At first the new cabin was going to be only a little retreat for dean and Karl but, as they reworked the simple design, it was decided to let Robert and Margret have it, the two young people had quickly become something of an item, Dean had said they could easily build another of the rough log cabins for themselves after they had done a little more study on the construction techniques needed.
On the last few days of February everyone had woken early in the morning to the sound of galloping horses hooves, as the boys raced outside the were astounded to see a small heard of horses come thundering into the clearing, at the head was the Appaloosa, its head high and the Pinto close alongside, behind them was the large gelding and following him were two mares, both with swollen stomachs, it was easy to see what the Appaloosa had been up to during the winter.
The mares were both different, one was a solid looking Pinto but the other was a large well built Bay that still had a halter on its head, from behind the boys came a soft gasp as Margret saw the large Bay mare.
"It's a Morgan, the mares a Morgan, oh God I've always wanted to see one."
The boys all looked at each other and began to giggle, all except Robert who leaned over and hugged Margret while the others had their fun; to them girls were such strange creatures.
The Pinto immediately walked over to Ravenhawk and nudged him in the chest while the Appaloosa stood back a little, the two mares stopped a little distance away from the strangers but the gelding had no qualms go up to Antonio and resting its large head on the boy's shoulder, Antonio opened his hand and held it out for the gelding to pick up the sugar cubes Antonio had grabbed when he heard the horses coming.
Ravenhawk looked at the two mares, they were well in foal and should drop within the next two months, it would add nicely to their small but growing heard, perhaps the two new foals would be good for the two youngest boy to train, he would have to wait and see as he began his song of welcome to the animal spirits.
Now that he had his horses back and the ground was quickly clearing of the snow falls, Ravenhawk told the others he would go out to hunt, he would take the two large cart horses to carry back his kills and it would give him a chance to see what they had to work with if they were going to make this place their new home.
Robert had spent endless days in his small work shed, he now had bags and bags of the small green stones drilled, Little Bear had been most particular about what stones went into what bags, those for the present company were tagged with their names but the many other bags were just sorted then left in a spare box for the future which Little Bear had said was not too far away.
The little boy had diligently worked at stringing the necklaces, he used certain sizes and shapes to make each one individual and, when it came to Ravenhawk's he had set out a pattern for the added five red stones, the large one at the centre then two small green stones and then another of the midsized red ones, it was a very distinctive necklace when he finally tied the loose ends to form the circle.
Ravenhawk had told everyone that they could not yet wear the necklaces as he would have to put them through four sweat lodges and prepare the right prayers for them and to make sure they were cleansed of any bad influences, he would perform the ceremony of cleansing a week before the summer sweat lodge ceremony.
Ravenhawk had asked Margret to make a red cloth wrap for each necklace, he then went in search for some white cord to bind them with, next he collected four long sticks and painted them red at the tips with paint he found in the work shed, everything was ready for when he performed the ceremony, all that was needed now was the right time.
It was near the end of the first week of March that Ravenhawk readied the two large wagon horses, on the back of one he placed a small amount of supplies and extra ammunition, he had used part of the wagon harness to make it easier to carry his small load and to be able to tie on any carcasses he might get, he left early in the morning and turned the horses to the South, he made for a shallow but wide valley he had seen during the winter.
Ravenhawk was still in the trees when he heard the deep rumble of a heavy truck, tying up the two wagon horse to a tree, he eased the Pinto forward carefully, it was simply a matter of being careful now, especially after what he had done and seen in the town where Dean, Karl and Margret had joined them.
Ravenhawk had felt winter was well passed enough for him to change into his preferred dress of buckskin shirt, leggings and moccasins, his hair was in its usual thick braid and the only decoration was on the Pinto in the form of the two feathers of the Raven and Hawk tied into the horse mane.
Ravenhawk sat back in the shadows of the trees, the Pinot almost blending into the dappled sunlight and deeper shadows, its multi coloured coat blending perfectly, he sat and watched as the large truck pulled up by the side of the road, when he saw the young teen jump up on the cab and begin to look around he smiled to himself, someone knew about being careful.
Moments later he saw the older man emerge from the cab and begin to walk over the grassy ground towards where Ravenhawk was hidden, it was obvious the older man had plans to camp on the flat area under the trees, Ravenhawk stayed silent, in his stomach he felt the man was making a mistake, his young eyes had seen something the older man had missed, he would wait and see what happened.
Ravenhawk watched with interest as the two strangers got back in the big truck and began to make their way over the grass to the camping spot, it was no surprise to Ravenhawk when he saw the heavy trailer home sink into the ground quickly followed by the large truck, all he could do was smile wryly and shake his head, it was now plain to see the older man had not seen the other access to the flat ground.
Ravenhawk continued to stay hidden and watch as the two strangers worked hard to get their vehicles free from the grasping soft ground, he was interested in how they went about freeing the big truck but when it came to the trailer it was another matter, he watched for a little longer and then saw something the two must have missed as they stopped trying to pull the trailer out and shut down the truck, Ravenhawk decided he would show himself at this point.
Ravenhawk moved the Pinto through the trees until he was no more than fifty feet from the pair, his instincts told him they were good people and he did not have to fear them but he stayed alert just in case, he watched as a look of shock came over the face of the older man and then something of a smile lit the lips of the man.
"Hello young man, fancy seeing you out here."
"Why would it be a surprise Grandfather, this has always been our land." Ravenhawk replied while giving the older man the traditional title of respect for his age.
Ravenhawk could now plainly see the similarities between the two, no one could mistake their blood relationship, he waited for the man to speak again, it was only polite to let an elder speak first.
"So young man, what are you doing way out here, are you alone or lost?"
"No Grandfather, how could I get lost on my own lands, I came to see if you needed my help."
"Well you would be right in the fact about help; I seem to have made a mess of things this time."
"It is easy to correct Grandfather, perhaps I can get my two horses to add their weight and you could always release the brakes on the trailer, it would move better then."
"Brakes? Oh damn, I forgot all about them when we unhooked the air lines, damn it all, must be getting old."
Liam Senior turned to Junior.
"You better go and release the manual override on the trailer Junior; looks as though I need my head examined."
Ravenhawk watched as the younger version of the elder went to do as asked, he was quite taken by the flaming red hair on the teen, he had never seen a boy with such bright red hair as the teen had.
"If you will wait a few minutes, Grandfather, I will get my other horses and help you pull the trailer out, perhaps when you wish to leave you will drive just down there, you can see the more solid ground by the flatness."
Liam followed the boys finger and saw not far away how the ground was just fractionally flatter, it would have gone unnoticed, if the boy had not pointed it out.
"What is it, and how did you see it?"
"It's a very old river bed, you can tell by the sparse grass, it has not grown as high as the grass around it and it has had to push up through the river bed stones, when you leave here it will be a safer surface for your heavy truck."
"I didn't catch your name young man?"
"I am Ravenhawk of the Lakota, we are a new clan called the Green Stone Clan, if you wish you are welcome to join us for a rest, it is only two miles further down the road you came on, if you wish to join us drive down there and you will see the narrow gravel road leading to our cabin, i will take the horses up over the ridge at the back of the trees."
"Thank you Ravenhawk, I am Liam Kelly Senior and that boy over there is my Grandson, Liam Junior; he is all I have left of my family, you said, 'We' so there are more of you?"
Ravenhawk nodded in the direction of the young teen then turned back to Liam.
"Yes we are a little family, now if you wish Grandfather, we can now free your trailer and you can decide if you would like to eat with us tonight."
"Why do you call me Grandfather?"
"It is our term of respect for an Elder, now let me get my other horses and free that trailer."
Liam stood and shook his head, it looked as though some of the old ways had survived, even if they were in the hands of children but he did get a little buzz from being called Grandfather by the boy, he turned back to the truck to check the condition of the winch and ready everything for the retrieval of the bogged trailer.
Ravenhawk returned within minutes and took the two large horses over to the trailer where he asked for straps to be tied to the front sides of the trailer, it would work to keep the front up off the ground and still give some purchase for the horses to help pull.
I took only ten minutes for the now free trailer home to be on solid ground, with a little manoeuvring to get the truck attached back to the front, they were ready to leave, Ravenhawk told Liam he would take the horses home and tell the others that they had visitors for dinner, he left them and disappeared just as silently as he had appeared, he would be back at the cabin before the truck.
Ravenhawk had been back for no more than ten minutes before he heard the rumble of the truck coming up the gravel road, the others were all outside waiting to see the newcomers, Ravenhawk had told them little but that the new people were safe and seemed like good people, they all watched as the big rig came into the clearing, the sight of two men in the cab with wide smiles told them they would be safe .
It was a tight squeeze for the rig to turn and park near the cabin, from the cab they watched an older man and then a young teen step down and look at the waiting youngsters, Liam smiled at the assembled group and moved forward, Liam Junior by his side.
I took only a few minutes to meet them all, Liam was really taken by the very young boy that seemed to be joined at the hip to the next youngest, by the look of things the old game of cowboys and Indians had not faded away after all he surmised as he saw how they were dressed.
After the quick introductions Liam looked around, he was impressed by the industry of the youngsters, while their building work left a little to be desired they had still done a reasonably good job to put a new cabin together, he began to think that perhaps he had found what they had been looking for, that was if the boys would let him and Junior stay.
Once they all knew each other, Ravenhawk invited them in to the cabin for dinner which had only an hour before it was ready, sitting on any vacant place but allowing the two newcomers to take the larger of the lounges, Ravenhawk began to ask questions in his own quiet way.
"Where are you from Mr. Liam?"
"Los Angeles and you don't have to call me Mister, I am a guest in your house, just call me Liam, everyone does, or should I say, used to."
"Where were you heading?"
"Just somewhere we could find that was safe from the virus and we could settle down, I think the world as we knew it is now over, those of us that are left will have to start all over."
"I think I should mention something that may not be to your liking, I know that many of the older people did not take kindly to some of the things before so I don't know how you will react."
"Just tell my and let me see what it is first."
"Well some of us here like each other, in fact Antonio is my Berdach and Dean and Karl are partners, if this is something that you do not like then we will understand but it is the way things are here."
"I can understand you reticence but you have nothing to fear from me, I have been all over the world at one time or another, what you young folks have is your business and no one else's, I'm sure that Junior will not bother about things either."
Liam glanced at his grandson and saw his cheeks flame red but he pretended not to notice.
"Well...ah...Liam, we are looking for good people that want to join us, would you both consider it?"
Liam Looked at Ravenhawk, he did want to join them but he could see that there were other things going on here and he would not make a decision until he had talked with Junior, he told Ravenhawk what he thought and they all agreed to wait for the next day to hear what the older man wanted to do, as a silence came over the group, Little Bear sidled up to Ravenhawk and, after climbing up into his lap, whispered in his ear, Ravenhawk looked down at Little Bear and said.
"Are you sure?"
Little Bear nodded his head and sat back for a cuddle.
Liam looked at Ravenhawk as though waiting for an answer to an unasked question, Ravenhawk looked first at him then at Liam Junior, after a few seconds he turned back to Liam Senior and began to explain things to him.
"This is Little Bear, Antonio and I have adopted him as our son, he sees things that others do not, he just told me that you are meant to stay and that we need your skills, whatever they are and he said that your Grandson must stay, there is someone that is waiting for him."
"What does he mean, someone is waiting for Junior?"
"I don't know, if he says it then it is meant to happen."
"Well we will certainly talk it over later, I must say that it does feel like home here and that's a plus."
Antonio and Margret got up and attended to the finishing of the meal, once everything was ready they laid it all on the table and then helped themselves, as there was not enough space to sit around the table they all sat wherever they could fit, Liam noticed that the two sets of boys seemed happy to sit in each other's lap, yes there were some things he would have to change his mind over but this was a new start so he had to make the effort to also change with it.
When the meal finished, Liam saw that the two teens, Dean and Karl quickly started to clear the plates and get them ready for washing, he was immediately impressed how they all worked together, he thanked them for the meal and said he and Junior would go to their trailer and talk things over, they would give their answer in the morning.
Ravenhawk watched the pair leave and then smiled at the others.
"So what do you all think?"
For the first time ever, Margret spoke up first.
"I think we need them, it looks like the older man will be able to help us with lots of things and we need their help around here."
Everyone nodded their agreement to her words, it looked as though now all they had to do was wait and see if the two newcomers would stay.
As it grew late they all went to their beds, tomorrow would be another day and there were things that needed doing, the first thing in the morning was to help Robert and Margret move their few belongings into the new cabin, it would free up the second bedroom for Dean and Karl.
Liam woke the next morning to something he had not heard in a long time, it was the sound of childish laughter and then he heard the sound of high pitched growling, knowing the woods held all sorts of dangers he struggled from his bed and reached for his rifle by the door, he completely ignored the fact he was still in his underwear.
Liam jumped from the trailer and looked around, as he did so he heard the boys from the cabin come racing outside, all of them were armed and looking at the other side of his trailer where the squeals were coming from, what he saw made him tighten his grip on the rifle.
At the edge of the clearing was the little boy, it was what he was doing that caused him alarm, the little boy was running and tumbling with what looked like a large bundle of black fur not much smaller then he was, the little boy was so tied up with his game he did not see what was behind him and just coming out of the trees.
Liam raised his rifle and took careful aim at the huge female black bear that was ponderously making her way towards the two tumbling little ones, as he prepared to shoot, he felt a hand on his arm, looking around he saw Ravenhawk watching the pair of players.
"Don't shoot, it's ok, she is just watching them play, I will get him."
The other boys stood beside Liam as they watched Ravenhawk begin to slowly make his way towards the scene of mirth and the large watching figure of the bear, as he moved he began to softly sing the song of friendship with the animals, as his soft voice carried to the large female, it lifted its head from watching the young ones and looked at the slowly approaching boy.
When he was no more than ten feet from the group, Ravenhawk stopped and finished his song, he then gave thanks to the spirit of the bear and asked that it let its namesake return to his own people, much to the surprise of all those watching, the huge bear sat back on its butt and growled softly to the young cub that was tumbling with Little Bear.
The cub stopped trying to pounce on Little Bear and turned towards its mother, as she stood up, the female cuffed the cub lightly as a reminder not to go straying again, she then walked over to Little Bear, the boy was standing with his small hands closed into fists and looking the large bear right in the eyes, he was ready for a fight, Ravenhawk almost smiled to himself at the bravado of the little guy.
The female walked up to Little Bear and sniffed him as the boy refused to back down, under normal circumstances the bear would have torn him to pieces as she would have seen it as a challenge, not the thing to do to a mother with cubs but Little Bear refused to back down.
The bear gave a deep resounding huff and then, as swift as lightening she swiped her huge paw at Little Bear, there was a sudden sound of indrawn breathes and then a squeal from Little Bear as he was knocked backwards and tumbled helplessly head over heels in the long grass, the bear gave him one final look and turned her back, with another cuff on the cubs butt she ambled off and was joined by a second cub as she disappeared into the dark trees.
The group all began to rush towards Little Bear sure he had been killed by such a large bears paw, as they got closer they saw Little Bear rise up from the grass, he had fury in his eyes as he looked around for the bear, it was then that they all saw the three thin scratches on his cheek, they were enough to draw a little blood but not deep enough to really hurt him.
Ravenhawk got to him before the others.
"Little Bear you should not anger a mother with her babies."
"It's not fair, we were just playing, she's an old Meany, let me go, I'm going to go and kick her fat butt."
Ravenhawk did the best he could to stop from laughing, the boy had no fear along with no common sense but his light injuries needed cleaning, bears could carry all sorts of danger on their claws, taking the boy by the shoulder he directed him back to the cabin where all the others were watching open mouthed, it was Liam who said the first words and then wondered why everyone was looking at him with an amused look on their faces.
"If I hadn't seen it I would never have believed it, how did you know she would not hurt him Ravenhawk?"
"I didn't but he is named after the bear and she would feel it that's why she just gave him a tap so he would not be a naughty boy again and take her cub away to play when it is meant to stay close to her."
"Is he going to be alright, he has some blood on his face?"
"It is nothing, he will wear the small scars for life but it is the mark of the Bear Spirit, he will be safe for as long as he lives, he is now guarded by the Spirit of the Great Bear."
"You will have to tell me all about this belief of yours in these Spirits one day."
"I will pass on what little I know if you have an interest but for now we have to get this one cleaned up."
Liam looked down at the boy with the three lines of blood on his cheek as he did so he caught sight of why the others were smiling in his direction, as his face flamed up like all the Kelly's did when embarrassed, he turned and ran for the trailer, how could he have forgotten that he was practically naked, Liam got into the trailer just as the sound of young laughter came from the clearing.