THE LAST SHAMAN
Six weeks had passed after the ceremony of gift giving and everyone wore their necklaces openly and with pride, the five original boys still wore their first clan beads but they were set underneath the new green stone beads, there had been many new improvements to the one time peaceful clearing.
Consuela now had a huge covered dining hall with her chosen stone, wood fired ovens, which would not only serve for cooking but also were large enough to heat the hall when the winter came.
There was now seating for many more people than what were living here but the general opinion was that they would eventually be joined by others as time passed.
There were also new cabins of an improved design set back among the trees, Liam Senior was back in his trailer and said he was quite happy to live in it rather than have a cabin which he lived in alone, Manuel and his last son had another which was joined with the one built for Consuela and Maria by a short covered passageway, their cabins were set back further than the others so that Manuel could be closer to his burgeoning garden.
There had been two more trips into town for needed tools and machinery, they were now almost totally self contained, Liam had told Ravenhawk that the town had shown signs of others moving through, not all of them seemed to be good but as yet they had not found the track leading to the clearing, he suggested that the town should be given a wide berth for a while just for safeties sake, now that things were settling down he would find time to go out and search for other towns they may be able to make use of.
As yet the fuel stocks were no problem; the new generator had been fitted with a switch so it could be turned off from the dining hall as the last person turned in for the night, with the boys going out hunting for the smoke house and a new deep cellar being dug for their root crops and stores, they were becoming closer to self sufficiency, Liam Senior then told them they had to think seriously about their own protection, he told them he could see a time coming when they may have to defend what they had built.
The four young ones were now getting used to having to spend three hours each morning on lessons, with the rest of the day for play, they finally settled down to learn what Margret could teach them, after their lessons the three boys would be called by one of the older teens and taken out to learn to either hunt or shoot and Ravenhawk was the one to teach them how to track, for Maria it was more lessons under the stern gaze of Consuela.
The small community was now starting to run smoothly, Manuel had fenced in his garden and would go each day to weed or look for any other problems that may cause damage to his small plot, often Philippe would go with him but he also had started his own plot not far away and would work tirelessly alongside Liam Junior when they were not out hunting game for the smoker, this coming winter they would not starve.
Apart from Robert and Margret's cabin, the clearing had only the large dining hall, the main cabin, the lean-to and the generator shed, all the other cabins had been built further into the trees so each one had a little privacy but were still within a safe range of the others if needed.
Ravenhawk had taken note that the ceremony for the change from spring to summer was nearing, he a had little over three weeks to prepare for it, to this end he went about making sure the sacred circle was clean and the fire pit was swept and ready, Little Bear and Peter helped him collect fresh cut wood for the fire and made sure nothing was obscuring the stones on the outer edge.
By this time Robert had got back his desire for the drum, in the late evening he could sometimes be heard practising in his cabin with the lighter tap, tap of Peter and the wood block working with him, when he would hear the drum Ravenhawk would feel deep inside the pull of the Ancestors, it was just something the steady sound of the drum seemed to pull up from deep inside.
On other nights as they all gathered in the dining hall at the end of a meal that Philippe showed his real colours, he would sit with a beaten up old guitar and play tunes and songs for the others, his talent was undeniable and everyone would sing along or sit back and watch his fingers fly over the strings as he played a lively tune from his homeland.
Of them all it was the always stern looking Consuela that turned out to be the biggest surprise, sometimes, when Philippe was playing she would ask him in Spanish for a particular tune, when she began to sing everyone in the room sank into silence, for such a large and taciturn woman, Consuela turned out to have the voice of a true angel, they would all listen spellbound as she sang for them.
During the afternoons, Little Bear and Peter would be out and about playing with the two new foals; Ravenhawk had spent time with them so they could learn the song of Friendship with the Animals.
Whenever they were around the young foals they would sing the song they had learnt and even the mares would lower their heads as the boys approached, it was not long before the two boys could wrap their thin arms around the necks of the foals and hug them like old friends before having to try to race after the frisky animals as they ran and played.
The new home camp had now settled into a steady and comfortable routine, there was no longer a need to hurry, everything was planned at meal times in the evenings, the large dining hall still looked empty even when they were all gathered together for meals, wisely Liam Senior had said they might as well make it big enough for anyone else that might join them, it would be able to easily seat over twenty people if needed.
It was only a week before the summer ceremony that Ravenhawk and Antonio had decided to take the horses for a long run and to get away on their own for a little, the last weeks had been ones of hard work and planning to make everything ready for the new clan to settle in, it was time for a little peace alone.
Ravenhawk had packed enough for the two of them for three days, there was only need for one sleeping bag and the warm nights meant they did not really need to carry a tent, they would sleep under the stars with the light of an open fire to keep them company.
On their first night away they had spent most of the night wrapped in each other's arms as they sat by the fire and looked up into the clear night sky to watch the bright twinkling above them, far off in the distance they had heard the soft hooting call of a solitary owl as it sat on a branch to wait for supper to pass by below.
In the other direction they heard the call of a number of coyote and occasionally what sounded much like a soft night time lowing of some cows, probably ones that had gone a little wild and were now just roaming wherever the grass was best.
It was a strange scene, it was as though nothing had ever happened and it had all been a dream, the stillness of the night was broken only by the softest of breezes rustling the nearby grass, Antonio settled his head on Ravenhawk's shoulder a little more firmly as they sat listening to the night symphony around them.
The next morning they packed up their small camp and rode away towards a far off hill, it had a line of trees growing near the top and Ravenhawk thought it would make a good second camp site, as they rode slowly towards it, Ravenhawk kept his eyes alert for any animal he could take for their supper that night, as he scanned ahead of their path he saw faintly in the distance and close to the base of the hill, what looked like a thin tendril of smoke, immediately he halted and took his rifle from his shoulder, Antonio followed suit even though he had not yet seen the smoke.
Joseph Two Toes sat thinking over the past months and tried to work out why he had been the only one to survive in his family, at sixteen he had the normal slender build of all Chiricahua Apache and he was a long way from home, it still was a wonder to him how he alone had been immune to the illness, had it been the wish of the guardians or had he just been lucky, he stared into the small fire as his first kill in three days cooked slowly.
Joseph had been raised in the barren and dry wastes just South of the American border, he spoke both his native language, Spanish and a form of broken English, but even with those skills he was still seen as one of the lost people by all that saw or met him, especially those in Mexico.
His people had been and still were the most feared of all the Native tribes, their long history of survival, viciousness in battle and ability to seemingly disappear at will had given them a notorious reputation on both sides of the border.
Joseph was now dressed in what was seen as the atypical Apache dress although many no longer wore it except for ceremony or tourists.
His legs were covered with calf length moccasins with a pair of white cotton trousers tucked into the tops, his front and rear flaps of his breechcloth were held up by a wide handmade leather belt studded with silver concha with inserts of blue turquoise, a copy of which he wore on his wrist, these had come down to him from his Grandfather and were said to be spoils of battle with the Denay or Navaho as they were known.
The rest of his clothing was a red shirt and a small leather waistcoat and around his head keeping his long black hair in order was a band of deep blue cloth, he wore no decorations as other tribes were wont to do, they would make too much noise when trying to hunt in silence, only the small tattooed mark of a Puma footprint on his left chest depicted his clan.
As Joseph sat cross legged in front of the fire watching the plump rabbit cook, he glanced around to check his small temporary camp, his Father's old fashioned 30.30 Winchester was across his knees and close to hand was his new looking hunting knife, a small modern looking back pack held a few essentials but that was all, Joseph prided himself on being Apache, after all he had completed the three day trial of all young boys only last year.
The trial was to find his willingness to survive the harshness of the desert lands, it required him to run for three days nonstop while holding a mouth full of water, the run had to be completed without losing any of the water and, at the end of the race he had to be able to spit the water out into a wooden bowl to prove he had not taken any for himself, not only had he completed the run trial but had come in only second to one other boy and that boy was two years older than he was and had failed the run twice.
This year he was to attend his first snake dance where he would be one with the diamond back as they danced, it was the final test of his manhood, if the Creator did not find him worthy he would not survive the dance but now he would never get to do it, those times were gone and now he found himself far to the North of his homelands.
While he missed the familiarity of the deep arroyo's and wide open desert, he did like it up here in the North, there was ample water and more game than he had ever thought possible, the dream had been right, it was the place for him to go to start again.
The dream had come to him five months ago and had left him with a wonder and doubt that took days to get over, he had been sleeping not far from his old homelands and was just wandering along trying to find a place to stay in peace when the dream overtook him.
It was a strange dream but easy to decipher, he had been trapped in a deep arroyo while out hunting for his supper, as he crept along tracking a rabbit, he looked up and saw a large tawny Puma crouched ready to spring down onto him, as it was his clan symbol he turned to it and began to sing the song of friendship with his totem.
The Puma had screamed at him and bared its long sharp fangs, its body tensed up ready for the leap and Joseph did the same, why was his totem so angry, he could not work it out and had little time before he became a meal for the angry Puma.
As he readied himself for the final battle, both antagonists heard what could only be the sound of thunder coming along the narrow arroyo, as they both paused the sound came closer and closer until, with only seconds to spare before he was supper, around the last corner came a huge white buffalo, its sharp black horns glinting in the sun light, its white hide glowed like the very sun itself.
As the buffalo charged past Joseph the Puma let out one last scream and disappeared into the air, the buffalo stopped and turned towards Joseph, its nostrils were blowing hot air and there was a wild look in its eyes as it looked at the small human before him, suddenly, with a loud bellow, the white buffalo charged past Joseph and then stopped to look back at the boy, with a quick pawing of the ground it then disappeared.
Joseph did not know what to make of it but when he awoke the next morning there were strange deep marks in the ground near his small night camp, they all pointed Northward, the sacred buffalo had told him which way he had to go and so Joseph did as he was told and began his journey Northward, you did not play games with the guardians or the Creator.
Joseph had run and walked the entire time, he could easily have found a horse but he felt better on foot, it was the Apache way, he could run for three days without stopping to drink or eat and then hunt afterwards with the stealth of a ghost, Joseph was very good in the old ways.
As he came out of his reverie, Joseph noticed the difference around him, it was his sharp ears that picked up the change first which was quickly followed by his nose, the soft breeze was coming from the North and it carried the smell of horses, with little thought for his dinner, he quickly put out the fire and slipped the partly cooked rabbit off the fire sticks, taking his rifle in his hands and picking up his new knife, he then seemed to just disappear into his surroundings.
From his hiding place under a thick bush he watched and waited, there was no reason for horses to move in such a determined way unless they were under the hands of a rider, as yet he could not see either but the horses were making a track right towards his small camp, they had to be guided by human hands.
Joseph waited and watched, his small slender body was so still it became almost part of the land around him, his ability to become part of the land even fooled small insects and lizards which happily crawled right over him without fear, even a small garter snake wriggled over his arm and into the grass without noticing the still figure.
When he finally got his first sight of the men on the horses, he almost gave away his hiding place, he could not believe what he was seeing, on a Pinto horse was a young teenage boy that looked as though he too had Apache blood, on a large white man's horse was another teen but he looked like one of the hated Mexicans although both were dressed as one of the People, behind the two riders was a well put together Appaloosa with a set of small bags over its back; Joseph stayed hidden and watched.
Ravenhawk and Antonio were now only yards away from the small camp, they had followed the faint smoke trail to this place at the foot of the hill, it was plainly obvious the camp was in use but of its resident there was no sight, the dying embers told that the person had been here only minutes ago and the partly cooked remains of a plump rabbit were lying on the ground as if thrown there hastily.
Ravenhawk looked around but could see no sign of anyone, he even let his instincts search the area but all he could sense was that someone was close by but for the very life of him he could not see the person, there was a new looking back pack by the remains of the fire but no sign of the owner, by the look of the minimal camp it could only have been made by one of the People; Ravenhawk thought he could only try one thing.
Ravenhawk looked at Antonio and indicated for his Berdach not to move or say anything, he then turned towards the fire once again and called out.
"Aho brother, we are not here to cause trouble but to ask for hospitality at your fire, I am Ravenhawk, Pipe Carrier of the Green Stone Clan, this is my Berdach Antonio, we will dismount and lay down our rifles."
At a signal from Ravenhawk, Antonio followed him by sliding off the horse and laying his rifle on the ground beside that of Ravenhawk, they both then sat down and waited patiently, by now Ravenhawk could almost feel the hidden eyes on them both, they had no way of knowing who their watcher was or what he would do but Ravenhawk could only follow his own instincts.
Joseph watched the pair for a few more minutes, it was easily apparent that the boy called Ravenhawk knew the ways of the old ones, he sat with patience and did not try to talk or persuade Joseph to reveal himself, it was time to make a decision, did he trust the boys or did he stay alone and continue his search for a new home.
His mind made up, Joseph rose silently from his hiding place only a few feet from where the boys sat waiting, the look of surprise on their faces almost made him smile but he held it back, there were things to find out before he could allow his own feelings to become involved.
Ravenhawk and Antonio could not believe their eyes when the teen rose from almost under their feet, the small bush he had been hiding behind could not even have hidden a rabbit let alone a man yet the teen had appeared as though growing out of the very earth itself.
Finally make his decision, Joseph decided he would introduce himself; the two sitting on the ground had respected him and waited patiently for him to make up his own mind about their intent.
"Aho brother, I am Joseph Two Toes of the Chiricahua, I am following the direction of the sacred Buffalo and am of the clan of the Puma."
"I greet you Joseph Two Toes, we would share our food with you."
"Then I will sit and share my rabbit with you, does your Berdach know how to prepare our food?"
"He does, will you sit with me and talk of your journey to this place, it's far from your lands."
"Yes it is far but I was guided by the sacred White Buffalo to come this way."
It took a little effort for Ravenhawk and Antonio to understand Joseph's broken English but they soon became attuned to his speech and, as Antonio went to their horses for more food, Ravenhawk and Joseph sat by the now rekindled fire and began to tell their own stories.
Ravenhawk was surprised by the look on Joseph's face when he revealed he also was part Chiricahua but mixed with Lakota Sioux, this revelation began in in-depth discussion on their various backgrounds which continued on until Antonio called that the food was ready.
As they sat and ate, the boys also talked of their travels, Joseph related how he had seen many ranchers and farms totally deserted but there were others that still held people although he never tried to approach them, he much preferred to stay out of sight and pass them by.
Ravenhawk asked him about any people that looked to be dangerous, to this enquiry Joseph just nodded his head to indicate that he had seen men he would not like to be caught by.
After further discussions about the dangers Joseph had seen or perceived, Ravenhawk began to tell him of their own travelling and how they had come to find their present home.
When Joseph heard that there were others trying to make the disaster old history and regain their way of life, he asked if he might go with them to see for himself, deep inside he felt a strange pull towards these two new friends, perhaps it was time to lay aside old enmities and seek a new start.
It was decided that after their meal they would stay where they were for the rest of the day and one more night then turn their heads towards Ravenhawk's new home, how the others would perceive a young man with the reputation that the Apache had held for more than a hundred years was any ones guess.
Joseph was not surprised to hear the heavy sounds of two bodies together as he rolled over and went to his own sleep on the other side of the fire, Ravenhawk had openly told him that the other boy was his Berdach and so some things were not to be thought about.
The next morning and the three boys were ready to move on, Ravenhawk tried to apologise for not having a horse for Joseph to ride along with them but the Apache teen just smiled and said he would keep pace with them if they stayed at an easy trot.
With his small pack on his back and his old rifle in his hands, Joseph set out with the other two at a steady ground devouring trot, his long slender legs easily keeping pace with the trotting horses, Joseph felt for the first time to be truly in his element, it was the sort of freedom only someone of the open lands could appreciate.
When they stopped at midday to water the horse and chew on a little jerky, both Antonio and Ravenhawk noticed that Joseph was hardly breathing heavily, they had kept up the loping trot for hours yet the teen looked as though he could have gone on for hours more and not be affected.
When asked Joseph told them about the three day trial of manhood, when they heard it and, even though Ravenhawk did have a little knowledge about the trial, it was a surprise for both boys to find out it was a true event, Ravenhawk decided to ask more about the ways of the Apache, there was so much of this side of his heritage he did not know about.
It was only an hour before dark when Joseph suddenly stopped and held up his hand for the others to do the same, as if by magic he dropped his pack and seemingly disappeared into the trees while the other two looked at each other in wonder.
Ravenhawk somehow had the feeling that he had to trust Joseph in this situation, he pulled the Pinto to a halt and Antonio followed suit with the Appaloosa stopping just behind them.
Both boys sat on their horses and waited, Joseph had to have had a good reason for stopping them; Ravenhawk thought they were better off obeying the teen's better senses so they sat and waited.
Just as he had disappeared, Joseph suddenly reappeared, he made the signal for silence then indicated they should both dismount and come close, once there Joseph began to tell them in a whisper what he had felt and then seen.
"There is a camp, perhaps one family perhaps two, there are five adults and seven children, the men look to be badly frightened about something."
"Do you think there is danger?" Ravenhawk asked.
"Perhaps but it is hard to tell, there is something not right with the people."
"We can move around them and then make a night run for the cabin, it is only about two hours away or we can find another place to camp and go in the morning."
"We should move on, there is something not right with these people, they are all in black cloths and look very stern and afraid, we should leave them alone."
"Good then we will run until dark and go to the cabin in the morning." Ravenhawk decided, the other two nodded their agreement and they carefully avoided the new camp and began to leave to find a good secure camp site for the night.
They moved away until close to full dark, after finding a suitable place to camp, they settled down and made it a cold one, they did not want to be discovered by lighting a fire.
The next morning, well before daylight arrived, they moved off and directed their steps towards the home clearing.
The full light of day found them slowly walking up the narrow track to the cabin where the others were just beginning to stir from their night's sleep.
It was Consuela that saw them first; it was also Consuela that saw the familiar figure of a Mexican's worst nightmare striding along with the other two boys.
Ravenhawk could not understand the fast Spanish that she called out at the top of her loud voice as she performed the cross of the Catholics while she turned and ran back inside the cabin, it was left to Antonio to tell the other two what she had screamed out.
"It looks as though Joseph has started a bees nest, Consuela thinks he is here to take her hair." Antonio told the pair, the smile on Joseph's face broadened as he heard the translation although his own Spanish was just as good as Antonio's.
The trio arrived at the centre of the camp just as everyone else ran out to see what had upset Consuela, it did not go unnoticed by Joseph that there were a number of young children who seemed to have dressed like a plains Indian; another smile appeared on his face as he saw the young ones.
When everyone had assembled, Ravenhawk took over the introductions; all those present, except for Consuela and Philippe went to openly welcome their newest guest.
Consuela stood back and continued to make the sign of the cross as she mumbled to herself, Philippe stood solidly in front of Liam as though protecting him from new threat, the look on his face boded no good for anyone trying to hurt the smaller boy behind him.
It was not until the full story of the three boy's meeting had been told that everyone, again except for Consuela, began to relax and openly welcome Joseph to their new home and new world, their small family had increased by one.
Joseph did not miss the sacred circle at the edge of the clearing along with the sweat lodge, Joseph nodded to himself that it was a good thing that someone was keeping to some of the old ways.
He now felt more at ease as he joined his new friends for breakfast. It was a good feeling to be among those who accepted him as he was, all except for the strange Mexican Woman who still crossed herself every time Joseph looked her way.
For Ravenhawk the summer solstice was almost upon them and he needed to begin preparations for the next of the four ceremonies and now, with a new member to their growing family, they had even more to celebrate.
END BOOK ONE
Firstly, thank you all for your kind emails and following, even those who thought that their criticism might be constructive. This is the time for the end of Book One and, as you can guess, there will be a Book Two to follow at a later date. I am sure that most of you appreciate it takes time to obtain the needed information and permission about ceremony and traditions to stay with the story line. Lastly, to those of Two Spirits, never forget you are the chosen ones of Creator, everything you do or say is a Reflection of his will and desire, keep the balance for those around you, even the one spirit sleepers.
"One who lacks the ability and creativity in any given field of artistic intent and so resorts to belittling those with true talent"