THE LAST SHAMAN
It was evening before Ravenhawk saw Joseph again when everyone else was sitting down to eat; Joseph sat next to Ravenhawk and asked.
"I would like my Brother to stand for me tomorrow when the gift is presented to the Elder of the one I would take to my home; will you stand for me Brother?"
"Yes I will stand for you; who is the Elder you wish to get permission from?"
"The one called John."
"So you seek his Brother?"
Joseph blushed; something Ravenhawk would have thought impossible for an Apache to do.
"Yes; he was chosen by Creator for me but, I must first have permission from his Elder; as you know; it would not be proper for me to take him like a prisoner of battle."
"So tomorrow you will offer which of your gifts to John?"
"Why, the stallion of course; I have a blanket of thick furs and a long, soft, hide shirt; there is also the new cabin for the one I have chosen; do you think that is enough to gain my berdach's hand?"
"I will talk for you; I am sure it will be well received by all parties; they are fine gifts."
Joseph nodded in agreement; he never doubted that his Brother would see that his chosen one would soon be by his side; Joseph sat back and let his mind wander to the next few days; it was going to be an exciting time for both young men; although as yet, Samuel had little idea of what was in store for him.
The next morning, Ravenhawk met Joseph outside the Apache's Hogan; over Ravenhawk's shoulder was a thick blanket; Joseph was leading the Palomino stallion with one hand and in the other he held a thick fur blanket rolled up with a well tanned deer skin shirt on top.
"It is time Brother." Joseph said.
Both teens were calm but there was an undertone of tension in the cool morning air; for Joseph this was a very important day; the two teens moved off for the half hour walk to the cabin of the three farmers; the stallion also seemed to sense something was up but followed along without trouble.
As the two walked through the trees towards the new cabin; the forest around them seemed to come alive with bird sounds; there was even the scurrying sound of small animals deeper in the underbrush; there was little to be said between the two teens as they walked.
Finally the two came out of the trees close to the cabin; when they were within ten feet of the cabin; the door opened and all three young men stepped out onto the stoop.
Joseph stopped and then handed the rope halter of the stallion to Ravenhawk; he continued to hold the other gifts; it was Ravenhawk's job to present his gift and the reason for it to John on his behalf. Had this been in the time before the virus; either his older Brother or his Father would have been the one to do gift giving and asking.
John, James and Collin all watched as Ravenhawk walked up and stopped just below the stoop; there Ravenhawk bent down and laid the multi coloured blanket on the ground; still holding the halter of the stallion; Ravenhawk lowered himself to sit cross legged on one side of the blanket; with his hand, he signalled for John and the others to join him.
The three boys walked down the steps; as yet not a word had been exchanged; for the three young men of the cabin, this was puzzling but Ravenhawk must have had a reason; they followed his signalled request.
Once they were seated opposite Ravenhawk; he began to speak directly to John in a very formal tone.
"I greet the Elder of Samuel and would tell you of the reason we have come. I am here to represent my Brother; he has tasked me with asking the Elder for Samuel to be his Berdach. As a sign of his good intentions and his respect for the Elder; he would offer the gift of this fine stallion. If this was to meet with your approval, he would also like to offer three gifts to be given by your hand to Samuel as a sign he would be looked upon as a viable suitor."
Ravenhawk stopped talking and waited for John to reply; John, not realizing he was now expected to answer, sat with an awed look on his face; this was all very new to him and he found himself lost for words; Ravenhawk sat patiently waiting for an answer; this type of decision was not made in a hurry or without consideration.
In the background; Joseph stood nervously; although he would never have admitted to it; the long pause while he waited for John the Elder to reply was working on his nerves a little.
John finally understood he was meant to answer for Samuel; it was a difficult position to be put in, but it obviously meant a great deal to the two teens in front of him. John tried to think back to anything that Samuel may have said about Joseph; at last he understood; Samuel had never said anything about the Apache but, John had seen plenty of looks; now it all began to make sense.
John looked into Ravenhawk's waiting face; the young teen was totally impassive as John tried to work out how to answer correctly; finally he just thought he would say what was on his mind; it would probably lead to a hissy fit from Samuel, but unless John took the chance; his little Brother might well be left single and stuck in the kitchen forever.
John looked at the fine Palomino stallion; only that morning the three had been talking about how they would have to find a good stallion to breed up a new horse herd; here was the perfect animal.
"Ravenhawk; I would be glad to accept this great gift; he is a very fine horse and makes a very fine gift to please the eye of any man. I would welcome Joseph into my home as the warrior that protects my little Brother."
"Do your witnesses agree to those terms, Elder John?"
John looked to each side at his two friends; they both nodded and John turned back to Ravenhawk.
"They would also welcome him."
Ravenhawk turned his head and nodded in Joseph's direction; the young teen walked over and; after laying the fur blanket and finely tanned deer skin shirt on the blanket in front of Ravenhawk; he took the halter from Ravenhawk and reached across to hand it to John; Joseph then sat down beside Ravenhawk; he had not said a word; it was not his place to speak.
After the stallion was handed over; Joseph then reached up and took one of the three strands of beads from his neck; they were medium sized amber beads with smaller black ones interspersed at intervals; he laid the beads on top of the blanket and shirt.
"My Brother would also like to offer these humble gifts to his chosen one; should he not want the attentions of my Brother; all he has to do is leave the gifts outside his home as a sign of rejection; my Brother will abide by his decision."
"I will give them to my Brother; I will also advise him to think carefully before making a decision." John replied.
"Then we both thank you; we will leave you now and wait for his decision tomorrow."
Ravenhawk and Joseph stood up; after John, helped by the other two young men; had taken up the other gifts; Ravenhawk folded his own blanket and led Joseph back towards the clearing; there was a good feeling in the air as the two walked side by side; Joseph was still silent; now all that remained was to wait for Samuel to tell him he agreed to become his Berdach; there was still some nervous times ahead, but he concealed it as best he could.
Ravenhawk was not fooled by Joseph's silence; his own instincts could feel the tension that ebbed and flowed from his Brother; Ravenhawk almost smiled to himself as they walked; he now had to watch over Samuel to make sure he did the right thing next morning.
That night; as they all finished their meal; Joseph stood up and called for the others to hear him; only the three boys from the farm were not there.
When there was total silence, Joseph began.
"I have given great thought to what we must do; to this end I wish to offer this suggestion. For our clan to grow strong, we need both a Medicine Elder to lead our spirits and a Chief to speak for us when there are things to be decided. I have given great thought to this and; while we have great men like Liam and Manuel, who are both great leaders in their time; I would propose that we ask the one person that has kept us together and created what we have today. I would ask that you all place your trust for both positions in Ravenhawk and that we name him Chief and Medicine Elder of the Green Stone Clan. That is all I have to say; I ask for your words on this matter?"
After a moment of silence for everyone to think over what Joseph had just said; everyone began to whisper to those seated beside them; it took a few minutes before the first person; Liam Senior; to stand and talk.
"I speak for my grandson and myself; it has been Ravenhawk that gave us a new spiritual understanding and so he should by default be our Medicine Elder; he has also welcomed each and every one of us into his home and led us the right way; for us we say Yes; Ravenhawk should be our Chief of the Green Stone Clan."
Next to stand was Manuel.
"My family also votes Yes, Ravenhawk took us in when we had nowhere else to go; he has made us his family; we stand by his decisions."
Robert was next.
"My brother and my wife also vote Yes, Ravenhawk gave us hope and rescued us with open arms and a welcome that few would have offered; he should be the Chief of the Green Stone Clan."
When no one else stood up; Joseph regained his feet.
"Then if there is no words against him, we should declare Ravenhawk Chief and Medicine Elder of the Green Stone Clan."
For another second or two there was silence, suddenly a small voice broke the quiet.
"Poppa Raven, you're the Chief now so can we have some pie?" Little Bear was all smiles as he looked at his Poppa; the innocence of his young face was only accentuated by his sparkling and mischievous eyes.
The laughter filled the cabin as Little Bear threw his arms around Ravenhawk's neck.
"Then it is decided; Ravenhawk will you stand as the Medicine Elder and Chief of the Green Stone Clan?" Joseph asked his brother.
Ravenhawk looked at all the expectant faces; this was an honour he had not thought nor asked for and at the same time; could not really refuse.
"I will accept but only until or if one who is better suited should join us."
A loud cheer went up all around the dining hall until Joseph stood once again.
"We will have to prepare for the ceremony, there is a lot to do; I would suggest we make the ceremony, two weeks from today; does everyone agree?"
Everyone in the hall; even the young ones, nodded in agreement; Ravenhawk sighed, now he had two ceremonies to prepare for; it was almost time for the ceremony the whites called; The summer Solstice; to be had and now he had the one for a Chief as well; it was going to be a busy time.
As the pie was served by Consuela and Samuel; Ravenhawk noticed that Joseph never once laid his eyes or spoke to Samuel; to others in the dining room it was as though Joseph was purposely ignoring the boy; Ravenhawk knew better; any actions by Joseph could have been construed in the old days as some way of influencing Samuels decision tomorrow.
Ravenhawk was one of the first to enter the kitchen the next morning; while he was often early and also usually one of the first; this morning he was determined to be there when Samuel came in to start breakfast.
Ravenhawk did not have long to wait; within minutes of pouring his coffee; the young teen came in to help the ever present Consuela.
Samuel saw Ravenhawk standing by the work bench sipping hot coffee; with a blush he nodded a greeting and went to start making biscuits for breakfast;
Ravenhawk casually went over to Samuel and watched as the teen began to make the dough.
"You seem happy but confused, this morning Samuel." Ravenhawk began.
Samuel's blush increased as he nodded his head.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Ravenhawk asked again.
Samuel's voice was not much more than a whisper as he tried to answer Ravenhawk.
"I don't know what to do; I want to go with Joseph but I don't want to be trapped in the cabin all the time; what do I do?"
"Oh, that's simple; you get someone you trust to speak for you; if you want to accept Joseph there is nothing to say you can't have a few rules of your own."
"Oh, I didn't know that, but who shall I get; I'm just not sure what to do about all this."
"Ok, leave it with me; now answer me this; do you want to be paired with Joseph?"
"Yes, of course I do, I really liked him the first time I saw him."
"Alright then, go back to your room and get the necklace he sent you; wear that today but try not to look at or talk to Joseph when you see him; the rest you leave up to me."
"Ok, I'll try."
"Just do your best and I will look after the rest for you."
Ravenhawk waited for Robert to appear with his wife and brother; it had become an unspoken ritual for everyone who could; to join together for both breakfast and the evening meal; it became a good way for the days plans to be made and; in the evening; everyone could talk about their day.
Ravenhawk walked over to where Robert, Margret and Peter were sitting; Ravenhawk took a chair opposite Robert.
"Do you have much to do today, Robert?"
"Not a lot; I have some new necklaces to make but I'm waiting for Little Bear to pick out the stones; what can I do for you?"
"Joseph has chosen Samuel, as you can see by the necklace; he needs someone to stand for him in reply to Joseph's request; I thought you may be the best one to do it."
"I'm not sure I know how; as you know, both Peter and I were not brought up on the reservation."
"It's all pretty simple; when Joseph comes in and has had his breakfast; you ask him to meet you and Samuel at someplace to discuss his offer; I'll be there as his spokesperson. When we get together, Samuel should be carrying the other gifts with him. You need to make it look like you are undecided as to if Joseph is suitable for Samuel; put the other two gifts on the ground in front of Joseph and then ask him if that is all he offers."
Ravenhawk paused for breath before continuing.
"You have to make it look as though Samuel is not to eager to be taken as a partner; try to find something to haggle about and make it look as though you are not happy about the union."
"Shouldn't John be doing this?"
"No, John is the Elder of the family; you have to be his friend and protector; now make Joseph have to work hard for the final decision; when you think he is ready, then tell him he can help Samuel carry the gifts to his new home and that you accept his word that he will protect Samuel always."
"How long should we haggle over the final decision?"
"As long as you like; try to find as many twists and turns as you can to make Joseph doubt himself; if he stands firm then agree they can join."
"This almost seems like fun."
Ravenhawk smiled and nodded his head.
"It can be if you make a good performance out of it; my Grandfather told me once; that he saw a young warrior run from the protector when he was a young man; the two eventually got married but well after the laughter had died down in the village."
It had now been decided, all they had to do now was wait for Joseph to appear for breakfast; watching the actions of Samuel as he worked also brought smiles to their faces; the poor boy was a mess of nerves as he set out the hot trays.
Ravenhawk was one of the few that noticed the difference in Joseph's attitude during breakfast; while Joseph was always quiet and said very little to anyone; today he was almost withdrawn into himself; Ravenhawk could not help the small smile that came to his lips as he watched from the corner of his eye.
When Ravenhawk thought Joseph had finished eating; he approached the teen with a smile after checking that Robert was ready.
"Aho Brother, we need to talk."
"Aho my Brother, what have you to say?"
"The Arapaho would speak with you when you have finished eating."
Joseph looked up at Ravenhawk with understanding in his eyes; Joseph did not ask how Robert became the spokesman for Samuel; these matters were rarely as simple as they at first seemed. Joseph nodded and then rose to his feet and let himself be led outside by Ravenhawk.
In the early hours of a new morning, there was only the twittering of the birds as they too awoke for a new day; Ravenhawk led Joseph to a quiet place on the far side of the clearing. As they found a comfortable place to sit; Joseph spied Robert and Samuel leaving by the side door of the large hall; he was happy to note that Samuel was carrying his two gifts. He had not missed the fact the teen was already wearing his necklace.
When the two arrived close to where the others waited for them; Robert urged Samuel forward with the two gifts; keeping his eyes on the ground in front of himself; Samuel laid the two gifts on the ground in front of Joseph then stepped back beside Robert.
Robert gestured for Samuel to sit down the same as Joseph was doing, they were now facing each other but keeping their eyes from looking directly in each other's faces; Robert stood with arms folded across his chest and feet planted wide as he looked at Ravenhawk.
Ravenhawk stood the same as Robert, it was for Robert to start the negotiations.
"Ravenhawk of the Lakota, you stand for the Apache? Why is that?"
"I also have the blood of the Apache and therefore he is my Brother and I stand for him. You are of the Arapaho and yet you stand for the white eyes; how is this?"
"He is my Clan Brother and I would stand for him as his Elder is not here; now why would I let the Apache take one so valuable for just a few trinkets?"
"My Brother did not just buy the gifts as many do today; these gifts were made by his own hands to prove he can provide for his chosen one."
"Ha, a few beads, a blanket and a shirt that is not yet beaded; these you would call gifts that match the abilities of my Brother?"
"The beads are the sacred sun beads of the Apache; they are given so that his chosen will always have the spirit of the sun to protect him from harm."
"Yes that is true, but he is of my Clan; why would he need sun beads for protection when his own Clan members would protect him with their lives?"
"As you know, he may not always have a Clan Brother to watch over him; this way he has doubled the protection."
"This could be true, and the unfinished shirt; is this not an insult to offer; is my Brother expected to bead his own shirt for ceremony?"
"That is not the desire of my Brother; he did not wish to bead it until his chosen had seen the quality of the shirt; it is from a young doe; the hide is thin and supple and the stitching is of the finest; even the fringe is evenly cut so that it is almost perfect; is your white eye Brother not impressed with such quality?"
"Perhaps; we shall have to wait and see; this blanket; it is just a jumble of furs; he would call this a promising gift?"
"The blanket was made from nearly thirty of the finest animals, each one was given the correct prayers for its spirit to ascend through the mists; it is now imbued with their spirits and will keep your Brother warm on any cold night. If you take up the blanket and inspect each and every thread, you will see how fine the workmanship is; there is also no smell of animal; the tanning process was also done by hand and with great care; it is a fine gift."
"So this is all he can offer my Brother albeit they are perhaps a little better made than some, they are still only trinkets when it comes to my Brother's safety and protection."
"My Apache Brother has also had a new cabin constructed so that his chosen will have everything he desires; as yet not one person has stepped inside this cabin; it is for the chosen one to first open the door."
"I would not let my Brother live in a Hogan or small lodge; if the new cabin is up to our standards then we may agree to let him stand beside your Brother; let us go and see what the Apache would call a home for my Brother?"
Robert signalled for Samuel to stand and pick up the gifts; as he did this, Joseph also stood up and led the way to the new cabin; it had been built exactly as he had asked with a very large kitchen area for Samuel to practice.
After they had all viewed the new cabin, Robert continued.
"My Brother would also ask for the freedom to make his own decisions; he will not be bound to the home like some poor slave; would your Brother give him the freedom to move about and to make his own decisions as long as they did not endanger them both?"
"My Brother knows no reason why his chosen could not have those freedoms; his position as my Brothers Berdach will give him all the freedom of that position in his household."
Robert stood and looked to be thinking things over; of course the decision had been made the moment Samuel had said yes but you did not rush into these things when everyone but the two main characters were having fun.
Robert let a few minutes pass by before he turned to look over the impassive face of Joseph.
"Apache, should my Clan Brother come to any harm while under your protection, then I vow that all of his Clan Brothers will be seeking revenge; watch over him for your life is also at stake if you fail; Aho Matak-Ye-Asin; I swear under the eyes of the ancestors."
Robert took one of Samuels hands and placed it in Joseph's right hand; it was over and done; without another word; Robert and Ravenhawk turned and left the small clearing in front of the new cabin; it was time to give the pair some time alone.
On their return to the main clearing; the two boys saw Liam Senior waiting for them; Liam waved and beckoned them over. Once the two boys were standing with Liam; he told them what he had planned; with the coming of midsummer not too far away; he wanted to take a few of the others and look for needed supplies as well as more fuel; Liam thought they would be away for at least ten days but was determined to be back before the next ceremony for solstice.
After a little more discussion, the three agreed it was a good plan; their little clearing was growing quickly and everything would need to be improved if more joined them over time; the main problem was running water and how to get it to the individual cabins.
Liam had told them he now had a plan to provide running water but that he would need more supplies; it was partially because of this that he wanted to go looking for them. It was decided he would take one of the SUV's that had come with the last attackers, they would also take two of the prime movers and the rig with the large covered trailer for soft goods and other things they may find.
The plan was put in place for Liam to select his companions and leave at first light the next day; everyone was happy as it may well be the last chance before the full heat of summer for them to resupply.
Ravenhawk and Robert were just about to leave when they heard the buzzing of the alarm that had been put in for the farm cabin; as they were away from the main clearing; Liam Senior had advised a form of alarm in case they needed urgent help; the sound of the buzzer in the stillness of the clearing soon had everyone running for weapons.
John, James and Collin, stood on the veranda of their large cabin and watched the approaching group of riders; as yet they were still some way off but definitely headed their way; Collin had been the one to set off the alarm buzzer back at the clearing; they had been told not to take any chances with newcomers after the last event.
The three teens stood fully armed and ready to take cover; John raised the small pair of binoculars to his eyes and began to survey the oncoming group.
There appeared to be close to a dozen, all riding a variety of horse; at that range it was hard to see if they were armed but; John was not about to take any chances; the three teens had put in a lot of hard work on fencing their new farm block and setting out the plan for their soon to be captured livestock.