THE LAST SHAMAN
John and Collin stepped back inside the cabin; James took his place in front of the partially closed door as he watched the far off figures.
It appeared they were in no real hurry; if they had not seen the cabin by this time, they had certainly noticed the newly built fences and gates; James assumptions soon proved valid as he watched the group slow to a stop to inspect one of the new fences.
They were still a little way off when James thought he could hear fast approaching footsteps from the side of the cabin; only seconds later the appearance of Ravenhawk; quickly followed by the ever present Joseph; as well as Liam Junior; all three were armed and ready.
It seemed the appearance of the three newcomers had attracted the attention of the larger group down below the rise; the cabin was so well situated and hidden that it would have been a possibility that the group could have missed it altogether; with the appearance of the three new teens, that hope was dashed.
They all heard a cry from down on the flats as the three teens joined James up on the stoop; the sound of fast moving horses quickly had their attention drawn to the fast approaching gang of riders.
James looked at Ravenhawk.
"I think you had better take over Ravenhawk, they all look like Indians to me; Liam and I will stay inside and watch your back."
"Yes James, that might be a better solution, we don't want to start a fight if we can avoid it; just make sure you guys are ready in case they don't agree."
James; quickly followed by Liam, stepped back inside the cabin; Ravenhawk and Joseph could hear furniture being moved about inside as an added protection to that already provided by the thick walls.
Ravenhawk suddenly heard a hiss from beside him; with a glance at Joseph, he asked.
"What is it My Brother?"
"At the back, in the denim shirt and yellow head band."
Ravenhawk looked to the back of the approaching group; finally he saw the young teen that had been partially obscured by another teen dressed in a red shirt.
"Yes I see him."
Ravenhawk heard something much like a spitting as Joseph said only one word.
It was as though that was all that needed to be said; Ravenhawk quickly laid his hand on Joseph's arm to steady him.
"Brother, those were other times; were the Apache not also at war with the Mexicano's? Yet here you are eating and working alongside Manuel and Consuela; is that young Comanche any different in these new times?"
Ravenhawk watched as the gang got closer; beside him he thought he heard a soft grunt from Joseph.
"Perhaps, My Brother; although we were enemies of the Comanche far longer than the Mexicano's but I will try to let him live."
"That's good Brother, besides; there are many of them and they all look to be of the People but from many tribes; it makes you wonder how many are left over all the country."
Joseph did not answer as the large gang of youths which were led by an older man who was probably in his late twenties or early thirties; finally pulled up no more than ten metres away from the cabin; the youths spread out a little but tried to make it not too obvious.
Ravenhawk almost smiled as he watched the young teen in the denim shirt and yellow head band, casually swing his legs over his small pinto and lay himself along the length of the horse; it was as though the young teen was lying down on a sofa bed. Joseph whispered in Ravenhawk's ear.
"Comanche; always the cheeky ones."
Ravenhawk nodded his head and watched as the others sorted themselves out in a semi circle; Ravenhawk was not sure but the older man looked almost as though he was Lakota; definitely Sioux but he was not quite sure; there was something that did not quite fit.
The older man was the first to speak after he had slid from the back of the horse; as the visitor on another's land it was their place to open negotiations.
"Aho Brothers; we are not here to cause trouble for any of the People; may we sit and talk?"
Ravenhawk replied as he swept his arm to indicate the man should join them up on the stoop and out of the hot sun.
"As one of the People you are welcome on our lands; join us and we will speak more."
Joseph had gone back inside but quickly returned with a thick rug; he laid it on the boards of the stoop and then sat beside Ravenhawk while the newcomers sat on the opposite side.
Before introductions could begin; the sharp sound of racing Quads could be heard from further down the roadway; Liam Senior was bringing reinforcements just in case.
It was only minutes before the sight of three quads appeared around the far bend, each bike had a driver and a passenger; both fully armed and ready; in the lead was Liam Senior, it appeared he had changed into his old Marine Fatigues; his cap pushed under one epaulet; over his back was his rifle and the attitude of his body told everyone he was loaded for bear.
The four on the stoop waited for the bikes to pull up; as they did so, the older man suddenly stood up and faced Liam's group as they drew to a stop below the stoop.
The newcomer suddenly sprang to attention and; in a loud clear voice shouted.
"Semper Fi; Gunny; Corporal Silas Fleetwing of the 17/207th Marines, Gunnery Sergeant."
Everyone saw the smile on Liam's lips as he said loudly.
"Stand easy Corporal; are you the same Corporal Fleetwing that saved his platoon from annihilation in the third invasion of Afghanistan, ten years ago?"
"The same Gunny, pity it didn't turn out quite the way I wanted it too."
"Frankly Corporal, I don't give a shit what those gutless, liberal, bottom feeders said in the news reports; what you did was a fine piece of work; if we could have done more like that; we would have been out of there in half the time."
Ravenhawk smiled at the two grown men, it looked like all formal events had been put on the back burner for the moment.
Ravenhawk looked at the newcomer.
"Brother Fleetwing, perhaps we could all go back to our main village; there is no need for ceremony here now that you are known; all of you must be thirsty or hungry; come and join us and we can talk like old friends?"
"Thank you; we haven't had a good meal for some time; mostly hard tack and jerky; all the fresh foods are now spoiled in the stores."
"Would you like to follow us, we'll take you back along the road to our clearing; these others will take the short cut through the woods and meet us there." Liam Senior said.
"Yes Gunny, we'll follow you."
The group broke up quickly; Fleetwing led his gang behind the slow moving Liam as Ravenhawk and the other boys left the cabin for the fast trek back through the woods; they would arrive a little after the others.
Back in the clearing; after everyone had arrived from the farm side; Ravenhawk asked Consuela and Samuel to ready a meal for everybody; it was close enough to midday that much had already been prepared. Liam Senior had come back from watching as the quads were parked properly and joined Fleetwing as Ravenhawk called them inside to the main dining room.
There was a subtle air of suspicion as the new arrivals entered the hall, but it was soon put aside as the five best suited began to talk together; Liam Senior, Ravenhawk and Joseph were joined by Fleetwing and a teen about seventeen.
"This is my cousin Walks-slow; you will always find him asleep somewhere." Fleetwing laughed as he ruffled the long dark hair of his cousin; much to the dismay and embarrassment of the teen.
Fleetwing looked around the large room; everyone had now arrived to see the visitors; the Corporal was amazed at the diversity of the growing crowd.
"You have quite a mix of people here, Gunny?"
"Not me, Corporal; this is all Ravenhawk's doing; he's our leader, we just follow along."
"This Ravenhawk must be a great chief to hold all these different people together in harmony!"
Liam pointed to Ravenhawk as he sat across the table from Silas Fleetwing.
"Ask him yourself." Liam smiled as the look of confusion came over Silas Fleetwing's face.
Silas looked at the young teen; it was then he saw the red beads of a Medicine Man and the dark green beads he had not seen before.
"You are Ravenhawk? Leader of all these people?"
"Yes." Ravenhawk replied with a smile.
"Are you not too young to wear those beads of the Medicine Man?"
"They are given by Creator; who am I to ignore his wishes; these are new times and it will take new ideas to see us all through the problems of the future."
Silas could only sit and stare at the young teen; the boy could not be more than fifteen and yet all the people in the clearing gave him the utmost respect; he tried to work out where the teen came from; he looked very much like the Apache boy sitting beside him but; there was something else; his manner of dress and some of his beads indicated he could also be Sioux.
"Ravenhawk, you have me confused; as you can see, my boys are a mixed lot; my cousin and I are Ogallala Sioux; the cheeky one over there is Comanche; at the end of the table is a boy from the Dine nation; mixed in with the others we have a Cree, two Shoshone, three Cheyenne and two Kiowa. We have all been drifting around trying to find our place in this new world; for now we are planning on going further North to see what there is up there before Winter arrives; apart from that we have no other plans."
"Then what is your confusion, Brother Fleetwing?"
"You are very young to hold titles like those; also I cannot place your tribe?"
"My Father was Lakota, my Mother was Chiricahua: I am the student and grandson of Eagleclaw; Lead Medicine Elder of the Pine Ridge Lakota; Creator sent me here and has continued to watch over us; we are now called the Green Stone Clan, which is made under the eyes of the Ancestors and the desire of Creator."
"Aho, then I bow to Creator's wisdom; if you have been chosen then it is not my place to say otherwise."
Silas reached across the table to shake hands with Ravenhawk in the traditional manner of wrist to wrist.
"I am sorry I have no tobacco to offer you; we have had little luck in our travels Ravenhawk."
"You and your friends are guests Silas Fleetwing; the offering is not needed; we would like you to stay and rest before you move on; we have plenty here and Liam is going out tomorrow for a search; he will be back in ten days or so; there is plenty of room for you and the others to rest for a few days."
"Thank you Ravenhawk; it would be nice to be able to rest a few days without the worry of finding food and shelter every night."
"Then you are welcome; let's eat and we can make plans; I notice you are not carrying any weapons?"
"Yes we have a few, they are hidden under the horse blankets; mostly old Winchesters and I have two automatics in my saddle bag."
"We have a good armoury, thanks to Liam, if you wish to take some it will be Ok with us; we can also make up some food bags for you when you want to journey on; if there are some that want to stay with us, they will be made welcome also."
"Thank you for your hospitality Ravenhawk; we all need to talk things over and decide what we should do; we will give good consideration to your words and offer."
It was just then that Samuel came to the table with a tray of hot food, walking beside him was Little Bear with a large plate of thick sliced bread; Ravenhawk noticed Silas stare at Little Bear with a bit of a shocked look on his face; Little Bear as usual was dressed in almost nothing.
Little Bear stared open eyed at Silas, his bright blue eyes never leaving the older man's face; he then turned to Ravenhawk.
"Poppa Raven; he's a good man, very dangerous but a good man."
Little Bear laid the plate of bread on the table and ran off to help somewhere else while Silas could only stare blankly after the little boy.
"Uhm... can I ask who that little boy was?"
"That's our son Little Bear."
"Your son...our son...ah he is a white boy, right?"
"Yes, but he has the heart of the People and the protection of Creators Guardians."
Just at the moment, Antonio walked up and sat beside Ravenhawk.
"This is my Berdach, Antonio; Little Bear is our son by adoption; although we had very little say in the matter."
Ravenhawk and Antonio smiled as Silas looked around for the little boy once again; he caught a sight of the small blonde head just above the table in the kitchen; Silas shook his head and turned back to the people in front of him.
As the meal went on, most of the newcomers seemed to have little trouble mixing with those of the clearing; it was not long before Ravenhawk asked Silas about each one.
"Well as you can see we are a mixed bunch; you already know about my Cousin and I; over there the young teen with the red shirt we just call Navajo; he said he did not want to use his name again as his whole family and, as far as he knows; his whole tribe was wiped out; he feels that if his name is spoken then the spirits of the dead will also come for him, and so he just goes by Navajo."
Ravenhawk nodded his understanding; all of the People knew that one's name had power; for the spirits to have that name can be good or bad, depending on your outlook.
"The boy over there!"
Silas pointed to the young teen dressed in a denim shirt with a yellow head band.
"We call Lazy Rider; you may have seen how he likes to sleep on top of his horse; he is Comanche; he is also always the trickster; the others we are still getting to know; they have only just joined us in the last few days. Navaho came all the way up from Texas; he said that when he left Austin it was a mess and, most of the towns in between were not much better; it seems you don't have to do very much in Texas to get shot; he had to travel mostly at night to stay safe."
"That's a long ride to get all the way up here."
"Desperate times call for desperate measures; he must have had someone watching over him."
Ravenhawk nodded and a silence came over the table as everyone went back to eating; Ravenhawk was halfway through his lunch when Little Bear sidled up to him and then pushed his way onto Ravenhawk's lap.
"What are you up to little one?"
"I just came to see you Poppa Raven, are all these new ones going to stay?"
"I don't know yet; what do you think?"
Little Bear stretched a bit more until he could see all the new people clearly; after a long silence and some consideration; Little Bear pointed to both the one called Navaho and the Comanche teen.
"Those two; they want to stay; the others will come back some time in the cold."
Silas had been watching Little Bear like a hawk; he did not ignore the glazed eyes of the little white boy; this young boy had a power few would ever see; Silas let out a sigh as if something had just been proven to him.
Little bear settled back down onto Ravenhawk's lap; he was back to his normal happy self as though he had not been a part of what was just said; others at the table smiled; they had seen this happen before; only the stunned look on Silas and his Cousin's face indicated it was the first time they had seen anything like it.
Ravenhawk ruffled Little Bears hair as he let the boy eat from his plate; the rest of the table just went back to eating as though it was a normal day.
In the back of Ravenhawk's mind was a nagging problem; ever since Joseph had nominated him for Chief, Ravenhawk had been at odds with himself; while there was no denying the honour of the position; his own doubts as to his suitability kept coming to the front of his mind.
The position of Chief really needed someone with experience and understanding of their place in the world; granted it was now a new world but this did not allay the fears he felt; he was still of two minds to refuse the offer; Ravenhawk felt that someone like Liam Senior would be better suited.
The older man had experience and a good military background; he was used to making quick decisions under pressure and how to handle a lot of people at the same time.
Ravenhawk shook his head to clear it; they had visitors and for now he had to concentrate on hospitality as was proper for all the People; hospitality was important; even if the person was an enemy of your tribe; once hospitality was offered or asked for; differences had to be put aside until it was over.
By mid afternoon, the newcomers had spread out and were walking around feeling quite relaxed; Joseph was the only one that watched the Comanche like a hawk; he had no intention of letting the new teen anywhere near Samuel; old enmities died hard, even under these new times.
Ravenhawk was not in the least surprised when both Navajo and Lazy Rider came up to him as he sat with Antonio on the steps of the original cabin. After the usual greetings, Lazy Rider spoke for both of them.
"Ravenhawk, we are told you are the Chief; we would like to stay; our travels so far have shown us nothing but empty spaces and when the winter comes; we may not be ready for it; we need a safe new home."
"Lazy Rider, Navajo; first I am not the Chief; the position has been offered but I have not yet decided; however; for the moment my Berdach and I are the first to make this place our home and so others let us make some decisions; for ourselves we welcome you both, but you must understand; everyone here has a voice; they also must agree; if the word is for you to stay then at that time you also will have a voice in all things; if this is good for you both; then I will ask tonight and the others will give you their word."
The two teens nodded and smiled; they both understood the system; after shaking hands they left whispering to each other as they disappeared into the trees; Ravenhawk sighed as another thought came to him; again it was the problem of making a decision about the Chieftain offer; Antonio nudged him as he heard the sigh.
"What's wrong? Those two boys seem nice enough; I don't think they would cause any trouble."
"It's not them; I agree they would be an advantage to have."
"Then what is it?"
"Everyone wanting me to be Chief; I'm too young; I don't have the worldly experience; there will be times that I will not know what to do; a good Chief cannot afford to make a mistake; not when he is solely responsible for the whole tribe. We really need someone like Liam Senior to be Chief; he knows all about this stuff and he is experienced in working with a lot of people."
"My Big Warrior, if they wanted Liam, they would have all asked for him; they want you; this new world is for the young to start over and not make the mistakes of the past; stop and look around; you have enough older people here to help you if you need it but the main thrust of what's going on here is the young; this is not a time of old ways from before; as far as we know, there is not even one single politician alive today; the young have to step forward now and correct all those past mistakes."
Ravenhawk leant into Antonio's shoulder; his Berdach's words made him feel better; but there was still doubt in his mind; perhaps there was only one way to find the truth of the matter; he didn't really look forward to it; but it might be the only way to resolve his own doubts.
Ravenhawk reached around and hugged Antonio closer; it was perfect timing as Little Bear arrived just in time to jump between them so he too had a hug; although the ice cream all over his mouth and chin made it a little messy.
The preparations for dinner had been going on for most of the afternoon; Manuel had started the fire in the open grill and Joseph had given him half a deer carcass; Samuel and Consuela were busy making huge amounts of corn bread, fresh salads and preparing tortillas; dinner was going to be a celebration in honour of their new guests.
With little to do, Ravenhawk decided to go for a walk in the woods; he still needed to clear his head; the more he thought about the responsibility of being Chief, the more it bothered him.
Once inside the trees; and with only the birds and small animals for company; Ravenhawk began to feel some peace; there was little doubt that something had to give before he would ever feel good enough for what the others wanted.
As he wandered along a small animal trail; his mind tried to focus on what good he could do; if any; and what disadvantages there would be if he took up the mantle; there was really only one way for him to find out; it would mean he would be away from his friends and the home he now knew for a number of days; it was also dangerous if he made a mistake; still his mind would not rest.
Ravenhawk wandered on; he had no idea how far he had gone or what the time was; he did know that it was getting late and yet, he still had no final solution; as he thought about it and the answer seemed even further away; a loud screeching came to his ears.
Sitting on a tree branch, no more than ten feet above him; was the dark figure of a Raven; its piercing black eyes were boring into Ravenhawk's very soul; Ravenhawk did not shudder as some would have if the trickster had come this close to them; Raven was still his Clan; he was here to give Ravenhawk a message.
The two stood watching each other; suddenly the Raven called loudly again; at this point, Ravenhawk felt the answer slide into his mind; Raven had told him what he had to do; Ravenhawk called out the prayer of thanks to the Raven and then turned back towards his home; Raven had made the decision for him; now all he had to do was survive what was to come.
The open air dinner was a great success; it was obvious from the very start; that their new visitors had not had a good meal for some time; of the half carcass of the deer there were now only bones left at the end of the night; all the small ones were happy to play and eat on the run; the older ones were happy to sit and share a few cans and a little Tequila as they talked and ate.
When most of the eating had been done; Ravenhawk stood up in the centre of the large crowd.
"New friends and members of the Green Stone Clan; two of our visitors have asked to stay with us; it has always been our way for everyone to have a say on who stays and who must leave; I want to ask those of the Green Stone Clan to say yes or no; those who wish to make a new home with us are Navajo and Lazy Rider; my vote and that of Antonio is yes; I would hear your votes?"
It took less than a minute for everyone in the clan to say yes; the boys were openly welcomed; they were also told that there was to be a meeting in two weeks so that other business could be completed and at that time they could decide if they wanted to become members of the new Green Stone Clan.
Even if they wanted to hold onto their own Clan that they were born into; they would still be allowed to stay; there was no rule to say they had to belong to the new Clan just to be part of the group.
After the announcement; Ravenhawk joined Liam Senior and the others as they sat with Silas; Little Bear came up and promptly sat in Ravenhawk's lap; with the innocents of a child; Little Bear looked over at Silas and said.
"Why are you angry with the army men?"
Silas was lifting a glass to his lips as Little Bear spoke; he spluttered into his glass before he looked up quickly at the small boy held in Ravenhawk's arms; immediately he saw the same glazed look in the boys eyes that he had seen at the table during lunch; Silas shuddered as he realised he was not looking at a small boy but something far more powerful; he was stuck for words.
"You will not be free while your spirit fights with your anger." Little Bear said; the same glazed look still in his eyes.
For those around the small fire; all could see a small tear begin to fall from Silas eye; it was obvious that Little Bear had struck a chord of truth.
"I don't wish to talk about it; it is something I must deal with alone."
"Then your spirit may well die and your anger will win the battle; you must decide if you wish to live in harmony with the land and The People." Little Bear replied.
The silence around the small fire as the others looked on did make Silas feel as though he had help on hand; had anyone spoken for or against his wishes he may well have left their company; instead all he saw was a kind of sorrow on every face; they knew the value of Little Bear's words when he was in this state.
There was a long pause as Silas thought about all the inner turmoil he had been fighting against for the last ten years; he had to admit the little boy had a good point; he could almost feel his own spirit slowly vanishing as his built up anger took more and more peace away from him. Perhaps it was time to share his inner demons; at least he had the Gunny there and he would understand why Silas did what he did; or at least he hoped so.
Everyone around the fire waited as they watched the war going on in Silas mind; finally the newcomer let out a long deep breath; it was time to find some peace.
Silas began his story in not much more than a whisper but; as the story went on his confidence grew until he was able to look at the others with clear eyes and certainty in his voice.
"It was my first tour of the third invasion of Afghanistan; we were under the orders of a shave tail officer. He was just out of the academy and like us, he knew little about what was going on. We were ordered to go up to the Helmand Province to help the British with their patrols; at this time there was not a lot of activity by the Taliban, most of that was down south. On our second patrol, the platoon was caught out in the open; we lost five men before we could make it to cover in a small village. By the time the new officer got his act together; we lost another three men and four more wounded; the only two radios in the company were knocked out and still lying out in the fields. The Taliban soon had us nearly surrounded and night was coming on fast; I don't know how many enemies there were but it seemed like the whole country was up in arms against us.
We kept them at bay for most of the early part of the night but our ammo was starting to run low and we were being squeezed into a smaller and smaller area; the officer asked for volunteers to try to find a way out before sun up; I knew most of the others would not stand a chance out on their own; most were city boys; something deep inside me began to stir my guts; I volunteered to go out and try to find a way out.
I took only my combat knife; anything else would have made a noise; that I did not need; it took me a while to work out where most of the Taliban were hiding; as I thought about how to get the others out; another something stirred inside me; it was almost as though a being was telling me what I had to do; suddenly it was as though I was looking down on a battle field and all about me were dead blue coats; many of my brothers were scalping the dead; next thing I knew I was back in the dark of the village; from then on I just allowed myself to follow what my spirit wanted to do."
Silas grew silent; then, with a pleading look at Liam; he sat back and let the tears fall; Liam coughed and then took up the story from his point of view and that of others that knew of the event.
"I want you guys to listen first; what Silas did that night enabled thirty seven fit men and fourteen wounded to escape; if he had not done what he did, they would have all been killed; I want you all to remember that when you hear the rest of the story.
From the reports I got afterwards; the men said that about midnight; they heard a strange singing from the darkness; no one knew what it was but they all said it sounded like a goodbye song." Liam Paused as Silas looked at those around him; he was surprised to see that everyone in the clearing was now standing around the small fire listening.
"That was my death song; I did not think I would survive what I was going to do."
Liam took up the story again.
"In the morning, the men saw Silas walking back towards their position; they all said he was dressed in only three things; his boxer shorts; his combat boots and blood; in his hand he carried his bloody combat knife. The officer ran up to him and asked what he had been doing; the report said that Silas told the young officer that he had cleared the way for them to escape.
Unfortunately; the young officer was also a bit gung-ho as well as being slightly over religious; he took his video camera and went to look at what Silas had been up to; of course by this time the Taliban had for some unknown reason; completely disappeared.
The officer came across the results of Silas night time work; not even thinking about what Silas had done to get them free; he took a video of the results of the nights work; he then ordered Silas to be placed under arrest pending a courts martial; the stupid little prick then sent the video to a friend in the press; some of you must have seen the news item on it.
That night, Silas had gone out alone against a full force of well armed Taliban and made an escape route for his company; he had captured seven Taliban, one by one; slit their throats then scalped them; after that he hung them up by their ankles with their own turbans and then tied the seven scalps on a line across the small street for everyone to see.
Now anyone can say it was barbaric; it was totally wrong; or they can say he should have got a medal for saving all those lives; personally, I vote for the medal; what few people took note of was that; for the next nine months, there was not one reported event with the Taliban in the Helmand Region after that night.
When the Marine officers heard all about it, and with all the press liberals trying to hang Silas; they found they had few options; nearly everyone in the Corp was on his side; they had to find a way out so they offered to let Silas resign and just disappear or he could face a full courts martial in public.
The grunts in the Corps have never come so close to a mutiny as they did over this event."
Liam turned to the still weeping Silas.
"Corporal, I want to be the first man here to shake your hand; what you did was the right thing to do; you got every surviving man out of that hell hole."
Liam stepped up close and offered his hand; as Silas clasped the older man's hand he was amazed as everyone else stepped forward with their hand out.
While Silas was shaking hands, Ravenhawk whispered to Antonio; as he did so he saw Robert moving away as well; from his lap came Little Bears voice; his eyes still showing that glazed look he got when he was being used by the Guardians.
"You are now a whole man Warrior of the Sioux, your spirit has won its battle; you can now live in peace."
As suddenly as he had first spoken, Little Bear returned with his bright blue eyes sparkling; "What did I miss Poppa?"
"Nothing little one, it was just a story about a brave man."
The only comment was a slightly wistful.
Antonio returned carrying Ravenhawk's Medicine Bag; at the same time he saw Robert sit down with his Spirit Drum; it seemed they both had the same idea; Robert began the slow beat of the song for the dead as Ravenhawk began the song and prayer; he had placed Little Bear on the log he had used as a seat and was now standing over the small fire; as the song and prayer progressed; Ravenhawk sprinkled small quantities of tobacco then changed to ghost sage as he called out for the spirits of the dead to find peace as they crossed into the mists.
It was some time before Ravenhawk and Robert realised they were being accompanied by all those with The Peoples blood as the prayers were sent up on the smoke of the fire; by the time the last song was sung; there was a new feeling of peace in the large clearing; so much had been settled that night; it was a new beginning for more than just those gathered around the fire.
Early the next morning; just as everyone was gathered around the sacred circle for the Morning Prayer, like they did every morning; everyone noticed that Samuel was now standing beside Joseph and not waiting away from the circle as he used to.
It was the first time that Samuel had joined them since arriving in the newly formed clan; what was most noticeable was the yellow painted stripe across his forehead; obviously put there by Joseph; only those in the know knew what it meant; it was to let everyone know that Samuel was now Joseph's partner; it also symbolised that he was under the protection of the guardian of the sun.
Standing outside the circle of people gathered at the edge of the sacred circle stood Tristan and Michael, they looked to be unsure if they would be welcome in such an occasion; without hesitation; Ravenhawk motioned them forward to join the others.
Samuel looked a little nervous as Ravenhawk; with Little Bear alongside and all dressed in his ceremonial shirt and small head dress; stepped into the circle to began the prayer of thanks as he did each morning; it did not take Samuel long to join in where he knew the words.
Everyone stood outside the circle of stones and repeated the short prayer after Ravenhawk and Little bear said it; there seemed to be a stillness in the air every morning when the prayer was said; it was as though the world of the new day was holding its breath while the homage was paid to the Creator.
At the end of the prayer, everyone turned towards the dining hall; Consuela had been up for more than an hour before anyone else, it was her habit to always be ready to feed everyone regardless of the time of day or night.
As breakfast proceeded; Liam talked about his final plans; he was taking Philippe, Liam Junior, Dean and Karl with him; they hoped to be back in less than ten days so they did not miss the two ceremonies.
Silas said he would like to leave the following morning as well and head further north; he promised that if there was little there he would return around winter if that was Ok with everyone here; they all quickly agreed they would like to see him return; Navaho and Lazy Rider smiled as they saw their temporary friends begin to get check their equipment in readiness to leave next day; they had no illusions about leaving with them; they had found their new home and were now content for the first time since the disaster.