THE LAST SHAMAN
The Barren North
On the day before the start of the Summer Solstice Ceremony; Walks-Slow regained consciousness. Everyone had made the decision not to tell him about Silas' passing until he was feeling stronger and they knew more about his own condition after such a long concussion.
It took only days for others to realise that Walks-Slow was well attended by Melissa; the girl would not leave his side even for the most basic of needs. As time passed it was not hard to see that Walks-slow appreciated her company; his memory was returning and he had understood the events that led to the passing of Silas.
When he was strong enough, it was Melissa that helped him make the long slow trip up to where they had set Silas to rest. From that day on, Walks-Slow made the journey to the top of the ridge every day; he was always accompanied by Melissa.
With the small settlement now coming together there was time for more important things; the girls still made use of their own private sweat lodge and; every ten or fourteen days, would ask Little Bear and Peter to do the fire for them; Peter even began to make up his own drumming just for them.
Jonathon Blood and Running Horse finally got to tell their story of the ambush; with injuries now healing and the need to keep the settlement safe, they felt they needed to tell what they had seen and experienced.
Running Horse was happy to let Jonathon do the telling, he felt that his friend was a much better story teller than himself.
It was early in the evening two days after the ceremony for the Summer Solstice when Jonathon decided to pass on what had happened. Most of the people were sitting around the newly lit fire waiting for the barbecue food to be brought out; this had become quite an event at least twice a week during the summer time.
Jonathon looked at those around him and began his story.
"As you know, when we left here before; we were going north to see what was there. In many places there was nothing left. Farms were deserted and most of the stock had escaped and were now running wild. In all of the small towns along the way there was little left; some were just dying of neglect and others had been raided by people trying to find food and things. Most of the time we tried to avoid the towns or villages unless we needed something."
Jonathon paused to catch his breath and think things out as they had happened.
"About ten days ride from here we came across a small town; the people had made a strong barricade around the town and there were high watch towers out in the fields where they had planted crops and had cattle grazing. We didn't try to approach them, it didn't look too friendly; Silas led us around the outskirts and then on northward."
Jonathon paused for breath once again before continuing.
"We went north for another two days but saw no one else so Silas said we should come back here where he felt safer and we would all be among people we now thought of as friends. We travelled back on a different track; when we were just about two days away, Silas said he felt there was danger around us. To this end he sent Running Horse and I up onto the ridge top to keep watch ahead; the others continued through the valley which was fairly open and bordered only on one side by trees."
Again another pause as those around Jonathon could see him struggling with the memory.
"When the attack started we never even saw them; they had concealed themselves in the trees and were waiting for us. When they opened fire with military weapons; Silas, Walks-Slow and two of the other boys were hit. Running Horse and I were caught in shock and it took us some seconds to work out what had happened. We turned our horse downhill and went to help the few who were trying to escape. Silas was getting back onto his feet but it was easy to see he was bleeding. He ran to get Walks-Slow and, as he put him on a horse, was hit again; the other boys never stood a chance. When the Attackers thought they had killed everyone; they came out of the trees on motor bikes and quads; they were yelling and whistling but they had not known how strong Silas was. Silas got back onto his feet as we got to him; he told us to get Walks-Slow away and turned to face the oncoming men; he had his rifle in one hand and his large knife in the other; his arm and leg were bleeding."
Everyone could see the strain of telling the story of the ambush on Jonathon's face.
"I told Running Horse to take the horse with Walks-Slow and get back up on the ridge, I wanted to stay and help Silas. At this time Silas was kneeling down and taking aim at the men coming after us. When I knelt beside him he told me to go back about twenty yards while he held them here; when I was there I was to start firing and he would come back to join me; when he got there I was to go back again and do the same until we made it back up the ridge where we would have the advantage. I did as he said and we slowly made our way up to the ridge top; just before Silas made it he was hit again in the chest and fell but got back up; it was then they hit him in the stomach. Running Horse had joined in shooting at the men so I ran down and helped Silas to get to the top. The men seemed to think they had done enough; they had lost some men and did not want to climb right to the top with no cover; their bikes could not get up as it was too steep for them; they turned and ran away back to the trees."
It was not hard for Jonathon to see the shock in the eyes of the listeners; a badly wounded man and two young boys had fought off an attack by well armed men with many times their numbers; it was quite a feat. Jonathon continued.
"When they finally took off on their bikes and quads, Running Horse and I tried to bandage Silas and Walks-Slow as best we could; I knew we were only a few days from here and so we made a travois and came here."
There was silence around the fire as everyone let the story sink in; if this had happened so close then they could also be in danger from this large gang of raiders. As the food began to arrive, Liam Senior looked at those around him.
"We have to make plans in case they try to attack any of us, either here or over at the farm, I think it's time to have set guard rotas. I didn't think of it before but we will have to go in search of some hand held radios so we can stay in contact with each other and to have time to send out a warning if they show themselves."
All those around the fire nodded in agreement; it appeared their time of peace may have come to an end now that others were starting to raid around the country.
The next two weeks were filled with long days of hard work. The two Kelly's along with Fenton; spent hours mapping and then building, with the help of the small digger; a well defined track through the trees to carry quads so that in an emergency, the farm could quickly get reinforcements; the time had been cut down to a few minutes instead of the twenty it used to take by foot.
Joseph along with the four teens from Silas group, set about making solid platforms high in the trees; these were accessed by a knotted rope which could then be pulled up and left the person hidden from prying eyes but in a position to be a very effective sniping place.
It was towards the end of the second week when Felicia asked if she could set up a small first aid room at the farm. At first this came as a surprise to those on the council; it was not until Ravenhawk gave it a little thought, that he realised that Felicia had often not been seen around the clearing for some time.
As she explained that if those at the farm came under attack; which was more likely as they were more exposed than those at the clearing; then the three boys may need her skills if one was hurt.
To those listening it seemed a reasonable and sensible explanation; it would be five days more before they found out that Felicia and John had become very close; what the other two teens thought about it was never spoken of but all seemed happy to have around the farm.
Liam Sr. Left Fenton and Liam Jr. To finish the last of the quad trail; it had only a few more yards to go; he would need some time to go out and look for the hand held radios he wanted them all to have.
Ravenhawk insisted that he take someone with him; they did not want to lose a man of his calibre because he was alone; as more and more time passed the dangers also increased.
Liam agreed and went in search of Manuel; when he found the man in his beloved garden, Liam asked him to go along with him; Philippe was quick to also agree to go. Philippe's few days of jealousy over Liam Jr. had soon dissipated along with his black eye courtesy of Liam Jr. all those long months ago. Philippe was happy to work with his father in law and uncle.
It was decided that the three would leave early the next morning; all would be well armed and they would take only one of the SUV's for more rapid movement; it would have enough space for the three of them and as many radios as they could find.
While they were away, most of the others would continue work on the small damn they were building further up the ridge where the small stream came out of the ground and fell into a steep gully. By damning the face of the gully, they would be able to set up a small lake to draw their water from; it would also serve to generate power once they had worked out how to find a generator.
Once the lake was full, any extra water would be allowed to flow over the top to keep the stream viable and flowing; there would also be the leakage from the damn itself; being made from packed rocks and tree trunks, there were plenty of small gaps to take some of the pressure off the face of the damn but still allow the lake to form.
Fenton already had a small idea on how to do this but wanted to give it a little more thought first; there was still the long job of running a three inch pipe to the farm cabin from the lake once it was filled. The clearing would be serviced by a six inch pipe as there were far more cabins there to supply.
It was five days before Liam Sr., Manuel and Philippe returned with their SUV loaded to the limit. They had gone some distance to raid an electronics warehouse and came back with everything they would every need. Radios, batteries and chargers filled the back of the SUV; it had been a successful hunt; they were items left as no one else who may have seen them would think them of any use in the new world.
There now remained only one item left; since the second trip of Liam Sr. He had left one metal container untouched at the side of the clearing; he thought that now was a good time to open it and make use of what he had gathered so long ago.
At Liam Senior's request, Ravenhawk called for everyone to meet at the dining hall, even those over at the farm would need to be there; it was time for Liam Sr. to lay out his plan for the defence of their new home.
It was almost a surprise to see so many people in the dining hall; being so used to seeing people every day, Ravenhawk had not realised how many were now gathered in their small settlement; it was also noticeable the number of parings that were being formed.
Ravenhawk asked Liam Sr. to take over and explain what he had worked out.
"As you now all know; we may have trouble coming our way whether we like it or not. I know most of you are familiar with firearms and how to use them; it is even more essential now that you are all armed as well as we can make it. You have all seen the container in the clearing; there's a good reason why I kept it locked. On my second trip out for supplies, I raided the local National Guard armoury while my boys were out collecting other things. In that container is everything we will ever need to defend ourselves."
Liam Sr. paused to look at all the expectant faces of their small community.
"There is a lot of stuff in there that I need to train you on; anyone being careless could cause one of us to be hurt very badly. I want everyone to be armed from now on. Joseph Two Toes is the leader of our warriors; we have all agreed he should take charge out in the open areas. I will be here at the settlement as the organiser of defence if anyone comes this way. Joseph! Did you think over what we talked about last week?"
Joseph stood up from the table and looked around at the others as he answered Liam Sr.
"Yes Grandfather but I would like to add one more to my warriors?"
"You take those you need, who is it?"
"The Buffalo Soldier; he has lived with us and knows what we will be doing, he is agreeable to joining the ranks of the young warriors."
"Very good, Fenton you are also included with Joseph's warriors. Now Joseph what have you planned?"
"We are going to form a roving guard; we will use our horses or our legs, the machines are too noisy for what we must do. All of us will carry one of the new radios as you suggested; if we see trouble coming then we will let you know and then take our places up in the hidden platforms for the ambush."
"That sounds good; you have done well in thinking it all out; who are the other warriors?"
"There is myself and the Buffalo Soldier; then there are Running Horse, Jonathon Blood, Lazy Rider, Navajo, and Walks-Slow. We will work mainly in the trees or high up on the ridges; no one will see or hear us before we see them."
"Have you worked out a rota so you can all get rest when you need it?"
"We will travel two by two; the extra warrior will cover us for food, water or as an extra rifle if someone needs it."
"It looks like you have it all set; that's good I will leave you to watch over us. Now the next thing is that everyone must have some time to train with weapons; this will have to include the young ones. Everyone must be able to fight if needed. Next thing is an easily accessible armoury. This dining hall is the strongest building we have; unless someone brings a cannon then no one will ever get in here without a big fight. I tell you this because this dining hall is the best place we have for our armoury."
Liam waited for any comments but there were none so he continued.
"The weapons you have now can be kept in your cabins as a backup; from now on you will all have an M16's and a Glock pistol; for those who want them I have a good supply of combat knives but please everyone, remember that where you go the weapons must go to; your life; or the lives of others may depend on it."
"Now the last thing; Joseph, have you decided which trees the platforms are to go up in?"
"Yes and the platforms have already been built while you were away getting the radios."
"Already built? That was fast work."
Everyone could hear the laughter in Joseph's voice as he answered.
"It is not the first time that the people have used platforms to hide or to shoot invaders, Grandfather."
Liam Sr. chuckled at the reply; it was now time to take everyone outside and open the locked container; he only hoped he had thought of everything when he loaded it.
Everyone crowded around Liam Sr. as he unlocked the doors to the container; when they were open there was a loud round of ooh's and aah's as they all saw what was packed tightly inside. The inside of the container looked like the storehouse in a weapons factory; boxes and crates along with many, many smaller metal cans filled the inside to bursting. Liam Sr. looked at the faces around him and smiled; now the hard work started; it was time to unload his hidden haul.
It was to take the rest of the day to completely empty the large container of all its goods. After stacking everything neatly in the dining room, Liam Sr. set about distributing the weapons. Everyone was told to stay close and they would soon begin the first lessons on handling the military weapons just as soon as dinner was over.
This evening was the first time in a long while since everyone had been together in one place and was a chance for Liam and the other members of the new council to take time with any problems that may have arisen since the last gathering.
With the meal over and others going to help Samuel and Consuela clean the kitchen and all the dishes; it took no time at all before everyone was back in their seats and ready for their first lesson.
It was noticeable that even the youngest ones were watching intently as Liam Sr. set them to field stripping and cleaning the weapons; each piece or action was done one at a time so everyone could see and do as Liam showed them.
There was also the need to set up the light weight webbing for the pistols and extra ammunition magazines as well as the knife scabbard for those who wanted one; which was most of them.
Tired heads began to nod as the night wore on; Liam could see the people wilting; it was time to call it a night and let their brains absorb all the information they had been given. Liam was well aware that it would take more days and nights like this one before most of the people would be totally familiar with his little surprise gifts.
As most went off to their beds, Liam watched for those who were still wide awake and eager to learn more; he was not surprised to see Joseph and his little band of warriors waiting patiently for more; Liam also noticed that Philippe was also there along with Liam Jr. Close by his side.
It took only a few minutes for everyone else to head for their cabins and beds; with only the young warriors and Philippe to keep him company, Liam Sr. asked.
"So what do you need to know?"
"Grandfather!" Joseph began. "Buffalo Soldier has some suggestions to help us and I would like you to hear what he has to say."
"You mean Fenton, right?"
"We have named him Buffalo Soldier because he has honour like the old ones had in times past; they were great and honourable soldiers, unlike so many of the blue coats that came on our lands."
"Oh, so you think I am dishonourable because of the blue coats?" Liam let the faintest of smiles appear on his lips as he looked at the surprised face of Joseph.
"Certainly not Grandfather; we all hold you in very high esteem; were it not so we would not have used the title of Grandfather; you are not like the old time blue coats."
Liam almost laughed at the concerned look on the young man's face.
"I am only joking with you Joseph; if Fenton is now Buffalo Soldier then so be it. Now what do you have in mind, Buffalo Soldier?" Liam almost grinned at what looked like a blush on Fenton's dark skinned face.
"Well it's the placement of the tree platforms; there is the one positioned behind the farm cabin; that one is ideal as it gives good cover and a wider view of the valley below but, the other three spread out in the trees approaching the clearing seem staggered in such a way that they give little cover for the main clearing. There is also the fact they have only wooden branches as bases. If an enemy is shooting upwards; the person up there could be killed from below; also they have little contact with each other without giving away their position."
"That's very observant and quite correct; firstly I plan to cut up the container and use some of the panels for the platforms base; it's not the best but it will give more protection for anyone up there. Next, the position of the platforms is for them to be used not only as lookouts but as first strike units in any attack; they will also be sniper positions."
"How will this be done?" Joseph asked.
"You made the platform bases with thick branches, yes?"
"Yes, just as you asked."
"Good, now the metal panel will sit on top of the base, any bullets that are fired in their direction, will have to penetrate the branches first and then the panels will stop or slow them down enough that the person will not be harmed, or if he is it will only be very slight. Next there is the need for first strike; for this I have something very special in some of those boxes over there."
Liam Sr. pointed to five medium sized wooden boxes off to one side, there were also ten smaller metal boxes beside them.
"Those larger boxes hold ten claymore mines each; in the other ones are grenades, I am going to teach you how to use both of them for booby traps. Now for communications, we all now have a radio each; for those up in the platforms I will give you a set of signals so you don't have to use your voice to replay what is happening; I will also give you a list of the different channels we will use at different times if we have a battle start."
The boys all watched and listened carefully as Liam went through the items one by one; these boys knew they would be the first line of defence; they also knew they were the main ones that could not make a mistake or slacken off in their duties. Liam Sr. continued.
"Philippe, I have noticed you are a very good shot, I have something here that will be made just for you."
Liam went to an oblong metal case by the main door of the dining room; picking it up he carried it back to the table and placed it in front of Philippe.
"Open it up and see what you think?"
Philippe looked at the long case and then, with slightly shaking fingers began to open the metal clasps. Philippe could not hold back the gasp of surprise when the lid finally fell back to reveal the parts of a rifle inside; it looked to be unused and right out of the factory. Philippe looked up at Liam with a question on his face.
"That's a .308 sniper rifle; I'll show you all you need to know; now this." Liam lifted a cloth sack from the floor and placed it on the table in front of Philippe.
"This is a gilly suit; it's a special camouflage suit to wear when you do not want to be seen; I'm going to ask Joseph to teach you how to creep around unseen. I have a special place for you if we come under attack and being hidden away is part of that plan."
"If he goes so do I."
Liam Sr. was not surprised to hear Liam Jr. Speak up; he expected no less from his own grandson.
"Well you already have your own suit from when we used to go hunting; you haven't grown that much so it should still fit you. You will need to learn to be Philippe's spotter and to watch his back." Liam Sr. took note of the careful nod of his grandson's head.
The lateness of the hour was now finally catching up with those few left in the dining room; Liam looked at the tired faces and smiled.
"Ok guys, time for bed, we can discuss all this after you have had a good night's sleep, there's a lot to do and I have a feeling we don't have much time to get it done. Now all of you scoot and get some rest."
As they all filed out of the dining hall; Liam was surprised that each and every boy turned back and softly said one after the other.
"Thank you Grandfather, we will learn all your lessons well."
For the first time in a long while; Liam felt a tug at his heart strings; the boys were starting to become like his own little family; that they shared his need to protect what little they had here at the new settlement only made him more proud of them all.
The following days were filled with constant lessons on fire arms safety, field craft and the building of defensive positions. Joseph's little warrior band also had the added task of learning about explosives and setting booby traps. Liam Sr. seemed to be everywhere as he taught or reiterated a previous lesson.
Slowly they began to come together; even the little ones had rolls to fill as backup if the adults needed help with ammunition or anything else that could help in a fight.
Joseph also had his work cut out to teach Philippe the techniques needed for covert movement and concealment; something most of the native boys could do as a natural part of their lives but for Philippe it was a matter of non-stop effort. Although Liam Jr. had the advantage of his grandfather's early life lessons, he too found there was so much he did not know.
Joseph had a unique way of teaching Philippe and Liam. He would set them a target position to set up for a shoot; they would then have to make their way there together without being seen by any of the three boys set out by Joseph to catch them.
The results for the first five days would leave Philippe and Liam covered in multi coloured paint ball hits. There were many smiling and laughing faces in the dining hall every night when the two boys came in looking like living rainbows.
After eight days of being multi coloured mannequins, the two boys began to make real progress, much of it due to the pain of being hit as well as the paint that had to be cleaned off everything each night.
After fourteen days they actually made two runs without being hit or seen; Liam Sr. now told them it was time to learn about using the sniper rifle and where he wanted them both if they came under attack.
Two hours a day were set aside for the two boys to practice their field craft under the critical eyes of Joseph; they would then be handed over to Liam Sr. for weapons instruction. Liam Sr. had marked out the range from where he wanted the two boys if a situation arose. Liam Sr. now set about making Philippe into a perfect shooter.
The range he would be using was a fraction over 600 yards; to this end he set up a target range in the next valley over where Philippe could practice at that distance; normally it would have been quite a simple matter but Liam had a twist; all of the targets were down hill; not an easy position to shoot to accurately.
Four weeks had passed and everyone now knew their places and had the skills to protect the settlement against most types of opposition. Joseph's warriors were now on constant patrol; they worked in pairs and could be away for two or three days at a time. Contact by radio was scheduled for three times a day unless there was an emergency which would then be called in immediately. The radio watch at the clearing was kept by Felicia and Melissa and sometimes by Antonio if Felicia was away with John.
At the end of six weeks, everyone knew their places and what to do if the need arose. Philippe and Liam Jr. were shown their hide at the top of the ridge behind the clearing. While it was heavily wooded and difficult to see down into the clearing; Liam Sr. had picked one place that would work; it was one of only two small clear spaces amongst the tall trees. The heavy scrub also made it almost impossible to be able to see anything from below; it was here that Liam Sr. wanted them to set up their hide.
The days were getting noticeably shorter; autumn was not far away although the summer sun still seemed to have a lot of heat in it; perhaps they were in for an Indian summer.
There was now a noticeable increase in wild game; the two years since the virus had allowed the wild animals to begin the recovery from their almost extinction at the hands of the greedy land grabbers and multi-national companies who had little thought for the needs of anything apart from money and power.
Even though all the members of the Green Stone Clan set aside part of their day to practice everything Liam Sr. had taught them; they still had their normal work load to keep the community running smoothly. Gardens still needed tending, animals fed and watered. The two young foals were now almost big enough for Little Bear and Peter to ride once they had had some training; although it looked as though Little Bear had his own secret to getting on well with the sprightly foal.
Two months after the return of the injured and the death of Silas, they got their first alarm. Running Horse and Jonathon Blood had come across a large group of men who had camped some five miles away from their clearing settlement.
The two boys took cover in the sparse scrub and began their watch; the camp below showed it to be a temporary camp and the raucous behaviour of the men boded ill for anyone they came across. The two boys settled down to watch after they had reported their findings to base.