THE LAST SHAMAN
AND CREATOR WATCHED OVER ALL.
Lionel Western had dragged his injured body into the cover of the overhanging tree roots; his position was by no means safe. Although Lionel was a large man, around 6'6" tall and solidly built; there was a time when he neither looked nor was named as he was today.
The events of the past hour had shaken him to his core; the ambush of his gang had been the last thing he had expected. As he lay in hiding, he could hear the last few shots echo in the thick trees; he had been extremely lucky to have been thrown well clear at the start of the ambush.
Lionel shrank as far back into the hollowed bank as he could get his large frame; the sound of young men searching not far away alerted him to the fact he was not out of the woods yet.
He had been surprised by the youthful sound of some of the voices; the ambush and subsequent battle was like a military operation and yet, the voices he could occasionally hear sounded very young; too young to be military.
Lionel had not escaped totally unharmed; there was a deep gouge in his thigh and another open wound in his shoulder that even now felt like fire. Whatever the booby traps had been, they had been very effective; he was not looking forward to the next few days alone; he had to find a way out of this death trap.
Whatever was left of his gang was now far out of reach; now he had his own skin to worry about and by the sound of so many young voices, it was not the time to be moving around. Lionel scrunched his body as far back as he could get it; the overhanging roots now almost totally covered him from sight; it could be a long wait before he could make his way out of this mess.
Lionel gave little thought to the fifteen men he had sent on ahead; they were probably safe and by now well out of the area; it left Lionel with a little hope that he could escape from this place and rejoin them; he could then start to plan his revenge once they all joined up again.
Of those that had been with him in the woods, he had little doubt they were not around anymore; the battle had raged for over an hour and now, only the voices of mostly young men could be heard; it was not hard to guess who had won this round.
There was little else Lionel could do but lie back and stay hidden until the strangers had left the area close to where he was hidden; with luck he could be out of here by morning.
Lionel noticed that there was now a new chill in the air; the dampness of his location only added to the discomfort; winter was not far away and he would have to find a place to see it out.
The last two years since the virus had been difficult but not impossible; it had taken a strong will and an even stronger back to form the large gang and keep control of it; unlike his life before the virus.
As the sounds of the strangers began to fade to other parts of the woods, Lionel sighed and relaxed into his hiding place; his thoughts began to turn back to the time before the destruction; a time when Lionel Western had been known as Lemuel Weinstein; the tall but down trodden accountant who would jump at the slightest hint of danger.
The virus had not only seen the total destruction of all his onetime enemies, but had been the catalyst to creating Lionel Western; the tall, strong gang leader of fifty six tough and uncompromising men that he led to ravage and pillage everything that was left.
After thirty seven years of being the butt of everyone's ridicule; Lionel had finally risen to the top of the heap; mostly by sheer strength and fear but also by being smarter than anyone else around him.
As the day moved on to late afternoon; Lionel lay quietly and let his mind work back to those early days; it was one way of making time go faster and of ignoring the occasional sharp stab of pain from his two flesh wounds. Had it not been for the SUV in front of him, Lionel would have got the full force of the booby trap; as it was, the two wounds only went to make him madder than hell at the ease that they had been caught out.
As the first greyness of dusk settled over the surrounding woods; Lionel could hear the last sounds of the people finishing up the cleanup of the battle ground; the sounds of a heavy machine moving away alerted him to what they may have driven into; he sighed again and settled back as his stomach growled.
Lionel carefully reached into a pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out an opened packet of beef jerky; it would have to do until he could get out of this place and find shelter and to round up any men he had left. He still hoped the fifteen he had sent on ahead would have something for him; until then he would have to hide and wait until he could make his escape.
The night was cold and Lionel's sleep was broken and disturbed by the pain of his injuries and the memories of the previous day.
The most satisfying dream he had during the night, was that of his revenge on those who had made his younger life a total misery. From those first days of junior school right up until his senior year at high school; his life had been made up of insults and bullying by the same four boys. Boys, who were in the terms of the town; untouchable.
While Lionel had always been a tall, if gangly boy; it was that very difference that had caused the bulk of the bullying. Through every year of school he had been at least a head taller than everyone else; this made him a target and his tormentors were from the homes of the four best families.
Hank, whose father was the Commissioner of Police. Peter, whose father had held the mayoralty for over ten years. Roger, whose father had seemed to always be the District Attorney and finally Mathew; his father was also Lionel's boss as owner of the local bank in later years.
His own parents were poor Jewish immigrants from the Israeli wars; his father worked and ran a small shoe repair shop on the outskirts of the town in an old rented shop with living space above for the family of three.
Lionel, or as he was then known; Lemuel, had been brought up in the strict religious home by parents that saw little in the world to smile about. Their reply to the continuous bullying received by their son was to tell him to turn the other cheek and not upset the powerful members of the ruling families. Lemuel's size meant nothing to the four untouchables and only urged them to ally their own fears by continuing their personal attacks on him.
Lemuel's four years at college were the only respite but, on his return to his home he found that once again he was under their control.
Lemuel was blessed by an eidetic memory for numbers and so his entry into the local bank was natural; unfortunately Mathew now had the added benefit of his working position to hold over Lemuel. The next fifteen years were ones of low pay, nonexistent bonuses; even though everyone else received one at year's end; and long unpaid hours at night and on weekends or public holidays; Mathew made sure Lemuel never had any peace in his working life.
Lemuel suffered through it all; when his parents died tragically while on vacation alone and Lemuel stayed back to work during the break on more files and reports; Lemuel decided it was time to take back his life.
While Mathew thought he was smart for keeping Lemuel as not much more than a slave to his whims; Lemuel had used his hidden talent with numbers to make a big difference in his life. Although all his equipment at the bank was always the oldest and most used; over the years his private equipment was top of the line as well as being hidden in the basement of his home.
That had been his first move. Through judicious use of hidden bank funds and after only three years at the bank; he had purchased; through a dummy company the ownership of the small store. For the last ten years, his own family had been paying rent into their son's account that was now held in Switzerland.
Mathews was soon to take over from his father and it was then Lemuel came into his own. Mathew had now been so used to having Lemuel at his beck and call that he very rarely looked at the reams of papers and thick files he passed onto his slave in the office.
Lemuel never refused the heavy work load or the lack of vacation time; his numerical mind soon had all the information it needed. In the fifteen years at the bank; no one had a clue he was now a multi millionaire; if it was ever found out then it would all fall on Mathew's head. Lemuel had made sure he could not be called to account on any part of the millions that had disappeared over the years.
Lemuel now owned the small store although everyone still thought he was paying rent; which on paper he was. One of his shell companies also owned a large hunting lodge three hours away in the mountains. Four hours by road at the coast there was another shell company that owned a 45' power boat with a beach front cottage.
Everyone in the town had always watched Lemuel walk around; to them he had never owned or made use of a vehicle. They would have been surprised to learn that, in the next town over he had both a large new SUV and a new Harley Davidson parked in a private garage warehouse.
When he wanted to get to his vehicles; Lemuel would take a local bus to the town as though he was going shopping for the day.
Finally the day arrived for his ultimate revenge; through some judicious emails from another of his shell companies; he reported to the FBI about the corruption of the public offices and the bank. On the day the Federal Police arrived to investigate; Lemuel used his SUV in the town for the first time; to the locals it was just one more black Government SUV.
Lemuel had made his plans with infinite detail; within one hour he had all his targets but one, only the eldest son of Mathew was left to take. Unfortunately for Lemuel, the young ten year old son of Mathew was not alone; his four year old brother was walking with him when Lemuel pulled to a halt beside the pair.
Lemuel did not hesitate; with a speed that belied his great size; Lemuel grabbed both boys and was back in the SUV before anyone even took notice.
The SUV sped out of town without notice; once far enough away, Lemuel stopped and made sure all five boys were secure; he had a three hour drive and did not need to be disturbed by five crying boys. The only faint feeling of guilt was for having to take the young four year old as well but that soon passed as he thought of his time ahead; his revenge for all the years of stress and pain was soon to be repaid in full.
Lionel finally fell asleep in the cold night air of approaching winter to the welcome thought of the destruction he had brought to his four boyhood tormentors; they had all lost their reputations, their wealth and their eldest heirs; all in one day. Lionel drifted off to sleep; his two flesh wounds bound as best he could.
The morning would bring him a chance to escape and start over again; he was determined to return one day and seek his revenge for what had happened.
Ravenhawk awoke to a very chilly morning; winter was now as close as it could be; next week he would have to perform the ceremony for winter but, for now he had the court for the captives. The court was to be held at midmorning; everyone was to be there as they were all entitled to have their say as part of the clan.
During breakfast it was a little more silent than usual; only the youngest ones seemed to have no worries or cares as they chatted and played.
It had been decided to find something for the young ones to do away from the court; while the small ones were highly valued they did not have to see this part when they were so young; Antonio had come up with the idea of sending the little ones out to collect all the used brass cartridge cases; it would keep them busy for some time.
Finally it was time for the court to begin; Ravenhawk got the young ones together and asked them to go out and collect all the brass; he used the pretext of the brass being valuable and needed back in the camp; the young ones jumped at the chance of being useful and immediately ran out into the woods to look for brass.
When the youngsters had all gone their seperate ways; the five gang members were brought out of the container. They had been kept tied up during the night and no one saw the need to feed or water them until after the court rulings; to most present there was little doubt as to what they deserved for their attack.
Little Bear had been wandering around for nearly an hour; his bag was more than half full of the brass cases. He had come to the place where the booby traps had been set off; just as he began to bend down to start collecting; he heard five single shots some little distance away.
Little Bear looked around and then went back to his collecting; he was not that naive that he did not know what those five shots meant but he would wait until they were all called back; he went back to collecting the brass cases as the woods around him returned to their normal sounds.
Lionel awoke to the brightness of midmorning; his wounds had become stiff and the soreness had forced him to open his eyes. Eating the last of his jerky, he set about trying to get some stiffness out of his wounded leg and arm; as he felt ready to move, he suddenly heard the unmistakeable sound of five single shots in the still morning air; it was time to get moving.
Lionel worked his way out from under the bank and thick tree roots; as he stood up and moved to the edge of the track; he suddenly became aware of a small figure standing in the middle of the track.
There was a brief moment of shock and then both figures suddenly started as they recognised each other from long ago. For Little Bear it was like a bright light had suddenly been switched on in his head; fear rushed through his body as the ogre from the past stood up and looked right at him.
Long hidden memories suddenly flooded Little Bear's head as the giant from the past filled his vision; everything he had long forgotten now rushed back and almost sent him to his knees; fear, horror and dismay hit him all at the same time; Little Bear gasped at the recognition and the memories.
In that split second of recognition, Little Bear was back on the street with his older brother, Madison; they had been walking home when the black SUV had pulled up beside them; it was less than a few seconds and the two boys were pushed into the SUV and carried away from everything they knew by this same ogre.
The next four days had been filled with a horror that Little Bear; then called Cameron; could never reconcile in his own mind. Had it not been for his ten year old brother Madison, or Maddy as Little Bear had called him; then he would never have escaped.
Those four days were one horror after another; on the first day, the ogre had taken one of the boys to another room while the other boys were left tied up in the main room; from the yells of pain and cries for help; the four left in the room knew their friend was being tortured or worse.
The cries and pleas went on late into the night; in the morning the boy had been dragged past them bleeding and almost unconscious. The large ogre of a man took the boy outside and, a few minutes later; the sound of a single shot was heard by the boys; their friend was never seen or heard of again.
During the day the boys were subjected to threats and occasionally a hit as the ogre told them what was going to happen to them and why; it was a form of torture they had never come across; the fact they had no idea who this man was only made it tougher for them to feel any empathy for him.
The next day and night was a copy of the first; the same screams and pain filled cries filled the cabin as the second boy was abused by the ogre of a man. Little Bear could now remember every scream and cry as he looked at the wounded man now standing in front of him.
It was the third night that his brother managed to free little Cameron even though he could not free himself; Little Bear remembered the last words he had heard from his older brother.
"Cammy, I want you to run away as fast as you can; in the morning run towards the sun and in the afternoon run away from it. Don't stop for anything just keep running."
When Little Cameron shook his head and said he didn't want to leave without Maddy; the older boy told him.
"You have to get away; run like I said and one day I will find you; don't trust anyone just keep running; I promise I will find you one day."
With tears almost blinding him, little Cameron left his brother and began to run as though all the ghosts in every story he had ever heard were after him. For day after day he had run; even when his small legs got tired he still forced himself forward. As his big brother had told him; Cameron followed his words and ran towards the sun in the morning and away from it in the afternoon.
Cameron had no idea how far he had gone or where he was; all he understood was to keep running until his big brother found him.
On his second day he had got sick; with the last of his strength he found a place high up in a tree to sleep; it was two days later when he opened his eyes; his small belly was now hungry and he was tired, hungry, thirsty and very dirty but he knew he had to run some more if he wanted to find his brother.
The events of the past faded as he ran; the only thing he could remember of any certainty was waking up to the calm face of his Popa Raven; everything else before then had been blanked out of his young mind.
Now, once again; here stood the ogre of the man; what was different this time was that Cameron was the son of Ravenhawk; everyone knew he was a little warrior with the strength and power of the bear. Little Bear slid his knife out of his belt and got ready for battle.
For Lionel it was just as much a shock; while the boy was older and the three scars on his face gave him a tougher look than the little four or five year old he remembered; there was no mistaking who the little boy was. The same platinum blonde hair, sparkling sapphire blue eyes and slender build; Lionel felt a shudder of surprise run through his body.
How on earth had a little four or five year old boy lived for two years and been able to get more than one hundred and fifty miles from where he had held him captive with his older brother?
For Lionel it was as though it had just been yesterday; the first three boys had been subjected to abuse that even Lionel did not think he was capable of. After he had killed the third boy something inside him seemed to break; he still fully intended that the last boy, Madison; would never return home but for some unknown reason; Lionel decided to keep him around for a while.
It did not mean the boy was spared from his bed or the times he felt his frustrations growing, but at least he was company over the next year while he started to build his gang.
Both of them had got ill from the virus but recovered; young Madison had fought him every inch of the way; even when he was passed onto some other man; the boy would still fight with everything he had; it only went to make the downfall of the family even more meaningful.
Just over a year ago, Lionel had come across another younger boy; he had taken him and given Madison to his men to play with; he never found out what had happened to the boy but he was told the boy had fought them once too often and they had beaten him to a pulp and left his body in an empty farm house with his breathing almost undetected; they assumed he would die from his injuries.
Lionel turned back to the little boy in front of him; he had to smile at the little fellow, afraid or not the little boy looked ready to fight as he stood with a knife in one hand and his small legs spread for balance. Lionel thought about pulling his pistol and ending the boys life quickly, suddenly he got an idea.
If this boy was from the camp they had attacked, then he had a good bargaining tool to help get him away scot-free; Lionel drew his own knife and got ready to jump the little guy.
As Little Bear saw the man draw his knife; he caught sight of something move behind the huge man; what he saw made him pause and stare with disbelief; for Lionel it was as though a ghost had walked over his body as he heard the unmistakeable sound of a double click from behind him.
Trying to keep one eye on the little boy, Lionel glanced over his shoulder; suddenly his world came crashing down around him; standing behind him with a sawn off shot gun was the older version of the boy in front of him. Lionel now found himself in a dilemma; how had a badly injured boy not much into his teens, have made it here.
There was no mistake in Lionel's mind; Madison had somehow made it and tracked him down; even with the scarred lip, broken nose and single missing tooth; there was no denying that the platinum blonde with the sapphire eyes was the older brother.
Madison never said a word; after a quick glance and small smile at his little brother; Madison pulled both triggers; Lionel did not even have a chance to cry out as he was nearly cut in half by the double blast of shot. For his part, Little Bear could only mumble out a few words over and over again.
Ravenhawk and Joseph had gone out looking for Little Bear; after the dispatch of the five captives whom were even now being placed in an unmarked grave with their fellow attackers.
At the sound of the two shots; both teens ran towards where they had heard them come from; rifles at the ready, they broke through the trees to see Little Bear crouched in the middle of the main track with his knife ready in his small hand.
Facing Little Bear was an older version of himself; the open barrels of a sawn off shot gun were held in the older boys hands; between the two boys was the dead body of a large and tall man; that the man had got both barrels was easy to see by the mess of blood and guts lying around him.
Ravenhawk could hear Little Bear mumbling the same words over and over again; as he got closer he could hear the words more clearly.
"Maddy you found me; you found me; you found me just like you promised."
Ravenhawk lowered his rifle and looked at the older boy; there was no mistaking that he was Little Bear's brother, even with his old injuries the boy was like another pea in the pod with Little Bear.
Ravenhawk watched as Little Bear gave a small yelp and, with tears rolling unhindered down his cheeks; he ran and jumped into his long lost brothers waiting arms; the only sound that could be heard in the stillness of the woods was the sobbing of a little boy and the sniffles of the older one. Finally, within all the horror of the times; a small part of a family had been reunited.
Ravenhawk and Joseph stood watching the tableau as the two brothers fell to their knees held tightly in each other's arms; two years of agony and pain was being let go. The memories of the two boys would be with them for the rest of their lives, but now they had each other and with renewed strength they would be able to face it together.
The final return to the clearing by the four had its effect on all the others; while it should have been a sombre moment after the death of the five captives; the first sight and realisation of who the new stranger was suddenly became the cause and need for a celebration. All thoughts of the events of earlier were pushed aside as they watched Little Bear refuse to let go of his older brother's hand.
Ravenhawk looked around the clearing at those who made up the new clan; there was little doubt that there was still a long way to go before all of them were truly safe in this new world but he knew it would happen over time. The arrival of Little Bear's brother had seemed to inject a feeling of hope in the new community.
Ravenhawk sighed, it would all come together in its own time; all he could hope for now was to follow those of the old ways that he knew and help to watch over the new clan and its people.
They now had a good start; a new home that all were determined to defend if need be and now, they had a new hope with the rejoining of brothers.
During the following feasting, both Madison and Little Bear were asked to tell their stories; now that Little Bear had got his memory of earlier times back; they asked if he wanted to be called Cameron again; his reply did not really surprise them.
"I am Little Bear, son of Ravenhawk; Medicine Elder of the Green Stone Clan and this is my brother Maddy, we are of the people and of the Clan."
Ravenhawk could only smile at how much the little guy had grown up; for someone who was now only just shy of seven years old; his head and spirit were far older; Ravenhawk took Little Bear in his arms and hugged him tightly; if the others had the same strength as the little guy; then all would be good in the future.
It was now time to tell Madison of their new life; there was little doubt that he would stay and join them; the tears from both Madison and Little Bear told their own story; there was a future and they were going to be a part of it.