Tom looked at Jake. He saw that Jake and the boys were looking back and forth at Sean, Marian and Robbie with a little surprise, but they didn't seem overly surprised about what Sean had said when they looked his way, at least not as much as Tom and Terry were. Tom looked to Jake with a question on his face.
"I didn't know until a short time ago, Tom. This was part of the reason we came here. Dad talked to us about it after everything happened and proved to us that there really is magic, by healing Trevor once he was home from the hospital. He suggested we all come out for a visit. I would have told you, but I wanted to be able to prove it to you as well."
"I need a drink."
Terry nodded in agreement. Robbie stood up as he and the other two mages pulled the glow back into themselves. Sean went over to a cabinet and brought some glasses and liquor bottle.
"Wait a moment, Sean, I'll be right back."
Robbie hurried outside to the jeep and reached inside. When he returned to the house, he had a bottle in his hand.
"I picked this when I was in Scotland. It's a real good single malt whiskey called Edradour; it's from a small distillery in Pitlochry in Scotland. I had a feeling it might be good to bring this tonight."
"Works for me, make it a double."
Robbie nodded and after he opened the bottle, he poured it into the glasses of those who wanted some. Tom downed his pretty quickly, while Terry sipped hers a little slower. Tom held his glass out to Robbie, who filled it again. He sipped at the drink now as he looked around.
"Okay, you're right, Robbie; that hits the spot, thanks. Now, Jake, how come you never said anything about your dad being a... uh... mag... or whatever?"
"Like I said, Tom, I didn't know about this until right after Trevor came home after being shot by that asshole. Dad healed Trevor to show us what he can do. After we got over our shock, well, me getting over the shock mostly; the boys already knew a little something about magic, as they had seen it in action."
Tom and Terry both looked at the boys with surprise; all four nodded to them.
"Where did they see magic?"
"Well, Terry, think back over the last six months. Has anything happened that was a little... unusual?"
Terry's brow furrowed as she thought about it, then she and Tom looked at each other for help. After a few moments her eyes opened wide as she looked at Zach and Trevor. Jake caught her look and nodded as she looked back at him.
"Yeah, you're right, Terry, if your look at Zach is any indication. The first time that you can think about something unusual happening is when Zach was badly beaten. Trevor inadvertently healed him. He did not know what he was doing, but because of his love for Zach, he poured that love into Zach and he healed Zach, which also helped him to heal sooner than someone who had been so badly beaten could normally heal. It is very possible that, had Trevor not done what he did, that Zach could have died. Jared was there and he saw both of the boys glow during the healing like the others here are doing tonight, but no one else saw it."
"So Trevor healed Zach, but you said that was the first time that I might know about it. Were there other times?"
"Yes, the very first time was during that backpack trip. Remember the cougar, Tom?"
"Yeah... yeah, now that I'm thinking about it, that was kind of weird, the way that cat just stopped, right as he looked like he was ready to pounce, and took off."
"That was Trevor again without knowing that he was doing it. The other time that you might have known about was Jeremy. Trevor healed Jeremy when he was hurt. By that time Jared had told the other boys about what he saw during Zach's healing and they had talked about it, but he didn't know how to make it happen. They shared this with Jeremy when he was in the hospital, and Trevor was able to call up the power and heal Jeremy. I remember thinking I saw something, a light or something, over by the boys when we were there visiting, but I brushed it off as a trick of the sunlight from the window, but the boys have told me that Trevor did give off a glow, like you just saw everyone else glowing just now, while he was healing Jeremy and Zach."
"Whoah! That is a lot to take in, Jake. I mean, this is way out there. I mean, I have just seen something, I don't know what exactly, but something, and I see what you said about Zach, he really did look pretty bad, but seemed to bounce back very quickly, and I figured it was because he was young, and you know that kids bend more often than break, so that's how I looked at it, but... "
"I understand, but there is more also that you need to know about all of it. There was also another time that Trevor helped someone without meaning to."
Tom thought for a few minutes and then looked up at Jake.
"I think I know, that kid sharing Zach's room, Tim, I think it was."
"Right. Trevor healed him also. I overheard the docs talking outside the room when we went back to visit him, and they were surprised, as they were about ready to write the kid off. Suddenly he went into remission of his leukemia, with no explanation. But there is more, Dad, could you?"
"Of course, son. Tom and Terry. As I have said, and you have seen and heard, magic is real. It is kept well hidden for various reasons, mostly safety issues, but it is there just the same. There are not large numbers of us, but there are enough to help as we can. We do what we can to help, but we cannot do everything. Some might ask that, if we can heal, why we all don't run around healing everybody all the time, and there are no easy answers. Yes, we could do that, but then everyone would know about us, and can you imagine some people's reactions? Granted there would be good reactions, but there would be bad reactions as well. And the government, can you imagine what they would do? So we keep it quiet, and do as much as we can without arousing suspicion. Any questions so far?"
"Uh, yeah, plenty, but I think we can wait."
"Okay, good, because there is more you need to know. We here in this room are of the White Spirit, some say Light Mages, meaning we use our powers to help people. There are also those who are of the Dark Spirit; they are our opposite. They use their powers to hurt and harm. We strive against them when we must, but we don't often come into direct contact against each other, because something like that can be hard to keep others from seeing, and it can get real messy. So they are around, and they do some pretty bad stuff from time to time, and we can't stop it all the time, because many times we find out about it after the fact. When we do find out and if there is something that we can do to help, we will. So there are the two types of mages. Each mage also has a guardian; we call ours a Guardian Angel. This guardian is someone who stands by the side of the mage to protect him or her. The other side uses the name Dark Angel or Dark Guardian. My guardian is Shayna. The guardian has certain abilities that help him do his job. I would ask the guardians here to show one of these powers now, if they would, please."
Shayna, James and Ginny stood up and stepped back a little. Shayna and Ginny reached to their sides, while Jim reached behind his back. There was a slight glow around their hands as they made the movement of drawing a weapon, and each of their hands were suddenly filled with a weapon. Shayna pulled out a cavalry saber, Jim pulled a spear with a long black iron blade and feathers and beads hanging off of it, and Ginny pulled out a basket hilted Scottish broadsword. All of the blades had a faint glow to them. After a few moments they returned them to wherever it was that they had pulled them out of.
"Sheeeeeiiiit! Okay, I think I need another drink."
"Does that mean that I will have something like that too, Dad?"
"Yes, Jake, we will talk later about it."
"You mean, Jake, you're one of... them?" Tom pointed at the guardians.
"Yes, Jake is Trevor's Guardian."
"Okay, that makes sense, in a weird way, which goes along with everything else."
"There is also something more. The guardians are nearly indestructible. They cannot be easily killed. Usually it takes either a powerful mage or the weapon of a Dark Angel. Likewise a weapon of our guardians can kill them. You cannot shoot them and expect them to die, but a fatal wound from another guardian's weapon will kill them."
"So you're saying that if someone opened up with a machine gun on one of these... guardians, they could shrug it off."
"Well, not exactly shrug it off. It will put them down, but they will not die by the bullets. They may actually look dead, if it is what would normally be a fatal wound, but they will heal up pretty fast and be ready to go quickly. While they are down like that, they are easy prey for the enemy."
"That's pretty useful, I guess."
"One problem with it is, if regular folks see it, they may believe the person is dead, and the guardian suddenly jumping up like nothing happened would cause a problem. Now Jake did not know about any of this until recently, like he said. I let him and the boys know about it because of what happened. When they were all attacked, Jake was shot, and he did actually die of a couple of gunshot wounds for a short time. He felt the shots hit him, but he could not understand what had happened when he woke up lying on Trevor's bed covered in blood until I explained it to him. Before he passed out from his wound, Trevor saw Jake fall, apparently dead."
"So Trevor has some kind of power, and Jake is supposed to guard him. I also understand that we may need to know about this because the boys know about it, but how will this affect us? Does this mean that Jake and his boys are moving back here or what?"
"Well, there is one other thing. Some mages are more powerful for different reasons. Some just have more power. I have more than many, and Trevor is pretty strong right now, but he has one more advantage that most do not have, and that includes me. He has what is called a Companion."
"He has a what?"
"A Companion. For a mage, a Companion adds to the mage's power, making him even more powerful than a normal mage. The bond between a White Spirit and the Companion is built with love. Trevor is such a person and... "
"It's Zach. Zach is his companion."
Sean looked at Terry and nodded.
"Yes. He and Zach are bonded. What they feel for each other is so strong that it cannot be broken. Because of Zach, Trevor has the potential to become one of the more powerful mages around, once he has been trained."
"So Trevor and Zach are two spirits?"
"Yes, Robbie, they are two spirits. All of the boys are in fact two spirits."
"Wha... what's two spirits mean?"
"It has meaning to us, meaning they have two spirits residing in them, a male spirit and a female spirit. Many such people are honored among our people. Nowadays it is what our people use to mean that they are gay, and unlike many people and cultures, they are not looked down upon among us, but are honored instead. We respect them."
"So because the two boys care for each other, Trevor is more powerful. What about Zach?"
"He has little real power of his own, other than making Trevor more powerful."
"Can he be hurt by this power of Trevor's?"
"No, not directly. He could be a target for any Dark Spirit Mage who becomes Trevor's enemy, but he will not be hurt by Trevor's power. In fact, as they grow closer he will benefit from being Trevor's companion. There will be great love between them and the bond will strengthen both of them. Anyone who became part of their family will feel this same love, and it will comfort and strengthen them as well."
"I don't know what to think about this. It sounds dangerous for Trevor and Zach both. I don't want anything to happen to him because he doesn't have a way to protect himself."
"There is some danger, yes, but he will receive all the training that he needs, and with Trevor at his side, he will be very well protected, I promise you."
"This is all so scary. You said that they are bonded."
"Yes, their love for each other is so powerful that they will be together until they die. There is a drawback to that bond, however. The drawback is that if one dies, the one left behind usually does not live long, because of the intense grief."
"Damn. If we lose one, we lose both. Is there any way to separate this bond."
"Yes, but at this point, both could be lost, and the bond once formed is nearly unbreakable. However, rarely does a bonded pair die so easily, especially a bonded companion and mage. Such a pair almost always dies of old age, and in our case that means very old age."
"What do you mean?"
"Another part of being who we are, we live a very long time. For instance I was born just a few years after The Battle of the Little Big Horn, in the 1880's near here. I met Shayna in the 1930's. My father was a Scottish soldier during the American Revolution in the late 1700's, who later moved out West and met my mother and they had me. So we are both pretty old, we just don't look it. A mage and his guardian have extended lives, and if he has a companion, the companion also lives a long life."
"Whoo! This is a lot to take in."
"I know. There is more to discuss, but I think that is enough for the night."
Marian stood up, followed by the others.
"I agree. Sean, thank you for asking us to be here for this; it is good to meet another one of our kind. The more there are of the White Spirit, the better the world will be. Good night, all. It was very nice to meet all of you."
She went over to Terry and hugged her.
"Terry, as a mother I understand your fears. When I realized that Robbie would be a mage, I worried and still do. Sean knew by the time he went in the Navy that Jake would be a guardian; we always thought that he would be Robbie's guardian as they were so close, but Jake moved away and Robbie did not find his guardian until later. Your fears are not without reason, but with Trevor and Jake around him, especially after they have been trained, Zach will be well protected. He will learn things too."
"Thank you, Marian."
The Brave Horses said their good nights as they left. Once they were gone, everyone sat down again.
"I don't know what to think. This is so out there, I just...."
"Yeah, buddy, I know. It shocked the shit out of me when I was told of it."
"I think I need to sleep on this."
"Fair enough, good night. Boys, it's time you were in bed too."
"Okay, night, Dad."
The boys made their rounds and said good night to the adults before they went to their room. Once in their room, they started talking as they stripped down and climbed into bed.
"Can you believe the swords and stuff?"
"Yeah, that was pretty cool, the way they pulled them out of thin air. That means Jake will be able to do that too, won't it."
"Yeah I guess. I wonder what kind his sword will be. The one that Uncle Robbie's girlfriend had looked pretty neat."
"Yeah, I think I liked that one best. Did you notice that when they pulled them out, they all looked kinda powerful, strong, y'know, like a superhero or something?"
"Yeah, that was cool. Anyway, night, guys, see ya in the morning."
Trevor and Zach climbed into bed and cuddled up close facing each other. They kissed and Zach kept his face close so they talk quietly.
"Tigger, you heard what Grandfather said."
"Yeah, that we are going to be together for a long time."
"I guess I don't need to get jealous anymore."
"No, never. You're everything I need."
"The other part was kinda scary, ya know, about if one of us... uh, dies, then the other of us probably will too."
"Yeah, that makes me a little worried. I hope nothing happens to either of us. I promise that I'm going to learn everything I can to keep you safe; besides we have Jake. I can't see much of anything getting past him."
"Yeah, me neither. And I'm going to learn everything I can to help protect you too. I know Jake will teach me."
"Yeah, me too. I think we're going to have to really learn martial arts now. What do you think your mom and dad will say about all of this?"
"I don't know; they seemed kinda freaked. Do you think they might not want me around you? My mom looked scared after Grandfather said that I could be hurt by the others."
"I won't let anyone hurt you, I promise. We'll be okay. I love you too much to let you get hurt."
"Me, too. I love you too, forever. Night, Tigger."
The two boys kissed once more and then snuggled close and closed their eyes.
Back in the living room, Jake was sitting with his mom and dad, Tom and Terry having just left for their room.
"So Mom, I'm going to be able to do like you do and pull a sword out of thin air?"
"Yep. But first you have to have a sword, and you and Trevor, and in this case Zachary, all have to go through a special ceremony. Once that is done, you will be able to do that. Of course, back when people could carry swords all the time, we didn't have to hide them like this, but we'd be getting a lot of strange looks from people if we walked around with swords, or in the case of James a spear, in our hands or hanging off our belt. So the power to do this has been incorporated into the ceremony that bonds the mage and guardian together."
"So how do I find a sword to use or whatever? Do I get to pick it or is it picked for me... I mean, do I get a choice?"
"Yes, you get to choose something you might like, but the best weapons are ones that are old, or handed down in a family. My saber is from Sean's family; it was his father's. His father had carried it during the Revolutionary War; he was in the Cavalry and continued to carry it when the war was over. After the war he came out West and met your grandmother. When Sean and I went through our ceremony, he gave that saber to me, to protect Sean."
"So where can I find the type of sword that I want to use, Dad?"
"Wait here, son. I'll be right back."
Sean got up and left the room. He returned a few minutes later with what looked like a long thin embroidered silk bag. He handed the bag to Jake and rejoined Shayna on the couch. Jake felt the slender shape inside and his eyes lit up as he looked at the bag. The bag looked old and very finely made. He reverently untied the tassels and slid the now open end of the bag down, exposing the long grip of a katana. It was obvious that it was finely made, if the grip was any indication. He put his hand around the grip and carefully slid the rest of the bag off of the sword, exposing it. He grasped the scabbard just under the hilt and pushed against the hilt with his thumb to loosen the sword, and then he drew it fully from the scabbard. He looked it over carefully. The workmanship was superb. Far above any that he had seen before. He looked at his parents.
"Where did you get this, Dad?"
"I got it with the help of a friend of mine, many years ago. It is about 350 years old, and is from 17th Century Japan. It is supposed to have been owned by a samurai warlord; my friend could not tell me who it was, but I believe him when he says that it dates back to that period of time."
"Wow. This is exactly the kind I would want. I've always liked the katana as you know."
"Yes, I do know. That is why I got that: when I realized that you had the potential to be a guardian and I knew that you owned some, I started looking for an appropriate one."
"It must have cost a lot."
"Yes, but for what you will need it for, it was cheap to me. Use it well."
"Thank you very much. I think I'm going to check on the boys and go to bed. See you in the morning."
"Sleep well, son."
Jake re-sheathed the sword and put back into its bag and tied it back up. He made his way to the boys' room, and slowly opened the door and looked in on them. He went to each bed and gently kissed each boy on the head before he went to his room. He put the sword on the dresser in his room, undressed and slipped into bed.
Breakfast the next morning was a quiet affair. Tom and Terry were still thinking about what they had learned the night before. Everyone else sensed this and stayed silent as well. When breakfast was done, Tom turned to Sean.
"Sean, is it okay if Terry and I take a couple of horses out for a little while?"
"Of course you can. Do you want any help saddling the horses?"
"Yeah, Jake, do you mind giving us a hand?"
"Not at all. Whenever you're ready."
"Now works for us."
Jake nodded and got up from the table. He led them out to the stables. There was no discussion between them, as Jake respected their wish for silence. While Tom saddled a horse, Jake got a horse for Terry saddled up. Once everything was done, he helped Terry get mounted and gave her leg a gentle squeeze, getting a smile in return as she put her hand over his and squeezed it. Tom gave Jake a wave of thanks as the two rode out. He watched as they rode out of sight before he turned to go back into the house. When he got there, he was surrounded by four young anxious faces. Jake shrugged and shook his head.
"I don't know, guys, they just need to think about everything for awhile. It'll be fine, trust me. I know Tom. That was a lot to learn about last night. Remember how you guys felt when you saw what Trevor did when he healed, and of course last night meeting more like him. They probably won't be long. Let's go outside and get some work done around the place."
"Sure, Uncle Jake."
"Okay, go get changed and meet me back here."
The boys went back to their room to change into some work clothes and met Jake back in the kitchen. They followed him outside. Jake led them to the stables and directed them in mucking out the stalls, and fed some grain and hay to the horses. They worked steadily for most of the morning. As lunch approached, Jake heard Jared yell to him.
"Uncle Jake, they're back."
Jake came out of the tack room where he had been cleaning saddles and tack as Jared ran in.
"Dad and Mom are back."
Jake came out of the stables, followed by the other boys, who came from various points around the stables. As Tom and Terry rode in, their two boys carefully went up to them and took a hold of the reins near the bit of the horses as the two adults dismounted. Tom ruffled Jared's hair as he handed the reins over to him. Terry put an arm around Zach and gave him a quick kiss on his cheek as she handed him her reins. The boys, followed by their boyfriends, led the horses back into the stables and started unsaddling them and brushing them down. The two adults stood together holding hands as they watched the boys for a few moments. They heard Jake walking up behind and they turned and looked at him smiling.
"Hey, Jake, thanks for keeping the boys busy this morning. We're not entirely clear on all this, but I guess we need to talk to your dad some more."
"Okay, I'll get Dad. I'll ask Mom to make a pot of coffee and we can sit down and talk. Boys, after you finish with the horses, go on back to what you were doing and we'll join you in a little while."
"Don't have her go to any trouble. How about just some ice tea? I know she always has some made."
"Sure, good idea. I'll let her know."
The boys waved and went to do the chores they were tasked with. Tom and Terry nodded to Jake, and after they watched the boys for a few more moments, they turned to follow Jake back into the house. When they entered the kitchen, Jake went to his mom and said something to her, getting a nod from her before he motioned for the other two to follow him, and he led them to his father's office. Sean was waiting for them. The room had a large wooden desk positioned in front of some large windows that looked east over his land. One of the walls had bookshelves. There was a couch and a couple of chairs that surrounded a low table. Around the room was some Indian artwork and other Indian items, a bow and arrows, dance sticks, gourd rattles, etc., hanging on the walls. Shayna entered the room right behind them, carrying a tray with a pitcher of ice tea. She set the tray down on the low table. Everyone helped themselves to a glass and got comfortable.
"Okay, Sean, last night you said there was more. We're ready to listen. We are worried about our boys, but we see this bond between them too, and we know that it would be cruel to separate the two boys, even if there wasn't all this magic sh... stuff associated with it."
"A fair answer. Like I said, they are bonded together, and the next step is to perform the ceremony that will do a few things for them. First it will strengthen the bond between Jake, Trevor and Zach. After the ceremony we, the others and I, can start training them, so that they will be as ready as they can be. This training will probably take most of the rest of the summer. So we really need the boys here for at least the next few weeks."
"Uh, Jake, you know that we have a business to run."
"Yeah, I know. I need to be here, but you don't have to be. This is very important for all of the boys' safety. You know that I will take good care of them. And I think we should keep all four here. The other boys can start learning some of what Zach will learn."
"What kind of things?"
"I was thinking that they need to improve their martial arts. We need to give them every advantage. I... uh... also was thinking of teaching them to shoot. You never know what might happen if we aren't home and they know where our protection guns are. They might as well know how to handle them safely and use them if necessary."
"I understand. You and I have discussed this before, and we always had planned on teaching the boys this anyway. Out here would be a good place to learn. The martial arts we can continue once they are back home too."
"That was my thought. What do you think, Terry?"
"I'm still kind of scared about what might happen to any of those boys, and if Sean says that there could be some danger because of who Trevor is. Because of this danger, I would rather that the boys know what they need to protect themselves, so I'll go along with this. I am only reluctant because they are just boys after all, and they shouldn't have to face some unknown dangers at their age. They should just be kids."
"Yes, they should be able to be kids, and between all of us, we can be sure that they will get to be kids as much as possible. I know we can do that. I know you're scared about this, believe me, I'm scared myself, but I promise that I will do everything that I can to protect all of them."
"I know, as will I. So the next step is what?"
"The next thing is the ceremony for the three of them. I have told this to Jake and the boys, but you need to know it as well. Usually this ceremony is performed when the mage is a little older, in their late teens at least, but we need to get them trained now because when Jake was 'killed' and resurrected, that action put out a 'ripple', I guess you could call it, that went out to others of our kind. If any were relatively near, white spirit or dark spirit, they may have noticed it. I knew of it because of the connection to my son, but most of them that were that far away from the ripple would not. But it could have been noticed by any such person within many miles of the event. Some of them would want to investigate it and find out who just joined our fraternity, so to speak. If they are of the White Spirit, there would be no problem, but if they are of the Dark Spirit, I would hate to think what such a one would do. I would not put it past any of them to want to destroy a young, untrained white spirit mage if they got the chance. Their attitude would be that it would make one less for them to worry about later."
"That's unbelievable! They are really that bad?"
"Or worse, believe me. I have seen what some of them will do. Granted not all will do such a thing, but there are a number that would lose no sleep over killing anyone of any age, if they thought it would be of benefit to them. And the death of a young untrained White Spirit Mage would definitely be considered a benefit to them.
"God, I know there are people that evil out there, but a kid, that is just wrong."
"Yes, and that is why we oppose them whenever we can."
Tom and Terry held hands and looked at each other silently for a few moments. The others said nothing until they turned back to Sean and the others.
"Now that you have heard some more, are you both still on board with us."
"Yeah... uh, I don't see how we really have a choice. The boys need to be as safe as we can make them. If this is the only way, then we have to do everything we can to accomplish this. When would you do this ceremony?"
"I think this upcoming weekend we will do it. There will actually be two ceremonies. The first will be a sweat lodge on Saturday, and then on Sunday we will do the bonding ceremony. I know that you have a business to run, and Terry, I'm sure you need to get back to work, but can you at least stay until then?"
"Yeah, we will be here."
"Good, because it will be good for you to be involved as much as possible. I'm going to talk to Robbie and his parents; they will also be a part of the sweat lodge ceremony."
"So you said that they will gain some things after this uh, bonding ceremony. What kind of things?"
"Well, although I have never participated in a bonding ceremony where there is a companion, but I believe that one of things that will happen is that they will at the least be able to 'sense' each other. For instance, if one is in danger, the others will 'know' about it, at least in a general sense. Another thing that I have heard is that the companion and mage are a little more open with their affection for each other. It will eventually become obvious to others that they are 'together'."
"Oh, dear. That might be a problem."
"Yes, I had thought about that. It could cause problems in school. Now I don't mean they are going to be all over each other, like two sex starved lovers. When I mean obvious, it will be little things. Anyone around them may pick up on these things and in their case, if any of their friends have some problem with a two spirits like them, then it could be tough for them."
"I believe that the boys' closest friends know about them already. And Trevor told me that there is some thought at school that they are gay, because of that assembly at school, remember, Tom?, the one the boys told us about that the school held after Zach was hurt. Trevor told me that at least some of the students suspect that Trevor and Zach are gay, but so far there have been no problems, at least since that little group of kids that attacked Zach were been dealt with. The only thing we can do is to caution them to be as discreet as possible."
"Agreed. We'll talk to them and caution them."
"Okay, so we will have the sweat and then the ceremony. I think we will do everything out at the swimming hole. It is the perfect place, and far enough away that there is little chance of anyone seeing anything that we are going to be doing. After that, the training will start."
"All right, what do you want us to do to help?"
" I think today let's just relax and enjoy our family. Tomorrow we can start the preparations. I will talk to Robbie and his parents and we'll be ready by the weekend."
The adults finished their tea. Tom and Jake left the house and joined the boys in working around the stables. The boys ran up to them when they neared the stables.
"So Dad, what's going to happen?"
"Well Jared, we're going to stay here another week and then go home."
"Oh... okay Dad. So we're not going to stay?"
Tom saw the look on the boys' faces and realized what he had said as he saw the worried looks.
"Oh, sorry, guys. What I meant is that your mom and I are going to leave next Monday; you all are going to stay for a few more weeks."
"You mean it? You're going to let us be together for real?"
"As if I had a choice, Zach. You and Trevor belong together, if what we learned last night is true. So we're going to stay to help get you guys ready, and then head back. Your mom needs to get back to work, and I need to keep an eye on the business."
The boys, all four of them, took turns giving Tom and Jake hugs. Huge smiles were on their faces.
"I love you, Dad. Thanks."
"I love you guys too, all of you. We have to do everything we can to keep you safe, and if this is the way to do that, then this is what we will do. First thing, though, let's get the rest of this work done, and then I think tomorrow morning Jake and I will start training you and getting you fit and ready to help keep yourselves safe."
"All right, you lay-a-bouts, back to work."
The boys smiled as they went back to what they had been doing. Tom joined Jake at the tack room, where they checked and worked on the horse equipment. The boys worked for the next couple of hours until Jake whistled for them to join him.
"You guys have done great. So I think that calls for some fun and relaxation. Saddle up the horses; we're going to the swimming hole."
The boys grabbed lead ropes from the tack room and quickly got the horses from the nearby corral, and after they tied them to the fence, they made sure they were brushed and saddled and ready to go. When everyone was ready and mounted up, they rode out. As soon as they left the yard, there was a loud 'Heeyah' from the boys and they took off, leaving Tom and Jake behind. The two men smiled and kicked their heels into their horses' sides and took off after them. Soon Jake caught up and overtook them, leaving the boys in the dust as he allowed his horse to go to a full run. As he neared the trees, he brought Cougar to a halt and waited for the others. They soon joined him, laughing all the way in the total enjoyment of the freedom you feel when you ride a horse full out.
"No fair, Dad."
"Hey, you started it. You guys think you can outride a real Injun. I had to teach you the error of your ways. C'mon, it's hot, let's get wet."
They dismounted as Tom joined them, and led their horses into the trees. They followed the path around to where the corral was and unsaddled the horses, letting them into the corral. Once the horses were taken care of, they quickly made their way to the campsite and stripped down, leaving their clothes on the table and benches. They ran to the water's edge and dove in. Right away they all started roughhousing, tackling each other and having splash and chicken fights. They spent the next hour in the water, swimming and playing, before they got out and lay on rocks to dry off. Once they were dry enough, they got dressed, reclaimed their horses and rode back to the ranch house. It was the end of a great day.
Monday morning Tom and Jake got the boys up early and took them out on a run. When they got back, they did some chores around the ranch yard, before Jake and Tom took them through some more workouts and then martial arts training. Since they had already had some training, they easily started to pick up more of the advanced moves that were taught to them. They broke for lunch and worked around the ranch yard. Later in the afternoon, the boys saddled their horses and headed off to the swimming hole. They enjoyed an hour or so of swimming before they headed back. They followed this same routine until Wednesday. When they got back to the ranch yard after swimming, they saw Robbie and Sean talking as they walked to the stables. Robbie waved to them as they neared.
"Boys, I am guessing by your wet hair that you have been swimming. I am going to ask you not to go there until after the ceremonies this weekend, okay?"
"Little Wolf, Robbie, his father and I have some preparations to do for the weekend, and we can't have you guys there while we are working, okay?"
"That's my boys. Hurry and get those horses taken care of, and then go wash up before supper."
The boys got to work on taking care of the horses as Robbie and Sean walked over to the workshop. When the boys were done, they went inside to wash up. That evening after supper, the boys enjoyed the spa. Up in their room, they watched some TV and went to bed.
For the boys the rest of the week was pretty much the same: a run and workout in the morning, and then some work around the yard and a horseback ride in the afternoon, supper, spa, TV and bed. During the week Tom worked with Jake around the ranch, while Terry worked in the garden and relaxed on the porch with Shayna.
On Thursday afternoon, Robbie and his dad Jim went with Sean out to the swimming hole in one of the ranch trucks. In the bed were several long willow branches. Once they got to the area, they unloaded the branches and carried them to the campsite, where they stacked them to the side of the large open area. They all went back to the truck and took out some decorated rawhide parfleches [A bag or container used by American Indians to carry or store items, made of stiff rawhide – EA], along with some beaded and quilled deerskin bags [porcupine quills dyed and worked into the leather in a decorative design – EA] and pouches and carried them back to the site. Robbie also grabbed a small shovel from the truck bed. They walked back to the campsite and laid everything on the table.
Sean opened one of the parfleches and took out a small copper bowl and a small tied bundle of sage. Robbie and Jim stood to one side of the open area. Sean lit the sage so that it was smoldering. He blew on it a few times to get it to glow. He then placed it in the small copper bowl and put the bowl down on the table. He opened another parfleche and removed a buffalo headdress from it. He put it on and walked over to the table. He leaned slightly forward over the smoking sage, and with his hands open and palm up, he moved them through the smoke and lifted them up and over his head. The motion was the same as if he was dipping his hands in water and wetting his face and hair, only he was using the smoke of the burning sage to do so. He repeated this four times, as four is a sacred number to the Cheyenne people. He took an eagle wing out of another parfleche, and he walked over to Robbie and Jim. He waved the smoke from the burning sage towards them, and they copied his washing motions. Sean then picked up the sage and, using the wing, pushed the smoke around each of them as a blessing.
He then went to the center of the clearing and pushed the smoke away from himself towards each of the four directions. His next act was to walk around the entire circle of the campsite, blessing the entire clearing. When he finished, he placed the bowl down in the center of the clearing and let the sage smolder. He then walked away from the center toward the east. He took a few sticks out of a long pouch at his side and pushed them into the ground. He then started walking in a circle and every few feet he pushed another stick into the ground until he got back to where he started. The others had continued to stand where they were when he started, watching his movements. Once he was done, he walked back over to the table and took off the headdress, returning it to the parfleche.
"Now we can start building. Robbie, take the small shovel and dig a narrow hole about six inches deep where each stick is located, and pile the dirt that you take out next to it. Jim, take the tobacco pouch and put a little tobacco in each hole as Robbie digs it."
Sean stood back as the other two went about their tasks. It took them about fifteen minutes to finish.
"Let us start building."
They each grabbed a long willow branch and started building the framework for the sweat lodge. One end of the supple willow branch went into each of the holes, and then they took the dirt piled next to each hole and dumped it in around each branch, tamping it down with their hands. Sean walked into the middle with several leather thongs, gathered the top of each branch and pulled it to a peak of about five feet, and tied the ends together with the thongs, until all the branches were bound together, forming a dome shape about ten feet in diameter and five feet high. More of the supple branches were tied parallel to the ground around the framework to give it extra strength. Facing east toward the campsite fire ring was what appeared to be a doorway of sorts. Once he was done, Sean picked up the copper bowl with the smoldering sage and left by way of the 'door'. He put the sage out in the campfire. Walking back to another of the parfleches, he took out several bundles of sage and sweet grass. He reentered the lodge and tied the bundles to the ceiling of the lodge in various places so that they were hanging down a little from the walls and ceiling of the lodge framework. When he came out, he bundled up everything and turned to the others.
"Thank you both for your help. Robbie, tomorrow afternoon we will cover the framework and build the inside fire circle. Thanks for your help, Jim. I will see you and Marian on Saturday afternoon."
Gathering the bundles up, they walked back out to the truck and drove back, discussing the rest of the preparations and what Robbie and his parents needed to bring with them on Saturday. Once they got to the ranch, Robbie and his dad said goodbye to Sean and left for their homes. The boys waved to them as they left as well.
The next afternoon, Sean and Robbie had the boys follow them to the workshop. Inside the boys saw that the floor was concrete. There was some sawdust on the ground here and there. In the room were several machines, like lathes, drill presses and other woodworking equipment. There were also several stacks of different kinds of wood in racks along one wall. At the back of a couple of the workbenches were cabinets with several small drawers in them. The boys were curious and asked about it. Another workbench had a lot of tools in racks behind it. Sean walked over and opened a couple of the small drawers and the boys saw beads inside.
"This is my workshop, where I make a lot of different things. The drawers hold glass beads, hair pipe, porcupine quills and other things that I use when I make my chokers, necklaces and other things. This is where I made your necklace, Little Wolf. I will teach all of you how to make some of this stuff if you wish."
"Oh yeah, that would be cool, Grandfather. I want to learn how to make that stuff."
"Then you will. I will teach you everything that I can. I build a lot of things in here, and I taught your Dad how to do some of this as well. I build some furniture as well, like chairs and cabinets, in here. Sometimes I sell them, other times I give them away, I enjoy doing it. Over on this workbench is where I do my woodcarving."
He opened a cabinet under the workbench and pulled out a large cloth-covered object and set it on the top. He uncovered it and the boys' mouths dropped open as he slowly revealed a carving of a large wolf standing slightly above and behind four smaller wolves. The large wolf was standing up facing forward, and two of the wolf cubs were sitting down facing each other with their heads turned toward the front, cheeks touching. The other two cubs were laying down, one with his head resting on the side of the other. The boys marveled at the very detailed carving. Trevor looked at Sean after studying it for a few moments.
"That's us, isn't it? Jake is the big wolf, me and Zach are the sitting wolves, and Jared and Jeremy are the other two."
"Very good, Grandson. You are correct. I made this for you guys to take back home with you."
"Thanks, Grandfather, it's beautiful. I can't wait for Dad to see it."
Sean continued with the tour of the workshop. He showed them the different kinds of wood stored against the wall and some of the carving tools, explaining their properties and uses. He then led them to another interior door. When he opened it, they saw that this room had several shelves and was cleaner than the outer workroom. They could see several rocks on the floor against one wall that were sized from about four or five inches in diameter to a foot or so in diameter. On shelves around the room were bundles of leather and cloth.
"This is where I keep some of my crafting supplies, like leather and cloth. I keep this room cleaner, to help preserve the hides and cloth until I need them. I have elk skin, buck skin, buffalo skin, and other types, like rawhide. Some you can see has the hair still on it and others are without hair. Depending on what I am doing is what type I use. What I want you boys to do, is get twelve of those big rocks and put them in the back of the truck. Then start hauling a bunch of the smaller rocks until I tell you we have enough. Robbie, grab one of these big hide bundles and carry it out to the truck."
They started working. Robbie and Sean hauled several hide bundles while the boys hauled the rocks. Sean put a wooden box in the back of the truck and directed the boys to put the smaller rocks into it. Once it was full he stopped the boys. He then directed the boys to go over to the woodpile and haul some logs over to the truck. They all started carrying wood until Sean told them to stop. He shut the workshop door and waved to the boys as he and Robbie left with the load for the swimming hole. The boys watched them drive away.
Sean and Robbie arrived at the campsite and hauled the hides, wood and rocks out of the truck, and laid everything on the table. They put the wood in a neat pile near the fire pit. When everything was unloaded, they took the big rocks, went inside the framework and dug a shallow pit in the center, and they started laying the twelve large stones in a circle in the shallow pit. They lined the bottom with smaller stones, leaving the rest in the box sitting on the table. They next untied the hide bundles, and then,starting at the top of the framework, started laying the hides over it until they had the framework completely covered down to the ground. Sean took the hide for the door and fastened it to the framework so that it wouldn't fall off easily, since it would have to be opened and closed several times during the sweat lodge ceremony. Inside they put more hides on the floor to cover the dirt. Sean looked it over and nodded with satisfaction.
"Looks good. Everything is ready for tomorrow."
"Let's head back"
They went back out to the truck and drove back to the ranch. Robbie said goodbye, jumped into his jeep and left for home. Sean turned back to head inside, once Robbie was out of sight. As soon as he came inside, Shayna announced that dinner was ready. Sean deflected any questions from the boys about what he and Robbie had been doing at the campsite. Later in the evening after watching TV for a couple of hours, the boys headed off to the spa, while the adults stayed in the living room and had coffee and conversation. As the evening wore on, Sean glanced up at the clock and saw that it was after nine pm. He stood up and got the other adults attention. He had a small smile on his face.
"Jake, Tom, will you follow me?"
Tom looked at Jake with a puzzled expression, Jake merely shrugged. He was as much in the dark as Tom was. Sean led them through the house to the greenhouse. At the closed door that led to the spa, Sean stopped and held up his hand to stop Jake and Tom from getting too close. He carefully put his ear against the door and listened quietly for a few moments. They could see his lips curl up into a small smile. Jake took a step forward to ask Sean what he had in mind, but Sean quickly held his hand up and motioned for Jake to stop where he was. Once he was sure Jake had stopped, he slowly reached out to the doorknob. He slowly closed his hand over the knob and slowly turned it. Once it reached its stop, he shifted his position until he had moved back from the door a couple of feet, still holding the knob in the unlatched position. Jake and Tom saw him tense a little and then he quickly pulled the door open. They watched as he sprang through the door.
From inside the room came startled screams.
When Sean leaped into the room, he saw the boys spring apart and look in fear at the door. He took in the scene and saw four pairs of swimsuits laying on the ground and edges of the spa where they had apparently been tossed. In the spa the boys were looking at him with wide eyes and heaving chests as they tried to get over the sudden fright. He couldn't help himself and started to laugh. Moments later, Jake and Tom joined them and they were soon chuckling at the look on the boys' faces. Once they got a chance to look around the room, they too noticed the discarded suits. An indignant voice came from the spa.
"Not funny! That is so not funny! You scared the sh..."
Zach stopped when he realized he dad was in the room.
"... stuff outta us."
"Yeah Grandpa, that sucked."
The three men looked at the indignant looks on the four boys' faces and couldn't help themselves from chuckling. The looks on the boys' faces darkened. Sean brought himself under control. The boys were now sitting with their arms crossed and frowning at the adults.
'I'm sorry, boys, I couldn't help myself. I beg your forgiveness."
Sean hid his grin as he bowed his head. His head was suddenly enveloped in wet cloth. He looked up as he pulled the wet suit from his head to face a grinning Trevor.
Sean's hair was completely soaked and the water dripped off his hair and added to the soaking of his shirt. As Sean held up the suit, Trevor blushed as he realized what Sean was holding in his hand. He tried to shrink down in the spa as he saw the laughter in Sean's eyes as he held up the suit. The giggling from the other boys trailed off as they realized it as well. They quickly looked around to see if their missing suits were within reach and then they too shrunk down a little in the spa as they also turned as red as Trevor. Jake and Tom made their way around the room and picked up the discarded suits and tossed them into the spa. Sean tossed Trevor's to him. The boys grabbed them and quickly got the suits on. The men held towels out as the boys got out of the spa. They waited as they dried off.
"Come, boys, I must talk with you. You and Tom as well, Jake. Let's go to the boys' room."
They made their way back through the house to the boys' bedroom. Once in the room, Sean closed the door and motioned for the boys to sit on the bed.
"I needed to talk to you guys, all of you, because I forgot to mention something important that you need to know before the sweat tomorrow. I thought this would be a better place to discuss this, rather than out there with the ladies. There is one bit of preparation for the ceremony that is very important. I must ask you guys to control yourselves and keep your hands to yourself. Do you understand?"
The boys looked at each other in puzzlement. Jake put his hand up to cover his mouth as he tried not to laugh. Suddenly Trevor turned bright red and looked at Zach.
'Zach, I think he means no fooling around, ya know, no sex.'
When Trevor turned back to look at Sean, he got a small nod. Zach looked over at Jared for a moment and then Jared blushed as well. The word was passed to Jeremy, and soon there were four blushing boys. Tom was still a little confused until Jake whispered in his ear. He started to chuckle as he nodded.
"I guess you boys know what I'm talking about. So I must ask you, can you control yourselves?"
There were answering nods from the other boys.
"Very good. I know that I can trust you. That's it, then. You boys should get cleaned up... by yourselves... and get to bed. Tomorrow's a big day. Good night, boys."
He got a hug from each boy, followed by a hug and kiss for each from their dads. Once the men had left the room, the boys quickly stripped off and took turns in the showers. Back in their room, they got in bed and snuggled up to each other, and soon they were all asleep.
Saturday morning right after breakfast, Sean gathered everyone together to explain what was going to happen that day.
"This afternoon, Robbie, Ginny, Jim and Marian will be here. Ginny will be staying here with Terry and Shayna while the rest of us will go out to the swimming hole. No one is to eat anything until after the ceremony. I have some traditional clothes for everyone who is going to take part in the sweat to put on before we go to the site. I have them out in the workshop. What I want all of you to do today is to think about your life, what you have done, what you want to do. This will prepare you for the sweat lodge ceremony. When we get out there, we will talk some more, but for now, think about these things, either alone or together. Come with me to the workshop and I'll give you the clothes I've made for you. When you put them on later, wear nothing but them, nothing modern, which includes underwear."
The boys giggled a little at that and Sean smiled.
"Just the clothes I give you. This ceremony is important to our people and is to be treated with respect. Okay, relax for the rest of the day and think about what I have said."
They followed Sean to the workshop and into the back room where the hides were stored. From a cedar chest inside the room, Sean took out several sets of buckskin clothing and handed them out. When everyone had theirs, they headed back into the house to put them in their rooms. After that, they left the house to think about things as he had asked them to do. The boys saddled up the horses and went for a ride. They found a copse of trees on a hill, where they could see the ranch. There were a few downed trees in the area. They tied the horses to branches and then sat down against the trees, each of the couples sat together and leaned against each other and silently listened to the sounds around them. They occasionally talked quietly to each other and just enjoyed the closeness with each other. Jake and Tom went off together and talked about their friendship and things that they have done and seen. Sean sat in his study, reading quietly. Shayna and Terry got things ready in the kitchen for supper that night. It was quiet around the ranch all day. Early in the afternoon, the boys on the hill saw Robbie's Jeep and the Brave Horses' truck as they came up the road. They got up, mounted up and rode back to the ranch. They saw Jim, Marian, and Robbie come out of the vehicles in their traditional clothes. Ginny was wearing normal western wear, jeans and a western shirt. Jim and Robbie were wearing a war shirt and buckskin leggings and breechclout. Marian was wearing a white buckskin dress. All of the clothes were highly decorated with bead and quill work. Robbie waved to the boys as they rode in before he followed his parents into the house. The boys quickly took care of the horses and went into the house. Everyone was in the living room when they got there. Sean was already dressed; Jake and Tom were not there.
"Boys, your dads are already getting ready, so go get dressed and come back downstairs."
The boys hurried upstairs and stripped everything off. The clothes consisted of a war shirt, leggings, belt and breechclout like the other men were wearing. The boys looked at the leggings, and since they had never worn them before, they were having a hard time trying to figure out how to put them on. They were interrupted by a knock on the door. They heard a muffled voice on the other side.
"Guys, can I come in? It's Jake."
Jake poked his head in and saw four confused faces on four naked boys. Each of them were holding up parts of the leggings and breechclout. Jake smiled as he came in and shut the door behind him.
"I thought you might be having a little trouble. Here, Trevor, let me help, and you guys watch."
Jake sat on the bed and motioned Trevor over to him.
"Here's how it works. The easiest way is to lay the belt down on the bed, and then lay the breechclout over it so that about eighteen inches is stretched above the belt, and the rest is hanging over the edge of the bed. Then while you sit on the bed on this narrower part of the breechclout, pull each legging up to your hip and take the ends of the belt and run them through the loop here at the top of the leggings. Before you buckle the belt, take the rest of the breechclout and pull it up, kinda like a diaper, and buckle the belt underneath it, so that it hangs down in front of you. Pretty easy."
"Yeah, now that we know how it works, it is. Thanks, Dad."
"I'll leave you guys to finish up and help each other out."
Jake gave Trevor a quick hug and kiss on the head as he left. The boys followed Jake's instructions and soon all of them were dressed. They helped each other to get everything straightened out before they headed back downstairs. They saw that Jim and Marian were no longer there.
"Good, everyone's here, so let's get loaded up and head out there. Ladies, we will see you later."
They left the house; everybody piled into Tom's SUV and Robbie's jeep. They drove out to the site in silence. As they neared the site, they saw a ribbon of smoke coming out of the trees. The truck owned by Robbie's parents was parked nearby. They got out and walked to the campsite. When they got to the clearing, they saw the sweat lodge near the center of the clearing. A fire was burning brightly in the fire ring, tended by Jim and Marian. The door to the sweat lodge was open. As they walked up they could see Marian putting some rocks into the fire with some long handled iron tongs. Jim was just coming up from the water with a wooden bucket full of water. Sean pointed Jake, Tom and the boys toward the table and benches.
"Jake and Robbie, you've done this before, so you know what we are going to be doing. As for the rest of you, let me explain a little about this. The sweat lodge ceremony has been passed down for many centuries by my people. It is a purification ceremony. We will sit inside the sweat lodge, meditate and ask the Great Spirit for guidance. The rocks you see in the fire will be brought in and placed in a small pit in the center, and then water will be poured onto them, making it steam inside. You may see things in there, or feel things, that may be strange or unusual, but know this, you will not be hurt. This will purify you, and prepare you, especially Jake, Trevor and Zach, for tomorrow's final bonding ceremony. When we leave the sweat you will be amazed at how good you feel. The sweat gives you a feeling of cleansing that will make you feel very good. There is healing within the sweat. First though, there is something you should know: we enter the sweat lodge the way we come into this world, with nothing covering us."
"Grandpa, you... you mean... uh... naked?"
"Yes, Little Wolf, you enter as you were born, for when you leave the sweat lodge, it will feel as if you are born again whole and pure."
Trevor's voice dropped low as he leaned toward Sean.
"But she'll see us, you know, naked and uh... she's a girl."
The other boys nodded in agreement, blushing. Sean and Robbie chuckled as Jake and Tom smiled. The boys turned even redder. When Marian spoke, they turned even redder.
"Don't worry, Little Wolf. You don't have anything I've never seen before."
"She heard me?"
Now Trevor was really red.
"Boys, I promise I won't look."
"You have my word."
"We are going to sit here for a few minutes while Jim and Marian bless the fire."
Jim picked up a small drum and started a beat while Marian started to chant. Every few moments she took something out of a pouch at her belt and sprinkled it into the fire. The fire flared up when she did that. She circled the fire clockwise as she did it. When she had completed four circuits, she ended the song. Sean stood up. The stones in the fire were starting to glow red.
"Okay, let's get ready to enter the lodge. Robbie will lead us, followed by Tom, Jared, Zach, myself, Trevor, Jake, Jeremy, and Jim. Robbie will walk clockwise; follow behind him. You never enter a lodge and go counterclockwise. Once inside we will sit down and the sweat will begin. There are four parts to it. The first will be prayers to the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka. The second will be of cleanliness, purity and strength. Be honest with yourself and contemplate what you can do to overcome the bad things in the world and help others. During the second part, we will pass out sage; I encourage you to chew on it as we sit there. The third part is for prayer. Pray for yourself, your loved ones, for everyone. I will pray and then each of you may state your prayers if you wish. You can keep them silent if you wish also, if that is what you want. You do not have to pray, it is your choice; you can just sit silently if you wish. At the end of each prayer please say A'Ho. It is sort of like saying 'Amen'. The fourth part is for healing of the body and the spirit. After the ceremony we will smoke the pipe."
"We gotta smoke?"
"The pipe is different. You only take a small puff in your mouth and blow it out to send your breath and your prayers to Wakan Tanka. At the end, any who would like to join us in the water can; it's a great way to end a sweat. Any last questions?"
There were several headshakes and Sean nodded in answer.
"Marian, if you would, please."
Sean made a turnaround motion with his finger, and she smiled and turned so that her back was to them. They all stood up and started taking everything off and neatly folded their clothes and placed them on the table. Trevor started to take his necklace off and Sean stopped him.
"Keep that on, Little Wolf."
Trevor nodded as they continued undressing, until there were four naked boys and five naked men. Sean hung an eagle wing bone whistle around his neck. When everyone was ready, Robbie led the way, he and Sean singing prayers as they entered with Jim pulling up the rear, beating on his small drum. Once inside, they arranged themselves in a circle around the center pit. It was very dim inside with just a little light coming in from the open door. From outside, Marian handed James the water bucket, which he passed around the circle to Sean opposite the door. After that, using a pair of iron tongs that Marian had handed to them, Robbie and James lifted the hot stones that she had deposited outside the door and placed them in the pit in the center. Once there was enough, Sean motioned to them and they handed the tongs back outside to Marian. She closed the door, which caused the light inside of the lodge to grow dimmer. The only light in the lodge was now coming off of the glowing stones in the center.
"The first part is for the spirits of our ancestors who look over us, helping us to live good lives so that we may join them someday when it is our time. May this water make us whole through the sweat."
Sean poured water onto the stones, causing the steam to rise. Once the steam rose, he blew on the whistle as James started a beat on the drum. Sean chanted in the Cheyenne language, with Robbie joining him after a few moments. When he finished the prayer he switched to English.
"Wakan Tanka, Grandfather, hear us as we call upon the four powers and the spirits. We call upon Father Sky who watches over us. We call upon Mother Earth who nurtures us. We call upon Buffalo Calf Woman to guide us. We call upon our ancestors to help us. A'ho."
Sean once again blew on the whistle as James drummed. The others looked at the stones and watched them glow as the steam rose and the sounds of the whistle and drum receded to the background.
"Let us introduce ourselves to the spirits. I am called White Spirit Man. Grandfather, I ask you to bless us in this sweat. A'ho."
Sean pointed to Robbie.
"I am called White Star Horse. I ask you to give your blessing on this sweat. A'ho."
Sean pointed to James.
"I am called Nightwalker. I ask your blessing on this sweat. A'ho."
Sean pointed to Jake.
"I am called Spirit Wolf. I ask your blessing on this sweat. A'ho."
Sean pointed to Tom.
"I am Tom, friend of, uh, Spirit Wolf. I ask your blessing on this sweat. A'ho"
Sean pointed to Jeremy.
"I am Jeremy, son of Spirit Wolf. I ask your blessing on this sweat. A'ho."
Sean pointed to Jared.
"I am Jared, godson of Spirit Wolf and son of Tom. I ask your blessing on this sweat. A'ho."
Sean pointed to Zach.
"I am Zachary, godson of Spirit Wolf, son of Tom and life mate of Little Wolf. I ask your blessing on this sweat. A'ho."
Sean pointed to Trevor.
"I am Little Wolf, son of Spirit Wolf and life mate of Zachary. I ask your blessing on this sweat. A'ho."
Sean and Robbie started to sing again as James drummed. The heat in the lodge built and almost everyone started to feel a little lightheaded from the heat. All of them closed their eyes as they let the sound take them away. Jeremy felt a touch on his back and a hand held his. He turned around and his mouth dropped open as he saw his mother standing before him. He looked down to his hand and saw the hand that held his. He followed the hand up the arm and saw that it was Jared holding his hand; both of them looked at the sight of Jeremy's mom standing there smiling at them.
"Mom? Are you really here? I've missed you so much."
"I am here, honey, at least as much as I can be here. I have been watching over you and I am so happy that you are with such a great person as Jake. You are in good hands."
"You've been watching over me? Like all the time?"
"Well, not all the time."
The boys both blushed bright red and gave each other a furtive glance. She laughed at their embarrassment. Soon Jeremy was laughing as well.
"Jeremy, are you doing okay?"
"Yeah, I just miss you, ya know."
"Yes, I know. But you're doing real good. Jake will be a good dad to you and Trevor is a good brother."
"Do you, uh, know about him? You know he can do things."
"Yes, I know a little about it. I however did not expect to see someone with you."
"Mom, I know you know Jared, but you need to know more, he's my boyfriend. I love him."
"I know, I can see it in the glow of your spirit. Jared, thank you for being there for my son and loving him."
"Thank you, Ms. Davis. I promise to love him."
"I know you will. Be well, Jeremy, it's time for me to go now."
"Bye, mom, I love you."
"Love you too, Jeremy."
He reached toward her as she faded away. Jeremy and Jared opened their eyes and looked across the lodge at each other smiling through their tears.
Trevor squinted at the brightness of the light around him. He looked around and saw a familiar grassy meadow and pond. Sitting on the rock with his back to Trevor, throwing small rocks into the pool was a familiar looking boy in blue polo shirt, shorts and sandals. Sitting next to him was another boy who also looked familiar. The light brown hair which now hung to his shoulders was very familiar to Trevor. Trevor called out to them as he trotted over to join them.
The two boys turned around and smiled at him. Trevor sat down between them and Justin offered him a handful of rocks. Trevor smiled as he took them. They giggled as they started throwing the rocks into the pond.
"So Trevor, there's been a few changes in your life huh?"
"You could say that. You knew about me then, didn't you?"
"Yep. Mikey and I weren't allowed to tell you anything about it though."
"Yeah, where is Mikey anyway?"
"He has other duties today, so it's just me."
"So any words of wisdom?"
"Nope, you're doing great."
"Then why are we here?"
"I just thought you'd like to relax for a little while. Besides I didn't get to meet Zach before."
"Okaaay. Justin the angel, Zach. Zach, Justin the angel."
Justin started to laugh, followed by Zach. Zach reached across Trevor to shake Justin's hand.
"Nice to meet you, Justin the angel."
"You too, Zach."
"So what do we do now?"
"Nothing really, we just want you to know that we are behind you."
Justin stood up and reached down to Trevor. Trevor took his hand and was pulled up to his feet. He in turn helped Zach get up. Trevor and Zach stood there holding hands as Justin walked away; he turned at the edge of the meadow and waved. Trevor and Zach watched as he faded away and found themselves back in the sweat lodge as they opened their eyes. Their eyes met and they gave each other a wide smile.
Jake heard a sound behind him and spun around. Standing there smiling at him was Sandy. He moved to hug her and found that he passed through her. He turned around and saw Sandy smiling apologetically.
"Sorry about that, dear."
"S'okay. How are you doing?"
"Real good. I miss you guys a lot though."
"Yeah, we miss you too."
"Did Trevor tell you about seeing us?"
"Yeah, he did. I'm happy for you. I'm glad you get to be with the rest of your family. I just wish this wasn't the way that had to happen."
She moved closer and lifted a hand up to his face. His mind told him that he could feel her hand resting there. He moved his hand up to touch hers and he felt a slight coolness as it moved through hers, until he touched his own face. She smiled at him.
"You're doing great with him, you know. With them both. I can see it. They are both going to be good men. Jeremy doesn't have what Trevor has, but he has a good heart. I will miss being there to see that process."
"We'll tell you about it someday, when we meet again."
"I can wait. Try to make it a real long time."
"You have my word. I plan on it being a long time."
"Good, I don't want any premature reunions."
"I'm going to miss that sense of humor."
"I'll save it up for you."
"I look forward to it."
"You're doing great, Jake. Take care of my baby. Protect him. He's going to need you."
"You have my word, I'll watch over him."
"I know you will. Goodbye, lover."
"Goodbye, Sandy. I'll see you again."
She faded away smiling. Jake opened his eyes to the dimness of the sweat lodge.
Sean and Robbie continued to sing while James drummed for a few more minutes longer before he stopped. He tapped on the door and it opened. Marian handed the tongs in and they used them to reach just outside and bring more rocks in and put them in the center pit. The open door let in the cooler outside air for a few moments. It caused the steam in the lodge to swirl around. Marian closed the door and the dim light from the glowing rocks was once again the only illumination inside the lodge. Sean spoke again.
"Now we begin the second part of the sweat. Each of us is on our own path. Some paths run together, some run apart. Each of us needs to have courage and each of us has shown courage in the past. Think of the times that you have had to show that courage as we begin."
He poured more water on the stones, causing the steam to billow up and fill the lodge with the wet heat. Sean handed sage to all of them.
"Endurance, strength, cleanliness and purity are the marks of this part of the sweat. They keep us on the right path. Sage helps drive away bad spirits. Chew on it or not, it is your choice."
The boys and their dads absently chewed on the sprigs of sage as the steam and the heat rose. They stared at the rocks. As they stared, they each started to see different things reflected in the rocks. Several scenes seemed to run across the surface of the glowing rocks. There was the mountain lion attack, breaking up the attack on Lucas, saving Zach and his time in the hospital. The figures continued through the many events that had happened up to the attack on Jeremy and Denise's funeral. The attack on Jake's family and its aftermath flowed across the stones.
As they closed their eyes, still absently chewing on the sage, they found themselves outside the lodge in a cooling rain. They looked at each other. All of them looked like they were completely covered in black mud. As they stood there in that rain, the mud washed off their bodies until they were completely clean. They looked around in wonder, and suddenly they felt the moist heat of the sweat lodge, and opening their eyes they found themselves back in the lodge.
"Give us strength and courage to be honest and pure with everything we do. This strength helps us live in harmony with all creatures in this world. As our water mingles with the earth, make us pure once again."
Sean took the dipper and poured water over his head.
"Refresh yourselves if you wish."
They passed the dipper of water around the lodge in a clockwise direction until everyone had poured some water on their heads. Sean passed the bucket to James who tapped on the door. It was opened and another bucket was passed in as the empty bucket was passed outside. The cool air that came in refreshed them some more. More red hot stones were passed in and set into the center pit. The door was closed again, dropping them back into the dim light of the hot stones. Sean dipped more water from the fresh bucket and poured it over the stones. The steam rose once again.
"This is the third part of the sweat. This is a time for awakenings and beginnings. This is an awakening of knowledge and wisdom."
Sean put the whistle to his lips and blew on it again. James beat the drum once again for a few minutes. The drum sounded like a heartbeat to those in the lodge.
"This is the time for you to pray for your friends, relatives and those you love. Pray for the world and our leaders. Pray that they work to bring peace to our world. Pray that all of our leaders act in kinship with all people. Pray that Mother Earth will be healed. Pray for all things."
"Great Spirit. I pray for all our people. I thank you for the love of Shayna. I pray for our new White Spirit. Help him to learn what he can do to help others. A'ho."
Sean nodded to Robbie.
"Great Spirit, I too pray for the new White Spirit. I am proud to call him nephew as he is the son of my brother. I look forward to teaching him all that I can. A'ho."
Sean nodded to James. James continued the slow steady beat as he spoke.
"Great Spirit, look down upon these young braves, as they prepare themselves to join others like them in giving of themselves. As they are nephews to my son White Star Horse, I look forward to helping them prepare to join our circle. A'ho."
Sean nodded to Tom.
"Lord, I ask you to watch over my sons and their boyfriends as they go forward. There will be hard times, I have no doubt, but I believe they will prevail, because I believe in them. A'ho."
Sean nodded to Jake.
"Grandfather Sky, my son has been revealed as a White Spirit, and I ask that you help me to always protect him from those who would hurt him, his life companion or anyone he cares about so that he will not feel unnecessary pain or sadness. A'ho."
Sean nodded to Jeremy.
"Gr..Great Spirit. Please protect my brother, so he can help others like he helped me. A'ho."
Sean nodded to Jared.
"Great Spirit. I am proud to call Trevor brother. Help him do what he needs to do. A'ho"
Sean nodded to Zach.
"Great Spirit. Help me always be by the side of Little Wolf. I promise to be there for him as he will be here for me. Let me never be gone from his side. I ask for the strength to always be there for him when he needs my strength. A'ho."
Sean nodded to Trevor.
"Great Spirit. I will rely on you to help me know the way I must go. Guide me and I will follow. If someone needs help, send me to their aid and I will do what I can to help them. Help me protect my life mate so we can be together for as long we can and help as many people as we can. A'ho."
As Sean took up the whistle and started to sound it, Trevor suddenly found himself low to the ground running through some woods. He ran to a tall stone fence. He stopped and sniffed the ground as he made his way around the perimeter of the fence. He came to a small gate and he squeezed through the partially open gate. Behind the fence he found a large brick covered house. He lifted his head up and sniffed the air. He found that he could smell so many things. The scent of the grass, trees, and flowers. There are other smells as well, he could smell men and that scared him a little bit.
Why can I smell so many things, and why does the smell of men scare me, wait... There isn't anyone around here, so why can I smell them, and why am I so low to the ground?
Trevor looked down and saw furry paws. Turning his head he looked behind him and saw a tail. A tail that was connected to a young wolf club.
I'm a wolf!
He sniffed the air again and something pulled him closer to the house, and he slowly moved forward, looking all around as he took each step. He got to the side of the house and walked around it until he came to a large window. He crouched near the corner of the window and peeked inside through the window into the room. Inside he saw a couple of men sitting down and talking. They both looked to be in their mid to late twenties. One of the men had long brown hair and light brown eyes. The man's eyes reminded Trevor of Jeremy's light brown eyes, but these had a different feel to them, a cruel look. The other man was well over six feet and looked to be made of muscle.
A movement in the room drew Trevor's attention and he looked in that direction. He saw a boy who appeared to be a little older than him. The boy had red hair and green eyes. The boy was sitting in another chair looking at the two men. For some reason the boy turned his head and looked right at Trevor. His eyes opened wide and tears filled them and started to run down his cheeks. When he had first looked towards Trevor, all Trevor saw on his face was the look of hopelessness on the red-haired boy's face, and as soon as the boy saw Trevor looking into the window, that looked changed from hopelessness to one of hope. A smile came to his face and his eyes lit up. It was like he had found something that he had not felt for a long time and it had been awakened once again inside him. The boy stood up and his movement caused the men to stop talking and look at him. They followed the direction of the boy's gaze and they started to turn towards the window.
Trevor ducked out of sight and suddenly found himself back in the lodge. He took a couple of deep breaths and felt his heart racing a little. He felt Zach's hand on his arm and he looked over towards his boyfriend and saw a look of concern on Zach's face. He smiled to reassure him that he was fine, as Sean stopped blowing on the whistle. James rapped on the door again and it was opened. More rocks were brought in and placed in the center pit. Four dipperfuls of water were poured on the glowing rocks and the steam billowed forth for the fourth time.
"We are now in the fourth part of the sweat. This is for healing, growth and knowledge. Center yourself upon the healing as I pray."
"Great Spirit, I pray for my brothers in this sacred space, that they will be healed and whole. I pray for all my brothers and sisters in the world that they may be healed and whole. I pray for the nations of the world to be healed and whole. Wakan Tanka, show us the way of healing, growth and knowledge."
Sean started to sing, joined by Robbie and James. He continued for a few minutes and then ended the song.
"If everyone will join hands."
Each person clasped hands with the person next to them. Once everyone's hands were joined Sean spoke again.
"The Light of the Great Spirit surrounds us. The love of Wakan Tanka enfolds us. The power of the creator protects us. The presence of god watches over us. Wherever I am the Great Spirit is."
Robbie rapped on the door and it was opened. A pipe was passed in and Robbie took it. He drew on it and blew the smoke to the roof.
"Just take a small amount into your mouth. Don't take a deep breath, otherwise you'll start coughing. Just a little bit."
The boys nodded to Robbie. It was passed around the circle. Each person drew on it and blew the smoke out to the roof. When it reached James, he passed it back outside. Sean nodded to him and James led the way out of the lodge. He was quickly followed by the others. As they neared the pond, the boys started running and dove into the cool water. They surfaced smiling. The boys started playing around and were quickly joined by Jake, Tom and Robbie. Sean and James just relaxed in the cool water and watched the antics of the younger people. They started to tire and made their way out of the pond and up to the campsite. Marian watched as they came up and handed them towels to dry off. It didn't even register with the boys that they were wearing nothing. They smiled and talked as they dried off and got dressed.
"Grandfather, is it okay to talk about something that I saw while we were in there?"
"If you wish, Little Wolf, we can."
"I was a young wolf. I was at a big house somewhere. I sneaked up close to the house and looked in the window. Inside a saw a couple men talking and there was a boy in the room as well. He saw me looking in and stood up. There were tears in his eyes and a look of hopelessness. When he saw me that look changed to one of hope. The men turned toward me and I found myself back in the lodge. What does it mean?"
Sean thought about it for a few moments before he replied.
"I think it means that you are going to do something to help him. I don't know when, but I think that is what you saw."
"Me and Jared saw my mom and she said that she was happy I was with Jake and that Jared and I were together.
"I'm glad you saw her, son."
"Me too, Dad."
"I saw Sandy; she is with her family and told me not to visit for a long time."
They laughed a little at that. Trevor walked over and hugged Jake. Trevor and Zach looked at each other and both of them decided to keep Justin to themselves. While they finished dressing, Marian finished putting the fire out. Once everyone was ready, they left the campsite and walked back out to the trucks.
Back at the ranch they were greeted by the ladies, who had fixed a large dinner for everyone. Everyone changed out of their buckskin clothes and settled down to a great meal. There was discussion about the sweat lodge, but no one volunteered anything about what was seen during the ceremony. After the meal, they sat around and talked until it was time for Robbie, Ginny and his parents left.
It was dark and cool as Cody Jarrett made his way over the prairie. Up ahead he saw a large grove of trees. He stumbled toward it and found a path. He followed the path into the trees. The path led to a pond and then split in two directions. He turned to the right, curious as to where it led. He followed it until he came to a campsite. In the middle of the campsite was a structure of some kind. Cody walked up to it and found the door. He saw that it looked like the wikiup lodges, like he had seen in a museum that the Indians had used, all covered in hides. He opened the door and looked inside. There was a pit filled with rocks and more hides were on the ground. He felt warmth coming from inside the lodge and he shivered in the outside cold air. It reminded him that he was dressed in a thin t shirt and jeans. The cool air caused him to shiver once again and he went inside, closing the door behind him. Inside he saw bundles of sage and sweet grass hanging from the inside frame. The floor was covered in hides. There was a feeling of peace and safety inside the lodge. Cody felt tired and he lay down opposite the door and near to the rock pit where he felt warm. He pulled one of the hides from the ground and covered himself with it. He winced and held his side as he made himself comfortable. Soon he fell asleep.
Author's Note: The Sweat Lodge Ceremony used here is closely patterned on Sequoyah's similar ceremony in the story Mountain Magic. I contacted Sequoyah and got his cheerful permission to use it in this chapter. If you have never read any of his work, I strongly recommend them. As a person who has always identified with my American Indian blood (Cherokee), I have loved his stories that had that Native American flavor. Thank you, Sequoyah, for your stories and your permission.
Also since Mikey is mentioned in passing. I wanted to thank AC for having come up with a great character like Mikey and giving me permission to borrow him.