Castle Roland

A Special Place

by Sequoyah


Chapter 55

Posted: N/A

A Special Place--Part Fifty-five--Michael

The trip to the Black Hills was, to say the very least, interesting. As Red Hawk had said, there were no interstate highways or motels involved. In fact, no two days or nights were the same. Often we'd be traveling along a country road when Red Hawk would point out something that was little more than a dirt trail, and we'd be off on an unmapped road. The only map was the one the old Indian had in his head and it never failed us. The result, of course, was that we saw things and places few others saw.

Our sleeping places were even more varied. The first night we camped beside a spring somewhere in the southern mountains. The next night Red Hawk had Matt, who was driving, turn down a lane toward a pasture. He asked Luke to open a gate, and Matt drove through it and across the pasture to a barn standing on a hilltop. We spent the second night sleeping on new, sweet-smelling hay. But the strangest, I think, was our final night on the road. Mary Kathryn was driving when Red Hawk directed her to a farm house where dinner was waiting for us. As soon as he had introduced us to his great-granddaughter, Spring Fawn, we sat down to a wonderful dinner. When we finished, Red Hawk said, "I'll see you in the morning," grabbed his bag and left.

When he had gone, Matt asked Spring Fawn how she knew we were coming, and she answered, "Cell phone".

"You mean Indian cell phone?" Luke asked.

"Well, Granddad Red Hawk is an Indian and he used his cell phone, so I guess you could call it an Indian cell phone." She laughed uproariously--her great-grandfather's belly laugh--at Luke's suggestion that Red Hawk had powers which allowed him to communicate with her without a phone.

She continued laughing as she said, "That old Indian great-grandfather of mine is a first-class trickster. Only half of what he says is so and the problem is, you don't know which half."

As if on cue, the Gang of Four got stricken looks on our faces. I knew we were all thinking the same thing--we were on a wild goose chase. Seeing our reaction, Spring Fawn quickly added, "Don't get me wrong. Red Hawk is a powerful medicine man, but he has a real sense of humor and loves putting something over someone--especially on know-it-all white men. But, no, he's up to serious business with you four. Real serious business." It was obvious we were all relieved.

"That's good," Matt said, "because if he had taken me from Luke for nothing, I'd be major pissed!"

Mid-afternoon of the fourth day of our journey, Red Hawk pointed out what seemed to be a nearly non-existent trail and we drove deep into the Black Hills, stopping at a two-room cabin just at sundown. The trip had been over pretty rough terrain and travel was slow--almost at a walking pace at times. When we stopped, a woman who was obviously an Indian of fifty or so, came out of the cabin. She greeted us warmly after Red Hawk introduced her as Singing Sparrow, a powerful medicine woman. "She'll be in charge of Mary Kathryn," he told us.

Inside, Singing Sparrow served us cups of steaming, strong coffee. As we drank, Red Hawk told us we'd do a sweat tomorrow after Matt and Luke had found their questing places. "We'll leave about daybreak and explore until each of you sees your place. You'll know it when you see it," he added. "When you do, give me a sign, but say nothing."

A Special Place--Part Fifty-five--Luke

Singing Sparrow had prepared supper for us and, after we had eaten, we found places for our sleeping bags outside, under the stars. Matt and I had had ours zipped together for the entire trip, but I wasn't sure it was ok now since we were about to begin our quest. When I asked Red Hawk, he laughed and said, "Just behave yourselves," and walked away.

Before we went to bed, Matt and I walked under the stars, holding hands. In the clear, clean air, the stars seemed close enough to touch. They looked as if you could reach up and pluck one from the sky. When we stopped and stood looking at the stars, Matt said, "Luke, we need to remember how great just holding hands, holding each other and kissing is. I guess the joy of having sex can make simpler--no, less lustful--ways of making love seem unimportant. It doesn't, does it?"

I answered by taking my Dark Angel in my arms, holding him close, then kissing his wonderful lips tenderly.

We found a grassy spot and lay on our backs, Matt's head resting on my now-bare chest, my arm encircling his as we gazed at the stars overhead. Reluctantly, we finally got up and walked back toward the cabin. Michael and Mary Kathryn had placed their sleeping bags, zipped together, a short distance from ours and were asleep, entwined in each other's arms. As we walked past, Matt said, "Luke, one day we will have beautiful nieces and nephews". I couldn't have agreed more and uttered a silent prayer that their love would last and grow.

The sun had not risen when Red Hawk shook us awake. When we were up, he handed us steaming cups of coffee and what he called Lakota energy bars. The taste was strange, but it seemed to be all we needed for breakfast. When we had eaten, the six of us climbed a rise and greeted the new day as it dawned. As the sun rose, Michael and Mary Kathryn, Matt and I held each other close, knowing we would soon be separated--again--for days, maybe even a week.

After sunrise, we went down the hill to where the sweat, to purify us for what lay ahead, would be held. Red Hawk had long ago dug the fire and stone pits and erected the framework, but insisted, he told us, on removing the cover after each sweat. "So Father Sky can visit this place," he explained. The covering was not tarps, but buffalo hides which were hanging on a framework in the fresh air and sun. We didn't have to gather stones only take those in the stone pit out, ready for the fire. Michael, Matt and I did that and went to the small stream nearby for water to be used in the ceremony.

We gathered wood for the fire which Red Hawk started. He had told us where we would find some fallen logs which we cut into lengths and took to the fire pit. Soon the fire was burning well and the logs were becoming burning embers. Red Hawk inspected it carefully, was satisfied that the fire would do well and said, "Ok, now we look for your questing places. Michael, you need to join us."

As we walked through the wilderness, I spied an overhang forming a kind of grotto, its floor covered with leaves and pine needles. Nearby were ferns. As I looked at it, I thought I heard a voice call, "Here, Luke". When that happened, I looked at Red Hawk and Michael. Both were smiling. I nodded. I had found my place. As I turned to leave, it seemed the ferns called out, "Use us". I knew I would cover the leaves and needles with the fern fronds. How did I know? Don't ask me. I just did.

A Special Place--Part Fifty-five--Matt

When we started the walk to find our questing places, I felt very alone--well, maybe not alone, but in solitude. It's hard to explain, I mean I was with people, yet was alone, but not lonely. We walked along a dry streambed for a while, then up a rather large hill. As we started down the other side of the hill, I saw a stream flowing at the bottom of it and, across the stream, a bluff or cliff. Halfway up the bluff I saw an opening, like the entrance to a cave. As soon as I saw it I knew it was my questing place, then realized there was no way to reach it I could see--either from the bottom or the top of the cliff. I looked at Red Hawk and he nodded. We continued walking for perhaps another mile, then returned to the cabin.

When we reached the cabin, the fire had burned down to a huge bed of hot embers. Luke and I placed the rocks in the fire pit and Michael added a large pile of log sections. Then we three covered the lodge with the buffalo skins. That done, Red Hawk motioned for Luke and they walked a short distance and stopped to talk. Red Hawk kept nodding.

They returned and Red Hawk called me to go with him. When we were out of earshot, he asked, "You found your questing place?"

"Well, I'm not sure. There appeared to be a cave halfway up the bluff, but I saw no way to reach it. Yet that seemed to be the place."

"You'll find a way to reach it," Red Hawk said. "When you do, mark your place with the pouches of tobacco Michael will give you. They are the colors of the four directions.

We walked back to the cabin where we ate a hearty meal, Luke's and my last until the quest was over. Red Hawk had insisted we drink nothing except water after our morning coffee and, in fact, kept insisting we drink more and more. The last time he had handed us water, Luke had said, "Red Hawk, I have drunk so much water my eyeballs are floating".

"Piss and then drink some more," he said.

A couple hours later, Red Hawk came to where Luke and I were sprawled out in the shade of a cottonwood tree, my head resting on my beloved's bare chest. "Time to get washed up for the sweat," he said, pointing to the small stream flowing in front of the waiting sweat lodge. When we came out of the water, Red Hawk handed the three guys a clout and Singing Sparrow handed Mary Kathryn a thin cotton dress.

Since Mary Kathryn was joining us, Singing Sparrow opened the lodge. I had thought Michael would conduct the sweat or be fire and doorkeeper, but Red Hawk said Michael would also need to have the sweat prior to his training so he would conduct the sweat. "Singing Sparrow will handle the door and stones," he said. Seeing the size of the stones, I thought he was nuts, but that's the way it happened. Never underestimate the strength of an Indian, a woman or especially an Indian woman!

As nearly as any sweat is uneventful, this one was. I guess after the excitement of the last two, I expected some wonders, but the only wonder was the wonder of a sweat. When we came out, we went to the small stream and washed and cooled off. When we came out, Red Hawk gave us fresh breech cloths and said, "Luke, I'll lead you to your questing place. Matt, Michael will assist you." With those words, he started walking away, Luke beside him.

When Michael started out, I was sure he was going in the wrong direction, because we had walked out of the camp together in the morning and now we were going in a different direction from Luke and Red Hawk, but I said nothing.

I was surprised when we walked around the foot of a hill and I saw the bluff a short distance away. When we reached the bottom of it, Michael handed me the four pouches which I tucked into my clout. As I did, Michael laughed and said, "Didn't think you needed any addition down there!" I just ignored him. Michael hugged me to himself and said, "Have a good quest, Big Brother," and turned to go. As he did, I looked at the bluff again and still saw no way to reach the opening twenty or thirty feet above my head.

I was about to go around and climb to the top of the bluff to see if I could reach it from there, when I saw a handhold just above my face. I reached up for it, grasped it and used my arms to pull myself up. Just when I was sure I couldn't make it, my foot found a small--and I mean small--foothold. Each time I reached up, I seemed to find a handhold and then the handholds became footholds as I climbed. But they were small and a few times I thought for sure I was a goner, but I finally made it to the opening. I guess it was a cave mouth although the hole was hardly large enough to be called a cave. In fact, it was so small, I had to pull myself around until I could enter feet first. Before I pulled myself completely inside, I marked my questing place with the four pouches--using up and down as two directions.

Inside, there was room enough for me to sit, but not stand, and the cave was just deep enough for me to lie down, no more. When I was finally inside, it was almost sundown. I had not been aware before, but the cave opening faced east. I sat in the mouth of the cave, looking out, as the sunset--which I could not see since it was behind me--created ever-changing patterns on the hillside across the stream, painting the trees and rocks first one color, then another. Since I was only seeing the sunset's reflection on the hillside, I thought of Plato's cave.

As darkness fell, the sounds of the night drifted up to my questing place. I didn't think I, and in ordinary circumstances, had ever realized just how alive the night was. As I listened, the moon came up, painting the landscape in silvery light, illuminating the scene before me. I was entranced, so much so I had no idea how long I sat, watching the changing patterns across the stream and on its waters, my thoughts drifting. I thought about the crisis in my relationship with Luke and its healing, about my future and the route Woody and Stinky had urged me to consider, about the family. With these thoughts came a deep sense of thankfulness and gratitude. I thought about Michael and Mary Kathryn who had grown up while I wasn't looking. Then I thought of Luke again.

Sure the past was past, but I was almost in tears when I recalled how close we came to losing each other, and vowed never to let anything come between us again. The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize the sense of desperation Luke had felt. I mean, would my life be worth living without my Yonghon Tongmu? Not that I would ever think of ending my own life, but how empty it would be! I knew Luke loved me, there had never been any question about that since the day I stormed out of his hospital room only to return to the man I loved. At the same time, I guess I never realized the absolute depth of his love until I sat on the river bank and saw there was a depth in him I had not seen or appreciated. My thoughts continued to wander as sleep came over me. When the call of the morning birds woke me, I couldn't recall having drifted off to sleep.

I sat in the entrance of the cave, watching the sunrise, greeting the new day. Then I became very aware of the fact that I needed to piss and was hungry. The former I took care of by kneeling at the cave entrance and pissing over the edge. The latter would go unanswered for... how long? It had been a week for Dad.

I was surprised when I woke up the second day--at least I think it was the second day--to find I wasn't hungry. My sleeping and waking prevented my having any real sense of what day it was. I only knew whether it was morning or evening by the sun. As a result of sleeping and waking, I saw my surroundings at all times of the day and night but, really, I had no concept of time beyond the time of day--and I did know about what time of night it was from the shifting stars.

One night, as I sat watching the moon rise, it seemed to grow in size until it was all I could see. As I stared at it, it slowly changed from a shining orb into a great silver wolf. It sat on its haunches, watching me as I stared into its eyes. Suddenly, it seemed to spring from the sky straight toward me. Just as I prepared to dodge its attack, I became the wolf and raced through a very strange forest.

The wind whistled through my fur and ears as I ran faster and faster through the moonlit forest. As I ran, my thoughts became those of the wolf. I was the wolf and felt a sense of strength and power I had never known before. Somehow or other I was strong, not just physically--and I was that--but possessing an inner strength, a deep inner power. Through some sense or instinct, I knew it was not power to be used for me, but for others--the power to protect.

As I raced through the forest, I suddenly came upon a clearing, a glade, shimmering in the moonlight. Standing in the glade was an enormous bird, a thunderbird, its feathers golden in the silvery moonlight. As I approached, its golden feathers shifted pattern, looking more and more like a golden fire. I was surprised when the bird turned and looked at me with piercing blue eyes, eyes I knew but did not know. As I gazed into those eyes I was, at first, frightened, but then saw in their depths nothing but love and I felt--even wolf that I was--a sense of caring beyond anything I had ever felt before. I felt great love toward this figure which I found strange, overpowering. As we continued looking at each other, I felt in the core of my being a promise--a promise I couldn't understand, just accept.

I moved closer and, as I did, the bird became a thunderbird of golden flames then it took flight, a stream of flame climbing into the sky. I was still haunted by those blue, blue eyes as I found myself back in my cave. I knew I needed to climb down, which I did and, when I reached the stream, I fell to my knees and started lapping water like a wolf. It was the best water I had ever tasted! When I had satisfied my thirst, I heard Michael's voice. Still on my knees, I looked up and saw him across the stream. Seeing Michael, I opened my mouth to greet him and, instead, uttered a tremendous wolf's howl. Michael smiled and said, "A powerful vision, Silver Wolf".

Michael lent me support as we walked back to the cabin, but neither of us spoke after my howl and his calling me Silver Wolf. As we approached the cabin, I saw the whole family and could smell the fragrance of food cooking. Coming from the other side of the cabin, I saw Luke approaching with Red Hawk. I forgot all about food as the two of us approached each other slowly.

A Special Place--Part Fifty-five--Luke

When Red Hawk left me at my questing place, I raked the leaves and pine needles into a bed, adding a pile to serve as a pillow. Using my knife, I cut fern fronds, covering the bed with their sweet fragrance. That task completed, I sat down and looked around me. This was a beautiful, peaceful place. As I sat still, a deer passed by, completely ignoring my presence. As the day came to an end, I saw patches of the setting sun through the leaves of the trees in front of my place. Night fell and the night sounds started. Somewhere in the distance a wolf or coyote howled. I didn't know when I had been so at peace. The moon rose in the back of my grotto, casting strange and wonderful shadows in the forest. Night birds were singing as if they knew I was at peace with myself and the universe.

As I sat listening to the night, my thoughts turned to the past few months--my attempted suicide at the falls, my dreams when I was fighting death, discovering Matt's love for me--everything. It was as if I had a movie running in my head. Finally, I recalled my time with Rich. I guess all the time I had really been blaming him for seducing me, "But it takes two," I thought. What had I been really wanting? Sex? Of course, I had been away from Matt for almost four weeks, but it wasn't really sex. I had wanted to hurt Matt, really hurt Matt and I had known how to do it. Never had I doubted his love for me and to appear to have thrown that love away would have hurt more than anything. I knew that because I put myself in Matt's place and knew that if he took his love from me, I would be hurt to the quick.

I felt an overwhelming sense of thankfulness flow over me as I thought of what Taequo had done. He had given me back a life I was throwing away. Finally, I realized that I had rehearsed the past without blaming myself or anyone. I had forgiven myself, healed by the love of those who cared for me--including Taequo and Red Hawk who had not known me. It was over and I was at peace. The next thing I knew, I was waking up from a deep, healing sleep.

It was still night--or maybe it was the next night--I didn't know. I was very thirsty and hungry. I didn't know whether I could endure the whole quest if the pangs of hunger and thirst continued. As if to answer me, I remembered the sweat lodge and the prayer for endurance. I knew that not only must I endure, but also that I could. Again I fell asleep.

When I awoke, the sun was bright and the forest alive with day creatures. I sat up, looking around me, when a butterfly came and sat on my knee. I knew his life was short compared to mine and that he was, even in that short life, giving the world great beauty even if no human being saw it. I sensed what Red Hawk meant when he spoke of all creation as his brothers and sisters. How fortunate I was to have a longer life to give beauty to the world!

In what I think was mid-afternoon, the buzz of unseen insects made me very sleepy and I lay back on the ferns, enjoying their scent, and fell asleep. I dreamed of Matt who, like the butterfly, gave the world great beauty. As I dreamed, I was also thinking, "The butterfly's life is short, but regardless of how long mine may be, it will be too short for me and my love". Suddenly, I was walking through the forest with Matt. We were holding hands and both of us, I knew, felt as though we were not only at one with each other but also with the whole of creation. We were singing as we walked in the sunlight, Matt's black, black hair shining as it blew in the breeze.

When the dream ended, I wasn't sure where I was at first--you know, that waking up in a strange place and not remembering how you got there? I tried to get myself oriented but, even when I remembered where I was, the scene before me didn't look right. It was dark, black, and strange shapes were moving about. I don't know how I knew, but I knew they were the bad spirits coming for me. Just before I panicked, I remembered that I was weak when I was thinking about myself and not others. I forced my thoughts to the Fellowship. I wondered what they were doing. I guess I prayed because I thought of each in turn and what they were doing, and of their struggles. Finally, my mind became fixed on Jake, Danny and Buddy. I wanted to give the three of them some of the peace and happiness I had felt earlier and, as I had that thought, I felt it again. I looked up and the forest was shimmering in the bright moonlight as it should have been.

Time passed--I had no concept of days or nights, or of time, beyond what I could tell from the sun and moon. I was no longer hungry or thirsty. About noon of one day, I was sitting, looking out from my place when, out of a perfectly clear sky, a great thunderbolt crashed through the forest, shaking the ground on which I was sitting. A second and a third crashed, then a bolt of lightening struck the ground before me. I was blinded by the flash but, when I could see again, a giant bird was standing before my grotto, staring at me--a thunderbird. As it stood, I got up and walked toward it. As I approached, I felt a tingling all over my body. When I was only a few feet from it, there was a mighty crash of thunder and a lightning bolt struck me. I was knocked down and, as I got up, I saw that I had become a giant thunderbird. I had become the thunderbird, because he was no longer present. I flapped my wings and rose into the air. My feathers became flames and I was a flaming bird screaming through the air. My cries were thunder, and lightning was coming from my wing-tips as I flew.

I was ecstatic at being able to fly and flew higher and higher in the sky. I felt the power in my wings and knew the power of my thunder cry and of the flashes of lightning coming from my wings. As I flew, I looked at the sky and saw that it was clear except where I was flying. I was surrounded by great thunderclouds, rolling and whirling in the sky. I flew and flew and flew, feeling at one with the sky and the earth below. Before I realized it, I had flown into the night. I looked down and, far below, saw a great silver wolf racing through the forest. I flew over him, watching the beauty of his sleek body and its fluid movement. I knew I was, in some way, bound to the wolf, but I was not sure how. Ahead, I spied a clearing in the forest. The wolf was headed for it, still running like the wind. I shot out of the sky and, just before the wolf entered the clearing, landed in its center. When the wolf came into the clearing, he stopped and I turned and looked at him, looking directly into his eyes as he looked into mine. I looked into beautiful, black almond eyes. They were very strange eyes for a wolf, but in them I saw and felt an overwhelming love and an unbreakable bond. Without being aware of what was happening, my feathers became flame and I shot into the sky then, without warning, I was no longer a bird. I was back in my questing place, squatting as if I were a bird, when I saw Red Hawk and heard his voice. I called out to him but, instead of calling his name, the call was a great thunder clap.

I stood up and started walking toward Red Hawk, but soon realized I was very weak and stopped. Red Hawk came, put my arm around his shoulders and gave me a flask of water which I drank eagerly. We then walked back toward the cabin. As we rounded the cabin, I saw Matt, being supported by Michael. Both Red Hawk and Michael took our arms from their shoulders, and Matt and I walked toward each other slowly. When we met, we embraced, looking into each other's eyes, and I recognized those black almond eyes--I didn't know how I could have forgotten, the eyes I had seen in my vision were Matt's!--as, slowly, our lips met. As the kiss--tender, loving, soft, gentle--went on, I swore I would never, ever forget how special a kiss from my Matt was! As we broke our kiss, I looked into those black almond eyes and said, "I love you. I love you Silver Wolf!"

Matt smiled, his black eyes sparkling, and said, "And I love you Fire Thunderbird!" and our lips met again.

Later both of us wondered how we knew the other's new Lakota name.

A Special Place--Part Fifty-five--Matt

When Luke and I broke our kiss, I saw our parents and Taequo had arrived. There were hugs all around and, as I hugged Mom, she said, "Matt, you stink!" Luke and I were were still dressed in the clouts we had worn for four days during our quest--Red Hawk had told me our quest had lasted four days--and after that long without a bath, no wonder even a mother would think her son a little rank. Luke must have gotten the message as well, because he grabbed my hand and we raced toward the stream, tossing the clouts to the wind as we leaped into the shallow water. Michael and Mary Kathryn joined us, cloutless and dressless--I am sure to Jens displeasure, but he said nothing.

As we frolicked--a bit tamer than usual because Luke and I had, after all, done a four-day fast--Taequo brought us a mixture of some kind to use as soap. It smelled fantastic and made my skin feel tingly and clean, wonderfully clean. When we started out of the water, I saw Dad and Red Hawk had joined Taequo, waiting for us on the bank. As Luke stepped out of the water, Taequo handed him a beautiful pair of leggings, a fresh breech cloth and moccasins. Before he took them, Luke embraced Taequo in a bear hug.

As I came out of the stream, Dad hugged me and said, with tears in his eyes, "Son, I never dared dream my son would make a vision quest. You have honored me deeply." He hugged me again and gave me leggings, a breech cloth and moccasins. David gave Michael his Lakota dress and Gabrielle gave Mary Kathryn a soft, white buckskin fringed dress.

Red Hawk looked at Luke and Michael, smiled and said, "Fire Thunderbird and Golden Eagle, two blond-headed Lakota warriors, more Lakota than many full-bloods".

Luke and I, Michael and Mary Kathryn, walked, arm in arm, to the feast table which had been laid out. As we reached it, Red Hawk, Singing Sparrow and Dad started a Lakota chant to Taequo's drumbeat. When they had finished, Red Hawk handed us steaming bowls of broth. "This will get your stomachs used to food again," he said. "The rest of you, dig in."

The broth tasted very good and soon Red Hawk bid us eat. We ate sparingly at first, still giving our stomachs a chance to adjust to having food inside, but then....

The feasting lasted well into the night. The family had always enjoyed being together and eating together--well, except for the time Jens found out about Luke and me--but I couldn't remember a time when we enjoyed each other's company more, when we were all so happy and showing affection so freely, even Jens. Shortly after midnight, I guess, Red Hawk called us all into a circle. Taequo joined him in the center and Red Hawk made a brief, but moving, speech about the kind of man Taequo was, mentioning he had received eagle feathers for brave and kind deeds in the past. Then he presented him with another "in recognition of what he has done for Fire Thunderbird, the Family and the world, by saving his life". I wept, as did Luke.

Having received the feather, Taequo asked Singing Sparrow to speak of Mary Kathryn's journey. In a few brief words--I liked that about Indian speeches!--she said Mary Kathryn was now fully a woman and ready to take on the privileges and responsibilities of womanhood. "She is a fine spirit woman," she concluded as she placed a feather in Mary Kathryn's hair, the tail feather of a red hawk. As she did, she called her by her new Lakota name, Daughter of the Dawn.

We all hugged Mary Kathryn and then Taequo spoke. "Those who go on a vision quest are careful to whom they reveal their vision. Tonight, I am not sure Silver Wolf and Fire Thunderbird could tell us of theirs if they tried. It is up to Golden Eagle and Red Hawk to tell us of our brothers' journeys." I am sure the two did a better job than Luke and I could have done and, when they finished, they handed us each a medicine bag which we hung around our necks.

It was nearing dawn when people started drifting away. David and Margaret were the first to go; I guess the trip had been tiring for her especially. Yong Jin and Greywolf left just after David and Margaret, then Red Hawk and Singing Sparrow, leaving only Jens and Gabrielle and the Gang of Four. Michael and Mary Kathryn were sitting across the campfire from Luke and me, cuddling and exchanging kisses from time to time, as did Luke and I. Finally, Michael stood, extended his hand to Mary Kathryn and helped her to her feet. "Look at Dad," Luke whispered. Jens was obviously struggling with himself as the two walked toward their sleeping bag, just out of the firelight. Finally, Jens extended his hand to Gabrielle and they went to their sleeping bag, away from Michael's and Mary Kathryn's, mine and Luke's. As they left, Luke whispered, "Silver Wolf, how would you like to make mad passionate love to a fire thunderbird?" I grinned my answer as I grabbed his hand and we raced into the night.

When we reached our sleeping bag, Luke flopped down on it, pulling me on top of himself. I thought I could learn to like leggings and a breech cloth! Little more than a flick of the wrist and only the leggings remain, and they interfere with nothing! Since Luke and I had just come off a four-day fast, our love-making was, of necessity, slow and easy, but that did not make it less than perfect--perfectly wonderful. Finally, two Lakota warriors--one light, the other dark--lay in the moonlight, bodies entwined. "Goodnight, Silver Wolf," Luke whispered.

"Goodnight, Fire Thunderbird." At peace with ourselves, each other and our world, we slept.

A Special Place--Part Fifty-five--Michael

Mary Kathryn and I had been separated while Matt and Luke were on their quest--she with Singing Sparrow and I with Red Hawk. I was very surprised when, on the fourth day of their quest, I found myself watching Matt's vision. Later, when I told Red Hawk, he asked what I had expected. "You are Matt's protector during his quest as I am Luke's. What did you see?" I told him of Matt's vision and he told me of Luke's.

I was surprised that I had witnessed Matt's vision, but that was not my biggest surprise. When I saw Mary Kathryn as I brought Matt back from his quest, she had changed. I couldn't tell you how she had changed, beyond saying she was a woman--and, as nearly as she would ever belong to any one, she was my woman.

After the feast, we walked to our sleeping bag. When we reached it, I undressed my beautiful, wonderful wild woman--Daughter of the Dawn--and kissed her breasts, her hair, her eyes. As I did, she reached down and removed my breech cloth, allowing my manhood to stand straight and hard before me. As we stood in the moonlight, our lips joined, her hand worked miracles for me as my finger did, I'm sure, for her. When my climax came, it brought me to my knees and Mary Kathryn knelt before me, joining her lips to mine as another orgasm shook her body. My passion spent, we lay in each other's arms, talking in the night. I realized I was aroused again and said to my woman, "Dawn's Child, this is the perfect time and place..." I didn't finish the sentence because she covered my mouth with her hand.

"Michael, this may seen to be the time, but it's not--unless you want to be a father before you are seventeen--and I think we both know it is not really the place. You know that, don't you?" Of course I did. Then, in a joking mood, she said, "Besides, after what happened a few minutes ago, I doubt that you are up to it".

"The hell you say," I replied as I placed her hand on my rock hard manhood. Mary Kathryn actually bent down and kissed its head and said, "Lover, I think this is where we stop for the night". Well, it didn't actually work out that way and the eruption that covered her hand proved she was wrong about what I was able to do.

When we had rested from our love-making--how the hell we stopped when we did, I'll never know, but I could tell you one thing: that stopping at the brink had got to stop!--I took Mary Kathryn in my arms and carried her to the stream where we frolicked in the moonlight, enjoying being kids.

Finally, we walked back to our sleeping bag, dried each other and lay in each other's arms as we drifted off to sleep.

Sometime before dawn, I was shaken awake by Red Hawk. He put his finger to his lips, signaling me to be quiet, then motioned for me to come with him. I crawled out of the sleeping bag, got dressed and followed him back to the campfire which had burned very low. Matt and Luke were standing by the fire, dressed as I, as Lakota. "Do you know the Lakota ceremony for making relatives?" Red Hawk asked. All three of us nodded. "Several years ago, eight sun dancers were given HIV when they were pierced with the knife which had pierced an HIV%2B dancer. Since that time, the mixing of blood has just about become unknown," he said. "But, if you trust me, I assure you that I'm clean and I know you three are."

"Of course we trust you," Luke said.

Red Hawk took his knife from his belt, held it over the embers of the campfire until it was almost red hot, then waved it in the air to cool it. That done, he pricked his wrist, then asked that I hold out my arm, which he also pricked. As tiny drops of blood appeared on our wrists, he bound the two together and said, "Michael, I am honored to make you my relative--my son". He then repeated his action with Luke and Matt. When he had finished, he said, "You are now my relatives and relatives of all the Lakota. We are honored and I am sure you will honor your relatives. Now get back to sleep. You have a long journey ahead of you."

When daylight came, I awoke and thought that it had been a dream, until I looked at my wrist and saw the mark of our mixed blood. I was very proud to be a relative of Red Hawk.

I kissed Mary Kathryn awake and we walked toward the table where there was hot coffee and, soon, breakfast. As we approached, Matt and Luke looked at me and turned their arms so I could see the marks on their wrists. I nodded and showed them mine.

A Special Place--Part Fifty-six--Matt

After a very early breakfast, the parents left, driving their rented four-wheel-drive back to the airport for the flight home. Taequo was to have gone with them, but Red Hawk asked that he wait a day. The Gang of Four said goodbyes to Red Hawk, Taequo and Singing Sparrow--not without some tears--and started the trip home.

We had decided we would drive straight through, this time using the interstate highways and stopping only for food and gas--and maybe toilets, but bushes would do. We tried to have two sleeping, one driving and one navigating. Just after dark, Michael and Mary Kathryn were asleep, Luke was driving and I was navigating. I placed my hand on Luke's thigh and asked, "Luke, do you remember you once asked me to marry you?"

"How could I ever forget your answer?" he smiled. "I meant it then and, if you like, I'll ask you again. Matt, will you marry me?"

"Luke, lots in our life has changed. In the years to come, there will be other changes, we both know that. But one thing that will never change is my answer. Of course I will marry you."

"Then why the question?"

"Of course I know it can't be official and legal, in the church and all that, but a commitment ceremony would mean the same thing for us, right?"

"Right. Are you thinking what I think you're thinking?"

"That the time has come?"


"Then I'm thinking what you think I'm thinking." Luke took his eyes off the road for a minute as he turned and smiled at me. It was hard, but we did manage to get in a kiss before he had to pay attention to his driving. As we drove into the night, we talked about what we wanted and when. Finally we decided we'd ask the whole gang to postpone going to Ohio until we could be married--as married as we could be. "Luke, since there's nothing legal or official about what we want to do, let's ask Michael to do the ceremony," I said, after we had talked at length.

"Exactly what I was thinking, Sarang Hanun Pomul."

When I took over as driver, Michael was navigator and Luke was to get some sleep. He got in the back seat and said, "Matt, talk to Michael," and the next minute was asleep.

"Michael, Luke and I have been talking and have made a decision. You know we were going to have a commitment ceremony when the time was right, and we've decided the time is now. That means we will have to postpone the trip to Ohio a week, I think, but we both feel we need to have those who have loved and supported us through this hard time be a part of our really being, well, married, committed--whatever it might be called--and we'd like you to do it."

"I've no objection to postponing the trip. In fact, I think your having your ceremony is an excellent idea. It's a great idea," Michael said, "and I'd love to do it, but I mean..."

"Look, Michael, you can't do a wedding because you're not a priest. But what difference does that make? We can't have a legal wedding or an official commitment ceremony, so why can't you do it? Maybe--I hope and pray--by the time you are a priest, or even before, committed couples can have their union blessed. When that happens, Luke and I will be first in line to have you bless our union. But I am sure it will be no more real to us than a ceremony you do for us now. After all, as even Fr. Tom says, the couple marry each other. The only thing the church does is bless the marriage and the people witness the commitment. Certainly we want all our family and friends to witness our public vows, and I bet Fr. Tom can figure out a way to bless it one way or another."

"Well, you're right about all that," Michael said. "And of course I will, and will be damn honored to do so, but I'll have to have help putting it together."

"I'm pretty sure I learned enough at Sewanee this summer that Luke and I can put a ceremony together, and I'm sure Fr. Tom will help if we need it. Thanks, Li'l Bro."

"Thank you, Big Bro."

I realized I was getting very sleepy and we stopped so Mary Kathryn could replace Michael and he me.

The two asleep, two awake, worked pretty well for twelve hours, but soon all four of us found ourselves getting sleepy as soon as we started driving or navigating. Luke finally said, "Look, we'd like to get home, right? Then we'd better stop before someone has to pull our guts off a telephone pole." We found a place to camp, got out our sleeping bags and slept for eight hours then, refreshed, finished the trip home.

When we got to my place, Dad met us at the door. "I have some sad/happy news," he said. "Shortly after you left, Red Hawk told Taequo his work was done, he was tired, and that it was a good day to die. 'I now have sons to carry on, so I'm finished,' were his last words. Having said that, he just sat down and died. Taequo said it was the way he went to sleep--he announced it and then did it. Taequo and Singing Sparrow wrapped him in a buffalo hide, erected a scaffold and placed his body on it--the Lakota way of caring for their dead. Taequo said he knew he was probably a strange one to do it but, in addition to the Lakota ceremony, he read the service for the dead from Red Hawk's Book of Common Prayer. Sad news because Red Hawk was such a beloved friend, but happy news because he did what few men are able to do: he finished his work."

Dad was right. It was sad/happy news. Sad for us, but happy for a man who had lived a great life and was now among the spirits he knew, and who knew him so well.

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