Castle Roland

The Last
Shaman Book I

by Arthur


Chapter 1

Published: 8 Apr 14


Copyright © 2015 byy Arthur
All Rights Reserved


The copywrite of this story belongs solely to the author, it may not be used for profit or reprint without the Authors written permission, all characters are fictitious and bear no resemblance to anyone living or dead, any similarities are purely co-incidental, this story contains scenes of a sexual nature and is restricted to those of legal age for your area or location.

The year was 2065, it had been a little over two years since the devastation of the viral epidemic, the sight of two horses and a single rider looked as though they were the only things left alive in the vastness of the open plains.

The lead horse was a small fine boned Pinto, behind was a heavier and well built Appaloosa, it was carrying the well slaughtered carcass of an Elk over its back, on the first and smaller horse rode a slim, and young looking figure of a teen, his dress reminiscent of a long bygone age when these plains were the home of more traditional tribes.

His name was Ravenhawk and he was all that was left of his family and, as far as he was aware, he was also the last of his tribe, he had been there when his old Grandfather and three Uncles had been taken by the virus, everything he knew had been passed onto him by these four men.

Grandfather had been called a Medicine Elder although the Whites would mistakenly call him a Shaman, something the old man would laugh at when the Whites were not around, his Uncles were his teachers in the finer arts of hunting, weapons making, tracking and the art of fighting in the old ways as well as the use of the more modern weapons of the Whiteman's world.

Ravenhawk had been virtually raised by these four men since the age of four, once he had done the selection of his nature and his Grandfather had given him his name, he had left the home of the women and joined the men, from that day onward he was taught all the four men could pass onto him.

Other boys on the reservation had made his life hard, unlike them he was not what they called a pure blood, and even his Mother's name was not spoken out loud whenever a conversation about his background came about, why? Because Ravenhawk was only half Lakota from his long dead Father, his Mother had been Apache, not the most favourable tribe to the proud Lakota Sioux.

The long process of growing up had been filled with lessons other boys did not get, at age four he had been taught how to make his first small bow and then taught how to make the arrows, after practising for hours on targets set out by one of his Uncles, he was allowed to start to hunt for small game, rabbits, birds, even lizards and snakes, after each kill he had been taught how to say the prayer for their soul to find its way through the mists and into the keeping of the Creator, all taught by his old Grandfather.

As he grew, he had to make larger and stronger bows until at the age of twelve, he could draw a full bow, his lessons with the lance and coup stick also had to be taken and practiced hour after hour, at night he would sit with his Grandfather and learn the songs and prayers to the spirits, another Uncle would teach him the dances and, just before the virus struck, he was starting to learn the Spirit Drum.

Much of this was frowned upon by others in the tribal area, apart from him not being a full blood Lakota, they all said he was far too young to be knowing the things his Grandfather was teaching him, not only that, but his selection had told everyone he was a two spirits, not the most favourable name even though it was held in high esteem by other tribes but the Lakota did have certain hang-ups when it came to boys who liked boys, it was seen as un-manly.

It had been Ravenhawk who had placed his Grandfather and Uncles on their high set platforms after the virus took them, he knew the right prayers to appease the spirits so he could enter the burial grounds without danger, another thing those who remained did not like, it was not long before all of the tribe had joined his own family in the burial ground, what was left of the Federal Government had other more pressing things to do than look after the reservations, just as they had done in the past, the powers that be ignored the reservation people in the bad times as well as the good.

Ravenhawk was now dressed just as he had been the day he had gone to the Whiteman's school for the first and last time when he was fourteen, as he rode over the lonely plain, Ravenhawk thought back to that fateful day, it was not long after that day that he returned to his home to find his family all dead from, at that time, an unknown sickness, within three days hours he was alone, how the virus had passed him by, he never found out.

The first indication of something wrong was when a Whiteman came to their old home, it was a little ramshackle in appearance, nothing new for the Reservation homes, the man was neatly dressed in a dark suit with a white shirt and striped tie, in his hand he carried a brown leather brief case, his idea of his own self importance was written all over his face as he looked down at the old Grandfather sitting outside the door.

Ravenhawk had heard it all from where he was sitting inside the old house, he had been beading a strip of tanned deer skin for his war shirt just as he had been taught by Uncle number three, the Whiteman's voice was steady and authoritive as he spoke down to the Grandfather.

"Mr. Eagle Claw, we have noted that your grandson is not in school, did you not know it is the law that he must go to the Government school until he was sixteen?"

The old man looked up at the arrogant figure standing above him, the man did not even have the respect to sit properly like a true warrior would have done, 'these White men have so little pride' the old man thought to himself as he looked at the object of his thoughts with narrowed eyes, finally he spoke softly so the man had to lean closer to hear what was said, a good position for him to be knocked on the head in the far distant past.

"He is being schooled in our ways, these are far more important than what you could teach him."

"That may be old man but, the law says he has to go to the Government school until he is sixteen, if he does not show up for school tomorrow you can be arrested and jailed and he will be sent to a juvenile detention centre until he is eighteen, the Government cannot have you people running around without a good education."

Eagle Claw looked up at the man, did he not know he was standing on Lakota land and that he was talking to the Lead Medicine Elder of all the Sioux Nations, the lack of respect was beginning to slow boil in the old man's stomach but he kept his face impassive as he studied the dark suited man before him, it would not go well for his Grandson to shoot this stupid man.

Eagle Claw just looked at the man impassively, he then nodded his head and closed his eyes in dismissal but he could still feel the man standing and waiting for something, finally Eagle Claw got the idea the man wanted a verbal answer.

"Tomorrow my Grandson will go to your school."

"Good, you have just saved yourself a lot of trouble, here are the papers he must sign and bring with him, make sure he signs them all."

The man opened his brief case and took out a large sheaf of papers, as Eagle Claw did not look at him any longer, the man placed the papers on the front steps and then turned and walked back to his shiny black car and drove away, Eagle Claw did not even open his eyes to look at the papers, he was in deep thought as to what his Grandson might do or say, after all, Ravenhawk had even done his Vision Quest and was now considered a man, albeit a small built and very young looking man but in the eyes of the Creator, the boy was now a man.

The Vision Quest at such a young age had been another bone of contention with the others in the tribe, most boys had to wait until they were in their late teens, the Vision Quest was not to be taken lightly, it took many days high on the top of a special mesa or mountain where only a small fire in the circle of stones was his company, that and a few sips of water was all they got until they saw their vision of what was to come.

Eagle Claw had been a little worried about what Ravenhawk had reported to him after his Quest, the apparent appearance of a Black Eagle and Two Guardians had been disturbing and boded something big in the boys future, big and dangerous.

Later that night, Eagle Claw pulled Ravenhawk away from where his third Uncle was teaching him the small drum, as he had always been obedient to his Grandfathers wishes, Ravenhawk settled down on the floor cross legged in front of his Elder, the serious look on the old man's face told Ravenhawk this was a pressing time and was important.

"Grandson, tomorrow there is something important you must do, the Government has said you must go to their school or go to prison, now I know you are a man in the eyes of The Creator even though you are still young so this is something you must decide, if you do not go to their school they will try to take you away, the decision must be yours."

"Grandfather, what will they do to you if I choose not to go?"

"Oh they will do what they always do, just as they did on the Trail of Tears but this is about what you want to do, you are a man, you must decide."

Ravenhawk had sat for a long time to consider all the implications just as he had been taught by all four men in his life, it was better to use time to think things through than to make an error and pay with your life for something that could have been avoided.

"Grandfather, tomorrow I will go to their school but, I will go as your Grandson and not as a cowering slave of the Government."

"Good, then you will do what you must do."

Ravenhawk stood up and went to his own small room at the rear of the old house, had a stranger walked into the sparsely decorated room, they would have been shocked at what they saw, everything in the room was neatly hung or laid out on hand hewn wooden shelves but the most unusual thing in the room was a rather new looking computer set up on a small desk under the single window, a special gift from his three Uncles only two years ago.

Ravenhawk switched on the computer and waited while it booted, he had read a book from the local library on how to work the machine, beside it was a small cheap printer and above it on a narrow shelf were four framed pieces of paper, each heading was from a good school back on the east coast, the last one was the most important and it was this one that Ravenhawk recopied on his small printer.

Once all had been done, Ravenhawk added the single sheet of paper to the ones the man had left, they were still unsigned and would remain that way, he had little need of them, Ravenhawk then began to ready his clothes for the next day, it was to be a very important day so he got the best he had ready for the visit.

Ravenhawk slept well and was up and out at the first sign of the sun, he had time for a prayer to the Creator before he got his Pinto ready for the trip ahead, in the horses mane he threaded two jet black Ravens feathers and painted the yellow circle on the young horses chest, next he tied down the thick blanket he used as a saddle and fixed the horse hair bridle on the young horse as it stood unmoving for its young rider, nearby the Appaloosa stood as though wanting to go with the young man, Ravenhawk spoke softly to the Appaloosa and it turned back to eating the fine green grass close to the house.

When Ravenhawk returned inside he saw his Grandfather and three Uncles waiting for him, all four men looked him over and nodded that they were pleased with what they saw.

Ravenhawk was dressed in his finest, the beadwork on his deer skin war shirt was of the best quality and had taken months of careful work to get right, his leggings were also beaded as was the front flap of his breechclout, his calf length moccasins were beaded over the toes with the symbol of the Circle of Life, attached to the top of his single thick braid of shining black hair was the lone tail feather of a Red Hawk and his forehead was carefully painted with red ochre from hairline to the top of his eyebrows.

Eagle Claw looked at his Grandson with pride, even though the boy was not pure blood Lakota, he looked every inch the warrior, Eagle Claw watched as Ravenhawk took down his bow from the wall and then took two arrows and placed them in the small quiver, one arrow had white fletching, the other was red, after placing a hunting knife in his wide beaded waist band, Ravenhawk took down his coup stick, slung a medicine bag over his shoulder and nodded to the watching men, he was ready to go to school, the five men stood back and watched their charge silently leave the house and mount his waiting horse.

The ride into school would take the best part of an hour at a steady walking pace, Ravenhawk was in no hurry, the school had been there for many years and would be there for many more, he would arrive when he arrived, it was only a little part of what had to be done on this, his first and last day of school.

As he rode in the quiet of the early morning light, Ravenhawk thought back to his childhood and the adventures he had had in those innocent times, even with the trouble he had with the other boys on the Reservation, he still had even better memories to counter their jibes and rough handling that boys were renowned for at that age.

Ravenhawk thought back to when he was only eight years old, he had always run naked wherever he went, when the time came that he began to notice his small boy nail was leading the way instead of flopping about like it used to, Ravenhawk began to think and wonder why it had decided to always be pointing straight ahead all the time, after talking to Uncle number two, Ravenhawk understood, he was growing up and it was time to start wearing clothes.

Ravenhawk had fought his Uncle on wearing the very brief breechclout, he liked the feel of the wind or, as his Grandfather told him, the Breath of Creator, to be running over his skin, that was until the day his hard little nail brushed against some stinging nettles, after that he decided it was better to wear the skimpy deer skin clothes.

At age ten he had been sitting inside the house learning to bead from Uncle number one, Ravenhawk smiled to himself, he knew the names of his Uncles very well but ever since his childhood and before he could remember their names, he had always thought of them as number one, two and three and still thought of them that way now.

As he sat in the early morning light of a new day, Grandfather had walked up to him; he was carrying a thick braided horse hair lariat in his hand.

"Grandson, it is time for you to find a horse, every great warrior must have his own horse, it is time to find yours, I have readied a bag of food and made this new lariat for you, you can eat now and then you must go out to find the horse Creator has set aside for you, if you are a good hunter, Creator may even give you two horses, a great warrior always has two horses, perhaps that is what you are."

Ravenhawk rose to his feet, he was dressed as he always was, calf length moccasins and his very brief breechclout, his slender bronzed legs showed the well formed muscles of a good runner, his body had followed the same style as his Mothers people, the Chiricahua Apache and not the taller and heavier frame of his Fathers people of the Lakota Sioux, this had been another contentious issue with the other boys.

For the first two days, Ravenhawk followed the faint trail of a large herd of mustangs, he could tell they were still about a day ahead of him but moving slowly as they stopped and fed at the best grass spots on the open prairie as well as stopping at clear water holes along the way, Ravenhawk moved as only one of his people could, long loping strides that covered the ground with an easy gait, another hereditary gift of his Apache ancestors.

In the vastness of the open plains, the small figure of the ten year old looked to be no more than a faint smudge on the landscape, for Ravenhawk it was nothing new to be out here alone with his thoughts and the protection of his spiritual ancestors, the hunt for the horse or horses was only a side show to the freedom he felt.

Slowly Ravenhawk closed the gap with the large herd of mustangs, on the third day when the sun was at its highest and any normal person would be hiding from the full heat of the day, Ravenhawk was crawling slowly up to the top of a small rise, he could even smell the water on the other side, with the heat it was almost a certainty that the horses would be close to the only water within miles, he had bet all his abilities on this and taken a short cut up over a high stony ridge to get there before them.

Slowly he raised his small black haired head up over the top of the rise, now he could even smell the sweat of horses as his eyes cleared the small rise, below him he saw the horses for the first time, he had been on their trail now for four days, his food long gone but he was able to find food in just about any place on earth so did not go hungry while he tracked his prey.

Ravenhawk watched the horses as they fed and drank during the afternoon, most only walked aimlessly around but stayed close to the water, it would be in the late afternoon before they moved away from their drinking hole.

The herd was mixed, they were led by a large grey Stallion, the mares were a mixed lot and there were a number of good looking ponies and colts playing around the edges of the older horses, it was one of the colts that had caught Ravenhawk's eye, it was a spritely Pinto that seemed to keep company with a slightly larger Appaloosa, they almost seemed like friends to the watching boy.

It was the Pinto that Ravenhawk wanted but he had to work out how to get close enough to the smaller horse without having a stampede on his hands, if that happened he would be following them for days to catch up for another chance.

Ravenhawk slid back down the rise and looked around for something to distract the Stallion, as he let his eyes wander around his immediate surroundings, he heard the unmistakeable buzz of wild bees, slowly he let his eyes wander a little higher off the ground until he spied the bee making the noise, with all his senses on full alert, he followed the path of the bee until he saw it disappear into a pile of old rocks not far away.

For a race that was said to be inscrutable, the smile on the boys face lit up as he saw his answer, with the ease of long practice, he moved silently towards the rocks, his eyes and ears on full alert, even at ten years of age he knew better than to stir up a hive of wild bees and this nest looked like an very old and large one.

Ravenhawk moved a little away from the opening of the nest, after collecting some dried grass he set about starting a very small fire, just big enough to light a bunch of wetter grass and twigs, once they were smoking nicely, he moved back to the nest and held the smoking bundle close to the opening, within a minute the bees were moving a lot slower, it was time to get his candy for the horses.

Reaching into the dark opening, Ravenhawk let his hand wander inside the nest until he felt the stickiness of honey comb on the tips of his fingers, taking a firm hold on the large flat lump of gooeyness, Ravenhawk broke it off the large comb and withdrew his hand, the honey running down his fingers made him smile and a dribble of saliva ran down his chin.

Ravenhawk licked up the sweet honey and moved well away from the rocks, no use taking chances that the bees would decide to come looking for the thief of their nest, with this in mind, Ravenhawk found a good place to settle until the heat of the day eased and the horse would be ready to start moving away from the water hole.

The boy waited until there was only about two hours of daylight left before he moved over the low ridge towards where the horse were still eating and the colts were still playing around.

Staying close to the ground, Ravenhawk wriggled his way closer to where the two horses he had seen early were still running and occasionally jumping together, they had moved a little way off from the others and he noticed they were both males, it would not be long before the Stallion tried to push them out of the herd.

It was close to the time for the herd to move on before Ravenhawk got close enough to the Pinto, taking half of the large comb of honey from the leaves it was wrapped in, Ravenhawk held it slightly up in the early evening breeze, he had purposely gone upwind of the two horses for just such a thing, the sweet smell of honey would bring the Pinto close to him.

He waited patiently as the young colt got the smell of the honey, tossing its young head it turned in his direction and moved easily towards the tantalizing smell, this was something even the most skittish horse could not ignore, Ravenhawk stayed as still as a stone as the pinto moved right up to him, he had held the honey in his hand so the horse would have to come right up to him and not alert the others to his presence.

Ravenhawk waited as still as the very ground he lay on, his scent would be the same as the air around him, he had not washed in days and his body had taken in the many and varied scents of the prairie, to the now close by Pinto it would seem as though he belonged there.

The young horse put its nose down and sniffed at the fresh honey before sending out its long tongue to taste the tempting treat, after the first taste the Pinto ignored everything around him, he did not even take notice of the soft and soothing humming coming from under his nose, nor did he feel the soft lariat being gently placed over his head and around his neck until it was too late.

Ravenhawk held the lariat in his right hand and the honey comb in his left as he rose as slowly and smoothly as a flower growing, he kept up the soft spirit chant as he turned away from the docile and happy Pinto and began to walk away with the young horse following happily in his wake, half way back up the low rise he felt something nudge him in the back, turning he saw the Appaloosa was also following along and looked as though it also wanted some of the honey treat which was quickly being eaten by the hungry Pinto.

Not being one to ignore the Creator and his ways, Ravenhawk moved his left hand over so the Appaloosa could also get some of what was left of the honey comb, both young horses seemed quite happy to follow along behind the small human with the soft chanting voice as he led them up and over the rise and down and out of sight of the herd.

The darkness surrounding the strange trio was quiet and had a feeling of peace about it; Ravenhawk led the Pinto followed faithfully by the Appaloosa further out into the open prairie, his voice still soft and calm even though the honey was long finished, it seemed the two young colts were quite happy being with him, while both colts were a little small for a man to ride, for a small framed young ten year old they were just the right size.

Ravenhawk had stopped only long enough to gather up the second large piece of honey comb before he led his horse away into the darkness, the Appaloosa just followed along behind the pair as though it was the natural thing to do.

Ravenhawk smiled as he rode closer to the Whiteman's school at the memory of the capture, as if he knew what the young teen had been thinking about, the Pinto gave a soft snicker and turned its head around to look at his rider, Ravenhawk patted him on the withers and kept riding towards his destiny at the school.

It was still early, even for a small country town like Lipton, there were mainly the large number of students on the street as Ravenhawk began his ride towards the school gates at the far end of the town, the one or two adults up and out at that hour looked on in curiosity as the young rider walked his horse down the centre of the blacktop, the town seemed to be holding its breath as the boy rode by.

Ravenhawk rode without a bridle or saddle, the horse hair hackamore lay loosely over the Pinto's neck, in his hands Ravenhawk held his coup stick and his strung bow, his purchase on the back of the Pinto was assured and steady, he seemed to be a part of the young horse as the two moved closer to the school gates.

Ravenhawk did not hesitate when he reached the iron gates, urging the Pinto through the gates with nothing more than a soft word, he watched as the hundreds of students began to divide to let him through, a sudden silence came over the mass of young students as they caught sight of Ravenhawk in his best garb, the feathers on the horses mane and on Ravenhawk's braid told those in the know that something big was about to happen, a hush came over the entire forecourt of the school.

Ravenhawk stopped the Pinto on the edge of the grass verge opposite the two large wooden doors of the main building, he wondered why they would have two great doors and then leave one of them closed and the other open, shrugging his shoulders, he settled the horse side on to the double doors, planting his coup stick into the soft ground beside the horse, he reached into his medicine bag and pulled out a single white sheet of paper.

The now massive crowd of silent students watched the boy on the horse read through a sheet of paper before reaching back with one hand and pulling an arrow with white fletching from his quiver, wrapping the paper tightly around the arrow, Ravenhawk then tied it tightly and lifted his bow and notched the arrow.

Everyone was silent as they watched the boy draw the bow back, when it seemed that it would go no further, a loud shout came from the open door of the school building, as Ravenhawk released the arrow towards the doors a large, balding man with rimless glasses came charging through the open door, as he cleared the doorway he heard the loud thunk of the arrow burying itself in the opposite closed door, a look of horror and fear filled the man's face as he turned towards the offender.

Ravenhawk watched the large balding man as the arrow zipped past him and buried itself where he had aimed in the third plank of the closed door, he watched as the large man's face began to grow red with anger from the neck up, he was dressed like all white teachers that Ravenhawk had ever seen pictures of, brown suit, checked bow tie and the strange black gown that flowed behind him like an avenging angels wings.

When the man reached the last step at the entrance to the school, Ravenhawk whispered to his Pinto, it immediately went down on one knee as though bowing, having stuck the end of his coup stick in the soft ground beside the horse, Ravenhawk took out the last arrow with the red fletching, placing his bow over his shoulder, he approached the now very red and very angry teacher with the arrow lying across his right hand as an offering.

Ravenhawk strode unafraid right up to the angry teacher and presented the red fletched arrow without saying a word, by this time the Head Master was madder than he had ever been, it was hard enough that he had to be here at this back water school for country hicks and Indians without some kid trying to kill him, all he wanted to do was get back to Washington and a nice high class private school, this backwoods place was sending him insane.

The Head Master saw the proffered arrow, not knowing what it was or what it meant, he let his anger take over, he well knew who this boy was, they had been trying to get him in school for two years and now the little shit had fired at him with a fucking bow and arrow, the teacher grabbed for the arrow, it was then that something snapped, without thought he grasped the arrow at the lower end and lashed out at the impassive face of the teen standing before him dressed like a fancy dancer.

The action was so fast that even Ravenhawk was surprised when the flint tip slashed deeply into his young cheek and the blood began to flow down his chin, Ravenhawk never moved as the blood ran hotly down his cheek, the man had given his answer, reaching into his Medicine bag, he took out the rest of the papers and dropped them at the man's feet, next Ravenhawk turned and walked back to the waiting Pinto, with consummate ease, the boy stepped onto the horses back and grasped the coup stick as the horse rose to its feet.

Suddenly, from the back of the horse and the small mouth of the young teen came a loud and terrible sounding yell, it was blood curdling in its very nature, with no more than his knees, Ravenhawk spun the horse around and charged at the open mouthed man still standing with the blood stained arrow in his hands, the sight of the charging Pinto and the furious yells of the young Indian had taken away all of the man's ability to move.

It was over in seconds as the Head Master saw the horse and rider bear down on him and, at the last second turn away and speed past him towards the open gate, it was as the pair passed by he felt something heavily tap him on the shoulder and another loud yodel sound come from the fast disappearing boy on the horse, from start to finish the whole event had taken less than a minute and the boy was gone and galloping down through the centre of town and out towards the wide open prairie.

As he galloped away from the scene, Ravenhawk thought about the mornings events, it had been both a success and a failure but to his eyes, more of a success, he had delivered his message, counted coup and been wounded in battle, it was a good day to be free, he slightly tightened his left knee against the Pinto's side and turned towards the far off mesa, the place he had done his Vision Quest, he needed time to think and to plan, the Government would not let this lie without some payment, he needed time to converse with Creator.

Back at the school, Head Master Elmore Patterson stood alone, the red fletched arrow still in his hand with the fast drying blood of the boy on the flint tip, slowly he began to feel as though there was a murmured undercurrent of whispers among the students as they watched him, from behind his left shoulder came the older voice of Miss Alice Woods, the long time secretary of the school, it was even said she was the secretary when the school had been built over one hundred years ago.

"How does it feel to not only start a war but draw first blood and be the first victim?"

"Wha...what are you talking about Miss Woods?"

"I would have thought a man of your education would understand what has just happened Mr. Patterson."

"What are you on about Miss Woods?"

"The boy came here as you told him too, he gave you his reply to your demands, the white fletched arrow was to tell you it had a message for you, when he approached you with the red fletched arrow it was for you to decide if you wanted peace or war, by using it to draw blood from him you declared war, had you wanted peace you would have broken the arrow in half and it would have all been over."

"But how was I to know that?"

"It would have taken only moments of your time to learn about the local traditions, when he rode at you, he hit you with his coup stick, in other words, he counted coup, the Native students will now know your life belongs to him, in their eyes you are a walking dead man."

"That's all old fashioned nonsense Miss Woods and you well know it, it means nothing in today's world, now get me the Police Captain, I want that boy in cuffs and behind bars by tonight."

"You really don't know what you're dealing with do you Head Master, I would suggest you read his message before you take any actions against him, if you had taken notice you would have been able to know who he was by his necklaces."

"What on earth are you talking about Miss Woods; everything happened so fast I had no chance to see anything let alone some fancy bead necklaces on a boy's neck."

"That was another error Head Master, those necklaces told everyone in the know who and what he was, for instance, the double string of red, white and black beads told the students that he is a member of the Raven Clan, the small yellow sun beads told them he was accepting that he was the Reflection of the Divine Creator and the single strand of Eagles Blood Jasper beads told them he was in training to one day become a Medicine Elder or, as you mistakenly call them, a Shaman."

"That's total rubbish Miss Woods, that sort of thing went out a hundred years ago, it's all poppy cock."

"Not to them Head Master, if I may make a suggestion, Head Master?"

"What now Miss Woods?"

"Before you take any actions with Police Captain Running Elk, I would go and read the message the boy left you, it may answer most of your questions, if not I would suggest you start to write out your application for transfer to another school."

"How dare you Miss Woods, your remarks will be brought before the board at the next meeting, I find them highly inflammatory, if I were you, Miss Woods, I would look to your own future here."

Head Master Patterson turned and went back up the steps, totally ignoring the white fletched arrow holding fast to the large door, it was Miss Woods that called one of the older students to pull the arrow out for her, she then opened the message and quickly read it through before smiling and taking both the arrow and the message with her back inside, she had some research to do.

Alice Woods was now 65 years old, she had been a pupil at this very school and, upon graduation, had applied for the vacant secretary job, she had held it ever since, everyone in town and even out at the reservation, knew of Miss Woods and her many good works that went unnoticed by many others.

Alice went to her desk and switched on her computer, with another glance at the crest and name of the college written on the copy paper, she typed in the address, within seconds the home page came up, with her long years on the job, Alice had certain privileges, using her password she was soon into the records of the college, tracing her finger down the screen she found what she had been searching for.

With one last check of the copy on her desk, Alice looked back at the screen to confirm what she saw, there for all too see were the boys name and degree, Mr. Benjamin Ravenhawk, Bachelor of Ethnic and Traditional Medicine, Stanford University, in smaller print it showed he had passed his exams online but was now entitled to have the letters after his name, even more of a surprise was the notation that the boy had a GPA of 3.95, a surprise indeed.

Miss Alice Woods folded the copy of the Degree and slid it into her desk, it would come in handy one day if she ever needed it, she knew that Police Captain Running Elk would make no real attempt to capture the boy, even to placate the authorities, he would just not be able to find him in the vastness of the plains.

As midday approached, Ravenhawk could see he was only about five miles from the base of the towering mesa, its stark barren side towering high above the open rolling prairie, from his right he caught the sight of movement and, as though guided by some unseen hand, the Appaloosa came thundering over the nearby hill and aimed directly for the two smaller beings below, once along side, the Appaloosa slowed to the ground eating canter that the others had kept up all morning, they would be at the mesa in less than half an hour.

Once at the base of the mesa, Ravenhawk let the two horses find their own way, they would soon find the only water supply under the towering cliff, it was a small seep with a shallow pool, it would do for them to drink from and for Ravenhawk to wash in readiness for his quest far above on the top of the mesa.

With the horses happy and settled by the shallow pool and with a good supply of fresh grass nearby, Ravenhawk checked that he had no metal on him, leaving everything except his Medicine bag at the base of the cliff, he began the dangerous climb to the top, how long he would be there was in the hands of the Creator.

It was a hard and difficult climb and it was nearing night fall by the time he got to the top, with little time to spare he began to collect the sticks and wood he would need for the fire, in his bag he carried a skin of water and his other implements for the vision quest he was about to undergo.

As quickly and accurately as he could, Ravenhawk formed his circle of stones and then his small fire in the centre, all the time singing the chant he had been taught for such an occasion, once all was ready and as darkness began to fall, Ravenhawk took off his four strands of beads, at the North Gate he placed the Yellow Sun Beads, at the East Gate one strand of his clan beads, the other going to the position of the West Gate, at the South Gate he placed his polished Eagles Blood Jasper beads, all was ready just as the last rays of the sun died and darkness filled the space around him.

The fire cast a soft glow in the darkness, as he chanted the prayer to Creator, from his cross legged sitting position Ravenhawk sprinkled fresh tobacco on the flames so the smoke would carry his prayers to Creator, on his left was the small water skin, on his right were a number of small hide pouches with herbs like Ghost Sage and Peyote along with many other herbs, each had its use in what he was about to do.

As the first night wore on, Ravenhawk slid deeper into the vast stillness of another realm, this was not a place for the faint hearted nor the ignorant, even with his Grandfathers teachings, Ravenhawk was taking a chance going into this place but he felt it was what he had to do, there was too much at stake if he failed.

The first night passed without incident, sometimes he would call a chant and at other times he would sit totally immobile, his eyes closed as though in sleep but the reality was far from it, the coldness of the night was not even felt and, when the sun rose higher and higher the next day, Ravenhawk still felt nothing, his mind was elsewhere and occupied by other things.

Half way through the second night as he slowly and softly chanted the prayer something stirred in the darkness outside the circle of stones, Ravenhawk was totally unaware of the being that was watching the small figure by the fire, like the very shadows themselves, the cougar appeared at the side of the circle of stones, something deep inside it told the cougar not to cross the stone circle, something in there was dangerous and so it began to pad around and around.

Three times the cougar circled clockwise around the stones, it then stopped just where the small yellow beads were sitting on the ground inside the circle, with infinite care, the cougar lowered its head, making sure it did not cross the stones, it then took a deep smell of the beads before turning and beginning to circle anticlockwise.

Once it had completed the circling three times it stopped for another careful sniff, once done it stepped back and lifted its head and let out an ear shattering scream which echoed out into the stillness of the dark night, once done it turned and disappeared into the darkness, Ravenhawk was totally unaware of his visitor.

On the third morning, Ravenhawk came out of his trance like state and took three small sips of water from the skin, just as he had done on each of the previous mornings, it was all he would take until the quest was over, his hunger was ignored, it was of little importance in the greater scheme of things, Ravenhawk once again began his chanting prayers.

It was during the fourth night that they came to him, first it was once again the Black Eagle, its talons forward as though to strike and its large black wings wide open as though to threaten the small boy by the fire, next came not two but three guardians, these Ravenhawk took special notice of, two were scary but three meant something very bad could happen or was going to happen, they could be here to protect him or to take him to the realms and mists, all he could do was sit and wait.

Somewhere deep in his mind he heard a message, it was in a language he had not heard before but somehow knew what the meaning was, there was a great danger coming and he would have to take the lead of those who were left, pictures invaded his mind as he sat immobile in the circle of stones, fleeting images of fire and danger, there were also pictures of war and desolation.

On the fifth morning, Ravenhawk woke and knew the time was over, there was a great deal he had to work out about the violent vision he had seen but he also felt he had to leave quickly, there was danger all around him.

Making sure his fire was out, he drank the last few drops of water, picked up his Medicine bag and donned his four necklaces, with slightly unsteady steps he began the long and dangerous climb back down the savage cliff face, he would welcome the sight of his two friends waiting for him below, it was time to return home.


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