The Last Shaman

                                                     By 

                                                  Arthur 

 CHAPTER 8




There was a feeling of dread in the community as the people thought about
the four now lying injured in the clinic. Most of their thoughts were for
Silas as he was the most badly hurt; even the two hard working girls had
little hope for his recovery.

At the door of the clinic there was always someone waiting and watching. In
the early hours of the morning, Lazy Rider was on duty when he thought he
heard a faint call from inside.

There was no hesitation from him as he turned and entered to see who it was
that called.

Once inside he saw that the badly injured Silas was trying to get out of
bed; going to his side, he asked.

"Aho Brother, what do you need?"

"Aho little Brother, my time has come to complete my circle; I need your
help to get me to where I can see the sun rise and to sing my final death
song. Will you help me?"

"Is it truly your time?"

"It has been said, it is time to close my circle of life and greet my
ancestors."

"Wait here and I will get extra help; I don't think I am strong enough to
carry you to where you need to go."

"I will wait but hurry, my time here is short."

Lazy Rider ran from the clinic to find help; as it happened, Robert was
just leaving his cabin to take up the guard on the door as Lazy Rider
exited at speed.

"What is it Lazy Rider?" Robert called to the younger teen.

"I need your help, Silas says his time is close and needs help to go to a
place to watch his last sun rise and sing his death song."

"What do you need?"

"I need help to get him to his final place."

"Is he sure there is no other way?"

"He says it is his time to greet his ancestors; we must help."

"Come on then, I'll help you."

The two young men went back inside the clinic and saw that Silas had now
almost got to his feet but he stood unsteadily as he grasped one end of the
bed.

Robert hurried to the larger man's side, as he slipped his shoulder under
the man's armpit to help hold him; Lazy Rider took one of the blankets and
threw it over Silas shoulders then placed himself on the other side of the
injured man.

When they made their slow way out of the clinic, the trio turned eastward
and began the long and hard climb up the ridge to where Silas could sit and
watch the sun rise.

The climb was hard and slow and they had to stop often to let Silas catch
what little breath he had left. It was noticeable to both boys that the
bandage around the man's waist was now showing even more blood as it seeped
through with his exertions.

The first faint greyness of dawn was showing as the trio made the top of
the ridge and found a clear place for Silas to sit. The two boys helped the
dying man to sit comfortably facing the east; Lazy Rider adjusted the
blanket around Silas shoulders to keep him warm as the man turned and
looked at the pair.

"I would ask you both to watch over me as I sing my song and would also ask
that you watch over my nephew, he may need help when he awakens."

"It will be done and we will watch over your spirit until it enters the
spirit world." Lazy Rider replied.

The two boys stepped back a few paces and then sat to watch over Silas. It
was only a few minutes later when Silas began to sing his death song; for
the two watching boys it was obvious Silas was in a lot of pain and yet he
continued to sing strongly through his pain.

The song continued as the first morning light grew stronger; in the
clearing far below the first of those to awaken heard the strange song
begin to echo over the still land. Only Ravenhawk saw the fast flash of a
small blonde head run from the clearing, he made no attempt to stop Little
Bear as the boy disappeared towards the far off singing.

The two watchers saw the first strong beam of sunlight strike the sitting
figure of Silas just as his voice grew weak; from behind them came the
sound of small running feet.

The two boys turned to see who it was and were taken totally by surprise as
the one called Little Bear, ran from the trees; in his hands he carried a
green necklace with a solitary black polished stone at its centre.

Ignoring the two boys, Little Bear ran up to the fast fading Silas;
stepping in front of the dying man, Little Bear reached out and tenderly
placed the unusual necklace over the man's head. After the necklace was
placed, Little Bear dug into a leather pouch attached to his thong belt.

The two boys could only sit and stare at the small boy and what he was
doing. After he had the pouch open, Little Bear's eyes began to glaze over;
from his small mouth came ancient words that neither boy had ever heard
before. Little Bear reached into the pouch and took what looked like
tobacco and sage from it; next he continued his strange words and sprinkled
the dried herbs over Silas head.

When Little Bear finished the last words, the two boys saw Silas slump and
almost fall over but was stopped by a small hand from Little Bear; his eyes
still showed their glazed look and neither boy wanted to interfere; this
was something far beyond their comprehension and better left to the spirits
and those who understood them. That Little Bear was under their influence
there was no doubt and no one in their right mind interfered with them.

The last breath of Silas was heard by both waiting boys; as it finally left
his mortal body so did the glazed look on Little Bears face; in a voice
that was not his own, Little bear turned to the pair and said in a much
deeper voice than he should have been able to use.

"Take up my Warrior and prepare him for his final journey; call for others
of the people to help; my clan is now stronger for his passing and he will
be honoured among his ancestors."

Little Bear suddenly shook himself and looked around; it was obvious he was
not aware of where he was or why he was there; Robert laid a hand on the
little boys shoulder.

"You did well Little Bear; time for you to go home, when you get back ask
for some of the others to come up here and help us carry Silas back."

Little Bear just nodded in confusion and turned to run back down the ridge
to the clearing. While Lazy Rider and Robert set about wrapping Silas body
carefully in the blanket while they waited; far above they heard the early
morning screech of an Eagle.

It was almost half an hour before they heard a number of people climbing up
to the ridge top. There was a sudden sombre feel in the air as a number of
the community appeared through the surrounding trees; at their head was
Liam Senior, Ravenhawk and the rest of the council members; all of the
other members were lined out behind them; it was a slow file that finally
made it to the waiting teens.

Of the council members, only Antonio stood back as the other four joined
Lazy Rider and Robert at the blanket covered bundle on the ground. As the
last member of the Green Stone Clan made it to the top of the ridge there
seemed to be a softening of the morning light and only the first twitters
of rising birds could be heard.

The six standing around the body of Silas all bent together and took a hold
on each side of the blanket; with a strength that came from some other
source, they all lifted the blanket covered body and turned towards the
small trail leading back down the ridge; the rest followed silently.

When the long line of the entourage appeared back at the clearing; there
was a stillness in the air as though everything around was holding its
breath.

At the door of the clinic stood the two wounded boys, the young Cheyenne,
Running-horse; supporting the young Shoshone, Jonathan Blood. They watched
as the file of clan members carefully carried the body of Silas towards
them. They had heard the woeful death song and the empty bed where Silas
had been told them who it was.

The two young girls stood to the side of the clinic doorway; they had both
prepared the dead before as part of the training; it would be up to them to
wash and Silas and get him ready for his last rest.

Solemnly, the six carrying Silas entered the clinic and laid him back on
the empty bed, it was time to let the girls do their work while they went
to organise the funeral and wake for the man.

Ravenhawk was now in something of a quandary; the time it would take to
properly attend to Silas also made it a close run thing to prepare for the
fast approaching summer solstice ceremony; neither could be delayed or
ignored if they were to be done properly. Ravenhawk sighed, such was the
lot of a Medicine Man, even though he was now expected to carry the
authority of an Elder, he still felt like a boy.

It was the approach of Liam Senior that broke Ravenhawk out of his reverie.

"What do we need to do for Silas?" Liam asked him.

"He must be washed then dressed in his best clothing, we will then wrap him
in a clean blanket and it will then be time to have prayers in the sweat
lodge. After that and everyone has had time to mourn his passing, we need
to find a special place that I can make sacred for the dead and he can be
laid on top of a platform. I have a spare buffalo hide to cover him; we
will then have to stand guard over his body. Normally it would be his own
kin, but his nephew is still in a coma but I am sure others will stand in
his place."

"Well just tell me what you need and I'll find it; he didn't have much when
he came back; will it be alright if I let them dress him in one of my old
uniforms; he was a marine after all and deserves to have it."

"Yes that would be good; it is the dress of a warrior and would serve him
well in the next life as a spirit warrior."

"Anything else just let me know."

Liam Senior moved away towards his trailer, Ravenhawk was now left to
ponder what had to be done next. Robert was the next one to approach him.

"We have a lot to do; Margret asked if the women can join in any ceremony
for him; I had to tell her that we would spend most of our time in the
sweat lodge and they are not allowed in there; what can we do?"

"We will have to make a Moon Lodge for them and then there is the place for
Silas to rest; it will have to be made ready. For the women there is a
problem though; we don't have any women that know how to use a Moon Lodge
or anyone to tend their fire."

A small voice behind Ravenhawk spoke up.

"I'll tend their fire Poppa Raven; I know the prayers really good now."

"Ok, Little Bear but what about a drummer and they don't know the songs or
prayers."

"Peter will be their drummer and they can say any prayer they know to help
Silas."

"Yes that's a good idea. Robert, will you be our drummer? I will see if
some of the new boys know how to watch over the fire; if we can do that
then we can start to get everything ready; there's a lot of work to do
before its time."

Robert nodded and then looked around; most of the people were just standing
around waiting to find something to do. Ravenhawk decided to call them all
together; it was time to get to work.

Twenty minutes later and there was a hive of activity in the clearing; even
the two injured boys wanted to help as best they could; it was discovered
that Running Horse knew the prayers and songs for the fire that had to be
kept burning for the three days of mourning and ceremony; he was now tasked
with getting everything ready for his part.

Ravenhawk was followed back up the ridge by Manuel and Philippe to where
Silas had sung his final song; Ravenhawk had decided this would now become
the official burial ground for the clan.

Ravenhawk looked around the area once the three of them reached the top of
the ridge; the other two were carrying tools and waited for their
instructions.

Ravenhawk then took the time to mark out the area that should set aside for
the burial grounds, not only now for Silas, but for the future as
well. There would come a time when others would join Silas to watch each
sun rise in their spirit form.

Ravenhawk showed the two willing workers what scrub and small saplings to
clear; after that he told them how they should construct the platform to
rest Silas body on, he now had other duties to get to if all was to be
ready in time.

When Ravenhawk got back to the clearing, he saw Liam Senior waiting for
him.

"What do you need next Ravenhawk; the girls have the uniform and I need
something to keep me busy."

"We will need a lot of river rocks for the burial ground at some time, I
would like to have a totem pole up there as well but we don't have a
carver."

"The rocks are no problem; I can get them with the digger and make a pile
for everyone to take one when they go up there; what about Tristan and
Michael, I think Samuel was saying they did little carvings for the young
ones to play with; perhaps if you told them what you wanted they might be
able to make your pole for you."

"That's a good idea; I'll ask them and see what they say. Now I have to
find some people to start on a new sweat lodge for the women."

"No need; Robert told Joseph about it and they are already working on it on
the other side of the clearing; they did say they would need you to say the
prayers for the sacred circle when it was done though."

"Yes I can do that; now what's next?"

"I don't know but now I have some stones to find, see you later; good luck
with whatever comes up next." Liam strode away chuckling to himself; it was
good to be on the council and help where he could, but he didn't envy
Ravenhawk having to organise their first funeral.

Ravenhawk now had to see the girls and how they were progressing with Silas
body; before going there he went to his cabin to collect a few essentials.

In the cabin, Ravenhawk rolled up the buffalo hide, it would do to cover
the body and was a part of Silas needs in the spirit world; next he began
to pray to the spirit of his Grandfather; he needed a single Eagle feather
and there were only the ones in his Grandfathers bonnet to be had at such
short notice.

As his prayer ended, Ravenhawk looked around; on a wall peg sat his own
smaller bonnet; it had only five feathers; next to it and neatly and safely
rolled up on a shelf was his Grandfathers. Ravenhawk went to he rolled
bundle and began to carefully unroll it; as he did so a single feather came
loose and fell onto the bed where he was working; his prayer had been
answered.

Ravenhawk looked again at his own smaller bonnet; it was as though
something moved inside him; he now knew what he had to do.

After completing the unfurling of his Grandfathers bonnet; Ravenhawk lifted
it up onto another wooden peg, it would need time to settle before
wearing. As with his own bonnet; which was now destined for Little Bear;
none of the Eagle Feathers had the government tag in them.

In all his long years, his Grandfather had fought the government to not put
the tags in his feathers; twice the government agents had tried to arrest
and then confiscate his Grandfathers bonnet; twice they had been met with
over a thousand armed warriors. It was stupid of the agents to try it at a
Pow-Wow.

Ravenhawk had asked his Grandfather why he had fought the government over
it; the old man's answer was as usual short and to the point.

"Creator does not need the approval of the white man's laws to offer a gift
to his people."

The subject was closed; Ravenhawk smiled at the memory and also the glint
in the old man's eyes as he spoke those words.

Taking up the buffalo robe and the single feather; Ravenhawk went out
towards the clinic. On his arrival he saw the two girls had almost
finished; they were just wrapping Silas body in a clean patterned blanket
he recognised as coming from his own cabin; Antonio must have got it for
them.

Ravenhawk also saw leaning against the wall was a handmade stretcher, it
was there to carry Silas to the platform. Pulling the stretcher down from
where it was leaning against the wall; Ravenhawk lay the thick buffalo hide
over it, there was enough left to drape some over the body as well.

His next task was a lot more simple; before the girls could fully encase
the body in the blanket; Ravenhawk called a halt. Next he stepped up and,
with care and reverence; he began to plait the Eagle feather into a few
strands of Silas hair; it was to mark him in the spirit world as a
warrior. The clan now had their own Spirit Warrior to watch over them and
guard them against enemies.

When all the preparations had been finalised; Silas body was carefully
carried outside to the rest of the waiting people. Each person had been
told by Joseph what was to happen next and so all had a small gift for
Silas before he went to his rest.

The Eagle feather, buffalo hide and patterned blanket were the gifts of
Ravenhawk and Antonio; With Liam Senior leading the way and, after placing
one of his heavy combat knives on the stretcher beside Silas hand; everyone
else filed by.

The gifts were many and varied; from the smaller children it was sometimes
a small coloured stone or fresh cut flower; from the women it was carefully
made necklaces or small bundles of herbs. The men and teens each had their
own small gift; Joseph's old bow; from the other teens were handmade
arrows. From each person there was something that was special to them and
that they thought would carry Silas safely and provide for his needs in the
spirit world.

The single gift that truly caught Ravenhawk's eye was a small beautifully
hand carved doll that was placed beside Silas head; it was put there by the
little girl, Maria. Ravenhawk asked her as they began the final
preparations for the climb where she had got it; her reply was conformation
that the two young teens could do the work he would need; he would have to
speak to Tristan or Michael.

Although some did not fully understand the meaning of what was happening;
they were all happy to go along with everyone else; the small gift giving
ceremony soon came to an end and it was time to carry Silas high up the
ridge to his platform for his final resting place.

As there were no true relatives able to watch over the body for the next
few days; each of the teens had volunteered to take the place of the still
unconscious Walks-slow; they all felt it was the least they could do for
such a brave man.

As the procession began; each person except the eight carrying the
stretcher, lifted a stone from the pile set by Liam; these they had
promised to carry to the ridge for Ravenhawk to place around what was to
become sacred ground.

The climb up the ridge was long and hard but no one faltered as they walked
and carried the rigid stretcher with four to a side for stability; the rest
of the people of the Green Stone Clan slowly lined up behind and followed
in silence; even the youngest felt the need for silence and respect.

Once on top of the ridge at the selected place; everyone looked at what had
been done by Manuel and Philippe. The platform was about six feet high and
the ground around was cleared of any debris, only the stones placed by
Ravenhawk earlier were left in place.

As each person came on top of the ridge, Ravenhawk pointed to where they
should place the stone they had so diligently carried up; there was soon a
large circle marked by widely spaced stones; at the centre was the first
platform. They all knew others would join it as time last; it was the only
inevitable end for all of them when their time came.

Ravenhawk felt the weight of his Grandfathers bonnet on his head and, even
though a small rivulet of sweat crept from his forehead and ran down his
cheek; Ravenhawk took his place and began the prayers to carry Silas spirit
through the mists and to the side of his ancestors.

The slow and solemn drum beat echoed out over the empty valley below; with
the stretcher now placed high up on the platform and the head of Silas
facing east to watch each sun rise; Ravenhawk's young voice rang out in the
prayers for the dead and the safe journey for the man's spirit.

The return trip to the clearing was silent and a little solemn; there was
an air of loss by all of them even though they had not known Silas for
long; to some it was a reminder that they were not as safe as they could
be; as the time passed there would be other threats to their chosen way of
life; it was a silent reminder for them all.

Robert and Ravenhawk had helped Margret set up the Moon Lodge as best they
knew how; it was a surprise for them both that Consuela willingly helped
Margret. At the place for the alter, the women had placed small gifts and
even photographs of their families that they would never see again; it was
a fitting tribute to the ones that had passed during the sickness of the
virus.

It was late afternoon when all was ready for both sweat lodges; there were
far too many to fit into the men's lodge at one time but there was also the
need for guards while others were inside. The men divided up into two
groups; while one was in the sweat lodge, the others would stand guard;
only the fire keepers and Ravenhawk would keep their place throughout the
ceremony for the next three days.

For the next three days the clearing was silent apart from the sound of the
drums and the voices of those inside the sweat lodge as they sang the songs
and sent the prayers to the spirit world. Those detailed as guards stood
silently as they performed their duties; there were only soft spoken words
as they changed with others so they could also take part in the lodge.

The Moon Lodge was quieter except for Peter's drum and the occasional soft
voice of one of the women inside as she said a small prayer; sometimes in
English and sometimes in Spanish. No one would interfere, it was the
women's lodge and they could conduct their prayers as they felt was right
for them and the occasion.

On the third day, the drums fell silent; the fires were banked and
Ravenhawk said the last prayers as he closed both circles; Consuela and
Samuel had left the lodges earlier in the day; they had to work most of the
day to get the feast ready; they were fortunate that the small ones wanted
to help in any way they could. By late afternoon everything was ready. The
big table had been brought outside and was piled high with food; for those
old enough, Manuel had placed a case of cold beer and a single bottle of
Tequila; they would send Silas off with a good party.

Ravenhawk looked around the clearing; he could still feel that they all
carried the loss of Silas in their minds and the realisation that there was
true danger out there had brought them closer together. Ravenhawk also
suddenly remembered he only had three days until the summer solstice
ceremony. Ravenhawk smiled to himself, now he was beginning to understand
the pressure on a Medicine Elder; or in his case, one who was trying to be
a Medicine Elder.


TBC.

arctart65@gmail.com


 

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