posted on Nov, 8 2004 @ 09:49 AM
The old and withered Cherokee chieftain sipped his cooling gingersnap soup and smiled, both tired and satisfied. His son, Black Fox, had arrived to
help him in the crossing from this plane to the next. He set the bowl, carved with care by the town's unique shaman ages ago, on the squat mahogany
table at his bedside. A small portion of warm liquid escaped and fell to the rugged hardwood floor. His son bent low to wipe the nectar.
"My time is short," The father whispered, as he reached for his son's younger, stronger hand, gripping it in his own, dry and fragile, "and the
floor cares not what we place upon it." He was in the final stages of prostate cancer, and quickly fading. "E-qua tsu-s-di o-da-lv", he breathed,
searching for hints of recognition in the smooth, youthful gaze that met his. He saw none, for Black Fox had lifted a book of neither language nor
lore in over fifteen years. Great Hunting Eagle sighed, taking in short, raspy breaths. The air was damp, and heavy with incense. Leaning back on his
worn pillow, he admitted what he already knew in his heart. His son would not understand. Black Fox had been so obstinate ever since his mother's
death, nearly two decades ago.
She had struggled with illness for years, and even the enigmatic shaman's mystical arts had failed to ease her turmoil. It was after the loss that
the shaman disappeared, and Black Fox enrolled in the hated Academy. He had mentioned the desire to regain the lost faster than light drive the
government had stripped away centuries ago when they tore the Cherokee from their home and forced them here, to this desert inferno. The First Ones
had called this place U-ka-yo-di E-lo-hi-no in the native tongue, or Dry Earth. Great Hunting Eagle's mind dwelt on these things momentarily, before
hatching one final plan. He would save both his people and his son with a dying wish.
"Black Fox," he breathed, mustering the last of his strength to pull his son down to him. A warm breeze poured in from the open window, bringing
the scent of daylilies and fresh meat. A medicine shield twirled in the wind, and it seemed to Great Hunting Eagle that the drums of ancient
ceremonies beat in the distance. "I want you to make an oath to me before the eagle comes, and carries me to E-do-da’s greenest fields."
"Anything, father," Black Fox managed, a solitary tear winding its way down his handsome cheek. "I will do whatever you ask." Great Hunting Eagle
knew that his son did not expect what he was about to bind him to. He reached again for his bowl, the scenes of his long and adventurous life neatly
crafted into its sides.
"Bury these dry bones on Earth." he said at last, his once bright eyes now inky pools, peering over the rim of the bowl.
Black Fox straightened. "Earth?" he gasped. He seemed taken aback at the mention of so fantastic a place. Great Hunting Eagle wondered if his son
thought him senile, or forgetful of all the turmoil Earth had brought to his people. He remembered the stories well, though. The poisoning of the
ecosystem by the endlessly warring tribes of Man, the Great Leaving of those tribes, escaping their punishment. He tried not to think of the Exile,
when the departed tribes finally carried off the Cherokee, seemingly under the guise of protecting them, and placed them here, as far away from the
rest of Mankind as one could get.
"Why Earth, father?" Black Fox’s confusion brought him back to the here and now. He needed the reminder sometimes. "Have you forgotten the
Wanderings? The stories of the Exile?"
"Earth is our home, Black Fox. It is not this haven of the dead that we were born into." He tried to muster a hint of anger in his voice.
"Earth is where all life began, carved from the rich soils like the careful sea turtle, freeing her young." He struggled to a sitting
position, taking a final look at the accumulated artifacts of eighty-five years. The ravages of an unseen foe had defeated great Hunting Eagle,
chieftan of the Cherokee remnat. "I want you to swear here, before the sacred totem," he motioned to the ever-watchful ornament in the corner,
topped with the eagle, wings outspread, "That you will bury me in the mountains that smoke but never burn. It is there that our people began." He
studied his son's face, admiring the fact that he had a son so gifted and unique in his own right. "Earth is our mother, Black Fox..." he
trailed off, his eyes losing what little focus they had.
Coughing as he fell back against the soft down of the mattress, he continued. "...And my soul aches for the embrace of a mother's love." Black
Fox's tears were coming more rapid now. Great Hunting Eagle felt the need to console him. "Why do you weep, my son?" he started. "All things
wither and pass. My journey in this world is done, and now you will carry the story of our people forward. It is the way of the cottonwood, which
blooms for a season, then casts its seed to the wind." He could see that his words were not enough. With one last gathering of strength, he
continued, "Seek out A-s-gi-ti-s-di Di-de-yo-hv-s-gi, the Dream Teacher. He will show you the way home."
"Father," retorted Black Fox, "The shaman has not been seen in the village for many years." His son stood, and began pacing the floor. He brushed
the hunting cloak hanging on the hand carved coat stand, stirring the thin layer of dust settled upon it from months of neglect. "There are those,"
he began, "that say he is dead already. Worse, some say he bides on the outskirts of the desert, vanishing when spotted by means of some dark art."
The desert was all encompassing, except for the small valley where they had settled, which was surrounded by low hills.
"He came to me in a dream last night," Great Hunting Eagle answered, finding a remnant of fight in his brittle bones. "He is more than he appears,
my son. He is even more than you remember. He will show you the way, and seek you out when the time is right." He fell silent, his breathing becoming
shallow and ragged. After several moments, he started again, "You will bury me on Earth, Black Fox." He coughed, and closed his weary eyes for the
last time. As he drew his terminal breath, Black Fox knelt and whispered into his ear.
"I swear it, Father."
Great Hunting Eagle breathed no more.