Yellow Elk moved in swift strides across the sandy
silence of the forest. Footfalls were as quiet as the
darkness touching the sentinel fir and sweet scented pine surrounding him. Yet, even the skill of Yellow Elk paled to the ability of his unseen, unheard friend.
Now and again, the young warrior would pause, wondering if he were, indeed, so alone as his senses told him. After a moment, Yellow Elk felt the warm presence of the other. He reflected upon the name chosen for his companion so well describing that wraith-like presence…Wind Which Speaks.
The two formed a brotherhood in youth, a fellowship in adventure. They were a part of that fraternity of young seeking always to test their courage and honor.
This night, a force of power drew the spirit within them to the darkness of the river. Knowing neither reason nor caution, they hungered for that which spoke, unseen.
Yellow Elk felt a feather’s breath upon his shoulder.
Stopping instantly, he was close upon the water’s edge.
Slowly kneeling he touched the river with a single finger.
In the darkness complete, he would have fallen, breaking silence, into the water, had not Wind Which Speaks halted him.
Together, they faced across the waters, waiting that they knew not. An ancient mountain stood towering and glowing lightly in the starlight across the stream. And, standing thus, they perceived a faint light growing to limn the peak. This was the moon flowing across the night sky. Soon it would break over the mountain to bath the land in soft honey veils; sundering darkness.
In the ethereal iridescence which precedes the moonrise, Wind Which Speaks knew another presence and it was upon the waters. He, spreading his hand, swept his arm slowly over the river to indicate to Yellow Elk these others. As he motioned, the waxing moon coursed o’re the mountain, mirroring into the river waters; a bridge born of God’s crystal tears. Upon the waters danced and twisted ancient spirits in wisps and tendrils of misty vapor. The mists whirled and dissipated only to be reborn and multiply.
As the young warriors watched, enveloped in awe of the night’s artistry, they heard a sound no louder than a baby’s sigh, but unmistakably that of an paddle upon the side of a tan-bark canoe. Through the parting mists an apparition appeared. Wind Which Speaks could clearly see a war canoe which carried five mighty warriors bearing down upon them. He turned, whispered word upon his lip, only to see Yellow Elk did not share his vision.
Indeed, though Yellow Elk could perceive some form across the waters, it was only another fantastic forming of the vapors. As it came nearer, he felt no fear, only the unfamiliar strangeness of the night. His eyes roved hither and yon, seeking the unseen canoe which he unmistakably heard. But, when the voice spoke, flowing over the water before him, fear then struck deeply into his courageous heart.
“Hail, young warriors of our people,” came the deep
voice, quiet and harsh, quivering the very leaves about them.
“Who speaks thus,” cried Yellow Elk?
Wind Which Speaks made no sound as the attention of the savage warriors within the canoe focused upon his friend. Yet, though he could taste the fear consuming Yellow Elk, he could see none upon his face.
“Come, travel with the ancients to fight the enemy who live beyond the known waters of this your river. Know battle with us! This night we shall deliver those warriors to that place where they shall fight no more,” came the deep voice while ignoring the question of Yellow Elk.
The spirit of Wind Which Speaks was calm as he
lingeringly inspected the occupants of the large war canoe. He saw the five warriors who held five shields and their weapons. There lay another shield beyond the last warrior.
The first warrior held a shield and upon it was the sign of the bear, fearless and first to charge into battle. This warrior was the speaker. The next warrior carried the sign of the eagle upon his shield; the wise counseling the raw bravery of the bear.
Next, a warrior bearing the sign of the buffalo; the provider, solid, of the earth which carried the river waters… that which was and will be forever.
The fourth warrior bore the sign of the mighty waters; indomitable and forever as the earth. This warrior and the third held paddles. The fifth warrior was a darkness in the moonlight and his sign was of fire. In the deep recesses of his skull blazed the insane flames of madness, the light in the sightless eyes of a mad wolf. He was silent. And beyond him lay the last shield in the dark void of the shadow canoe. And the sign upon it was death.
“Come,” repeated the warrior of the bear and he raised his mighty arm to beckon Yellow Elk.
But, the young man could not face this which he could not see. He stumbled back and faced his friend. “I cannot… I must return to the people,” he stammered. When he saw the strength of Wind Which Speaks he sought to cover his weakness and spoke thus, “You may go, if you wish.”
As Wind Which Speaks turned to gaze into the face of Yellow Elk, he saw the hopeless fear of the unknown. The wind knows some of the restless spirits of this and other worlds and this man who bore the name of the lonely wind knew also. Yellow Elk’s eyes begged forgiveness for the weaknessof his quailing heart.
Wind Which Speaks placed his hands upon the cold
shoulders of Yellow Elk, a smile softened his harsh mouth as he spoke, “Go, my brother. Speak to our people. Tell them I shall return… if only in farewell or in a faraway day. Take courage within your spirit for of these things you know not.”
And to the time-ravaged warriors in the canoe he exclaimed in a mighty voice, “I shall go with you and we will fight to the very ends of the earth… and beyond.”
Thus parting from Yellow Elk, he made a mighty leap and fell amongst those in the canoe and they were departed. The braves felt the strength of Wind Which Speaks as he entered the canoe and knew their choice was true. For it had been this young warrior and not Yellow Elk for which they sought.
Yellow Elk watched with dread as his brother disappeared into the swirling mists. He heard a faint noise as the warrior fell into the canoe, as a single leaf makes dropping upon the floor of the forest. The only sound ever after was the gentle rip of water closing where the canoe was no longer.
Taking paddle, Wind Which Speaks drove the canoe far into raging currents. The sinews of his mighty arms corded as he flung the frail craft amongst fog shrouded mist, over the foaming crests and down the long miles.
By and by, they came to a land which was bathed in pale light, riven with dark rain. The spirit of Wind Which Speaks would have fallen as if frozen by bitter winds of winter had he not seen the hell fires leap full force into the eyes of the dark warrior kneeling beyond him.
The warrior of red flame felt the enemy long before fiery eyes beheld. Seeing the flames uncovered, Wind Which Speaks brought forth the fighting madness in his own soul preparing for battle.
A huge cry broke from the throat of the bear warrior as he jumped firmly upon the riverbank. And lo, there was the enemy all and about the companions. The battle joined and blows fell as thunder from the sky. Wind Which Speaks slew an enemy and rushed to aide the eagle warrior beset by many. The fight roiled upon the hillside and darkened the lowering moon.
Many and many fell to hideous wounds, yet the enemy never seemed to be lessened. In fact, they grew in power and pushed the companions hard upon the river’s edge.
Fell death facing them from the water and the enemy about and among, the bear warrior uttered a great battle-cry and unleashed an unseen fury upon the enemy and all the spirituous brotherhood fell upon the enemy in renewed strength.
Many of the enemy fell and many of the companions of the war canoe were seen to fall, but Wind Which Speaks saw none of this. He could but batter those who came before him and, with swinging blow of club, seek to shatter.
O a sudden, there was quiet and he halted to hear a whisper going along the shore, “See, he is hurt, he bleeds; let us flee this place. He lives to die and this should not be,” so saying, dark forms fled the battle-ground.
Wind Which Speaks beheld and could not comprehend. Then, he dropped his gaze and saw the blood which covered his chest. A wound was opened there and his life was but loosely held within by a weakening spirit. He knew fear.
The warrior of the Buffalo gently placed him into the canoe and covered him with many hides of wondrous softness. Wind Which Speaks felt the blackness cover him and the smooth flow of water beneath the canoe. Yet, before darkness claimed his soul, Wind Which Speaks sought to touch the gaping wound within his chest. And lo, the wound was no more!
Wind Which Speaks awoke as the light softly probed the leather covered opening to the skin house. Dawn was breaking over the village, his home. Above him, his father saw the life in his son’s eyes and wondered. Of great adventure he asked his son. With renewing strength Wind Which Speaks whispered of the night, of his strange companions and of the enemy they met beyond the mists of time.
Speaking, strength returned. When his tale was finished he leaped to his feet threw back the leathern door. There before the lodge stood his friend Yellow Elk. Thinking to reassure his old companion, Wind Which Speaks strode forth into the new light and, with a smile, grasped the arm of Yellow Elk.
But, the grasp of friendship was the talon grip of
death, for life fled from Wind Which Speaks as swiftly as a stone sinks into still waters. Bleak darkness enveloped his sight and the smile failed upon his lips.
Yellow Elk caught him within his arms and tenderly lay him upon the sweet smelling grasses and blooming clover as life flowed out upon the warm breeze. The evil which grows within the mortal man gushed forth from the mouth of Wind Which Speaks in a foul gout of black blood.
Yellow Elk turned his face… seeking the blue sky over all… seeing afar a single fair tendril of light river mist
drifting beyond the breaking day.