We continued up the valley looking as we went for any sign of others or the enemy but the only things I noticed was game signs. Culsit and I took the lead and weaved out way across and up as we went. Occasionally we would send a wood knocks back and forth just to keep up with each other. I was starting to learn why Culsit and his people did things the way they did. I mean to stay basically hidden for so long and still survive and thrive was truly astounding. It still made me scratch my head just thinking of how many wondered not only the wilderness but also right on the edge of large urban areas. It was amazing really the more thought I put into it as I moved towards the head of the valley aiming to intersect a low set of bluffs on my right.
As I approached, I moved to be able to come on the ridge from the top. This way I could see better up the valley and also so nothing could slip up on me from above. I had learned over these months of fighting that the saying of the high ground is life was literally true. I eased on top of a large boulder and started listening, smelling and watching. Until well after noon I watched and waited seeing only a few deer and I think a thousand squirrels. I could hear Rory and Vanessa moving up from below but as far as Culsit and I, we sat silently across the valley from each other just waiting. I knew by now that if I got that hair raising uneasiness then it was trouble. My only worry now was I didn’t have my M4, no grenades, not much of anything I was used to fighting with. I know Culsit stressed I had to learn to fight. As I sat there, I checked my gear just like I would have done with my old stuff. Instead of feeling for magazines, doing press checks to see if I had a round chambered I started a new routine. I checked on my belt on my right hip for the large drop point knife in its sheath, I reached to my neck and followed the cord down to a neck knife I had in its sheath, finally I removed the hatchet, a short axe really, more like a tomahawk than a hatchet I guess now that I looked at it from a loop on my waist and laid it across my lap. I was still more than uncertain about using this type of weapons, I didn’t doubt my ability or my will to survive but when you have no real experience with something you feel apprehensive.
I remembered a private talk Philo had giving me just before we left. I moved my finger along the edge of the blade laying in my lap and felt a tingle, almost like an energy flowing off it into my finger. It’s hard to describe but I think the words of Philo was starting to make sense. As I listened and watched I let my mind drift back to the words he spoke.
“Listen John, there will come a time when you have to use skills you don’t know that you have. I know this must sound strange but inside every cell of your body is stored the collective memory of every ancestor you’ve had, every mistake they made, every thing they learned, its all inside you, just waiting for you to listen and let it take over. By this I mean, your body and muscles are like a child’s, you can walk now in a stumbling way but your ability to run is there, you just need practice.” Philo spoke to me as we waited in the mist earlier that morning in Greenland before we left.
“I don’t understand, are you saying I know how to live the way we are going to try?”
“Yes, not only that but much, much more. The only thing you truly have to learn is how to listen, how to let go, how to let the old ones show you and guide you to become what the Allfather has declared that you should be. The choice is yours of course, He would never force you to become this person but just know, a lot of people are trusting that you will. You owe no one anything in this world but every action you make rings thru time. He might not always chose the easiest path for you but it is the path that needs to be taken. If you learn, you can listen and hear the old ones talk to you, guide you.”
“Philo, I think hearing voices would maybe make me thing I was loosing my mind!” I responded.
He laughed long and hard. “No, not actual voices but with something different, something not of this world, you will know when it starts to happen, you will feel a little electric buzz maybe, maybe you will feel like your thoughts keep focusing on a certain point, it varies but you will know what to watch for the more it starts to happen. Just let go of your ego and learn to hear, learn to heed their words and you will be fine.”
“If you say so Philo, it all seems a little weird sounding to me right now.” I replied.
“Look John, I know for a fact you’ve had the two ravens come to you. Their names are Munnin and Huginn, memory and thought. They not only report to the Allfather but they also can speak to you, not in a way that you think but in a way that you know. Let me give you and example. I know you remember it but let me explain it for you. Do you remember when you had a rough time in your life so you walked out into the woods to sit and think about what to do, do you remember that feeling of being helpless and at the crossroads of being at your wits end?”
“Yes, Philo I remember. I also remember the two ravens that came that day and sat there with me.” I replied.
“Good, remember how they flew down and just walked around you, looking at you, blinking with those eyelids that looked silver? Remember how you talked to them and told them your problems? Remember how they seemed to bring you peace and thoughts came into your mind about what to do and what would happen next?”
“Yeah I remember all that and much more. I always wondered why those two birds seemed so relaxed and friendly. I often wondered if they happened to be escaped pets.”
“Pets, no, friends, yes. You’ve seen them many times since then but you just brushed it off. From now on, let all that you think you know go and learn. When they come, talk and listen. Promise me this.”
“I promise.” I replied.
My mind drifted back to the tingling coming into my finger tips from the short axe layer across my lap. I didn’t say it out loud but I spoke to the axe like it was alive.
“I hear you friend, I will listen when the time comes, you guide and I will follow.” No sooner than I thought this, the tingling feeling faded and I smiled.
I looked back down the valley and could see Rory and Vanessa now. I decided it was time to knock for Culsit to come in and for us to decide on a place to camp and wait for Jager to arrive. I stood and reverse the axe and swung twice against a solid oak that grew by the boulder I was perched on. Almost instantly, his knocks came echoing back with mine and I turned to see Rory and Vanessa look to where I was standing now.
I held the axe and climbed down to meet them and move to a cave I had noticed and had kept my eye on.
“John, you made me jump in my skin with those knocks. I was tracking you, we would have found you without all that.” Vanessa said as she walked up to me.
“It was for Culsit not us.” Rory replied.
She just looked surprised as I smiled and turned my gaze to where I new Culsit was coming from. I couldn’t see him, I couldn’t hear him but I could feel him coming, if that made sense. I knew now how Culsit knew Jager was coming. I guess I just couldn’t feel that far out yet.
Just a few minutes later, sure enough Culsit came out exactly where I knew he would, grinning as I knew he would be. He walked up and nodded and without a word passing between is we both turned towards where the cave was and made our way there.
As I stood there scanning the entrance for any sign of activity I saw none. I am sure Culsit did the same thing but he had more practice and he just walked in. I stood there waiting. Again, I don’t know how to explain it but I knew that’s what he wanted for us to do. After several minutes he came out.
“It is good, just a cup in the rock. Solid back wall with a floor that is about three feet up. It would be a good place to stay for a few days, maybe more with some improvements. First we need wood for a fire, dry wood most of all. You three spread out and gather that while I bring some stones in for a fire pit and then you and I will go catch dinner.” Culsit said and walked off.
“Well, let’s stay in sight of each other for now and do what he said.” I said then we went about the task of dropping dead trees and finding what we could. For over an hour, by that time we had what I would call at least a chord of wood piled and split against one of the side walls of the cave. Culsit had moved about eight huge stones in to make a pit for the fire. He had dug down and lined the hole with smaller stones he then ringed it with the larger ones. I guess he knew what I was thinking and just explained it without me even asking.
“We dig the fire pit deep and line it with stones for two reasons. One it focuses the light from the fire straight up, making it very hard to see from a distance and second so that the rocks retain the heat. If you look at the large stone the all slope inward to the pit, creating an overhang almost over the fire. Then he pointed out in several places where he had buried hollow logs to create an air flow into the bottom of the pit.” He pointed out each rock and the shape that he had obviously chosen on purpose. I realized then that this type of fire-pit would be and afterburner fire, it would burn even the smoke as it became super heated. I never thought he would have known of that but then again, I was realizing that when it came to this technology I was the dumb one not him.
“If my people had been here before, this would have been left for the next one to use.” Culsit said with a look of satisfaction that he knew I understood.
I stood and asked if Vanessa and Rory could get a fire started while Culsit and I went to find dinner. Culsit stressed to build it small first and slowly build it until there was very little flames and more glowing coals than anything.
As they started to set to work Culsit and I made our way to the top of the ridge and stopped just below the top. Culsit leaned over and explained that we would take one of the deer that would come in to feed on the oak flat above. He went further to explain since we wasn’t starving I would be the one to hunt while he watched.
“I don’t know how to do this Culsit!” I hissed.
“Sure you do little brother. Sneak up on them like we have been practicing with each other all this time. It’s the same thing. When you’re close, strike with you axe quickly and we eat.” He said grinning in the fading light.
As darkness creeped in he nodded and pointed to the deer as we watched them walk under the oaks feeding. I moved on all fours just like I had a hundred times since the time with Jager. All the lessons I had been shown seemed to make sense now. Dark as it was, I could see, not like it was daylight but close enough. I crept up on the doe closest to me and I could feel my heart beating so loud I was afraid she would hear it but she didn’t seem to know I was there. I glanced back at where Culsit was and I could just barely make out the top of his eyes peeking over a fallen log. It amazed me something so large could hide behind something so small compared to him.
I turned my focus back to the deer and moved to within a few feet. I took my axe and struck swiftly. It was over before it even started. As the other deer bound off, confused as to what just happened I just kneeled there thanking the deer for the sacrifice she had made.
“Exactly little brother! We do think her.” Culsit said right beside me.
I was so focused on the deer that I didn’t notice him come up beside me.
“Do you thanks but never lose your focus out here little brother. What if I wasn’t here to watch you back? Always learn to do these things at the same time.” Culsit said and I just nodded knowing he was right.
Over the next few minutes he showed me how to dress the deer so we could get back to the cave. He showed me the parts we would eat tonight and explained how we would go down to the stream while it cooked and gather some willow branched to make racks to dry the rest to keep for later. He explained this way, nothing would be waisted, each item from the deer had a use and he would show me step by step what to do.
As we returned to the cave, I handed Vanessa and Rory the meat we would eat for dinner as Culsit Hung the rest high outside the entrance. I started helping get the meat roasting which reminded me just how hungry I was as Culsit slipped off to gather the willow.
I had just got the meat hanging over the pit to roast when I heard Rory shushing something off. I turned to see two Ravens sitting in the entrance, not coming in but just standing there. Vanessa and I both at the same time exclaimed to stop! Don’t scare them away, of course I doubt you could if you wanted. I reached over and sliced to pieces off the meat that was cooking and walked over to them.
“Here friends, eat and come in and warm yourselves.” I said.
They did exactly that, acting like two little humans more than birds. I glanced at Rory and he looked surprised and puzzled. Vanessa looked like this was a normal thing which gave me thoughts of questions I needed to ask her about who she really was. As I was thinking on these things, Culsit came walking in and exclaimed in a language I didn’t know but he dropped the willow and walked over and started talking to the two ravens just as he would me. That was surprising enough but I fell off the rock I was sitting on when the two ravens started to talk back. Yes, talked, I couldn’t understand the words but as I picked myself up to sit on my rock again I glanced at Vanessa. She was nodding and smiling. She knew what the three was saying! She looked over at me staring at her and while still smiling, she pointed at me and said some words I didn’t understand but Culsit and the two ravens did because they all turned and started laughing at me. Ravens laughing, I wondered for sure what I had gotten myself into now.
If you liked this chapter, you might want to head over to Amazon and buy yourself a copy of “The Enemy”. The exciting first book in this series so you can see how our friends got to this table looking to their futures.