R is for Running DeerbyMany Feathers©
Authors note: I would like to personnally thank Little Cloud (Cloudy) for helping me with the translations used in this story. It was my hope to better personalize it, as well as authenticate this story for your enjoyment. So again, my thanks to her for doing this for me.
It was nearly time. He would soon make his own way to the place of his fathers. A place where his father once had gone, and his father before him, and his father before that. It was time.
As a young child he had always wondered why his father and grandfather could journey there together when he could not.
"Your day will come Adatlisvi Awi Inage Ehi or (Running Deer)," his Grandfather had told him. And after that day, you will journey there with your father to visit and speak with me, and my father, and his father before then. But until that day comes, here you must wait until summoned. And come to understand, that no one knows when that day may come, only when it does, you will know it is your time."
It was early fall. Running Deer had turned eighteen only a few weeks ago. Strong, eager, yet anxious for he had felt that he was indeed a man, though his father still treated him much like a child. He had gone for a long walk, the feel of summer's heat still making it's appearance though the wild flowers now held the morning dew of the chilled night before.
He had spent the better part of the day making his way up a steep slope of a nearby mountain. The rocks, crevices casting images in shadow as the morning sun appeared making it one of the favorite places to hike and explore, letting the imagination run wild and free. Just as he himself still was.
Having followed a narrow deer trail for the better part of an hour, he'd soon come upon some fairly recent tracks. He knew by what he could see that a young small-sized doe and fawn seemed to be traveling a short distance ahead of him. Though he wished for his bow, he grew eager to hone his skills, see if he could approach them without notice, within kill-shot, and thus claim in his mind anyway a successful hunt. Quieting his steps even further, which at times was not easy for there were places of loose shell-rock beneath his feet, Running Deer eventually read the signs well enough to know by the not yet turned dirt coloration that he was slowly gaining on the pair. Which is when he also came across even fresher sign. Sign that both excited as well as alarmed him. Cougar. "Tlvdatsi" Running Deer thought to himself.
It had been a very harsh winter, and as such, there had been a great loss of life amongst both the deer as well as the elk in the area. But it was nature's way of thinning the heard and ensuring that only the strongest would survive, giving even greater chance for better healthier populations to come. As Running Deer now hunted the hunter, he forgot one of the most important lesson's he'd been taught.
"Respect the determination of those who also have the will to survive," his father once had told him. "For it may be greater than your own."
Armed only with the bone-handled hunting knife his father had made for him, Running Deer still felt himself safe. He knew that the likelihood of being discovered first was greater than even his ability and skills to take the stalking cougar by surprise. And once discovered, the cougar would no doubt flee, wishing to have no contact with humans.
He had nearly made the summit of the rock and boulder strewn mountain he'd been climbing, carefully as well as silently winding his way through narrow passages, lifting himself up and over small ledges where necessary in order to short-cut, and thus gain ground even more rapidly on the hunter who's trail still followed that of the deer. He made it to a place where he would have a better vantage point to very possibly spot his prey, the warmth of the sun now high in the sky beating against his back as he cautiously stood to gain a better look. When he did, he heard the shrill cry of a bird, closer than what he could have possibly imagined. He began to turn, his intention of seeking the source, as it no doubt would now be alerting not only the deer he'd been following, but the cougar as well. The sun was blinding, Running Deer automatically lifting his hand in some attempt to shield his eyes when he felt the sudden surprised sting of talon's raking his shoulder. Spinning in an effort to protect himself from the bird's unwarranted attack, Running Deer lost his footing. Moment's later he felt himself free-falling as he slipped going over the edge of a small cliff overhang. With a thump that knocked the wind from his lungs momentarily, he lay dazed trying desperately to catch his breath. When he finally did, he sat up grateful to discover he'd not broken any bones. It had only been a ten foot fall, but one in which he could have easily cracked his head open on any number of loose rocks and sharp-edged stones and boulders below him which he now lay beside.
The sound of the Hawk "Tawodi" he thought, circling overhead reminded him of why he was sitting here in the first place. Glancing up, he shook his fist at the great bird both in awe, as well as defiance for he had not heard of such an unprovoked attack such as this ever before.
Running Deer finally stood brushing himself off with nothing more than a bruised ego as injury. And then he saw her. Not more than two feet away, the badly mangled hindquarters of a young doe. Oddly, she was wedged between a pair of boulders in what appeared to be a very small opening, almost as though she were frantic to get away, taking the only possible course of escape, and there now stuck. Running Deer quickly scanned the area, but there was no sign of the cougar, nor did he see any tracks other than those of the cougar leaving the area.
"But where is the fawn?" he now asked himself. Once again realizing that surely there would be sign of the cougar's dragging the younger easier to carry carcass away. But there wasn't. Above him, another cry, another screech as he stood watching the magnificent Hawk above him go into a shallow dive, swooping downwards then peeling off, disappearing behind the ledges above him, reappearing moments later, once again circling.
He began to scout for a way out, an easier climb up than the one he'd taken to get down. Then he heard it, like the sound of a baby crying. He stopped, listening. Even the Hawk had ceased its almost incessant calling. Once again he listened, only now realizing that the sound he was hearing was coming from the direction of the badly mangled doe still wedged between the two rocks.
He pulled on her with some effort, his hands coming away bloody as her hide tore revealing even more of the mutilated muscle and bone, but eventually she came free. And when she did, Running Deer stood in surprised wonder at the frightened wild-eyed look on the young fawn that barely had enough room to even stand inside the small dead-ended crevice beyond.
He moved out of the way, out of eyesight of her, now sitting down, quiet, and unmoving for long moments. Movement caught his eye and he saw the young deer tentatively poke its head from between the rocks where its mother had once been wedged. Once again he heard the cry of the Hawk, looking up in its direction. But where the sun had stood moments ago near blinding him, a great form now stood in silhouette with the suns rays sparkling around it as though on fire. The great Stag stood tall, proud and majestic. He had neither heard it, nor seen it nor even knew of it's presence for their had been no sign whatsoever telling him so. And yet...there it stood. Running Deer heard a brief gentle snort, saw the younger fawn as it suddenly scrambled from it's place of concealment, scampering away like a frightened child up along a barely recognizable trail towards the great animal. Moments later the fawn stood quivering, shakily by its father's side. The great beast then moving away from the edge of the cliff disappearing without so much as a sound as though a ghost.
Running Deer scrambled up the same trail reaching the copse of boulder and rocks where the Stag had stood only minutes ago. A short distance away he saw the enormous animal cautiously making it's way down the narrow trail, silently without so much as single twig cracking beneath it's feet as though somehow magically walking on air. The younger, attempting to do the same, less successful, catching occasional glimpses back from its father as they continued on. As the great Stag made the crest of the hill across the ravine from where Running Deer now stood, it stopped looking back. The younger fawn continuing, soon disappearing from sight altogether. He watched as it shook its massive head, the crown of antlers looking almost too heavy and burdensome to bear. Then like the fawn gone before it, slipping silently away over the rise until it too disappeared from view.
Running Deer had been gone far longer than his intention. Without the same caution he'd just witnessed, he soon found himself sprinting homeward hoping he would arrive before the suns final setting.
Luckily, he had made it home before the sun had fully set. Unluckily, his father Angry Bear, "Uhahnalv Alisoqualvdi!" Running Deer acknowledged as he approached, stood just outside the entrance of their teepee waiting for him. There was a good reason for his father's name. For he was indeed a large man, easy to anger especially when time was spent in foolish, unproductive ways. Running Deer slowed his approach, now meekly not wishing to catch his father's eye though fully expecting a hard cuff to the side of the head upon his passing.
"We leave in the morning," he heard his father say instead. His tone of voice gentle, calm, reassuring.
"What?" Running Deer faltered stumbling briefly as he now stood in front of his father.
Without anyway of knowing, he felt the touch of his father's hand upon his shoulder, the wince of pain coming to him as the minor wound left by the Hawk reminded him of the birds sudden unexpected, unanticipated attack.
"It is time," his father added. "Go...into your mother who waits to feed you. Then sleep for she awaits us...you," he amended quickly.
"She?" Running Deer asked, but his father pushed him none too gently towards the door telling him that he'd said all he was going to. For the moment anyway.
Before the sun was even up, Running Deer had readied the horses for their journey. A full day's ride, they would camp at the base of Eagle Mountain. The following morning, Running Deer would make his way on foot up to the meadow. He had never been there of course, but just through his father, and grandfather's description, he knew he would find it, and know it when he did. Since it was his first time, he would be going alone. Forever after that, Running Deer knew that he would then be considered a man, and as such, privy to whatever secrets and mysteries once shared by his father, and now passed grandfather.
That evening, his father shared with him for the first time the sacred smoke. Running Deer watched the flickering flames of the campfire, and in it saw the Ghost Dancers as they mingled with the spirits past. He saw the image of the Hawk, his companion, he met for the first time his guardian the Wolf, or Waya, who would journey with him though remain hidden. And he learned of his sacred spirit, the Skunk, Dila, that had become a part of him, sharing his thoughts, his feelings as well as his innermost fears. He never slept. As the first tendrils of sunlight began to spread their fingers across the mountaintop, Running Deer shed the last remnants of his clothing. Naked, he began the arduous journey up the mountain towards the meadow of his fathers.
He walked slowly, steadily up the mountain. Looking back, he could not see a trail, but looking ahead he could see one easily. "How is this possible?" he wondered. "Any fool could find his way to the meadow if this is indeed the right path."
"Ah...but can anyone ever find their way back?"
He had heard the words. Running Deer stopped looking about, but saw no one, not even a bird in flight. Yet the words had come to him clearly as though someone stood by his side.
"Where are you?" he asked in a loud clear voice, though he feared his uncertainty would be heard in the quiver of his words. But there came no reply. He walked a bit further on seeing movement out of the corner of his eye for the first time. He turned towards it, but again saw nothing. And again he called out. "Is anyone there?"
"Anyone, and everyone," came the response from somewhere up ahead, sounding now more like a woman's voice rather than a man's the first time he had heard it.
"Who are you? Where are you?"
The only reply came from the sound of a circling Hawk high up above. He looked up, watching it slowly circling, yet heading off to the right. He looked down, saw what appeared to be a split fork, and followed the pathway right.
Minutes later he broke through the thick trees he'd found himself wandering around in. Beyond, a meadow filled with color beyond the minds imagination. Every color of wildflower known to exist had to be within this meadow. A kaleidoscope of brilliant hues that weaved itself like an ever changing blanket, the breeze gently blowing as colors formed, changed, and reformed once again into differing magnificent patterns.
At that moment he saw the Hawk descending from the sky, the sun once again at it's back. Reminded suddenly of the still fresh wound upon his shoulder, blinking in an effort to maintain his sight upon the approaching bird, but with the glare simply too bright to hold, and within the blink itself, he lost her.
Running Deer felt the brush of wing as she passed. He anticipated yet another rake of talon upon his flesh, surprised when none came. He turned spinning in the direction she had flown anticipating to see her soaring skyward into the clouds. Instead, she stood before him, part woman, part bird, and both so very, very beautiful.
"Welcome," she spoke, though her voice sounded more like song than mere words. Melodic in her enchantment, which Running Deer realized it must be.
She stood half a hand shorter than he, her hair long dark though braided, was filled with feathers each interwoven carefully without breaking, nor splitting a single one. He noticed too that her breasts were full, yet concealed within a downy covering that allowed his gaze to peek admiringly at the soft coppery-toned flesh beneath. Full hips, taut belly that rippled with muscle more defined than his own. Her sex clearly prominent, unashamedly, just as he himself stood, only then realizing it as he absentmindedly drew his hands over, covering himself. She laughed.
"Oh adageudi," meaning beloved she spoke, "Do I take you as lover or as asgahah aninela?" she giggled suggestively.
"Husband?" Running Deer spoke, finally finding his voice. "What do you mean husband?" Once again she laughed, the appearance of folded wings upon her back stretching out briefly as she made them even more comfortable, folding them once again.
"Of all that I have known, I truly find you the most curious of all. You as well so curious, adventurous and brave, yet so...so naive!" Once again she laughed, and her laughter filled the air like the wind whistling through the trees. For a moment, he thought he could hear the beating of wings reverberating all around.
"Why am I here?" he asked her, the quiver of voice now gone as he found his courage, and in that, the strength to challenge that which he did not understand, but had come to accept.
"You are here, because I am anidohi," 'The Messenger' she had told him. "Here to teach, to show, and to guide you into manhood."
Running Deer paused considering her words. "Where you here for my father, and his father, and his father before him?"
"I was...and I wasn't," she said cryptically.
"You speak in riddles," he retorted with an edge of anger in his voice.
"I was for each of them yes. But even as I am for you now, I am different. What you see, is what you want to see. Not what I am. The image I have allowed you to create is how you believe me to be, to look, and to act. I have no control over that, so it differs from man to man. Does this make it easier to understand my meaning?"
"But you seem real," he replied quickly, confused.
"I am real. Just as you are. At this very moment, I am more vulnerable than you can even possibly imagine. For while you hold me in this form, here...within the confines of this meadow, I am as flesh and blood, just as you are. I can only revert back to my true self, the Hawk, once your mind and heart releases me to do so."
"Why do that then?" he asked.
"Because it's to gain your trust. To prove to you that I am more than a mere fantasy of thought, that I am with you always, in ways you can't even begin to imagine."
"So that was you!" he said incredulously. "You caused me to fall off that ledge!"
"Yes...because only you had the power to free the fawn, as great as the Stag was, he was powerless to help. But like the fawn, you are not yet full grown, not meaning in the physical, for in that, you are more than ample," she grinned. "But it is of the mind to which I speak. There is much yet you must learn, accept, and give greater reasoning to."
"As in trying to understand why a beautiful woman also half bird now stands before me?" he questioned. She smiled, stroking his face with the feathery touch of her hand.
"Which half do you like better?" she asked. Her feathers ruffled across her breasts, her hardened nipples protruding prominently when they did. "Or...would you prefer that I simply fly away? All you have to do is release me now...and I will. And it will be the last time I shall come to you in this shape ever again if I do. It is your choice to make."
He felt his face flushing. Admittedly, he was becoming aroused, and she sensed it, staring directly, purposefully at his manhood as it rose.
"Come with me to the meadow," she beckoned to him, taking his hand. She looked as they walked, nodding her head in recognition. "I see as well that your guardian is here. That is good, for we are both vulnerable to danger here," she told him.
"Danger? What danger? I thought this place was enchanted!"
"It is! But as it is magical for us, so is it for spirits not like us. Spirits that would seek to do harm, to destroy."
Running Deer glanced about as they walked deeper into the meadow, but he could not see his guardian the Wolf. He'd barely seen him last night, just out of his peripheral vision, never able to see him fully, always one step ahead of him remaining just out of sight. The fact that Hawk could see him clearly did give him some measure of comfort however, especially if they were indeed in danger.
Running Deer happened to glance down at himself, stopping suddenly in mid-stride, shocked at what he now saw. His coppery-toned skin was now covered in white splotches. "What is this?" he asked worriedly.
Hawk smiled. "Like the fawn, when you first entered the meadow you did so as a child, when you leave it, you shall do so as a full-grown adult."
As they walked deeper towards the middle, Running Deer was relieved to see his spots gradually fading away, at last reaching the middle of the meadow itself, he saw that indeed his spots had now faded, his skin having taken back it's original color and sheen.
Hearing, then seeing movement, Running Deer glanced over towards the far edge of the clearing. There stood the great Stag he had seen only yesterday. It shook its massive head, antlers long, thick and challenging, scraping the ground.
"Will you meet this challenge?" she now asked. For a fleeting moment Running Deer felt fear, doubt, anxiety. For surely he was no match for what stood before him. Then he answered, honestly, truthfully, committed.