This Sight is Continuously Evolving

Children of the Coyote

Chapter 22

Walk through the Valley of Life

The human and the young wolf hunt together often in the days that follow. Bigmouth never fails to invite his new friends to dine with him. After one particular meal while the wolves and the young man rest, Bigmouth announces that although he is enjoying his stay in the valley, it is time for him to continue his journey
        Three-toes protests, "you can't go so soon" he cries. "We are just getting to know you and we are having such fun. Please stay a little longer" he whine.
        "That will be enough," Mother Wolf tells her son gently. "The human is right he has been in our valley long enough to regain his strength and it is time for him to continue his mission." We will all miss him and his generosity but he must follow his destiny.
        "When will you be leaving us?" Father Wolf asks.
        "In the morning" Bigmouth answers not looking at his new young friend.
        "So," begins Father Wolf. "I have watched you in the valley and I am impressed. With out claw's fang's or great strength, you have kept our little pack well fed. With your ingenuity and use of tools, I believe your people are destined to become a great power in the out side world. I have held a council with the chief's of all the tribes of the valley. I have spoken with a representative of Coyote and we have decided to send some one with you so that we will have one of our own to help you spread your message."
        "Who?" Bigmouth and Three-toes ask in unison.
        "It is time for my son to follow his destiny. It has been revealed to me that his path is intertwined With yours. He that you call Three-toes will found a new line that will be a partner and friend to humans forever." The old male announces.
        "Yoweeeee!" Howls Three-toes happily.
        Bigmouth smiles broadly for he had been saddened by the thought of leaving his friend behind Now Three-toes will be going with him and he is very pleased.
        "Since you are leaving in the morning we have some things of yours that we have been saving for this time to return to you." Father Wolf says nodding to his daughter.
        The little female slinks off into the shrubbery for a moment and then returns dragging Bigmouth's bag, which had been left on the shelf when the eagle seized him and brought him in to the valley.
        "My bundle!" Bigmouth cries. "How did you, where did you find it?" He asks excitedly. "A pair of Marmots found
        it but they could not drag it up the cliff so they enlisted the aid of some Swallows to fly it over the east wall." The young she-wolf answers.
        Bigmouth expectantly opens the bag, reaching in he removes the three eagle feathers.
        "What are these?" he asks.
        "Those are feathers from the Eagle who dropped you into the valley." Mother wolf answers. "When we found you they were lying on your hair. It may have been a sign that you should ware them that way."
        "Hmmm," Bigmouth says rubbing his chin. "I will have to think on that."
        Setting the feathers aside Bigmouth rummages in the bag and withdraws the small black rock, unconsciously he rub's his finger against the smooth flat surface.
        "What is that" Three-toes asks.
        I believe this to be the reason for Lizardfoot's quest. There is something about this black stone, some magic but only Coyote knows how to unleash it.
        "Let me see that" Father Wolf asks.
        Bigmouth holds the stone out for the large male to inspect.
        Father Wolf sniffs at the stone, then he tastes it. He sits back on his haunches and thinks for a while.
        "The stone comes from the black mountain, and yes, there is magic in it. Be careful of its power though for it can do good or evil. The rock itself is neutral but how it is used will determine the nature of its magic." He says solemnly.
        "There is a large flow of this material on the North slope of the black mountain" the wolf continues after a moment. "Beware of the mountain my friend," Father Wolf says seriously. "The old legends say that a strange beast inhabits its upper reaches. A beast who walks upright as you do but unlike you, is large, strong, covered with thick hair and well equipped with sharp claws and long fangs."
        "Does the creature have a name?" Bigmouth asks.
        "We only know it as the beast who walks upright." Answer's Father Wolf. "No one that I know of has seen it, there are only the old stories of large tracks and strange shadows moving among the boulders. There is no real physical evidence but the legends have been with us so long that they must be true."
        "Three-toes and I will remain alert for this being and hopefully avoid an encounter with it. Bigmouth reassures the old male wolf."
        "Maybe I will find this creature and uncover it's story so I can tell it to the people." He thinks to him self. 

Bigmouth is just returning from the stream after having his morning drink, when Three-toes enters the clearing.
        "Are you ready to start our adventure?" The young wolf asks excitedly.
        "Yes, we can start at once" Bigmouth replies as he slips the bag over his shoulder and picks up his spear.
        "Very fetching" Three-toes says in a teasing tone.
        "What? What do you mean?" Asks Bigmouth.
        "The Feathers" Three-toes answers.
        "Oh, uh, yeah, well, I, uh, I figured if the eagle felt it was important for me to have its feathers, I should at least try to ware them." Bigmouth replies a little embarrassed. "Are we going to stand here all day and discus my finery" he continues a little sharply.
        "No, Let's get moving" Three-toes replies with a wolfish grin.
        The human and the young wolf head off down stream, discussing their journey as they walk.
        "I want to talk to as many of the four legged ones as I can, since I may not be able to do so after we leave the valley." Bigmouth says. "I want to learn their stories so that I can tell them to my people."
        It is late morning and the two travelers are entering a clearing along a trail that winds through the frequent willow thickets along the banks of the river.
        Three-toes is in the lead. He stops in his tracks with his nose up, sniffing the air.
        "What is it?" Bigmouth whispers as he halts behind the young wolf.
        "Bear!" Three-toes grunts. "Smells like a sow and two cubs" he continues.
        "Good, I want to talk to her" Bigmouth exclaims and begins to pass his friend.
        "Wait, Bigmouth" Three-toes whispers harshly as he steps in front of his friend. "I know this old sow and she is a bad tempered one. If you just go barging out there and scare one of those two cubs of hers you will be bear droppings before you ask the first question."
        Bigmouth steps around his friend. Over his shoulder he says; "I am not going to bother her cubs I only want to hear the story of the bears."
        So saying, he steps into the clearing.
        Instantly the closest bear cub sees him and turning to its mother, lets out a loud squall. Its sibling looks up at that moment and is startled by the strange creature stepping from the shrubbery. Echoing the noise of its brother the young female rushes for the safety of the trees behind its now alerted mother. The old sow is digging for grubs in a rotten tree stump, her nose is buried in the duff and her back is to Bigmouth as he takes his first step into the clearing. Before he can take a second step she rises up on her hind legs and turns to face him.
    "WAUGH-GRRRR" she roars.
    The old sow starts to drop to all-four's and begins to charge Bigmouth but before her front feet touch the ground Three-toes is in the clearing and is between them. "STOP!" He howls loudly.
        The old sow stops her charge when she recognizes the young wolf.
        "Waugh!" she repeats. "What do you want here scavenger?" she growls, looking balefully at the two intruders. "What do you mean by frightening my poor defenseless children?"
        "We are sorry we frightened the cubs but it was not intentional. My friend here has much to learn about our ways. I assure you he means no harm." Three-toes quickly explains.
        "Waugh" the old she-bear grumbles again. "Its lucky for him that you are with him and that I know your mother, or you would both be cub food right now."
        "I'm Sorry..." Bigmouth begins to apologize but is interrupted by the bear.
        "It speaks!" Mother Bear exclaims in surprise. "This must be the creature that Eagle dumped into the valley." She says pointing her nose in Bigmouth's direction and sniffing loudly.
        "Yes, this is Bigmouth the fugawee human being" Three-toes begins.
        "It's not fugaw...." Bigmouth tries to correct his friend but is silenced by a scolding glance from the wolf.
        "Bigmouth's tribe was not spawned in our valley" the wolf continues "They do not know the ways of the four legged ones. He Has been given the responsibility by Coyote to learn our ways and to teach his people to live in harmony with the other creatures of this land."
        "Now that I look at him closer I can see that he is certainly no threat to me" the bear growls. "I mean, look at him, the skinny, pathetic thing. It is a wonder that his kind have survived at all. I mean no offense you understand." She apologizes. "Its only that he has no fur to protect him, no fangs or claws for defense or killing prey. He must be very slow using only his hind legs for motion."
        As she talks, the bear walks around Bigmouth, Looking him up and down and sniffing. When she returns to her original position she stops and sits on her haunches.
        The two curious cubs abandon the trees, crawl into there mother's lap and begin suckling. Each takes its turn surreptitiously inspecting this strange human being.
        "And he stinks!" The bear concludes with a snort. "Maybe that is what has kept them from being hunted to extinction by the predators out side" she laughs.
        "I, I would like to ask you some questions if you don't mind" Bigmouth begins tentatively.
        "Questions? What kind of questions?" The bear growls suspiciously.
        "Well uh, well, Mother Wolf, mentioned that perhaps we, uh, that is, humans and bears might be some how related beca....."
        "What!" The bear roars, interrupting Bigmouth again. "Not a chance. What could have possibly given her an idea like that. I mean, I mean, LOOK AT YOU!"
        "Well, Mother Wolf, thought that perhaps the fact that we are both omnivores might mean that somewhere way back our ancestors may have sprung from the same source." Bigmouth proceeds cautiously.
        "Are you serious?" The bear asks. "Yes I can see that you are" she says answering her own question.
        After some thought she goes on. "It is an interesting theory but our similar eating habits are not enough evidence to say that we are of the same species. Do you have any other facts to support this notion?" She asks.
        "Well uh, bears some times walk upright like humans." He suggests tentatively.
        "Oh well, yes some times we can but we are not constructed very well for that, and can only walk on our rear legs for short distances. That still doesn't prove your theory." She declares. "How about the fact that Bears sleep under ground for half the year, and humans were shown the way into this land from under ground." Bigmouth almost pleads, playing his last card.
        "Waugh, ha, ha" the bear laughs. "Are you that desperate to have an ancestral connection to the bears that you would use such flimsy logic to support your theory?" The old she bear asks shaking her massive head.
        "Well, I guess not," Bigmouth mumbles. "My people have no knowledge of our ancestry. We are adrift upon this pitiless land in competition with all and with connections to none."
        They remain silent for a moment. The only sound from the group is the sound of the cubs suckling.
        "Perhaps, that is why your people have found a friend in Coyote." Three-toes says softly.
        "Let us go over and sit in the shade" the old bear suggests. "I will tell you all I know of the history of my people then you can make your own decision as to weather you are related to the bears or not."
        The Bear, the Wolf, and the Man, sit in the shade of a large spreading Elm. The bear relates all she knows about her family tree and describes each branch and leaf in great detail. She tells them the story of the evolution of the first bears who, from small shy creatures, through natural selection do to external pressures of environment and with allot of luck have risen to the top of the food chain. She explains how in each environment the bears evolved differently to cope with its special conditions.
        By late afternoon Bigmouth's ears are ringing and his brain is numb from trying to absorb all that the old sow bear has to say. Three-toes lies curled up near the base of the tree with his tale over his eyes, snoring softly. The two cubs have become quarrelsome and cranky and their mother is loosing patience with them.
        As she leaves the shade of the tree to discipline them again, Bigmouth stands up and stretches out the kinks in his body from sitting too long.
        "Wake up Three-toes," he says. It is time we continued our travels.
        The young wolf moves his tail and opens one eye. Slowly he gets to his feet, yawns, and shakes out his fur coat. "It's about time" he says quietly. "How boring to have to listen to that old bruin spouting all that drivel about how great her ancestors were. I thought it would never end." Three-toes grumbles.
        "Well, It probably hasn't but I think we may have a chance to escape now If we are resolute." Bigmouth replies with a smile.
    The old she bear returns to our two travelers hoping to continue telling the fascinating history of her people. She notices them standing side by side. Bigmouth is just settling his bag over his shoulder.
        "Are you leaving so soon?" She asks as she approaches. "Why I have hardly even touched on the cousins of the Bear clan, the Badgers, Wolverines and Raccoons. And there are others. Did you know that there are bears that eat no meat at all?" She asks trying to spark her audience's interest.
        Although Bigmouth's eyebrow does rise in response to this last question. He demurs, citing the lateness of the day and the distance yet to travel as reasons for their departure.
        "We do appreciate your taking the time from your maternal obligations to reveal to us all you have but we really must be on our way" he tells her. "I will remember your stories and will relate them to my people so that we may more fully understand our place in the circle of life. Thank you and good day Mother Bear" he says with a bow.
        Bigmouth turns to the West and steps from the shade of the old Elm. With Three-toes trotting ahead, they continue their journey.
        Just as Bigmouth is leaving the clearing, he looks back at the old bear. She has turned her attention to instructing her cubs in the correct way to open a log to get at the fat white grubs. Of course the young bears are more interested in playing. Bigmouth smiles, turns and enters the foliage on the edge of the clearing following his friend.
        After traveling for a while the two come to a small clear stream cascading down a side canyon as Bigmouth looks up the creek to his left he can see that the water drops from a succession of levels. Each level appears to be the intentional blocking of the stream with a construction of sticks and mud.
        "What's that?" He asks his friend.
        "Beaver dam," Three-toes replies.
        "Excuse me?" Bigmouth asks.
        "BEE- VER- DAM" Three-toes repeats, slowly accenting each syllable.
        "I heard the words but what is a (beaverdam)?" Bigmouth asks.
        "You mean, that you don't know what a Beaver is?" The wolf asks in surprise.
        "I don't believe that I have ever seen any thing like that on the streams of the prairie where my people live." Bigmouth confesses. "What Is a Beaver?" he asks.
        "A Beaver is an animal who lives in the streams, he eats tree limbs and bark. The Beaver uses mud and sticks to plug (dam) the stream and form a pond. In the middle of this pond, he builds his home so that he is safe from Predators Like US." Three-toes instructs.
        "How fascinating." Bigmouth exclaims. "An animal who like humans, builds a home to suit its needs. They must be very intelligent. Perhaps they are some how related to humans." Bigmouth suggests.
        Three-toes rolls his eyes. "I suppose you will want to talk to the Beavers too." He complains.
        "Of course!" Bigmouth replies excitedly. I want to talk to every animal who will talk with me while I am able to understand them. It may be that when I leave this place I will no longer understand the common speech so I must hear all their stories before then.
        "Well this one could be a problem." Three-toes replies.
        "Why? Are they dangerous?" Bigmouth asks.
        "No, not really. Although, If you catch one, you do have to be careful of their large, nasty, sharp teeth, but then that can be said about any rodent even a Rabbit." The wolf answers. "No, the problem is that they are so shy that as soon as they see any one approach they dive deep into their pond and sneak into there homes through an underwater entrance. They will not emerge from safety until all danger has passed." Three-toes continues. "They are just plant eaters, Rodents at that, and way down on the food chain. You Fug-a-we, are hunters, predators, eaters of meat. How could the Beaver have any ancestral connection with your people?
        "I do not know" Bigmouth confesses. "When my people first came from the darkness, we were scavengers, eaters of bugs and seeds. We have evolved in to predators in order to survive in a hostile world. The beaver also developed a strategy for dealing with the dangers of this land. By becoming an eater of trees and builder of ponds he has assured himself of a place in the chain of life. Whether, carnivore or herbivore, every one has a story to tell and It is my responsibility to listen to it. It has nothing to do with any possible connection to common ancestors" He concludes.
        "Very well," replies the wolf. "I will do what I can to help but I still don't see why you waste your time on Rodents, after all they are just food."
        Bigmouth sighs, and points to the dam up stream. "We will camp up there" he says flatly.
        "Maybe there are fish in the pond to eat" he suggests, as he starts climbing along the edge of the creek.
        "Or maybe beaver to eat?" Three-toes remarks. The young wolf grins mischievously and follows Bigmouth up stream.
        As Bigmouth's approaches the mud and stick dam, he can hear a loud slapping sound coming from the direction of the water. He sees ripples spreading in rings across the otherwise still surface of the little lake. Near the middle of the pool stands a small island. Looking like nothing more than a pile of sticks and gobs of mud, this is the structure the beaver calls home.
        Bigmouth works his way to where the water exits the pond. It is about knee deep and runs through a narrow gap between two large flat stones. Here, many large trout swim back and forth taking turns rushing the dam in an attempt to enter the pond and continue there travels up stream. It is a simple thing for Bigmouth scoop out two fat fish for his and Three-toes' supper. With his spear tucked under his arm and his index fingers inserted in the gill opening of the fish he returns to his companion who is waiting on the flat grassy sward along the pond's edge. He drops one large trout at the feet of Three-toes and sits next to him. With out conversation the two companions fall to eating there fresh fish dinner.
         Later, Bigmouth sits quietly by the water's edge looking across the flat surface of the pond. Occasionally he can see a "V" shaped wake as one of the aquatic rodents swims by with only its nose and eyes showing. When ever he looks in the direction of the creature it disappears, leaving only a ring of ripples to mark where it had been.
        Several times Bigmouth calls out to the beaver. He explains who he is and of his mission. He pleads that he might have conversation with them but the animals ignore him and continue to swim back and forth, occasionally diving under the surface to enter their lodges.
        Finally Bigmouth gets to his feet, steps into the cold water and wades towards the closest mound. When the water reaches his waste his feet slip out from under him and with a loud splash he sinks below the surface. He comes up coughing and sputtering and shivering from the chill of the water. Bigmouth notices a large Beaver sitting upright on top of the nearest lodge. Slowly he works his way toward the creature. When he is within two men's length of the beaver and the water reaching the scars on his chest. He is halted by a sharp whistle.
        "Ssstop right there!" The beaver says in a whistling hissing growl.
        As if by some un-spoken command, several beavers surface surrounding Bigmouth. All of them flash big, nasty, sharp, teeth and hiss menacingly.
        "What do you want here, carnivore?" The large boar-beaver asks.
        "I assure you, I mean you no harm friend beaver." Bigmouth begins.
        "Oh! Is That so!" Growls the chief beaver. "I suppose the fact that you are in the company of a known predator means nothing."
        Bigmouth looks back at his friend who is sitting on the bank watching the proceedings with alert interest.
        "I assure you again that neither my friend Three-toes nor I wish you any harm we have already eaten well and I only wish to talk with you. I hope to hear the story of your creation and your history so I can better teach my people how to live in harmony with all the creatures of this world." Bigmouth pleads.
        "Well, I don't know," grumbles the beaver. "You seam sincere but I don't trust your friend over there." The beaver indicates three-toes with a nod of its head.
        "I have told my friend that he is to stay on the shore and not to molest any of your people while we talk," Bigmouth assures the beaver.
        "Well, I guess a little talk can't hurt any thing but we can't talk here." The beaver hisses searching the sky with his myopic eyes. "An eagle or other large raptor could swoop down on us at any time and snatch me away for its supper. We will talk in my lodge."
        With that said. The beaver slips from the roof of mound and dives for the underwater entrance to his home.
        Peering down through the surface of the water Bigmouth watches the distorted form of the beaver disappearing into the lodge. He looks over at Three-toes, shrugs his shoulders, takes a deep breath and pinching his nose between thumb and forefinger sinks below the surface of the pond.
        When his head emerges he is in the dark pungent home of the beaver.
        With his head and shoulders out of the water, he waits for his eyes to become accustom to the darkness. The atmosphere in the dwelling is suffocating almost no fresh air filters through the stick and mud walls. The odor of castor hangs heavy in the feted air. He sucks in a breath and begins to gag. Not wanting to vomit on his guest's doorstep he closes his eyes, holds his breath and thinks through the nausea. Bracing him self he exhales slowly and then he inhales through his mouth. Though the air is thick he finds that he can breathe without gagging.
        He gasps, barely suppressing a scream as three forms slide from the dark in to the water and slip along his body as they exit the lodge. In the dim flickering light that filters in through the watery entrance, he sees the large male Beaver watching him from the far side of the lodge sitting on the raised mud floor of the low roofed structure.
        "Well?" Hisses the beaver. "Are you going to come up or stand there in the cold water?"
        Bigmouth clumsily crawls from the water and is soon seated on a soft bead of beaver fur. The roof of the lodge is so low that Bigmouth can not sit upright. By crossing his legs under him and leaning his elbows on his knees he is able to sit more or less comfortably while he talks with the large Rodent. The conversation begins as usual with Bigmouth relating the creation story of the Fug-a-we and a short recitation of his experiences since leaving the home fires of his village. Bigmouth concludes with his request for the Beaver's story.
        Beaver listens respectfully until Bigmouth has finished. Then he clears his throat and begins In a low hissing voice to tell the creation story of the Beaver People.
        The thick aroma of castor is becoming intoxicating. As Bigmouth listens, visions begin to form in his mind. He is transported to a land of dark, wet forests with exotic and wonderful flora. Vapors swirl in the dank atmosphere. Strange and terrible winged creatures search the upper canopy for unsuspecting creatures to devour. Other even more terrible scaly creatures search the forest floor running swiftly on powerful rear legs, reaching out to snatch their prey with taloned forearms. Even larger creatures stalk the margins of this primeval habitat. Their shadows fall across the land and the ground trembles as they pass. The roars of predators and screams of prey assail him from all sides.
        He sees himself as a small creature with large front teeth cautiously making its way through the dense undergrowth, nibbling on a twig here a sprout there, nervously surveying his surroundings and constantly on the alert for predators. His keen hearing picks up the rustle of the under brush as one of the Runners searches in his direction. Quickly the small rodent scampers toward the nearby swamp. Behind him he can hear rapid foot falls as the Runner closes the gap between them. This time the little rodent is lucky he reaches the safety of the water and dives for the bottom. He can here splashing behind him.
        The Runner stops knee deep in the water. It swings its head from side to side searching for the escaped rodent.
        The rodent swims harder than he ever swam in his life. Finally he reaches the root mass at the base of the giant aquatic fern tree that protects his family. He swims up through the Tangle of roots and into the hidden hollow above the waterline. Safe in his lodge the little rodent curls up on the soft fur bed with his mate and their suckling offspring. Before he goes to sleep he notices that one of the baby rodents is different from its siblings the legs are a little shorter the feet and hands are a bit more webbed and the tail is just slightly flattened.
        The predator leaves in search of other prey.
        "Are you awake, human?" The old beaver asks.
        "Huh? What? I'm sorry what did you say?" Bigmouth stammers, as he returns from his vision.
        "I asked If you are awake but I can see that you are not." The beaver grumbles.
        "If you want to here the story of my people you must pay attention. There is much important work not being done while I sit here telling you stories."
        "I was listening" Bigmouth protests. "It is just that your speech has a strange effect on me I can see the story unfold as if I were present. I was not asleep but I was as if in a dream. Please continue." He pleads.
        "Very well, but be sure you don't go back to sleep," the old boar hisses.
        The beaver continues his story.
        Again, after a short time Bigmouth's mind is transported into the past he views the lives of the rodent family and the many twists and turns the line takes as it evolves into the countless forms of rodent that inhabit the land of light. He sees the beaver clan as it evolves from a small swamp dweller living in the roots of aquatic trees to a tamer of streams and builder of strong well defended homes for their families.
        When the old beaver finishes his story, Bigmouth is speechless. He sits with his elbows on his knees his chin resting on his hands staring at the floor of the beaver lodge.
        "I never would have thought that the lowly rodent clan would have such an inspiring story to tell." Bigmouth says after a moment. "I only hope that I can tell it to my people properly and completely. I thank you brother beaver, now I will leave you to do your important work." Bigmouth begins to unfold himself to leave when the beaver stops him.
        "Wait a moment" the beaver, says. "It is dark out side and the temperature is dropping you are welcome to stay in our lodge and sleep until morning. With out fur to protect you, you will be very uncomfortable out in the open, here you can sleep warmly."
        "Thank you for your kind offer my friend but if I stretch out to sleep in your lodge there will be no room for the rest of your family." Bigmouth demurs.
        "It is of no consequence" the old beaver insists. "We will be working through the night at any rate. We have to strengthen our dam for the coming storm."
        "A storm?" Bigmouth asks in surprise. "In the valley of the Wa'ste River?"
        "Of course," answers the beaver with a sidewise glance at his guest.
        "Its, its just that the weather has been so mild since I arrived" Bigmouth says defensively. "I thought that it was always this pleasant."
        "No," the beaver explains. "We are subject to the same weather as the out side, moderated slightly by the cliffs and the Guardian mount at the west end of the valley."
        "I thank you for the kind offer" Bigmouth replies "but my friend Three-toes will be concerned if I do not return"
        "Rest comfortably," the beaver insists. "You are a guest in my lodge. I will explain it to the carnivore who accompanies you"
        As the beaver begins to leave, he turns to Bigmouth. "There is something I do not understand," he says.
        "What is that?" Bigmouth asks.
        "Why is a intelligent, sensitive youngster like yourself spending his time in the company of predators?" The beaver asks.
        "My race walks a fine line between predator and prey." Bigmouth says. "The fates have joined Three-toes and I for some purpose. When that purpose is fulfilled no doubt the fates will separate us."
        "I have one more question," Bigmouth says.
        "Yes, what is that?" The beaver asks.
        "Why have I never seen your peoples lodges in the land of the Fug-a-we" he asks.
        "My people have spread out slowly from the Wa'ste Valley," the beaver answers. Some day we will build our dams on every stream in the land. Even now some of my children are living in burrows along the streams of your land. Walk through the world with your mind open as well as your eyes and you may see all."
        The old beaver studies Bigmouth's face for a moment. "Rest well human and depart in peace," he finally says as he slips away into the water.
        Three-toes is watching the beaver lodge as Bigmouth emerges from the water in a burst of bubbles.
        Bigmouth wades to the shore. "Good morning my friend" he says to Three-toes. "Did you sleep well? I can't remember when I have slept so well" he goes on. "Or dreamed so vividly" he adds after a moment.
        "Yes, I slept well enough" the wolf answers "but my dreams were of fat beaver for breakfast."
        "Remember your manners" Bigmouth scolds. "We are still guests of the beavers and we can find plenty to eat after we leave their village."
        With that Bigmouth picks up his spear and his bag, he points his feet down stream and resumes his journey.
        The sun shines bright and warm in the clear blue sky. The air is clean and crisp with a slight breeze wafting up the valley as the low lands begin to warm. The soft air currents cause the Aspens to shimmer green and gold in the early morning light. Only a hint of fluffy white clouds edges the Western Mountains.
        Bigmouth and Three-toes retrace their steps to the game trail they were following the previous day. Turning west at the trace they move along casually discussing their plans for the day.
        By mid morning the breeze has freshened and blows steadily from the West.
       Three-toes stops on the trail in front of Bigmouth and sniffs the breeze. "Bad storm coming," he announces.
        "Yes, the beaver told me of its coming last night," Bigmouth replies. "Do you know of any place where we might take shelter?"
        "There are some old dens higher up near the base of the cliffs but it is dangerous to be up there during big storms," Three-toes replies.
        "Why is that?" Bigmouth asks.
        "When a bad storms come it beats upon the cliffs with bright flashes of light and heat. The light blasts anything that is in the open, trees, rocks and even animals. What ever it touches it destroys leaving it charred and smoking like the black mountain." Three-toes explains.
        "Smoke? You mean like fire?" Bigmouth asks. His interest is peaked by the mention of heat and smoke.
        "Fire?" Three-toes asks
        The thin line of clouds has grown to great Cumulonimbus formations climbing high into the sky above the mountains. Tattered wisps of the cloud's darker under belly streak to the East propelled by the building storm's energy. The gray clouds mingle with the darker smoke that steadily spews from the peek of the Black Mountain and darkens the sky to the North and East.
        Bigmouth watches the gathering storm for a moment then turning up hill he begins to climb.
        "Come on Three-toes, we had better get moving if we are going to find shelter." He says, looking back at the wolf who is sitting in the trail watching him quizzically.
        "Well?" Bigmouth asks. "Aren't you coming?"
        "I don't believe it," the wolf declares. "I just got through explaining to you how dangerous it is up there during a storm, and you just ignore the danger and want to walk right into its arms." Three-toes shakes his head in disbelief.
        "If we find a cave or good outcrop of rock we will be safe enough." Bigmouth answers as he turns and continues the climb toward the cliffs high above. "Perhaps if we are lucky we may even be able to have a fire to keep us warm and dry"
        "Perhaps if we are lucky we won't be blasted to cinders by the storm" Three-toes mumbles as he stands and follows his human companion.
        They climb rapidly up the steep slope of the valley to the very base of the vertical cliffs. Turning west, Bigmouth and Three-toes search for a cave or protecting outcrop of rock. Soon their search is rewarded when they come upon a small opening low on the granite walls. The shallow cave is protected by an overhang of solid rock.
        Bigmouth picks up a few stones and throws them into the entrance. The stones clatter as they ricochet around the interior of the cave. He listens for a few moments more, then he cautiously peers into the opening. When his eyes become accustom to the darkness he can see that though the hole isn't very deep or very tall there is plenty of room for himself and his companion to take refuge.
        "This will be perfect" he declares, as he turns to face Three-toes.
        At the same moment the first discharge of lightning crashes to the ground on the top of the Guardian mount at the west end of the valley. The explosion of thunder roles up the valley causing the earth to vibrate beneath Bigmouth's feet and drowning out his words.
        In a panic, Three-toes streaks for the opening to the cave almost knocking Bigmouth over in the process. He retreats as far back into the cliff as he can. When he reaches the furthest limit he curls him self into a ball with his nose buried under his tail, his eyes closed tight and his ears folded flat against his head. With each successive strike he whimpers louder and louder.
        Out side the entrance, Bigmouth watches the approaching tempest with a strange fascination. He is awed by the streaks of light that flash back and forth within the clouds. He jumps despite himself when the clouds send their bolts of fire to the ground blasting rock from the cliffs and burning holes into the earth. Finally, he is forced into the protection of the cave by the wind driven hail stones beating against his naked body.
        From the small opening he continues to watch the storm as the lightning and hail march passed their position and up the valley.
        A bright flash touches a small juniper tree not far from the entrance to there shelter. The tree erupts in a shower of sparks and burning branches. Instantly Bigmouth rushes from the cave and into the storm. He races to a burning branch close to the cliff. He picks it up on the run and heads for another. Lightening flashes around him causing his skin the to tingle and his long hair to stand out all around his head. Scooping up a second burning shard he turns in mid stride and races to the shelter of the outcrop. He carefully sets the smoldering branches down and cast about for suitable tinder to feed his fire. There is an abundance of sage brush growing along the base of the cliffs. He quickly gathers armloads of this aromatic fast burning fuel as the first large drops of rain begin to hit the ground.
        He strips the hairy bark from the sage and carefully lays small strips of it across the glowing branch ends. Thick smoke rises from the strips of tinder. Remembering the many times he witnessed Bringer of Fire blowing on a coal to start the council fire in the village. Bigmouth kneels to blow on the smoldering brand. There is a strong wind from the West and before he has a chance to breathe life into the tinder it bursts into flame. The wind whips the flame horizontally.
        Bigmouth is so surprised by this that he sits back on his haunches and stares as the flames reach a crescendo and then die do to a lack of kindling material.
        "Humph" Bigmouth exclaims. "This isn't as easy as I thought."
        The wind is blowing sparks and cinders along the ground for several yards.
        Bigmouth searches around in the dark for rocks to shield his fire from the blast. In the flashing light of the storm he sees several stones strewn about the area. Gathering a few he builds a small wall on the up wind side, then He strips more bark from the dry sage plants. This time he crumples the bark between his hands breaking down the tough fiber. Next he brakes up several of the sage branches into small kindling. He picks up his two original branches and inspects the end of both. On one branch he finds a coal that still is glowing brightly in the wind. He paces it behind the windbreak and carefully covers the glowing end with the fine tinder. Soon, with the help of the storm driven wind the tinder begins to smolder and shortly bursts into flame. Quickly, this time, he adds his smallest kindling to the flames, then as the flames increase he feeds it larger and larger sticks.
        Soon he has a cheery camp fire lighting the small cave and the overhang.
        The wind diminishes as the leading edge of the storm moves further West.
        Bigmouth sits with his back against the cliff and beams with satisfaction. Soon he finds that getting a fire going is only part of the magic. Keeping the fire going is another matter entirely.
        Sage as a fuel is not very efficient, although it is easy to ignite and burns warm and bright it does not burn for long. Bigmouth finds that he is so busy gathering fuel that he can scarcely sit for a moment before he must find another branch to feed to the flames. As exciting and reminiscent of home as the fire is. With out something to cook, it is more work than it is worth.
        After an hour Bigmouth gives up on the fire. He crawls into the small cave and curl's up next to Three-toes.
        "Well, are you through playing with the forces of nature? Three-toes asks sarcastically when Bigmouth had settled in. "What do you get out of such a dangerous game?" He inquires. "You expend allot of energy and risk your life for no reward that I can see."
        "If we had some fresh meat I could have had a nice, hot, cooked meal." Bigmouth rejoins.
        "Perhaps." Three-toes acknowledges. "But I can't see why you would want to take a fresh piece of meat and burn it. I have eaten a few carcasses of animals who were stricken by the light from the sky. If that is what cooked meat is like, I want none of it thank you. Besides we have no meat, since you wouldn't let me catch any of those fat beaver and we spent most of the day climbing up here so you could play with fire. So, what did you get out of it? Was it worth the risk?"
        Bigmouth sits silently for a bit. "Yes, yes it was worth it" he says quietly. "For a short time I felt like I was back in my village. I could hear the drums and see my people dancing in the light of the fire. For those few moments I was home."
        In the darkness a tear runs down the young mans cheek. He closes his eyes and drifts off dreaming of his people and his home.
        "You humans are really quite strange" The wolf mumbles as he curls up with his tail over his nose. He too goes to sleep.

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