The day had not yet dawned. The Shaman sat in front of the fire, the chief was no where in sight. Six young braves, almost grown into manhood sat around the fire, giving rapt attention to the Shaman as he retold a legend that had been passed down for many centuries on mornings such as this.
"I will tell you the story of our people," the Shaman told them. They knew what he was going to say, but they listened anyway, it was part of tradition. "Our people were once a proud race that ruled the heavens. They forgot their old ways and for their arrogance the Old Man in the Sky tossed them down from the stars.
There were few left, and it seemed as if they would all die. It wasn't until they remembered the old ways that they were able to survive, and so the People survived, learning from their brothers the animals."
The young braves touched their chest, where soon a tattoo would be made of a star, to show they remembered their past. They looked at each other, they had heard this story a hundred times before, but never had it seemed to have such meaning as it did now, on the dawn of their manhood.
"The People grew until hunting grew scarce in their territory and there began to be contention," the ancient Shaman reminded them. "It was then that it was decided the People would split into tribes. Bones were cast and our tribal ancestors took their path to the mountains, close to the Old Man in the Sky. Our tribe, the tribe of the White Raven, has been here ever since."
The young braves knew the story, and they knew it was tradition that it was told to them one last time before their vision quest. They didn't know what came next, now that the tale was told.
Chief Standing Stone approached from wherever he had been. He was a tall man, of about middle-age. His back was straight and his arms were sturdy. For once he had no paint on his face and no headdress; instead his hair was tied back in a simple braided pony tail.
His son, Falling Rock, was among the braves that were seated cross-legged around the fire. They all looked up at him with rapt attention. What was he going to say to them? This very well could be the last time they saw his face. It wasn't unusual to lose a brave or two during the vision quests. They were sent out into the wilderness and were told not to eat, drink or sleep until a vision came to them. If any trouble came their way they would be too weak to handle it.
"My sons," though he may have engendered Falling Rock every one of the young men of the tribe was considered his son. "You are ready to become men. It is the time that the Spirits have decided to show a vision. This morning you must travel to a place you have not been before."
"Once you have found a spot where you can stay for several days you may make a fire. You must not eat, drink, or sleep, so that your minds can be cleansed from the wants of this world," the chief knew that most of the young braves, if not all of them, already knew the rules of a vision quest, but he wanted to be sure that they were fresh in each of their minds. "When you are ready the Spirits will show you a vision that is meant for you and you alone. Do not share this vision with anyone else. Once you have had your vision, drink and eat if possible, then you may come home as men."
The chief wasn't allowed to say any more, their minds must remember the rules first and foremost. The braves looked at each other nervously, and then they rose to their feet and split into pairs. They would have to split up those pairs later on, but it was smart to have someone with you as long as possible.
He watched as his son trotted off at a leisurely pace with Painted Horse. The two braves had been best friends since they could speak. He watched the pair make their way out of the teepees and into the wilderness beyond. His warm black eyes were on them until they disappeared in the distance.
Once he could no longer see them he turned to the shaman. The wrinkled old man nodded at him solemnly. They both had confidence that his son was ready, he just hoped the Spirits would be kind to his son. Standing Stone's own brother had been lost on his vision quest. Warriors had much later found his bones lying among sharp stones below a rocky mountain cliff.
Chief Standing Stone glanced up at the light blue sky. He whispered a silent prayer to the Old Man in the Sky. He prayed that he would keep his son safe, and that he would give him a great vision. He didn't see any change in the clouds, no sudden flight of birds. He hoped his prayer was heard.
He nodded a farewell to the old shaman and made his way toward his teepee. It was no larger or smaller than anyone else's. It had a hole in the top where the smoke from the fire inside could escape; it stained the supporting poles of wood black. The leather flap to his teepee was opened wide, awaiting his entry. He could see the blaze still burning, probably under his beautiful Moon Cloud's care.
He entered the leather teepee. It was bright from the light of the fire. He could see his life mate's worried face highlighted by the flames. There was silence when he entered his family's abode. He knew that no one worried during a vision quest like the mothers of the braves who left.
"How was he?" Moon Cloud asked.
"He listened like a true man," Chief Standing Stone told her. "He seemed excited about his quest. He and Painted Horse went together out of the village. They will safeguard each other until they must part ways."
"I will pray for them," Moon Cloud said.
"As will I," Chief Standing Stone assured her.