The Ritual

by Jeanette Hoffmann and Ina Tauer†††

The blazing desert sun had long been replaced by a pale blue moon. A breath taking star sprinkled sky was ruling the night over Indian territory.

Cordell Walker sat bare chested and cross legged on holy ground.

He had spent most of the evening there, sitting all alone, motionless, the sun beating merciless down on him. The colors of his forefathers, an ancient pattern he had painted on his exposed skin with his own hands, had protected him from sunburn.

It also helped to prepare his mind to become one with the spirits.

Walker wasnít aware of any physical discomfort anymore.

No longer thirst and hunger gnawed at his concentration.

The change from the heat of day to the chilly cold of night went by unnoticed.

He was abusing his well trained body by ignoring the tight aching muscle knots in his legs, arms, and shoulders, but didnít realize it.

He couldnít.

Walkerís mind was not at the present time.

His thoughts wandered, tumbling through silent memories of past events.

Pictures floated randomly in front of his inner eyes, scenes of friendship and pure love but also of hate and utter destruction.

As most lives, Walkerís had been a string of good and bad occurrences, an emotional roller coaster, especially when it came to friendship and love.

His soul had touched many, but not many had really touched his.

Alex Cahill, Jimmy Trivette and C.D. Parker.

His wife.

His friend and blood brother.

His mentor.

Those had not only touched his roots and soul, and became part of it, but also of the Cherokee nation.

The thought jolted Walker suddenly back into reality.

Slowly he opened his eyes and saw into flames of orange and yellow brilliance that danced hypnotically before him. A short moment of disorientation assaulted him.

He was surprised to find the big fire already burning, having no recollection of starting it at all, but then again, he realized that indeed he himself must have had started it.

The tribal ritual place lay in silence.

Walker was alone on native American land that hadnít been changed in centuries.

As he had requested, his brothers and sisters respected his wish for solitude.

As did Alex, more honoring the customs of his people than his wish.

Walker drew in a deep breath. His decision had been hard on her. A Cherokee warrior thing.

A way and tradition that felt strange and didnít let her stand at his side in times of need.

She had been angry, her love shadowed by grief. He would have to deal with it later.

Now it was time to say farewell.

To pay the ultimate respect.

Honor a warrior.

Walker blinked a tear away, suddenly overcome by his own feelings of grief and loss.

The presence of spirits was strong now at the historic holy burial site. A soft breeze caressed him, pushing gently against his back.

His inner voice urged him to do, what needed to be done.

Walker slowly got up.

His legs felt leaden, pin pricks indicating that normal circulation started again.

Stiffly he walked closer to the burial fire chanting in a guttural Indian tune about courage and bravery.

It was part of tradition. As was the burial fire.

Close up it seemed immense.

The covered calm form in itís middle was surrounded by licking flames, itís spirit waiting for itís final journey.

Walker stopped. His chest constricted with emotions.

It was too late to comfort his friend and blood brother for one last time.

Again tears started to run down his cheeks.

How could it happen?

The hurt was just too great.

Yet, Walker forced himself to pick up three ceremonial feathers and positioned himself at the head of the fire.

Slowly he raised the first feather into the sky.

"Jimmy, my brother, go with the spirit of the owl. He will see all things for you..."

His voice stopped, faltering as he pointed the second feather up.

"Go with the spirit of the hawk, he will protect you on your trek..."

The third feather replaced the other two. Walkers voice became now barely audible.

"Go with the spirit of the eagle, he will soar you to the stars...."

He stacked the feathers into the soft ground next to the burial site and scrutinized the still burning form for a moment, barely standing tall.

His throat hurt and his eyes sting. And not only from the smoke.

He had performed what he had promised Jimmy, a traditional Cherokee warrior burial.

The passage was open, the spirits ready to guide Jimmy Trivette across the river, leaving Walker just with one thing to do.

The one thing, his mind, soul and heritage demanded from him.

Stepping closer he drew out his knife, stretched out his hand and slashed his palm with a swift cut.

"Go, Jimmy, with the renewed bond of two blood brothers, thatíll always be together. Iíll miss you, my friend..."

Blood trickled down his fingers and hissed into the fire.

It guided James Trivette soul up to the stars, taking a part of Cordell Walker with him.

For eternity.