Disclaimer: This story is written for the private entertainment of fans. The author makes no claims on the characters or their portrayal by the creation of this story. Fraser, Vecchio, et.al. belong to Alliance. No infringement of any copyrights held by CBS, Alliance, CTV, or any other copyright holders of DUE SOUTH is intended. This story is not published for profit, and the author does not give permission for this story to be reproduced for profit.
Rated PG (some swearing--what can I say, Ray's in it!)
Just an Old Inuit Story
By SL Haas
(Copyright July 1997 Revised June 1999)
"Tell me one more time why we're here." Ray Vecchio leaned with his forehead against the door of the elevator.
"I promised Mrs. Stanitz that I would water her plants while she was gone on her vacation," Benton Fraser said from his place on the floor.
"Now...why am I here?" Ray rolled his head just enough to be able to see the seated Mountie.
"You kindly offered me a lift and..."
"No," Ray interrupted, "I'm here because I can't say no to you. You stare at me with those puppy-dog eyes and I can't say no to you." He rolled his head back and gently banged it against the door of the elevator. "Didn't I tell you this elevator was a death trap? But did you listen to me? No! We should've taken the stairs."
"The elevator has worked perfectly each time I've been here," Ben pointed out.
"Been here often?" Ray cast a speculative glance at his friend.
Scandalized, Ben blurted out, "Ray! Mrs. Stanitz is old enough to be my mother."
Ray shrugged and returned to his head banging. "This elevator is a death trap."
"No it isn't, Ray. Someone's bound to notice that it no longer functions properly," Ben said in his most reasonable tones.
"No they won't, Fraser. You wanna know why? Cause everyone else uses the stairs. They know better than to trust their lives to this friggin' box." Ray's voice took on a more plaintive whine. "We're gonna die..."
Ben climbed to his feet and approached his friend. "Ray, you're just being silly..."
"No, Benny," Ray interrupted the Mountie again, "...silly is me being trapped in an elevator with you--silly is me agreeing to help you with one of your do-gooder schemes--silly is me not learning my lesson by now. Need I go on?"
"Ray, it's really not as bad as it looks." Ben spread his hands in appeasement.
Ray shook his head and continued his banging.
"You know this reminds me of an Inuit story..."
"How does being trapped in an elevator remind you of one of your stupid stories? There are no elevators in the armpit of the frozen north."
"Of course there are elevators in the Territories--just not as many as here. But about the story..." Ben paused and he cocked his head as he contemplated what he wanted to say. "No, I was mistaken...the story I wanted to relate is actually Tsimshian in origin."
"I don't care where it came from, I don't want to hear it! Why do you think that everything can be solved by one of your stories? Well, it can't! I don't know why you keep on telling those stories when no one wants to listen to them!"
* * *
Constable Benton Fraser called to the dogs and was satisfied as they made the turn that would take them away from the cliffs that loomed ahead. Although the dogs were young and relatively inexperienced, with Diefenbaker as lead, the team was performing well.
"Gee!" The dogs obediently turned to the right and skirted the downed tree. Ben smiled, feeling the skin stretch across his face. He really should smile more often. After all, it took seven fewer muscles to smile than to frown.
"Haw!" The dogs obediently turned again, their barking carrying back to Ben. He loved the feel of the wind on his face as the sled glided across the white expanses.
"Okay guys, let's take a break. Whoa!" He stepped on the brake easing it down as the dogs slowed to a stop.
Dief turned to look back at him with a look that said 'why stop now when we were having such fun?
Ben stepped away from the sled and strode down the line of dogs giving each a pat or a rub or a scratch behind the ears. When he reached Diefenbaker he knelt in the snow beside the white wolf and took his head in both hands. "Now, Dief, I know how much you enjoy this, but the others are not used to it, yet. They need a rest now and then."
Dief turned to look at the line of dogs following him. They were either sitting or lying in the snow, their tongues lolling out of their mouths. Why, young Blackbutt was actually rolling in the snow! Dief snorted. Wouldn't catch him acting that silly!
Ben stood and cast an experienced weather eye to the sky. The storm system was moving in faster than predicted. He decided it was time to turn around and head back to the depot. No need to expose these new dogs to the hazards of a blizzard. No, today had just been a joyride--a chance to practice the sledding skills these dogs would need.
Ben pulled his mittens on, checked the status of the sled, then stepped onto it. "Let's go guys," and the sled was off and moving. Laughing with the joy of it, Ben let the dogs have their head.
They covered several miles back toward home and safety. Scanning the slopes about him, Ben caught the flash of something out of the corner of his eye. "Whoa, guys." The dogs obediently slowed then stopped, although several jumped in place, anxious to continue the run.
Ben turned and stared back in the direction they had come. What was it he had seen? Puzzled, he scanned the horizon looking for anything that was out-of-the-ordinary. Nothing. He must be seeing things. There was nothing there now. He turned back to the sled and stopped. Flash! Snapping around, he stared intently at a dark line of trees that marked a ravine. Flash! There it was again! Ben studied the spot where the flash occurred. It looked to be light reflecting on a metallic surface. Ben mounted the sled, gave the order, and the sled moved off to investigate the anomalous flashing.
Surprisingly, it took almost half an hour to reach the ravine in question. Several pitfalls had loomed and been avoided but each one had taken a precious piece of time that Ben knew he didn't have to waste. He glanced again at the sky. That promised storm would be here soon. "Let's get this checked out and get out of here!" he called to the dogs as he brought the sled to a halt.
He scanned the slope as he approached the ravine. Removing his mittens, he knelt in the snow and brushed at the light blanket of flakes that covered the unmistakable parallel traces of a snowmobile. He rocked back on his heels and followed the trail with his eyes in the direction of the ravine. There were no traces of the snowmobile leaving the vicinity. He shuddered. The tracks led directly to the ravine. Whoever had ridden the snowmobile had driven it over the lip into the unknown depths of the narrow defile.
Ben hurried in the wake of the tracks to the lip and gazed down into a mass of broken tree limbs, scattered rocks, and the twisted remains of the snowmobile. Sliding down the steep incline, he carefully made his way to the wrecked vehicle searching for its driver. He also searched for the source of the flash that had caught his attention. He made his way around the snowmobile and knelt beside it, studying the evidence of human movement laid out before him. "Two people--a young child, probably four to five years of age and one adult--probably a woman--judging by the size of the footprints." He studied the prints again, noticing the larger prints were of only one foot, the other appeared to have been dragged along. "Injured--probably broken."
Ben stood and carefully followed the trail left by the small footprints and the combination foot-drag prints. They angled up the ravine toward higher ground. 'Just like a wounded animal seeking higher ground,' he thought as he brushed aside some low lying tree limbs to follow the trail. He stopped abruptly, straightened slowly, and lifted his hands into the air. The snick of a rifle being cocked carried across the stillness. "I won't hurt you. I've come to help."
"Who are you?" Ragged pain made the words sharper than the woman had intended. She leveled the gun at the man and asked again, "Who are you?"
"I'm Constable Benton Fraser, Royal Canadian Mounted Police." He stood straight and held his hands in the air. "May I put my hands down?"
"Prove it!" Puzzled, Ben slowly dropped his hands. "No one said you could lower your hands," the voice sharpened.
Ben's hands shot up again. "If you will allow me to reach inside my tunic, I will get my badge..."
"No, prove you're Benton Fraser."
Even more puzzled, Ben cocked his head. "Why do you need for me to prove I'm Benton Fraser?"
"Just do it!"
Ben breathed in a deep breath and began enumerating a series of facts about his life. "My mother's name was Caroline Pinsent and my father is Robert Fraser--he's also a Mountie. I grew up with my grandparents, George and Martha Fraser. They had a travelling library. I've lived in Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, Alert..."
The woman interrupted the flow of facts. "Who is David Orpingalik?"
Surprised, Ben cautiously turned to face in the direction of the voice that asked about people from his past. "David Orpingalik was my great-grandfather's best friend. He's an elder in his village as well as being the shaman for his band. Why do you want to know about David?"
"You can put your hands down, Benton. I'm sorry...I had to...had to..." but whatever she had to do was lost as the woman collapsed in the snow. Her rifle skidded across the distance between the two and landed at Ben's feet. He bent to retrieve the weapon and started toward the woman.
"Mama! Mama! What did you do to my Mama?" A small child crawled from the protection of the downed tree and fell on the body of the prostrate woman.
"Let me check your Mama and I'll see what happened." Ben gently set the child aside and slid back the hood of the woman's parka. He stared into the face revealed by the fading light. "Mary?" It couldn't be Mary. But she had asked about David...could this be Mary? The woman stirred and Ben cradled her in his arms. "Mary?"
Dark brown eyes clouded with pain and fear gazed back at him. "Benton, thank God. I thought we were going to die."
"Mary? Is it really you?"
She chuckled then grimaced in pain. "It's me. It's been a long time, hasn't it?"
"Over ten years." An awkward silence fell between the two. "I heard that you married John Quosquak."
"I did." Mary smiled. "I finally outgrew my school-girl crush on you. John and I've been married almost six years. This is Davy." She reached a hand for the small child and drew him to her.
"Hello, Davy." Ben extended his hand. Davy accepted the hand and gravely shook it. "I'm an old friend of your grandfather's."
"Do you know Gamppa?" The boy gazed at Ben in what could only be described as awe tinged with fear. All of his grandfather's friends were mystical and powerful and slightly frightening.
"Yes, I know your grandfather quite well. In fact, I wasn't much older than you are when I first met him." Ben busied himself with attending to Mary as he answered Davy's question. He turned his brilliant smile on the small boy. "Did you know that I was terrified of your grandfather when I first met him?"
"No..." Davy's eyes widened in his small face.
"Yes...yes, I was." He leaned closer to Davy and in a conspiratorial whisper added, "I thought he was a monster."
Davy pulled back and giggled.
Ben solemnly nodded his head. "That's right...I called him the Monster Man."
Davy thought of his grandfather and giggled again.
"Now...Davy, I need to take care of your mother. Okay?"
Ben carefully ran his hands over Mary's legs looking for the break he knew he would find. An indrawn gasp told him when he found it. "I'm sorry, Mary, but you already knew it was broken, didn't you."
She nodded her head. "That's why I didn't try to hike out of here. I couldn't risk losing Davy."
Ben rocked back on his heels. There was no way around it. They could never get back to the depot before the storm hit. He would have to try and rig some kind of shelter for them here in this place. He glanced back at Mary and saw the realization in her eyes. "What were you doing out in weather like this?" he asked.
Mary smiled ruefully at him. "It wasn't like this when we started out."
"The brakes went out on the snowmobile. I don't know how many times I warned John about that old thing. I tried to slow it down by driving it uphill but I didn't see the ravine until it was too late. I tossed Davy off but before I could go..."
"...you went over the edge and into the ravine?" Ben finished the sentence for her. Mary nodded her head. "How long have you been here?" Ben asked.
"Since sometime yesterday, I think," Mary answered.
"I passed out several times and I'm not sure how long..." Mary's voice trailed off.
"Understood. I'm going to have to set your leg but it will have to wait until I can rig some shelter. That storm will be here within the hour." Mary nodded her head in understanding.
Ben turned to the small boy and asked, "Davy, how would you like to help me get my dog sled down here?"
"Can I, huh? Can I, Mama?" The little boy's eyes sparkled as he hopped from one foot to the other in anticipation.
Mary placed a hand on her son's shoulder. "Go ahead, Davy, just stay out of the way and do what Benton tells you to do."
"We'll we right back. Don't go anywhere." Ben smiled as he handed the rifle to Mary.
Ben soon had the sled down the incline and pushed up against the fallen log. Removing the tarp from the sled he rigged a covering for a small area delimited by the log, the gnarled roots of the log, and the dog sled. Using moss and the remnants of dried grasses from the summer, he chinked the holes in his shelter and prayed that his efforts would be enough. Lastly, he led the dogs into the shelter and instructed them to occupy the outer perimeter of the shelter. Their additional body heat might be the factor that saved them. Near the entrance of the small shelter, he built a tiny fire. Fortunately, there was abundant dead wood nearby to provide fuel. He collected generous amounts of the fallen wood and stacked it within easy reach of the shelter.
Settling down in front of Mary, Ben prepared to set the broken leg. He used his belt and several leather straps from the sled to tie the lengths of wood to her leg. White-faced, Mary submitted to his gentle ministrations but the effort showed and she once again passed out.
"Mama!" Davy was immediately beside his mother. "Mama! What happened to my Mama?"
"Your Mama was hurt when the snowmobile went over the edge. I'm fixing her leg now, but she's hurting a lot." How could he explain the body's defensive systems to this small, frightened child? "Davy, sometimes when a person is hurting real bad, he falls asleep and the pain doesn't hurt anymore."
Davy turned worried eyes to Ben. "Mama fell asleep?" Ben nodded yes. "Like my gramma?"
"No, no. Not like your grandmother."
"But they all said that gramma went to sleep..." Davy's lower lip trembled and a tear crept down his cheek.
"That's a different kind of sleep, Davy." Ben sought to reassure the small boy.
Mary moaned and her eyes fluttered open. Ben patted Davy on the shoulder. "See...your Mama didn't die." The relief on Davy's face pulled at Ben's heartstrings. Memories of the time when his mother died crossed his mind.
Davy flung himself on his mother. "Mama, Mama, I was scared. Benna said you fell asleep."
Mary hugged Davy and patted him on the back. "I'm fine, Davy. That's okay...hush..." she gently comforted the crying child.
Diefenbaker rose to his feet and considered the human occupants of the shelter. Maybe he should make a quick foray outside...check to see if there was anything dangerous out there. It wouldn't do for a bear or something else to creep up on them during the storm.
Ben turned to regard Diefenbaker, "Oh, if you think that's best."
*Woof* Of course he did--why else would he go out in the storm?
"Just don't stay gone too long. I don't want you getting lost, too!"
*Woof* Getting lost? Just whom did he think he was talking to? One of the dogs? Blackbutt?
"There's no call for that tone of voice!" Ben called to the wolf as he left the shelter and padded out into the growing gloom. He shook his head and muttered under his breath, "...you pay and pay and pay..." He turned to see two pairs of eyes watching him with great interest.
"Mama, Benna talks to his doggie."
"Ah...yes he does, Davy." A raised eyebrow directed at him indicated that Ben should explain his behavior.
"Ah...you see...Dief is my friend...wolf, actually." He stammered to a stop. He motioned with his hands. "We don't actually talk with each other. It's more me talking to him and him ignoring me. I mean..." The blush crept up into his face and he hoped that the firelight would mask his embarrassment from Mary and Davy.
"Gamppa talks to all kinds of animals. He's a shaman."
"Yes, I know, Davy. Your grandfather taught me a lot about the animals." Relief colored Ben's response.
"Gamppa tells good stories. Mama does, too."
"I'm sure they both do. In fact, your grandfather taught me many stories as I grew up." He smiled across the fire at Mary. Many a time the two of them had sat at David's feet listening to the stories that seemed to flow from the man. Mary smiled back.
* * *
Ben busied himself fixing something to eat. It was fortunate that the sled was fully loaded with supplies when he took it out that morning. He congratulated himself on being prepared for all contingencies no matter what others might think. It was for just such a situation as he found
himself now in that he made his careful preparations. 'Better to be safe than sorry,' he could hear his grandmother telling him as she stuffed a myriad of unnecessary and useless things in his already bulging backpack. The memory brought the hint of a smile to his face.
He sat back and watched the food cook over the fire. Curiosity got the better of him and he asked, "What was the flash that caught my eye? If I hadn't seen it, I never would have come this way."
Mary smiled and Davy beamed with pride. "I climbed a tree and hung Mama's mirror on a branch."
"That was exceptionally well done, Davy. You most likely saved your lives." He turned to Mary. "That's quite a job for a small child to accomplish."
"Yes, it is but Davy is an exceptional boy. Aren't you, son?"
"Yes, I'm sep-sha-nul." Davy struggled with the strange word then nodded with such solemnity that Ben chuckled.
"You certainly are." The three subsided into a companionable silence and ate the meal Ben prepared. Dief padded back into the shelter and shook the snow from his coat. "Diefenbaker!" But the wolf ignored him and padded over to join the dogs.
"Nice doggies." Davy crawled over and cuddled up between Dief and Blackbutt. Dief and the young dog stared at the human child then curled around him. Davy giggled and stroked first the dog then the wolf.
Ben cleared the remnants of their dinner and crawled out of the shelter to get some more wood for the fire. When he returned, Davy was waiting at the entrance. "You left us?"
Ben knelt in front of the child. "No, Davy. I went to get some wood for the fire."
"You won't leave us?" Fear caused Davy's voice to break.
"No, Davy. I won't leave you." Ben drew the small child into the circle of his arms and gently rocked him. "Shall I tell you a story?" He stared across Davy's head at Mary. She nodded.
Davy turned in the arms that held him. "A story? Like Gamppa?"
"Like your grandfather. This is a story that my great-grandfather told me. He said that your grandfather told it to him. So, I guess, this is a story like your grandfather's."
"You had a grandfather, too?"
"Yes, I did, but he died many, many years ago. Did you know that your mother was named after my great-grandmother?"
Davy shook his head then turned to look at his mother. She smiled at him and nodded her head. "Does that make you my unca?" Davy asked.
Ben chuckled and looked again at Mary. She smiled widely and nodded. "I guess it makes me like an uncle," he temporized.
"Good, Unca Benna. Tell the story now." Davy crawled into Ben's lap and stared up into the face above him.
Ben cleared his throat and began, "Have you ever heard the story of how the sun, moon, and stars came into existence?" Davy shook his head. "Well, then, let me tell you the story of Raven and the Evil Magician.
An evil magician had a very special box. It was so special that he allowed no one to touch it--not even his beloved daughter. Inside the box the magician hid his most important treasure--the Sun. He refused to share the Sun with any of the other creatures of the earth.
"Why wouldn't he share with the other animals?" Davy asked.
Ben thought for a moment then offered, "Maybe the Sun was so beautiful that he was afraid someone would steal it." Davy nodded in understanding.
Raven knew about the special box and about the treasure contained in it. He wanted to set the Sun free to be enjoyed by all living things.
One afternoon, Raven flew to the magician's house to ask the magician to share the Sun. From his perch high in a pine tree, Raven watched the magician open the box. The light coming from the box lit the face of the magician. Raven saw the greed in his eyes and knew the magician would never share the Sun. Raven spread his wings to fly back home to the other creatures--his heart heavy with sorrow. He circled above the magician's house one last time before starting the long journey home.
The door to the magician's house opened and the daughter stepped out into the grey day. She looked at the sky then turned and followed the path to the stream to fetch some water. Raven watched the girl fill the water-bags then dip her hand into the water for a drink. An idea came to Raven. He quickly flew back along the path to the magician's house and, landing by an old tree, Raven changed into a tree root. Soon the girl came along the path. Raven watched her feet and as she past the tree, he moved just enough to trip the girl. The water poured from the water-bags. The girl climbed to her feet, gathered the water-bags and returned to the stream.
Ben pantomimed the actions of the characters in the story. His arms became Raven's wings and it was his hand that dipped into the stream for the drink of water.
Davy clapped his hands. The story was funny and he enjoyed the way his newest uncle told it.
Mary sighed and lay back on Ben's pack. She knew the dangers they faced as the blizzard raged about them. But for right now, they were safe and Davy wasn't afraid. She knew that Benton Fraser would save them. She listened to the old story. She hadn't heard it in a long time. Benton certainly knew how to tell it well.
Raven was happy. He quickly resumed his shape and flew to the stream where he turned himself into a hemlock needle and floated in the water waiting for the girl. As she dipped her hand into the water for another drink Raven floated into her hand. But the girl knew about Raven and his tricks. Something told her the hemlock needle might be Raven. She poured the water out of her hand. She would not drink it.
Raven was very upset. He thought about what had happened and another idea came to him. He turned himself into a grain of sand, so tiny that she couldn't see him. The girl dipped her hand into the water for one last drink, the grain of sand floated into her hand, and she drank the water and Raven with it.
Davy was clearly puzzled. "She drank Raven? How did she do that? How did she drink a bird?" The child stared at Ben disbelief plain on his face.
"Raven changed himself into a grain of sand like this." Ben picked up a pinch of soil and separated out a single grain of sand. He placed it in Davy's tiny hand.
Davy stared at it. Cautiously he brought his hand to his mouth and his tongue darted out and picked up the grain of sand. "Oh..."
Startled by Davy's actions, Ben looked to Mary to see her smiling wickedly at him. Mary waved at him to continue the story. Ben shifted Davy onto his other leg--the one Davy had been on was tingling. "Shall I go on with the story, Davy?"
Davy looked up from his study of the sand grain and nodded his head.
Once inside the girl's body, Raven took the form of a human baby. Many months later, the magician's daughter gave birth to a little boy. She did not know her new baby boy was really Raven.
Peals of laughter came from the small body. "That's not how babies are made, Unca Benna."
Blushing, Ben replied, "That's how Raven makes babies."
"Oh..." Davy considered the Mountie carefully. He decided he liked Raven's way of making babies better than the way his father had described.
Ben watched Davy consider the information and wasn't surprised when the child gave him a knowing smile. "You should tell Dada how to make babies, Unca Benna."
A strangled laugh pulled Ben's eyes to Mary. She sat across from him with a hand held to her mouth. "Yes, Benton, maybe you should tell John how to make babies." She laughed again.
Ben glared at her but any retort was forestalled by Davy's demand for more of the story. Ben smiled and continued.
The new baby would cry and cry. No matter what toy they brought him he was unhappy. He wanted only what was in the magician's special box..."
"The Sun?" Davy asked.
"Yes, the Sun." Ben agreed with Davy, which brought a big smile to the child's face. Returning to the story, Ben's face became sad, his lower lip trembled as he told the tale.
The magician was very unhappy about that. The daughter begged her father to give the boy what was in the box. But the magician refused. So the boy continued to cry and turned pleading eyes to his grandfather. Finally, his grandfather gave in. He opened the box and took out his greatest treasure, the Sun, to let the new baby play with it.
"Mama won't let me play with her story knife." A hint of a whine entered the small voice.
"I'm sure your mother has a very good reason for not letting you play with it. A knife is very sharp and she doesn't want you to hurt yourself." Ben reasoned with the small child. Davy stared across the fire at his mother. She smiled back at him.
"Now--where was I?" Ben asked.
"The bad magician let the baby play with the Sun." Ben may have forgotten where he was but Davy hadn't.
"I believe you're right, Davy. Let's see now..." and Ben continued with the story.
Raven had won--he had the Sun!
Quickly changing back into his bird form, Raven flew up the smokehole of the house, holding the Sun very tightly. The magician was angry and made the flames of his fire leap up to burn Raven. Raven escaped the flames, but they scorched him and turned his white coat of feathers black. And ever since then, all ravens have been black.
"Raven was annui?" Davy stared up into the face above him.
"No, Raven wasn't white like falling snow...he was more like a snowdrift." Seeing the puzzled look on Davy's face, Ben added, "Like kimoagruk."
Arms again moving in imitation of flight, Ben continued the story.
Raven was free. He spiraled up into the grey sky and flew away toward home and the other creatures. But the magician did not give up easily. Using his magic powers, he turned into an eagle and flew after Raven.
"An eagle? Poor Raven!" Davy felt sorry for Raven and afraid of the eagle. Ben smiled and drew the boy closer to his chest.
Raven had a long way to go and the Sun was heavy. Soon, he became tired and the magician began to gain on him. Raven was frightened. What could he do to slow the magician down? He could think of nothing.
Davy bounced in Ben's lap. "What did he do? What did he do?"
Ben asked a question of the boy, "What if he made the Sun lighter?"
Davy thought about this and asked, "How?"
Raven quickly broke off a few pieces of the Sun. He threw them into the sky where they became stars. The magician was angry. He stopped and tried to gather the pieces of the Sun that Raven had thrown away. There were too many of them and they slipped through his talons. He screamed his rage at Raven. But Raven had used the time when the magician had tried to gather the pieces to fly farther away.
Davy buried his face in Ben's coat. Ben's portrayal of the angry eagle frightened him. Davy shivered with anticipation. "What happened next?"
The magician smiled an evil smile. Raven still had most of the Sun and he would get it back from him. He spread his wings and flew after Raven and the precious treasure he carried.
Raven was tiring again. His wings beat in long graceful sweeps, but still the magician gained on him. He would have to break off another piece of the Sun. This time he would break off a bigger piece. Maybe the magician would stop for that piece and let Raven escape with what was left. Raven broke off another chunk of the Sun and threw it into the sky. The magician saw the size of the chunk and swooped to capture it. But the piece magically slipped through his talons and joined the other pieces of the sun in the sky. It became the moon. Again, the magician had been robbed of his treasure.
Ben dutifully acted out the part of the Raven as he broke off pieces of the Sun and the eagle as he tried to capture the pieces in his talons.
Davy crowed his pleasure. Raven was smarter than that mean old magician was. He listened entranced as Ben finished the story.
Raven bravely flew on with the rest of the Sun. He was very tired and knew that he could not carry the Sun all the way home to the other creatures. Finally, the tired Raven threw the rest of the Sun up into the sky. The magician, seeing the last of his treasure tumbling higher and higher, soared high into the sky calling to the Sun--trying to capture that last piece. But the Sun was free and it would not return to the magician. It tumbled higher and higher into the sky where it has shone ever since.
Some say the magician still soars high in the sky calling to the Sun to return to him.
The final toss of the Sun into the sky by Ben (acting as Raven) had Davy staring up at the tarp over their small shelter. Ben leaned down and in a low voice whispered, "Next time you see an eagle--listen carefully. You might hear the magician calling to the Sun." His finger circled in the air above them.
The perfect O of Davy's mouth and the wide eyes on the tiny face told Ben that his story had been well received. "Now, Davy, you go snuggle close to your mother and get some sleep. Tomorrow we'll see about getting you home."
Davy clambered out of his lap and started around the fire to his mother. He stopped, turned, and flung himself into Ben's arms. "I love you, Unca Benna. Thank you for the story."
"I love you, too, Davy. Now get some sleep." He stared over Davy's head at Mary.
"Thank you, Benton."
* * *
"Good work, Benton."
"A job well done."
"How do you manage to do these things?" The congratulatory comments flowed around Ben's shoulders. He felt the heat of the blush he knew colored his features.
"I don't know...that is...it was nothing..." he stammered to a halt as his fellow Mounties erupted in laughter at his obvious discomfort. They slowly drifted back to their various desks and tasks that had been briefly disrupted by the surprise ceremony. Surprise--because Benton Fraser had a way of disappearing if he knew in advance that he was to receive a commendation. The little ceremony had been planned for over a week now and everyone enjoyed needling the quiet, yet competent young man. It took a special breed of man to weather a blizzard of the severity of the one last month and to save the lives of others while doing it.
A commotion at the door of the depot resolved itself into a group of people from the neighboring Inuit village. Ben strode forward and shook hands with one of them. "Hello, David. This is bit of a surprise. Is there something I can help you with?"
David smiled at the young man before him, remembering back to the small child that had walked all the way from his grandmother's house to the village to join the potlatch in celebration of his great-grandfather's life. "Benton, it is good to see you again. Why don't you visit me more often?"
"I'm sorry, David. I've been busy with my duties..." his voice trailed off at the look in the old man's eyes.
"That's no excuse and you know it." David's voice was kind and warm.
"No, sir...I mean...yes, sir. I mean..."
David roared with laughter. "You haven't changed a bit, Benton." He motioned for one of the others to come forward.
Ben watched as a hand pulled the hood of the parka down and Ben gazed into Mary's face. "Mary? How's your leg?" he asked.
Mary smiled back at him. "It's stiff but, thanks to you, it will heal."
Ben turned to the group and watched as each person slid the hood of his or her parka down to reveal a panoply of faces--the elders of the band. One of them began to chant and soon all were chanting.
Sergeant Doug McPherson entered the room and approached the group of elders and the growing group of Mounties. "Constable?"
Ben turned to his sergeant. "I'm not sure what's happening, sir."
David stepped forward. "I'm David Orpingalik." His extended hand was shaken.
"Is there some service we can do for you?" asked the sergeant.
"No, thank you, Sergeant." Good humor made the dark eyes of the Shaman sparkle like obsidian. "We are here to perform a small ceremony for Constable Fraser."
Ben blinked his eyes. A ceremony? For him? "What?"
The elders formed a circle around David, Ben, Mary, and Sgt. McPherson. The chanting continued. David held his arms wide and turned a full circle within the circle of the elders. He stopped in front of Ben and, intoning in a deep voice, said, "For actions that resulted in the salvation of one of our children, for demonstrating the ideals of life, for protecting those that are weaker than you we welcome you as a son into our band, Benton Fraser. We name you Isamataq--one who thinks--for you will move across Mother Earth in many directions to places near and far. Your wisdom will be shared with many in those distant places."
David stepped back and, as the chanting continued, Mary took his place. "Benton Fraser, Isamataq, you saved my life and the life of my son. I wished to give you something." She withdrew from her parka a white seal pelt. Slowly unfolding the white fur, Mary withdrew a story knife. She held it up to the light and revealed the etchings on its ivory surface. She moved it in an intricate pattern, drawing a story in the air between them. At the completion of her ritual, she offered the knife to Ben.
"Among my people women, generally, are the story tellers. However, men sometimes tell stories as well. As one story teller to another, I offer this story knife to you, Isamataq, in recognition of your abilities as a master story-teller."
Ben accepted the knife and examined the etchings on the blade. The story of Raven and the Magician danced across the blade. A startled intake of air and the lifting of his head brought him eye-to-eye with Mary.
She smiled at him. "Please accept this small gift from my family. This story knife has been in our possession for generations."
Ben glanced down at the ivory knife in his hands. He swallowed several times before proffering the knife to Mary. "I can't possibly accept a family heirloom as valuable as this..."
"Benton..." David spoke and Ben shifted his eyes to regard the Shaman. Certain that he had Ben's undivided attention, David motioned toward Mary and the knife. In a firm voice he said, "...let my daughter continue."
Mary smiled and continued, "Isamataq, you saved my life and the life of my son. Without your intervention, our family line would have ended in that blizzard. There would have been no more Orpingaliks. This knife was my mother's and her mother's and her mother's mother. I want you to have it."
"I don't quite know what to say, Mary." The enormity of the gift overwhelmed him.
"Thank you would be nice," Mary's eyes twinkled.
Ben smiled shyly and bowed his head. "Thank you kindly, Mary."
David spoke again, "Isamataq, with the passing of the story knife from one family member to another and your acceptance of it comes a sacred trust." Ben gazed expectantly at him. "As long as you hold the story knife in your possession you must pass on the stories you have learned--stories from your great-grandfather, grandmother, father, me, and your own life experiences." He paused and let the information sink in. "Do you still wish to hold the story knife?"
Ben stared down at the ivory knife in his hands. He had been offered a family as well as a sacred trust. "Yes, Angatquq. I will hold the story knife. I will to tell the stories I have heard from you and others. I will pass on the wisdom I have learned from your..." he noticed David's smile
and shaking head, "...from my people to others I meet." He turned in a circle and faced the elders of the band. "I accept the sacred trust of the story knife and thank you for welcoming me into your family."
The elders ceased their chanting well pleased at the turn of events. Isamataq would be a good son for the band.
* * *
"...and that's why I tell so many Inuit stories, Ray." Ben touched the shoulder of his friend. Ray had stood with his forehead pressed against the door of the elevator for the past hour. "Ray?"
A huge sigh whistled out of Ray's mouth. "What is it with you, Benny? All I asked was why you couldn't hold a normal conversation without throwing in an Inuit tale or two. I never expected you to tell me your life history."
Puzzled, Ben asked, "If you didn't want to know, then why did you ask?"
Ray shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. That was so long ago, I've forgotten the question. How long have we been in this frigging box?"
Ben glanced at his watch. "Precisely three hours and seventeen minutes."
Ray rolled his head slightly--just enough to look his friend in the face. He arched his eyebrows. "Precisely three hours and seventeen minutes?"
"Eighteen now, Ray."
"What is it with you and precision? Couldn't you just say a little over three hours or three and a half hours? Why precisely seventeen...eighteen minutes?"
"It's very important to be precise, Ray. That reminds me of another Inuit story about..."
Ray groaned and wondered if he could claim temporary insanity after he killed the Mountie. After all, the stories were driving him insane. One more story and he swore he would put a permanent end to the story telling. He closed his eyes as Ben droned on. No doubt about it, he had definitely offended some minor deity all those years ago in sophomore English and now he was being punished. The rhythmic pounding of his forehead on the elevator door picked up where it had left off when Ben ended the last story. Maybe he would knock himself senseless before he had to endure another story. Maybe he should just strangle the Mountie and be done with it. He flexed his hands and a feral look entered his eyes as a malevolent grin crept across his face...
Copyright July 1997 by SL Haas
Revised June 1999
Comments are welcome firstname.lastname@example.org