|The air smelled different in Montana. The scent of wildflowers rose in the late morning heat, heady and sweet.
Ethan “Wolf” Whitefeather tipped back his head. Silken strands of hair whipped around his body in the breeze as he stared up at the eagle circling above.
“It’s the first chick of the season.” His uncle, Nathaniel “Eagle Claw” Whitefeather sat on the horse by his side, watching the bird as well.
“They are hatching late.” Wolf looked back up to the bird as it arced above them. It swooped a few feet lower, before climbing again. Finally, it turned away, disappearing into the distance.
“It doesn’t bode well for the year.” Nathaniel brought his attention back to the ground.
“No, it doesn’t.” Wolf shook his head. Kicking his knees against the ribs of his horse, Whisper, he turned the huge animal. Looking back toward the oil derricks on the border of their land, his narrowed his gaze. They were barely two miles from their town.
Wolf pursed his lips together. “How many derricks are the company proposing?”
“Too many,” his uncle replied, spitting onto the ground beside his horse. “You know your father never wanted oil on his people’s land. But this man, this Gerald Moore, won’t take no for an answer. He said he'll offer fifteen percent of all profit.”
“Fifteen percent?” He gazed back toward the town. The roofs of the white houses, lined with solar panels, shimmered in the distance. “That’s not enough to even entertain the thought of those filthy things.”
“Nothing they offer is enough, Ethan.” Nathaniel turned his gray mare back toward town and nudged her into a slow walk.
Wolf frowned and looked back to the derricks. The large arm pumping up and down, the constant clacking. He hated it. They were unnatural. The monstrosities dug through the flesh of their Mother Earth. Their sole purpose, to extract oil. He could never understand the need to drain every drop of the black liquid.
Turning the horse, he urged the stallion to catch up to his uncle. “I didn’t mean we want more money.”
“I know what you meant, boy.” Nathaniel lifted his hands off the reins and dug into the saddlebag, extracting a hand-rolled cigarette, and stuck it between his wrinkled lips. “I know.”
Wolf reached out and plucked the smoke from his uncle's lips, the gesture earning a raised eyebrow. “You’re supposed to be quitting.”
“So are you.” Nathaniel took back the cigarette. Lighting it, he blew a cloud of smoke into the crystal blue sky. “I’m not daft. I saw your tobacco earlier.”
Wolf grimaced. He’d tried hard to quit smoking. He’d been doing well. “I started again…after Kenya.”
Silence grew between them, the clip clop of the horses’ hooves providing the only sound.
What a colossal fuck-up that had been.
Nightmares still haunted him. Nightmares of his boss and best friend, Braedon. Of the female doctor they were protecting. Both chased by militia while the rest of the team went in the opposite direction.
Being buried six feet under or fed to lions would have been a lot worse of an outcome than they’d ended up with. They’d been lucky to say the least.
In the end, everything which happened in Kenya had boiled down to revenge.
Wolf had exacted his against the man who’d caused so much misery, a man from their past who hadn't remained dead.
“You still having troubles?”
Grimacing, Wolf turned his attention to his uncle. The concern flashing over the man’s features was as close to fatherly as he got. “Troubles are nice. It makes you think you can fix them. These are demons.”
Kids chased each other around a small schoolyard as they rode past. Their laughter couldn’t quite break through his darkness—a darkness which had been creeping over him since his return.
“I can’t help thinking, I should have been the one to pull us out earlier. Something felt wrong from the beginning.”
“It’s not your fault, Ethan. You. Your father. Your grandfather. All had the gift of sensing when something was wrong. Be grateful to the spirits nothing bad happened.”
His uncle’s words rolled around inside his head. Something bad had happened. They’d almost lost Apollo. The blond still received bi-weekly blood transfusions. The doctors had to make sure his body was rid of all boomslang snake toxin. He was still weak and lethargic, and no-one knew how long it’d take for Apollo to recover or if he’d be strong enough to return to work.
Black Dove had decided to leave the security market for a while to cool things off. They all needed a well-deserved vacation.
Wolf’s vacation had been to come home.
Eagle Grove. Sioux land.
It had been owned by generations of the Whitefeather family. Now, it housed a community which wanted to leave the traditional reservation behind. Eagle Grove was self-sufficient, run by its people, a haven for the people.
“Yes. I am grateful.” An eagle’s piercing cry echoed above them again, drawing his gaze skyward and he watched it for a few moments, before turning to his uncle. “When’s the meeting?”
“This afternoon. Moore wants to talk terms about the derricks.”
“Face to face?”
“Yes. He thinks by being present, he can be more of an influence.” Nathaniel butted the cigarette out on the side of his saddle. The burn mark joined the multitude of others. “He only wants to speak to the owners.”
“You own this land too, Ethan.”
“Not until you join the spirits, Uncle.” As they moved through the town, people smiled and waved at them.
Women flushed when Wolf nodded to them, before they turned and giggled to each other.
Nathaniel clicked his tongue, a habit which Wolf had become accustomed to. He’d heard it all too often in his youth. Almost every one of his actions as an out of hand teen had earned such a gesture. “You need to marry. Settle down, raise a family. Stop looking for trouble in the rest of the world.”
“The rest of the world is in trouble.” Wolf’s gaze settled on one of the women, Aiyana, as they rode past. With huge doe eyes and sharp cheekWolf, she’d been the most beautiful girl when they were growing up. Now she was a woman and was even more so.
“She would make you a beautiful wife. Provide you with many sons.”
Wolf turned his head back to Aiyana with his uncle’s comments and winked at the beauty. She giggled and turned away, walking in the opposite direction, hips swaying. Something in Wolf’s body stirred. It had been a while since he’d sated his needs. He’d been too busy with work.
“The meeting is at three,” Nathaniel said. “Don’t be late.”