Each summer when my daughter goes to camp I write her a story and send it to her in parts, one each day while she’s gone. This time the story is kid Robin and the Robber Barron a sort of retelling of the Robin Hood stories.
That fall, on reaching the tower camp and setting up, Robin found Tintye rifling through an old box of her family’s things. When she asked him what he was doing, he said he was looking for an old map, one that would help the Chief figure out n alternative camp should the cattle be a problem again this season.
He spoke the truth, but not the complete truth as he had a dual purpose. He was looking for the map, which he borrowed by asking directly, but he also took a sheet of paper without asking, which he hid as quickly as he could from her eyes. Both papers he took directly to Owanutaye who was waiting. The map was hugely helpful as it was a more recent survey map than he’d seen showing all of the ranches, the town, the Army base and part of the canyon. The canyon itself had never fully been surveyed, except for one major pathway through from one side to the other, with some side branches marked but not plotted out.
Owanutaye showed these features to Tintye who brought them into memory, knowing the knowledge would be useful. He then showed Owanutaye the other sheet of paper. It was part of a set of insurance forms, something that Tintye didn’t really understand. What he did understand was that marked on the form was Robin’s childhood name, Ethyl Marie Locke, and her birthdate, 10/22, which was a little over a month away. This was also the time of year they sent those who were ready up to the tower.
They knew around when Robin’s birthday was, but never the exact date. Because Robin’s ascending the tower would make her an official member of the tribe, Owanutaye wanted to do all at the right time. The spirits smiled on good planning, and Owanutaye found it auspicious that Robin’s birthday was the perfect date on which to send her to the tower. Thirteen, in the Tribe, was a very auspicious number.
Owanutaye sent Tintye out to tell the Tribal leaders about the date and he settled into the slow task of copying out the map onto a larger sheet he could review with the leaders later.
Over the next days Robin was surprised to find her teachers pushing her harder on all of her subjects… particularly hunting and arhery. For hunting her teacher Channo had focused her on trail running, getting quickly from one space to another, either in pursuit of game or escaping danger. She improved greatly in climbing both rocks and trees in particular, being able to scramble up either with speed akin to swimming.
For Archery Robin was pushed to increase her speed, to get as many shots off as she could as quickly as she could, and to do this on the move, rather than just standing still. Her aim was still not great, but it was adequate, and the more shots she got off the more likely she was to get one of those “Lucky” shots that was right on the mark.
Both of these would improve her ability to hunt for the Tribe. Combined with that Channo had her working on stealth as well as working on moving and shooting in the dark, and doing that silently as well.
She took to this added pressure to pick up these skills with dedication. She knew that these skills meant not only her survival but her ability to help the Tribe and her ability to eventually seek out what happened to her parents.
The weeks passed and she moved through her daily lessons in a blur. With that and her chores she hardly stopped to rest, and her improvements dairly showed that this dedication paid off. Then, one day, a week before, she finally heard word whispered about the night at the tower that was coming, and that it was to be on her actual birthday. The twins told her, not sure they weren’t supposed to keep this information hidden, but worried for Robin that she was so focused that she didn’t know she was actually going up the tower this year.
She knew about the few previous years, that on his second year up the tower that Orren had broken his leg and had to be carried down, that others had been injured in the climb and had refused to speak of what they had seen, and that still others had become violently ill and frightened of the tower. What occurred had remained secret though, and there were rumors of deaths that had occurred, though no one would confirm the rumors.
This news did not change Robin’s resolve, and in fact added even more focus to her studies. She was particularly careful to pay attention to her climbing and blind/dark exercises, doing extras of them each day before her assigned learning time.
The night came for her to climb the tower and Robin was uncharacteristically nervous. She had ditched her old dress long before, but now she wondered if she should resurrect it for the night, or if that would send a message that she wasn’t ready to join the Tribe. She pulled out her new Tribal clothes, pulled on the snug waterproof boots, when Sylerr called out to her from in front of the tent, “Are you ready, Robin?”
Robin straightened herself out, adjusting her clothes at shoulders and hips, then stepped out of the tent. Sylerr and Tintye were both there, beaming. ‘You look lovely” said Sylerr and Tintye moved a stray hair off of her shoulder. Robin said, “Let’s go”. And they walked into the deepening twilight to the tent at the base of the tower. Smoke furled from the center hole which sat above the fire and the tend edges flapped in the slight breeze. When they arrived Robin looked back at the light from the sun, just now set and slowly dissipating in the desert wind, and she ducked under the tent flap that Sylerr held out for her.
The tent was more full than she’d ever seen it. All of her teachers and their assistants, the cook, the skin tanner, the weaver, everyone she worked with or helped in the Tribe was there, as were her friends, Orren and the Twins, everyone was there. Looking she saw that they had stretched the tend on the sides to try and accommodate more people. The fire was larger, too, sending sparks up into the air and making Owanutaye’s voice and image waver as he spoke..
“People of the Tribe, tonight we come together the lives of those who are now ready to join the Tribe as full adult members. It is a special night because one of these members came to us from the outside, 13 years ago, and has chosen to join us, accepting us as hers as we accept her as ours. She was born this night 13 years ago, but we were not with her for her birth. She came to us by accident, but now she is old enough she can stay with us by choice, a member of the Tribe, and none can call her otherwise.”
He waved over to her to step forward to him, and bent down and spoke quietly into her ear, “Robin, you do not have to accept this invitation to the tribe. You can decline now and no shame will come to you, none will think less of you if you do not feel ready. Do you wish to be a member of the Tribe.”
Robin turned forward and looked him straight in the eye, Yes Owanutaye. I do. With all my heart.”
Owanutaye smiled at her for a moment, took her hand and raised it in his own. Turning to the group he said, “I’d like you to welcome Robin as a member of the Tribe. She is to be treated with all the respect and love that any Sister of the Tribe is given, and welcomed into your hearts as Family.” Turning to her he said, “Take your seat, there, with us..”
She sat down in one of four cushions that had been left empty by the fire near Owanutaye. He turned to speak to the next one ready for the tower, Aklan, who Robin had worked closely with in weaving lessons, but she couldn’t pay attention. She looked across the fire at Tintye and Sylerr, both of whom beamed at her, and her brain was filled with internal cheers at feeling that now, finally, she belonged somewhere. She had a family.
The night passed and Aklan and Rinn and Emmer had all seated themselves next to her, and they feasted and joked and celebrated. At each transition in the evening herbs and leaves were placed on the fire and the smoke bathed the 4 tower runners, calling the spirits to bless them and take them in protective hands. This happened at 3 different times, each with different plants making the smoke, until the last time when the meal was finished. It was time to say goodnight to the tower runners and send them off.
They stood, bowed good night to the crowd of people around them, and wend out the back of the tent. Channo was there and he had 4 cups and a bottle. “Before of you will take what I am to give you and drink it gefore you go,’ he said. “It will not taste good but you are not to spit it out. It will let you see… differently. You may see things with this that you wouldn’t normally see, but those vsions will help you going forward. See and remember and be careful because the visions can lead you to dangerous places, but they will tell you what is in your heart.” Channo poured out 4 glasses of a dark red drink.
Robin drank hers down immediately. It was dusty bitter with a sour edge that dug under her tongue like a sarp stick. She swallowed it down, though, with eyes tight shut. When she opened her eyes she saw nothing different.
Channo pointed at the foot of the tower,” You are all to go in that general direction, but separate as quickly as possible and take your own paths. This is an individual journey for each of you and you are not to join together. If you meet each other on the tower you are to allow each other to pass and go your separate ways. When the sun has risen above the black monument to the south, there, you may return to the Tribe. Now you must go.”
Each of them backed away from Channo and the light and turned into the now dark evening and walked toward the tower. After a moment Robin began to trot and headed down a rabbit path that went to a large boulder, cracked in half, with the path traveling through the crack and into the night.