We already had a fire going from our breakfast deer, so getting it to spread in the direction we wanted was the new order of business.
Getting a forest fire started is a lot harder than a cartoonish bear in a Ranger hat makes it seem. Finally though we managed to get some good sized branches burning and Dan started flinging them in a rough perimeter about twenty feet out from the base of the mound. The underbrush and bed of pine needles started slowly catching on fire and within in half an hour we were watching a pretty substantial burn beginning. This had the added bonus of possibly getting the local Park Rangers curious and maybe doing a flyover.
After starting the fire, we began clearing the brush away from the base of the mound so we wouldn't get ourselves cooked along with the wendigos. It was hard work, but within an hour we had cleared enough to keep us from becoming immediate flambes.
"Robbie," Harper grabbed my sleeve, "They're up to something..."
I peered through the smoke at the huge gray shapes moving behind it.
"Come on Harper, Dan! Time to get this show on the road," I called out as I scrambled back up the mound and headed towards the resting lobox.
"Okay Coyote!" the alert ears swiveled towards me attentively. "Ready to be a hero?"
He rose to his feet and stretched and yawned. I wrote out a quick note and secured it to Coyote's harness. Basically it read, 'Follow Coyote or the massive smoke plume!' and was signed 'Love and Kisses Mongo'.
"Okay, go to Mitzi!" I ordered. He looked at Harper and I questioningly and didn't budge.
"Come on Coyote," Harper pleaded, "If you go to Mitzi you can bring help back to us."
He gave a low bark, looked from Harper over to me and started off at a brisk trot.
Dan gave a whistle, "That lobox is scary smart."
I nodded, "So smart he damn near killed me and Harper first time we ran into him."
"It wasn't his fault Dan," Harper broke in. "He fell in with a bad crowd."
I nodded in agreement, "He's totally reformed now."
"Jeez I hope so...So now what?"
"Now we wait and try to figure what they are up to," I pointed through the smoke and haze before climbing back up my tree.
When I got back to my trusty branch I could see that the wendigos were forming a circle and beginning to chant and dance. It looked like some kind of tribal ritual. I was getting a very very bad feeling.
"Harper dear?" I called down.
"Yes Robby?" she looked worried and suspicious as I swung back down to the ground.
"I need you to come up there with me and tell me what you see," my lovely wife in her quests to find interesting and lethal reptiles had a great deal experience in dealing with primitive cultures.
"Sure," was the expected response and it did appear. I helped her up and soon we were both looking down past the billowing smoke and crackling flames.
"What does that look like to you?" I pointed at the ring of wendigo.
"Like some kind of religious ceremony...It looks similar to some native-American spirit calling dances I've seen."
"Like a rain dance...?"
She looked at it and nodded, "No, it looks more like an Ojibwa dance called the wiindigookaanzhimowin. Except there they dance backwards around a drum and these guys don't need the ritual mask."
"The what?" I didn't even try to pronounce that word.
"The wiindigookaanzhimowin. It was a satirical dance denouncing the the custom of cannibalism during periods of famine. It was normally danced backwards to demonstrate it was not the right way to live. I saw a demonstration of it when I was catching rattlesnakes in Alberta."
"So this is a dance encouraging the spirit of the wendigo?"
"I think so Robbie."
I felt very nervous and willed Coyote to run faster.