River 28 - A New Dawn

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Does anyone here have an objection to me posting these chapters twice weekly? I’m looking at Wednesdays and Saturdays, but reserve the right to go a day or so later if I (or Eric) need more time on occasion. I have written up to Chapter 34, and seem to be able to write two a week. I now have the full tale in view, and it will run between 40 and 50 chapters (I know what I want to cover, but don’t now how many of the remaining scenes will result in two or more chapters). And yes, there will be standalone sequels revisiting the river and its people.


By Dawn Natelle, edited by Eric

Chapter 28 – A New Dawn

So far: Dale introduced a stone mason to his family, and River and the river helped him choose apprentices. Then Dale took Mark out hunting, or was it the other way around?

On Friday night, while Dale and Mark were still at their camp, in between hunts, River got up as usual at 2 a.m. and went to the river. She had been in there for about two hours when she looked up and found, to her surprise, a taxi from Sudbury Yellow Cab pulled up at the river. She waded out of the water and opened the door, to find a sobbing young girl and an older woman, who River barely recognized as Dawn Winter, the author who had been among the cancer patients a week ago. The woman was huddled in a fetal position, and looked closer to 70 than 40.

“I think she is dying,” the young girl said, and River had to agree. “I’m Cindy, her daughter. She insisted on coming here, but couldn’t drive here herself. I paid this guy $600 already, but the meter is crazy high. River glanced at the taxi meter. It read $1981.07.

“Look,” River said to the cabby. “You’ve had a long drive. We aren’t going anywhere. Why don’t you curl up and take a nap, while the three of us wade in the river for a bit. You can sleep here, or at the truck stop on the highway, where they have food. Ask anyone for River and they will get me for you.” She turned to the girl. “We have to get her out of here, and to the river. Can you help?”

Between the two of them, they managed to get Dawn to the river. She didn’t react at all to the water, although Cindy had the normal reaction to the initial cold. They continued to move with River until they were in the middle of the river.

“Is she going to be okay?” Cindy sobbed. “I kept worrying that she was going to die in the cab. She told me the river said it could cure her. I don’t know what that means. That was before her last chemo, which really made her sick. At four this afternoon she told me to call a cab and take out the emergency money to pay for it. I told the driver he would get more here. I hope that’s all right.”

“Yes it is,” River said calmingly. “I don’t know if she is going to be all right yet. Usually I know immediately, once someone is in the water. But this is serious. What did they do to her?”

“They called it Super Chemo, I think. She was way better before they did this to her.”

“Yes, it kind of messes up my plan, too,” River said. “Oh, the river just told me she is going to be okay. It’s going to take a few hours though. Are you brave?”

“Yes. I will do anything for my mom.”

“Okay Cindy. My name is River, by the way. What I am going to ask you to do will sound weird, but it will save your Mom’s life. I want you to sit down with me and her on the floor of the river.”

“We can’t breathe underwater,” Cindy cried.

“Yes we can, and the river will be able to cure your Mom better if she is completely in the water. I’m going to drop down, and take your Mom with me. You drop down as soon as you can.”

River dropped, and to the amazement the girl could see her and the unconscious Dawn moving about in the clear water by the moonlight reflecting down. After a minute or two Cindy took a deep breath, and dropped down too. She held her breath as long as possible, and when she felt she needed air, was about to pop up. But River grabbed her arm, and she breathed out. Then in. She found she could breathe underwater, just like River had said.

Cindy looked closer at her mother and River, and saw that each had a good size bubble of air around their nose and mouth. The bubble didn’t seem to want to rise to the surface. When they breathed in, the bubble shrunk, and when they exhaled, it grew back to its full size. And then she realized she had a similar bubble, and when she breathed in found that the air was fresh. The river was feeding good air in and recharging the old, stale air.

Cindy looked at her Mom, and decided that she was already looking better. She was breathing easily now, and looked more like she had before taking the Super Chemo.

It is going to take a couple hours for the river to just get all that junk out of her system, ” Cindy heard. She looked at River, and realized that the girl was talking to her somehow.

We can talk underwater too? she asked.

It isn’t really talking, but we can communicate. This is going to take hours. A couple to clean out all that the junk they poured into her, and then at least as long to get rid of all the cancer. But when we are done, your Mom will be as good as new.

Thank God.

Thank Manitou, River said. She is the goddess that is doing this for us. But you are probably going to get bored. There wont be any fish or otters swimming by for the next couple of hours, although it will get interesting later when the animals come by to get a morning drink. You can stand up whenever you want, and come back down. The river will let you breathe. But if you do stand up and see any animals, don’t be afraid. They won’t hurt you, and some of them are actually pretty cool.

It was well after eight when River next saw action on the bank. Cindy had been popping up and down for a while, especially when the otters were playing by the bank. But now she saw Wayne was there. She had Cindy hold her Mom under the water, and River stood up.

“Over here, Wayne” she yelled. “We had an emergency. Can you help?”

“We all wondered why you were still here,” he called back. “What can I do?”

“There is a taxi driver from Sudbury somewhere, probably in town. We owe him like 1400 bucks. See if someone can round up the money. Dawn, the woman I am helping, will be good for it.”

“I’ve got like $60,” Wayne said. “Starving student, you know. I could ask your Dad and Nick, maybe they could drum it up. Oh no, your Dad is out hunting with Mark. If we have time we can go around to others. Even in dribs and drabs we will raise that for you. ”

“Keep track of who gives what,” River said. “Like I said, they will get paid back. I have to go now, but if anyone needs me, just beep your horn.”

River dropped down into the water again, and took a good look at Dawn. She was looking like a 40-year-old again, with good color and steady breathing. Just then her eyes fluttered open. For a second she looked surprised, and then noticed her daughter next to her, who saw her mother open her eyes and flew over to embrace her. Dawn then noticed River, and recognized her. River led all three to stand.

“How are you feeling,” River asked.

“Amazing,” Dawn said. “Nothing hurts. Do you know how long it has been since nothing hurt? Years.”

“I’m glad. You aren’t cured yet, not completely, so we need to stay in the river. And we have to make a plan. Remember me telling you that I wanted the doctors to think the treatment they gave you cured you. Well, that won’t work. If we tell them that, they will start throwing that Super Chemo stuff at all kinds of other people, and it will kill them just as badly as it was killing you.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t wish that stuff on anyone,” Dawn said. “I thought regular Chemo was bad.”

“Mom! Look, your hair. It’s back.”

River noticed it as well. The woman had been completely bald when they entered the river, although it was not so noticeable at night. Now she had dark brown hair down to her shoulders.

“It isn’t even wet,” Cindy noted. “None of us have wet hair, and we were underwater.”

“A little bonus,” River said. “If we are lucky, our clothes won’t be wet either. But we have a problem to work on.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“Don’t worry, honey,” Dawn said. “Would you be heartbroken to leave your school?”

“No,” Cindy said forcefully. “I hate that place. They are so mean there, and the teachers were pissed off that you were dying. I hate them all.”

“I think they were mostly upset about all the class time you were missing,” Dawn said. “You nearly didn’t finish Grade 8 last spring. They were actually pretty good about graduating you.”

“I don’t care. I thought I was losing my mom, and nobody cared. I needed to be with you. I was sure I was going to lose you. And I didn’t have anywhere else to go,” Cindy sobbed.

“It’s all right. And if you aren’t attached to Sudbury, we can move somewhere else. I will just stop showing up at the doctors. There isn’t much I need from the apartment, so we’ll just leave everything. The doctors will be pissed off when I don’t show up for my further treatments, but I doubt they will look for me. And if they do, they will find an empty apartment. With my writing income I can live anywhere.”

“You could live here,” River said. “Not on the reserve, of course, but in the town. My Dad is even building some houses in a subdivision they split off from the reserve if you want to buy.”

“Maybe, if we like it. Is there a good school?”

“Well, I am new to the high school myself, on Tuesday.”

“Ooh, what about school records,” Dawn asked. “They could trace me here if we get Cindy’s records from Sudbury.”

River thought for a second. “Home schooling. Just say that Cindy was home schooled. They will give her some assessments on the first day or two, but if she passes she will be in. In my grade. If not, she will have to take the bus to the middle school in Terrace Bay, like my brother does.”

“You are in Grade 9,” Cindy gasped. “You look … I thought you were 16 or 18.”

“I get that a lot. Hopefully you will get in. There are a whole slew of new kids coming in this year. Mostly natives, but all nice kids. I’ve met a lot of them. There are a couple dozen other white kids too. I worked with them for a few days as a junior ranger. They are cool.”

“Anyway, the river says we can get out now. Oh, what? Wait a second,” River said, pausing. Then she continued. “Okay, now we are done.”

“What was all that?” Dawn asked.

“Well, the river did a scan on Cindy, and found that she would get breast cancer when she is 29. But not any more. The river cured that as well.”

“Wow, that is great,” Cindy said cupping her breasts. “I just got these, and I wouldn’t want to lose one so soon.”

“Well, you won’t lose one at all,” River said. “Not until you are at least 60.”

Just then two cars came up the road. There was the taxi, followed by Nick. By now Wayne would have to be at work with the JR crew.

“Nick, did you pay the driver,” River asked as they stepped onto the bank.

“We are dry,” she heard Cindy tell her mother.

“How much is it,” Dawn asked. “I can write a check if … Where is my purse?”

“Oh, in the back of the taxi. Mine too,” Cindy said.

“We made an arrangement,” Nick said. “Full meter for such a long distance ride is not normal, so we agreed on $800.”

“Are you happy with that,” River asked. The driver nodded.

“Do you have an extra hundred?” River asked Nick. He nodded, questioningly, then took out his wallet and handed River five 20s.

“Here,” River said, holding out the hundred. “You made good money tonight. You drove two ladies all the way to Sault Ste. Marie from Sudbury. The woman paid you $900 and told you to keep the meter running on the ride home. So you went to Sault, and back. Right? If you leave the meter off for the ride back to Sudbury, it should read about right for the round trip to Sault.”

The man caught on, and nodded eagerly. He was not opposed to screwing with the authorities. River handed him the money. “That is cool, so long as it isn’t the mob, or the cops.”

“The cops might talk to you,” River said. “But it will be a simple missing persons case, nothing illegal. You just took two women to Sault. Okay.”

“Okay cutie,” the driver flirted, then rolled up his window and drove away.

“River, as your lawyer I have to admit I am surprised at you. I don’t believe you did that. Now, what do we need to do with your friends?”

River introduced them, and Dawn immediately hired Nick as her business agent. She wanted him to go back to Sudbury for her and get some clothes and things from the house. She also wanted help in getting established in St. Mary’s, renting a house, and other tasks. Her car was in Sudbury, and she planned to abandon it there to amp up the ruse. Apparently she was so well off that losing a $35,000 car would not hurt.

“Wow, a paying client,” Nick noted. “That will be a first up here. Until now I have been doing mostly pro-bono work.”

“We’re going to pay you,” River said with a smile. “Just not until we get the business going.”


River got off at her campsite, where her Mom was waiting while the others headed into town to try and find Dawn and her daughter a place to live.

River had barely greeted Alison when two trucks pulled in. It was Rod and the girls, who should have been back two days earlier.

“Problems?” River asked as a worried Rod got out of his truck.

“You might say that,” the Prophet answered. “We got up to Moose Portage and did our spiel there but everything was a mess. There were 10 or 12 kids who were definitely at risk. We spent a full two days there, and had personal counseling sessions with most of the kids. Apparently the river had taught us more than just history and songs. We all seem to have skills in talking to kids about suicide. At least I think we were saying the right things. By the end of the second day we had stabilized all but two of the kids.”

“What did you do with them?” River asked, worried.

“We took them with us to Copper Stone. Everything there was cool, and there were a few kids from there who are coming here to school. And the kid who rode up there with Shelly and Jennifer talked a lot with them during the ride, and calmed down. The other kid, a boy of about 10, rode with Ria and I but didn’t say a word. But about five minutes into the ride he had his arms around Silver and I don’t think he let go until we got him back home.”

“We spent one more day with them all back at Moose Portage, and overnight. We are pretty sure that all the kids are okay now. I still worry about the one boy, but I got his parents to promise to bring him to service on Sunday. I made him agree to come so he could see Silver, and I finally could see a flicker that told me he wanted to live for something now. Hopefully, when the river gets him on Sunday, it will cure him permanently.”

“It should,” River said. “If nothing else it can promise him that he can go to high school here, and be with Silver a lot then. It sounds like we have a therapy wolf on the team. I want Silver on every mission now.”

“Yeah, it helps even with the parents and elders. They see that we have a wild wolf with us, and we instantly gain respect as wolf-talkers.”

At that point River jumped up and hugged Rod hard. “Thank you, thank you, thank all of you. This is why we do this. You found 10 kids in peril, and saved them. And two of them seem to have been real danger cases. We lost Ginny, but not through our own fault. And you four have done the impossible, and saved lives this weekend. You should be proud. And you can be certain that the entire band will know about this on Sunday.”

“There is another thing, River,” Rod said. Shelly and Jennifer got talking to the youngster who was riding with them, and he said he had no plans for a place to stay down here. We’ve got some 40 kids coming to school. Where will they stay?”

“Oh god,” River said. “I never thought about that. How does it work?”

“Well, when I went to high school there were a couple students from Stone Ledge. They mostly went home on weekends, but they stayed in houses in town. Usually two to four at a house. The government paid money for their room and board.”

“Wow, I’d like to get that money for people on the reserve,” River said. “Who usually sets all this up?”

“It is normally the parents, but I doubt that many can have anything set up. Most will be down on Monday with their kids, hoping to find them rooms. I don’t know if it is our job to find them places.”

“Our job is helping people,” River said. “I cannot stand it when people are hired to do something, like government workers. Then instead of helping people they just look for rules and policies that say ‘it isn’t my job’. If your job is to help people, then you help people.”

“Is our job helping people?” Jennifer asked.

“Yes it is. It is all of our jobs. All the people of the river help people.”

“You certainly do, River,” Ria said. “You have done nothing but help people since you joined us. You helped George and Kyle sell their totem, and got the store started for all the crafts people. You saved Marilyn and Shelly, and brought them back home. You helped Carla find a good family. Your Mom is getting us a bank, and your Dad is teaching carpentry to our men. And now we saved a bunch of kids from Moose Portage. You do nothing but help people.”

“Well I can’t take credit for Mom and Dad, and it was Nick more than me that saved Carla. And it was you guys that did all the good things on your trip.”

“Yeah, but it was you that decided we needed to have that kind of outreach. You are the one who is the spark behind all these good things.”

“Maybe,” River said. “But wouldn’t the world be a better place if helping others was the goal of everyone, instead of just trying to amass more and more money? I know I love it here way more than Toronto. And I love you guys especially.”

“Thanks, captain,” Rod said. “But we are all really tired. It was pretty stressful and draining. I didn’t know that being a suicide counselor was so tiring. We are all heading off for a nap.”


Mark and Dale turned up shortly thereafter, and Alison and River immediately assumed something had gone wrong to bring them back two and a half days early. They soon learned that it was that everything had gone perfectly right.

Mark presented River with the two hides, and asked if she could do anything with them.

“I don’t know anything about tanning deerskin,” River said.

“But the river could tell you, maybe help you,” Mark pleaded. “Please?”

“Okay, I will take them down to the river tomorrow morning.” Mark then darted into his tent and came out with a hand tool.

“It’s a scrapper,” he explained. “Tall John gave it to me. You use it to scrape off all the fat and blood from the one side, and the hair from the other. You can use it.”

“Why do I think I am being conned into doing something that Tall John wanted you to do?” River asked. “I will ask the river, and if it thinks it is a good idea, I will treat your hides. Otherwise you do it yourself. Fair?”


“Eek,” Alison shrieked. “What is that?” She pointed at the deer head, which the men had made sure was not noticeable earlier.

“That is Mark’s trophy,” Dale said. “We will get Frank to do the taxidermy on it, then hang it in the living room of the new house.”

“You aren’t going to put that bloody thing in my new house,” Alison said.

“It won’t be bloody when they get it finished,” River added helpfully. “And it really is a magnificent rack. Most men would be proud to have brought down a stag of that size, and your 10-year-old son did it.”

“Nearly 11,” Mark said.

“Hmmph,” Alison said, knowing she had lost this battle. She turned to Dale, nuzzling up to his cheek. “You used to say I have a magnificent rack.” She jumped back. “Eek! And you need to shave if you want to see it tonight.”

“Ahem! Kids present. Please leave the adult stuff until we are gone or in bed,” River said.

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