by Deb Logan
My name is Justin Prentiss and this is my journal.
Janny, if you’re reading this, close it NOW! This is mine, and it’s private.
Dad, same goes for you.
Beware! Coyote will know if you violate my privacy … and He. Won’t. Be. Happy.
Okay. Now that that’s taken care of, I can begin my journal.
As I said in the first line, I’m Justin and I’m twelve years old. Almost thirteen actually. I’m the only son of Jake and Emilia Prentiss. Twin to Janine Prentiss. Janny isn’t just my twin, she’s also my best friend and fellow shaman. We live with our father in Bozeman, Montana. Mom died when we were just babies, so it’s been the three of us against the world.
Until last summer, that is.
Last summer started out pretty normal: Dad and Janny fighting about whether or not she had to go to field camp. I don’t have a clue what’s wrong with my sister, but she got tired of field camp a couple of years ago and has been begging Dad to let her go to cheerleading camp with her best friend Haeley Jessup ever since.
Dad hasn’t budged. Our family sticks together. Where one goes, we all go … at least until last summer.
Back to field camp. Janny is nuts. Field camp is the BEST! Fresh air. Mountains. Food I don’t have to help cook. And, best of all, adults too busy with their own tasks to pay attention to me as long as I show up for meals and bedtime. Field camp is a boy’s dream vacation.
But Janny’s a girl.
I guess the dirt and lack of modern bathing facilities bugged her more than it did me. I mean, come on! Who wants to take a bath every single night anyway? Definitely not me. Heck, even on Town Days, when everyone loaded into the Range Rovers and drove into the closest town for supplies and personal time (that meant showers for us), I wasn’t in a hurry to take a bath.
Girls are just weird.
Oh! Coyote says I should explain why we do field camp every summer. I’m not sure why he cares, I mean, this journal is for me and I already know all this stuff. But Coyote says it’s important for me to record my journey, and that I should do it as accurately as possible.
So I will.
Because Coyote is the BEST totem animal and spirit guide in the whole world.
Anyway, field camp is part of Dad’s job. He’s the senior paleontologist at The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. Every summer he leads a group of graduate students from Montana State University and volunteers — who have to apply for the privilege — on a dig for dinosaur fossils.
That’s field camp. We camp “in the field” (You know, out in the real world … not in a laboratory or something weird like that. I mean, how could you possibly discover fossils in a laboratory?) and dig for dinosaur bones. Well, the adults do. Janny and I hike and play and have a blast!
But last summer was different.
I mean, field camp was the same, but Janny was different. She didn’t want to be there at all, but it turns out it was her destiny. Her calling came last summer in the Absaroka Mountains, near Red Lodge, Montana. The ancestral home of our people, the Crow Nation.
White men gave our people that name because they thought crows and ravens were the birds our name refers to, but last summer Janny and I discovered just how wrong they were.
You see, Absaroka means children of the large beaked bird. And last summer, in the middle of the Absaroka Mountains, Janny was called to a mysterious egg.
I thought she was nuts. Following some weird chiming music only she could hear. Claiming some lump of granite was a living egg. Disturbing what might be an important archeological site by grabbing the “egg” and hauling it back to camp. Stuffing it in the foot of her sleeping bag to keep it warm.
Sheesh. Since when do rocks need to be kept warm?
But she’s my twin, and we’re a unit, so I kept her secret. I worried about her, but I didn’t rat her out. After all, she was the one who was going to get in trouble. Since that’s usually me, I thought I’d let fate balance the scales a bit.
When that “rock” hatched in the middle of the night … well, let’s just say I ate all my unbelieving words.
Janine’s rock hatched a THUNDERBIRD … and we were literally carried away into the adventure of a lifetime!
Janny bonded to her thunderbird (whose name is Winona, by the way) and accepted her destiny as a shaman known as She Who Cares for Thunderbirds.
But that’s Janny’s story.
This is mine.
The other thing that happened last summer? I bonded with my totem animal: Coyote.
Seems I’m a shaman too.
I padded down the hall to the kitchen, drawn by the smell of frying bacon. I’d been up for a few minutes, long enough to do all those necessary morning things like brushing teeth and combing hair, but not long enough to be fully awake. You know how it is, for some stuff auto-pilot is good enough.
Barefoot and still wearing my favorite yellow and red SpongeBob pajamas, I climbed onto my stool at the kitchen counter. Dad was busy sipping coffee while he cooked, but he waved a spatula at me. Janny was already seated in her usual place at the counter, long black hair neatly braided and dressed in clean jeans and a Montana State Bobcat T-shirt.
I poured myself a glass of orange juice and shook my head. How could she look so bright and cheerful before we’d even had breakfast?
“Good morning, everyone,” Dad said, sliding a platter of crisp bacon, scrambled eggs, and buttered toast onto the counter. “Dig in.”
He didn’t have to ask me twice. I loaded my plate and shoveled a forkful of eggs into my mouth.
“Wow. Fancy breakfast, Dad,” Janine said as she bit into a piece of bacon. “What’s up?”
The food hit my stomach, finishing the job of waking me up. Janny was right. Breakfast was usually cold cereal and milk or toaster pastries. If Dad was feeling particularly mellow, we might wheedle frozen waffles out of him. He almost never cooked eggs and bacon.
“We’re celebrating,” he said after swallowing his own mouthful of breakfast goodness. “First Saturday after the start of school. I’m thinking we should make it an annual tradition.”
“Works for me,” I agreed before stuffing another bite of buttered toast in my mouth.
Dad saluted with his coffee cup. “Here’s to another great school year.”
Janny and I glanced at each other and grinned. This was going to be a very different year for both of us. We’d just finished our first week of seventh grade at Sacajawea Middle School; the same school we’d attended last year. The difference wasn’t the school or the grade, the difference was us.
We both knew we were shamans now. We knew magic was real. We’d seen it in action. Heck, we’d both used it. Janny had more experience than I did — she could use magic in the real world; I’d only managed it in the Spirit World — but Coyote assured me that once I’d completed my manhood ceremony, I’d be just as capable as my sister.
I wasn’t quite sure why she could already use her magic and I couldn’t. I mean, we’re twins after all; we’re the same age. So why did I have to wait? But whatever the reason, my magic wasn’t available just yet. Coyote said I just had to be patient.
Patient. Right. Definitely not my strong suit.
A wet nose touched my bare foot, followed by a playful nip. I glanced down and grinned at Coyote. My friend had a typical wolf pelt, mainly gray with lots of dirty white, yellowish-brown, and orangey-red mixed in. Darkest on his back and melting to nearly white at his belly. He was about the height of a medium-size dog and weighed around forty-five pounds. But appearance was where his similarity to dogs and wolves ended. Coyote was smart. And wily. And he loved a good joke. His reputation as a trickster was well-founded.
And he suited me perfectly.
Janny and I were both smart, but I was the one who was known as the prankster. I was the one who’d make a great criminal mastermind … if I was interested in crime; which I’m not. But I’m definitely cunning and crafty enough to match my totem animal.
“I like bacon, too,” Coyote said.
“Of course you do.” I laughed and put several pieces of bacon and a scoop of eggs on a plate and set it on the floor for my friend.
Dad glanced up. “Sorry about that, Coyote. I should’ve thought to fix you a plate.”
Coyote crunched a piece of bacon and cocked his head at Dad. His ears pricked forward as he licked his lips. “No need to apologize, Jake. You are not my shaman.” He butted his head against my leg. “Justin is my partner.”
“Yep,” said Janny, “and with him as your provider, you’ll probably always have to ask for your breakfast.”
“Hey! What is this? Pick on Justin day?” I said indignantly. “I don’t see you taking a plate to Winona.”
“That’s because Winona and I went out hunting for her breakfast while you were still sleeping.”
I shut my mouth. Janny can be annoyingly smug, but she does take very good care of her thunderbird.
Coyote licked his plate clean, sat back on his haunches, and wrapped his bushy tail around his toes. “I’ve been meaning to speak to all of you,” he said. Turning golden brown eyes on my twin, he asked. “Is Winona able to join us, Janine?”
Janny cocked her head and her eyes sort of glazed over. A moment later she nodded, her expression back to normal. “She’s just outside. If we open the patio door she can listen directly, or she can monitor through me. Either way, she’ll remain invisible, of course.”
That was the problem with having a totem animal who looked kind of like a pterosaur and was the size of a small elephant: people tended to notice her … and not in a good way.
Coyote wasn’t a problem. People just assumed he was a pet. But a thunderbird? Not so much. Winona remained invisible except when we were deep in the wilderness. She also didn’t speak audibly. She and Janine communed mind-to-mind. Coyote and I could do that too, but most of the time, he just talked. Which made it a lot easier for Dad and Janny when we held family meetings.
Dad strode to the patio door, opened it, and said, “Winona, you’re welcome to stick your head in if that’ll make it easier to hear.”
“Thanks, Dad,” said Janny, hopping off her stool and hurrying over to sit on the carpet near the door. I didn’t have to see Winona to know Janny was cuddled up close to her thunderbird.
“Wonderful,” said Coyote as I slid off my stool and joined him on the floor. Dad settled on the floor as well, legs stretched out in front, feet crossed at the ankles, and leaning back on locked arms.
“What I want to discuss is Justin’s manhood ceremony.”
I gave a little jump, startled to be the topic of conversation, but Dad frowned.
“Our tribe doesn’t have a manhood ceremony as such,” he said, “and I think both Justin and Janine have already experienced their vision quests,” he glanced significantly at Coyote and the space he knew Winona occupied, “or you two wouldn’t be here.”
“That is true, Jake,” Coyote agreed, “but he is now part of my tribe as well, the Trickster Tribe, and we do have a manhood ceremony. One he will need to complete before he can come into his full power.”
So that was the difference. I was aligned with the tricksters, Janny wasn’t. She was bound by Winona’s ways, I wasn’t.
“What do I need to do?” I asked, eager to get started so I could access my magic.
Coyote nodded, his eyes gleaming. “I knew my shaman was ready. However, you must be thirteen.” He turned to Dad. “Justin and I will need to take a journey for his thirteenth birthday. We will be gone for a day or two. Will you ensure that he is excused from classes on those days?”
Dad narrowed his eyes, but nodded. “I don’t suppose I can come along.”
“I’m sorry, Jake, but this doesn’t concern you. You are not a trickster.”
Dad stiffened, and then relaxed. “I understand.” He closed his eyes, breathed in through his nose and then out through is mouth. Opening his eyes again, he studied Coyote. “I trust you, Coyote, but Justin is my son. Will he be safe during this ceremony?”
Coyote’s eyes darkened and he laid his ears back. This was no joke to my usually jolly friend. “Justin is my shaman,” he said. “I will never have another. I will guard him with my life.”
Dad nodded. “I accept your assurance. I will see that Justin is excused from school for as long as you require.”
“Thank you for your trust, Jake.”
It felt really weird to sit quietly on the floor while my dad and Coyote discussed me. But the solemnity of their words and the undercurrent of emotion told me I’d be wise not to interrupt, so I kept my mouth shut.
I noticed Janny was doing the same. She caught my eye and gave a barely noticeable nod. My twin and I were on the same page.
Coyote turned to Winona and Janine. I knew from experience that he could see the thunderbird. She might be invisible to my eyes, but not to his. Never to his.
“Winona, you are not a trickster, but I would ask you to stand ready should a need arise.”
Janny answered, letting me and Dad know what was going on. “Of course, Coyote. You have only to call and She Who Cares for Thunderbirds and I will answer.”
“Wait a minute,” said Dad. “I thought you said he’d be safe. Why would you need Winona’s assistance?”
Coyote turned grave eyes on Dad. “We defeated Unktehi at the Source of All Power, but he is not dead, only banished from this mortal realm. He failed to keep Winona from coming into her power and completing her bond with Janine. He may try to interfere with Justin’s ascension.”
Dad took a deep breath, but Coyote spoke over him. “I do not expect interference. After all, my tribe will be gathered to witness Justin’s rite, and we are a powerful lot, but Winona’s willingness to join forces with us … well, think of it as insurance, Jake.”
Dad expelled the breath and nodded. “Being prepared for the worst makes it less likely to occur.”
“So,” I said, feeling like it was finally safe to speak, “we’re leaving on Wednesday? Where are we going?”
Coyote’s tongue lolled out in a doggy grin and his golden brown eyes sparkled. “Hong Kong!”
Want to know what happens next? Find Coyote at your favorite online bookseller!