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No! Chapi Is Not Evil!

(Lakota Tribe, Montana Territory, 1876)

Feeling like someone just punched her in the gut, Bren shouted, “No, Chapi is not evil!” her anger rising. The old woman, violet eyes framed in wrinkles, looked steadfastly at the young Hunter, unmoved. As she did, a growing sense filled Bren’s spirit that the squaw was right, overthrowing her emotions and mind. Finally, knowing the truth of it, tears welled up in Brenzel’s eyes as she said softly, “No, I don’t care what you think she is, I love her and she is not all bad.”

Apparently unconcerned with her protest, the woman reached out to touch Brenzel’s arm. As her fingers met Brenzel’s skin, a feeling of great compassion and mercy flooded her being. In her mind, scenes flashed before her, almost like she was traveling as when she placed a feather in her cap. The young Hunter gasped sharply, momentarily lost in the spiritual experience, then suddenly sucked back the present. Stumbling, feeling physically ill and unsteady, Bren willed herself to stand upright.

What she saw or experienced, were scenes of great destruction and suffering. Places she did not understand, people who looked different, all running for their lives as everything around them burned. Looking back at the old lady, heart pounding, she said, “What are you?”

Violet eyes

Looking up at the fair-haired youngster, the small woman said, “Guanyin.”

Having now gained Bren’s complete attention, the old lady warned, “Child, Wichapi is a wild thing, neither good nor bad, she just is. Like a cougar or a bear, she acts on instinct. She is dangerous.”

“What did you show me?” Bren demanded, still feeling queasy.

“The future, if Wichapi chooses evil. A time of great suffering and much death,” she said solemnly.

Bren, rallying within herself, grabbed the old squaw by the arms, looking directly at her, saying, “It doesn’t matter what people think she is, I know there is goodness in her because I’ve seen and felt it. I love her and she is my best friend. She will choose good, no matter what you say.”

You are a good friend

Calmly, as she surmised Brenzel, the ancient woman said, “As you wish, child. But the path you choose is long, and you will face many challenges.” Bren, suddenly feeling awkward at being so forceful, let go of the old squaw, apologizing profusely. Mercy in her eyes, the wise woman said, “You are a good friend to the Lakota maiden and have a strong heart. She is fortunate.”

Taking a small buckskin purse out, decorated with intricate bead-work, the woman opened it to reveal a small dream catcher, exactly like the one Bren saw in her dream. “Child, I journeyed here because I desired to feel what you feel, to see what you see, and to know the truth of it. I believe you are what He says.” Handing Brenzel the pouch with the dream catcher in it, she said, “Take this. Keep it with you always. It will help you when the night grows dark. Leaning over to one side, looking towards Bren’s Teepee, the Guanyin said, “Wichapi is awake now, she is calling for you. Go to her.”

Turning towards the teepee where her friend slept, Brenzel said, “I don’t hear her. How do you know that?” However, just as in the dream, when she turned around, the old lady was gone.

She is safer with us

(The planet Hala, Realm of Alethea)  

Opulence is perhaps the closest word that could begin to describe the city of Álfheim. The great golden citadel, resting place of Alethea’s Sanctuary, is adorned with exquisite domed halls, splendid courtyards, and expansive quarters, all declaring balance and tranquility. Greenery, vines, trees, and a profusion of other plants, weave themselves through all of it, not invasively, but harmonizing with every structure.

Michael, with a far away look in his eyes, said, “I sense danger, yes, but I sense she needs to talk to the Librarian.”

As they continued their breakfast, 3 replied, “Yes, I know, and I understand she is not often wrong about such things, but I am troubled by the fact that Dove sent you with us.” Then looking a bit pained, 3 continued, “And also because I cannot calculate the odds.”

Raising his eyebrows Michael said, “You cannot calculate the odds? You know what that means.”

3, touching his abacus said, “Yes. She’s on the move.”

“Nevertheless, my old friend,” Michael said, having come to a decision, “whatever is out there and whatever Beauty is doing, you and Hatshepsut need to speak with the Librarian. And, frankly, Hatty is safer with us than anyplace else on Hala.”

Farewell to Mable

(Montana Territory, 1876)

Derek stood still as a team of horses dragged Mable off, leaving a rut in the dust. The local doctor said, “She was just exhausted, probably died of a heart attack.” The big black man fought back tears as they took her out to horse boot hill where he knew she’d be ripped apart and eaten by vultures and other vermin. Mable was one of the first things he’d bought after starting as a buffalo hunter. She’d always been more of a friend than a horse; good and steady, even in tough times.

Sundays in small towns were especially lonesome. Derek walked past a church with folks coming out, momentarily feeling a twinge of guilt. Saddle on his shoulder, the former slave resolutely made his way towards the livery.

What can I do ya for Mister?

“I’s needs a horse,” the scout told the grizzled man tending the stables.

“Sorry mister, we’re plumb out, army bought all we had,” the person, who seemed to be all beard, replied. “All’s I’s got is this here old white mule,” pointing to a swayed back, long-eared, sorry excuse for a mount, standing head down and depressed in the corner of the corral. “Iff’n you want him, that would be 25 dollars, and I’d throw in a pack saddle for another 3,” he said.

“I’ll takes it, but I don’t need a pack saddle,” Derek said as he put the notes in the old man’s gnarled hand.

“Okay, mister, it’s all yours,” the man finished nervously, knowing he’d just charged the big black man about twice what the broken down mule was worth.

Several hours out of town, Derek stopped on a high ridge, overseeing the vast countryside that lay ahead of him. Taking another big swig of Tangleleg whiskey, he corked it and slid it back into his saddlebag. Catching a whiff of the other bag tied to his saddle-horn, the emancipated slave untied it and, with a great heave, tossed it over the cliff saying, “I’s told you.” Stone-faced, he watched it tumble and bounce all the way to the bottom, coming to rest well out of sight and out of mind.

On the mend

(Lakota Tribe, Montana Territory, 1876)

Groggy and weak, Wichapi raised her hand to steady the bowl filled with cool water from the river. Later, Bren fed her some soft meat and broth little by little as her friend ate sparingly.

“I thought I’d lost you,” Bren said as she wiped Chapi’s mouth.

Chapi, laying back, said, “Yes.”

Over the next few days, braves danced, and the village rejoiced over the great victory won against the white devils. Bren, seeing the Lakota tribe move as one against the US Cavalry, and feeling their renewed confidence in the future, wondered if they would blame her, too, being as she was also fair skinned. Yet, to her surprise, no one did, and they continued to treat her kindly.

You treat me good

At first, Wichapi was too weak to walk, having to be helped to do anything. So, for the next few days, Bren and the other women attended to her every need. Today, though, for the first time, Chapi seemed to regain some of her former strength, and Bren walked slowly with her down to the river. Sitting on the bank, Wichapi said, “Thank you Bren, I don’t think anyone has ever treated me so good except my mother.” Holding her hand lightly, Bren smiled and felt comforted that her soul mate was on the mend.


(Vatican, 1647)

An old man sits wheezing, sipping his wine, feeling the acrid liquid flow down his throat, filling his cold body with a bit of warmth. Now after midnight, he sits at his desk, papers neatly arranged, a lifetime of books lining three of the four walls in his study. The lone oil lamp flickers and smolders with a faint smokiness that goes unnoticed. Memories flooding, he remembers better days when life seemed full of promise.

Coming to a decision, the old man opens the drawer of his desk, removing a long, razor-sharp dagger, placing it carefully backwards up his arm, hidden below the folds of his robe’s sleeve. “Boy, I have something I wish to talk to you about,” Cardinal Jenkins says without warning.

Tim, almost asleep on his feet, instantly rises to full consciousness saying, “Yes sir. What may I do, sir?”

“Come here, boy.”

Dutifully, Tim approaches and stands across the desk from the old man.

“No, closer, come closer,” the pensive octogenarian commands. As young Tim negotiates his way around the edge of the table, Jenkins eyes him carefully.

Standing silent, waiting for the holy man to speak, Tim feels an odd sense of pity wash over him as he looks into his master’s eyes.

A different time and place

“I was once young as yourself,” the cardinal begins sincerely. “I remember my favorite thing to do each day was to walk by the lazy stream that ran through a meadow next to our estate. My best friend was a little grey dog named Lupo, he used to go everywhere with me. With him, I would imagine many things in my youth, the great adventures we would dare have. . .”

Tim, not knowing what to say, remained silent, the room growing heavy with stillness.

Then, out of the blue, the old man said, “I knew your father. He was a good and faithful man. He would be proud of you, I think.”

Tim’s blood ran cold and hot at the same time. “Thank you sir,” Tim said without feeling.

Then, just as unexpectedly, the Cardinal’s thin lips frowning, explained, “I know you followed me last night. You have even seen me enter Saint Peter’s Basilica.”

Tim, beginning to sweat, barely eeked out, “Sir, I…I…”

“No, don’t try to deny it.”

“Yes sir,” Tim mumbled, looking down, heart pounding.

“What did you think you would find, following me like that?” Jenkins quizzed.

“I…I…don’t know sir, I guess I was concerned for your well being,” Tim confessed, trying to be innocent and convincing at the same time.

The question

“I see,” Jenkins says quietly, hand gripping the large stiletto up his sleeve tightly.

“I am getting old, old enough not to believe people’s motives are always pure, yet I think you acted without malice. Therefore, I have a proposition for you, one which I pray you accept.”

“Proposition, sir?” the young man-servant repeated, again taken by surprise.

“Mind you, once you accept there is no turning back, even if you want to.”

Involuntarily gulping hard, Tim replied, “Yes, sir, I understand sir. What must I do?”

“When I was a young man, I was given a great opportunity, one that changed my life forever. My priest, a man of great wealth and position, entrusted me with a sacred calling, one which I carry to this very day.”

A chance to restore The Order

“You see, young Lambert, the world you think you know is not the world that actually is. We live in the midst of a great war, a titanic struggle against forces beyond our comprehension,” the old man said in all sincerity. “The struggle for existence that we face daily is but an echo of that conflict.

“A grave injustice was committed many millennia ago. What I was offered, and what I am offering you, is a chance to restore order.”

Tim, his young mind partially swayed by the eloquence of his master, asked, “Sir, what could such things possibly have to do with me?”

Dark eyes scrutinizing every shade of expression on Tim’s face, Cardinal Jenkins put a silver crucifix before him, saying, “I want you to become my disciple. I invite you to join ‘The Order’.”