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Seeing, But Not Believing

(Montana Territory, 1876)

Rubbing his eyes, Derek looked again in disbelief, saying, “Good God Almighty…” Feeling his forehead, he sat back astonished. Removing his cavalry hat and feeling his forehead, he unscrewed the lid of his canteen and poured the water on his head. “I musta got a might too much sun,” he muttered, crawling over to find shade under a nearby bush.

Yet, for all its earthly improbability, Derek simply couldn’t get the heavenly image out of his mind. Looking through his spyglass, the seasoned scout had seen two angelic beings walking together on the river bank, one with snow-white wings and the other with white and black. As he laid eyes on them, the angel in black turned her head, looking up towards him and that same electric feeling he felt a few moments before coursed through his entire body.

Mama’s southern gospel

Mama, God rest her soul, believed in Jesus. In fact, from a young child, Derek slept through gospel meetin’s where people clapped and sang hymns all night. As the world hushed, Mama, in their small, ramshackle plantation cabin, used to tell him bedtime stories about angels, even claiming to have met a few herself.

In fact, Mama always seemed to know when he’d done wrong, like she had some special insight. One, day, when he was about 12, Derek got in a dust-up with a neighbor boy. Coming in the back door as quiet as a mouse with a bloody nose, he hoped to avoid Mama makin’ supper in the next room. “Boy,” the matron of the house said without seeing him, “Where’s you been and what you been doing? The Lord says you’ve been up to no good. You goes back and make it right before I tan your hide.”

As a small boy he loved her stories, but as he grew the world made its mark on him, and he drifted away from her faith. However, today, deeply shaken by what he’d just seen, Derek sat under a bush in the wilderness, praying fervently for the first time in decades.


(the Year 1252 since Val Hala, on the planet Hala, the realm of Alethia)

Hala, Alethia’s realm, used to be the center of one of the most beautiful of God’s seven creations. A pale orange sky, two moons, and a binary sun made the centermost planet of Alethia’s domain appear other-worldly to Doc as she stepped upon its red earth. The truth was, though, that other than a few more celestial bodies, Hala used to be a lot like Eden, blessed with abundant forests, animals, birds, and fish.

Nowadays, though, the equatorial part of Hala, like Eden, was mostly wasteland and smelled of dust. During the Great Rebellion, much of the fighting took place in the middle regions and, next to Hades, Hala suffered the most. Terrible weapons made by the Tech Wizard, many beyond human comprehension, burned off a third of its oceans, changing it’s lush climate drastically. Though most of the amplifiers were destroyed, remnants of that Dark Tech still surface every once in a while in the forbidden desert, sold on the black market by air pirates. Moreover, lately, to everyone’s surprise and consternation, dragons had begun returning, but no one knew why or how.

Alethia and her people, beginning in the northern lands, slowly reclaimed and restored their home to its former glory. Great forests, planted by hand millennia ago, rolled out like lush green carpets for hundreds of leagues in every direction of her great city. Viewed from atop her sanctuary, all might seem well. Yet, in the deepest deserts, chaos still hung on tenaciously, marring their efforts to make everything lovely again.

“Hatty, come this way, Alethia wants to see us.”

Dressed in hunter attire, wearing her glasses as protection from the unfamiliar suns, Doc said, “Why so quickly, what’s up?”

3, taking her hand as they walked into Alethia’s sanctuary, said: “It’s another dragon, a big one.”

Evil is a harsh taskmaster

(Vatican City – 1647)

Dropping into his small cot, exhausted, Tim Lambert felt as if his slight frame ached from head to toe. Cardinal Jenkins was an exacting taskmaster and, true to his word, didn’t tolerate even the slightest mistake. Once, when Tim approached him with his nightly wine, he tripped slightly in the dimly lit room, spilling a drop of red vintage on one of the cardinal’s parchments. Flying into a rage, he made Tim lean over the table, beating him with his cane until Tim almost fainted. In the morning the holy man acted as if nothing had happened, as Tim, black and blue from his punishment, hobbled through the day’s chores.

Always, for some strange reason, the cardinal made him kiss his silver crucifix when he met him in the morning and as he bid him good night. That evening, as Tim began to fall asleep in his small room, he heard a knock on the door. “Master Tim, open up, it’s Father Donovan.”


(Montana Territory – 1876)

One evening, as they sat in Wichapi’s tent, Bren noticed an ornate hoop, with a web of string in the middle and feathers below, hanging above where her friend slept. “That’s beautiful,” Bren said pointing, “what is it?”

“Oh, that is a dreamcatcher my grandmother made for me,” Wichapi explained.

Sensing something familiar about it, Bren asked, “Can you tell me more?”

Standing up in the firelight, the beautiful maiden touched the hoop, saying, “Legend has it that a very wise man met Iktomi, a wise spirit, who appeared to him as a spider. The spider took the man’s hoop made of willow and began to spin a web, beginning on the outside and working its way inward.”

The firelight reflected in Wichapi’s eyes as it caressed her high cheekbones, making her appear regal and serene.

Continuing, she related, “The spider said the web pictures our lives being a perfect circle with a space in the middle. The web catches the good dreams and makes them part of us. The hole in the center allows bad to pass through.”

Suddenly, Bren flashed back to the Indian woman in her dream who offered her a similar hoop, and her words replayed in her mind:

“Beauty is not always good, and evil is not always ugly.”