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I hate rats!

(Realm of Elysia)

Desere dashed towards her booth with all her might, bursting through the front door as she slid to a stop. Standing in the middle of the room, broom raised above her head, Bren surveyed the corner intently.

“Bren! what’s wrong?”

“Stand back, Desere, there’s a large rat!”

Slowly advancing on the corner and a small end table it held, Bren lifted the handle higher, about to strike, when…

As fast as lighting, a flash of fur ran out from under the stand, scurrying across the floor and disappearing under the bed.

“There, you saw it! It’s a rat!”

It’s not a rat

“Bren!” Desere said calmly, “Stop…it’s not a rat.”

“Yes, it is, I saw it, you saw it! I can’t stand rats!” she said as she bent down, getting on all fours to flush the despicable creature out with the end of her broom.

While Brenzel jabbed furiously with the bristles, Desere knelt down next to her and laid her hand on her arm gently. Looking at her wild-eyed friend for a moment, Desere said, “Bren, I’m here, it’s okay.”

Stopping, Bren looked at the Spirit Dancer as she took the broomstick from her trembling hands.

Looking under the bed, Desere, said, “It’s okay, little friend, she’s not from around here…she doesn’t understand.”

It’s a Rundsey

Sitting back on her knees, Desere said, “Dear, it’s not a rat, there are no rats in Elysia. It’s a Rundsey.”

A look of deep grief came over Bren, her face contorting, as tears began streaming down her cheeks. Still shaking with adrenaline, she heaved and she began to sob. Out from under the bed, peered two large black eyes, as the Rundsey edged nearer. Desere, moving next to her, pulled her close as Bren leaned in, crying uncontrollably.

“It’s my fault, it’s all my fault, I should have never left her at the church,” Bren said bitterly between sobs.

Cautiously, a nose appear from under the bed. Looking at the crying woman, feeling her sorrow, he thought, I’ve heard the stories, but I never imagined it would be like this.

Desere, comforting her friend, looked at the Rundsey, then said, “Bren….Bren…..”


“What?” she sobbed

“A Rundsey is a comfort animal. They’re sent from God for those who have great sorrow.”

Bren, completely undone, didn’t notice the Rundsey edging forward.

“They are able to take your pain away, dear. They’re healing animals.”

Cautiously, he came to Bren’s feet.

“I hate rats…”

“Bren…try to calm yourself…I know it hurts.”

Desere kissed her, wiping her tears with her dress

Bren opened her eyes, looking into Desere’s, feeling her love.

“Bren, the Rundsey won’t hurt you. Trust me, let it touch you.”

Through blurred vision, heaving every once in a while, Bren saw that the animal wasn’t a rat, but more like a extra-large hamster. His eyes, large and moist, looked at her intently.

Every ounce of courage

With every ounce of courage he could muster the Rundsey approached, inching towards her leg. Bren’s first instinct was to pull away, but Desere continued encouraging her to let him come near.

Heart pounding, the Rundsey nuzzled her leg. As he did, Brenzel stopped crying, for she felt the pain in her heart instantly begin to drain away.

“My God,” Brenzel said, “it’s like my mother’s hugging me…

Leaning forward, Bren put her hand out.

Shying away at first, the Rundsey came nearer, allowing her to caress his head. As she felt his fur, sorrow continued to ebb, causing her mind to clear and focus.

Then, just as she felt some control return, another great swell of painful emotion hit her, like the cresting wave, knocking her over, rolling her under until she felt she couldn’t breathe. Again she reached for the Rundsey, who remained steadfast, her hand stoking it’s fur, as the sorrow in her heart oozed out.

Kissing her softly

Desere, still kissing her softly, said, “It’s best if you hold him near your tummy,” as she motioned him up into Bren’s lap.

Determined, the Rundsey came forward, following Bren’s eyes. Brenzel reached forward, by faith, allowing the large Hamster-like animal to curl up against her stomach, as a third wave engulfed her, face contorting again.

Outside the booth, many gathered and prayed, not really knowing what had gone wrong. Hearing the sorrow inside, they felt compassion, holding hands as they stood with her.

No one had felt such pain in recent memory, not since the great sorrow after the war. Flashbacks of their own experiences transported to those dark days. At that time, Rundseys, by the tens of thousands, appeared out of the forests, healing those who had suffered most. At a time when no one knew how to cope, from the most unexpected place, came the greatest healing.

Empty and vulnerable

Once Bren calmed, she held on to Desere’s arm for dear life, feeling empty and vulnerable. It was gone: that pit in her stomach, the one she felt standing before the beautiful irises in Dove’s garden. That ache in her spirit was gone and she felt clean, like a freshly swept kitchen.

Looking down at the Rundsey, he was shaking now. Suddenly, she felt compassion and awe for the creature. How was that possible? Why? She thought.

As Bren quieted and regained her composure, the crowd outside dissipated until there was no one left. The stars shone above in the warm evening as lamps one by one, were put out throughout the festival.

In Desere’s arms, Bren felt like a newborn child. In the candlelight, so much of what she thought was herself was gone. Thanking the Rundsey, Desere gently lifted him from Bren’s stomach and laid him on a pillow, setting some water and grains near him. However, food was the last thing on his mind, for by the time his head hit the soft fabric, he was fast asleep.


(Montana Territory, 1897)

Chaska, now chief, rode out from their overnight camp on his white and brown appaloosa towards bear mountain. Six braves, young and ambitious men, accompanied him. Most feared this place, though, for it was said it was bad medicine. Having traveled for over a week, they made their way up the east river bank, the same one where many winters ago Chaska walked with his sister, Wichapi.

Much faded with time, but not her face. Initially, Wichapi’s little brother missed her a lot, but as the years wore on and his responsibility increased, he made peace with the fact that his older sister was not coming back. Yet, when he was alone, hunting, animals would look at him and he always felt that her spirit was near.

The old ways are gone

Now back on the reservation, the tribe faced many hardships, but after the reprisals by the white soldiers, they had little choice. The old ways are gone, and the young lack the spirit to carry on, he thought to himself. Chaska feared for their future as a people.

Over time, a legend grew of a powerful witch who lived on what the surrounding tribes called Bear Mountain. Many swore that an evil spirit roamed the hills, taking the form of a beautiful woman. No one dared go there, because it was said animals were her friends and protected her. Anyone who dared trespass, never came back – but Chaska knew better.

Being watched

As they made their way to the base of Bear Mountain, the braves behind him looked up nervously at the eagles circling above. Was it the witch watching them? As they picked their way up the mountain, they turned to cross a shallow stream, when suddenly all their painted ponies stopped. No matter what they did, the horses would not move another inch.

Chaska dismounted, taking a small oblong pouch with him, saying, “Stay. I will go from here.” Looking at each other, concerned, they protested. Chaska, lifting up his hand silenced them, saying, “Yes, you are brave, but you cannot follow where I go.”

Like chastened children, they sat dejectedly on their mounts to wait for their leader, fearing for his life.

As Chaska went, he sensed animals near. A horn owl hooted overhead, turning to look at him as he passed. A fox darted through the underbrush, mirroring his path as he climbed higher and higher.

Up on the mountain

Almost to the top of the mountain, everything around him became beyond silent. As if the whole forest held it’s breath, not a sound could be heard but the crunching of the pine needles underneath his moccasins. The trees around him seemed unusually large, much larger than should be this high up. The sun set behind his shoulders, casting shadows before him. Chaska had not known what to expect after not seeing her for so long, but hopefully he was welcome.

Suddenly, as if he had stepped into summer, the air around him grew warm. In front of him, flowers grew in profusion, causing him to think, These cannot be, it is too early.

With a chill running down his spine, Chaska realized a huge grizzly bear was walking parallel to him. Breaking into a clearing at the top, he spied a lone tepee as the bear closed in.

The great bear neared, sniffing his two outstretched hands. Chaska said, “It’s Chaska, it’s about our Father.” Staring at him for a moment, the grizzly made an anguished noise, turned, and led him towards the tepee.

Emerging, Wichapi stood, stone faced with tears streaming down her cheeks, saying, “I know, brother, Running Bear is dead.”