I know, a lot of Native American or First Nation names and a few words. NOT INDIAN!! Only a few, but you'll get adjusted. I got used to my crazy Yankee, New York City born Italian. Didn't I, Daniel? Forget about it. I need some kawffee. I love you, Daniel.
As we headed back to the road we were taking, we went through a rough clearing. It was the clearing we spent the night in!
“Where did the tents go?” Reese asked in disbelief. “I remember that tree just outside our tent!”
Now the clearing didn’t look like anyone had ever camped there. No tents, no stove or any rubbish at all.
I looked back at where we had the horses. There were no stoves at all and also looked undisturbed.
“We didn’t forget anything,” I shrugged, “The purpose was served and no longer needed. They cleaned up after themselves. It’s what they do.”
Max turned to the others with us, “Today we will finally meet this Wahkoowah who claims to speak for Tawa.” He said loud, “Be ready.”
“Dyami told us we’d be welcomed first,” Seth stated.
Max nodded, “They might, but we must be nearing a village. Less honest people might live away from them because of what they do.” We couldn’t see his face, but he insisted, “Are you willing to take the chance?”
We pulled to a stop and I asked, “We’ll listen to you. You’re the experienced military leader. Should we put on that new armor Yannick showed us?” I pointed to the wagon that carried supplies and that new resistant armor.
Max thought a few moments.
“What do you want to say when we arrive?” Val’s voice asked beneath a fur covering. “Are we going in as the King’s Royal Guard from Creid?”
Max turned to Val, “That’s how we usually enter a village or settlement.”
“And scare people half to death,” I grumbled, “Like you did with Maria the day you arrived in Royal Valley. Your armor is scary.”
“Can you all pull your face covering down?” Toby asked. “I haven’t gotten a word of what you’ve said.”
I chuckled, pulling the fur cover down and told Toby. Of course, it was cold.
“Sure,” Thomas said, bringing his horse closer after he pulled his fur down. “Dad told me it was also important to go in showing confidence and strength. Let them see we aren’t weak or cowards, but open to discussion. It’s obvious! Go in as who we are! You’re showing unity! Uncle Erik, you were born a prince of A’Dore! Not the son of a prince, but a reigning king and queen. You still are, but also a prince of Blethos! You, Uncle Seth, were born a prince, too. Hell, you WERE a king. A damned good one.” He looked at Chitto. “The Native Tribes.” He looked at Max, Val, and the other Creid. “YOU are Creid! And still feared by a lot of people!” He waved his hand at them. “Go in as Creid! Not just any Creid, but the King’s Royal Guard, meaning you have the support of King Yannick! This isn’t just to scare necessarily, but to make them…” he thought about the right words to use, “at least wary.”
I smiled at Thomas, “That’s a king’s thinking.”
Thomas looked away, “Well, not counting the decision to follow you,” he admitted a little guiltily. “I have to be able to do that one day.”
I looked around and said, “Okay, nobody is to listen to what I’m going to say but Thomas.” I turned back to Thomas. “I’m speaking from experience about this. As a child growing into an adult.” I looked at Toby, “I hadn’t expected to go through this so soon with Toby, but…” I saw them at various points in their lives. Thomas as a newborn in his cradle. Toby when he was a little boy not even two years old on the floor. “Your parents love you, Thomas.”
“I know that,” Thomas said, tired of hearing that..
“Wait,” I said. “You’ve scared them.”
“Not to mention the pressure you’ve put on us,” Seth muttered. “If you come back with so much as a bruise, your uncle and I will suffer.”
I nodded with a laugh that was sardonic. Seth wasn’t trying to be funny, “And not from just your father! From your mother! You will always be her baby!”
“Even when you are fifty,” Seth added, “Both of them should be alive and well, but even THEN, you’ll STILL be their baby.”
“They will not let you get hurt,” I said. “Now, when we get back to A’Dore. My advice is to be grown up about it. Tell them why you felt you HAD to come. Approach them maturely, that way and let them get it out. No crying or whining and no tantrums by you.”
Thomas chuckled and smirked, “I haven’t had a tantrum in quite a while, Uncle Erik.”
“Good,” I nodded, “accept whatever punishment they give and let it go. I know your father. He will respect you. Your mother will forgive you first...probably. It will end. I promise.” I looked at Max, Val and all the others. “No one heard that, right?”
“Heard what?” Max grinned.
Reese leaned forward, “What? What did Erik say?” He patted Beau’s arm. “I was having a spellbinding conversation with Beau.”
“We were?” Beau asked Reese and his brow came together, “You said not to listen. So, I didn’t.” The thing was I didn’t think Beau could lie very well. He looked as innocent as he normally did. He didn’t listen. The more I knew him, the more loved him.
“That’s great,” I nodded at them, “Thanks.”
“I think it would be better to wait until we see evidence of them to put the armor on,” Max muttered and looked at Toby. “I’m sorry, but this cold. I’m covering up again.”
“Why is it so cold, Dad?” Toby asked me. “No water is freezing.”
“Because one, it’s wet and damp up here,” I said. “And two, we live in a warmer climate and are not used to it. The cold damp seems to eat through clothes. But not through that bear skin and fur you’re wearing.” I chuckled, “It is cold, so I’m going back under the furskin.”
“It was boring the last couple of days,” Toby frowned. “No one can talk to me.”
“Which you wouldn’t be if you’d stayed in A’Dore like we instructed,” Seth pointed out, giving Toby a hard look. “It’s normally much warmer there even in Winter.”
I had to quickly cover up with the fur to hide my smile as Toby rolled his eyes at what his other father said. I’m sure with Toby, he could see the amusement in my eyes.
Going down the road, and it was looking more like a road now. Wagons had traveled here more recently traveled the path as there were worn, parallel grooves with almost no vegetation growing. Hunters probably.
I knew now why they called the area the Forest of Rain. That seemed to be happening. The pathway/road was wet. Even on the road I felt the occasional drop from above, but not from the sky. From the trees. It sounded like it was raining in the forest. There were some big trees in Royal Valley. Blethos and A’Dore did, too. Giant Oak trees that were hundreds of years old. Pine trees and Palm Trees. We had pine trees that were tall, but these were much taller.
We took turns with the wagon. Each of us drove it every four hours. This was Max’d turn. He and Chitto had switched, so Chitto rode with us. He must have seen both Seth and I looking up often.
“There are some tall trees!” Seth marveled.
“How tall do you think they are?” I asked. “A hundred feet?”
“More,” Seth replied and pointed at one. “That one is anywhere from a hundred and fifty to two hundred feet!”
Chitto chuckled, “Yes, these Sequias are tall, but there is a forest of trees even bigger.”
“Bigger!?” Seth asked.
“Oh, yes,” Chitto laughed nodding. “If all of us joined hands, we still couldn’t get around some of those tree trunks with hands clasped. They are about three hundred of feet tall.”
“No,” I said in disbelief. Chitto was like me. He didn’t lie. It was just unbelievable. I was waiting on a punchline.
“I’ve seen them,” Chitto said nodding. “I’ve even climbed one and was scared to death when I reached the top. It was very...” he thought for the word, “humbling.”
“I don’t doubt that!” I shook my head.
“We’ll be coming up on them shortly,” Chitto said. “You’ll see. You can’t miss them.”
We went back to looking at the trees.
“I admire you two,” Chitto interrupted as we stared at the trees.
I looked at Chitto, “Is there anything in particular you admire?”
“You two have such a great marriage.” Chitto said. “I don’t think there are two other people better at fitting together.” There was a quick laugh under his fur. “Besides Nila and myself, of course.” His mentioning his wife had given his voice a touch of longing.
“Of course,” I understood that longing having had to leave Seth once for a few weeks before. Our sons were too young to be without us both so long. “The two of you get along well.”
“Yes,” Chitto said. “You two seem to read out of the same book! One of you starts something and the other completes it and you don’t miss anything. You’re like one person.”
“Isn’t that what a marriage is about?” Seth asked. “Don’t you and Nila have a united approach to life?”
“Well, yeah,” Chitto said, “but you’re…” he slowed down, almost stopping afraid to offend us.
“Both men?” I asked. He was having a problem with that aspect of Seth’s and my marriage!? The natives normally didn’t!
“No!!” Chitto said instantly, telling me that was ridiculous. “You’re both European descendants and white!” He was nodding quickly, “I know you, Erik. You have some of us in you to help,” he teased. “The Creator knows what Seth has in him… Do you know, Seth?”
“No,” Seth chuckled. “I knew we came here pretty early. Arthur told Darius and Deena several times the family came here at the beginning of the third century. They were part of the original settlers. Since we share the same grandparents, that’s mine, too.”
“So was mine,” I said happily. “Some of my first grandparents here was Cherokee about the same time. I don’t know the year, but I heard about the small boat, icebergs and difficult journey. Are you sure Arthur wasn’t just bragging. As you know, he wasn’t an honest man.”
“This time,” Seth began. “He had proof. Among the many family scrolls were written and he had a copy of it.”
“He could read it!?” I asked unsure. “It wouldn’t be in English.”
“No,” Seth said. “It was in a Germanic language, Gaelic, and Latin.”
I nodded, “That makes sense. Rome occupied the British Isles and tried to take Scotland. Many stayed to fight the Romans. Families with children tried to escape. Many lost a lot of people on the way.”
“My family worked with the Romans,” Seth admitted reluctantly. Some from Britain considered that collaboration. “They were scribes for them.”
“That was over a thousand years ago! That means they were educated!” I said, “That’s a good thing. It also explains the Latin. Is there a copy of this in Blethos’ Palace Library? I don’t remember seeing that.”
Seth was nodding and began, “I think it’s in the palace vault.”
“MY POINT IS,” Chitto interrupted loudly at first and then said quieter. “Over a thousand of years or more, who knows who is in your background? I love history, but I see so many couples who think they own the other like a dog or horse.”
“I do belong to Seth,” I said. “He doesn’t own me and I don’t own him.”
“He doesn’t own me,” Seth explained. “Besides,” He leaned toward Chitto, “have you seen him with a sword? He bested Creid’s champion who is bigger than him. He’s quite good.”
I shook my head. “You haven’t seen the hard work he does,” I said. “He’s very strong, he could easily hurt ME!”
“Which neither of you will ever do!” Chitto said. “You are an example to be followed.”
“There’s a reason,” I said. “We talk with each other...a lot!”
“And spend time together,” Seth finished. “As lovers and friends, practically every day and enjoy it. It keeps us close.”
“See!?” Chitto said. “You’re doing it even now! Finishing each other's sentences. You’re already getting people to see relationships with a greater understanding. There are same gender marriages in A’Dore, Blethos, and Creid is legal now...because of you! Why? Because you’re both sons of kings! You’re raising two smart sons and no one would dare question either of you on either issue. You were married by the two reigning kings. You European descendants are growing up and beginning to see there is more in this world than just two genders based on anatomy. In a few hundred years, you might catch up with us!”
We made good progress. The road did become difficult in areas where previous wagon wheels on other wagons. Mud had oozed out of the grooves and then hardened and that process was repeated again and again for a long time. I doubt anybody did road maintenance out here. We twice had to add power to the wagon to push it through. Because we needed the horses, we were being careful with them. One of the things we did was let them trot rapidly. Not run. It was a sustained trot. The wagon made us reconsider anything faster. It sped us on to where we needed to be and helped to keep the horses warm. We were cautious about the road, too as there was the occasional hole. We didn’t want any horse to trip and break a leg. We had great horses sent from Blethos ’ Palace and from Creid. These were choice horses from great stock and part of the Royal Stables for Yannick’s Royal Guard. Strong, fast, and I heard descended from horses that predated Yannick’s Great Grandfather. They would work well in battle. Chitto’s, Seth’s and my horse were also from King Sam’s Stable. Bred like those from Creid to perform well in battle. The horses we had in Royal Valley were of unknown heritage. Don’t get me wrong, they were good horses. Toby had a mare we called Smoky. Toby has loved horses since he was a toddler. Five years ago, Garth and Bent had one of their horses have a foal. A baby horse less than a year old is a foal. Visiting our friends, Toby saw this young, solid smoky grey colored foal frolicing, kicking up her feet and just playing. Just like Dennis and Kitty, it was love at first sight! Smoky followed Toby around in the pasture. At the time, he was just five years old! It didn’t take too long for Toby to hold his hand up and stop Smoky, or come to Toby. Who knew what an animal sensed or knew, but Smoky responded well with Toby. You know we bought the foal from Garth and Bent. Toby claimed Smoky was his friend and his horse. They grew up together and Smoky loved Toby. We put a saddle on her and at first only let Toby ride her. That was fine, but she needed to allow Toby’s fathers and brother Dennis ride her if necessary. Thomas had one we named Lightning and with the proper enticement lived up to his name. You know? Quick as lightning? Yes, talking about the horses had elements of another rabbit topic. Before anyone says it’s Rabbit Season, it is a relevant topic. That assisted us. They were valuable creatures that helped cause the world to not be as large. Distances shortened and humans spread farther on the planet. Alternating the fast gallop with the slower walk and even to rest a bit. There was plenty of water, but finding still water was better. Pools of water were tricky. We would come upon one and scare away other animals in the forest who needed water. We were told we’d meet Wakooha today, so we weren’t rushing too much. The horses had feelings and could get tired, so we made stops. Even had lunch, which we brought with us.
Chitto was right. I knew he didn’t lie, but...seeing is believing! We entered a part of the forest where the trees were enormous! Everyone in our party was looking at these monstrosities. They were big at the edge of the forest where the trees were younger, but deeper into the forest the trees were older. The parents of the new trees. The tree trunk was so fat, we couldn’t join hands and have them meet. They towered so high, I almost got dizzy trying to see the top.
Again, Beau summed it up, “These are big trees!!” He said in awe.
There were a few “Yeahs.”
“That’s an understatement,” Max muttered.
“I told you they were here,” Chitto argued.
“There are different forms of brief,” I said smirking at him, but he couldn’t see. He heard the tone and got it. “I had belief that you told the truth,” I looked up at the tall trees, “and now the belief because we’ve seen the evidence. I know you don’t lie.”
When we were at the midpoint of the afternoon, it was warm enough to take our face covering down, much to the relief of Toby who could now see what was being said again. It was still cold, but...oh, you get what I mean. At first, breathing in the air was cold as was the air on my warm face. It took a little while to adjust.
There were just a few hours of daylight left. The road was suddenly well maintained. The groves had gravel on them, so smoother. Coming toward a hill in the road and we were greeted by seven natives on horseback.
“Welcome to Maȟpíya Wókičhuŋze.” The man in the center said. The way they were all dressed told us they were part of an organized military. They were natives, but having been exposed to many people from Europa, Scandoval, and even Asia their clothing had changed a bit. They still wore animal skins as nothing was warmer. The style was a little more like Europeans. A lot like Ceto’s deerskin dress. There was still the headdress of eagle feathers. I don’t know of any tribe that didn’t revere eagles. Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles are messengers between people and who created the world. Eagles were prayed to get spiritual counsel and even judgement. They were a connection between the living and the dead. They were given to Chiefs for the position they held. The feathers were used in many rituals and given as a reward to brave warriors following a battle. With these men, no one had less than three. The man next to one in the center right had seven.
The man in the center’s headdress had the most and his deerskin was lighter and more elaborate with the fringe, beadwork and decorative zigzagging patterns from the shoulders. There was the breastplate of bone on his chest.
“This is heaven?” Chitto asked, translating what was said.
The man in the center nodded, “It will be. Gitchi by many. I am Wahkooha.” He looked at Seth. “I know you’re Prince Seth and the previous King of Blethos.” He looked at me. “You are Prince Erik of Blethos and Prince of A’Dore.” He moved on, “Captain Maxwell, who is head the King’s Guard from Creid…”
“How does he know this!?” Reese hissed a whisper.
“You heard and saw that through Adistan,” I said casually and answered Reese’s question. “I’ve sort of done it myself once. I’ll never forget it.”
At the first meeting, Wahkoowah was proud and confident. I saw that pride and confidence falter a little. His gaze on me seemed to intensify.
“The spirits have touched you,” Wahkooha stated. It wasn’t a question.
“Almost everyone here has been by this one in particular,” I smiled, “but the one that took me like a fast flying bird across some vast distance wasn’t a spirit, good or bad.”
“You can say that again,” Seth muttered so only I could hear him.
It seemed that Wahkooha was trying to read me. To find out if I was telling the truth? Could he see that?
“It was also because of this being Seth and I were able to marry,” I added and grinned at Seth, “It’s one of the reasons he became king.”
“We too have heard the story,” Wahkooha said, still looking at us. “Three of you have been touched a lot. You two and the young one with you have been touched very often.”
I looked back at Toby. He was doing what Wahkooha did and looked at Wahkooha intensely. I grinned and turned back. “We have our son because of the magic.”
“Can we speak with Tawa?” Chitto asked.
Wahkooha stiffened, “Tawa will speak when he’s ready. He sees and hears everything.”
“Does he appear to you?” Chitto asked.
“Not in this realm,” Wahkooha said. “When he speaks through me, he brings me to his realm and merges with me. I see him there. I bring him inside me to this realm and he does what he needs to. If you’ll come with us, I was instructed to welcome you to Gitchi.”
“Welcome us!?” Max blurted angrily. “Raids have occurred because of this Tawa! People in all three of our kingdoms are dying! They are being raped and robbed! Supplies to Creid have almost stopped! We were told we needed to be cleansed and worship Tawa!” Max’s true feelings were surfacing as spittle came from his mouth. “You want us to feel welcome? The cowards you hired to do this are the worst examples of Humanity driven by greed!”
Wahkooha looked back at Max. “And this verbal attack is supposed to change Tawa’s mind?” His voice was calm and he showed no emotion.
“Max!” Seth shouted quickly, then touched Max. “We can talk to him.”
The old Creid ways were now coming on his face and his face was becoming the one he used in battle. “The way I see it, there is one person that this Tawa connects with. We kill him and it’s over.” He was still covered with the fur from the neck down, but I knew the ringing sound of sliding metal as his sword was being pulled from its sheath. The other Creid were getting ready to support their leader.
Wahkooha chuckled, “Tawa will stop you.” After he said that, a loud thunderclap sounded in the overcast grey sky and a crackling sound as a bolt of lightning so bright it was white with a touch of blue hit Max’s fur where the sword would be. It scared our horses who reared up ready to flee from danger, and the bolt was powerful enough to knock Max from his horse and threw him quite a few feet away. I’ve seen two lightning bolts hit trees before and knew what damage they could do.
Val, Seth, and I dismounted instantly to go to Max. The other Creid were ready for this battle to continue.
“Tawa will not let you,” Wahkooha said simply.
To our relief, Max wasn’t dead. We helped him sit up as he shook his head to clear dizziness and confusion. He blinked at us trying to focus. There was the smell of burnt hair as smoke rose from a hole on the right side of the fur covering he wore. I pulled his right hand out and saw it was burned. Only where he’d touched the sword. If the grip hadn’t been leather I was sure the burn would have been much more severe. The sword itself had the metal broken an inch from the grip.
I had never seen this sort of magic. Demetrius said he couldn’t really hurt or heal anyone. He scared Candor, Arthur’s thief, making him think he would, but he never called lightning from the sky to strike anybody. Could he? Surely, Len Na would have used it if she could. She did have an effect on the wind and clouds. She used that several times. Or maybe like Demetrius did, we just saw what she wanted us to.
“Max!” Val shouted, shaking his friend and comrade, but Max looked...stunned. His gaze went to Val as he just blinked. “Say something!”
“Can you understand us?” I asked.
Max looked at me and gave a wobbling nod, but said nothing yet.
“This is a dire situation, I know,” I said quietly. “I know the Creid Motto. Whatever it takes. A sudden attack was a bad idea, but I understand.” I also shook him lightly. “What it takes now is a plan, but until we know him better. What it takes now is thought and more understanding.”
He again gave a wobbling nod. Val and Seth helped Max to his feet. His legs were wobbly, too. He was very unsteady.
“My friend is distraught,” I explained to Wahkooha and shrugged. “He is Creid. I’m sure you know their reputation. It won’t happen again.”
Wahkooha nodded, “Next time, he will die. This was a warning.”
I looked again at Toby. He was still just staring at Wahkooha. I knew his vision was sharper than almost any person. I wanted to ask him what he saw; but not now and not here.