Excerpt for The Four Winds from the Silver Mountain by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



The Four Winds from the Silver Mountain

by R Kane

Smashwords Edition | Copyright 2017 R Kane

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This book is dedicated to my fans who make me feel invincible.


Thank you, my friends.






Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as ravens’ claws’ – Jim Morrison



Cold is the water

It freezes your already cold mind

Already cold, cold mind

And death is at your doorstep

And it will steal your innocence

But it will not steal your substance’

Timshel’ – Mumford and Sons



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Sometime in the past…

She stood in the doorway of her small Adobe hut watching the four children play outside, it looked to be a game of tag, although she wasn’t sure which child was supposed to be ‘It’. If you asked her, the children didn’t know either what with all four running from each other and screaming like mad, because it seemed as if a single touch from anyone would make them ‘It’. So again, exactly who was ‘It’ she asked herself with a smile?

It wasn’t young Sara, the young girl with the long dark hair and ebony skin to match, who hails from a tropical island south across the large ocean with its long white beaches and deep blue water. It wasn’t the boy who ran past her, dodging her attempt to touch his shoulder with a quick side step. His name is Ru, and he wears his hair cut short in the style of his ancestors, as he is a direct descendent of the people of the Steppes, nomadic horsemen with a reputation of being such ferocious fighters that whole cities surrendered at simply hearing of their approach. Though, this evening, only three other children feared him, and one was Marisol who gave a scream and quickly ran away from Ru. She was born into a small village by the sea named for the explorer Cortes, brought into this world as her mother left it. Her father had died in the mines he worked months earlier leaving the little one alone, just like Ru and Sara.

All three children were orphans, their parents taken by an unseen hand which twisted each one’s fate ever so cruelly. All three were supposed to die at birth or shortly thereafter, a death arranged before each even had a chance to breathe a single ounce of the air of this world.

Then there was John, her precious white hair.

He was an orphan as well, only his mother and father were alive, and thankfully somewhere far, far away from here. John didn’t know this of course, there was no benefit to be gained by knowing his path into this world began as one of betrayal. How could it help to know your mother and father were just moments from selling you off to the mysterious ones who had seen your birth in visions and meant to kill you before you could bring about their predicted destruction?

And yet it wasn’t just John who was alone in this life. It was all four children who were marked to be murdered before birth by a cosmic force, a God you might call it. A prophecy foretold by seers and oracles from days when man recorded words in stone would haunt the children before any of the four had even been conceived. Were these young ones, her adoring children she had come to love with all her heart, truly the ‘Four Winds’ those seers and oracles had foreseen? How could they be, so small and vulnerable as they were? Yet, she knew more than anyone else, there were awesome forces no man or woman could control, bring to heel, and these four were part of those forces.

Such was the prophecy, and any who tried to stop it or ignore it were fools for doing so.

A day of reckoning was coming and all four must be ready for it. The children must be prepared to meet and challenge the ones who would hunt them down for a final fight. It was why she had come to this remote part of the new Americas, this land of the Red Sky and high bluffs. She had been drawn here, pulled by that very same cosmic force to raise and protect the four who would one day bring about the end to a God.

“They look like they’re having fun Grandmother.”

She knew the voice, it was Kota, the man from across the oceans who soon would teach her little ones an ancient martial art to defend themselves physically against the ones who sought out their deaths. This was his task in this world, the physical, while her teachings to the children would be of the endless worlds just beyond the veil of this one, the ‘Other Worlds’. ‘Grandmother’, it was the name everyone called her because that’s who she was, the matriarch who looked after all who came to her seeking guidance. She was a shaman to most, a simple messenger who walked between this world and the next.

Or so she let everyone to believe.

Although there were those though who knew her true powers, these people were few as Grandmother kept her secrets locked away from prying eyes. “Let them have their fun, tomorrow they must leave this carefree life behind and begin walking a new, more dangerous path.” She whispered letting the smile fade from her face.

Kota stared at her for a moment, seeing a beauty there in a face which may have been around fifty. Her long black hair showed just a hint of grey at the temples and her face was touched with just a brush of age lines. No one was truly sure of Grandmother’s age, or her past, as she said nothing of the first and spoke little of the second. He did know, just like her, that some force beyond the everyday normal directed him here to this place. Kota was no shaman like Grandmother, but neither was he ignorant of ‘Fate’. He was a master of an ancient teaching, a life bound to an art of self-defense taught to him by his father, and who was taught the art by his father before him. Kota stood just short of six feet with a wiry frame which hid a fierce physical strength, even at an age of 60 years. His dark eyes peered with a hard stare holding back an even more dominant will and determination.

An unseen hand had led him from his small village in Japan, from the small dojo his grandfather had built, just before it was destroyed by fire. He conveniently, and rather mysteriously, found passage across the oceans on a decrepit wooden air ship when none were allowed to leave the small Island nation. That old air ship was rotten, and should have fallen from the sky, especially during the mighty storm which overtook them, and yet he still made it this strange new land. The way he dressed, in a traditional black and grey kimono with his long grey hair tied into a braid, drew contemptable stares and low grumbles at the air station, in a place called Long Beach. Kota worried little though, as to how he would get to this place he kept dreaming of barely bothered him. The strange force had seen him all the way here, and just like the old air ship which refused to fall apart during the maelstrom, there was suddenly, and conveniently, a man and woman who offered him a ride, right to this very spot. It was nowhere, in the middle of nothing really, and yet there were three simple sturdy huts among the hard plains of a new country. Then a small bit of movement caught the corner of his eye and Kota turned to see a person approaching the huts, someone leading a burro up the trail.

“Are you expecting visitors Grandmother” He asked, squinting against the brightness of the sun, even though it was starting to set for the day.

“It is just a man looking for help with his wife. I better stoke the fire and prepare myself.” Grandmother answered while pulling the blue blanket tighter around her shoulders before walking outside to call to the children, who stopped at their play instantly. “Time to go inside little ones, I have work to do.”

There was a single collective ‘Awww,” from the group before Sara looked up excitedly and asking a question with a single blur of words. “Can we watch you work from the windows Grandmother?”

Before she could answer, all of the children were begging and pleading as little ones do, beseeching with high pitched voices to watch her work. At first, she looked at them quietly, let them carry on for just a second or two. She then raised a swift eyebrow, with a quick stern expression, that instantly brought all four children under control. Every set of those youthful pleading eyes locked with hers as her own silent stare told them not another word would sway her. It might even bring a punishment, but then with a small smile she let her deception drop.

Teasing them was so very easy.

“Go inside and watch from the windows. Quietly mind you, with Mister Kota.”

All four gasped at the wonderful news, then turned and bolted for the door of the large hut behind them. Grandmother chuckled and went to stoking the fire as the man and his wife approached up the trail. From the windows, the four children eagerly watched her with the quiet of a mouse, as the one who raised them greeted the visitors with a wave and a single word of a beautiful language, like the wind as it graced the hanging chimes.

Sometime around 1900…

“What do you mean by ‘it’s all flooded’?”

The Captain’s voice was pure gravel, grating and scraping with each and every syllable. He stood 6 feet 3 inches tall, and appeared just as wide at his chest it seemed. Every inch of him, east by west and north by south, was pure ill will if you crossed him. He glared at the sky pirate in front of him, the poor soul who had come back bearing the bad news of the now sunken treasure hidden here on Oak Island, which was a very large and very well-hidden trove of riches. It was part of the Templar hoard hidden here hundreds of years before, placed into several large vaults dug so deep in the ground it was said a man could fall for a quarter turn of the hourglass down the very shafts before hitting the bottom. The ones who created these vaults, special engineers and masons from a certain secret society, were brought in to ensure the treasure would never fall into anyone else’s hands but the rightful owners. These engineers built booby traps, false shafts which led to phony rooms with empty chests, and special aqueducts which would flood everything if triggered. Which apparently, was exactly what happened to the ones who came looking for the hidden treasures before the pirates.

“Everything is underwater Captain, all the shafts and vaults including the main one, filled right to the very top. There’s even a few holes old Billet never mentioned and those are filled up.” The man stated minding each word carefully.

A loud grumble went through the crowd of pirates standing in the darkness of the woods with the moon high in the night sky, yet barely making any thing visible beyond a foot due to the thick canopy of leaves above them. There was no one left on the island since most of the workers from the company searching for the treasure were long gone, which meant the pirates had no worries of being seen. It seems treasure hunting be an expensive business, argh! And the company paying the bills must be all out of money to pay a wage, a lone figure in the crowd thought, and it took all her might not to giggle. 

The Captain ground his teeth in anger and frustration as the others around him began to speak, tossing out bad ideas left and right like rats from a sinking air ship.

“What if we send a man down the main shaft? Someone who can swum good?” A pirate brought up and all at once it was soundly rejected with spittle, belligerent cries, and harsh words.

“Ain’t no man here got the lungs to dive that deep you fool!”

“And if he did, why would he risk his neck to do such a thing? We ain’t even sure what shaft leads to what room.” Another spat among the chorus of rancor, but then everyone quickly shut their mouths when the Captain bellowed out a growl. It was low, but loud, and unless you were willing to challenge the man it came from, it meant to stop making any kind of noise.

The woods instantly dropped to an eerie quiet and the lone figure started to hope it meant they would be on their way soon. She hated being here on this island, which she heard was cursed, and her skin crawled when any piece of this place touched her bare flesh. The only thing she hated more was the idiot Billets, and the map he gave to the Captain back in London. That cursed old sailor, who had actually sailed on ships that floated on the water and not the air, had a tale about buried treasure which the Captain couldn’t resist hearing, and guess what my friends? Billets had a map too, damn his old wrinkled hide.

“It doesn’t matter if we had a man who could breathe water like a fish, the same as we take in the air. We don’t know which shaft is the right one, or didn’t you hear Tripe here when he came back.” A man to the right of the Captain snapped breaking the silence. Out of the whole crew, he was the only one who could have spoken up and not been shot between his very eyes. He was Jacks, ‘and don’t forget the ‘S’ at the end!’ he would tell everyone, and he was the First Mate here on the Captain’s crew. He was the trusted advisor, somewhat, for the leader of the pirates and sometimes the only sane voice in this rabble she thought as the Captain watched his First Mate handle the ‘boys’.

“The company that’s been looking for the treasure, they dug up a bunch of holes all over the island, all crazy like. Without orienting the map Billets gave us with the cross made from boulders, and the keystones there after, we’re not even sure which hole is the right hole to swim in.” Jacks carried on, shaking his head, helping the ‘boys’ along in the thinking process.

She looked around the group and took mental note of each and every one of them, realizing everyone had forgotten about an integral part of finding the treasure.

The map had to be aligned with the markers.

Yes, the map was a good reference for the shape of the island, but without orienting it to the boulders and the keystones, it was nothing but old parchment paper, not even worth the ink used to mark it. You could eyeball a spot and start digging, much like the treasure hunters who were here before, and come up with naught but an empty hole. The crew hadn’t even started looking for the boulders, or keystones, during their haste to just run like a bunch of flighty geese, right for the center of the Island and the spot marked as ‘Vault 1’ on the map. Now, the daunting task of finding the treasure was starting to sink into everyone’s thick head. They had to find the boulders, then the keystones, and then line everything up correctly before the first spade could touch the dirt they were standing on.

And all of that could take days to complete.

“You there, holding back the smile, what’s your name lass?” The Captain’s grinding voice brought her out of her thoughts with a snap.

She didn’t realize she was smiling, at least till it was too late. Still, with a solid backbone, she spoke up with a strong voice. “Fade Captain, my name is Fade.”

“Fade eh? Well tell me, Fade, how the hell you came to be on my crew?”

It was a test, a trick question to see how she’d react. The Captain knew everyone on board his air ship. Every single pirate. One did not come and go but by his leave, and his leave alone, and he made it a point to know everyone’s story. He had to know about everyone, because too many disloyal souls in a crew can lead to a mutiny.

She gave her head a shake, sending her long auburn hair so full of curls it looked like a bush spit out by a hurricane. “I fought my way on Captain, and I’m willing to fight to stay on.”

The Captain’s eyebrow raised just a little as he turned to Jacks, who spoke up for Fade with a nod and a smile. “She’s a devil with a blade and an even better shot. Twitch found it out just after she came on board.”

“Ah,” the Captain smiled at the name while turning and staring at Fade, “so you’re the one who took Twitch’s arm at the elbow, eh? What, did he try to go where he wasn’t asked to go?”

“I belong to no man and I don’t like being touched. Twitch found both out, and if he had stuck around a little longer instead of running off like a dog, I’d have taken more than his arm.” Fade answered back with every ounce of truth her being held. She was no man’s plaything and never would be, not now at 16, nor a 100 more on in years. Yes, she was a handsome woman with all the right parts in all the right places, but Fade was more than a wench in some corset and breeches. She was going to be a captain herself one day and no pirate, or protectorate, or anyone would stand in her way.

The Captain stared at her for a long minute in silence before busting out in unexpected laughter which sent chills down everyone’s spine, including Fade. She knew the Captain’s reputation, and that scared her just a little as the large man turned to Jacks. “I like her, she can stay.”

“Oh, I agree, but I’d really like to know what she’ do right about now! Go dig in some random spot, or try and decipher this map?” The First Mate answered, then asked.

Damn, another test, Fade thought as she looked from the Captain to Jacks. “I’d get back on the air ship and leave this island in my memory.” She snarled with a flat tone.

“You’d just leave all this treasure behind for someone else to take?” The Captain asked, the growl in his voice lowered, but still present. Maybe she had impressed him, she thought.

“We were never meant to find it Captain, and if we were, will then the whole crew would be bathing in gold coins right now. Billets said the legend was, the one who paid the heaviest price would be the only one who would find the treasure, and we haven’t paid our dues yet from what I can see. It’s why we’re standing here in the dark looking like new born fools.”

“What kind of price do you think old Billets meant?” A man in the back asked and Fade turned to answer him with a blazing glare. She always looked a man or woman in the eye when replying because it was the only way to make sure you got your words and your point through their thick skulls.

“I’m not sure, and I really don’t give a damn to know.” Fade said before turning back to the shadows of the Captain and Jacks. “The treasure is cursed, just like this damnable island, and anyone taking possession of it will have nothing but the spoils that come with curses for the rest of their days.”

The woods fell silent again and Fade wished the light were better so she could see the Captain’s face. She could read his expressions pretty well when she could see them, and she was curious if her words had damned her or brought her some form of prestige. She would never know because before either could answer, one of the lookouts from the beach ran up to the group, huffing and puffing out breath, but thankfully still able to convey a message.

“Captain, it’s the Stray Dogs, they’re here.”

The Stray Dogs were the crew of one Trevor ‘Butcher’ Rollins. He fancied himself another Blackbeard, a chip off the old Edward Teach block, complete with a thrashed man-of-war he called ‘The Queen Anne’s Revenge II’. The only problem was Butcher had no beard, his air ship could barely fly, and he lacked any of Teach’s vile nature and evil ways for which to be dangerous with. Everyone around Fade began to pull out various sized sabers, knives, and guns of all types. The clicking of hammers being drawn back drowned out the scraping of metal on metal as swords were pulled from protective sheaths. Fade smiled a little as she thought old Butcher was about to meet his worst nightmare. A real sky pirate crew who could fight like all the devils in Hell itself.

“Where is he setting in?” Jacks asked quickly.

The panting pirate turned and pointed in the direction he had come from. “In the cove on the east side of the island. He hasn’t seen us or the ship yet.” The lookout offered just before the familiar gravel voice called out.

“Well then, come on boys, and miss! Let’s go greet old Rollins with a handful of animosity and a mind full of warfare!” The Captain smiled evilly before turning heading toward the cove with his crew following. Fade started to follow when Jacks cut her off, his sweet looking body blocking her path.

“You truly ready to fight to stay here?”

She only smiled and drew her cutlass with one hand and her long pistol with the other. “You impress me tonight Jacks, and I might let you touch what cost Twitch his arm?”

Fade was by Jacks in two long steps, smiling with the knowledge she was about to go and get into a nice fight, and maybe a better one afterwards.

Sometime during 1921…

Pain ran rampant through his body, sharp and stabbing. It matched perfectly with the agony in his soul at the moment.

Wahkan looked down to his injured right arm and saw a lump just above the wrist, seeing the joint was also at an odd angle he knew the bone beneath the flesh was snapped in two. With his luck, probably a greenstick fracture. He held his injured appendage with his left hand, cradling his forearm to keep it from moving, but it seemed every thump of his heart sent a spike of agony right into his brain from his arm. He looked down to see his legs were still attached to his body, and with a grimace, he moved both an inch or two, just enough to confirm the limbs were still together and not a match to his broken arm. Wahkan gulped down a large gasp of air and then pushed with those intact legs to roll onto his back from his side, now looking up to the ceiling of the room where he was pretty sure he was going to die in.

He could hear them talking, the only two beings left standing in what was earlier today a road side diner, which it was before all hell broke loose. The remains of the booths around him blocked his sight of the rest of the place, but not the sound of the two who were fighting for his life, his very soul. Wahkan breathed deeply again, while holding his broken arm perfectly still, and fighting back the pain of his physical injuries as he listened intently.

“He is mine, John Greywolf. You have no claim to his soul as I do.”

The voice should have been deeper, from a two pack a day habit and hard drinking. Wahkan knew this because the voice should have belonged to a man who went by the first name of Enoch, no last one known. He was the de facto leader of the murderous gang Wahkan had been tracking, running down for the last two years, and he was never this polite. The gang had killed a small group of Indigenous People just across the border which separated the Homeland from the States, a small town in what was once part of Kansas. The men of this gang had killed his family, his father and mother and sister, murdered all three without provocation or reason. They didn’t even take a thing from the family home, just killed the trio of gentle souls and then left like the wind.

“I have never laid claim to any soul, but Wahkan refused you Dagon, you and your offer both. He can leave with me if he wishes, or he can walk away down the road, which ever fate he chooses it will be with his free will and not your influence, Nightshade.”

Nightshade?

Dagon, that name sounded familiar. Wahkan fought the fog of pain in his brain, trying to focus, and pulled up the memory of the name Dagon. He had heard it somewhere before, along with Nightshade, but the memory was hazy, what with half the synapses in his head being used up by the shock he was feeling from being injured.

“He killed Devlin and Jamison with his own hand, Shaman. He never hesitated, or balked, when he shot them, even though I told him doing so would damn his soul. Wahkan is mine; now or later it does not matter.” The voice of Dagon stated in the cold, but polite voice, which wasn’t even a close to matching Enoch.

Wahkan rolled his head to the right looking back toward the back of the diner, back to where he saw the body of Devlin under a table and the feet of Jamison sticking out of the booth. Yeah, he shot them both, dead before they hit the ground. ‘I had no choice’ Wahkan thought. ‘Both drew on me first and I was reciprocating, but that wasn’t the full truth of it. I came here looking to kill these three men, these murderers, and I damn near did it till Enoch fought back and broke me like an old chair.’ He sighed heavily from his thoughts while trying to ignore the pain. ‘And now look at me, busted up on the inside with a broken arm on the outside, lying still here on the floor like Aunt Bessie’s best rug.’

The voices snapped Wahkan out of his mental turmoil again.

“I know what Wahkan has done Dagon. I also know of your plan to take his soul and of your influence on Devlin and Jamison to ensure your plan worked. I know that is what brought him to this place at this specific time. Your vile intention and nefarious guidance. I know you had Devlin and Jamison kill Wahkan’s family so you could force him to avenge his loved ones and fall into your trap. You have had this night planned for so long, and it was so close to being successful.”

‘What?!’ Wahkan thought with disbelief. ‘I was played this whole time? This ending here tonight, these long two years, it was all part of a plan?’

“What do you mean by ‘close to being successful’ Shaman?” The conniving tone of Dagon inquired.

There was a long pause; too damn long as Wahkan grunted and pushed his injured body to a sitting position with the aid of leaning against a bench. He could see the pair now, John Greywolf standing just a few feet away in what was the open entrance to the diner. He turned his head slightly and spotted Enoch, or Dagon now, standing between the booths and the stools by the long open counter. Damn, Enoch, or Dagon, or whoever, looked scary now with eyes that were jet black and skin as white as a man missing most of his blood.

“You can’t tell can you, Nightshade?” John asked. His white hair was pulled back into a pony tail showing the smile on his face easily. That damn black hat with the wide brim and tall crown adding to the look of the shaman as some strange mystic.

“I cannot tell what?” Enoch/Dagon growled with a snarl as he retorted.

‘Yeah, what am I and Enoch missing here John?’ Wahkan asked no one in particular while sitting quietly thinking to himself.

The Shaman only continued to smile, looking out from under that black hat with the beaded band. “Has your plan truly worked, is the soul you’ve waited so long to possess really yours now Dagon? Maybe you should take a quick look and see?”

‘Now what the hell did that mean?’ Wahkan asked silently again as he swallowed hard. He watched as Enoch/Dagon looked incredulously at John for a minute before closing his eyes with a snap. Wahkan was happy for not having to look at those black pits for a second, but then both were open abruptly, back as Enoch/Dagon’s eyes shot open with a jerk.

He suddenly looked quite upset Wahkan thought, for whatever he was. Dagon, who had tricked him to kill in order to possess his soul was very pissed at the moment.

“How is this possible? How can he deny ME?”

The Shaman shook his head and spoke calmly. “He invoked the Great Spirit before walking through the doors to the diner. He called upon the One to watch over him, and in doing so, ceased any claim you might have had to him, Dagon.”

‘I did’, the large man thought with a smile forming on his face. ‘I asked the Great Spirit to look over me and guide my hand.’

“No, no, that is not possible, it is not ALLOWED!” Enoch/Dagon screamed with a shrill, ear piercing voice.

“It is more than allowed Nightshade, it has been done, and now it is time for you to leave this world, Dagon. It is time to return to your realm Nightshade.”

The last from John was like a slap to the face, and Wahkan was sure if Enoch would have drawn iron on the Shaman for saying such a thing, then this Dagon would most certainly take exception with those words. And as sure as the sun would rise, the being did, because he growled even deeper. “Try and send me back yourself, John Greywolf.”

Even while sitting on the floor, Wahkan could easily see the large Bowie knife John pulled from the sheath he kept strapped sideways at the small of his back. He could see the Shaman spin the knife in his hand so the spine of the blade ran up against his forearm and the pommel was just an inch or two past the top of his fist.

“I sent your brother Silas back to your realm Dagon as well as Malfeus, you will be no different if you force my hand.”

And there it was. The challenge accepted without hesitation.

‘It was just like a few minutes ago, when I walked in here’, Wahkan silently told himself. ‘I locked eyes with Devlin and Jamison, knowing full well there was no backing down coming and no mercy expected, and then we were pulling our guns and slinging lead.’

He wondered how these two were going to fight, because neither was reaching for a gun, and Wahkan figured a weapon like a pistol wasn’t the way this was going to go anyway. Wahkan breathed deep, waiting silently while watching intently both the Shaman and Enoch/Dagon. Someone’s going to make the first move, they always do, and this thing is going to end in the blink of an eye.

Then Enoch/Dagon abruptly stepped back and smiled cruelly. “The Indian is your shaman. Know this though, one day I will repay you for interfering in my affairs. Mark my words, and mark them well, John Greywolf.”

“And I will be waiting for that very day Dagon,” was all John said in reply before the spot where Dagon was standing flashed with a white light so bright it blinded Wahkan.

His hand was busy cradling his broken arm, so Wahkan had no defense against the bright glow except his eye lids, which had little effect. He sat cringing in the simultaneous pain of his broken arm and the light, both flooding his brain with a sharp crescendo of agony. Then it was gone, the light and the pain from it, allowing Wahkan to open his eyes again and see the scene. As he did, he noted John was next to him now, squatting down while resting a hand on his shoulder, the same one which held the large knife from before, the blade now home in its sheath on his back.

“I can safely say you’ve seen better days my friend.” John said with that knowing smile.

“Yeah, I think I did pretty good though. It took Enoch using everything not nailed down in the Diner here to beat me with before I’d go down to the floor.” Wahkan smiled back. He remembered getting hit with a stool and a sizable part of the cash register before everything became a blur.

The shaman couldn’t help but chuckle while reaching under Wahkan’s arm, but before he could help the large man up, a question from Wahkan stopped him cold. “Why’d you come back for me John?”

“Would you have left me to a similar fate my friend?”

The counter response was a good one, and with anyone else he’d have said yes, because these days Wahkan had little use for friendship. The fact of the matter was, after the war, coming home had been a hard change. He had seen so much death in those trenches over in the war, and then to come home and find his family killed, well Wahkan had no friends because he didn’t want any. There was just the impending confrontation with Devlin, Jamison, and Enoch. That was it. Nothing else mattered to him at all, nothing but seeing these three men into their damn graves with a one-way ticket to Hell.

But then he ran into John Greywolf.

“Probably, but I’m not a good man John, not these days.” Wahkan replied begrudgingly, for having to admit the slightest chivalry he didn’t even believe in himself.

The shaman nodded and continued to smile, “but every day gives way to another, a brand-new day with new paths and choices Wahkan.”

The large man looked at John with a wide confused eye. He had been around the shaman for a couple of months now, and he was discovering his companion would say things like this. Little parables with hidden meanings, and all the damn time! When Wahkan remained quiet, and lost, the shaman titled his head and nodded. “Tomorrow is a new start Wahkan. You can begin to walk a new path, or wait until the next day when you are ready to do so. Just know, every man and woman can change, we are not bound to be one kind of person, or do one permanent thing with our lives.”

‘Oh, so that’s what he meant’, Wahkan thought as a laugh started to rise from his chest. ‘And here I thought I was nothing more than a killer.’

The large man felt John suddenly begin to lift him up by his good arm, and the laughter stopped as he wasn’t given much choice to get to his feet. “Damn, I guess I’m going home with you.”

“Zheng said he wanted me to make sure you came back in one piece.”

“Really, why’s that?” Wahkan asked walking toward the exit with ginger steps. He was sore all over, from his eyelids to his big toes.

“He wanted the chance to say, ‘I told you so’, I think,” John chuckled and Wahkan couldn’t help but laugh again even though it hurt like hell.

“Nice. Now I’m going to have to take bunk from a ghost! My life’s already changing.”








The bed was warm. It was the kind of warm one would crawl into, ball up, and fight any and every attempt to take it away from you. Yet, when there was a knock on a door somewhere in the hazy fog which was the state of the mind of one Camille, she began to stir sensing an end to the warmth was coming. She felt the bed shift, the portion of the precious warmth was moving, moving away from her and leaving, which made Camille groan low. No, she thought sleepily, don’t take it away just yet, not this magical…

Coming,” a voice answered the knock, and she felt the bed move again as someone stood up, and even through the fog of slumber Camille knew this was important.

She forced her eyes open just an inch while lying still on the bed, refusing to give up on the dissipating warmth, and caught a glimpse of Fade walking to the door to her personal cabin dressed in her night shirt. It started coming back to the Magi then, in small bits with brilliant flashes in her mind, of all that had happened the day before. The flight on the Protectorate Air Ship, the semi-successful attempt to retrieve the Joris Stones, and the fight to get the air ship to the Yards after Fade had dispatched it with her unmatched skill in the air.

What news is there?” Fade asked the man at the door, his face just visible as the portal was cracked enough to allow the conversation to occur but not much else.

It had been a long day, and Camille had fallen straight to sleep after climbing into bed with Fade, even falling into slumber as the Captain spoke. They were talking about something important, or at least it felt-

We’re just outside the city Captain, tucked away high in the clouds as you ordered.” The man answered, Fade’s second in command Mr. Hayes.

Then Camille remembered then, the memory coming back with a snap, why she was here with Fade on board her air ship the Crescent Moon. They had been talking about John and Wallace, two men both cared for deeply, and even sharing her worry about the Engineer was not enough to hold back the need for rest and sleep. Camille watched as Fade nodded to Mr. Hayes while giving an order.

Good, no one followed us during the night?”

No Captain,” the second replied with a shake of his head, “We weren’t followed, paid close attention to keeping our course a mystery. We’re hidden away now, but there’s an awful number of lights floating everywhere round the city. The sky’s filled with all kinds of Protectorate ships and haulers.”

What city are we just outside of? Camille thought, wondering for the first time where she, and everyone else, had gone while she slept. Were they even around New York still?

When you kick the hornet’s nest Mr. Hayes you have to be ready for the bugs to protect their home.” Fade replied with a nod before continuing on. “Have the crew ready my whip while you take the Moon low enough to let me fly into the city.”

Aye Captain,”

As soon as Fade closed the door after Mr. Hayes turned to leave Camille was up in the bed looking worried, her voice filled with the concern. “What’s wrong with Wallace and John?”

The Sky Pirate Captain crossed the deck of her cabin with long steps grabbing her pants off the floor. “I don’t know if there is anything wrong with them Camille, but I intend to find out.”

I’m going with you.” The Magi stated with the emphasis on all four words. Camille slid to the end of the bed and began to get dressed as did Fade, and she quickly asked a question. “Where are we? Are we still flying around Manhattan?”

No,” Fade answered buckling her pants then picking up her corset, “we flew to Chicago through the night.”

Chicago?” Camille gasped with some shock as she slipped her pants on.

Fade waited a whole second before carrying on with the conversation. There was no time to waste if they had plans on catching John and Wallace. “Yes, I had Mr. Hayes take us here on a not-so-direct path so we’d arrive alone and in secret.”

Why are we in Chicago? Why are Wallace and John in Chicago?”

John has a friend here in the city, and with the trouble he’s stirred up, I’m sure the shaman will be going right to see her first thing.”

That was right, Camille thought as she reached for her corset as well, there was an elderly woman on the West Side who everyone knew specialized in the ‘old ways’. She hailed from Western Europe, and as such, she was wise in alternative medicines, remedies, and other arcane things. The immigrants who poured into Chicago inevitably ended up on the West Side, and all found their way to her small shop, searching for unique cures and ancient wisdom from the old country.

He’s going to see Twyla,” Camille interjected lacing up her corset quickly with a practiced hand.

Fade nodded as she began to pull on her boots, “because she’s one of the few he can confide in.”

The last from the pirate slowly, and mercifully, vanished till the room was quiet. Camille could see the small twitch in her friend’s cheeks and corner of her mouth, the only sign of pain she would ever show. Fade was as strong as any man, stronger that most the Magi had met, and yet she still felt the touch of loneliness.

Maybe he goes to her because she is the only one who understands what he has…seen.” Camille offered, trying to reach out and comfort her dear friend, and yet when the reply was quick and fiery she was not hurt. She expected it really.

If the man would stop and talk to the ones who care for him then he would have more than just one old lady who understands him.”

And with the end of the retort the room fell silent again. Camille knew to let her friend have some space, Fade was more than capable of asking for a hand, or a word of reassurance. In truth, she was just as stubborn as the shaman the Magi knew, so it was no wonder that the relationship found a quick end, or had it Camille was thinking as a knock at the door broke the quiet. We are in Chicago, chasing John she continued to think as Fade yelled out.

Enter, we’re dressed!”

The door swung open immediately and Mr. Hayes walked in a couple of steps speaking. “There’s new trouble Captain.”

What is it?” Both Fade and Camille asked in unison, the voices intermingling so perfectly Mr. Hayes stalled, confused for a moment, before answering.

The man on the Hertzian Wireless picked up a transmission between the Protectorate and the local Magi House, about Miss Camille here.”

The pirate looked to her friend quick, with a concerned expression, as Camille inquired as to what was intercepted. “What was said?”

Your to be detained the moment you step inside the Magi’s House Madame, and then handed over to the constabulary forthwith, no questions asked.”

The words were like thrown daggers, each one sinking deep into Camille’s heart with soul wrenching pain. All she had known from a young life was the Magi, the elders and the Umbra, a family which had raised her and praised her and rewarded her work with magic. Now, the ones she had looked up to and sought the admiration of were hunting her down, like rogue Weavers who had defied the law of the land. She was nothing more than a criminal, one to be hunted, and by the very people she had wanted to please so much.

This can’t be Mr. Hayes; the man must have heard it wrong.”

No, my Captain, I was standing beside him the whole time the transmission was broadcasting. We both heard the same thing.”

Fade spun to her friend, who looked about ready to expel her breakfast on the deck, if she had any food to throw up that is the pirate thought. “This isn’t right, can’t be right.”

She was still reeling from what Mr. Hayes had said, to the point answering Fade was not possible for Camille. She was just trying to breath when Mr. Hayes threw just a little more weight on top of the pile already sitting on the chest of the Magi.

The Magi were told to be on the lookout for the two Weavers as well. Both lasses get the same as Miss Camille, locked up till the Protectorate come for them all.”

The Weavers? They know the Weavers are here in Chicago?” Camille snapped, the shock of the moment instantly dispelling.

It looks like I was right about where John was going to end up, and someone else figured it right as well.” Fade spoke, looking from one face to the other in the room with no pride for being right. She only shook her head slightly as she continued. “If the Protectorate and the Magi are looking for the Weavers then they’ll be after John and the others, as sure as I’m standing here.”

This means the Umbra will be out in force, and in number, blanketing the city. We have to find John and Wallace before they do or we will never see them again.” Camille whispered, the words slipping out low on a long exhale.

The room was quiet again, for just a minute, before the pirate looked to her friend and spoke. “I think we’re about to kick the same hornet’s nest John did.”

“Hornet’s nest Captain?” Mr. Hayes asked looking confused with a raised eyebrow. The First Mate would never question his Captain, even if she were talkng about flying bugs, but it did seem a rather percuilar time to be asking about insects.

“I need to be dropped off near the Magi House in Chicago, not so close as to draw attention though.” Camille suddenly ordered and the request brought a pause to the First Mate.

Mr. Hayes looked to his captain for a moment confused and then back to Miss Camille. “Beg you pardon Madame, but didn’t you hear what I told you? The Magi and Protectorate are looking for you and it’s not to ask where you spent the night.”

“I know Mr. Hayes, and thank you for the concern.” Camille smiled as she started to fix her hair.

“All right, I’ll play this game, why do you want us to drop you off in the proverbial lions den?” Fade asked getting her belt off the floor.

The Umbra, or former leader of the elite hunters, shook her head signaling she would not be dissuaded from her plan. “I have to warn Ezio to stay away or else he’ll be sought by the Protectorate just as I am.”

“Ezio?” Fade and Mr. Hayes quipped at the same moment.

“Yes, Ezio,” Camille smiled holding her chuckle in at the sight of her dear friends while continuing on. “He was the one who suggested to me there is a secret conspiracy between the Magi and Protectorate. If the Umbra are hunting me they will certainly be after him.”

“And you have a way to warn him, which just happens to be in the one place where you go you get put in shackles?” Fade inquired with a heavy dose of sarcasm as she clipped her sword on her hip.

“Just like John and his secrets, I have my own my friend. I know of a way to get a message to Ezio through a mutual friend. I have to do this my Fade, to leave my second without a warning would be kin to betrayal.” Camille explained.

She had expected Fade to say something to stop her, to persuade her that this was a fools errand, but the Sky Pirate just looked to her friend and smiled. “We can drop you off anywhere you wish, on one condition?”

“And that is?”

“You be careful, or else I’ll have my crew fight any and every Protectorate in this city to find you.” Fade promised, and like any pledge, it touched Camille to her very soul.

Oh my dear sweet friend, the Magi’s warm smile said silently, I will always be safe.

Across the dark morning sky, toward the North Side of the city, another pair was waking in the early morning. She had been sleeping so well, deep and restoring, that Boles never felt her love Wells get up. It was only when the dark-haired Weaver reached over with the intention of wrapping her arms around the smaller body of the green haired Weaver did she discover the missing form. Boles patted the empty space twice, and then with a snap, sat up looking for the one who should have been there. After her sleep filled eyes adjusted, she spotted Wells at the door, the portal cracked just enough to allow the Weaver to look out.

What are you doing?” Boles asked with the befuddlement one might have when waking too quickly. She started to sit up as Wells whispered back.

I think John is leaving the ship.”

Boles slid on her robe and crossed their room with silent steps to huddle next to her love by the cracked door. “Why is he leaving?”

I don’t know,” Wells sighed eyeing the hall beyond their room with worried eyes, “has the ship stopped? I can’t tell, it doesn’t rumble or shake like any of the other air ships I have been on.”

The dark-haired Weaver shook her head, sending her long curly hair tussling. “I don’t know either, all I feel is the strange tingling from the walls and floor where I touch. Wait, how do you know John is leaving?”

The question brought Wells attention away from the door and hall beyond and to her love Boles. The green haired Weaver’s brown eyes were filled with the same concern as her voice as she whispered. “I had a dream about him.”

Oh my heart, it was just a dream and nothing more.” Boles smiled, reaching up to stroke her companion’s beautiful cheek.

Wells though, only shook her head and sighed, “no it was not Boles. It was like the dream I had the night before we were discovered by the horrible man who sold us to the equally horrible men in the brothel. It was the same feeling of dread as the one I had the night before Isaac was killed.”

Boles breath caught in her throat, right below her larynx, stealing any words she would have proffered, if she could speak at all. The mention of both times when Wells prophetic dreams had come true was enough to throw the dark-haired Weaver off from consoling her love. Then voices could be heard, a door farther down the hall opened, and any chance or thought of soothing Wells was lost as both ladies turned to looking out the door. Out in the hall they could see nothing for a moment, just hear the recognizable voices of the three men who had come to their aid the day before.

I’ll drop off a list with the market so we can restock the kitchen and ship.”

The voice was even, calming, with a slight Southern drawl, which was John both Weavers knew. The mysterious shaman who knew so much about them it was actually scary, and yet so safe in the same instance. There was no need for secrets because he knew the true person behind the mask, and more than that, what made you feel truly safe, was the fact he made no judgement about that person. You could be who you wanted to be, were meant to be, and never worry if you were accepted as a friend.

We can pick it all up on the way back in, no problems.”

That was Wahkan, his deep voice easily distinguishable. He was the protector, the one you would never have to ask to be by your side Boles thought and the image struck her funny. She had built a psychological wall and guard against men, and women, for all the years she had been with the Magi’s. A deep distrust of everyone due to the treatment she was forced to endure, only with Isaac that wall had begun to crumble until she was taken again and locked away. Now, after looking into the large man’s eyes and his hard-set jaw, Boles felt that guarding wall was wavering once again because, like with John, she felt she could trust this man with her life.

Since Wahkan will be taking care of the ladies, I’ll be looking to meet some old friends, that’s if he doesn’t mind of course?”

Now that voice was easy, the Scottish accent ringing like music to the Weavers ears. It was the engineer of the ship, the one called Wally, the technoist who built the box which kept things cold and the boiler which kept the rooms warm. They could see the large side burns on his face and the bowler hat on his head. Just like the others, he was a protective soul, a quiet man who preferred his tools and machines to human contact of the open world due to some tragedy in his past.

Now that hurts me to the proverbial bone Wally. You don’t want to spend the day with me?” Wahkan said with a mock hurt. The sound of it made both Weavers instantly smile and fight to hold back a giggle.

Well, as sweet as you are you big dobber, I am afraid I’ll have to decline the offer due to a more pressing engagement.” Wally responded with his own mock pain.

Then the three were passing by the door and the light from the hall instantly disappeared sending the room into the dark for a moment. Then it lit up again as the group passed and they continued to talk.

Yeah, and what’s more important than John’s request or me for that matter?” Wahkan shot back.

Wells stood at the door a moment longer waiting till the three were gone before opening the door quietly so she could look out. The group was down the hall now, just passing the kitchen, and still carrying on.

I’m betting it’s an old boiler, or broke down engine, something that hasn’t run for a very long time and only Wally can fix.” John smiled.

Nah, my guess is it’s some new tool that can do something neither of us understands but keeps Wally up at night all excited.” Wahkan retorted quickly.

They were down by the stairs now, ascending the flight one step at a time, and Wells felt a sudden need to catch up, to keep the men in sight. She felt it so strong she bolted from the cover of her room, out into the hall, chasing them down with silent steps. She couldn’t let anyone leave yet her mind and fear screamed, not yet before giving them a warning.

Wells!” Boles hissed trying to stop her love but watching with horror as the green haired Weaver ran after the men. She barely had a chance to stay a step behind the girl as Wells ran quietly after John, the three still talking.

You keep it up you two and there’ll be no hot water to bathe with!” Wally remarked, which was quickly followed by a rather jeering comment from the ghost Zheng.

That would not bother Wahkan. He does not bathe!”

The jest sent a hearty laugh through John and Wally while Wahkan only eyed the helmsmen of the Gāi Gōng De Tiānkōng while firing back with a grin. “Keep it up Hui and you’ll find yourself back in the Waiting World.”

Zheng Hui was going to reply to the large IP. He had a response ready to fly when a figure flew past Wally and Wahkan both, knocking into them as she passed. Wells gasped as she came to a stop by the one she had chased after so desperately. “John, wait!”

The shaman turned and smiled, looking down at the small Weaver as she reached out and grabbed his arm. He was wearing his usual white shirt under the custom hand-crafted leather vest, the one with the ends of the cords holding the material secure hanging down past the sides of his waist, and his goggles and his black hat with the beaded band. “Good morning Wells, I hope we didn’t wake you with our good-natured fun.”

No, you didn’t,” she blurted quickly shaking her head, “but you can’t leave your ship today.”

The suddenness of the statement, as well as the apprehension, was not missed by the white-haired man whose eyebrows raised slightly from surprise. “And why is that my friend?” John asked calmly.

There was no response, no answer at first from Wells, but then another voice broke in speaking for the Weaver. Boles pushed her way past the stunned Wally and Wahkan while calling out. “Wells had a dream.”

A dream?” Wally whispered looking to the large IP, but Wahkan only shrugged his shoulders and watched.

A dream, about me?” John asked lowering his eyebrow before smiling handsomely. It was nice, to know only a few short hours ago the Weavers were suspicious and closed to him and the others, but now open and even concerned. “What was this dream about Miss Wells?”

The Weaver swallowed hard while pulling her robe tighter around her shoulders to hold back the pre-dawn cold. Or maybe it was the fact she noticed all the eyes of everyone had settled directly on her and the attention was more than unsettling. Whatever it was, Wells mustered up her courage and spoke in her beautiful British accent.

I saw you talking to a shimmering spirit, two bodies trying to be one but not able to.” She began, stopping only long enough to take a breath, long enough for John to shake his head. The eagle feather tied to the cord which hung off the rear of the brim twirled as he spoke.

I will be fine Wells, there isn’t a need to worry.”

No, no, that wasn’t the danger.” She sighed shaking her head, the pair of long green bangs whipping from the motion. “The shimmering spirit was just talking to you, something else was coming for you, something from the dark of the shadows.”

She was obviously upset, it was easy to see, and with a calm voice Wally tried to ease the Weaver and her concern. “John will be fine lass, he’s a big boy you know.”


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