Saturday, April 22, 2017

Book Two of The Princess Tara Chronicles, The Princess Witch, Chapter Two

Coming This Summer

Chapter Two
Part One

The old lady slowly made her way down the sidewalk along Ballard Avenue, couple blocks short of the old Ballard City Hall bell tower, a salute to the once free city of Ballard. She walked slowly, aided by a cane. One halting step after another. Short, severely bent over, she appeared so frail it seemed a good gust of wind might blow her over. Her white bushy bouffant hair stuck out in every direction giving one to wonder how she managed to stand up at all to the weight of such a massive hairdo. White boots and white pants matched her hair and sandwiched her black coat. She held a long black flight feather in her free hand.

As she approached an intersection a good Samaritan passing by stopped to ask if she would like her help to cross the street.

“Why thank you, young lady,” the old woman said, bending up to look at the young woman. “That would be so nice of you,” she said in a voice so soft the young woman could barely hear her. The young woman reached out to take the old lady’s arm. The old lady touched the young woman with her black feather. Just like that, where a good Samaritan had stood reaching out to take the old lady’s arm, the young woman vanished. In her place a large black crow danced a circle on the pavement in front of the old lady, cawed wildly, and took flight, flying over the adjacent building and out of sight.

“Mind your own business honey,” the old lady cautioned, too late to help the young woman.

The old lady hobbled across the street only to find a huge puddle of rainwater blocking the sidewalk thanks to a clogged storm drain. She halted and looked indecisively up and down the sidewalk. A middle aged man walked up behind her and asked the old lady if she needed help the negotiate the puddle.

“Thank you young man,” she said.

“You flatter me,” the man responded. “I’m not that young anymore.” He reached out to take her arm. She touched him with her black feather. Just like that, the man disappeared. A mallard duck appeared in the puddle, paddling circles in the water. A homeless man who had crouched in a nearby doorway for shelter from a rain squall screamed and ran away down the sidewalk.


∆∆∆

Jean stopped by my apartment after she closed her coffee shop, not long after Michael and I returned from our trip to Charlie’s Bird Store. She looked delectable in her tight black jeans and white cashmere sweater. I thought to myself that Jean wore cashmere well.

“The strangest things have been happening here in Ballard today,” she blurted out soon as I opened the door.

“I’m happy to see you too,” I replied with a grin as I bent over to kiss her. “Come in and have some pizza,” I told her. “There’s someone you need to meet.”

Jean walked into the kitchen with me. “Oh. My. God! She exclaimed. Her face froze in shock as she stared at Red Tara, sitting at the dining table with Blue Tara and Michael, feasting on pizza and beer, with Margarita at Michael’s feet chewing on a slice of pizza as well. By now I had the pizza place across the street trained to have a couple of pizzas ready for me every day.

Jean could not stop staring at Red Tara. Which is understandable because I mostly couldn’t stop staring at Red Tara, even with a totally naked crystalline blue skinned Amazon warrior goddess with a battle axe sitting next to her.

“Red Tara saved my butt at the U Dub,” Michael said. “She also appears as a red macaw, which for some inexplicable reason is called a greenwing macaw.”

“That’s because they have green feathers on their wings,” Jean replied.

“Only certain people can see Red Tara for who she is,” I added. “Michael told me that the students on campus could only see the red parrot, and not the red four-armed goddess that we are priviledged to see.”

“What happened that caused her to need to save your butt?” Jean asked Michael.

“One word. Kinqalatlala.” Michael replied. “Oh, and the lalenox. Two words, I guess.”

“Lalenox?” Jean asked with a puzzled expression on her face.

“Zombies who kill people just by touching them.”

“Which is why I’m here,” Jean said.

“What is why?” I asked.

“There’s been the strangest goings on here in Ballard today. People are disappearing. One of my customers said some homeless guy was screaming about an old lady who turned a man into a duck just by touching him with a feather.”

“Oh shit,” Michael said.

“Yes?” I was almost afraid to ask.

“Sounds a lot like a hadaho,” Michael replied. “A powerful witch that can transform people into birds and other animals.”

“Just terrific,” I said. “First Kinqalatlala. Now this. They’re coming after us.”

“There’s more,” Michael replied. “Hadahos can also transform stone and statues into animate beings as well. They can create their own zombies.”

“Why are they coming after us now?” Jean asked, as she grabbed a beer out of the fridge and joined us at the dining table.

Red Tara finally spoke. “They are not coming for you,” she said. “Not yet. They are creating chaos. They want to sow fear. Keep us off balance. We need to keep our focus on our plan to defeat Hamatsa.”

“Which is?” Jean asked.

“You must enter the city of the dead and find the tlogwe.”

“Wait. What? I must enter the city of the dead?” Jean responded, perplexed. “What city of the dead? And why me? And I thought nothing would surprise me anymore.”

“Not you Jean,” I replied. “She means me. She’s talking about underground Seattle. The Taras seem to believe the source of ultimate power to defeat Hamatsa is buried below old Seattle, down in Pioneer Square.”

Jean stared at Red Tara and Blue Tara for several moments. “Can’t we get you some clothes?” she finally asked. “All this nudity is disconcerting. Are all the Taras naked?”

“You know,” I replied. “I said something along those same lines earlier. But apparently parrots have feathers to cover themselves with.”

“But they’re not wearing feathers now, are they?”

“Clothes just get in the way during battle,” Blue Tara interjected. “You should try our way sometime,” she said to Jean. Jean’s face turned red as a beet.

“I’m not really interested in joining a nudist colony,” she replied. “And Seattle’s just too damn cold and damp to go around naked.” Jean looked at me. “This must be a male wet dream,” she smirked. I could feel my face flush. “I knew it!” she exclaimed. “You guys love this.”

“Not to change the subject or anything,” I responded, trying exactly to change the subject, “but we need to focus on the matters at hand. Shouldn’t we be out looking for this old lady that Jean’s talking about? Especially since she’s right here in Ballard?”

“It would be pointless,” Red Tara replied. “These ghouls can change their shape at will. The hadaho most likely already has taken a new form. No. We need to keep our focus on finding the tlogwe.”

“What’s a tlogwe?” Jean asked.

“The source of ultimate power,” I replied. “Given by the spirits to those brave enough to enter their realm.”

“That sounds ominous,” Jean said. “And I’m almost afraid to ask. But where is this spirit realm? And who’s going to be dumb enough to take on this mission?” I raised my hand.

Old Seattle was built on a Duwamish Indian burial ground,” Michael replied. “Somewhere under Pioneer Square. And someone who is not me needs to go down there to find it.”

“We went to see Charlie today,” I added. “There may very well be an old smugglers’ tunnel under his shop that will lead us into the buried city.” I took Jean’s hand in mine. “You feel like doing some spelunking with me?” I asked her.

“I will go spelunking with you,” Blue Tara interjected. “What exactly is spelunking?”

“Sure,” Jean replied. “I’m off tomorrow. So yes, I’d love to spend the day with you looking for zombies and monsters in dark and dangerous tunnels. What could possibly go wrong?”

“I will go with you,” Blue Tara stated. “To protect you,” she added, with what I sensed to be an unnecessarily gratuitous tone in her voice.

“Kurukulla will stay with your friend Michael to protect him.”

I shrugged. “I remember reading in history books about a time long long ago when knights errant wandered the land protecting damsels in distress.”

“How quaint,” Blue Tara replied.

“I am beat,” Jean said. “I want to call it an early night.” She looked at me. “I don’t suppose your bedroom door has a lock on it?”


Part Two

The next morning Blue Tara did her time and space bending trick to send Michael, Margarita, and Red Tara back to Michael’s office at the U Dub. We left Aboo, the blue and gold macaw, to guard the apartment. Then Jean and I, along with Princess Tara, hopped into my truck and drove down to Pike Place Market. We arrived early enough, well before the shops opened for the day, before Charlie’s Bird Store opened, so finding a parking spot proved no trouble at all. In fact, I parked directly in front of the original Starbucks. Princess Tara became very animated when she spotted the coffee shop. Jean and I were ready for coffee too, so we walked in with Princess Tara on my shoulder.

I sensed that Princess Tara was ready to disappear half the line in front of us, mostly office drones, if she didn’t get her coffee. Too early yet for the tourist crowd. I asked Jean to order for us while I grabbed a table out front to keep Tara from an unnecessarily precipitous action.

Thankfully Jean came out with three cups of coffee, and set two iced Americanos in front of me. I smiled at her. Without so much as a thank you, Tara ran down my shoulder, hopped onto my lap, and dunked her beak in the coffee.

“I don’t suppose the spirit world offers any lunch amenities?” I joked.

We sat in silence for a few moments drinking our coffee and watching the disparate market vendors setting up their shops for the day. The flower mongers arranged their strikingly beautiful flowers with colors so bright they almost seemed painted. Tee shirt vendors arranged shirts with their Seattle scenes. Deli workers cleaned and filled their display cases. As I looked down the line of stalls, I noticed a frail old lady with a cane gingerly making her way across the cobblestone pavement near the flying fish booth, aiming toward the brass pig. She sported the whitest and wildest crop of hair I had ever seen on any woman. Or man. Then I noticed what appeared to be a long black feather in her hand.

I grabbed Jean’s arm and pointed. “What was that you were saying about an old lady turning people into birds just with the touch of a feather?”

Princess Tara pulled her beak out of the coffee cup and ran back up onto my shoulder. Pinning her eye at the old lady she let out a screech right in my ear that almost burst my eardrum.

The old lady reached the brass pig and touched it with her feather. Imperceptibly at first, the brass pig started to move. It raised its head slowly and then took a halting step forward. People rushing by halted and stared. The old lady turned and pointed her feather directly at us.

The gigantic pig pawed the cobblestones with its hoofs. First one foot. Then the other. No longer frozen in brass, the animal raised its head and looked directly at us. It started snorting. Then it charged.

We sat only a short block away from where the statue had stood. In just moments, before we could react, the animal charged two-thirds of the way down the block directly towards us. The hooves clanked on the cobblestone, getting louder as it got closer. I swear I could see the animal madly snorting as it approached. I jumped out of my chair, knocking over the coffee cups. I grabbed the table thinking to upend it as some sort of barrier.

Gunshots rang out behind us. The front legs of the charging pig buckled and its head plowed into the cobblestones only a few feet from where we stood. Charlie stood next to us with his 45 Smith and Wesson in his hand, pointed at the pig’s head. Princess Tara jumped on the table and screeched. I covered my ears with my hands and closed my eyes from the pain of the noise.

“You folks okay?” I heard Charlie ask. “I saw the princess perched on your shoulder from down the street so I thought I’d join you for coffee. Whatever in hell was that thing, anyway?”

I opened my eyes and looked around the market. There was no sign of the old lady. The pig once again stood frozen in brass unmoving in front of the famous flying fish booth. Three cups of coffee stood unspilled on our table.

“Looks like Tara reset the clock,” Jean said.

“Did you disappear the old lady?” I asked Tara.

“She disappeared herself,” Tara replied. “Her magic is too strong for me.”

“Disappear who?” Charlie asked. “What just happened.

“I think Michael called that a hadaho,” I replied. “A witch that can turn stone and statues into living beings.”

“Maybe,” Charlie said. “But my friends Smith and Wesson can turn them back into stone.” He patted the 45 on his hip.

“You have a permit for that?” I asked.

“Don’t need no stinking permit, son. Washington State allows open carry. At least they used to, before the new regime.” Charlie pointed at our coffee cups. “I sure could use a cup of joe, though,” he said.

“Don’t know about joe,” I replied. “Will an americano do you?” Charlie nodded. I purchased an Americano for Charlie and we headed down the Pike Hill Climb to Charlie’s shop. I stopped momentarily at the brass pig and patted its snout for good luck.

Not having a clue what we might encounter below the streets of Seattle, I brought along a day bag with a couple of flashlights, extra batteries, some rope, a few Cliff Bars, and a couple bottles of water.

For once Princess Tara did not resist entering Charlie’s store. Once inside, Charlie said, “I want you to take my 45.” “Better to be safe than sorry. Only thing is, you have to promise to bring it back to me, or don’t bother coming back at all. Understand, son?”

“We’ve got Blue Tara with us,” I replied. “What do I need a 45 for? It’s been years since I’ve even fired a gun. This isn’t the Wild West.”

“You sure? What would you call that brass pig coming to life and charging you? If I hadn’t shown up when I did. . . “ Charlie pulled the pistol out of its holster. “It’s not rocket science, as they say.”

He showed me the gun. “You’ve got the clip release. Safety. Slide action.” He demonstrated the various functions. “And I’ll give you a couple extra clips to put in your bag.”

“I’ll take the pistol,” Jean said.

“What?” I responded in shock.

“I know how to shoot. My family were big hunters when I was growing up. Spent most weekends during summers at the family cabin practice shooting with my brothers at varmints out in the woods.” Jean took the holster and belt from Charlie. “Better that someone who knows how to use a weapon uses the weapon. Less chance of accidents that way.”

I began to feel rather inadequate, but I knew better than to argue the point with Jean. She put on the belt and holster. Damn, I thought. She looked hot packing heat.

“You sure you don’t want to go down there with us?” I asked Charlie.

“No thanks, boss. I’ve still got the shop to run. And I hate dark confined spaces. And I don’t mind saying, I’m scared of ghosts.” I gave him a look of surprise. “Yes, even me at my age. There’s powers and mysteries in this world that people are better off not messing with. I’ll stay here and watch the door, so at least you know there’s nothing sneaking up behind you. You’ll just need to worry about what’s in front of you. Godspeed, son.”

Charlie dropped a ladder down into the basement through the trap door. Princess Tara spread her wings and jumped off my shoulder. She twirled through the air, creating a pulsating orb of blue light which coalesced into Blue Tara.

“My. Oh. My!” Charlie exclaimed, staring at Blue Tara in all her naked Amazonian glory. “I am so sorely tempted to join you.”

One by one we climbed down the ladder. Blue Tara’s glowing crystalline blue skin bathed the basement in an eerily surreal light, as if we were entering another dimension. Jean and I failed to realize as we stepped toward the darkness before us, we were in fact entering another dimension.


∆∆∆

Charlie dropped the trapdoor shut over our heads and I pulled the flashlights out of my pack for Jean and me. At the back of the damp and muddy basement we found a heavy wooden door sealed by a large steel lock.

“This would be your department, Jean,” I said.

“Cover your ears,” she replied. She pulled the pistol out of the holster, aimed at the lock, and fired. The lock exploded in a cloud of metal shards. I hoped that Charlie didn’t hear the gunshot over the din of the birds in his store. I gave the door a kick and it creaked open.

“God I hate that sound,” I said. “Makes it sound like we’re in a horror movie.” I shined the flashlight into the passageway. About six feet high and three feet wide. Looked like a mining tunnel with a line of posts and beams holding up the ceiling and walls of the tunnel. And off we went.

I immediately lost any sense of distance as we made our way toward the ever receding darkness. The tunnel grew larger the farther we walked. Eventually the rock and mud floor turned into broken pavement and cobblestones and we found ourselves walking on one of the old city’s original sidewalks. The tunnel’s walls gave way to jagged stone and rotten timbers.

An open doorway led into what appeared to be another basement. Jean and I shined our flashlights around the room. I stood stunned into silence. This was an historian’s dream come true. Instead of being empty and desolate, furniture filled the room. Mud stained and covered with dirt and cobwebs, but furnished none the less. Chairs. Tables. Even an old tattered sofa tucked in a corner.

“Nice antiques,” Jean finally said.

“Damn,” I replied. “Now I know where I can get furnishings for the St. Charles Hotel. Too bad this isn’t a shopping trip.”

“There’s another door over here,” Jean called out from the back of the room. I pushed the door open and we entered another room, not dark but softly lit by a partially buried skylight in the ceiling. More furniture. Chairs. Reading tables. A couple of tattered settees. Broken hookas. We had stumbled into an opium den.

Blue Tara stuck a pipe into her mouth. “Should you be doing that?” I asked.

“Just checking,” she replied.

“I’m surprised you even know what that is,” I said.

“There are many methods to expand the mind,” she replied. “I will show them to you someday.”

Another door. Another basement room. Jean screamed. I ran up behind her. She stood in the doorway shining her flashlight at a chair in an otherwise empty room.

Someone sat in the chair. Dirty black hair. Pallid scalloped white skin. What appeared to be a tattered canvas bag for a shirt.

“He looks dead,” I observed. Blue Tara walked around the body.

“A lalenox,” she said. “A warrior of the spirit world. We are on the right track.”

“Is he dead?” Jean asked.

“He looks dead,” I replied.

Tara grabbed her battle axe and with one quick blow lopped off its head. The body remained sitting in the chair. “It’s dead now,” Tara said.

“No blood,” I said. “It must already have been dead. Wonder how long it’s been sitting here? And why?”

“A message to those like us who pass,” Tara replied. “And a warning.”

I kicked the chair and the body toppled onto the floor.

“We must continue on,” Tara said.

Another doorway led onto a street, paved with cobblestones. Old sailing ships used cobblestones for ballast. When they docked in Seattle to pick up timber and logs, Seattle’s primary export, the ships dumped the cobblestones on the beach giving Seattle free paving material for its first streets. We looked up and down the street, lined with partly ruined timber store fronts on concrete and stone foundations. I imagined I could hear the sounds of a piano playing in the distance.

“Listen,” I said. “Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Jean replied.

“I thought I heard a piano playing.”

“Stop that,” she said. “You’re freaking me out. You’ve watched too many John Wayne movies.”

"Or Twilight Zone episodes," I replied.

We walked down the street for about a block before we found it buried in rubble. Storefront after storefront seemed to be filled with abandoned furnishings.

“This used to be street level before the Great Seattle Fire,” I said. “After the fire, this was all filled in and covered over, and what had been street level became basements for the new city built on top of this.”

“Apparently not all filled in,” Jean replied.

“I never in my life would have imagined how well preserved this would be,” I said. “It’s like walking into a time capsule. Every historian’s dream come true.”

“Why don’t more people know about this?” Jean asked.

“Probably for safety reasons,” I replied, as clouds of dust and rocks rained down on us whenever the ground shook from the traffic over our heads.

With the street blocked by rubble we ducked into another storefront, what appeared to have once been a saloon. A long bar stood against a wall covered by a long busted mirror. Wooden tables and chairs lay broken and scattered across the floor. An antique player piano stood against the back wall. I tapped a couple of the keys and the room filled with discordant sound. “Needs tuning,” I said.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” Jean said. “It’s creeping me out. Not sure if we want to be announcing our presence down here.”

“Sorry. Point taken,” I replied.

“This way,” Blue Tara said, standing at an open doorway behind the player piano. We peered through the doorway. Instead of another basement we found a vast cavern which stretched into the darkness beyond the reach of our flashlights.

“How is this possible?” Jean asked.

“We are at the heart of the old city,” Blue Tara replied. “We are about to enter the realm of the ancients that once claimed this place. The realm of the spirit world.”

“Are you talking about the old Indian village?” I asked.

“We are about to enter a place where the laws of your physics and reality no longer apply.”

“Terrific,” I said. “I suppose there’s no turning back?”

“There is no turning back if you ever hope to find the tlogwe. There is no turning back if you ever hope to defeat Hamatsa. Our only hope is to go forward. If we go back all will be lost.”

“I was afraid you were going to say that.”

“Oh come on,” Jean said. “Buck up. Do you think Indiana Jones ever backed out of an adventure. How many historians ever get the chance to relive history?”

“Well, none actually,” I replied.

“So you’ll be the first,” Jean said. “Put your name into the history books for sure.” She put her arms around me and kissed me. Long and hard.


Part Three

We moved on into the cavern. At first total darkness beyond the reach of our flashlights. We seemed to be walking on forest floor. Grass and brush covered small meadows between towering pine trees.

“How is this even possible?” I asked.

“Open your mind,” Blue Tara replied.

I heard the sound of a large gathering of people in the distance. Shouts and cries interspersed with what sounded like chanting.

“We are coming to the village of the ancestors,” Blue Tara said. “Be on your guard.”

Soon we saw the lights of several large bonfires. Billowing flames tossed menacing shadows across the cavern from people dancing around the fires. A magnificent Duwamish longhouse stood before us. The front decorated with a fierce double-headed serpent brilliantly painted in red and black and yellow. A totem, at least twenty feet tall, stood in front of the long house. On the totem four frightening winged ghouls stood on top of each other. The four furies, the giant raven Qoaxqoaxual, who feasted on the eyes of Hamatsa's victims. Hoxhok, the giant crane, who cracked open the skulls of his victims with his great beak and devoured their brains, and the two condors and feathered grizzly bears Gelogudzayae and Nenstalit.

“Turn off your lights,” Blue Tara ordered. “Do what I tell you. And only do what I tell you. Understand?”

“Yes ma’am,” I replied.

We slowly approached the longhouse. No one seemed to take notice of us. Not the dancers. Not the audience. Not even taking notice of a tall naked crystalline blue skinned glowing Amazon witch with a battle axe. Blue Tara motioned us to the back of the assembly and stood with her right foot resting on her left knee. Jean and I sat on a log lying on the ground to watch the ceremony in progress, as if we belonged there.

A cleared piece of ground between the bonfires in front of the longhouse served as a stage. Four men walked onto the clearing. They wore western clothing. Tattered, soiled, and torn. Their faces blackened, eagle feathers covered their hair. Each of the four men carried a menacing lance.

Four other men entered the stage. They wore grizzly bear hides for cloaks and grizzly bear skulls on their heads. They held bear claws in their hands. A solitary figure walked onto the stage behind the grizzly bear dancers. A tall man with long disheveled black hair, he towered over any of the other men on the stage. Scaly pale yellowish skin under a red cedar bark cloak. The flickering light from the bonfires highlighted his gleaming red eyes. I practically swallowed my tongue in surprise.

“Hamatsa!” I exclaimed. Jean grabbed my hand.

“Quiet,” Blue Tara admonished, in a whisper.

I sensed Hamatsa’s burning red eyes staring straight at me. The people sitting around the bonfires took up sticks and commenced beating time on planks they held in their laps. The four grizzly bear dancers lifted Hamatsa on their shoulders and paraded around the square. Once. Twice. A third time. And again. They commenced to chant to the beat of the planks:

“We follow Hamatsa to the ends of the world.”

Then they paraded back the opposite way around the square, chanting:

“Hamatsa made me a warrior.
Hamatsa made me pure.
I destroy life. Hamatsa is a lifemaker.”

The grizzly bear dancers and the men with the lances rushed out into the audience and seized four people, two men and two women, who they dragged onto the stage, screaming and struggling. One of the grizzly bear dancers slashes the throat of one of the prisoners with a razor sharp bear claw, and the man falls to the ground which pools red with his blood. The other three captives immediately stop struggling. Hamatsa walks up to each person, opens his mouth revealing glistening ivory fangs, and rips their necks open. They fall to the ground. After a few moments writhing in pain they lie still. Dead. Hamatsa pulls out a flask from under his cloak and sprinkles a clear liquid over the bodies. The four people on the ground, previously dead, stir and jump onto their feet, their faces wild with fright. Unrestrained, they run into the darkness.

“Water of Life,” I observed.

A solitary man enters the stage and walks up to Hamatsa. A shaman, the man wears deerskin leggings and a chilkat blanket boldly embroidered with a double-headed serpent. He wears a crown of red cedar bark and holds a rattle carved in the shape of a serpent’s head. The man takes handfuls of eagle feathers out of a bucket filled with eagle feathers and tosses them over Hamatsa’s head. Hamatsa begins to dance. First slowly. Then frenetically. He begins his dance crouched down, then slowly raises his body until he is dancing standing straight up.

The shaman swings and shakes his rattle in wide circles over his head for about ten minutes while the assembly beats time on the planks on their laps, crying:

“Wai, hai, hai!”

Then the shaman signals the assembly to stop beating their planks. Deep silence grips the scene. Silence so deep it seems I can hear hearts beating. Hamatsa begins to chant the cannibal song:

“Ham ham amai, ham ham amai, hamai, hamaima, mamai, hamai hamamai.
Ham hamam ham am ham am amai hamei hamamai.
Ham ham amai
Ham ham amai
Ham ham amai
Ham ham amai.”

The shaman steps to the front of the stage and cries out:

“Great is the fury of this great supernatural being, Hamatsa. He will carry men on his arms and torment them. He will devour skin and bones, crushing flesh and bone with his teeth.”

A loud murmur breaks out from the assembly as the dancers step to the side of the stage making way for four fierce creatures to step out of the shadows and into the light. The four furies. Qoaxqoaxual. Hoxhok. Gelogudzayae. Nenstalit. They are followed onto the stage by a striking svelte dark skinned woman with piercing black eyes and long black hair. A woman who is totally naked.

“Oh. My. God!” I cry out inadvertently. “Kinqalatlala!”

She steps in front of the furies and signals the grizzly bear dancers. They drag a woman, also totally naked, onto the stage. The woman seems drugged and unresponsive. She needs help standing up.

Kinqalatlala steps up to the woman. She raises her hand to the woman’s face and her hand turns into a narrow steel blade. Kinqalatlala thrusts her hand through the woman’s chest, and the woman falls to the ground dead. Bending down Kinqalatlala slashes the woman’s chest with her hand. She buries her other hand into the chest and rips out the heart, holding it over her head, blood dripping onto her face and outstretched tongue. Hamatsa steps up to Kinqalatlala and takes the heart and commences to eat it. The assembly picks up their sticks and begin to beat time on their planks once again while the furies fall on the dead woman. Qoaxgoaxual the giant raven pecks out and eats the woman’s eyes while Hoxhok the giant crane splits the woman’s skull with his giant beak and sucks out her brains. Then the furies rip her flesh and devour her body.

Jean takes my hand. I can feel her body shaking in fear. I am stunned into silence. Not one muscle on my body so much as twitches.

The assembly begins to chant:

“Wa ha, wa ha, wa ha, wa ha, wa ha, hai ya, ye he, ya ye, yay a, wa ha, wa ha, hai ya, ye he, he ya, ye ha, ye ha, ye ha, hoip!”

Hamatsa sits on a cedar bark mat while continuing to devour the dead woman’s heart, his face coated with blood. Kinqalatlala dances around Hamatsa. She takes some burning cedar bark and shakes it over Hamatsa’s head, showering him with sparks. The grizzly bear dancers accompanied by the warriors with the lances return to the stage and pick Hamatsa up on their shoulders, carrying him into the darkness, followed by the four furies, dragging their victim with them.

Jean and I sit looking at each other in stunned silence.

“The dead live beneath the real world,” Blue Tara said.

Kinqalatlala dances back onto the stage, sweat and blood on her naked body glistening in the flickering light of the bonfires. She dances directly to where Jean and I sit, and grabbing my shoulders pulls me up on my feet and onto the stage. She commences to chant:

“I keep down your wrath, great cannibal Hamatsa.
I keep down your whistles, great cannibal Hamatsa.
I keep down your voraciousness, great cannibal Hamatsa.
You are always devouring property, great cannibal Hamatsa.
You are always devouring food, great cannibal Hamatsa.
You are always devouring heads, great cannibal Hamatsa.”

Kinqalatlala put her arms around my shoulders and pulled me to her. Her breasts stick into my chest. As I struggle to break free of her grip I see Jean trying to get to her feet, but Blue Tara takes her arm and restrains her. Kinqalatlala puts her hands on my face and swipes her tongue across my lips. I can taste blood.

I finally manage to break free and stumble back off the stage as the four furies reappear out of the darkness to surround Kinqalatlala. I sit down on the log with Jean and Jean puts her arm around me.

“How can she know who your are?” Jean asks. “If this is the past, she hasn’t met you yet.”

“Time is relative,” Blue Tara interjected. “The past is present. And the present is past. You must drop the constraints of your linear reality.”

“Maybe we should get out of here,” I said. “Quit while we’re ahead.”

“We can not leave without the tlogwe,” Blue Tara replied. “Otherwise, all is lost.”

“You keep saying that, but how and where do we find the tlogwe? And how will we recognize it if and when we find it?”

“Patience,” Blue Tara said. “We need to get into the longhouse. We may find the answer we seek within.”

“I don’t think the furies are going to stand by and simply let us walk in,” I replied. “So how are we going to get in?”

I shouldn’t have asked. Blue Tara screeched and I found myself inside a large dark timber structure, on my knees, with my hands pressed over my ears. So much for getting used to this time space bend thing I thought to myself. When I opened by eyes I saw Blue Tara helping Jean to her feet. The blue glow from Tara’s crystalline skin gave a nearly empty hall an eerie ethereal effect. Fantastical demons and serpents were painted on the walls in colors so vibrant the figures seemed to be alive. Jean took my hands and helped me to my feet. We were not alone.

Hamatsa stood in the center of the room, his sickly yellow scalloped skin turning blue from Tara’s glow. “What you seek is not here,” he said, baring his fangs.

“How do you know what we seek?” I replied.

“You seek what you can not have. The source of ultimate power. Ultimate power to destroy me and stop the Winalagalis.”

Kinqalatlala appeared at Hamatsa’s side. “Only those who have tasted death and entered the spirit world are able to seek the ultimate treasure,” she said.

I could still taste the blood on my lips from Kinqalatlala’s kiss, but I thought better than to tell her that.

“Only those who have tasted death can achieve everlasting life,” Kinqalatlala added. “Ultimate power and everlasting life rests with those who can take life and restore life.”

“You’re just mad we whooped your ass,” I replied, probably with more bravado than warranted in this situation. “Don’t think we can’t do it again,” I added, as I stepped to Blue Tara’s side.

“There are no defeats or victories,” Hamatsa said. “What matters is who prevails in the end.”

Do not underestimate the power of the Taras,” Blue Tara replied.

“You do not understand power,” Hamatsa said. “Until you gain the power to control life and to control death you will have no power against me.”

Hamatsa signaled into the darkness of the longhouse. The grizzly bear dancers appeared carrying a large cedar box. They brought in logs and sticks and constructed a bonfire in the center of the longhouse, and ignited it with a burning feather stick from the bonfires outside. Kinqalatlala stepped into the cedar box and lay down. The grizzly bear dancers covered the box with a large plank. They lifted the box and placed it on the fire. Kinqalatlala could be heard chanting inside the box:

“I keep down your wrath, great cannibal Hamatsa.
I keep down your whistles, great cannibal Hamatsa.
I keep down your voraciousness, great cannibal Hamatsa.
You are always devouring property, great cannibal Hamatsa.
You are always devouring food, great cannibal Hamatsa.
You are always devouring heads, great cannibal Hamatsa.”

The box quickly caught fire and became engulfed by the flames. After a few moments Kinqalatlala’s chanting ceased. The cedar box burned fiercely for about half an hour and everyone of us just stood and stared. Me, Hamatsa, his attendants, Jean, and Blue Tara. Not uttering a sound, we were mesmerized by the flames consuming the cedar planks of the box. I did not hear one scream or cry from Kinqalatlala trapped inside.

Eventually the box collapsed in ashes and the flames died out. The grizzly bear dancers took sticks and brushed through the ashes, kicking Kinqalatlala’s charred bones to the side. Hamatsa piled the bones in a small pyramid and placed Kinqalatlala’s skull on the pyramidion. He produced his flask containing the Water of Life and poured it over the pile. The shaman appeared and removed his chilkat blanket, placing it over the bones.

Hamatsa began to chant:

“Ham ham amai, ham ham amai, hamai, hamaima, mamai, hamai hamamai.
Ham hamam ham am ham am amai hamei hamamai.
Ham ham amai
Ham ham amai
Ham ham amai
Ham ham amai.”

I practically swallowed my tongue when the blanket began to rise off the ground and a human form took shape beneath the cloth. Hamatsa and the shaman each took a corner of the blanket and pulled it off the body. Jean screamed. I stood dumbfounded. Kinqalatlala stood unharmed and alive before us. She stepped up to me.

“Until you are willing to face death you have no power over us. Are you willing to face death?” she asked me, pointing to the ashes of the cedar box.

Not really, I thought to myself. Not knowing what to say I said nothing. I certainly did not want to go through the fire ritual I just witnessed.

Blue Tara stepped up to Kinqalatlala, holding her battle axe in her hand. “There is more than one way to die,” she said. “Are you willing to face death at my hand?” she asked, raising her battle axe. The four men holding the lances scrambled out of the darkness to surround Kinqalatlala, their lances pointed at Blue Tara.

“You may control death,” Kinqalatlala said, “but you do not control life. That is your weakness. And that will be your downfall.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jean pull the 45 Smith and Wesson out of her holster.

End of Chapter Two

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