Saturday, May 27, 2017

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

Chapter Six
Part One

The thousands of Kinqalatlalas in the crystal city before us all stopped and turned to stare at us. “Someone want to tell me what’s going on here?” I asked, stunned.

“I think this is where the black witch explains why everyone in her world looks like her,” White Tara replied.

“To make you comfortable, you see my people in a form that is familiar to you,” Kinqalatlala responded.

“Seeing everyone looking exactly like you makes me distinctly uncomfortable,” I stated. “If your people are shapeshifters, why can’t they take different shapes? Like birds. That was much less unsettling to look at.”

“I am sorry you find me unpleasant to look at.”

“What? No. That is not at all what I mean. You should know that.”

“I only know what you tell me.”

“It’s just that seeing all these people looking exactly like you makes me a bit confused and uncomfortable.”

One of the Kinqalatlalas of the thousands standing before us walked out of the crowd and stopped in front of us. “Welcome to the city of the Dluwulaxa,” she said. “It is a pleasure to see you again, Kinqalatlala,” she added, bowing to the original. “We had feared you were lost to us.”

“I am happy to be home again,” Kinqalatlala replied. “I hope the time comes soon that I can return to my world.”

“Is this the one?” the duplicate asked, looking at me.

“The one what?” I responded.

Kinqalatlala put her hand on my shoulder. “This is the one who is searching for the Tlogwe.”

Michael stepped up to my side. “We have been assured that the Tlogwe is located here in your city. How about you just show us where it is?”

“I have explained to my friends that the Tlogwe is not an artifact that can be displayed to anyone who wishes to see it,” Kinqalatlala replied.

“Then take us to the Tlogwala,” I said. “Please help us. Take us to your leader.”

“Hey,” Michael responded, elbowing me. “How come you get that line?”

“Dluwulaxa have no leader,” the duplicate replied. “We are all equal.”

“That must be why you look all the same,” I commented.

“When the time is right, the Tlogwala will find you,” Kinqalatlala replied. “If you are deemed worthy.”

“Then why are we here?”

“To find the Tlogwe.”

“You’re giving me a headache,” I replied.

“Everything will be explained in due time,” Kinqalatlala retorted. “To find the Tlogwe one must first prove themselves worthy of receiving the gift of the Tlogwe.”

“In the meantime we wish you to enjoy the hospitality of the city,” the duplicate said, sweeping her hand back toward the crystal pavilions. “Please follow me.”

Before I could take a step, Kinqalatlala grabbed my hand and whispered in my ear. “Beware. Not everything is as it appears.” She released my arm and walked away.

I put my arm around Jean’s shoulder. “Be alert. Something is wrong.” She gave me a quizzical look but didn’t respond.

We followed the duplicate Kinqalatlala to the nearest crystal structure. The building towered above us. The duplicate waved her hand and a doorway appeared at the base of the wall. She entered and we followed her inside. Michael and I both halted and whistled.

While the outside of the building appeared to have limits, the inside of the building seemed limitless. Here I saw the wide expanse of sky and clouds that I witnessed on my first trip to this world. And here we were greeted with the chirps, calls, and birdsong from the myriad assortment of birds I previously witnessed. I turned to look back out the doorway, but the doorway had vanished.

“These are Dluwulaxa?” I asked.

“Here you see our people as they really are,” Kinqalatlala replied. “A life of perfect peace and perfect freedom.”

“Yeah, I know. Shangri-La. You can forget the sales pitch. I’m not interested.”

You may not be, but maybe your friends are.”

“We’re here to see the Tlogwala. Nothing else.”

“Please follow me,” Kinqalatlala’s duplicate said. She waved into the void and another crystal structure appeared where previously we saw only clouds and sky. A doorway opened at the base of the wall and we followed the duplicate inside. This crystal pavilion stood completely empty.

“Just one massive empty fishbowl,” I observed.

“You will wait here,” the duplicate said. She stood silent, looking at her feet, then dissolved into a small black bird that flapped its wings and flew away into the ether.

“I need coffee,” Blue Tara blurted out.

“Don’t get me started on how hungry I am,” Michael replied.

“What do your people do for food?” I asked Kinqalatlala.

“The sun is our food,” she replied.

“Of course it is. In the meantime we’re getting hungry.”

“Please be patient. You will be provided with everything that you need.”

“What did you mean when you said everything is not as it appears?”

“This is not the place,” she replied testily. “Do not speak of it again.”

The doorway appeared in the wall behind us and the duplicate Kinqalatlala entered and walked up to us. “Please accept our hospitality,” she said, pointing behind us. We turned to see a table where only void had existed before. The table literally sagged under a cornucopia of breads, fruits, and vegetables.

“Pizza?” Blue Tara asked.

“I’d settle for a cold beer,” I replied.

White Tara darted off Blue Tara’s shoulder and alighted on the table. She took a bite out of one of the fruits and violently shook her head, spitting the fruit out of her beak. “It’s poisonous!” she exclaimed, disappointedly shaking her head.

“What the fuck,” I said, looking at Kinqalatlala. I grabbed her arm and pulled her to me. “This is your idea of hospitality?”

“This is my idea of hospitality,” the duplicate replied. Her voice had changed. We turned to look at her. In the place of Kinqalatlala’s duplicate stood a tall man clad in black leather. His black fedora only partially hid his long stringy black hair and pale scalloped yellow skin. The black fedora highlighted his gleaming sunken red eyes.

“Hamatsa!” I cried out.

Jean swung the shotgun off her shoulder. “I blew your fucking head off!”

Hamatsa pointed a gloved hand at Jean. “By now you should know how useless your weapons are against me.”

Kinqalatlala grabbed Jean’s arm. “If you spill blood you will doom the world of the Dluwulaxa to destruction.”

“What is Hamatsa spills blood?” I replied.

“The destruction of Dluwulaxa is exactly what Hamatsa desires,” Kinqalatlala said. “Just as he desires the destruction of your world. I beg you. Do not give him the opportunity to spill blood.”

“And what? We just let him poison us?”

“Run away while you have the chance,” Kinqalatlala replied, pointing to the doorway behind Hamatsa. “The gagits await. Save yourselves.”

I took a step toward the doorway. Blue Tara stepped in front of me, hand on her battle axe. “We came to find the Tlogwe. If we leave without it we are doomed.”

“Damned if we do. Damned if we don’t.” Michael responded.

White Tara flitted off Blue Tara and onto Hamatsa’s shoulder. She took hold of the brim of Hamatsa’s fedora with her beak and flung it off his head. Hamatsa craned his head to look at the bird and batted at her with his hand. She jumped off but not before taking a bite out of his ear. “You stupid witch!” he exclaimed. “You will pay for your insolence.”

“Oh fuck all,” I said in exasperation. I turned to Jean. “Blow his head off.”

Before Jean could unsling her shotgun, Hamatsa dropped his chin to his chest, looked at his feet, and dissolved into a small black bird which flapped its wings and took flight.

“What in the hell was that?” I blurted out.

“A test of your forbearance,” Kinqalatlala replied.

“A test? You’re testing me? That wasn’t the real Hamatsa?”

“In whatever form Hamatsa appears, he is a very real threat to you and your world, as he is to mine.”

Before I could respond Hamatsa walked through the doorway back into the crystal pavilion and stopped in front of us. Then a second creature looking exactly like Hamatsa walked through the doorway, stopping behind the first Hamatsa. Then a third. And a fourth. A steady stream of duplicate Hamatsas walked into the crystal pavilion, quickly filling the visible space.

“This is getting silly,” I said. “None of them are real.”

“How can you be sure?” Kinqalatlala replied. “You do not understand the extent of my master’s powers.”

“For one thing, there haven’t been any snarky comments from any of these impostors.” I walked up to the first Hamatsa and stared into his gleaming red eyes. “Eyes are the windows into the soul,” I said. “I sense no soul behind these eyes.” I stepped back. Every Hamatsa dropped his chin to his chest, looked at his feet, and dissolved into small black birds. The birds flapped their wings, took flight, and disappeared into the sky.

“Come with me,” Kinqalatlala said, taking my hand in hers. We walked a short distance into the pavilion. I turned to look back at Jean and Michael and the Taras, but a crystal wall materialized between us, blocking any view.

“Hey, wait!” I exclaimed.

“Do not fear. They are safe.”

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I want you,” she replied. She took my hands and placed them on her breasts. She put her arms across my shoulders and pulled me to her. Her tongue licked my lips, and slid between my lips to meet my tongue. She slowly pulled me to the floor and on top of her.


“Wait!” Jean yelled, as a crystal wall materialized in front of her.

“What the hell!” Michael exclaimed. He ran up to the wall and ran his hands over the crystal surface. “There doesn’t seem to be any kind of doorway here,” he observed.

“Oh no!” Jean exclaimed. “The outside doorway is gone too.” Unblemished blank crystal wall obscured the doorway that previously had been there. “We’re trapped.”

“This is getting weirder by the minute,” Michael said.

“Wonder if I could blow a hole through it with the shotgun?”

“I wouldn’t try. You might hit them on the other side. You might bring the whole wall down on us. Or the buckshot might blow back right in our faces. Let’s not try that. Maybe Blue Tara can bend time and space through the wall?”

Blue Tara screeched before Jean and Michael thought to cover their ears. Nothing. The crystal wall still blocked them. They still stood on the wrong side of the wall. “Or not,” Michael said with a sigh. “Or we could just stand here and wait,” he added, as the crystal wall disappeared.


As Kinqalatlala pulled me down on top of her she said, “I want to feel you inside of me.” She kissed me again.

“Enough!” I cried out. I pushed myself up and off of her and struggled to my feet. “What are you trying to do?”

“I want you.”

“I’m already spoken for.”

“What can your friend offer you? I can offer you immortality.”

“A decent cup of coffee.”

Kinqalatlala looked at me in stunned silence. And then waved her hand. The crystal wall disappeared. Jean and Michael and the Taras ran up to us.

“What did she do?” Jean blurted out.

Nothing,” I lied, as I put my arms around Jean and hugged her.

“You’re a piss pour liar,” Jean replied, kissing me. She smacked her lips and pushed me away from her. “Someone else has been kissing you.”

“She tried,” I pleaded. “But I stopped her.”

The doorway reappeared at the base of the crystal wall and Hamatsa walked into the pavilion once again.

“Oh fuck,” I said. I pulled the shotgun off Jean’s shoulder, pumped two rounds into the chambers and pointed the barrels at Hamatsa’s head. I pulled the triggers. Kinqalatlala screamed. I pointed the shotgun at Kinqalatlala’s head and pulled the triggers again. The firing pins clicked harmlessly on empty chambers. “I guess I failed your test.”

Hamatsa’s headless body dissolved into a small black bird which cantered out the doorway in the crystal wall just as another Hamatsa entered. Blue Tara pulled her battle axe off her belt and with a single swing separated his head from his body. The head rolled back out the doorway as the body collapsed on the floor. The body dissolved into another small black bird which spread its wings as it jumped off the floor and flew out the doorway.

“How long is this game going to go on?” I asked Kinqalatlala. “What are you testing us on now?”

Before Kinqalatlala could respond, yet another Hamatsa entered through the doorway. I froze. I sensed a presence I hadn’t sensed before.

“Oh shit,” I said.

“What is it?” Jean asked.

“Hamatsa!” Blue Tara exclaimed. About a dozen lance bearing pale skinned sunken black eyed laxsa followed Hamatsa through the doorway.

“This is the real deal,” I said.

“How foolish of you to fall into my trap,” Hamatsa gloated.

“Yep. Snarky comment and all.”

Part Two

“This sucks big time,” Michael said, rubbing his hand along the shaft of his magic harpoon. The laxsa surrounded us and stuck the points of their lances in our necks. They seized our weapons.

Kinqalatlala leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, “Remember, not everything is as it appears.”

Hamatsa grabbed Kinqalatlala’s shoulder. “Let us all hear, slave. My slaves do not keep secrets from their master.”

“I warned him that resistance is futile,” Kinqalatlala replied, bowing to Hamatsa.

“And so I intent to prove that this very day.”

Hamatsa leaned over to me so closely his nose almost touched mine. I staggered back from the stench of his putrid breath, breath that smelled of death. “I wish I’d brought some breath mints to share,” I said.

Hamatsa gripped my throat with a gloved hand. “I should break your neck. But if I spill your blood the destruction of Dluxulaxa is assured. And I still have use for this world.” I coughed as I felt his hand squeeze my throat. “I will mount your head on the wall of Control before I’m done with you, “he added. “After I cut your heart out of your chest and eat it.”

“I know where the Tlogwala is,” I stammered. Hamatsa released his grip on my neck. “Kill me and you’ll lose that knowledge.”

“That’s not possible,” he replied.

“Can you afford to take that chance?”

Hamatsa snarled and bared his fangs. He grabbed Kinqalatlala and dragged her out the doorway. “What did you tell him,” I could hear him say as they disappeared from view. The laxsa followed Hamatsa out and the doorway vanished. Jean, Michael, the Taras, and I stood alone and unarmed.

“Something’s weird,” I remarked.

“Kinqalatlala told you who the Tlogwala is?” Michael asked.

“I wish. I lied,” I replied. “Hamatsa’s not very bright. But Kinqalatlala warned me that not everything is as it seems.”

The second crystal wall reappeared inside the pavilion and a doorway opened at the base. Kinqalatlala, or a creature that looked exactly like Kinqalatlala, emerged.

“It is me,” she said.

“Who are you?” I replied.

“I am Kinqalatlala.”

“No you’re not. Hamatsa just dragged Kinqalatlala out of here.”

“That was not me. I am me.”

“What? I’m confused. I. . .” I glanced at Jean. “She. . . kissed me. She proposed to me. I know that was her. The other one. Not you.” Jean gave me a quizzical look.

The other was not me. That was a copy of me. Testing you.”

“Then Hamatsa doesn’t know he dragged a copy of you out of here?”

“Hamatsa is a fool. Just like most men.” White Tara chortled.

“Hamatsa has our weapons.”

Kinqalatlala whistled and the laxsa entered through the doorway in the second wall, carrying our weapons. Blue Tara grabbed her battle axe out of a laxsa’s hand and raised it, preparing to strike. Kinqalatlala raised her hand. “Wait!” she ordered.

We took possession of our weapons. The laxsa stood still, dropped their chins to their chests, looked at their feet and dissolved into big white birds that looked like seagulls. Flapping their wings, they leaped into the air and flew out the doorway they came in. The second crystal wall vanished.

“So explain something to me,” I said.

“Yes. I will try.”

“Hamatsa didn’t harm us because he believes drawing blood will result in the destruction of Dluwulaxa.”

“That is correct.”

“Yet we blew the heads off several fake Hamatsas, and we’re still here.”

“As you say, they were fakes. Apparitions. You wanted to believe they were real, so to you they became real.”

“I don’t know what’s real anymore.”

“I am real. The people around you are real.”

“We need to get out of here,” Michael suggested. “Hamatsa’s going to figure out that’s not the real you with him out there.”

“You are correct,” Kinqalatlala replied. “We can not maintain this deception for long. However, you can not leave.”

“What?” I stammered. “Are we your prisoners?”

“It is not that at all,” she replied. “You need to continue your search for the Tlogwala. You are closer than you realize.”

“God, I’m getting tired of hearing that. Why can’t someone just introduce me to the fucker?”

“The fate of Dluwulaxa rests on your finding the Tlogwala. Hamatsa will soon realize his error and unleash his vengeance on my people. We can fight him with deception only so long. We are powerless against his armies and his magic.”

“If we try to fight Hamatsa something is going to get killed. Blood will be spilled. Won’t that result in the destruction of Dluwulaxa?” I asked.

“Only the magic of the Tlogwe can save Dluwulaxa from Hamatsa and his army of the dead. I fear however, it may be necessary to risk the destruction of Dluwulaxa to impede Hamatsa’s plans by use of your weapons. If Hamatsa seizes this world, all hope is lost. For my people. And for your people.”

“Where is Hamatsa now?” I asked.

“He is on the crystal plain gathering his army. His gagits are ferrying his forces to the city as we speak.”

Blue Tara spoke up. “White Tara will fly out and spy on Hamatsa and his army of the dead and warn us when he is ready to march on the city.”

Kinqalatlala waved her hand and the doorway appeared at the base of the crystal wall. White Tara leaped off Blue Tara’s shoulder and darted out the doorway.

“What kind of defenses do you possess?” Blue Tara asked.

“Only the defense of deception.”

“You have no weapons?” Red Tara asked as she flexed her longbow.

“My world is a world of peace. My people have no need for weapons.”

“Until they do,” Jean smirked, pumping shells into the chambers of her shotgun.

“What can we do against Hamatsa’s army of the dead?” Michael asked. “We’ve got two guns and a magic harpoon, which doesn’t necessarily work against things that are already dead.”

“And a Swiss Army knife,” I added, pulling a red-covered knife out of my pocket.

“Well, that changes everything,” Michael replied sarcastically.

“Don’t forget Blue Tara’s battle axe and Red Tara’s longbow,” Jean added.

“And Black Tara’s claws,” Michael said, as Margarita purred and rubbed her body against his ankles.

“Alrighty then,” I replied. “We’re in business.

“I sure would like pizza and beer right now,” Blue Tara said.

“When I get home I’m going to fill the bathtub with beer and drown myself in it,” I said, wistfully.

“I will join you,” Blue Tara replied, “and help you drown yourself.” We all turned and stared at Blue Tara.

White Tara flew out the doorway, executed an inverted loop, and shot straight up into the sky. From her advantage she could see the gagits resting on the edge of the crystal plain outside the city. Wisps of clouds rolling up from the lenticular clouds below bathed the winged beasts. She banked and glided silently toward one of the unwary creatures. Several towering dzonoqwa stood guard off to the side, leaning on their clubs.

White Tara alighted on a gagit almost hidden by the fog. The gagit rested standing on its feet, eyes closed, beak nestled behind its wing. White Tara scurried up its neck and took a bite out of its ear. The gagit whipped its long neck out and screamed. The beast wheeled around and clamped it huge teeth on the neck of the gagit resting next to it.

White Tara darted onto another nearby gagit and planted her beak into a patch of bare skin on the creature’s shoulder. The creature jumped up with a howl and whipped its tail around, taking out the feet of an adjacent gagit, which tumbled to the surface. Jumping back up with a roar, the creature sunk its teeth into the neck of the offending gagit. Both rolled to the surface. Several other gagits, spooked out of their sleep by the uproar, extended their wings, leaped into the air, and took flight, escaping into the clouds. Awakened out of their slumber, the dzonoqwa rushed about waving their clubs and growling, attempting to corral the escaping pterodactyls. One of the gagits, reeling from a huge gash in its neck, spun around and clamped its jaws on the neck of a dzonoqwa, lifted it up and shook it violently in the air, and flung its lifeless body to the surface. The remaining dzonoqwa charged the pterodactyl and rained blows on its head with their clubs, knocking it senseless off its feet.

White Tara darted onto the shoulder of the leading dzonoqwa and bit its ear. Howling in pain, it spun around and smashed its club into the head of the dzonoqwa behind it, knocking it down. The remaining dzonoqwa attacked the offending giant, knocking it off its feet and smashing its skull with their clubs. White Tara flew into the air, banked into a lazy loop while noting that the gagits disappeared into the clouds, and flew back to the crystal pavilion.

White Tara flew back through the doorway to find everyone else feasting at a table laden with fruits and vegetables of every conceivable kind, along with goblets of wine filled to the brim. Looping around the table she alighted on Blue Tara’s shoulder and screeched. “What are you doing?” she cried out. “It’s poison.”

“It is perfectly safe,” Kinqalatlala replied, standing with a goblet of wine in her hand. “Please join us.” Blue Tara craned her head and nodded in agreement. White Tara ran down Blue Tara’s arm and dived into a platter of fruit.

“What did you discover?” Blue Tara asked. White Tara continued eating in silence. “Whenever you are ready,” Blue Tara added as she drained a goblet of wine.

After several minutes of eating, White Tara stood erect, her white beak dripping red with cherry juice, and stretched both her wings. First her right wing. Then her left wing. Then she commenced to speak. “I scattered the gagits and drove them off the crystal plain. And I seem to have created some confusion with the dzonoqwa. Enough so they were attacking each other. It is a temporary setback for Hamatsa, but far from a fatal one.”

“Good girl,” I said. Everyone turned and looked at me. “Sorry. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to tell a parrot? Positive reinforcement?” Dead silence. “Right. She’s not a parrot. Good work!”

“If nothing else,” Michael noted, “she no doubt made Hamatsa mad. Maybe that will cause Hamatsa to react and do something stupid.”

“Or more stupid than usual,” Red Tara added.

“We should take advantage of this opportunity,” I added, “and strike while they’re confused and disoriented. Take the battle to them instead of sitting here drinking wine and waiting for them to attack us.” I chugged the remaining wine in my goblet.

“A very good plan,” Blue Tara replied. “As soon as we finish this wine.” She chugged the remaining wine in her goblet.

“Is there anything like a bathroom around here?” Jean asked sheepishly, looking around the crystal pavilion. “What do your people do for bathrooms?” she asked Kinqalatlala. We all turned and looked at Jean. Before Kinqalatlala could respond, from outside the pavilion, off in the distance across the crystal plain, we heard a terrible scream.


Hamatsa dragged Kinqalatlala out of the pavilion and across the crystal plain to the edge of the clouds where his gagits landed his minions to prepare for the coming assault on the city of Dluwulaxa. “Tell me what you whispered to your new friend,” he demanded.

“As I told you, my master, I said to him that resistance is futile.”

“Do not lie to me you witch. You are not an accomplished liar. Tell me what you told him.”

“I promise, my master. I told him resistance is futile.”

“If you refuse to tell me what you told him I will cut off your breasts and feed them to my gagits. And then I will rip out your heart with my hands and eat it myself.” Hamatsa seized her throat with his gloved hands and lifted her off her feet.

“I told him resistance is not futile,” she gasped as Hamatsa squeezed her throat. She struggled to break his grip. And then her arms and legs fell limp. Hamatsa released his grip and her body collapsed to the surface. As Hamatsa pulled a dagger out from under his coat the body dissolved into a small black bird which flapped its wings and disappeared into the clouds.

Hamatsa heard his gagits scream and howl, followed by the beating pulse of enormous wings flapping and disappearing into the distance. He ran to where the gagits had been left to rest on the edge of the crystal plain. The gagits were gone, except for a couple of torn and lifeless bodies crumpled on the surface. His dzonoqwa stood stupidly around a dead pterodactyl with a crushed skull and a dead dzonoqwa at its feet. Out of the corner of his sunken red eyes Hamatsa caught the flight of a white parrot back toward the crystal pavilion. He shut his eyes closed to concentrate his anger, extended his arms over his head, took a deep breath, and let out a scream so terrible the dzonoqwa dropped their clubs and fell to their knees, their hands pressed to their ears.

“Get up you fools!” he screamed at the dzonoqwa. Gather the laxsa. Enter the city and bring those witches to me in chains. And bring the heads of Kinqalatlala and her new friend to me on silver platters. Get up. Go!” he yelled, pointing to the city of Dluwulaxa shimmering in the sunlight across the crystal plain.


“That can’t be good,” I said as the scream faded.

“Apparently my efforts to impede his plans do not please Hamatsa,” White Tara smirked.

Blue Tara slammed her wine goblet on the table and stood up, battle axe in her hand. “It is time to act,” she said. “Hamatsa’s feeling of omnipotence has been tarnished. He will be prone to rash judgments and mistakes. Now is the time to strike.”

I looked at Jean. “Any chance we could take a bathroom break first?”

Part Three

“We need the element of surprise,” Kinqalatlala said, “if our plan to harass Hamatsa’s cohort is to have any chance of success. If we try to walk across the crystal plain we will be discovered long before we reach our objective.”

“The Taras can turn themselves into parrots and fly,” I replied. Margarita growled at me. “Almost all the Taras,” I clarified. “You are a shapeshifter, so you can turn yourself into anything you want. But where does that leave Jean and Michael and me? We’re certainly not going to sit this battle out.”

“There is a way,” Kinqalatlala noted. “Come with me.” A crystal wall appeared inside the pavilion, and a doorway appeared at the base of the wall. We followed Kinqalatlala through the doorway. Inside we found a massive reflecting pool with a fountain shooting a geyser into the heavens, so high we couldn’t see the peak.

“How beautiful!” Jean exclaimed.

The fountain made the reflecting pool bubble and roil with every color of the rainbow reflected from the brilliant sunlight streaming through the walls of the crystal pavilion.

“How is it you have this gigantic pool of water up her?” I asked.

“It is not water,” Kinqalatlala replied. I looked at her quizzically. “It is a pool of liquid quartz crystal.”

“Oh no!” Michael exclaimed. “You’re not thinking what I’m thinking you’re thinking?” he asked Kinqalatlala.

“What are you thinking?” I asked Michael.

“The four furies. She wants us to bath in the crystal and turn us into birds.”

“No way!” Jean cried out.

“It is harmless,” Kinqalatlala insisted.

“If it’s so harmless, why were the four furies never able to turn themselves back into people?” Michael replied.

“The furies did not possess the magic to reverse the effect of the crystal. And once they were enslaved by Hamatsa it was too late.”

“I refuse to become a furie,” Michael replied.

“I wish to assure you,” Kinqalatlala stated, “that I possess the magic to reverse the effect of the crystal on you. It would only be temporary.”

“This is part of her plan to enslave you into her world,” Jean insisted. “That’s what she’s wanted all along. To make you hers.”

“What do we do?” I asked Kinqalatlala.

“No!” Jean yelled out.

I took Jean’s hands in mine. “I take her at her word.”

“You need to step into the pool and submerge yourself. Completely,” Kinqalatlala replied.

“Come with me,” I said to Jean. “Let’s do this. Haven’t you always wanted to fly?”

“Oh what the hell,” Jean responded.

We stepped into the pool and dunked ourselves in the liquid crystal. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But what I didn’t expect was feeling nothing. Unlike water, the crystal offered no resistance to my body. No pressure. No warmth. No coolness. No taste. No smell. The liquid crystal acted like water but didn’t feel like water. I seemed to be bathing in pure color.

“Come out now,” I heard Kinqalatlala say. We stood up and stepped out.

“You completely disappeared in the crystal!” Michael exclaimed. “Are you okay?” He touched my shirt. “You’re not wet, or anything,” he remarked.

“It’s not water,” I replied. “It’s not like anything that I can describe. Are you okay Jean?”

She nodded. “I guess so,” she said as she stood with her arms stretched out, examining herself.

“How about you Mike?” I asked. “Want to try it?”

“Naw. I’ll stay myself and keep Margarita company.” Margarita walked up to Michael and rubbed her head on his ankles, purring. “We’ll guard the rear,” Michael added, bending down to rub the cat’s head, “and keep you from being surprised.”

I turned to Kinqalatlala. “So did anything happen? I don’t feel or look any different.”

“Close your eyes and imagine yourself flying,” Kinqalatlala replied.

I put my arms out and imagined I was a bird. I felt my feet leave the surface of the crystal pavilion and when I opened my eyes I found myself airborne.

“Oh God!” Michael cried out. “You’re a bird!”

“I am?” I looked at myself, circling in the air. “I look like myself. To me.”

“You look like a big black bird,” Michael said. “A raven.”

“You’re kidding?”

“And Jean looks like a raven too.”

I looked at Jean, who rose up into the air besides me. “Oh shit! Jean looks like a bird.”

“Keep imagining yourselves to be birds,” Kinqalatlala said as she extended her arms and dissolved into a big black raven as well. “Follow me.” She circled the crystal pavilion, banked, and flew out the doorway.

I realized that Blue Tara and Red Tara had transformed into macaws and took flight after Kinqalatlala, with White Tara trailing the macaws. I looked at the raven that was Jean, circling around me. “Let’s go!” I yelled at her, and we both banked and flew out the doorway.

“Good luck!” I heard Michael yell as we flew out of the city and into the open air.

We followed the black raven that was Kinqalatlala and the brightly colored parrots that were the Taras to the clouds roiling up over the edge of the crystal plain. I seemed to be able to fly as long as I kept my arms extended. Anytime I dropped my arms to my sides I lost altitude. I circled Jean a couple of times as she experimented with a barrel roll and a few lazy loops. We alighted in a fog bank where we saw the others land, where we would be safe from discovery by Hamatsa’s ghouls.

Kinqalatlala, Blue Tara, and Red Tara greeted us in their naked Amazon goddess glory. Only White Tara retained her parrot form, perched on Blue Tara’s shoulder.

“How do you see us?” I asked. “Are Jean and I still birds?”

“What form do you wish?” Kinqalatlala asked.

“To be people again,” I replied.

“Then it is so,” Kinqalatlala said.

“I see you in your people form again,” Blue Tara said. “It is most pleasing to me,” she added as she stepped up to me and kissed me. Then she put her arm over Jean’s shoulder and kissed her as well.

“How strange,” I said. “I didn’t feel any different. But we looked like birds?”

“Yes you did,” Blue Tara replied. “It is not so strange at all.”

“Maybe not to you,” I said. “Because that’s your nature. It’s certainly not my nature to be a bird and fly.”

“Did you not enjoy it?” White Tara asked as she flitted onto my shoulder.

“Certainly,” I replied, as I craned my head to look at her. “Flying has always been a fantasy of mine. Ever since I was a little kid.”

“So enjoy it while you have the ability,” White Tara said, nipping my ear before darting back to Blue Tara.

“Watch it,” I said. “I’ll turn myself into a raptor and take a bite out of you.”

“It is time for us to take a bite out of Hamatsa,” Kinqalatlala said. “I did not see any gagits as we flew here.”

“Nor I,” Blue Tara added.

“For now Hamatsa has no means of escape or means to reinforce his position. We need to drive his ghouls off the crystal plain to their destruction.”

“At the least we need to show Hamatsa we’re not afraid of taking the fight to him,” Blue Tara said as she took hold of her battle axe.

We stepped softly through the fog bank until we came to Hamatsa’s encampment on the edge of the crystal plain. ‘Encampment’ probably is an overly generous word. We encountered a field of gigantic mushrooms that thrived on the edge of the crystal plain, perpetually bathed in cool and moist fog. Hamatsa’s ghouls rested against the mushroom stalks, sheltered by the caps of the gigantic fungi. The geoducks of the fungi world, I smirked to myself.

The laxsa, Hamatsa’s zombie warriors, leaned against the stalks of the giant fungi and polished their lances, or just sat and stared into space. The dzonoqwa stood off to the edge of the fungi forest and lazily leaned on their clubs, drowsy from the brilliant sunlight beating down on their heavy fur. A pack of monstrous dogs wandered among the dzonoqwa, the size of grizzly bears, with long black fur and gleaming ivory teeth and claws as deadly as any grizzly. As they stopped to rest, one or another of the monsters opened their jaws and a tongue of yellow flame shot out of their mouths. Even the dzonoqwa seemed wary of these creatures and kept moving out of their way.

“Beware the fire breathers,” Blue Tara cautioned. “They are the nontsistalal. Their fire consumes anything it touches.”

“I think we used those in Vietnam,” I commented. “So what’s the plan?”

“Simple,” Blue Tara replied. “We will surprise them and sow confusion in their ranks. Try to stampede them off the crystal plain to their destruction."

Red Tara flexed her longbow with two of her hands while pulling several arrows out of her quiver with her two other hands as Blue Tara tossed her battle axe from hand to hand.

“I will launch the first strike,” White Tara said. “My size and color will protect me from detection until it is too late. She leaped off Blue Tara’s shoulder and disappeared into the fog.

The small white parrot flitted through the fog undetected by Hamatsa’s ghouls. White Tara chose the nontsistalal as her target. As she did with the gagits, she alighted on the neck of the leading monster and sunk her beak into its ear.

The creature reared up on its hind legs and roared. A tongue of yellow flame rolled out of its mouth into the sky. As the monster spun around to confront its attacker the flame struck the legs of one of the dzonoqwa. The dzonoqwa tumbled to the surface screaming in pain as its deep fur burned. Several other of the dzonoqwa seized their clubs and smashed the head of the nontsistalal, dropping it dead. Infuriated, the other nontsistalal lunged at the dzonoqwa, turning several of the creatures into screaming fireballs. Consumed with flame, the dzonoqwa stampeded into the dense roiling fog, their screams fading into the distance as they stumbled off the crystal plain and plummeted toward the Earth.

The surviving dzonoqwa panicked and ran for the safety of the fungi forest, clubbing any laxsa that fell into their path. Some of the laxsa rallied and speared the dzonoqwa as the creatures stumbled by, chased by the nontsistalal. The laxsa quickly retreated into the fog bank when the nontsistalal turned a few of them into burning cinders.

Blue Tara and Red Tara struck. Masked by the fog, Blue Tara lopped off the heads of any laxsa she encountered with her battle axe as they stumbled by, seeing her too late to defend themselves with their lances. Red Tara dropped dzonoqwa after dzonoqwa with arrows piercing their skulls. One of the dzonoqwa, an arrow stuck through its head, screamed and charged Red Tara, knocking her off her feet with a blow to her head from its huge club. As the creature lunged at Red Tara, Kinqalatlala leaped in front of it, and she thrust the steel blade that was her hand through the creature’s chest. A nontsistalal jumped out of the fog behind the dzonoqwa and reared up on its hind legs, illuminating the fog with a tongue of flame shooting out of its mouth. The monster turned to fall on Kinqalatlala with her hand embedded in the dzonoqwa’s chest. Jean ran up to Kinqalatlala’s side, pointed her double-barreled shotgun at the nontsistalal’s head and fired both barrels. Headless, the monster’s body tumbled back into the fog.

“Don’t say I never did anything for you,” Jean said.

Dazed and bleeding badly from a gash on the side of her head, Red Tara struggled to regain her feet. White Tara darted onto her shoulder and rubbed her beak across Red Tara’s forehead. The gash and blood disappeared. Blue Tara grabbed two of Red Tara’s hands and pulled her to her feet.

“I thank you for your assistance,” Red Tara said, bowing to White Tara.

Everyone spun around, weapons drawn, at the sound of footsteps coming out of the fog.

“Don’t shoot,” a voice called out from the fog. Michael appeared, the magic harpoon resting across his shoulder. Margarita trotted out of the fog behind him.

“Always late to the party,” I joked, stepping forward to shake his hand.

“We were worried,” Michael said. “I heard a lot of screaming in the fog, but I couldn’t tell who was doing the screaming. I feared the worst.”

“So far so good,” I replied. “We’ve got them on the run. In fact, thanks to White Tara, we ran some of them into the sky to their doom.”

White Tara darted onto my shoulder. “Why, thank you for the compliment. Maybe you are not so unprepossessing as I thought.” She rubbed her beak against my chin.

“These are incredible,” Michael said, poking the giant mushrooms with the magic harpoon. “Think of the feast you could have with just one of these.”

“Careful where you point that stick,” I said. “Did you see anything of Hamatsa when you came up upon us?”

“Not a thing,” Michael replied. “The crystal plain is deserted.”

“That’s good news,” I said. And immediately regretted saying that when a horrendous screech assaulted our eardrums. Michael, Jean, and I fell to our knees with our hands pressed against our ears, trying to stop the pain. I could see that even Blue Tara and Red Tara winced. The screech seemed to have no point of origin, but seemed to fall out of the sky like a summer monsoon, enveloping everything in creation.

Kinqalatlala spoke first as the screech faded away. “We need to fall back to the city of Dluwulaxa as quickly as possible. If we stay exposed on this rim we are certain to meet our destruction.”

“What is it?” I asked, fearing the worst.

“The Yagis,” Kinqalatlala replied, her voice shaking.

“That’s not possible!” Blue Tara exclaimed. “The Yagis is locked in a cage in the sky by Lord Garuda himself.”

“Someone please tell me what in hell is a Yagis?” I pleaded.

“You are correct,” Blue Tara replied. “Yagis is a creature of Hell. A monstrous bird of enormous size and power that devours everything in its path. Of such size and power to even challenge Lord Garuda.”

“How is that possible?” Red Tara asked. “Garuda captured the Yagis and confined the creature to an unbreakable cage in the sky, from which it hurls tornadoes and storms at the Earth in its fury.”

“Somehow Hamatsa has freed the creature,” Kinqalatlala said. “Even the furies fear the Yagis. We must run back to the city with haste before the Yagis finds us.”

“Why don’t we just fly back?” I asked. “Since we’re all birds now. Well, almost all,” I added, glancing at Michael and Margarita.

“We can not risk flight,” Kinqalatlala replied. “If the Yagis spotted us it would strike us down and consume us. Our chances are best if we stay together on the crystal plain and protect each other. But we must run. We can not tarry.”

“Let’s go then,” I said, as we stumbled out of the fog and faced the towering crystal city of Dluwulaxa shimmering across the crystal plain.

“Let us hope Lord Garuda heard the scream of the Yagis,” Blue Tara said.

End of Chapter Six

Saturday, May 20, 2017

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

Chapter Five
Part One

“Listen!” Jean exclaimed, as she, Michael, and the Taras walked through the forest. Everyone halted. They could hear the flapping of enormous wings, flapping that moved away from them and faded into the distance.

“Gagits,” Michael said. “The pterodactyls. They seem to be flying away.”

“We are there,” Blue Tara said, pointing into the forest. The longhouse with the double-headed serpent painted on the front wall could be seen through the trees, guarded by the totem of the four furies. Jean broke into a run. “Hey! Wait up,” Michael yelled after her.

They found the longhouse deserted. Innumerable tracks and footprints in the clearing in front of the longhouse made it impossible to distinguish any particular set of prints. Michael pointed to a muddy patch of ground. “Looks like blood,” he said.

“There was no lack of blood,” Jean replied uneasily.

“What do we do now,” Michael asked, to no one in particular.

“We wait,” Blue Tara replied. “Be watchful.”

“Wait for what?” Michael responded.

“For whatever comes,” Blue Tara replied.

They didn’t need to wait long. Bokwus, the living skeleton, appeared at the door to the longhouse. “I come for Blue Tara,” he stated.

“Of course you have,” Michael replied, pointing the magic harpoon at the creature to no avail.

Jean pulled the shotgun off her shoulder, but Blue Tara grabbed the barrel to stop her. Blue Tara stepped up to the Bokwus, battle axe in her hand. “What do you want with me?”

“My master has commanded me to take you,” the living skeleton replied.

Blue Tara swung her battle axe and smashed the creature’s skull. Another living skeleton appeared in the longhouse’s doorway. “I come for Blue Tara,” he repeated.

“This is getting old,” Michael replied.

Blue Tara stepped up to the Bokwus. “If your master wants me, let him show himself.” She swung her battle axe and lopped off the creature’s skull. Margarita growled as a tall pale yellow-skinned figure with gleaming red eyes, clad in black leather, walked out of the forest into the clearing.

“Hamatsa!” Michael exclaimed. Before he could point the magic harpoon a club came flying out of the trees and struck Michael on the side of his head, throwing him to the ground unconscious. Jean dropped to her knees at Michael’s side, relieved to find him bloodied but still breathing. Half a dozen giants completely covered with matted black hair appeared out of the trees behind Hamatsa.

“Sasquatch!” Jean yelled. Dzonoqwa. Behind them appeared an equal number of deathly pale phantoms with wild black hair and sunken eyes, clad in tattered western clothing, carrying lances. Laxsa. Warriors of the spirit world. Zombies.

Hamatsa walked up to Blue Tara. “It was pitifully easy to capture you,” he told her.

“I could say the same,” Blue Tara replied, holding her battle axe in her hand. Red Tara pulled her long bow off her shoulder.

“If you resist me, your friend is lost,” Hamatsa said.

“What have you done with him?” Jean yelled, scrambling to her feet, shotgun in hand. Blue Tara grabbed the barrel and held it down.

“You would make a tasty meal,” Hamatsa said, extending a gloved hand at Jean’s throat. Red Tara nocked an arrow in her bow and aimed it at Hamatsa. “I can not be killed by you,” Hamatsa said. “But I can destroy your friend.”

“What do you want?” Jean cried.

“What do I want?” Hamatsa replied. “Isn’t it painfully clear? I want this witch,” he said, pointing at Blue Tara.

“There are twenty other Taras,” Blue Tara said. “Destroy me, but you will still have to deal with them.”

“There is only one Blue Tara. The mother of all the Taras.

“And what do you offer in return?” Blue Tara asked, pointing her battle axe at Hamatsa.

“You are in no position to bargain. I could destroy you all.”

“If that was the case you would have done so already.”

“Don’t test my patience.”

“Restore our friend and I will surrender to you,” Blue Tara said.

What? No you won’t!” Jean exclaimed. “I won’t let you.”

“Do not interfere,” Blue Tara replied. “It must be so.”

Jean pointed the shotgun at Hamatsa. Red Tara grabbed the barrel and pulled it out of her hands before she could pull the trigger. “It is all part of the plan,” Red Tara explained.

“Plan? What plan?” Jean replied.

“It is necessary for us to part ways,” Blue Tara said, turning to face Jean. “Do not fear for me. I have foreseen this. It is the only way to get your friend back to you alive.”

“You can’t do this,” Jean cried, running up to Blue Tara. Several of the laxsa stepped between the two, pushing Jean back with their lances.

Hamatsa walked up to Blue Tara and put a gloved hand on her breast. “You will be served up to me as a special feast,” he gloated. “Take her!” he commanded the dzonoqwa. One of the giants stepped up to her and took her battle axe out of her hand. Another dzonoqwa snapped a steel collar around her neck, attached to a long chain held in its hands. Hamatsa entered the longhouse and Blue Tara and the ghouls surrounding her quickly followed.

“Stop!” Jean yelled. She ran after them, but halted at the doorway. “They’re gone!” she cried. “The building is empty.”

“Let them go,” Red Tara replied, handing the shotgun back to Jean. “This is all part of the plan.”

“What plan?” Michael asked, rolling over on his side, struggling to get to his feet. Jean and the Taras ran up to him. “Whoa! What the hell happened? My head feels like it’s going to explode.” Margarita rubbed her body against Michael’s ankles and purred.

“You were knocked out by one of the Sasquatch,” Jean replied.

“Knocked out? Feels like my head got knocked off. Oh, that hurts,” he said, feeling the side of his head with his fingers.

“You’ve got a bad bruise,” Jean said. “Thankfully it’s stopped bleeding. Can you stand up?” she asked, helping Michael to his feet. Jean picked the magic harpoon up off the ground and handed it to Michael. “Maybe this will work better as a crutch than it does as a weapon.”

“So, what plan are you talking about?” Michael asked. “Why don’t I know anything about a plan?”

“First I’ve heard about it,” Jean replied. “Why haven’t you shared this plan with us? Jean asked Red Tara. “You’re just leading us around blindly.”

“It was necessary to get your friend back,” Red Tara replied. “Our ultimate goal is to find the tlogwe. The only way to defeat Hamatsa is by finding the tlogwe. With the magic of the tlogwe we can destroy Hamatsa and rescue Blue Tara.”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Jean asked, perturbed.

“We could not take the chance, as long as your friend was in Hamatsa’s hands. Blue Tara knew this was a sacrifice she would need to make to keep Hamatsa from destroying your friend.”

“Where is he?” Jean asked plaintively. “Why isn’t he here?”

“Listen,” Michael responded, putting his hand on Jean’s shoulder. In the distance they could hear the flapping of enormous wings, flying toward them.


Leaning over the neck of the pterodactyl I rode I could discern the longhouse in the clearing below us, the brightly painted double-headed serpent clearly visible on the front wall. The two gagits banked into a tight circle and descended toward the ground. I could make out several people huddled in the clearing in front of the longhouse. I recognized Red Tara first. It would be hard to miss a four armed red skinned Amazon goddess with a longbow slung over her shoulder. Then I recognized Jean and Michael and Margarita. I began to yell and wave one hand while holding onto the pterodactyl with the other. I could see Jean waving her arms below.

I jumped off the gagit’s neck while its wings still flapped and ran to Jean. I threw my arms around her and kissed her. She put her hands on my face and kissed me back. She tore my shirt open and put her hands on my chest. “You’re alive!” she cried. “I watched you die. That witch stabbed you with her hand.” She caressed my chest.

The second pterodactyl landed, and Kinqalatlala stepped off the creature’s neck. Jean pushed away from me and pulled the shotgun off her shoulder. “It was her!” she yelled. “She killed you.” Jean pointed the shotgun at Kinqalatlala.

“Wait!” I cried. “Don’t shoot!” I jumped between Jean and Kinqalatlala. “She saved my life!” I exclaimed. I put my hands out to try to keep the two women apart.

“She killed you,” Jean repeated.

“She saved my life,” I replied. “Blue Tara made her do it.”

Michael walked up to me. “What are you talking about? Blue Tara made her do what?”

“Blue Tara could have saved me, but didn’t,” I replied. “She let Kinqalatlala kill me so I could enter the spirit realm to search for the tlogwe.”

Michael put his hand on my arm. “So are you alive? Or dead?”

“Your friend is alive,” Kinqalatlala said, stepping to my side. Jean held her shotgun ready. “Hamatsa fulfilled his part of the bargain.”

“Bargain? What bargain?” I asked, confused, glancing between Michael and Kinqalatlala. “Where is Blue Tara?” I began to feel a sense of panic.

“Hamatsa took Blue Tara,” Jean replied. “She gave herself up to Hamatsa to save your life.”

“Oh no!” I cried. “What have you done?” I asked Kinqalatlala, grabbing her shoulders.

“I have shown you the possibilities,” she replied. “It was that witch’s choice to trade her life for yours.”

I shook Kinqalatlala. “Is Blue Tara dead? What did Hamatsa do to her?”

“The witch you call Blue Tara is not dead. That is not my master’s plan for her.”

“We have to save her,” I said. I turned to Jean. “I thought I lost you. I watched you get killed by that magic harpoon,” I said as I noticed Michael holding a magic harpoon in his hand.

“I didn’t die,” Jean replied. “You saved me. You pushed me out of the way at the last moment. That’s when I saw that witch stab you with her hand,” she said, pointing the shotgun at Kinqalatlala.

“Well, apparently I was dead,” I replied. “She did kill me. But she also saved me from Hamatsa. I guess killing me was part of the plan. . .” I looked at Kinqalatlala and then back at Jean, “. . . part of Blue Tara’s plan for me to find the tlogwe. Somehow she,” I pointed at Kinqalatlala, “and Blue Tara are connected in the plan to find the tlogwe.”

“I don’t trust this witch,” Jean said. “I’ve seen what she’s capable of. She’s Hamatsa’s slave. I should shoot her where she stands.”

“She showed me another world that’s beyond our comprehension,” I told Jean. “She’s not what she appears to be.”

“Nothing is what it appears to be anymore,” Jean replied with some exasperation. “What is she supposed to be?”

“She’s Dluwulaxa. She comes from a world above the clouds.”

“What is Dluwulaxa?” Jean asked.

“People who descend from the sky,” Michael replied. “Ancient native legends talk about a world of bird people above the clouds who occasionally fly down to the ground. They’re shapeshifters. They can take on human or animal form.”

“But once they do so,” I said, “they can never go back to their world. She’s one of them.”

“And you believe her?” Jean asked.

“Not only do I believe her. She took me to the city of the Dluwulaxa above the clouds. Her world in the sky. I saw it with my own eyes. She wants to help me find the tlogwe so I can use the magic of the tlogwe to restore her to her world.”

“I don’t believe her for a minute,” Jean replied. “I saw her hand sticking through your chest. I saw you standing in a pool of your own blood.”

“I only want to return to my world,” Kinqalatlala stated. “In return I will help you find the tlogwe and help you rescue that witch you call Blue Tara. I only ask that you consider my offer to join me in my world.”

“What?” Jean said. “What is she talking about?”

“She wants me to become Dluwulaxa. To join her world above the clouds.”

“No fucking way!” Jean exclaimed. She stepped up to Kinqalatlala and before I could react she slammed the butt of her shotgun against Kinqalatlala’s head, knocking her onto her back, unconscious. “She’s playing you for a fool!” Jean yelled at me. “You need to focus on your world! And your friends!”

“I did,” I replied. “I turned her down cold. All I wanted was to get back to you. I love you Jean.”

Kinqalatlala groaned and struggled to get up. I took her hands and helped her to her feet. “You’re bleeding,” I said. Red blood oozed out of her black hair. She took my hand and pressed it against the side of her head and drew lines of blood across her breasts with my fingers.

“We should kill her and then figure out how we’re going to rescue Blue Tara,” Jean said.

“We can’t kill her,” I replied.

“And why not?”

“She knows where the tlogwe is. And she knows where Blue Tara is.” I saw Jean staring at Kinqalatlala’s hand holding mine. I pulled my hand out of Kinqalatlala’s grasp.

Part Two

I noticed the bloody gash on the side of Michael’s head. “Jesus H. Christ!” I exclaimed. “What in the hell happened to you?”

“Dzonoqwa,” Michael replied. “Or Sasquatch, as Jean calls them. More of Hamatsa’s ghouls. They took Blue Tara away in chains.”

“Oh my God. We’ve got to rescue her.”

“We will rescue Blue Tara. In time,” Red Tara said. She had been standing on one foot so quietly, right foot resting against her left knee, I forgot she was there. “Your plan to rescue her is already underway as she has foreseen.”

“My plan?” I replied, confused. “I don’t have a plan.”

“Your plan is to find the tlogwe,” Red Tara said.

“We need to kill this witch,” Jean said, pointing her shotgun at Kinqalatlala. “I don’t trust her. You’re making a big mistake if you let her join us.”

“We need her,” I replied. “I need her help to find Blue Tara.”

“Then make her tell us where Hamatsa and Blue Tara are. And then we kill her.”

I stepped up to Jean and put my hands on her shoulders. “I don’t know how to make her tell us, or I would. I don’t trust her either. Completely. But we need her. We need to find the tlogwe and rescue Blue Tara. She can help us with that. And then we can deal with her.”

“Or better yet,” Michael offered, “We can let Hamatsa deal with her.”

“I like that plan even better,” I replied.

“You need to trust me,” Kinqalatlala said. “I am the only weapon you have to use against Hamatsa.

“I’d prefer to blow your head off, and deal with the consequences,” Jean said.

“You do not understand,” Kinqalatlala replied. “Your weapons are useless against me. Go ahead and shoot me, if you don’t believe me. I possess the magic to travel between the worlds of the living and the dead. Otherwise your friend would not be standing here with you.”

“Don’t tempt me,” Jean replied.

“You are in my debt,” Kinqalatlala said. “I could easily send your friend back to the world below this one, if I so chose.” Kinqalatlala raised her hand to her face and watched the hand transform into a steel blade. Jean pulled her shotgun off her shoulder and tried to aim it at Kinqalatlala, but I grabbed the barrel and pointed it at the ground.

“Everybody relax!” I yelled, my heart racing, far from relaxed. “We need her Jean. I promise you, if she double-crosses us, I’ll tie her to a post and let you blow her head off. Until then, we need her to lead us to Hamatsa and Blue Tara.”

“I promise you,” Kinqalatlala said, as the steel blade reverted back to her hand, “I will help you rescue that witch of yours. I will help you destroy Hamatsa. I will do whatever I need to do to earn my freedom to return to my world of Dluwulaxa.”

“As long as you understand you’re going alone. He is my friend,” Jean said, pointing to me. “Not your friend.”

Kinqalatlala walked up to Jean. “You owe this to me. Allow me the chance to earn your trust. If I fail you, then I will submit to whatever punishment you choose.”

“Can you at least put some clothes on,” Jean replied.

“Hold on,” Michael said. He took his shirt off and gave it to Kinqalatlala. “This should help. And please take care of it. It's a Ralph Lauren.” I looked at Michael. “What? I got it at Value Village. And I believe in layering. I’ve still got two t-shirts on,” he said, pulling up his t-shirt to show another tee underneath. 

“Nothing like being prepared,” I remarked.

“I have to say,” Michael continued. “I’m with Jean on this one. I have a really bad feeling about taking her along,” he said, pointing at Kinqalatlala.

“What do the Taras have to say about all this?” I asked, turning to Red Tara and Margarita. Margarita growled and rubbed her body against Michael’s ankles.

“We take her at her word,” Red Tara replied. “If she fails us, I still have recourse to this,” she said, tapping her longbow.

Margarita stood up on her hind legs. “It’s time for this witch to lead us to Hamatsa.”

“Okay,” I said, turning to Kinqalatlala. “It’s your show now. How do we find Hamatsa and Blue Tara?”

“Follow me,” she said. She stepped into the longhouse and we followed her inside. “Take a seat along the wall,” she continued. We sat.

“Now what?” I asked.

“We wait for the ceremony.”

“What ceremony?” I asked, perplexed.

“Wait,” she replied.

The sound of sticks beating cedar planks filled the room. Six dark-skinned men and women dressed in cedar bark blankets marched out of the darkness at the back of the longhouse and sat is a circle in the center of the hall, beating time on the cedar planks. Several men carried sticks and brush into the longhouse through the doorway and constructed a bonfire at the center of the circle. Men with deathly pale skin and sunken black eyes appeared out of the darkness carrying lances. They formed a circle around the drummers.

“Laxsa,” Michael observed.

Grizzly bear dancers stepped out of the darkness in time with the drumming. Men wearing bearskin cloaks with bear skulls tied to their heads like crowns, they held menacing razor sharp bear claws in their hands. Each dancer stopped and stood next to each of us.

A tall man clad in black leather from boots to fedora and gloves walked out of the darkness following the grizzly bear dancers. The flickering light of the bonfire illuminated his pallid scalloped yellow face and burning red eyes.

“Hamatsa!” I exclaimed. Jean took my hand. He stopped near the bonfire and fixed his gleaming red eyes directly on me.

“You have witnessed the power I hold over life and death,” he said. “And yet you choose to challenge me.”

“Do I have a speaking part?” I whispered to Kinqalatlala.

“Be patient,” she replied.

“It is time for me to demonstrate my power once and for all,” Hamatsa continued. “My power to stamp out any resistance to my dominion. My power to stamp out the scourge of those that oppose me.” Out of the corner of my eye I could see Red Tara tightening her grip on her longbow with one of her four hands.

Hamatsa waved a gloved hand toward the darkness at the back of the hall. Four giants covered head to foot with matted black hair so greasy it looked like fur, wearing deerskin capes, emerged holding a large cedar box.

“Sasquatch,” Jean said.

“Dzonoqwa,” Michael replied. 

The dzonoqwa placed the cedar box next to the fire. Two more of the giant creatures emerged from the darkness.

“Oh my God!” I cried.

They led Blue Tara into the center of the hall by a long chain attached to a steel collar around her neck. The beating of the cedar planks stopped.

“I intend to stamp out the scourge of the resistance once and for all,” Hamatsa said. “Bring that witch to me.” The two dzonoqwa holding Blue Tara’s chain pushed her to Hamatsa. “Get down on your knees before your master!” Hamatsa ordered. One of the dzonoqwa kicked Blue Tara behind her knees and she buckled to the ground. “Are you ready to submit to your master?” Hamatsa demanded. Blue Tara tilted her head and defiantly stared up at Hamatsa with her one bright yellow eye. Hamatsa slapped her across her face with a gloved hand. “Submit or be destroyed,” he ordered. Blue Tara said nothing. “Take her,” he ordered the dzonoqwa. “Place her in the box.” The dzonoqwa lifted her by her arms.

“No!” I yelled as I leaped to my feet. Michael jumped to his feet and pointed the magic harpoon at one dzonoqwa, who crumpled to the ground. Red Tara whipped her longbow off her shoulder and nocked and released an arrow at the other dzonoqwa. The arrow pierced its skull between its eyes and the creature tumbled over backwards, and did not get up. The laxsa spun around and pointed their lances at our heads.

“Your heroics are useless here,” Hamatsa said. “My army is vast. You can change nothing.”

“Don’t bet on that,” I replied. I pushed aside a couple of the laxsa and stepped up to Hamatsa. “Take me,” I said. “Release Blue Tara.” It was the adrenaline talking. I’m not usually that brave or selfless.

“What are you doing?” Jean screamed. She tried to push her way to my side but the laxsa blocked her with their lances. “You don’t need to do that!” Jean yelled.

“Why would I trade the life of that witch for yours?” Hamatsa asked.

“Because I’m the key to finding the tlogwe. Without the tlogwe you have nothing to fear from the Taras.”

“Take him,” Hamatsa ordered. Two of the dzonoqwa grabbed me. “Release the witch.” A dzonoqwa took hold of the steel collar and snapped it in two, leaving bloody gashes on Blue Tara’s neck from its claws. “Put him in the box.” The dzonoqwa lifted me up and carried me to the cedar box. Their putrid breath nearly caused me to gag.

“Wait!” someone yelled. I struggled in the grip of the dzonoqwa to see who spoke. Kinqalatlala pushed her way through the ring of laxsa.

“You dare interfere?” Hamatsa exclaimed.

Kinqalatlala fell to her knees and dropped her head to the ground to kiss Hamatsa’s boots. “My master,” she said. “I offer myself as a sacrifice in his place. Take me instead.”

Hamatsa took hold of Kinqalatlala’s hair and pulled her to her feet. “Why would I do that?” he asked.

“Because I know where the tlogwe is. Destroy me. Then the Taras, and the man with the parrot, will be powerless to stop you.”

“You dare to oppose me?” Hamatsa said, seizing Kinqalatlala’s throat in his gloved hand, lifting her off her feet.

Kinqalatlala struggled to speak as Hamatsa choked her. “I had thought to trade the tlogwe for my freedom.”

“You fool.” Hamatsa dropped her onto the ground and ripped Michael’s shirt off of her.

“Not my Ralph Lauren!” Michael exclaimed.

Hamatsa nodded at the dzonoqwa. They lifted me out of the cedar box and seized Kinqalatlala, dropping her into the box in my place. They quickly hammered a large plank lid onto the box and set the box directly in the bonfire. A deathly stillness engulfed the longhouse as the bonfire slowly consumed the crate. I could hear Kinqalatlala plaintively chanting from inside the box as sticks commenced beating time on cedar planks:

“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.”

After what seemed like an eternity the last vestiges of the box collapsed in ashes into the fire.

“Destroy them all!” Hamatsa ordered, sweeping his gloved hand across the wall where Jean and Michael and Red Tara stood.

I heard Jean yell “Fuck You!” as she pumped her shotgun and fired both barrels at Hamatsa’s head. His fedora and his head underneath it disappeared in a cloud of blood red dust. I fell to the ground in agony with my hands slapped over my ears as Blue Tara screeched, my eyes squeezed shut trying to close out the pain from my head. When I dared to open my eyes I saw Blue Tara and Red Tara helping Jean and Michael to their feet while Margarita lay curled up on the ground licking her fur. I realized the longhouse was otherwise completely empty. No dzonoqwa. No laxsa. No grizzly bear dancers. No Hamatsa. No Kinqalatlala. I struggled to my feet.

“What happened?” I asked.

Blue Tara lifted me up and threw her arms over my shoulders, and pulled me to her. “I made them go away,” she told me. And then she kissed me. And I let her.

I felt Jean’s hand on my shoulder pulling me back from Blue Tara. “Is Blue Tara okay?” Jean asked.

I saw blood oozing down Blue Tara’s neck from the gashes made by the dzonoqwa’s claws. “You’re hurt,” I said.

“Nothing to worry about,” she replied.

“What did they do to you?” Jean asked.

“Hamatsa could do nothing to me,” she replied. “In spite of what Hamatsa believes, he has no power over me. His magic can not hurt me.”

I turned to Jean and kissed her. “Jean killed Hamatsa,” I said. “Blew his head off. That means he’s dead? Right?”

“Life and death are meaningless with that ghoul,” Blue Tara replied. “You have destroyed his body, but you have not destroyed Hamatsa. Only the magic of the tlogwe can do that. I fear that we will face Hamatsa and his army of the dead again soon enough.

“I have no idea where to find the tlogwe,” I said. “Kinqalatlala knows. . . knew,” I corrected myself, “where the tlogwe is. I think she was about to tell me. But the tlogwe is lost to us now without her.”

“Do not give up hope,” Blue Tara replied. “You are closer to finding the tlogwe than you realize.”


Hamatsa and Kinqalatlala stood together in a void. Blackness illuminated only by Hamatsa’s gleaming red eyes. “Does the one with the parrot believe you?” Hamatsa asked Kinqalatlala.

“Yes my master.”

“He believes you will help him find the tlogwe in exchange for your freedom?”

“Yes my master.”

“He will help restore you to the Dluwulaxa?”

“I believe he will, master.”

“Do you believe he will succumb to your entreaties to join him in the world of the Dluwulaxa?”

“The men of his world are weak, my master. He will succumb to these,” she said, taking Hamatsa’s hands and placing them on her breasts.

“Together we will command the worlds of the Earth and the sky,” Hamatsa said.

Part Three

I sat down on a log outside the longhouse and flipped a couple of pebbles toward the mudflats extending down into Elliott Bay. “I’m open to suggestions,” I said. “If anyone has any good ideas about what we should do next, now’s the time to share.” I turned toward Blue Tara. “What did you mean when you said I was closer to the tlogwe than I realized? Why does everyone keep talking in riddles? I wish someone would just tell me what to do.”

“Jean sat down on the log next to me and put her arm around my shoulder. “What would be the fun of that?” she joked. “Life should be a struggle. Nothing should come easy.” I stuck my tongue out at her. “Is that an invitation?” she asked.

“I wish,” I replied. I rested my head on her shoulder.

“You said that Kinqalatlala was about to tell you where the tlogwe is,” Michael said. I nodded. “With her dead that puts us in a bind,” he added. “You have no clue where it is?”

“Oh, big clue alrighty,” I replied. Michael gave me a perplexed look. “Dluwulaxa. The city above the clouds. That has something to do with it. And I’m pretty sure the tlogwala is a bird.” I turned and pointed to the totem of the four furies standing outside the longhouse. And I’m also pretty sure Kinqalatlala knew who the tlogwala is.”

“I think we can safely say who the tlogwala isn’t,” Michael replied.

“Hamatsa,” I said.


“Dluwulaxa holds the key to this riddle. The city above the clouds. The world of the bird people.”

And you saw it?” Michael asked.

“Saw it. Kinqalatlala showed it to me. Get this. It’s constructed entirely of crystal.”

“The four furies!” Michael exclaimed, glancing at the totem.

“And the connection to Hamatsa,” I replied. “If the tlogwe is located in the world of the bird people, then the Dluwulaxa are not safe from Hamatsa.”

“Imagine if Hamatsa gained control of the skies,” Michael said. “Those of us on the ground would be in a world of hurt.”

“Which is why we needed Kinqalatlala,” I added.

“As I told you,” Blue Tara interjected, “you are closer to the tlogwe than you think.” It was a sight to see both Blue Tara and Red Tara resting quietly on one foot, their right feet pressed against their left knees.

My jaw dropped as a small white parrot with pink highlights on its feathers darted out of the sky and landed on Blue Tara’s shoulder. Red Tara screeched with joy and ran up to the bird. Margarita stretched her front paws out in front of her head and jumped up on her hind legs.

“Oh my,” Jean said. “It’s a Goffin’s cockatoo.”

Blue Tara put her hand up to her shoulder and the white parrot hopped onto her hand. “Greetings to you, my sister,” Blue Tara said. “I had wondered when you would make your appearance.”

“It is my pleasure to answer your call,” the white parrot replied.

Red Tara bowed before the newcomer. “It makes me so happy to be in your company once again, White Tara.”

“White Tara!” I exclaimed. “Are all the Taras parrots?”

Standing on her hind legs, Margarita growled. “Of course not.”

“My apologies,” I replied, nodding to Margarita.

“No apologies required,” White Tara said. She bolted off Blue Tara’s hand and landed on my knee as I sat on the log.

“White Tara is the Tara of Healing,” Margarita added.

“So this is the one that Blue Tara chose to be our savior?” White Tara said.

“Savior?” I replied. “Not hardly. Not sure who’s saving whom anymore.”

White Tara cocked her head and fixed her pink eye on me. “He seems somewhat unprepossessing,” she said. “Whatever caused you to pick this one?”

“That’s me,” I replied, laughing. “I’m the epitome of unprepossessing.” I put my hand out to White Tara. Without warning she nipped my finger with her beak. “Ouch!” I exclaimed, pulling my hand back. Blood appeared on my finger from a small tear caused by her beak. I stuck my finger in my mouth to lick the blood off.

“Assumptions can be your downfall,” she said. “You assumed it was safe to stick your finger in my beak just because I’m a Tara. Let that be a lesson.”

“Goffin’s cockatoos are the juvenile delinquents of the parrot world,” Jean interjected. “It’s always smart to be on your guard.”

“Wise words from a lovely lady,” White Tara said. “Give me your finger,” she added. I didn’t respond. “Put your finger out to me,” she commanded. I hesitantly offered White Tara the bleeding finger. She tapped the finger with her beak and the blood and tear disappeared.

“My word!” Jean exclaimed.

“It seems the timing of my arrival is propitious,” White Tara said.

“There is one you need to restore to us,” Blue Tara said. “One that holds the key to the tlogwe.”

“Most certainly,” White Tara replied.

“Kinqalatlala!” I blurted out. “You can bring Kinqalatlala back to life?”

“Apparently my sister Taras have been deficient in your education,” White Tara responded. “You know nothing of the magic of the witches. Witches like Kinqalatlala exist in a reality where there are not boundaries between life and death. A reality where existence is defined by being or not being. A reality where existence has no beginning and no end.”

“I’m sorry,” I replied, “but this is getting way too deep for me.”

“That’s because your reality is too linear and inflexible,” Blue Tara said. My sister, White Tara, the Tara of Healing, possesses the magic to restore Kinqalatlala to existence.”

“Now you’re talking language I can understand,” I said as I jumped to my feet. White Tara flew off my knee and twirled into the air. The white parrot melted into a translucent white mirage of a magnificent woman with pink hair and seven pink eyes, one in the middle of her forehead as well as one on each hand and foot. The mirage solidified into a goddess of pure white skin clad in a multitude of brilliantly colored gauzy silken skirts, with a filmy pink silken scarf wrapped around her neck accenting her sculpted breasts.

“My God!” Jean exclaimed. “Don’t any of the Taras believe in proper clothes?” I could feel my face flush as Jean looked at me.

“Take me to the one you wish me to restore,” White Tara said.

“This way,” Blue Tara replied, leading the way into the longhouse. We circled the ashes of the bonfire. I could see what appeared to be charred bones in the ashes.

White Tara removed one of her skirts and spread it over the ashes. “This is where a lesser witch would spout some nonsense chant to impress the gullible,” she remarked, looking directly at me. “I’ll just raise my hand over the victim’s remains.” She lifted her hand over the skirt spread on the floor. As she lifted her hand the skirt came off the floor and the figure of a woman took shape and rose underneath the skirt. Once the skirt stopped rising, White Tara grabbed the skirt and pulled it away from the body. Kinqalatlala stood before us, naked. She blinked her eyes and smiled. Seeing me, she ran up to me and threw her arms over my shoulders. She kissed me.

“You saved me!” she exclaimed.

“Hold on a minute!” Jean cried out.

White Tara stood on her left foot, pressed her right foot against her left knee, extended her arms and twirled, dissolving into a white Goffin’s cockatoo parrot. The parrot flapped her wings and flew onto Kinqalatlala’s shoulder. She bit Kinqalatlala’s ear.

“Ouch!” Kinqalatlala exclaimed, brushing the bird off her shoulder. White Tara darted onto my shoulder.

“Just checking,” White Tara said. “That’s to remind you who just saved your sorry ass.”

“No reminder necessary,” Kinqalatlala replied. “I am in your debt.”

“And you are expected to repay that debt.” White Tara brushed her beak against my chin. “I still don’t understand what these witches see in you,” she told me. “Yet this black witch jumped into your arms, without so much as a thank you.”

“Maybe it’s your sparkling personality,” I replied. White Tara tried to nip my ear but I brushed her off and she hopped onto Red Tara’s longbow. 

“Chew that bow,” Red Tara stated, “and I’ll use you for target practice.”

“Enough,” Blue Tara interjected. “Now that we have Kinqalatlala restored to us we can resume our search for the tlogwe.”

“I am at your service,” Kinqalatlala replied, bowing to Blue Tara.

“I’m guessing the tlogwe is hidden somewhere in the city of the Dluwulaxa,” I said. “I think you were just about to tell me where before Hamatsa interrupted us.”

Kinqalatlala took my hand in hers. “You are very astute. The Dluwulaxa are in fact guarding the tlogwe.”

“Hamatsa is as much a threat to your world as he is to mine,” I said. “Can you take us to the tlogwe?”

“The tlogwe is a gift. The ultimate treasure. It is not something I can show you.”

“Here we go with the riddles again,” I replied with a note of exasperation.

“I can not show you the tlogwe. But I can take you to the tlogwala. The tlogwala will determine if you are worthy enough to receive the tlogwe.”

“Well,” Michael interjected. “Let’s get this show on the road. Please lead us to the tlogwala.” White Tara jumped off Blue Tara’s shoulder and lighted on Michael’s shoulder. And screeched. “Not in my ear! Please,” Michael exclaimed as he slapped the palm of his hand to his ear.

“I like you,” White Tara replied. “A man who knows what he wants.” Margarita jumped up on her hind legs and growled. “You are not so unprepossessing,” White Tara added.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Michael replied. Margarita crouched and sprang up onto Michael’s shoulder, pushing White Tara off and back to Blue Tara’s shoulder.

“So, Dluwulaxa,” I said. “How do we get back up there?” I pointed toward Mount Rainier looming to the south, with its cap of lenticular clouds, the world of the Dluwulaxa.

Kinqalatlala turned to face the mountain and whistled. Within moments we could hear the slow flapping of enormous wings. Soon half a dozen gagits, the pterodactyls, appeared in the sky bearing down toward us. Flying overhead they spread their twenty foot wings and banked into a tight circle, gliding to a landing on the mudflats below us.

“Let’s mount up boys and girls,” I said. Kinqalatlala reached for my hand but Jean jumped between us and took my hand in hers.

“Never flown a pterodactyl before,” she said.

“Interestingly enough, I have,” I joked. “It’s quite the ride. Grab some hair in each hand and hold on.”

“Oh, I’ve ridden horses bareback since I was a kid,” Jean replied. “Shouldn’t be much different.” My estimation of Jean kept going up.

We mounted the gagits, Margarita riding Michael’s shoulder and White Tara perched on Blue Tara’s shoulder. Kinqalatlala whistled again and the gagits spread their wings, took several halting steps, and leapt into the air, rapidly climbing into the sky with each powerful flap of their wings. Airborne, the winged creatures banked to the south and flew up the Duwamish River directly toward the mountain looming on the horizon before us. My eyes fixed on the lenticular clouds capping the summit of the volcano. I tried to imagine a world lost above those clouds, like Shangri-La.

Jean shouted to me from an adjacent gagit. “Why doesn’t Blue Tara just bend us up there with her magic?”

“Probably because she’s never been there. She may be a parrot, but she’s not of the world of the Dluwulaxa. Come to think of it, I didn’t see any parrots up there when I was there. It’s a bird world, but not a parrot world. Actually, I don’t have a clue.”

“Dluwulaxa is not of this world,” Blue Tara shouted from the gagit she rode flying slightly above us. “I do not know what power my magic will have in that world.”

The gagits made straight for the lenticular clouds shrouding the peak and we soon found ourselves flying into the clouds. The gagits broke through the clouds into brilliant sunshine and alighted on the crystalline plain that supported the city of the Dluwulaxa. The crystal palace that was the city of the Dluwulaxa towered before us, the wall extending as far as we could see in either direction. The crystal wall climbed straight up into the sky seemingly without limit. Sunlight streaming through the crystal wall bathed the plain in every color imaginable. The gagits lay their heads down on the crystal plain and we dismounted. 

“We’re standing in a rainbow!” Jean exclaimed with delight.

The pterodactyls turned and spread their wings and leaped back into the sky and quickly disappeared into the clouds below. We stood on the crystal plain and marveled at the gleaming structure before us.

“This is incredible!” Michael exclaimed.

Margarita growled and jumped off Michael’s shoulder, landing on her hind legs. “I don’t like this for one minute,” she said. “This is a mistake.”

Kinqalatlala walked ahead of us toward the massive doorway visible at the base of the wall. “You are perfectly save here in my world,” she replied.

“Will your people be able to see us? Talk to us?” I asked.

“Yes. We are in the world of the living.”

We passed through the doorway into the city. Kinqalatlala paused at the doorway and waited for us to enter the city. Once inside, the doorway morphed into crystal wall and disappeared. I stopped, stunned. The empty expanse of clouds and sky I witnessed on my first visit no longer was empty. Instead, before us stood hundreds if not thousands of massive crystal buildings, all gleaming every imaginable color of the rainbow in the brilliant sunlight. My jaw dropped to my shoes. Instead of the myriad variety of birds I had seen before, now I saw a multitude of people. The people, each and every one of them, all of the thousands of people we saw standing before us, they all appeared identical. Not only did they all appear identical, each and every one of them looked exactly like Kinqalatlala. Tall. Dark skinned. Black haired. Svelt. Athletic. And naked. We all turned and stared at Kinqalatlala.

End of Chapter Five