The Legend of the Ancestor

 

Numaga

A murder of crows descended upon the two decaying bodies in the desert. Waves of heat shimmered across the Oasis of Mara as the crows savaged the corpses. 

Nearby, sitting under a palm tree, Akuuki watched the crows get chased away by two large turkey buzzards who claimed the bodies as theirs under the blazing Mojave sun. The sight didn’t faze Akuuki.

He was a Chemehuevi, but had many Serrano, Cahuilla, and Mojave friends and relatives scattered throughout the high desert.

The two men being ripped apart by the vultures were renegades who broke into his hidden cache and stole his food. Despite the Spirit Stick he put in the entrance of the small cave, they violated it.

When he silently snuck up on them they were packing their belongings into backpacks. He saw the red piece of blanket that was wrapped around his stash get stuffed into one of the backpacks. It was enough.

Pulling back on the hard hickory bow he sent an arrow into the tallest man’s body! The other man turned and pulled his bone hunting knife from his leather belt and threw it at the same time Akuuki’s arrow pierced his heart. The knife flew harmlessly past Akuuki who was already walking up to his kill.

He pulled the arrow out and looked over at the other man. He had an arrow protruding from his back and was crawling towards a bow and quiver near one of the backpacks. Akuuki walked over to him and grabbed him by the scalp. In one swift motion he pulled his head back, revealing his throat, and slit it with a steel Spanish knife that he had taken from an enemy.

Now he was faced with a hard decision. He was counting on his cache to extend the search for his parents murderer. The unforgiving Mojave Desert didn’t allow for many setbacks. He still had a few days food left and was able to refill his canteens from the fresh springs there.

The murderer he sought had established a reputation as an evil shaman among the people. Almost everyone in the desert feared Atok the Cruel. It was rumored he could fly, or turn himself into a coyote if he wanted. His ability to shape shift was legendary among the Serrano who claimed the old man was immortal.

Akuuki did not fear Atok. He very much wanted to find him and to make him pay for brutally murdering his parents. He knew all the tales told at firesides about the shaman, but they didn’t scare him. His desire for revenge was all-consuming. After sending his parents off to the spirit world in proper fashion he set out after Atok.

From all the stories he heard Atok had a lair near the summit of the mountain called Avi-Kwame by the Mojave, and Yuman. His tribe, the Chemehuevi, called the place Agai. Stories of Atok’s cruelty terrified the children, and made adults uneasy at every telling.

It didn’t matter why he killed his parents. When neighbors suggested that Atok killed them because Akuuki was hunting in his sacred grounds, he angrily chased them away. He couldn’t live with himself unless he went after Atok, and at least, tried to kill him.

The thought that he might have been the reason for their violent death infuriated him.

It took him two days to reach Agai. Standing at the summit of the mountain he scanned upward but didn’t see anything that caught his attention. It occurred to him he would have to walk around the whole mountain to find where the shaman lived.

He was down to his last meal when he started searching the summit’s circumference. That night, after making a cold camp, he ate the last remaining slice of boiled plants and the hearts of mescal that were pounded into a slab by his mother months ago.

In a dream, a wild spotted cat came to him and whispered into his ear, “Of silver, Atok is in fear. It’s touch is enough to send him away from here.”

When he woke in the morning he looked at his knife. It was a fine Spanish blade and the handle was wrought from silver. His people were familiar with the white metal that almost made the white man as crazy as the yellow metal did a 100 years ago.

He felt a pang of hunger as he prepared himself for the day. An hour later he came upon a cave opening.

“Atok you coward! Come face me! I am Akuuki. I’ve come to kill you!” he shouted.

An arrow came from the darkness and struck him in his left shoulder! He staggered backward and broke the deeply embedded arrow off as he drew his knife. Atok was standing in the entrance with a bow and laughing at him!

“Fool! You dare search me out! For that, I will eat your eyeballs while you’re still breathing!” he roared, while running towards him.

Akuuki held his ground and took the charge! They thrashed about on the desert sand as Akuuki plunged his knife into Atok’s body without apparent effect. When they blade snapped off, he took the silver handle and shoved it into Atok’s mouth!

The effect was immediate; Atok’s body stiffened and began decaying on top of Akuuki! The gods were so pleased with the evil shaman’s death that the skies opened up and rained upon the Mojave Desert for the first time in a year.

When Akuuki, whose name translates to ancestor, died many years later his story became a legend told around campfires of the Chemehuevi.

As It Stands, this tale is a nod to Native Americans who’s rich verbal heritage includes classic stories of good versus evil.

Fear

They met during the night like thieves planning a robbery.

But they weren’t thieves. They were some of the most prominent people in Elsdale’s population of 1,623. Community leaders led by the small town’s mayor, Jasper Corning, a corpulent man who found walking difficult.

Ever since the family of strangers moved in, people talked about how different they were. Of particular concern, they were Muslims. The two women wore hijabs that covered their head, hair, and necks.

The three men wore traditional Taqiyahs (round caps) and had long dark beards. To the white majority of Elsdale it was like being invaded by a foreign country. They spoke another language and lived by Sharia Law, which the townspeople feared would somehow take over the American system of justice someday.

The two women, Manahil and Eshal, went to the general store, and the post office, once a week. Every purchase they made at the store was scrutinized by the owners who shared their observations at the VFW bar every evening.

The postmaster worried every time a package came for the Muslims that it might have bomb-making materials inside. They got lots of letters in their post office box. It was always packed tight by the time the women came by for their weekly visit.

The Muslims lived in an old two-story house just outside the city limits. When they purchased the house – with cash – word quickly got around town. Very few people had actually talked with the Muslims. Mostly Manahil and Eshal when they were on their weekly errands.

Hector St. George, the towns only banker, talked with the three brothers, Aaban, Rayyan, and Zayan Azimi, while handling the transaction. The bank had repossessed the house years ago, and no one seemed interested in buying it.

Until then the Azima brothers appeared with lot’s of money. They even opened a bank account, which secretly thrilled St. George (he didn’t want the others thinking he was getting chummy with them) who worshipped money more than any god.

The towns sheriff, Roscoe Winters, a Vietnam veteran with undiagnosed PTSD, spends most of his time on a computer reading about conspiracies in America, and drinking too much at the VFW bar.

As the weeks turned to months, the rumors surrounding the Muslims grew like a malignant cancer. They held orgies; the men were secret ISIS members; there was a stockpile of weapons in the old house, and on it went.

Fear replaced curiosity in the little community after six months. When the women came to town they could feel the tension, as accusing eyes followed their every move. As the stares seemed to grow more malignant they told the men what was going on.

The three brothers were dismayed, but not surprised. They seen this kind of thing before when they bought their first house in upstate New York after immigrating to America five years ago.

When their parents were murdered by extremists in Iraq they took the family fortune and fled. Two of the brothers, Zayan and Aaban, were married to Manahil and Eshal. The eldest brother Rayyan never got married, because his childhood sweetheart was viciously murdered by thugs before they could.

Fear finally materialized into action.

That’s why the community leaders were gathered at night in the mayor’s house. The rumors had some of them fearing for their lives. The sense that one day they would attack the town with automatic weapons shouting “Allah Akbar!” swirled among the group, sending shivers down some spines.

“Okay boys…settle down. What are we here for?”

“Because you asked us too Jasper,” Larry Henderson, the general store owner, replied.

“Thanks Larry. Now that that’s established, what are we going to do about the Muslims?”

“I think we ought to search their house and see what they’re up to,” John Baker, the postmaster said.

“There’s one problem with that Johnny, it’s called a search warrant. I don’t have one,” Sheriff Winter said, after downing a shot of 20 year-old Scotch.

The group broke out into a babble of suggestions that were going nowhere when the mayor shouted, “Enough! We ain’t getting a damn thing done here crowing like a bunch of roosters with no hen in sight!”

The room settled down to inaudible grumbles.

“Here’s what we can do. Larry, you can say you overheard the two women talking about making bombs. The sheriff can go to the county judge tomorrow and get a warrant to search their house. How’s that sound?”

Murmurs of agreement echoed around the room.

“I’ll leave before noon tomorrow to go see Henry (the county judge) and get that warrant. Right now I’m going to have a few beers. Anyone with me?”

Everyone in the room, except the mayor who was sitting in his favorite office swivel chair, followed the sheriff out the door and into the night.

The next day.

Sally Yates, a waitress at the only restaurant in town, “Chuck’s,” was the first to hear the roar of motorcycles. The noon crowd had thinned down to two old customers who were known to spend most of the day there drinking coffee and talking.

The loud intrusive roar made her look out the window. Her pulse quickened in fear as the riders of six motorcycles dismounted from their Harley’s. They were all members of the Mongols, one of the most feared motorcycle groups in America!

Sheriff  Winters had a shot of bourbon with Judge Henry Goodnight in the judge’s library. The judge had signed the warrant without question.

Back in town.

The bikers took over the restaurant and chased the two old men away. They were having fun baiting Sally who gamely tried to pretend everything was all right while taking their orders. The fun and games finally stopped, and their leader assaulted Sally!

Later the bikers roamed around town looking for more trouble. They went into the general store, and when Larry tried to stop them from helping themselves to whatever they fancied, they beat him and left him for dead!

Then they helped themselves to the hand guns behind the counter in locked cabinets. They broke the lock off with ease, and the leader passed them out to the others. He located the ammunition and gave each a box.

Armed, they went back out and headed for the VFW Hall. By now, people had seen them and were running for cover. The main street was deserted by the time they reached the VFW Hall.

The patrons inside didn’t have a chance. They were caught unawares and herded over into a corner of the room, while other gang members looted the bar. The group settled in for some serious drinking.

Unfortunately, Sheriff Winters didn’t even notice the main street was deserted. It was getting near dark and his first thought was to go to the VFW Hall for a quick drink, or two.

The room went silent when the sheriff walked in. Someone dropped a bottle on the floor and the shooting began! Rosco was hit immediately in the left arm, but he manged to draw his service revolver and return fire!

One of the biker’s spun around and fell to the floor, bleeding from a chest wound. Bullets sprayed the room like angry bees as everyone tied to get out of the line of fire. Rosco was hit again in the right side of his chest but kept moving and somehow got out the door and into the street.

A lone biker followed him and popped off two misses. Rosco turned and calmly fired back at him. One of the bullets found its mark and the biker staggered back inside the VFW Hall, leaving a trail of blood behind him.

Rosco summoned up the last of his strength and headed towards the nearby general store. Larry lay near the doorway, battered beyond recognition and barely alive. Rosco went to him and looked for a pulse. He was alive. Rosco’s wounds weakened him so much that he passed out.

Manahil and Eshal felt more uneasy than usual when they got to town. The streets were deserted. They went inside the general store and found Larry and Rosco passed out on the floor. Larry’s wounds soaked his shirt with blood.

The women quickly checked them out and found gauze, band aids, and tape, and treated them both right there. Eshal was looking at Larry’s wounds and easily recognized them as bullet holes. She had seen her share in war-torn Iraq.

Manahil went to the phone on the counter but only got a buzzing. Someone had cut the phone lines. Making a bold decision she told Eshal that she was going for the men. She knew Rayyan would know what to do.

He had fought in the Iraqi armed forces until Saddam Hussein took over, and he had to run from the purge that followed. He was a captain in the special forces. The other two brothers had no military experience, but grew up in hard times when they had to use weapons to survive the government’s attacks.

Rayyan listened calmly as Eshal told him what she found. Nodding he turned to his brothers and said, “We cannot let these people be slaughtered by those men. Allah would never forgive us.”

The brothers both nodded, and the three of them headed for town.

When they got to the general store they found Manahil listening to the sheriff’s heart. She looked at Rayyan and said, “He’s barely alive. We must get a doctor.”

Meanwhile Zayan and Aaban were behind the counter picking a lock on a chain that covered a row of rifles. There were repeating Winchesters, hunting rifles, and two AR 15’s. They took the two AR 15’s and asked Rayyan what he wanted.

“The Winchester is fine,” he said as they rummaged for ammunition.

As the three men set out to find the bikers Rosco woke briefly, “The VFW building,” he croaked and passed back out again.

The biker’s Harley’s were still parked in front of the restaurant. Rayyan started one up and gunned the engine! He drove it down the street and sat outside the VFW Hall. Zayan and Aaban both pulled up next to him, and they all three revved their engines.

Inside, the sound immediately caught the biker’s attention. One of them was dead, and another was badly wounded. Three innocent hostages were killed by errant bullets. The remaining four Mongols roared in anger and charged out the front door…into a hail of gunfire!

The next day.

Sheriff Winter’s got help in time by the town doctor, who was able to stabilize him and have him transported to the country hospital in nearby Turnsville. County police and the FBI were all over the town talking to witnesses and processing the crime scenes.

Mayor Corning was visiting Rosco when he handed him a piece of paper. It was the warrant.

“What about this,” he asked.

Rosco took it, and tore it in half.

“It’s about time we quit letting fear rule our lives,” he said.

As It Stands, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

The Monkey Murders

Did you know that you can find a shrine to monkeys, rats, and dogs, in India?

Actually, in the Hindu culture there is a close bond between animals and humans. The culture believes in reincarnation. One never knows if they mistreat an animal if it could end up being one of their own ancestors.

Monkeys are highly thought of in Hinduism. It was a monkey, Lord Hanuman, who saved Lord Rama’s wife Sita from Ravana’s wrath in Indian lore.

You can visit the Galtaji Temple, an enormous shrine to monkeys, today. It’s just a short distance from Jaipur. It’s inhabitants are truly unique. They’re Rhesus Macaques Monkeys which are known as the world’s most adaptable primates.

Visitors and pilgrims have come for hundreds of years to pray or just stare at the ancient ruins overran with the large tribe of monkeys.

When Rory and Mack, two dedicated trophy hunters, read about the Galtaji Temple and it’s monkeys, they got drunk and came up with a plan to bag some for their collection. They read enough to know the monkeys were protected, and considered sacred, but it didn’t change their sodded minds.

They were both wealthy and bored. Hunting injected that spice they needed in life. Killing animals and making their bodies trophies was a pastime they shared for over a decade from their ranches in Montana.

They hunted in India before. Legally, and illegally. It was a place where officials turned their heads quickly if enough money was offered. Guides gathered like flies in the airports looking for would-be hunters for a payday.

The heat and the humidity hit Rory and Mack like a living thing as they walked down the runway and towards the main gate. The two men stood out in the sun watching the workers unload the luggage from the plane onto rolling carts that were attached to mini-trucks.

By the time they got to their room in Jaipur both men were exhausted. After eating a light dinner at an outside café, they returned to their room and went to bed…anticipating the next day.

They chose to walk, carrying a few basic supplies in their back packs. The walk turned out to be much longer than they were led to believe. The road was rough and uneven. Both men were panting from the heat when they arrived at the shrine.

A woman ran up to them and put red dots on their foreheads and demanded money. They didn’t even try to argue with her. The priests and staff were mingling with a small gathering of visitors at the base of the temple. Some people were feeding the monkeys chips and bananas.

The courtyard and temple were filthy with monkey feces and decaying food. The temple itself was in poor condition. Parts of the shrine was crumbling under the weight of vines and heavy vegetation that was slowly engulfing the whole structure.

Rory and Mack’s plan was simple. They would each kill a monkey and put it in the water-proof/smell proof canvas bag they both brought along for that purpose. They planned on checking in the sealed bags with the dead monkeys inside as luggage – souvenirs from their trip. Neither had brought a weapon. Too much hassle for such small prey.

They reasoned that they could kill the fragile primates easily with their hands. Snap the their neck, and that’s all she wrote. The challenge was to kill the monkeys without starting a riot.

They stayed until dusk, waiting for the visitors and pilgrims to leave. The priests disappeared into the shrine’s dark interior as nightfall settled into the valley. There was no lack of monkeys to pick from. They were sleeping all over the ruins.

It wasn’t much of a challenge for the two experienced hunters to sneak up on a sleeping monkey and throttle it before it could squeak in protest. The deed was done and they walked back to their room under the light of a full moon.

Two weeks later back in Montana.

Mack held up his brandy snifter and clinked it against Rory’s. They were sitting in front of a glowing fireplace in Mack’s trophy room. That day they had picked up their catches from the taxidermist and were now admiring the work that made them look alive.

The monkeys stood upright on little rock pedestal, staring into space, as the two happy hunters drank late into the night.

From the local newspaper – The Montana Messenger

Headline: Two Men Found Strangled In Lodge

Police reported that a housekeeper found two men dead on the floor as she was cleaning Monday morning. The owner of the lodge, Rory L. Handers was found with a broken neck, as was his visitor, Mack Kolby Cameron II.

There are no suspects at this time. The two men were well known international hunters who had just recently returned from a vacation in India. Rory’s spouse told deputies that their last trip was a pilgrimage to a shrine in India, Galtaji Temple.

Local residents have been advised to lock up securely at night. A full investigation is underway, according to Sheriff Slim Sanders.”

As it Stands,  Lord Hanuman’s revenge was cosmic justice.

A Timely Revenge

It was Skip Barger’s dream to be a forest ranger.

He had always enjoyed hiking, fishing, and camping. When he finally did became a forest ranger at Glacier National Park in Montana, it was the highlight of his young life.

He loved working alone and not having a regular routine. Most of the time his interactions with the public were positive. He loved the rugged peaks, clear waters, and glacial-carved valleys of the park and felt honored to work there.

He spent his free time reading about the park’s history. There was evidence that human’s lived in the park as far back as 10,000 years. Long before the white man came there several different tribes occupied the area.

It was home to the Blackfeet Indians who controlled the vast prairies east of the mountains. It was also the hunting grounds for the Salish and Kootenai Indians who lived in the western valleys.

Skip loved hiking through the vast park looking for new sights and trails to document. One day he came into an area he wasn’t familiar with. He lost track of time and realized he wasn’t going to get back to his cabin before darkness settled in.

It was late spring and the weather was mild, so sleeping outside without a tent wasn’t a problem. Nevertheless, he looked around for a shelter and discovered what he first thought was a cave. It turned out to be a gold mining operation that he estimated (based upon reading the areas history) was over a 170 years-old.

Curious, Skip stepped inside and inspected the walls laced with gold-bearing crystal quartz. He could see where the workers followed the veins. He took the flashlight off his web belt and pointed it down the tunnel. It seemed to go on for quit a ways.

Back outside he found a long-fallen log and sat on it. Pulling out his notebook he made some observations. Taking his field compass from it’s pouch, he took his bearings and recorded them.

It was nearly dark when he decided to go to sleep on a patch of grass by the fallen log. He didn’t bother with a fire. It was a warm night.

Skip almost immediately fell into a sound sleep. He didn’t usually dream. And if he did, he seldom remembered what it was about.

That night.

“Another white eyes looking for gold.  What should we do?” Askuwheteau (Blackfoot for He Keeps Watch) asked the elder beside him.

The old man looked down at Skip, curled into a fetal position on his side. “His presence here is an affront,” Eluwilussit (Blackfoot for Holy One) said with disgust in his voice.

“No wait! Before you judge me let me explain…” Skip cut into the conversation.

The two old men stared at Skip – who was standing now – with thinly veiled contempt.

“White men have tongues like serpents,” Askuwheteau accused.

Startled, Skip looked down and saw his body below him on the ground, asleep. Trying to concentrate, he told them he wasn’t a miner. He was a park ranger.

The hate in their eyes told him they didn’t believe him. They both moved menacingly towards Skip who staggered backward in terror!

The next morning.

When Skip woke up his heart was beating so fast he felt like he’d ran for miles. It took him a few moments to remember where he was. He shivered in the chill morning air and at the memory of a terrible nightmare. He’d never had one so vivid before.

It haunted him all the way back to his cabin.

By the time he ate, and did all of his chores it was time to conduct a short hiking tour for a group of tourists. He forgot about the nightmare as he talked about the beauty of the area and it’s wildlife inhabitants.

That night he was exhausted, and feel into a deep sleep after eating dinner.

In the dream he was watching a group of white men carrying out bags of jagged native ore laced with gold from the tunnel. Two Indians suddenly appeared and tried to make the group of five miners leave their heavy bags and go. The armed miners pulled their guns out and shot the two Indian men to death.

He watched in horror as the white men scalped them and mutilated their bodies. Afterwards they left their bodies out in the elements, and returned to civilization.

“Let us see for ourselves,” Askuwheteau said, “if this man can resist the yellow rock.”

“Yes. The gods will look into his heart and tell us why he came, Eluwilussit agreed.

The next morning.

Skip woke up with vague memories of a nightmare, but shook them off by the time he finished eating breakfast. He checked his list for the days activities. Good. He was going to be busy with three tourist tours. No time for silly thoughts.

Skip’s biggest weakness in life was his insatiable curiosity.

Two weeks after discovering the crude mine he found himself in the general vicinity. He checked his compass and confidently set out towards the mine. This time he brought some supplies with him in a rucksack.

When he entered the mine he took out his flashlight and a small pick hammer. He carefully watched where he stepped as he went deeper into the mine’s interior. When he came to a dead end he turned around and started walking back when he saw the dull gleam on the wall.

It got brighter as he trained the flashlight on it…an exposed vein of gold! Someone had started to chip around it and stopped for some reason. The raw gold transfixed Skip. He suddenly had a bad case of cotton mouth, and licked his dry lips.

He loved being a park ranger, but if this vein went any distance he could suddenly become wealthy! Then he remembered it was a national park and getting a mining permit would be a problem.

He would have to work it himself and transport the raw gold to a refinery somewhere. With modern equipment, like a jackhammer, he should be able to do the job. He picked at the vein and chipped off a piece of gold encased in crystal quartz. It was beautiful!

A small voice was warning him about something. He ignored it, and chipped off another piece. That’s when he heard the mountain rumble and the tunnel began collapsing! He made it about halfway to the entrance before a boulder pinned him down!

His screams went unnoticed in the wilderness.

As It Stands, gold has always corrupted mankind.

The Liar Legion’s Last Stand

K2

Andromeda Galaxy – Westrah, Ursae

The leader of the once unchallenged Liar Legions looked down at the valley below at the armies assembling against him and his warriors.

Arken was the legion’s last surviving  general. As he stood atop Mountain Purn his mind wandered. He remembered when he joined the legions as a mere boy of sixteen. Now, 30 years later, he and his men were all that stood between the Truth Teller hoards and his way of life.

He recalled better days when there was no penalties for lying. Just the opposite, a good liar moved up quickly in the legion leadership ranks. It had been so for uncounted centuries.

But the new century saw the rise of the unrelenting Truth Tellers. They based their beliefs on the truth – no matter how hard it was to pursue. For decades they infiltrated the government and quietly took it over – a bloodless coup…at first…

That changed after the riots in Tel-Pa city when a crowd of Truth Tellers killed two of the government’s legionnaires. In the ensuing crackdown, four Truth Tellers were arrested and later executed.

That was the moment when the Liar Legions saw the writing on the wall – they were no longer in charge because of their beliefs. Three legion generals gathered all the warriors who were willing to fight and die.

The chronicles say that many of the legions men surrendered and took oaths to always tell the truth. The hard-core that remained assembled in the nearby mountains. They picked the highest point, Mt. Purn, for their headquarters.

From there, they conducted raids against the ever-swelling ranks of the Truth Tellers. A year passed, before the combined forces of the Truth Tellers were able to overwhelm the legion’s outposts.

They still faced a formidable climb to get to the top of the mountain. Arken’s warriors set traps everywhere. It was winter and the freezing winds lashed out like a living thing. Yet, the legionnaires all knew it was just a matter of time before they died defending their beliefs.

Arken looked down at the base of the mountain where tens of thousands of tents were pitched. They were color coded by divisions. Their brilliant colors reminded Arken of when he was a child playing in the flowery fields of Danber, his birthplace.

It was there that he leaned how to properly lie, and when to lie. There were rules. He was schooled in them before being allowed to join the legions. There was a time for white lies, and a time for outright lies.

The right to lie was his inheritance. Being a patriot, he happily joined the legions and rose through the ranks. He could think of no greater honor than to die defending his beliefs.

As his mind wandered one of the warriors came running up to him.

“It’s started,” he said.

Arken tore himself away from his thoughts and followed the scout to the south side of the mountain. They looked like ants below. An endless line of ants slowly working their way up to them.

By midday the ants were working their steady way up from all directions. Hundreds died in the lethal traps his men set, but the others just pushed on relentlessly.

Arden wished they’d have had more time to fortify their headquarters. The outer wall was only five-feet tall. Not enough to stop a determined warrior.

When the first of the attackers finally hacked his way up and over the wall, he was met by a shield wall of grim veteran legionnaires. Others followed. Spears stopped the first wave of Truth Tellers.

The second wave battered the sword swinging legionnaires but their shield wall held fast. The enemy had to clear thousands of bodies out of the way to resume the attack. The depleted ranks of the Liar Legions prepared themselves for the third wave.

Despite the carnage Arken was still alive and leading his warriors. His armor was battered and covered in gore, like the others. As they waited for the next wave it began to snow.

That’s when the final assault was launched.

As It Stands, this tale is an opportunity to examine the validity of belief systems.

Comes An Asteroid On A Starry, Starry Night

Asteroid3

Nolis, Neptune

The mass exodus had begun.

When the scientists said that a giant asteroid was going to hit the planet and there would be no survivors, panic ensued.

The wealthy and elite were the first to fill the space buses to Jupiter – a longtime trading partner.

When the space buses returned to get more passengers they were hijacked by armed and desperate inhabitants. Only the strong and armed made the second wave to Jupiter. Then the space buses were grounded.

The remaining Neptunians had no way to leave the planet.

They clustered together in like-minded groups. Neltics gravitated to their kind, and Ulrians did the same. Some groups were new cults that sprang up a month earlier when the word about the impending asteroid became public.

Only two people on the planet were not worried about the imminent asteroid.

The wizard, Na-En Ree, and his young Neltic apprentice, Pit, knew a secret. Because they were outcasts from Neptunian society, they lived far from the big cities. In the frozen tundra near the Kper Mountain range.

Once wizards were universally respected and no civilized city went without at least a dozen offering good advise. They were respected. That changed however with the rise of the scientific elite.

At the turn of the new millennium, a scientific cult became increasingly popular. The inventions they came up with awed the masses. Advances in weaponry and space travel opened up their world. Then trade with Jupiter was established, forever cementing their leadership.

The old ways were soon forbidden. The power of the wizards was broken. They were hunted down all over the planet in one day of terrible reckoning. There was only one survivor… Na-En Ree.

He escaped the terrible purge with the help of a young Neltic runaway. He led Na-En Ree to his crude cave in the frozen tundra near the Kper Mountain range. The boy had been on his own for months, and missed having company.

The boy, Pit, was a clever lad and Na-En Ree soon made him his apprentice. He took Pit outside every night to observe the stars and planets in the starry, starry skies. The wizard read the stars just like a Neptunian could read a book.

One night he took the boy outside as usual, but this time he told him to record what he saw. Pit saw the planet Jupiter, its brightness like a thousand stars in its weekly orbit. Hours went by when suddenly a giant flaming asteroid slammed into Jupiter instantly pulverizing the planet and lighting up the galaxy.

The boy recorded the time and duration of the brightness until the growing dawn brought light to Neptune’s clear blue skies.

“As I told you Pit, the scientists were wrong about which planet was going to be destroyed by the great asteroid. This is important for people to understand. The old ways are best.

Go now, to Nolis, and spread the word my son, that someday I may return and share my wisdom until my last days in peace.”

The Chronicles of Pit and the Wizard tell us they succeeded in restoring harmony among the remaining Neptunians within two short years.

As It Stands, the conflict between science and magic is eternal.

It’s All About The Type of Meat

Beef-and-Barley-Stew-with-Mushrooms-from-Simply-Recipes

Newcastle upon Tyne, England – Standish Manor

The lord of Standish Manor was a renaissance man. His interests were vast, from cooking to painting portraits of friends and family.

Always a curious child, Hayden Standish grew up in a wealthy family that entertained his every whim.

He was always on the lookout for new experiences. When he was old enough to travel on his own, he went on a world tour that lasted for three years. He visited great cities in Europe and Asia, soaking up their cultures and cuisines.

His most enjoyable experiences were when he left the beaten road for most tourists, and discovered small villages and towns with unusual customs and laws.

He traveled to Bulgaria, and through the Balkan mountains, to the burning desert sands of the Kalahari desert in Southern Africa. He braved the frigid temperatures of the Antarctica, and the humid jungles of South America.

During his travels he kept a notebook full of the recipes of the food he ate. He would immerse himself in the culture to fully appreciate the experience of each dish. He also carried an artist’s pad and pencils to sketch his culinary experiences.

Among the delicacies he sampled were fried cow brains, puffin hearts, drunken shrimp, escamole (ant larva harvested from the roots of the agave plant), Hakarl (fermented basking shark), live octopus seasoned in sesame oil and chopped up before your eyes (it’s still wiggling when you eat it), tuna eyeballs, bullock’s balls, and A-Ping (fried tarantula).

Just before returning home to England, Lord Standish visited a small town – Ardara – just outside of County Donegal in Northern Ireland. While in France, he met a gourmet chef there who strongly recommended Ardara’s famous stew.

Northern Ireland

Ardara’s hilly streets were lined with gift stores and stores selling the famed Donegal wool. A pub, The Rebel’s Revenge, was Lord Standish’s destination. He introduced himself to the chef, and ordered a bowl of his famous stew.

He was immediately impressed with the first mouthful, chewing it slowly and savoring the tender meat base.

Lamb right?” he asked.

“It’s a secret recipe that’s been in my family for over two hundred years. I regret that I can’t answer your question, but please understand it’s our biggest culinary draw,” the chef replied.

“My compliments sir. It’s the best stew I’ve ever eaten.” 

That night, Lord Standish laid awake for hours in his hotel bed, thinking about the savory stew. He got up several times and looked out his window. He had a perfect view of the pub across the street.

The next day he went back for more. And the next day. And the next.

When a week went by he realized he had to have the recipe. No amount of money had moved the chef to share the secret ingredients. He could tell what everything was in the stew, but the meat.

It preyed upon his waking thoughts and dreams like a prowling tiger. Then one night, he got a break.

It was well past midnight. He was standing up and staring out his window when he saw a light flicker momentarily in the pub. Curiosity already aroused, he got dressed and walked out into the tiny lobby area.

A clerk was sleeping in a padded chair behind the check-in counter, as he opened the door. He expected a bell or something, but nothing happened when he went out.

The pub was dark again. He walked around to the side alley looking for a rear entrance. Rusted trash bins and stacks of wooden crates greeted him. Then he saw the back door. It was slightly ajar and light was seeping out from the crack.

Cautiously, he approached it and tried to peer inside without touching the door. It was only an inch-wide gap and he didn’t see anything at first. Then he made out what looked like a human leg on the floor!

Shocked, but unable to help himself, he stood there and stared at the naked leg. He heard the chef’s deep voice telling someone to separate the ribs and to set the entrails aside. He listened to the sound of meat being hacked apart for several minutes.

When he saw a shadow come cross the leg on the floor, he turned and ran blindly into the night! He flew head-over-heels after tripping on something in the alley. The terrified Lord Standish barely made it back to his room before he started vomiting.

One year later.

Lord Standish invited his friends and family to a dinner party.

Recovered from his initial reaction, he now whole heartedly took on the special stew. A connection with a local corrupt funeral home owner provided the necessary meat on a fairly regular basis.

The main dish, Lord Standish’s Stew, was a hit with everyone in attendance.

As It Stands, this is another one of my cautionary tales where I point out you should always know all of the ingredients in something you eat.