Sacred Paths

Written by: John Gray and Kathy Pogge
With additional assistance by: Robbie Bevard

Story concept by: Brian Dumlao and Kathy Pogge

Illustrations by: Noel Leas

 

Previously on Timedancer

Beth closed her eyes. She took several deep, calming breaths. A small smile tugged at her lips and then she opened her eyes. "Hey, I'm a Maza, we all do what we have to do. So what do we do next?"

Coyote returned her smile. "Tonight? Nothing. You're exhausted. But I'll be back soon. When I return I want you to be ready. Do you know how to make knukquivi?"

"Lamb and hominy stew?" Beth asked puzzled. "Sure. Grandma used to make it when we'd visit sometimes."

"She made great knukquivi," Coyote recalled.

"You knew my grandmother?" Beth sat bolt upright, her exhaustion temporarily forgotten.

"Oops. I shouldn't have said that." Coyote admitted. "Let's just say I've had a close association with your family for a very long time."

"Will you tell me about it?"

"Another time," Coyote hedged.

~ A Call to Arms ~

* * * * *

Sacred Paths

* * * * *

Clark Jarrett stood on his neatly whitewashed front porch and watched as a dusty red and cream colored Packard Saloon bumped its way up the driveway. The car raised a cloud of dust behind it, obscuring the rough dirt road.

The tall, slightly built man pulled an antique pocket watch from the vest of his gray flannel suit and glanced at it. His visitors had made good time from Flagstaff. He tucked the watch back safely back into his pocket before running a hand over his thinning gray hair. He raised a palm in greeting as the automobile pulled up in front of the stone bungalow.

"Afternoon, Mr. Jarrett," the driver, Pete Riley, called as he stepped out of the car.

"How are you, Pete?" Jarrett peered into the dusty car. "Who's that you've got with you?"

The two men stepped out of the car and stretched, flexing and massaging muscles abused by the bumpy ride. After a moment they climbed the porch stairs to stand with Jarrett.

"Mr. Jarrett, I'd like you to meet Dan Carson," Riley said. "Mr. Carson, this is my boss, Clark Jarrett. He's the area supervisor."

"Pleased to meet you, Jarrett," Carson replied as he stuck out a hand. "I understand you've done some fine work out here despite your difficulties with some of the more hard nosed locals."

Jarrett struggled to keep a polite expression on his narrow face. Carson's voice implied that a better man wouldn't be having his difficulties. "Why don't we go inside out of the chill and we can discuss the situation over coffee," he said to his visitors. He held open the front door and gestured the men inside.

"Thanks, Mr. Jarrett," Pete said as he tugged at his bolo tie. "A cup of joe sure does sound good after being on the road all morning."

"Go on into the sitting room. I'll be with you in a moment." Jarrett escorted the men in, and made sure they were seated comfortably in twin wingback chairs. He checked the wood stove before withdrawing into the kitchen.

He returned a moment later bearing a black and white ceramic tray laden with coffee paraphernalia. After seeing to his guests, he finally seated himself and addressed the stranger. "The telegram I got from Washington neglected to mention they were sending you out, Mr. Carson."

"Yes," Carson said between draughts of coffee, "well the Bureau felt that a new negotiator might have better luck out here. So feeling that the time was right, they sent me. Instead of just appraising the situation, I'll be taking an active hand."

Jarrett sighed inwardly. "I see. How much did Pete tell you about the... situation up on the mesa, Mr. Carson?"

Carson took a healthy swig of coffee out of his mug before running a finger over his thin, blond, mustache. "Mainly that you've been having the same, reoccurring problem with the Hopi faction called the 'hostiles'. They won't accept the formation of the new Tribal Council and they're impeding our efforts at modernization- especially up on Third Mesa. But he also told me that through slow and steady negotiations you've got a fairly large number of people up there sitting on the fence. A skilled negotiator might be able to get these people off the fence-" Jarrett studied his coffee cup intently as he controlled his temper. "- and open the mesas up for serious negotiations. We get them to accept some improvements like electricity and plumbing, get them to understand how useful money can be and they'll be more than willing to talk to the representatives of the various mining interests that want to move into the area."

"Beg your pardon, Mr. Carson," Pete Riley said. "But it won't be as easy as you make it sound."

"Why not, Riley?" Carson turned his florid face toward the younger man. "It seems simple enough to me."

"Well sir, it's like I tried to explain on the way up," Pete drawled as he stirred more sugar into his coffee. "The 'hostiles' feel that the improvements you want to bring up there will break the promise they made with their creator. They're dead serious about living the way they've always lived to keep that promise."

Carson looked incredulous. "Superstitious nonsense," he dismissed. "Let me have a talk with them. I'll explain to them that their creator wants them to live as well as they can, just like their friends in Washington do."

"But-" Jarrett started to protest.

"Nonsense." Carson looked impatient. "No 'but' about it, Jarrett. You've read the Meriam Report and so have I."

Jarrett set down his coffee cup and leaned forward. "But the Meriam Report said we have to treat these people with respect and let them determine their own paths. We're to assist them any way we can, but we can't force change!"

Carson would not be swayed. He addressed both men as calmly as he could although his face had reddened with anger at having been contradicted. "The Meriam Report also states that you can't put people in glass cases. They have to keep up with the times! It's wrong for them to do otherwise. Surely you two can understand that? Or have you been out here so long that you're starting to go native?" He looked around the room at Jarrett's collection of pottery and artifacts and Pete Riley's woven vest suspiciously.

The Area Supervisor realized he would gain nothing by further antagonizing his superior. "I have a meeting with the villagers of Hotevilla scheduled for tomorrow. You can talk to them and explain your case then." He rose and refilled the coffee cups, determined to put the best face on the situation that he could. "In the meantime, Mr. Carson, please accept my hospitality. There's a guest room down the hallway so you can freshen up and supper should be ready in about an hour." He turned to Pete Riley. "We should be able to drive up in the morning, Pete. The Weather Service says it's going to be clear and dry for the next few days."

Pete looked pained. "I hate the idea of taking that car over those washboards, Mr. Jarrett. Are you sure you don't want to ride out there?"

Jarrett shrugged. "Normally I'd agree with you, son. But if we're going to promote progress then we might as well go all the way. We'll take the car."

"Yes, sir," Riley relented. "I'll go make sure she's up for the trip." He turned to Carson. "I'll be right back with your bag." Riley retreated into the February chill, the screen door slamming behind him.

* * * * *

Far above the Area Supervisor's house on the third finger of Black Mesa, a coyote howled. Its cry was forlorn and it echoed against the canyon walls. The cry was taken up by another. Soon, an eerie chorus wailed.

The coyote chorus caught the attention of the group of men as they entered single file into the underground ceremonial chamber.

"Iisaw sounds sad tonight," said an elderly man as he descended down the ladder.

"It is a sign," their leader, an equally elderly priest said. "We must dance the ritual correctly or risk displeasing the guardian spirits." He looked to his companions who were already busy preparing themselves to assume their kachina guises. "We already risk the village by consorting with the government men," he concluded gruffly.

He looked among his dancers and grimaced. "Where is the boy? He's late!" He turned to another of the dancers, a youngish man who'd not yet begun to apply his body paint. "Find him. Get him here now!"

* * * * *

On the other side of the village, a loose knot of young men stood in the dusty plaza listening with keen interest as another one of their numbers stood telling stories of the sights he had seen in Flagstaff.

"- Everything is different there!" the boy, Oscar Wisoko, exclaimed as he jammed his hands deeper in the pockets of his new blue jeans. "One day they let us out of school early and took us on a field trip to a movie house."

"A movie house?" said a young man of barely sixteen. He had, as did most of his companions, dark hair tied back into a pony tail, and intense, black eyes. It was a stark contrast to the neatly trimmed hair of the storyteller who in addition to his new blue jeans, wore a long sleeved white cotton shirt instead of plaid flannel like his listeners.

"I'll tell you," the boy said. "It's a place where they tell stories-"

"Ah," said another of the boys waving a hand dismissively, "My grandfather tells stories." He turned to walk away but froze when Oscar clapped his hand on his shoulder.

"Wait a minute, Pedro, I haven't got to the best part." Having regained the other boy's attention, Oscar continued. "They put a big white screen, like a blanket or hide," he explained to his companions, "up on the wall. Then they turn out the lights-"

"I still can't believe that," a third boy said. "Turning a roomful of lights on and off as you please. It sounds too incredible."

"No, that one's true," a fourth boy, shorter than the rest, said. "I've seen them too!"

"They turn off the lights," Oscar resumed, "and a new light comes on that projects pictures and music and people's voices!"

"Talking pictures," Carlos, the eldest of the group said, fascinated. "Who would have thought such a thing was possible? What else did you-"

"So here you are!" a voice demanded at Carlos's elbow. "Have you lost all sense of the time?"

Carlos whirled to find William Asquali at his elbow. "Time?" he said perplexed, his attention still on Oscar's moving pictures.

"You are supposed to be at the kiva preparing!" Asquali said, reproach in his voice. "Not standing idle with boys who have chores to do!"

Carlos paled as much as his dark skin would allow. "I've got to go. But Oscar, I want you to tell me more later." He set off at a jog through the dusty street past the ramshackle stone houses with Asquali at his heels.

* * * * *

The boys, caught up in Oscar's stories, did not see the brief flare of light out on the desert floor. They missed the sphere of wispy flame and bright light and the two winged beings thrown from its nexus.

Considering the violence of their departure, the pair landed more or less gently. A gold and blue talisman struck the ground nearby.

For a few moments, the large red male gargoyle crouched, his jade green, female companion in his arms.

The female looked down and examined her clothing. The left arm of her kimono was smoldering and she batted at it swiftly.

The male appeared stunned. He looked up at the mesa looming over them blankly, his chest heaving with the effort of their most recent and dangerous escape. He mutely surveyed the rough terrain. "Now what?" he muttered after several moments.

The jade female put her hand against his chest, her face filled with alarm at his slow response. "Brooklyn-san, are you unharmed? The volcano... the explosion, do you remember?"

"Explosion?" Brooklyn stared at his mate bewildered even as she batted at his own, smoldering hair and clothing. Sata's taloned hand gently touched the back of his head, examining it for injuries.

"My love," she said gently, "It might be easier to examine you if you set me down."

Brooklyn looked slightly bewildered. "Down?" He looked at his mate and realized belatedly that he still held her in his arms. "Right. Down. Sorry."

Concern shone in Sata's dark eyes. She first checked herself in a cursory fashion to make sure that her clothing was properly extinguished and that her weapons were intact, before beginning to examine the tall red gargoyle in a much more thorough manner.

He seemed uninjured save for a large welt on the back of his skull. "Tell me your name," she commanded her mate.

"I'm sorry. What did you say?"

"Your name," Sata repeated. "Who are you and what is your clan?"

'My name is-" he opened his beak, his tongue trying to form the familiar sounds. "Funny, I can't remember." His features became frustrated as he puzzled over the incongruity. "It's right there," he protested. "I'm sure of it! Right on the tip of my tongue!"

"Who is your clan?" Sata asked again patiently.

"My clan is ... it's ..." Brooklyn shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know."

Sata tried to hide the concern in her eyes. "Perhaps you will have a better time with this question," she said, keeping her tone calm. "Who am I?"

"You are..." He examined the soft curves and the dark, flowing hair of the female before him. Though she tried to mask it, he could see worry in her dark, dark eyes. Images began to fill his mind. Nights spent on tropical beaches and deep in the desert, strange metropolises and tiny backwoods villages. The incongruous realization that they had been involved in some exploit that was frequently dangerous. But above the sea of confusion, one fact became clear. The female before him was the most important person in his life. A name floated to the muzzy surface of his mind and he grabbed at it. "You are," he repeated, his voice stronger this time, "Sata. My Sata. My one true love and mate."

He held out his arms to her and they embraced gently. A wave of dizziness overcame the red warrior and he sagged nearly to his knees before Sata could react.

"You are not well, my love." She helped him carefully the rest of the way to the sandy ground. "Rest for a while." Sata gathered him into her embrace. "I will tell you of the volcano and how the Phoenix Gate snatched us from its jaws."

Brooklyn looked pained as his memories began to fit themselves back into place. "We weren't being offered as sacrifices to some primitive jungle god were we?"

Sata relaxed, a small smile playing at her lips. "Do you remember?"

The crimson gargoyle shook his snowy mane. "I'm not sure. I think so, but... Why don't you tell me about it?"

"Very well." Sata settled Brooklyn more comfortably against her chest. "We landed deep in the jungle. The trees were so tall that you could not see the moon. We met a band of people, tiny, even by human standards-"

"Wait a minute," the red gargoyle exclaimed. "Was there a guy in a loin cloth who claimed he was Lord of the Jungle?"

Sata shook her head. "No, Brooklyn-san, that was the movie you took me to the night we spent in San Francisco. Do you not recall? You were disappointed because color film had not been invented yet."

"Oh, yeah, that's right," he agreed, nodding. The motion made him wince and he put a taloned hand to his temple. "You better just tell me what happened."

Brooklyn closed his eyes and listened as Sata began to reveal their latest and most harrowing exploits.

* * * * *

High on the bluff, one coyote larger and more majestic than the rest, sat alone from the pack and sang. His mournful cries were picked up by the others. The canine chorus filled the desert with their dirge.

The chorus went suddenly silent as a flash of magic sparked and ancient fay powers went to work. Coyote, trickster of the Southwest, returned to the lifelike construct he'd left on top of the sandstone mass. His spirit merged with the artificial animal, and in this guise he resumed his lament.

In the distance there was a brief flash of blue light and he eyed it curiously. Before he could react to the strange occurrence, another presence made itself known. The canine disguised fay stopped howling and half turned, crouching slightly and tilting his ears back a little.

A spot of energy appeared on the ground a few feet away.

It grew into a solid circle almost a meter across. A sandy wind with telltale sparks of green and blue-white in it, flowed around the cylinder of earth and clay that abruptly grew up through the circle. The coyote went back to howling as the cylinder began to shake slightly and started to crumble. As more pieces fell, the form and features of an elderly looking woman were revealed.

The fay, known by many as Grandmother, noticed her old student's howls as her body, created from the flesh of the Earth she loved, began to come together.

She was small, with silvered hair and an aged face. Still, there was a strong spark in her eye. Grandmother inhaled deeply the breath of the Land and felt Its pulse move through her before she turned her gaze to Coyote and frowned.

"Coyote, in the name of all the realms, what are you doing just sitting here?!? You must know what is happening?"

The beast growled at her, his hackles rising.

The 'woman' raised her hands in exasperation. "Then why aren't you doing something about it? I thought you learned at least some of what I tried to teach you."

For a few moments the coyote made a series of chuffs, whines and barks, then growled again before turning away towards a narrow path.

She looked at the pseudo-canine bewildered. "I do not believe you are doing this. How can you just turn your back? They need us! They need you!"

The beast shook its head once; making a good attempt to look like it was frowning sadly. He continued to walk away, padding silently down the sandy path.

Grandmother abruptly appeared in front of the coyote. He backed up a step but otherwise held his ground and waited for Grandmother's reaction.

"You are not leaving until we settle this." The elderly looking female flashed her hand between them, leaving a streak of energy in front of herself that shimmered for a few seconds before fading away. "Stand and face me instead of acting like a dumb beast!"

Coyote waited a few seconds before shaping his body into its human aspect. Before his teacher of old now stood a man who appeared to be just shy of thirty years old. His shoulder length hair was held back by a leather headband painted with animal symbols. Two dark feathers hung down from a circled ornament in the back of the headband. He was dressed in faded, dusty denim pants and a vest made from tanned buffalo hide. The fay would have fit in among any of the many tribes that were spread out over the Western states and provinces.

"Hello, Teacher," he said after regarding her for a few moments. "Are you happy now?"

"No," she replied. Her voice was kind, yet stern. "Talk to me."

Coyote looked at his mentor sadly. "We stand at the beginning of a new age, old friend. A time of great change is coming that will remake the face of the world. You must have seen the signs just as I did. The children we have watched over for so long have are finally growing and choosing their own way and leaving us behind." He paced the mesa looking over the desert sadly before continuing to speak.

"The tribes can no longer resist the pressures placed upon them from the other humans. They are yielding and taking up new ways rather than following the traditions we have given to them. I wish it weren't true, but we knew that it would happen eventually. It always has before."

Grandmother's face wrinkled by age, softened as she began to laugh softly. "Is that what it is? Why do you think that learning more about the world will make the tribes forget what is in their hearts? I think you don't give the children enough credit."

Coyote pointed toward the village below. "Grandmother, those of the third mesa were our last hope. When they founded the first village they promised to hold to the old ways. But now, even they waver in the wind. Would you bind them in a pact that they don't really understand rather than allow them experience the ease of a modern life? We chose, not them. They should not have to continue to follow us blindly, just so we retain the strength they gave us."

Grandmother's laughter faded and her voice took on the serious aspect of a teacher dealing with a wayward student. "Our power is not solely dependent on our children's belief and you know it, my son." She touched Coyote gently on the shoulder forcing his attention away from the village and back to herself. "Don't forget, we came to this place for a reason. We must stay true to our purpose here."

Coyote argued the point. "If the Hopi and the other tribes decide to walk a different path then there is no reason to remain."

Grandmother shook her head. "Again you are mistaken. We still have work to do here." Her small features settled into determined lines. "It does not matter if they continue to believe in us; we must show them that we believe in them. Besides," she reminded Coyote sternly, "There is much more at stake than whether our people continue to observe mere ritual. The portal must be protected at all costs."

"I haven't forgotten," he frowned, while avoiding her gaze.

"So you say."

Coyote huffed and threw his hands in the air. "Yes, so I say."

Grandmother stretched out and put both her hands on Coyote's shoulders. "We started this together. After we spoke last time in the Northlands I thought you were willing to see this through." She forced the younger fay to look her in the eyes. "Will you turn away from the commitment we made to Oberon?"

Coyote said nothing. After a few seconds Grandmother dropped her hands.

"There is so much at stake, and not just here." She stepped away from him. "Stay strong, my friend and do not forget that I believe in you." The wind suddenly whipped across the top of the mesa. The elderly looking fay released her control of her physical form and the powerful gusts dispersed her likeness, again made of sand, across the butte.

Coyote stood looking up at the sky for some time. He howled again, a lonely sounding song, before beginning to make his way toward the villages of Third Mesa.

* * * * *

Brooklyn rose to his feet using the edge of a sandstone butte for balance. "I'm fine," he told Sata, forcing conviction into his voice. "I have a nasty headache, but at least the spinning has stopped."

Sata looked at him skeptically. The red gargoyle released the butte and walked a half a dozen steps without wavering. "See? I feel much better. There's a village up there in the distance," he said pointing to the cliffs above them. "Let's head for it. Maybe we can get a handle on why we're here." He returned to the butte and began to climb its multicolored, stone face. "Be careful," he cautioned his mate. "It's kinda crumbly." His talons over-dug his next hand-hold and he had to scramble for a better purchase. "See what I mean?"

"I do, Brooklyn-san," Sata said as she chose a spot and began her own assent up the cliff-face. A few moments later they abandoned the crumbly surface and began to glide toward the lights of the village.

*****

Carlos applied the last of his body make up and placed the awkward kachina mask over his head. He turned his attention toward the leader-priest who raised his arm and stamped the turtle shell rattle tied to his knee. The dancers stamped in answer and silently they climbed the ladder out of the kiva and began to enter the village.

The residents had gathered. Most stood on the rooftops of their squat stone houses where they could get the best view, but they lined the dusty street as well, jostling with excitement as the kachina dancers appeared. Carlos ignored them as he concentrated on the rhythm of the dance, just as he ignored the chill of the winter air and the itch of the body paint. But a part of his mind wandered as he thought about Oscar and life beyond the mesa.

* * * * *

Brooklyn and Sata landed in a peach orchard just below the village and began to walk silently towards the collection of one and two story buildings. They paused listening intently as the first echoing drum beats floated toward them. A low guttural chanting followed as did the sound of bells.

"What's going on?" Brooklyn asked, perplexed. Sata shrugged and they advanced further toward the village. A moment later they stood at the edge of the little town watching the strange procession.

"Are they Oni, Brooklyn-san?" Sata asked quietly.

Brooklyn quietly dropped into a crouch. "No, I don't think they're demons," he whispered back as he gently pulled Sata down beside him. Brooklyn noted the unease in his mate's voice, and squeezed her hand to soothe her, while showing a warm smile. Their attention turned back to the creatures in question.

Black masked figures with long red tongues hanging over their coarse black beards stood before them. "They're human men," Brooklyn said softly. He studied their black painted torsos and bright yellow shoulders and arms and wondered at the significance of the animal skin tied around their waists and the ruff of feathers that gathered around each dancer's neck. Each time they pounded the ground with their right foot a turtle shell rattle tied at the knee counter-pointed their rhythm.

As he studied the men going by, Brooklyn nodded and a smile touched the ends of his mouth. "I thought so," he said to himself softly.

Brooklyn did not stand even after the men were well past the couple; almost to the village. Sata settled herself next to him. "What is it, Brooklyn-kun?"

Again Brooklyn picked up the faint hint of anxiety in Sata's speech. He turned away from the village to look at her.

"It's nothing, Guriin-chan. I didn't mean to make you worry. I was letting my thoughts wander."

"Again?" Sata raised her body up a few inches and looked around. "Are you sure you have recovered?"

Brooklyn ignored Sata's question and the concerned look in her eye as he explained himself. "From the terrain in the area, I suspected that we were in the southwestern part of North America. The costumes of those men confirmed it. My friends spoke of seeing similar clothes when they visited Arizona during their travels."

"What are the people who live in this place like? Do you think we need to be on our guard here?"

"I can't say for sure until we find out what time we're in." Brooklyn looked around again to see the heavy mist had curled around the base of the mesas and would soon roll over the village.

"Come on, Sata. I think the fog will give us enough cover to look over the village. Hopefully we'll get some idea of when we are." The two gargoyles stood and went to follow the same path the men from the kiva had used.

* * * * *

Coyote stood on a rooftop watching the dancers. He had altered his appearance so that he blended in with those that gathered around him. His clothing consisted of rough twill pants, and a brightly patterned vest over a long-sleeved cotton shirt. His hair was tied in a pony tail and decorated with a trio of eagle feathers, one dyed brightly with red and yellow, dangling from a leather thong.

His thoughts wandered from the lecture Grandmother had given him earlier, down to the dancers, and back to the lecture again. "What does she want me to do, anyway?" he muttered angrily. He shifted his attention again, this time away from the dancers and the lecture and on to the faces of the people that surrounded him. The children watched wide eyed as the towering kachina stomped and swayed. The adults' level of interest varied. Some moved gently in time with the performers; caught up in the rhythm of the chanting. Others, less enthused with the dancing and more enraptured with the opportunity to gossip with their neighbors from the other villages, virtually ignored the proceedings as they talked among themselves.

Coyote shouldered his way through the crowd and climbed the ladder to the street below. He scuffed at the dirt road dejectedly, sending small clouds of dust flying as he walked out of the village and back out onto the mesa to think.

* * * * *

The next morning, after breakfast, the Bureau of Indian Affairs agents clambered into the red and cream car for the trip up the mesa.

Pete Riley took a final look at the engine, assuring himself that the car was in perfect running order, before lowering the hood gently and sliding behind the wheel.

He turned the engine over and the big car roared to life. "All set, gentlemen?" he asked his passengers.

Carson placed a heavy wool traveling rug over his knees and tucked it in. "It gets pretty nippy out here," he said, shivering despite his heavy coat. "I thought this was the desert, you know... hot."

Riley and Jarrett exchanged an amused look. "You're thinking further south of here," Jarrett explained. Pete threw the car in gear and began to bump up the road toward the heart of the reservation. "We've got a fine desert complete with cactus. Gets hot in the summer and comfortable in the winter. To the north of us is a giant forest. It's cool pretty much all year round among the trees." He looked back at Carson. "This part of the country is something else. Elevation is five or six thousand feet above sea level, arid with a climate all its own. You really ought to spend some time out here. Get to know the area some."

The car went over a rough patch of washboard road and bounced the occupants. Carson lurched against the doorframe. "I don't know," he said as he rubbed his shoulder. "I'm a busy man back in Washington."

"Yes, sir," Jarrett said politely, "I'm sure you are."

They spent the rest of the journey in relative silence; broken only by Pete Riley's fervent prayers that they wouldn't break an axle as they clambered slowly up the mesa.

* * * * *

Carlos stood outside his family home on the outskirts of the village and stared at the sleeping orchard below him. Usually the scene instilled a sense of peace, but this morning the bare trees only reinforced the sense of emptiness he felt as he contemplated his own life. He heard the soft, shuffling step of his father behind him and did not turn as the older man joined him. Instead he stiffened his shoulders anticipating a lecture.

He was not disappointed.

"You were late to the kiva last night," his father began. His words were in Hopi and Carlos responded in kind.

"Oscar Wisoko returned from school in Flagstaff. He was telling us about life in the city. I lost track of time."

His father snorted in derision. "That is no excuse. You shame our family and our clan with such foolish behavior! Do you not realize you endanger us all by not carrying out your ceremonial duties with reverence?"

"I did not delay the dance!" Carlos protested. "I performed as I was taught."

His father shook his head. He reached out and touched the boy on the forehead. "But what was in your mind as you danced?" He moved his hand to the center of the young man's chest. "And in your heart? It's not enough to go through the motions. You must believe in the magic of the dance to call the kachina from their home in the mountains."

"I believe," Carlos said automatically. But in his heart he wondered and the elder man picked up on the doubt.

"You can not believe with two hearts, son," he said gently. "You must ignore the lure of the white man's ways and embrace your own heritage with all of your being."

"But, father," Carlos protested, "they promise us so much! Electricity to power lights and other miracles!"

"We've lived many generations without such miracles as Masaw said we must. It is our way... it is to be your way."

Carlos shook his head. "I heard last night that the Bureau men were coming here to talk about ways they could help us. Won't you at least come to the meeting with me to hear them out?"

His father shook his head. "No, I have prayers to make and chores to attend to. I have no time to listen to false promises by our white brother. And neither should you!"

"Please, father!" Carlos argued, "just listen to them!"

The elder man lost his patience. "My father did not leave his home in Oraibi so that his grandson could be corrupted by those that tried to drive him from his sacred path! I forbid you to go to the village while the Bureau men are there!"

Just then the quiet of the village was interrupted by the clatter of an automobile engine.

Carlos stared at his father, his own temper ignited. "You cannot forbid me. I will find my own way!" He turned away from his father and set off with a determined stride toward the sound of the automobile.

The older man watched his son sadly. After a moment, he withdrew a pinch of corn meal from a small hide sack that hung around his neck, said a short prayer of guidance, and returned to his chores.

* * * * *

Carlos strode toward the town center, a determined tilt to his chin. He joined the crowd of people that were gathering around the automobile in the plaza. His eyes went wide with interest as he examined the vehicle.

So engrossed was he that he failed to notice the slightly older youth who came up behind him.

"Quite a monster," said a voice filled with derision. "Isn't it?"

Carlos whirled. "Albert!" He embraced his favorite, and seldom seen, cousin warmly. "How are you!"

"I've been better," he admitted. "That's why I've returned here to the village. I needed to get that sense of... belonging I get from being here."

"You never say where you go when you leave here, Albert," Carlos said. "What is it you do that takes you so far from us?"

"I go where my spirit takes me," he replied. "And right now, it takes me here. So what's going on?" He pointed towards the dusty car. "Why are the Bureau men here?"

"The new Tribal Council arranged for them to come up and tell us about all the improvements they can make in the village, if we'd let them." Carlos tugged his cousin toward the crowd that was beginning to descend in to the kiva reserved for matters of importance to the entire village. "I want to listen to what they have to say."

Albert looked thoughtful. "You know," he said, stroking the trio of eagle feathers tied in his hair, "I believe I'll join you."

The two young men joined the rest and listened as the Bureau of Indian Affairs agents began their presentation.

* * * * *

The meeting hall was three quarters full and still filling as Carlos and Albert shouldered their way in, taking places finally against the back wall. It gave them a view of the government representatives; the two local men who worked out of Keams Canyon, and a tall, blond, somewhat overweight stranger who was clearly the leader. Their interpreter was a middle aged Hopi that Carlos didn't recognize. The youths leaned back against the wall as the florid stranger cleared his throat loudly trying to get the crowd's attention.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," he began. His voice boomed in the narrow confines of the room and a few people discreetly winced. Jarrett whispered something to Carson which earned him a scowl, but the Washington representative continued in a quieter tone, pausing after each sentence to allow his interpreter to translate for the benefit of the non-English speaking members of his audience. "I have come to tell you this morning about the wonderful future that awaits you, courtesy of the United States Government and your own Hopi Tribal Council."

Coyote, in his guise as Albert, listened with half an ear. He'd heard other government men give similar speeches many times. Some of them were genuinely sincere in their beliefs, some were not. Most didn't care what the future would bring. They were salesmen pitching promises of gold paved streets and a life of ease if only their "Red Brothers" would put away their childish beliefs. He allowed his attention instead to roam over the crowd, gauging their reactions and their level of interest in this latest plea for progress. The audience was politely silent, but their emotions battered at him and he listened with his heart.

"Should we really have to change?"

"We don't want to give away an advantage to the Navajo or the Americans"

"Couldn't we find a way to...combine the old ways and the new? Wouldn't that be best?"

"The two paths cannot be walked at the same time."

"We have lived well all these years. Couldn't the white men just leave us in peace?"

"Other villages have the signed on with the Government men. They do not seem to have suffered for it."

"The tribal elders are being foolish. We must join with our white brothers voluntarily or they will force us and the terms will not be so generous then."

Coyote pulled his attention away from the troubled hearts and minds of villagers. He looked at Carlos standing next to him. His face was thoughtful. The shapeshifted fay didn't need to touch the youth's mind to know that he was wavering badly. The promise of comforts unimagined dangled in front of him and all he had to do was give up the traditions that bound his family for generations.

Coyote found the chamber suddenly stuffy. He leaned toward Carlos and whispered, "I've heard all I want to hear. I'm going to go get some air."

Carlos nodded absently and Coyote slipped out of the meeting and the village to think.

* * * * *

Coyote was still pondering his situation several hours later when the sun fell past the mountains and cliffs to the west. So lost was he in his thoughts, that he wavered between physical shapes, drifting between coyote and man as his mood shifted.

His restless pacing had carried him to a sandstone cave a few miles from the mesa village. He sat on the sandy ground, his hand on his chin and stared at a petroglyph of a coyote painted on the wall of the cave.

Suddenly, there was a great twin roar that echoed through the cavern. He jumped up, startled. Caught between forms, he assumed his two-legged guise of a man.

The fay waited, crouching animal-like and a moment later, the strangers appeared. "Gargoyles?" Coyote whispered. A tall crimson beaked male and a jade green female in Japanese attire approached.

Brooklyn put his taloned hand on Sata's arm as a man rose from the shadows. He was youngish, dressed in cotton twill pants and a flannel shirt and seemed unusually furry for a human. He gave Sata a quick "let me take the lead here" look and greeted the stranger.

"Hey. How you doing?" asked Brooklyn quietly. Sata looked at Coyote calmly. Her sword hand rested by her side.

"Uh, okay," he fumbled. "What are gar-- What are you? I've never seen anything like you before!" Coyote ran a hand over his eyes mimicking disbelief. He touched fur and groaned inwardly. Discreetly, he morphed his way back into a fully human form.

"Yeah," agreed Brooklyn as he and Sata traded a look. "We get that a lot. Don't mind us, we're just passing through." Brooklyn studied Coyote as he moved toward the entrance to the cave. Sata followed behind him and Brooklyn was careful to stay between the two of them. Coyote stepped out of their way, staying in the shadow.

Brooklyn stopped when he was standing just outside the entrance to the cave. "You look kind of familiar. Have we met before?"

"No," Coyote said quickly as he examined the gargoyles. "I would remember meeting beings such as you."

Brooklyn shook his head, unwilling to dismiss the feeling of familiarity. He stuck his arm out in a warrior's greeting. "What do they call you?"

The disguised trickster looked from the arm to the gargoyle's face, his own features displaying his confusion. Unsure, and still rattled by the gargoyles' appearance, he nearly slipped.

"I have many names, but you can call me... Albert," Coyote said, using his most recent pseudonym.

Brooklyn looked at their companion warily. "Albert, right," he said, barely masking his disbelief. "Well, we won't keep you... Albert," the crimson gargoyle said as he shook the youth's arm in a warrior's grasp. "We're just passing through."

Coyote nodded and smiled, relieved that the gargoyles hadn't caught his gaff. "You are wondrous spirits. Why are you 'passing through'?"

"We have things to do here," answered Brooklyn evasively, eyeing the man in front of him. "Do you know where two fay can find a guide to show them around the neighborhood?" Sata looked at her mate sharply, confused.

"You aren't --" said Coyote before his mind caught up with his mouth. Brooklyn folded his arms across his chest and looked at the other. Sata frowned as she also turned to regard the disguised fay.

"We aren't what?" asked the crimson gargoyle.

"Really needing a guide," Coyote said, thinking quickly. "There isn't much to see around here."

"Uh, huh. Tell me something, Albert: what happened to the extra hair you had on your face when we came out of the cave? I don't see a barber's chair in here."

Coyote, realizing he'd been caught, threw up his hands. "Everyone has a bad night now and then. You caught me!" He stared at the pair of gargoyles, defeat in his eyes. "The humans call me Coyote. Satisfied?"

Brooklyn looked at the fay trickster with disdain. "No, that would take a steak dinner and an all expense paid trip home," he said bitterly. "But I'll settle for information. Why are you here?"

Coyote paced for a moment, then sat dejectedly on one of the large pieces of sandstone that littered the cave. "You could say that I work here, I suppose. These people, and others like them, are part of my protectorate."

"Your protectorate?" Sata said confused. "Are you some sort of guardian?"

"Guardian, that's not the way I heard it," Brooklyn said derisively. "I heard you were more of a pain in the - " Sata shot him a warning look. Brooklyn quickly started to amend his phrasing, but Coyote finished for him.

"Oh, I am that," he said, "and so much more. To these people," He gestured vaguely toward the mesa. "and others like them, I am trickster, teacher, fool and wise man, guardian and protector and... well you get the idea."

Brooklyn didn't, but he kept his mouth shut and let the fay ramble.

"I believe I see," Sata said drawing a comparison with her own people. "Do the people tell stories about you in which you serve as an example that they might benefit by?"

Coyote nodded. "Yes, they do. I play the fool, so that they can learn by my poor example. I also serve as their protector. Some of my finest pranks have been done in the name of protecting my people. Once I-"

"Well this is all fascinating," Brooklyn said impatiently. "But it doesn't really do much for us. Come on. We don't have all night to hang around and listen to Coyote here talk about his glory days." Brooklyn pulled at his mate's arm and led her towards the mouth of the cave.

"Beloved!" Sata said, shocked at her mate's rude manner. "It is obvious that Coyote has some great need! We should stay and talk to him, find out what troubles him."

"Let him write to Susie Sympathy," Brooklyn replied. "The last thing I want to do is get caught up in the troubles of another fay."

Coyote looked up at the jade green gargoyle. "How did you get here? I've never seen a gargoyle in this part of my protectorate before."

Sata broke away from Brooklyn and sat down near Coyote. At the same time, she looked at Brooklyn for his affirmative nod before speaking. "Another of Oberon's Children threw us across time and space to..." Sata looked out at the mesa. "this place."

"Really? From how far away?" Coyote looked intrigued.

"It is difficult to determine," Sata said, more or less truthfully. "We do not know where we are or what year it is."

"Welcome to 1937," Coyote replied. "You are currently sitting in a cave in the northern part of the state of Arizona."

"It's a nice place," said Brooklyn politely as he moved to stand close to Sata.

"I've always thought so," Coyote replied sadly. "But times they are a - changing." He placed his hands in his lap and looked forlornly down on them. "Myself and a few others of my kind have been living among the different tribes since the Great Rebellion. We have been their teachers and guides. I even taught them a little of the old Arts long ago before my teacher found out and stopped me."

Brooklyn's hand tightened on Sata's shoulder slightly and she looked up to see a small frown on his beak.

"Not again," he growled so softly under his breath that Sata barely heard him.

"This is a special place," Coyote said, oblivious to the by-play. "It has a magic all its own. Even humans that live here can feel it."

"Wait a minute," Brooklyn said, understanding dawning suddenly. "You're not talking about 'gosh what a pretty place this is' magic, you're talking about real, natural magic, aren't you?"

Coyote nodded. "Like I was saying; this is a special place. There are only a few like it in the whole world. There is a... doorway here that can lead... elsewhere. I taught the locals some of what I know so they can be its guardians. They are now turning away from the old teaching and embracing the new, modern ways that come from the East."

"I don't get it," said Brooklyn, frowning. "This is a problem?"

Coyote nodded again.

"Why is that?" asked Sata.

"It's important they remain as guardians of this place. To do so they must maintain the old traditions and the old lifestyle that has been handed down through the generations. Life out here can be hard. The Americans can make it easier for them."

"They'd have to turn their backs on progress," Brooklyn surmised.

The fay nodded. "I don't think I can ask them to do that." He sighed. "I doubt it would matter if I did. The Bureau has done a good job convincing the other tribes to follow them. It's only a matter of time before the rest give in."

"What will happen if they don't continue as the guardians of this doorway?" asked Brooklyn.

Sata, surprised by the edge to her mate's voice, looked up at him.

"The old rituals and traditions allow them to hide the portal. If they turn away from their ancient role then that shield will fade away. Anyone attuned to magic will be able to find the doorway, and use it."

"And there's a few hanging around who would misuse it, right?" Brooklyn surmised.

"Yeah, there are," Coyote replied.

Still frowning, and now with his eyes beginning to flare, Brooklyn looked away from Coyote.

"We have met a few of your kind," said Sata, trying to turn Coyote's attention away from Brooklyn and his smoldering anger. "They did not seem malicious, only deceitful."

"You haven't met them under the right circumstances," Coyote replied. "I have relatives that would do almost anything to gain control of a portal like this one."

"Perhaps then, that is why we are here." Sata looked at the beaked gargoyle. "Brooklyn?"

"Wait a minute," Coyote said. "You two have names?" He looked at the two gargoyles with renewed interest.

"Please excuse us," Sata said, as she turned back to Coyote, "for not introducing ourselves properly earlier. My mate is Brooklyn, from Scotland and Manhattan. I am Sata of Ishimura."

"Manhattan Island?" Coyote touched his ear as if he didn't believe what he'd heard. "In New York?"

"Yeah," said Brooklyn. "I used to live in the Big Apple. But that's really not important now." He turned to Coyote. "Let me see if I understand you correctly. Some of Oberon's Children , a.k.a. you, discovered this portal that goes who knows where, during your travels." Coyote nodded and Brooklyn continued. "You decided to hide it from some of Oberon's other Children?"

"They're really not Oberon's Children," Coyote corrected. "But that's another story."

"Okay, whatever," Brooklyn dismissed. "At any rate, to help you hide this portal, you taught the local Indians some ritual magic that would protect it from being discovered." He looked confused. "I don't get it, why didn't you just hocus pocus the thing yourself? Why did you drag the humans into the situation?"

Coyote struggled for a moment trying to put the explanation in terms that the gargoyles would understand. "It's hard to explain, but I guess it comes down mostly to traceability. If I did it, then our enemies could feel my magic and find the portal. Human magic is different. It can be more difficult for us to detect, especially in an area like this one where it is used for so many reasons."

"So the human mages, by following their traditions, hide the portal for you," Sata surmised.

"Yes!" Coyote said as he turned to the warrior-gargoyle. "That's exactly it! Hello electricity and automobiles, goodbye invisible portal. Hello really big trouble from my cousins who want to go home in the worst way."

This time, Brooklyn didn't try to hide his outburst. "What is it with you fay? Do you have some inborn need to control less powerful races? Why can't you just let us live in peace?"

"Excuse me?" Coyote said, perplexed at Brooklyn's abrupt, angry tone.

"No, I won't." The gargoyle began to stalk the cave, his tail whipping about angrily. "This whole problem is your fault. Why don't you fay ever just leave people alone?"

"If I could, I would. It's not that simple, gargoyle." Now there was anger in Coyote's voice also.

"Yeah, right. It looks like these people have two choices; be your puppets or be the targets of the next fay that comes along and tries to grab the portal," the red winged male steamed.

Coyote stood up. "You had better be careful. You have no idea what you're talking about, or what you're sticking your big nose into."

"Uh huh."

"Could we not fight about this right now, please?" asked Sata in a quiet voice. "I do not think it would solve anything." Both males looked at her, and took a breath, visibly releasing their aggression.

"The fay you've met must have really treated you badly," said Coyote after a moment. "Most of us have grown to like the humans, and try to protect them and teach them as much as we can."

"Was it necessary to teach them to control the portal when you knew it would put them at risk?" Brooklyn was still smoldering a little.

"This place of power has been their home for a very long time, even by my standards," answered Coyote calmly, "I taught them to harness a power that was already part of their lives." He sat back down.

Brooklyn was quiet for a few moments. "What happened to you two to make you hate my people so much?" asked Coyote, his curiosity getting the better of him.

Brooklyn didn't answer right away and Sata also turned to look at him. She saw the glint of angry deceit in his eyes, and groaned to herself.

"Coyote-san," she said, cutting off her mate as he was about to speak, "It is no mistake that we are here. We must have been sent here to help you and your people."

Coyote straightened a little. "What? What are you talking about?"

The two gargoyles exchanged a hurried glance. After a moment of silent communication, the jade gargoyle plucked the pouch off of Brooklyn's belt. She emptied its contents into her hand.

"I suppose if we really had to share a name you could call us both Timedancers."

Coyote's face was an interesting study as he all but jumped to his feet. He whistled low as his eyebrows went up in surprise.

"Where in all the worlds did you get that?"

"It's mine," said Brooklyn. "Or I'm its." He shrugged. "We go together, the gate and I. Like Sata said: we're Timedancers."

"It is our duty, reluctantly, to be guardians of the Phoenix Gate," said Sata.

"Yeah, it would be reluctantly," returned Coyote. He frowned in thought for a few moments. "This is not good," Coyote said finally. "The Phoenix Gate being here will only make things worse."

"What?" said Brooklyn at the same time Sata asked "Why?"

"If you're the keepers of the Gate then you know that you are also jailers of the being inside."

Brooklyn nodded. "So we've been told. He's some sort of renegade fay."

The Phoenix Gate glowed an eerie blue for a second and Brooklyn stuffed it back in his pouch. "He's been pretty quiet so far," Brooklyn explained. "But every once and a while I get the feeling that he's trying to wake up."

Coyote frowned. "The Gate is a talisman of great power, created by one of our most gifted craftsmen. It was designed to be like the portal here. The problem is that the Gate is artificial, but the portal is a natural thing. It could disrupt the Gate and waken the prisoner further."

"Oh, wonderful. More good news," growled Brooklyn.

"Exactly." Coyote's eyes grew remote and he dipped his chin a little in helpless sorrow.

"How many?"

"What?" The disguised fay looked up at Brooklyn.

"Will it be all right if only a few of the Indians continue as guardians?"

Coyote looked thoughtful. "I don't know. The blanket of everyday magic is part of what protects the gateway." He looked out toward the distant plateaus. "I'll get back to you."

Without another word, Coyote started running toward the mesa and the villages above. As he went, the trickster raised his magics about himself and abandoned his human form. A whirling, sparkling breeze sprang up from where the gargoyles last saw him, and a coyote's howl filled the air.

 

* * * * *

"You were going to deceive Coyote, Brooklyn-kun. Why?" asked Sata once they were alone. "It would be a dishonorable way to behave, especially since this land is Coyote's home, and we are guests."

"I don't think the fay don't deserve to be treated honorably," Brooklyn replied bitterly.

"If we are to be true to bushido then we must behave in accordance with its lessons, regardless of whether others do," Sata lectured softly as she might to a child.

"The others aren't playing by the same rules, Sata," Brooklyn replied. "It puts us at a disadvantage."

"Brooklyn-san -" Sata argued.

"Look, Sata, if it's all the same to you, I don't want to discuss it. I'm hungry and we need to hunt unless you want to go up to those villagers and steal our supper."

Sata yielded as she realized that further lectures would fall on deaf ears. "Very well, my mate. We shall hunt." They walked hand and hand and stood surveying landscape. It was dotted with patches of grass and the occasional gnarled mesquite. A patch of cottonwood trees caught their attention.

"The plants are thicker over that direction," Brooklyn said, pointing at the cottonwoods. "That probably means water."

Sata nodded and the pair set off across the valley.

* * * * *

"What did I tell you, Jarrett? What did I tell you?" Dan Carson rubbed his meaty hands together gleefully as he sat down at the neatly set, blue-checkered cloth covered, kitchen table. "It just took a little bit of the right persuasion to get things to fall into line up on the mesa."

Clark Jarrett sighed as he looked up from the steak he was frying in a black iron skillet and over at Pete.

His driver and assistant shrugged and mouthed 'let him dream', as he opened the icebox and removed the butter dish. Stopping at the breadbox on his way to the table, he removed a loaf of white bread, sliced off a few slices and placed them on a plate before delivering it to the table. "Not that I mind your cooking, Mr. Jarrett, but when's the Mrs. going to be back from Tuscon?" he asked, hoping to avoid a repetition of the conversation they'd had on their way back from Black Mesa.

"She'll be back from her sister's on Tuesday. I'll need you to pick her up at the train station, Pete." He fiddled with the steak some more, thinking about Pete's silent advice before deciding to ignore it. "Mr. Carson... Dan," the area superintendent began, as he lifted the steak out of the pan and onto a serving platter, "they said they'd smoke over the matter and sign the agreement tomorrow if all the signs are favorable. It's encouraging, but it's not the same thing as a done deal." He sliced the meat into three servings, then sat down at the table.

Carson speared a steak and wasted no time digging in to it. "Nonsense!" the Washington man replied. "What could possible go wrong? You worry too much, son."

Jarrett stared down at his plate. "Yes, sir. Perhaps I do."

Pete, who'd gone back to the stove for the coffee pot, mouthed 'I told you so' as he returned to the table and Carson launched into a tale of his successful land swap negotiations with a band of Eastern Cherokee.

* * * * *

Coyote had abandoned his human form to the wind as he ran through the brush dotted mesa land. But now, standing on the edge of the village, he reassumed his disguise and walked with hopeful steps toward the home of his friend and pseudo-cousin, Carlos.

He smiled as he saw a small woman, her dark hair neatly arranged in twin braids, leaning over a small stone griddle, cooking the flat blue corn bread called piki. "Auntie!" he cried in greeting.

She looked up and a brilliant smile lit her eyes. "Albert!" she rose from her work to greet him. "Carlos said you were in the village. Why did you not come to see us sooner?"

Coyote hugged the petite woman and shrugged. "I've been on the road for a long time. I needed a little time to wander around and really feel like I was home." He sniffed the air appreciatively. "Is that knukquivi I smell?"

She nodded. "You've arrived just in time for supper. Carlos and your uncle should be here soon, I hope." She gestured toward the house and Carlos went inside. His aunt followed a moment later, in her hands was a flat clay dish that held the piki.

"I saw Carlos earlier today," Coyote said as he lifted the lid on the bubbling lamb and hominy stew. "We went to the meeting and listened to the Bureau men for a while. I didn't stay to see how it turned out. Do you know what the village decided to do?"

The woman looked sad. "I don't know, Albert. I heard there was a great debate. The elders decided to smoke over the matter to watch and wait for signs from above. It is odd that the American's proposal should come at the time our own kachina return from their home in the mountains. It is as if we must choose one over the other." She took the wooden spoon out of Coyote's hand before he could dip it in the stew and swatted him with it affectionately. "Carlos's father is very worried."

Coyote looked thoughtful "Signs from above," he murmured. "You know that might work!" His musing was interrupted by voices. Carlos and his father had returned simultaneously and their tone, though civil was strained. Coyote, suddenly hopeful and unwilling to let his sudden good mood go to waste, bounded out of the stone bungalow and greeted the pair. "Uncle! Carlos! It's about time you two got back, Auntie has been cooking up a storm!"

The elder of the pair looked at the young interloper with surprise and just a little bit of hope. "Perhaps you can talk some sense into your cousin, Albert," he said as he entered his home, Carlos standing behind him sullenly. "You've traveled among them, you've seen their ways. They're insidious. Every time we accept something from the Americans we break our own traditions."

Coyote, nodded, "He has a point, cousin. Fifty years ago we wouldn't be Carlos and Albert, people would call us by our real names, Qwangwtotoya," he said pointing to Carlos, "and Soo-Tutskwa," he finished as he pointed a thumb towards himself.

"But we'll gain so much!" Carlos protested. "And what will we truly lose? Other villages don't seem to have suffered from accepting their gifts."

"Enough of this," his mother said firmly. The three men looked up in surprise. "Supper is ready and I won't have it spoiled. Sit down all of you."

Meekly the trio sat and the conversation turned to other, more pleasant, topics.

* * * * *

Brooklyn fingered a matchbox from a Istanbul hotel absently as he watched the pair of rabbits roast over a hot mesquite fire. Sata prodded the carcasses with a green stick and satisfied that they were properly done, removed them from the coals. She handed one to Brooklyn, who took it absently. "It smells good," he said politely, as he stuck the matches away for safe keeping. He blew on the roasted meat automatically before taking a bite. "It is good!" he added as he took another, healthier bite.

Sata crouched beside him and neatly began to eat her own meal. They sat quietly under the cottonwood trees, listening to the mournful cry of coyotes and the occasional call of a night bird.

Sated at last, Brooklyn tossed the bones into the fire and stared after them. "We're going to have to help Coyote," he stated at last.

"I'm sorry, Brooklyn-san," Sata said, as she placed her own remnants on to the fire. "What did you say? You were whispering."

"I said we're going to have to help Coyote." He pointed absently up towards the mesa. "Someplace up on that chunk of rock is the grandfather of the best friend my clan has in its new life."

"You mean Elisa Maza. You've told me a great deal about her," Sata replied.

"Right. Well, according to what she's said, he was a real traditionalist," Brooklyn explained. "Enough so that when his own son was a young man, they had a terrible fight. The fight was bad enough to drive the young man away from this place and all the way to New York where he became a cop and had a family."

"I do not follow your reasoning, Brooklyn-san. What does this have to do with helping Coyote?"

Brooklyn picked up a stick and started to prod at the coals, bringing them back to life. "Do you remember last night after the dancers finished, we followed them back to that underground chamber?"

Sata nodded. "Yes, of course. We waited and eventually they reemerged without their costumes. You were particularly curious about a certain young man, but you wouldn't say why."

The coals snapped and flared. Satisfied, Brooklyn set down his stick. "I thought I recognized one of them. He reminded me of somebody, but my memory's still a little slow from that bump I got on the head."

Sata looked concerned and reached forward as if to examine the injury. Brooklyn waved her away. "I'm fine," he insisted. "The point is I remembered who he reminded me of."

"Who, Beloved?"

"He's a dead ringer for Elisa's father, Peter. Or at least he would be if Peter were much younger."

"I see," Sata said thoughtfully. "He was discussing the merits of the government improvements with some of his companions."

"Right, and he was leaning toward the government side," Brooklyn concluded. "Something must have happened to him between now and the time he grew up and had Peter, because according to Elisa, her grandfather was about as traditional as they come. There's no way he'd be advocating for the government if he felt that way."

"But he performs the dances of his people," Sata argued. "And he was truly carried away! He did not just go through the motions like some of the others we watched."

"You're right about that," Brooklyn said thoughtfully. "So maybe he can be swayed."

Sata's eyes went wide "Brooklyn, I do not understand. You wish to persuade this young man to cling to his traditions so that his son will rebel against those same traditions?" Sata did not seem pleased with the idea. "You want them to fight, for a rift to exist between Carlos and his son?"

"Yeah. It has to be." Brooklyn's tone was resigned.

"No, it does not," Sata protested. There must be another way. A son should not fight against the wishes of his father. We would be wrong to let such a thing occur."

Brooklyn shook his head. "Sata, I've been here before, okay? I don't like it either, especially since we have to help a fay meddle in the lives of innocent people, but we have to do it. If Peter doesn't go to New York then his children, as I remember them, will not exist. Elisa won't be there when my clan needs her. Derek, her brother, won't be there when Maggie and the other mutates need him. If we don't do this, it will change the lives of dozens of people, mostly for the worse. I won't let their lives be destroyed when I can prevent it."

He was quiet for a few seconds. "Like it or not, Sata, we have to do the best we can with the situation. That's just the way it is." Another pause. "That's the way it's always been."

* * * * *

"Here, Auntie, let me do that for you," Coyote started to clear the supper dishes and the woman swatted his hand away.

"No, Albert," she said. "I have something much more important for you to do." She lowered her voice. "I want you to try and get those two," She pointed at her husband and son. "talking again. This rift between them is senseless. I know Carlos feels the draw to explore beyond our mesas. The call is a powerful thing for a young man. But his place is here and in his heart he knows it." She sighed. "But how do we get him to accept what he knows is the truth?"

"Don't you worry, Auntie," Coyote said. "I think I have an idea." He sauntered over to Carlos who sat just inside the doorway carving a cottonwood root. "Hey, cousin." Carlos barely looked up from his work. "Want to go for a walk?"

Carlos rose and carefully wrapped his carving away in a doeskin hide. "It's something for the kiva," he said, explaining his reticence to show off his work.

Coyote nodded and cocked his head. "Hey! Do I hear drum beats from the village? It sounds like dancers have arrived. Let's go see!" He handed his 'aunt' her shawl and together, the foursome walked the short distance to the village center.

* * * * *

A great throng gathered in the village watching the dancers. The crowd muttered to itself in surprise as Shalako Taka, the Hopi Cloud Man, appeared before them. He wore an elaborate head dress painted in blue and coral and yellow. Its four radiating arms were tipped with white feathers. More feathers covered his body, carefully patterned so that they seemed like falling rain. Near him danced Aholi, his great green domed head decorated with bright scarlet and Eototo, chief of all the kachinas. A great ruff of fur at his throat and his gaily colored boots, were touches of brightness to his otherwise somber appearance.

As each dancer appeared, the crowds began to murmur louder. Many of the kachina before them had not been seen for many years. "Surely it is a sign," Carlos's father said quietly. "There was no dance scheduled for tonight."

Carlos watched the dancers stomp and sway and he felt a great sadness overtake him. Involuntarily his eyes rose to the heavens and the great canopy of stars that glittered overhead. Would he be able to give this up? He had listened with fervor to Oscar and the other boys who had been educated away from the mesas and they all talked about the noise and the clutter of the American cities. It had all sounded so exciting then. His attention was dragged away from his confusion as more dancers appeared. Mongwu, the great horned owl, Hon, the great black bear and Tawa, the sun, now stomped and swayed with the others. His thoughts turned to the beefy Bureau man, Carson, who had talked with eager anticipation about how they could open these dances to tourists to bring money to the village. The idea had made him uneasy during the meeting as it had many of the others. But now a sickness filled him at the thought of strangers gawking at the sacred spirits. He turned to Albert and found with surprise that his cousin had slipped away, leaving the small family alone.

* * * * *

Brooklyn and Sata watched the brightly colored dancers with fascination from their hiding place in the shadows.

Sata smiled as she watched, her foreboding fading somewhat. "It is like the festival dancing we performed when I was training to be a warrior," she said to Brooklyn, standing close enough to whisper in his ear.

"Uh huh," answered Brooklyn absently. He had his head cocked away from the dancers. From his expression Sata could tell Brooklyn was puzzled by something.

"What is it, Brooklyn?"

"Company," said Coyote brightly, as he clapped a arm around each of the gargoyles. "So, what brought you back to the village?"

Brooklyn shrugged the trickster's arm off his shoulder and Sata moved as well, though her grace made the gesture seem polite, rather than angry. "We've decided to help you," Brooklyn admitted grudgingly. "It seemed most likely that we'd find you here someplace."

"I guess that makes sense," Coyote agreed. "I'm glad you two showed up. The villagers have just about decided to sign on with the Bureau men and I've got my work cut out for me if I'm going to stop them from doing it."

Sata, felt her attention being drawn back to the dancers. "Excuse me, Coyote," she said as a particularly beautiful dancer came into view. "Can you tell me what the meaning is behind these costumed dancers? They are different from the ones we saw on our first arrival."

"It's complicated," he began and Brooklyn rolled his eyes. "No really," Coyote protested. "The kachina dancers represent the guardian spirits that watch over and protect the people. These, as you may have guessed, are men dressed as those spirits. But remember how we were talking about the area's natural magic?" The two gargoyles nodded. "The real kachina are physical manifestations of the people's faith. If they perform their rituals correctly and believe with all their hearts, then the kachinas, the real kachinas, will appear and inhabit the village for a time."

"And you had nothing to do with this?" Brooklyn asked suspiciously.

"Surprisingly little," Coyote replied evasively.

"Perhaps you can answer another question, Coyote-san," Sata ventured. "The people seem quite surprised by some of the dancers that have appeared. Why is that?"

Coyote looked thoughtful, a crafty gleam appearing in his eye. "Some of these kachina," He pointed to the vaguely sunflower-like Tawa. "appear every season. Others," He indicated Shalako Taka. "appear very rarely. His presence is being taken as a sign."

"You've got a look in your eye, Coyote," Brooklyn said. "What are you thinking?"

"How would you two like to become living kachina?" Coyote started to drag the two gargoyles away from the village. "Come on, you'll need a little paint, a few feathers-"

"I am not going to like this," Brooklyn groaned as Coyote began to explain his plan.

* * * * *

A short time later, a still troubled Carlos was walking towards home in the company of his friends. Their normal chatter was subdued and they walked quietly, allowing the night sounds to flow over them.

Suddenly, the coyote chorus sprang to life filling the mesa with echoing howls.

The boys stopped in their tracks and listened.

"I don't like the sound of this," Oscar muttered quietly. "Iisaw sounds angry tonight."

A new noise caught his attention and Carlos' eyes widened at the sight of two kachina gliding in a tight circle above them. Sparkles of light fell from under or behind the wings of the beings as they circled, getting closer to the ground. The larger of the pair wore a doeskin kilt edged in yellow and black and had eagle feathers braided in his snowy white hair. In his taloned hand he held a prayer stick. The second, a female, wore her hair bound in two great flat buns pinned against the sides of her head. Her body was a uniform green underneath her dress of eagle feathers. The pair landed, and continued to circle the boys.

"Are you so eager to close your eyes, young ones?" asked the female. Her eyes were kind, yet stern.

"One who throws away the lessons of the past is also throwing away the possibilities of the future," said the male.

Carlos stared at his beak. "That's no mask!" he gasped as he stood back to back with his companions. "This is crazy!" he protested against the proof of his own eyes. "What are you?" He reached out tentatively towards Brooklyn. The crimson gargoyle flared his eyes and hissed and Carlos pulled his hand back quickly.

"They're real!" Oscar said, pulling a small sack from out from under his neat white shirt. He withdrew a pinch of cornmeal and offered it to the strange kachina.

"My teachers at the village school told me they were just stories to frighten us!" protested Pedro.

"Do we look like stories?" the female said quietly.

Pedro shook his head. "But why have you come to us?"

"Because you called to us with your dances," the male replied. "It is time for us to return to the villages. To live among you as we always have."

"And always will," the female kachina added. "As long as you walk the sacred path."

A strong breeze sprang up out of nowhere around the boys. Coyote's helpful winds filled the wings of the masquerading gargoyles and raised them off the ground. They continued to circle the young men who looked up at them with open mouthed astonishment.

"Think well on your paths, young ones," called down the female. "Remember that some doors cannot be opened again once they are closed."

The couple glided away leaving the stunned trio in their wake.

* * * * *

"Come on, Riley," Dan Carson said impatiently as he shivered against the cold. "We're burning daylight here!"

Riley looked up from underneath the hood where he'd been tinkering. There was a smudge of dirt on his high forehead. "Sorry, Mr. Carson, I just don't understand what could be the matter. Everything checks out, but the car just won't start!"

"Well...fix it, man!" Carson sputtered. "We're supposed to be up in the village in less than an hour and we're running late already."

"Yes, sir," Riley said as he looked at his boss imploring silently for help.

Jarrett stepped in. "Tell you what, Mr. Carson. Let's step back inside and have another cup of coffee while Pete tinkers with this engine. I don't know about you, but I find sometimes it helps to give a man a little space to work in. 'Helps him think better."

Carson allowed himself to be steered out of the crisp chill of the morning air and back into the warmth of the superintendent's bungalow.

They returned to the kitchen and Jarrett poured coffee. He sliced the coffeecake leftover from breakfast onto a plate and placed that in front of his boss as well.

Carson seemed somewhat mollified as he dug into the second breakfast. He took a healthy bite of the cake and washed it down with coffee. "It was fine work we did up there on that mesa, I tell you, fine work." He took a large bite of coffeecake and chewed it vigorously. "All we have to do is show up in that village with this here agreement-" he patted his coat pocket smugly and his eyes widened. Carson lost his smug look and it was replaced with one of confusion. He unbuttoned his suit coat and looked at the inside breast pocket. Finding it empty, he started patting down the rest of his clothing. "I don't understand," he said, his voice perplexed. "It was right here a minute ago."

"Excuse me, Mr. Carson," Jarrett asked the confused man. "What's wrong?"

"The agreement, you dunderhead!" Carson said irritably as he got up and widened his search to included the chair underneath him and the kitchen floor. "I can't find the agreement!"

"But, Mr. Carson, I saw you put it in your pocket before we walked out to the car," Jarrett said, his own voice perplexed. "I'll help you look."

The two men backtracked the Washington negotiator's steps from the kitchen to the front porch. They were starting down the steps when the car roared to life. "I got it!" Pete yelled triumphantly, unaware of the latest difficulty.

The two men ignored him as they continued the search, going back into the house and ending up in the kitchen. On the table, underneath Carson's coffee cup, was the agreement.

"That wasn't there before!" Carson protested. "I'd swear to it."

Jarrett shook his head. "Nosir, you're right." He sunk in one of the padded iron chairs. "That wasn't there five minutes ago."

Carson snatched the heavy sheets of paper and examined them closely. "At least they don't seem to be damaged," he said with relief. Very carefully he placed the papers back in his coat pocket and buttoned it securely closed.

The two men drained their coffee cups and walked slowly out to the car.

* * * * *

Coyote strolled through the village a satisfied smirk playing on his face as he listened to the buzz of the morning gossip. Brooklyn and Sata's nocturnal masquerade had multiplied to a satisfyingly exaggerated number of appearances. The other small tricks he had played bore fruit as men reported the gifts of tobacco and other small trinkets, brought by the Bureau representatives, missing.

He heard the familiar rumble of an automobile engine and smiled at the pranks he'd played on the Bureau men. His smile curled into a toothy grin and he realized he could not resist one or two more small jabs.

He turned a corner and disappeared from view. A moment later, as the car approached the steep rise that would lead it directly into the main street of the village, the engine cut out.

The villagers stopped talking as they heard the engine crank and sputter reluctantly and then cut out again.

There was cursing from the bottom of the hill and unable to resist their curiosity, the people gathered at the edge of the road and looked on in amusement as the two Bureau men, coats abandoned and sleeves rolled up, pushed the automobile uphill as Pete Riley tried to keep it from rolling into the ditch. Several of the 'friendly' faction, quickly jogged down the hill to assist. Just as they put their shoulder to the heavy metal conveyance, the car sprung to life.

Unable to compensate for the uneven push of the men behind him and the power of the engine, Pete swerved and the car ended up axle deep in the loose sand that joined the roadbed.

Watching in his guise of Albert, Coyote laughed and the villagers joined him.

* * * * *

It was sometime later that the disheveled negotiators arrived, car intact, in the village.

Gathering the fragments of his dignity around him, Dan Carson stood before the village elders and tried to make light of his less than portentous arrival. "Just a minor set back is all," he dismissed as he re-buttoned his jacket and daubed at his face with a handkerchief.

He kept the smile fixed on his face as he began to pat his pockets all over. "Oh no," he groaned. "Now what?"

"What is it, Mr. Carson?" Jarrett asked in a sotto voice.

"The agreement!" he whispered back, feeling both foolish and desperate. "It's..." he reached into his pocket and where the heavy parchment sheets had rested, he pulled out a handful of confetti.

"Is there a problem, Mr. Carson?" the interpreter asked as the elders exchanged a soft dialogue of their own.

"It seems, my friends," Clark Jarrett replied, "that today is not the day for the signing of a new treaty. Perhaps a later time will be better for all of us."

The interpreter relayed the message, and the village elders nodded. "We have had our own doubts," was the elders response. "But we will consider your offer again someday."

"When you are ready," Jarrett said, "I will be ready to help you."

"We'll talk about this later, Jarrett," Carson hissed. "Right now, I think it's time we left."

As if in agreement, Pete finished his inspection of the car and slammed the hood shut.

* * * * *

Coyote was waiting when Brooklyn and Sata awoke from their slumber. The couple had gone to sleep sitting next to each other a few feet from the edge of the cliff, sheltered from view by an outcropping of rocks. Sata was slightly turned toward Brooklyn and her head was resting on his shoulder. His arm and wing were draped around her.

"Ohayo gozaimasu, Sata-chan," said Brooklyn when the pair stopped roaring and stretching. Sata returned his smile.

"It is not morning, beloved," she said quietly.

"Ah, who's keeping track?" the red gargoyle replied as he nuzzled his mate.

"Me, I guess," said Coyote. With an excited and playful smile, Coyote let out a howl, fist raised in the air.

"Hey." Brooklyn smiled as he and Sata stood and faced the fay. "That howl sounded like good news. How did things work out today?"

Coyote grinned smugly. "Pretty good. The Bureau men had some...unexpected problems and they've put off their negotiations for the foreseeable future."

Brooklyn raised an eyebrow and looked at his mate. "Unexpected problems." She shrugged without displaying any sign of mirth, but he recognized the spark of humor in her eyes.

"Tonight is the final night of the celebration," continued Coyote. "Most of the village will show up to watch the kachina dances. I need your help again."

"What do we have to do?" asked Brooklyn.

Coyote smiled.

* * * * *

Carlos stood stock still despite the tickle of the paint brush as elaborate swirls of color were applied to his chest and back.

Instead, he watched as, on the far side of the kiva, his father unveiled his own kachina costume. Carlos felt peace flow through him as he watched the older man give a ceremonial offering of cornmeal to the elaborate mask.

The painter moved on to the next dancer and Carlos joined his father before the alter.

"You were right, father," Carlos began. "I wasn't thinking with one heart. I was allowing myself to be confused by visions of another man's life."

"What convinced you, my son? Was it the kachina who visited you last night?"

Carlos shook his head. "They made me believe that my decision was correct. I was happy when the Bureau men left the village without a new treaty. These are our ways. You knew and Albert knew. I was foolish."

His father smiled. "Do you remember the story of Coyote and the Cowboy?"

Carlos looked at the ground then smiled. "Coyote wanted to smoke cigarettes like the cowboy on the mesa. But he didn't have a pocket to put his tobacco pouch and papers in. So he asked the cowboy for his knife and cut a pocket in his skin. Coyote bled to death and the cowboy got himself a new pelt."

"Coyote was not content with tradition and it cost him dearly," the older man concluded.

Carlos smiled as he lifted his father's mask and placed it gently over his head and shoulders. "We could all learn from Coyote."

The priest stamped his warning and the men began to ascend from the kiva out into the village.

Villagers from all over the mesa gathered, watching in anticipation as the dancers began to move through the narrow street and into the central plaza.

Coyote smiled with approval as he watched from the shadows next to the two kachina bedecked gargoyles. "What a turn out!" he crowed. "The news of your appearance last night is really packing them in!"

"I'm glad we're such a crowd pleaser," Brooklyn said dryly as he fussed with his kilt. He looked down at his waist pouch and frowned.

"Is something the matter, Brooklyn-san?" Sata asked, catching his worried frown.

"Yeah, we'd better get the show on the road. The Phoenix Gate is starting to twitch." He pulled the talisman from the pouch. It was glowing blue.

Coyote whistled. "I hate to rush an entrance, but I think it's now or never!" He gestured to the gargoyles. Brooklyn dropped the Gate back into its spot at his waist and joined Sata in climbing the stones of the nearest house. They glided out among the dancers and the crowd roared in shock and joy.

"Look!" came a cry from the watching villagers. "They have returned!"

Brooklyn and Sata glided above the crowd mimicking the dance of the kachina below them. They came together then drifted apart, catching the helpful breezes that had appeared out of nowhere.

The crowd gasped again and Sata added her own cry of surprise as suddenly the two gargoyles were no longer alone floating above the villagers.

Brooklyn, who'd closed his eyes, the better to keep time with the drummers below, opened them at his mate's gasp of shock. "We're surrounded!" he whispered amazed.

"Look there..."

"...It's Kwahu. With that beak, it could be no other..."

"Mongwu!"

"Wuyak-kuita!"

"...Spirits of the sky..."

True kachina filled the air joining Brooklyn and Sata in their dance. The airborne dancers continued to move even after the katsinam below had finished their ritual.

Carlos stared in amazement, completely enraptured as he watched the dancing above. One of the spirits flew close to him and looked him in the eye. The spirit's eyes reflected the universe in them, and staring into them, Carlos saw his own soul staring back. He felt a rush of emotions and a spiritual awareness he had never dreamed before existed.

A feeling of warmth flowed through him. He almost felt as if he could fly as magic energies encircled him.

Brooklyn found himself engulfed in waves of magical energy, but beneath it all a familiar magic built. He swooped and dove among the kachina until he was within a hand's reach of Sata. "It's time!" he shouted.

The pair clasped their hands together and rose above the rest on a current of magic. The Phoenix Gate opened and together they tumbled back into the stream of time.

Below, Coyote watched and smiled. He joined the villagers in a last celebratory dance before slipping quietly away out onto the mesa to begin his travels anew.

The End