The wind whipped up the dying vegetation across the edges of the tired little
ramshackle town. Something stirred in the wind, something coming closer.
Vin Tanner scanned the horizon, but saw nothing, yet his heart and soul told
him that something was coming and soon. He sat quietly on the ground watching,
but not looking at the stubby vegetation. His mind was open to whatever was
coming, but his head kept telling him that it didn't matter, it wasn't for
him. Nothin' was for him, not anymore, probably never again. Such negative
thoughts would have earned him a tongue-lashing from his Grandfather. Still
would, if Vin knew where the man was. After escaping the most brutal of the
lousy Foster homes that he'd been sent to as a child, Vin had returned to
the Reservation to find his Grandparents Tanner gone. The only family member
left hated him, so there wasn't much point in staying. He'd spent the remainder
of his 'childhood' on the streets, so it was only with a little luck and
a few friends that he'd managed to get his GED. College was a non-starter,
no chance there. Vin had found his way into the Army. It hadn't been the
best solution, but it had worked...at least for a while.
Kicking up sharply, the wind grew wild, throwing little bits and pieces of
plants in his face and tangling his long brown hair. He looked for a storm
but there was no sign, only a strong wind under a hot sun and a bright blue
sky. Vin brushed the disordered hair out of his face and brushed his cheeks,
feeling but not seeing the fragments of plant growth there. A quick flash
of something caught his eye, but there was no chance to see what it was.
It was too quick.
His leg was cramping but he made no move to rise. Sometimes it had been necessary
for him to wait hours for an answer. The spirits just took their own sweet
time about things. He'd really like to be moving on, soon. He'd never been
much of one for dealing with a lot of people, not shy, just not comfortable.
It had been okay in Denver, plain survival had made living in the city a
challenge. This wasn't. This was the dullest place in the world, Vin was
Homer's Corner was beginning to weigh on his nerves. Although he'd thought
it a haven when he'd first come to this little nowhere town, it was rapidly
turning into a prison all it's own. Being very ill at ease did nothing for
Vin's peace of mind. It wasn't the people, not really, though Vin had little
feel for them. They drifted in and out of his life and the shop where he
was working. He might have been a piece of furniture for all that they noticed
him. He saw them, but saw nothing that drew him to them, nothing that seemed
And he needed real right now, he needed it badly.
It had been a hard time in a life that had seen too many hard times. Vin
had gotten attached to where he was and what he was doing, again. And once
again it was taken away from him. It was always his luck. To find some place
to start building a life and to have it ripped out of his hands. He wasn't
sure that he could do it again. It was too much of a risk.
So Vin Tanner sat in the dust watching the road into the small trading post.
It was the middle of nowhere, kind of like Vin's life right now. It wasn't
that he was bitter about his losses, just confused and lost. He seemed to
belong nowhere and with no one.
Every time he felt like he'd found a place to belong, a home of any kind,
it had been taken away.
Oh well, Oma had told him that you never got by on wishing. What was in front
of you was to be faced, what was behind you was lost to the past. But Oma
was gone, long gone. He'd been taken away from her too.
Something tugged at the edges of his vision again. The blue sky looked like
it would go on forever, unlike the town nearby. Homer's Corner was a makeshift
attempt at a town. He kept his eyes open, but he couldn't see what had moved.
The small brush gave way to green patches, but not grass. Too many rocks
here. The trees were long and spindly, as if they'd been set here and forgotten.
Vin felt a kinship with those trees. He'd ended up here, forgotten by all
Cyrne would have said that it was not like him to get depressed, but that
was Cyrne for you. Never saw the man depressed unless it was a really bad
situation, the National Crisis kind. But Cyrne was a Triana, and that was
a kind of toughness that few other warriors of any type could match. The
only time that Vin had ever seen the tough Triana break down was when they
brought the shattered, tortured Triana Leader, John Grendal, back in the
chopper with the bodies of his men. All of the Triannen had wept for Section
Even Pack, that band of lunatics, had grieved for the First ones....
But that was worlds ago. Vin had descended from that company of heroes to
the dirty world of the bounty hunter. He'd passed from an Army Ranger, a
skilled sharpshooter, to a Federal Marshal, and fallen from grace to this,
hunting men for money.
Last month he'd taken down Keith Hill, little man, big Bounty. His deadly
skills had brought in a man who was a kind of living rabbit, terrified and
bewildered by his situation. Hill was a so-called white collar Criminal.
White Collar, Blue Collar, It never made much sense to Vin. A criminal was
a criminal, no matter what they'd done. It was for the lawyers and the judges
to sort that out.
But Hill had made him think.... A lot.
The man had no understanding of what he'd done wrong. None at all. Contacts
in the Marshals had given Vin the mission, but what he'd done by bringing
the man in had done him more harm than the lost little rabbit had suffered.
His soul felt sick with it. Hill had been so completely confused by being
put into chains and led off to jail that Vin felt sorry for him. It was one
thing to track the ruthless, he'd had no doubts whatsoever when he'd gone
after Hank Carrollan. Monsters like that needed to be taken out for the people's
Vin had killed Carrollan, a justified shoot. The bastard was going to blow
away an old woman, just blow her away. He knew that he was cornered, that
there was no escape, but he was going to kill her anyway. Just because he
But Hill, that was a different story altogether.
Vin Tanner had lost himself, the right, the wrongs. It was all confused in
his mind. He had lost his path. Even though Vin had done a sweat lodge and
a vision quest, he was mired in this place. The spirits wanted him here,
and until he could straighten it all out, he was staying here, in Homer's
Something moved closer again, but it was too quick to be spotted cleanly.
He was working at the local general store. It wasn't much, but it was better
than hunting bounties when you weren't sure where your loyalty lay. It was
lunchtime and he was tired. It was amazing how much standing behind a counter
all day could make you tired. He'd never been this exhausted, even after
days on the trail.
Vin put his hand in his pocket. Ten dollars. That's all he had until payday
next week. Ten dollars to survive on. He'd taken to eating only one good
meal a day, supplementing his calories with quick junk out of the vending
machines. It wasn't good for him, he knew, but he had to have something to
Cyrne would have had a fit, watching what he was doing to himself, but the
Triana wasn't there and Vin was unlikely to ever find one again.
Biting off a piece of the hard supermarket jerky, Vin wished that it was
just a bad batch his grandfather made, something real. But all he had were
the illusions of shadow. All he had now was this dusty town and the word
Sometimes listening to the spirits was a real pain. Oma had been right that
there were great teachers out there, but many of them made you learn the
lesson by tricking you. He kept a sharp eye out for foxes, just in case.
Chanu, his cousin, would have laughed himself sick. Vin had had such a hard
time fitting in when he was dumped with his father's parents after being
seized from his mother's mother. It had been difficult for the small scraggly
child to find his place in the strangeness of the Reservation. Especially
difficult because his European grandmother had gifted him with blue eyes
and her fair complexion.
Oma had come from over the sea as a war bride after the chaos of the Second
World War. The Netherlands was in ruins and all of her people were gone.
But even if they'd been there to speak, she would have been lost to them.
She'd fallen for an American serviceman, and even worse, an 'Indian'. Once
she left Holland, Vin's Oma knew that she could never return. She'd come
When her widowed daughter Emma had been horribly killed, she'd brought that
same strength of will to raising her only grandchild, Vin. He could still
remember the warmth of her hugs and the smell of the strange spices she used
to bake cookies with. Oma he could remember, very clearly, her sharp blue
eyes that missed nothing, the golden brooch she always wore, the feel of
her delicate but wrinkled hands as they worked the lace bobbins she'd brought
from her old home. All this Vin could remember, but it was harder to try
to remember his mother. She was a phantom to him, a blurry face and a faintly
His father was a total question mark. Vin had been young when he died but
somehow nothing remained of the man for him to remember him by. What photos
there had been were left with Oma. Social Services didn't even let him pack
before dragging him out of the little house that was the only home he remembered.
Oma had not been permitted to contact him lest she upset the delicate "bonding"
going on between himself and his father's parents. Mostly that meant that
Social Services was worried that Oma would disrupt Vin's acclimatization
to the fact that he was Indian or as they called it now "Native American".
Because Vin was three quarters Native, Social Services was worried that they'd
have a lawsuit on their hands about him not being raised "Indian".
Vin hadn't cared. Oma had loved him, but Social Services was adamant. He'd
been scooped up like an unwanted cat and dumped on his paternal Grandparents'
doorstep. The Social Service worker hadn't even waited to see if the man
was in. Just hightailed it off the Reservation, grumbling about dumping kids
with drunks and savages.
Four adults had watched the arrival of seven-year-old Vin Tanner, but they
hadn't welcomed him. At least two of them were blind stinking drunk, Vin
found out later, but then these two men always were, not wanting to cope
with anything at all. They weren't the whole tribe, just a cliche. He'd learned
to stay away from them by then. The third witness was the Tribal Chief. She
was a good one, very strict, but a good one. It took Vin some time to find
that out. At the time, he was just sure that she hated him and just wanted
to go back to his Oma. As for the fourth, he just stood in the shadow of
the little house and watched.
Vin tried to ignore the prickles on his skin, Goosebumps he knew were caused
by any number of things, but that man in the shadow of the house scared him.
There was something in the man's gaze that held him back from speaking. The
fact that of all the people present, this man was in traditional buckskins
and wore paint on his face made him pause. Much of what Vin knew about his
heritage came from stories that he'd heard from Oma and his maternal
grandfather's friends. He knew that there was something strange about the
man, but he didn't seem to be one of the wandering spirits that his Oma had
warned him about. Since the man had paint, he couldn't be one of the lost
ones. Giving the man a self-conscious look, Vin sketched a little half-bow
just like the one he generally gave to things that only he could see. This
might be a spirit or not, this place was so strange.
He started trying to figure out where the road went so that he could find
his way back to the main road when an older boy opened the door. For a moment
it was hate at first sight. Levon was his father's sister's son, a cousin,
Vin would later discover, but at the time all that he knew was that this
boy hated his guts.
Vin could not say how he knew, but he knew that there were a lot of people
watching unobtrusively from behind windows and around corners. He knew it
and didn't know what to do, but he was caught off guard when Levon threw
himself at him and began pounding the daylights out of him. Levon was at
least twice his age and correspondingly heavier and Vin had no chance to
get the boy off of him. He curled up tightly trying to shield his head and
He sensed rather than felt the other boy being pulled off of him. He didn't
understand much of the curses being yelled at the boy by another boy, slightly
younger than Levon, but stronger. His disgust at Levon was palpable to Vin,
like a thick blanket. Vin shivered hoping that the new kid wouldn't hit him
too. His side hurt and he felt like he was going to throw up.
"Easy kid" The boy said trying to gently pry Vin's hands away from his head.
"Are you Okay?"
Vin looked up hesitantly. He didn't want to get hit again. "You're okay.
Levon is gone. I won't let him pound you again." He smiled at Vin. "You must
be my new cousin, Vincent." He said tentatively.
"Vin, My name is Vin." He'd gasped out as the older boy tried to determine
just how injured he was.
Levon had fled, mostly to get gone before Grandfather could find out. The
other boy's name was Chanu and eventually he would become Vin's closest friend
on the Rez. Chanu was also a cousin, but he didn't feel annoyed that Vin
had come home and 'displaced' him. He was considerate and protective of the
younger boy. Vin's life on the Reservation would have been much harsher without
him. He'd never been more than tolerated, except by his Grandparents and
Chanu. Eventually he'd won respect, but never complete acceptance.
The Reservation had been uneasy with Vin Tanner and he with them. Vin's father
had been expected to follow his Father, Vin's Grandfather, into the world
of the Shaman. Grandfather had been strong, but he'd told Vin that his son
had been stronger. No matter what others told Vin, Grandfather had assured
him that Kyle Tanner had followed the path meant for him. He would never
have been happy as a Shaman, nor would it have been appropriate for him to
become one. Kyle's gift was...well different. That was all the old man would
say, except that Vin was the same kind of Different.
Grandfather Tanner had however given Vin all his effort and energy, something
that had not endeared him to much of the rest of the family, especially since
they thought he was shorting Levon, his 'apprentice'. Not that Grandfather
had wanted Levon as an apprentice, but the family had gifted him with the
boy. Actually it had been his aunt's choice. She had resented Vin's father
for not being what she thought he should have become. It hadn't helped that
relationship that Vin had the same strange wildness as his father's. But
Grandfather Tanner had shared so much with Vin, it seemed that he was aware
of the short time that they'd have together. When Vin had asked for the reason
that he was so 'different', Grandfather had laughed and told him that he
had to find his own path. He'd even given him a small brass telescope to
help him see his way.
Vin's Grandfather was like that, full of riddles and strange concepts. As
a child Vin had drunk them in deeply. Between his mother's mother and his
father's parents, Vin had learned to be self-sufficient, considerate, strong,
and to have compassion on the world around him. It hadn't been easy to keep
that ethos, especially not after Col. Oliver had forced him out of the Triannen's
Camp. No one had been able to overrule that move, just like no one, not even
the Tribal Chief had been able to stop his removal from his Grandparents
Tanner just after his fourteenth birthday.
Vin preferred not to think about what had happened next.
Homer's Corner was not the kind of town that one found a lot to do in. It
was the kind of place where the streets rolled up at 10 P.M. sharp. Vin
concentrated on sweeping the all-pervasive dust. He was certain that he'd
moved at least a ton of it in the month that he'd worked at Virgil Watson's
hardware store. Sweeping kept him from having to listen closely to the old
man's continuous complaints. Watson was unhappy with everything. It didn't
matter what it was. By keeping to himself, Vin had so far avoided Watson's
monologue on how the world did him wrong, for a while. Eventually he'd have
to listen to the long list of querulous complaints, no matter how he tried
to evade it. Like Virgil Watson had anything to complain about... He owned
the store and half the town, he'd inherited his money from his dad, failed
to be drafted because of flat feet... No, life could be good if you were
Virgil Watson. The only real complaint Vin could accept was that Watson had
no wife or children, but he figured that it was the old man's own fault.
His nasty personality just chased any chance of them off.
Being removed from Oma's care and then from his Grandfather's had been much
more to complain about. Not to mention that evil time when he was fourteen
and had been removed from both...Nope, Vin told himself, shutting off the
memories, Not going there. He concentrated on a particularly stubborn clod
of dirt on the boardwalk. It took several tries to get it to move. The wind
whipped by again, undoing all his hard work. Vin sighed and started over.
After a little while, Virgil Watson came out to see what was causing the
hold up in closing up. He berated Vin a little, the shopkeeper always treated
him like a total imbecile, but Vin just took it.
Later that night, Vin tucked himself up in the battered old trailer that
he was using for shelter. No one had wanted it, and the smell when Vin had
first seen it had told him why, but Virgil had offered a semi-reasonable
price for it's use. It had taken several weeks of concentrated cleaning,
but the trailer was at least livable.
Tomorrow he'd try again.
Forcing a vision wasn't exactly the best way to go, but Vin needed answers.
He was starting to get impatient, and that was dangerous on the spirit plain.
Trying to calm himself down, he considered and released everything he felt
one by one. Deep breathing and meditation worked a little. The Army had thought
enough of the practice that they'd sent him to various masters of martial
arts to learn, even an old Shao-lin monk. Vin had been tutored by the best
in the military's attempt to make him the ultimate killing machine. The Triannen
alone had not drawn him into their circle of practice. He'd been angry about
that until Cyrne explained the type of gifts they had and the way in which
they impacted each other. Mysteriously, Cyrne had given him the same answer
that his Grandfather had. His gift was different, special and required different
training. It would flower at the right time, but no time had been right yet.
For a long time Vin had been content with that, the idea that he'd find some
place where he'd belong and the gift would bloom suddenly. Col. Oliver had
changed that. Vin had heard from friends still in the service that the man
was dead, killed by someone he'd done wrong. Whoever he was, Vin Tanner wanted
to shake the man's hand. Oliver was pure poison. A poison that affected him
and this gift he supposedly carried. He'd done all that he could to handle
that venom in the Army after having been ripped away from the Triannen's
Cyrne had been a good and conscientious leader, like all of the Full Triana.
He'd never asked anything that Vin couldn't deliver or didn't feel right
about. Vin had never served under anyone so concerned with the needs, both
physical and emotional, of his men. But all the Triana were like that he'd
found. Rumor said that the Triannen was made up of survivors from an experiment
that went wrong, that some members of the government had tried to make their
own private army and the Triannen were the result.
It seemed true to Vin. Each of the types of Triana, no matter if they were
the highly skilled and deadly Full Triana or the lowest rung of Taren Tri,
each had irrational triggers that surged out in sudden violent explosions.
These explosions were never punished; in fact they were treated as sorrowful
occasions, but never as the acting Triana's fault. The Government just cleaned
up the mess left in their wake, and given the skill level of the lowest member
of the Triannen was far above even the Nation's own Special Forces, that
Mess could be considerable. The rest of the time it was incredibly hard to
move a Triana to irritation, much less anger, but hit one of those triggers
and oh boy!
No, the Triannen were the deadliest fighters out there, but the most honorable
of anyone that Vin had ever met. They ruled their passions, in part he supposed
because of what would happen if they let that passion free. Vin wished that
he had half the control one of the Taren Tri had, much less that of a Full
Triana. There was too much emotion in his heart, in his soul for the iron
control he'd witnessed from the Triannen. It was just that he hated it here
in Homer's Corner and it was a hatred that grew each day. He'd been here
too long. What were the spirits waiting for?
"Afternoon, Tanner." Said a man waiting for him at the counter. Since he
was one of the few people around that Vin had a moment for, he didn't waste
time working on his order. David Fairshawe. The man and his family owned
the spread just outside of town. He didn't get along with Virgil, that was
for sure, a rival, but one who treated everybody with due respect. Fairshawe
didn't come into town often, feeling a little conspicuous with the heavy
scarring on the left side of his face. It didn't matter to Vin. Fairshawe
was a good man and a considerate one too.
"Good Afternoon, sir." Vin replied quietly.
"Not sir, Tanner." David Fairshawe laughed one of his rare laughs. "I'm not
a sir." He stopped before he got started on that line of thought and looked
at the man behind the counter. "You doing okay Tanner? Virgil treating you
right?" Fairshawe's blue eyes raked over the younger man. Vin would swear
that Fairshawe could see every hurt, every burden that he carried.
"Doing okay." Vin finally answered. He was uncertain why Fairshawe was concerned
about him. The man was well to do, a writer, and in spite of his facial scarring,
well thought of in the area. No stories about his damaged outside being like
his damaged inside. Fairshawe had a reputation for justice, and for looking
out for folks. It wouldn't have bothered Vin, except that he had little reason
to trust right now. His gut told him that Fairshawe could be counted on,
but his pride shied away from relying on anyone. After all, wasn't that what
had gotten him into trouble when he was fourteen? Trusting someone?
Fairshawe reminded him that he was always welcome to come to his home, not
just strongly encouraged, but somehow required to come if he was in trouble.
Vin nodded shyly. He didn't quite know what to make of the man. He'd seen
Fairshawe and his wife, Joanne, and their three beautiful little girls often
enough. David Fairshawe was not the man to let Virgil Watson spoil everything
in town, but Vin couldn't really understand why the man was so concerned
Eventually Fairshawe left, but Vin was unsettled by his visit. So much so
that he again missed the entrance of a customer, missed him until he was
right in front of him. This man wasn't from town, of that Vin was sure....
In fact, as he got a better look at the man, he realized that he definitely
wasn't from around here. The spirits had finally decided to answer his petitions,
in their own due time apparently. He only hoped that Virgil would stay out
in the back and keep reading his dirty magazines while the 'visitor' was
The spirit wore the clothing of the tribes, but he was in the guise of a
white man. His sharp features and bright eyes reminded Vin of a fox. Vin's
eyes widened as he caught sight of the bushy grey fox's tail that the visitor
didn't bother to hide.
"Why does he shake you so?" The spirit asked, motioning to David Fairshawe
out on the boardwalk. Outside, Fairshawe had rejoined his family and his
high spirited daughters were laughing about something. They were a lovely
sight, almost the picture postcard of what a family should be. Vin felt something
twist inside him and he ruthlessly shoved the longing down deep. There wasn't
a place for him, not here, not anywhere... no family either. Turning away
from what he couldn't have, Vin faced the Fox spirit resolutely.
"Don't shake me. Just don't know why." Vin said slowly. He couldn't lie to
the spirit even if he was a fox. Fox spirit was a teacher, one of the best,
but a trickster. One very dangerous to anger was old Grey Fox.
"David" The fox man paused and grinned. "Fairshawe. David Fairshawe is an
honorable man. He knows the creatures of the night, young Vin. He is one
you could seek out for council and always find truth. That one has suffered
a great deal in the world. There is much that he could teach you."
Vin was startled. He hadn't had an interview with the spirits like this one.
Usually they came when he was fasting...in their proper place.
"But who is to say what my proper place is?" The fox man laughed following
the thought with no difficulty. "Just because you think a thing is properly
done one way doesn't make another's way less valid. You asked for council,
for direction. Does it matter where you are when it comes?" He was grinning
widely at Vin's discomfiture.
"I would be glad to receive your council." Vin said as humbly as he could.
Foxes were dangerous, crafty, and overly fond of playing tricks. The Grey
Fox spirit smiled widely. It made Vin a little nervous. "Can you help me
find my path?" He asked and watched, as the grin grew impossibly wider.
The Fox spirit gave a little bark of laughter. "Your path is it young one?"
He croaked "Your path." After a moment more of mirth, the amusement left
the spirit's face as if it had drained away. A very intense look replaced
the smiles and Vin knew that this would be truth, pure and simple. Experience
had told him that when Fox looked like that, the world could and often would
twist on it's axis. It had before. Vin shoved away the memories of the last
time he'd seen Fox as ruthlessly as he could. This was about the here and
"You wish to find your path? It's laid out for you wherever you look, young
one." Fox said gesturing in all directions. "Here" He said leaning down and
picking up a thread. "Here," He said again pulling the little thread up an
showing Vin a long golden thread leading off into tangles around the wooden
floor of Virgil Watson's old store. "Follow this one." Fox said and waited.
"Why?" Vin asked, knowing that this was a test. "Where does it lead?"
"You wanted a path, young one. Does it matter where it leads?" Fox retorted.
"Yes, very much." Vin answered. "I want to at least be decent in my life.
Where does that one go?"
"So demanding." Grey Fox yawned. "You always were, even as a kit. A scrawny
kit, but a kit. You aren't much bigger than a kit now, come to think of it."
"IF I follow that path," Vin demanded, "Where will it lead me?"
"Oh very well." Fox said wearily. "It leads to right here." Vin glared at
him in response, so Fox added, "You could live your life out here, in Homer's
Corner." Vin shook his head and Fox continued. 'It would be a safe life.
No great moral decisions, no Halls or Carrollans to worry about. No need
for those weapons you hide every night. No ambiguities either. It would be
rather boring, after all of the excitement you've had in your kit-hood, but
it would be a fine life."
Vin glared at Grey Fox in response. "I don't want to spend the rest of my
Fox didn't look at all concerned by the low menacing tone Vin's voice had
taken on. Grey Fox shrugged as if they were discussing nothing more serious
than the weather. "How about this one?" He held another strand of thread
out. "It won't be boring." Fox added decisively.
Vin looked at him suspiciously. "May not be boring, but may not be right
either." He said.
"You are so picky, young one. Do you think that I have nothing else to do
than to help you decide on a life path that is not boring, is safe, not morally
ambiguous, does something, but causes no harm...and all of this dragging
you along since you seem unwilling to reach for anything." Fox said his tone
growing impatient. "You're the one who has to live the life you choose. Every
path is open unless you choose to close it. There are thousands of threads,
Young one. Grab hold of one and get going."
"But I want it to be the right one." Vin said, and paused. He sounded like
a whiney child. "I need to find the right way."
"Is the way right or do you make the way?" Fox Challenged.
"I..." Vin paused. He'd allowed himself to get lost, allowed himself to let
life come to him instead of going to it. There was no life in the way he'd
been living, only existing. If he wanted something more, he'd have to reach
for it, have to take a chance. "Fortune favors the bold." Fox stated. "That
sounds like a fortune cookie." Vin snapped feeling the depth of his mistake.
"Who's to say that knowledge comes from only one place or one experience?
Your Auntie wanted you to become a Shaman, she wanted the same for your Father,
too. She couldn't control what he became, what he chose. The gift was inside
him and he freely offered it...freely gave what had been granted him, in
Service." Fox's eyes narrowed at Vin. "He made his choice to follow the way
his heart led him, not meander looking for a 'path'. You have the same gift.
It is not dependent on another to bring it forth, it is only that another
kindred soul will help to give it definition and strength." Fox quirked an
eyebrow. "What is it that you really want, Young one?"
"A place to belong." Vin said immediately. "To help, to protect, well all
of that...but a place to belong, people to belong with."
Fox grinned showing all his sharp pointy teeth. "I'd like ten yards of three
inch wide pink ribbon." He said.
Vin was startled. Ribbon? Without really understanding why Fox would ask
such a thing, Vin turned back to the shelves behind the counter and reached
for the spool of three inch pink ribbon. The corner of his eye caught movement
outside the window. A group of local boys from the nearby mine were dragging
a strange black man down the stairs from Dr. Shaw's next door clinic.
He heard strange foul words and then clearly heard the men say that they
were going to string the man up. A lynching! Not on his life! Vin turned
and grabbed for the key to the small cases of period rifles and Ammo that
Virgil sold. He got the Ammo case open all the while tracking the movement
of the men with his senses. They were making a whole lot of noise. Most of
the townsfolk would be scattering to get both out of the way and a good location
to see what would happen.
He could hear David Fairshawe pounding on the locked door of the sheriff's
office. There was no way that fat old Sheriff Lasker was going to go out
on this one. Besides, the man didn't like 'strangers' his euphemism for
non-whites. Vin had had some run ins with the old man once he found out that
Vin wasn't a white boy.
The box of ammo burst open as Vin struggled with it. He ended up with a handful
of bullets as he turned to the Rifle case. Swearing quietly as the old lock
jammed, Vin kept listening to the noise outside. Hearing the catcalls of
the mob of men, Vin placed them near the old cemetery, he heard some odds
and ends, several of the townsfolk trying to intervene. "Let me go! What
are you doing?" Vin could hear the victim protesting.
"Stop right there." Another voice called. Vin recognized it as the voice
of Joanne Fairshawe.
"Step aside, Lady." One of the men replied. There were catcalls at the woman
and several vile suggestions.
"We don't hang men anymore. It's wrong. You can't do this!" Joanne cried.
Vin fumbled with the safety locks on the rifle case. He just had to get the
packing stuff off of it.
"He killed a good man. Said he was a doctor, but he let him die." One of
the men yelled. The others agreed.
"I never said I was no doctor!" The victim protested. "I'm an EMT. There
wasn't anything more that I could do. I did all I could. The wasn't anything
anyone could have done. He's been dead for hours!"
Vin shook his head. Logic never had anything do with this sort of thing.
The Hanks boys were spoiling for it, and there was no way the Sheriff would
"Nathan didn't kill your boss...gangrene did." Joanne's husband David called.
He was trying to get the mob to settle down. "If you'd brought him in earlier
he'd have survived. Drinking a case of Old Red Eye is not the way to treat
serious injury. Dr. Shaw will say the same thing when she gets back from
the mine. Nathan didn't kill your friend."
"Please." Joanne cried. "This is wrong!"
"Be thankful we're getting rid of this quack. Ain't no darkie doctors and
there never will be. They shouldn't be allowed to practice. They's all fakes."
The man screamed. The slur to his words told Vin that he was very seriously
drunk. Drunken men couldn't be reasoned with. Damn. He couldn't get the case
to open, so Vin broke the glass.
"You're not hanging that man." David Fairshawe exclaimed. Vin could hear
"I said get out of my way! We're late for a funeral, boys. Get this &(*)*()
moving!" Vin could hear more of a struggle and the sound of a beating. He
got the Rifle out of the broken glass, removed the safety lock and burst
out onto the boardwalk.
"Are you people just going to let this happen?" David Fairshawe said. He
was holding a bloody cloth to his face that might have been one of his little
girl's jackets. The Children clung to their parents. Joanne was trying to
help David up. He'd been beaten pretty badly.
"You walk off with that rifle, and you're fired!" Vin wasn't startled to
find Virgil Watson behind him. The man could be as quiet as a cat and loved
to watch trouble. He'd probably found the whole incident amusing.
Vin turned to him and gave him a smile Fox would have envied. "Hell, I'll
probably get myself killed. Now, I got to worry about a new job, too?" He
asked in a burst of dark humor.
A moment caught his eye from across the street. Vin looked up, half expecting
to see Fox, but his eyes went wide as he saw a man dressed all in black emerge
from the 'Saloon' on the other side.
A Triana. Vin swallowed, uncertainly. The Triana tipped his head and Vin
read the invitation plainly. He nodded. Across the street the Triana responded
with a nod.
While Vin didn't recognize the individual Triana he was following, he knew
that he was one, from the attitude to the trademark long black coat. Slinging
the loaded rifle over his shoulder, Vin followed the man onto the dusty street.
He was shoulder to shoulder with the Triana, just like Terry, Cyrne's aide
had stood. Where was the rest of the group? Vin wondered. Triana usually
didn't wander alone. They were too dangerous.
The Triana bore no marks of the 'resulk' which meant that this Triana was
in fact on duty, not Sol, but an active duty Triana. Vin's step was considerably
lighter as they moved down the road to the cemetery to stop the lynching.
Following in a Hero's company was something that he'd never thought he'd
ever be permitted to do again.
When they came to the Cemetery, the Triana just made motions. He didn't say
the traditional phrase 'end of line' or anything else that Vin recognized,
but the strength of will was there in full force. Vin could feel something
inside him wake and open up with a vengeance.
The short gun battle was ordinary by Triannen standards, but Vin was surprised
when he noticed the Triana signal the black man who was the target of the
lynching. Responding to his leader, the man had used a couple of wicked looking
knives to take out two of his persecutors. He guessed that he shouldn't have
been so surprised. This must be one of the Triana's company. Vin nodded to
the black man as the mob surrendered.
"You okay Nathan?" The Triana asked.
"Fine, Chris." Nathan replied rubbing his sore wrists. "A little banged up,
Chris nodded and strode back to the Sheriff's door. He paused a moment and
then kicked the door in with one smooth motion. "Federal Agents!" He announced.
"Get off of your lazy butts and pick that trash off of the street." The Glare
he directed at the Sheriff and his men, who were cowering in the room, evidently
waiting for the lynching to be over before moving to restore order, was deadly.
Vin had never seen Sheriff Lasker so terrified.
The Triana shifted his weight, nodded to the Fairshawe family, and walked
back to the Saloon.
Vin cursed himself for a fool two hours later as he cut apart boxes and stuffed
them into the recycling bin behind Virgil Watson's store. The querulous old
man had 'graciously' given him his job back until he paid for the damage
he'd done to the Rifle and Ammo cases.
The man in black was an indubitable warrior, but he was no Triana.
"I never did get my Ribbon." A voice said. Vin whirled around to see Grey
Fox standing behind him.
"You tricked me!" He exclaimed wanting to beat the hell out of the spirit
before him. Fox was a trickster and he'd tricked Vin all right. "That man
wasn't a Triana!"
Fox was nonchalant as he looked at Vin. "Who said anything about a Triana?"
"But he wore the marks!" Vin fumed.
"Does that matter? Your mind tricked you. I did not. You went to aid Nathan
Edward Jackson and to prevent his murder. Do you regret saving a life, Young
"No," Vin stopped himself. He was sounding childish again. He didn't regret
saving Nathan. The man had made a point to come and thank him, profusely.
It was embarrassing but Vin understood. Once upon a time he'd been in Nathan's
place and been saved. No, he didn't regret saving Nathan Jackson at all.
The only regret he had was that he hadn't found a place to belong. Wasn't
that what he'd asked for?
"The only place to belong is the one that you make for yourself, Young one.
Even people born into happy families have to find their own place. What do
"A place to belong," Vin said considering the Fox's words.
"Then make one." Grey Fox said firmly. "Were you expecting thunder and lightning
and neon signs? Take your place with that man if that's where you want to
"My gift stirred." Vin said, hesitantly "During the fight. I felt it coming
"Then you have found one who can help your gift awake and reach it's fullest
potential. Is that not something worth trying for?"
"Yes." Vin said, closing his eyes. He thought about the joy he'd felt at
being part of the company of a Triana again. It didn't matter that he'd miss
that. He could make a place to belong. "Christopher Matthew Larabee is no
Triana, it's true." Fox said. "But there is much that you can do in his company.
He needs all the help that he can get. He needs you, though he doesn't know
"It's a good path?" Vin asked the Fox teasingly. Grey Fox laughed uproariously.
"It's one of the very best, if not the very best." Grey Fox said measuringly.
"If the very best happens you can repair a very great wrong, but that is
if the very best happens. Possibilities happen for those who reach for them."
"What is this great wrong?" Vin asked. The spirits were rarely so direct.
He'd always enjoyed Fox's teaching, though he hadn't always enjoyed the tricks
that came with it.
"If the best is chosen, the truth will unfold and things can be changed."
Fox looked at Vin seriously. "Seven Goods against Seven Evils stand. For
this to happen the shadow of the past must be lifted."
"Past? My past?" Vin asked.
"All Pasts, Young one. All Pasts." Fox laughed. "Never become bitter, Vincent
Richard Tanner, Never become bitter. Now go find that Christopher Larabee
and build a place to belong." Fox smiled a twisted smile. "After all Larabee
is no Triana...Yet." Fox laughed again and disappeared.
Continues in: The Connection, Flip Side