by mcat

June 10, 1999

DISCLAIMER: Nope, I don’t own ‘em. T’would be nice, though. CBS and their affiliates/production companies do. I’m not making any money off this. Wish I were. I’m dirt poor, so don’t bother suin’ me.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Okay, just so you know, I took some major liberties here with Spirits and tribal traditions. I am not an expert on Native American culture, nor do I claim to be. If I offend anyone at all by my fiction (Native and/or Christian), apologies will be given generously. Other than that, let your imaginations roam and enjoy!

Vin scanned the width of the small village. It was pretty much the same as he had remembered it. A few differences – reflecting the change in personalities present, and the fact that it was 30 miles from where it had been when he lived among them – but still the same basic Kotsoteka village. He saw him, now, standing just outside the teepee’s flap. Quahaka held his arms out, welcoming Vin and beckoning him toward the teepee. Vin smiled and took a step toward his old friend. No, Vin thought. More than just a friend. A teacher. A partner. A father, too, maybe? But before Vin could take another step, he heard the loud crack of a carbine. He looked up to see Quahaka fall, fresh blood on his chest. Then he saw the wound on his own chest. Yet he’d only heard one shot. He looked down and saw the mare’s leg in his hand, smoking.

“NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!” he screamed, dropping to his knees.

He closed his eyes and put the barrel of the gun to his head, finger on the trigger. He was ready to fire the weapon when he heard someone calling his name.

“Vin? Vin! Come on, pard’ let go!” Chris called.

When Vin opened his eyes, he saw Chris above him, struggling to get the mare’s leg out of his hands. He looked around wildly, saw that he was still in the canyon with the others, relaxed his grip and dropped back down to his bedroll.

“Bad dream, Vin?” Chris asked, knowing it was an understatement to say the least, as he slowly took the mare’s leg from Vin’s trembling hands.

“Yeah, you could say that,” Vin replied shakily, trying to calm his racing heart and breathing. “Sorry for wakin’ ya,” he added, embarrassed to look at the others.

“You okay, Vin?” Josiah asked.

“I’m fine,” Vin said, getting up off the bedroll, packing it up. “It was just a dream.”

“Vin, you damn near killed yourself! What the hell kind of dream did you have?” Chris asked.

“It was a message,” Vin said quietly. “I have to go home.”

“What do you mean you have to go home?” JD asked. “You said you were orphaned when your Ma died.”

“My other home. With the Comanches,” Vin stated.

“I don’t understand, Vin,” Chris said, clearly perplexed.

“This dream I had,” Vin began. “It was a vision. The Spirits are tellin’ me to go home. The man who taught me, was a father to me, Quahaka, he’s gonna die. I have to be there to help.”

“Certainly, there must be a medicine man in the tribe to help this Quahaka recover from his ailments,” Ezra suggested.

“Yeah,” Vin replied. “But I’m the one who’s gotta help him die.”

“What?!” JD exclaimed.

“I can’t expect y’all to understand,” Vin said quietly. “It’s between him and me and the Spirits. A promise I made to him. Somethin’ the Spirits are havin’ us do.”

Vin was about to say more, but then stopped. The others knew by his expression that there was more to the story, but their respect for Vin and his ways was greater than their curiosity.

“At least let one of us go with you,” Chris offered.

“I have to do this myself,” Vin replied, checking the pack on his horse.

“So what happens if you have that dream again? Ain’t no one gonna be there to keep you from shootin’ yourself,” Josiah put in.

“Maybe that’s what the Spirits want me to do,” Vin muttered.

“Vin, don’t talk like that!” JD exclaimed.

“Look,” Vin began, sighing deeply before looking at the men surrounding him. “You still have a job to do here. You can spare one man, but not two. I won’t be able to give it my all until I see Quahaka. I’d only endanger y’all by stayin’,” he finished.

Chris looked down at the ground. He knew Vin was right. They had a job to finish. Buck and Nathan had been able to infiltrate a cattle-rustling ring and were helping to bring a stolen herd toward the canyon they were camped in. They were going to need at least six of them to bring the rustlers down and get the cattle to Eagle Bend. Seven would be better, but Chris and the others saw how Vin’s dream affected him. And he wouldn’t interfere with Vin’s beliefs, either.

“Okay,” Chris ceded. “But as soon as we’re done here, we’re comin’ after you. You know that, don’t you?”

Vin smiled and nodded his head before mounting his horse.

“I’ll see ya in about a week. The village is out near Colesville,” he said. “Be careful,” he added before spurring his mount.

“You too, Vin. You too,” Chris whispered.

As Vin rode, he thought about the Spirits’ vision. He knew one day they would call. He knew he would have to return to the people that were his family for many years. He remembered the day he left. The Army had been making advances into some of the Comanche territories. Pretty soon, they knew the Kotsoteka, the buffalo eaters of the Comanche, would be under fire from the Army as well. They’d heard rumors about what the Army did to captives, especially whites that sided with the Comanche. Vin did not want to leave the tribe. He’d wanted to stay and fight. But Quahaka would have none of it. He’d taken Vin to see the elders. They told Vin that they wanted him to survive. They knew that Vin needed to learn to live among his own people, to learn their adult ways. They also believed that if he lived among the whites, he could tell the story of the Comanche people, so that their legend would endure, if their people could not.

Afterwards, he and Quahaka had taken a ride together. Quahaka had quizzed him, making sure he remembered his tracking and hunting skills. Then he made a request. He told Vin that he had had a vision. That in this vision, he was dying. A slow, agonizing, painful death. He was alone in his death and could not change his circumstance. He asked Vin to come to him at his deathbed and end the process for him. Vin remembered balking at his friend, ‘Ya mean shoot ya, like a lame horse? Put ya out of your misery?’ Quahaka laughed at the comparison, but agreed with the sentiment, only saying, ‘Please.’ Vin still remembered the intensity in the man’s eyes, practically begging him to agree. ‘What if I’m not with ya?’ he asked. ‘The Spirits will find you,’ Quahaka replied, simply. Vin agreed.

“Do you think he’ll be okay?” JD asked.

“Vin can take care of himself,” Chris replied.

But JD still saw the worry in Chris’s eyes, heard it in his voice. They all worried for their friend, especially after the dream. JD still couldn’t believe how close Vin had been to pulling the trigger on the mare’s leg.

“Think he’ll at least unload his gun before he goes to sleep?” he asked, sheepishly.

“No,” Josiah answered, shaking his head. “Vin would rather be ready for something or someone unexpected than worry about his vision.”

“You really believe he had a vision?” JD asked.

“Many religions and peoples around the world have beliefs having to do with visions or visitations from God or one of His messengers,” Josiah replied. “The Indians, Christians, Jews,” he continued before being interrupted by Chris.

“Vin believed he did. That’s good enough for me,” Chris said.

“Gentlemen, I believe we have our own vision to behold,” Ezra said, pointing toward the mouth of the canyon.

They turned to follow Ezra’s gaze and saw a large herd of cattle being forced into and toward one side of the canyon.

“There’s Buck,” JD said, spotting the man at the front of the herd.

“And Nathan, too,” Josiah added.

“Okay, boys, ready to buy some stolen cattle?” Chris asked, spurring his horse forward toward the herd.

Vin traveled for several hours. He was bone tired, but he hadn’t found the right spot to bed down for the night, yet. Part of him believed he was just being picky, trying to look out for his own safety, no longer having the luxury of someone else with him to act as look out or watch his back. The other part of him knew he was just putting off the inevitable. He was afraid to go to sleep. After what had happened during the vision, he was afraid he wouldn’t wake up. That Chris and the others would find his body, a bullet in his head, the mare’s leg still clutched in his hand. He thought about emptying the gun. But only a fool slept alone in the wilds with an unloaded weapon. Catching himself after nearly falling off his horse, Vin finally ceded to his body’s wishes and dismounted. He made a small fire and laid out his bedroll. After eating a small supper of beef jerky and water, he eased down onto the bedroll. Before he could try to find ways to stay awake, he was asleep.

Vin opened his eyes. He was in the teepee with Quahaka. His old friend was drawing pictures in the sand. He drew two crosses on opposite sides of a teepee. He pointed to one, then at Vin and then to the sky. The other he pointed to and just shook his head. Vin looked up, questioning Quahaka with his eyes. He didn’t understand what Quahaka was doing. But the man just kept pointing to the crosses, not answering Vin’s questions with words. Finally, Quahaka stopped. He pointed to Vin’s heart, then to the sky, gesturing to the Spirits, Vin knew. Then he pointed to the other cross again. When Vin looked at Quahaka again, a red stain started to spread out across his chest. Vin looked down at his own chest, remembering his vision. The growing stain mirrored Quahaka’s.

Vin woke with a start. Looking around he saw that he was still at the campsite where he’d chosen to rest. His horse whinnied at him, as if asking what was wrong. Vin sat up and shushed the horse. He thought about the vision he'd just had. Unlike the first one, in which he instinctively knew its meaning, this one baffled him. He knew it had something to do with Quahaka’s death, but he didn’t know what. Knowing he would not get any more sleep, he packed up his gear and continued his journey.

The group had successfully taken over the stolen herd. Chris negotiated with the rustlers, offering to pay them extra to continue with them until they reached Eagle Bend, where Chris said he had a buyer set up to take the herd. That way they would have the men needed to control and herd the cattle and have the group in town where they could all be arrested and jailed. He thought that once they were a day or two outside of Eagle Bend, he could then leave the group to go after Vin. The others had been taking turns with the rustlers tending the herd, always making sure that the groups were intermixed. Chris didn’t want any of the rustlers unwatched. He was tending the campfire, his turn to cook, when he heard the warning.

“Chris! Look out!” Buck shouted.

Chris started to look around, but before he could do anything further, something slammed into his back, dropping him to the ground. He felt the pain sear through his right shoulder and leg as the hooves bore down on them. He thought he heard more hooves heading his way. He brought his left arm up and put it over his head to protect it from the next attack. He thought about trying to roll away, but he didn’t know which way to go.

“Chris? Chris, it’s alright, now,” Nathan assured him, lightly grabbing his left arm and bringing it away from his face.

“Nathan?” Chris croaked. “What the hell happened?” he asked.

“Bull got away from the herd,” he replied. “Where you hurt?”

“Chris? You okay?” Buck asked, kneeling at Chris’s side, now.

“My shoulder and leg are killing me. I think my leg’s broken,” Chris replied painfully.

“I think you’re right,” Nathan replied. “Buck, let’s get ‘im over to his bedroll.”

Three days later, Vin found the small group of Comanche teepees, exactly where he’d seen them in his vision. The only difference now was the Army’s presence. That, he hadn’t foreseen. Vin never did have a good rapport with the Army here. He knew the Indians’ plight too well. He expected them to give him a hard time. He had to think of a way to get past the sentries and into the makeshift village.

“State your business here,” the first sentry requested, looking at Vin suspiciously.

“Lookin’ to get in, look around,” Vin replied easily.

“Look for what? Just a bunch of filthy savages in there,” the second sentry responded.

Vin fought back the urge to take the man down, both with words and gun.

“Thought I could find a good woman, maybe,” he said, winking at the first sentry and pulling some money out of one of the pouches on his belt. “Think five each should do ya?” he asked.

The two looked around and then at each other before nodding to Vin. Vin gave them each a bit of the money, tipped his hat and walked into the village. He led his horse directly, but slowly, toward the teepee. He knew exactly which one Quahaka would be in. He let the reins drop and entered the teepee. Quahaka was sprawled out on the floor with an old, thin and worn blanket lying haphazardly across his legs. Vin slowly knelt next to the older man, suddenly unsure if he had been in time. He put his hand tentatively on his friend’s forehead, felt the warmth.

“I’m here,” he said quietly in the Comanche tongue.

Quahaka opened his eyes slowly, blinking them to focus.

“I am both gladdened and saddened that you have decided to come,” he said, smiling wistfully at Vin.

“The Spirits didn’t give me much choice,” Vin returned, pulling the blanket up and tucking it around Quahaka. “Has no one been caring for you?” he asked, looking at the mess on and around his old friend.

“The soldiers have forbidden it,” Quahaka replied. “They said they would kill any of the tribe who tried. They do not want this Comanche chief to die quickly or with dignity,” he coughed. “I did not want the Spirits to call you. I did not want to put you in danger,” he added.

“Apparently the Spirits had other plans,” Vin responded.

“Regardless, you are here,” Quahaka said.

“I’ve missed ya,” Vin told his friend, helping him sip some water from his canteen.

“And I have missed you as well, Vin,” the old Indian replied, smiling. “The Spirits have shown me your life. You’re a good man, but you’ve had some troubles.”

Vin knew he meant Tuscosa, and replied, “You know I didn’t do it.”

“I know,” Quahaka said, patting Vin’s thigh, reassuring him. “And now, you ride with good men. You help those that cannot help themselves,” he continued.

“I reckon that’s what we do. And, yeah, I do ride with good men,” Vin responded, thinking of the others.

“Their strength lies in their faith and morals,” Quahaka remarked, before succumbing to a coughing fit.

Vin did his best to ease Quahaka’s pain, which unfortunately wasn’t much more than holding his hand.

“I am proud of you, Vin. And glad to have known you,” Quahaka said, making sure he had Vin’s full attention when he did. “Now, help an old man die in peace. Let us call the Spirits, so I may go with them,” he added.

Vin nodded, and the tears that had been building up since he’d first seen Quahaka again, started to fall. He didn’t care. He retrieved his saddlebag. He searched it and found the small pipe and pouch of tobacco he kept inside. He lit the pipe and took puffs of the pipe, then offered it to Quahaka, who also took puffs. Then Vin closed his eyes. He started to chant an old song Quahaka had taught him before his first vision quest. After each refrain he took a puff of the pipe and sent the smoke in a different direction, north, south, east and west. Quahaka joined in the song, adding his own verse, calling to the Spirits to take him on his final journey. Vin opened his eyes and watched Quahaka, seeing some of the pain being eased from his features. He was glad he came. He watched as Quahaka’s breathing slowed. Vin was about to continue the chant, to wish his friend and the Spirits good journey, when the flap of the teepee flew open. Vin looked back to see three men, two of them having their weapons drawn and pointed at him. One was one of the sentries. The one Vin had wanted to take down.

“What the hell are you doing in here?” the sentry asked. “I thought you were looking for a woman?”

“Well, if I told you I was here fulfillin’ an old friend’s dyin’ wish, would ya have let me in?” Vin replied sarcastically.

For his sarcasm, the sentry hit Vin across the jaw with his pistol, sending him sprawling. Vin sat up slowly and wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth. The sentry grabbed Vin by his collar and disarmed him, giving the mare’s leg to the other soldier, a corporal, Vin noted. Vin looked back quickly at Quahaka. The older man was having difficulty breathing now, his pain having returned.

“Get him out of here,” the corporal ordered the sentry.

“No!” Vin shouted. “Please, just let me stay with him until he’s gone,” he asked quietly.

Vin had a sudden flashback to his second vision. Looking up, he saw that the third man had a cross around his neck. He was a preacher.

“Please,” he asked the preacher. “Let me finish what I started. I don’t want him to suffer no more,” he added.

“I’ll end his suffering,” the corporal said as he raised Vin’s mare’s leg and fired, hitting Quahaka in the chest.

“Noooo!” Vin screamed, his first vision coming clear to him now.

He broke away from the sentry and rushed to Quahaka’s side, watching the bloodstain grow on his chest. He leaned over the man and Quahaka reached up weakly, pulling Vin to him.

“I’m sorry,” Vin whispered, crying into his shoulder.

“Do not be sorry,” Quahaka replied, whispering to Vin, “The Spirits say you are now my blood-son. I have never been happier,” he added and succumbed to the mortal wound.

Vin sat up, slowly releasing his own hold on Quahaka and looked down at the bloodstain on his own chest, his vision returning to him again. He stood and faced the soldiers and the preacher, rage in his eyes. He charged the corporal, but before he could get close, he heard the carbine’s crack. He fell back as he felt the pain sear through his shoulder and back. He looked down at his chest once again and watched with mild curiosity as the bloodstain from his wound spread and met that of Quahaka’s on his shirt. He looked at the soldiers and saw his mare’s leg, smoking in the corporal’s hands. As he collapsed back onto the ground next to his old friend he began chanting again, finishing what he started. A death chant, not only for Quahaka this time, but for him, as well.

Nathan stood up and stretched. He looked down at Chris, sighing happily as he saw that the man had finally closed his eyes.

“He finally asleep?” Josiah asked quietly, nodding to Chris.

“Asleep, unconscious, whatever,” Nathan replied tiredly.

Chris hadn’t been an easy patient, fighting everything Nathan wanted to do. It was almost a relief when the pain of setting his leg made him pass out. He was pretty bruised up from the bull’s trampling. Later, he had woken up drunk from the whiskey they’d given him for the pain, rambling on about Vin, Indians and bulls. None of them could make heads or tails of it.

Josiah handed Nathan a mug of coffee and sat down next to the campfire.

“How’s everyone else doin?” Nathan asked.

“Just fine. The herd’s movin’ good. Don’t think anyone suspects anything yet,” Josiah replied quietly, not wanting to include the rustlers in the conversation.

“Another coupla days and we should be in Eagle Bend,” Nathan said. “How do you think Vin’s doin’?” he added.

“Don’t know. I keep thinkin’ about that dream he had and him tryin’ to shoot himself,” Josiah said, shaking his head.

Nathan recalled what they had told him about Vin’s vision when he questioned the tracker’s absence.

“I’ve had my own vision of sorts,” Josiah said, looking at Nathan to gauge his reaction.

“What do you mean?” Nathan asked, intrigued.

“I’m not exactly sure,” Josiah started. “I just had this image of Vin and some soldiers. He was in trouble. And I’ve had this naggin’ feelin’ since then, that somehow I’m the one to help him,” he finished.

“So, when ya leavin’?” Nathan asked, not skeptical or surprised by Josiah’s statement.

“Soon as the others come in,” he replied.

“Shut up!” the sentry yelled, kicking Vin in the ribs.

Vin continued to chant, not acknowledging the soldiers, losing himself in the Comanche words.

“Shut up!” the sentry shouted again, getting ready to kick again.

The preacher stopped him though, putting a restraining hand on the sentry’s arm.

“Enough. I’ll take him, now,” the man said. “Your brute force will not help him. Only God can save his soul, now,” he continued. “Put him in my wagon.”

“He’s my prisoner, Reverend Barker,” the corporal said.

“Your commander said that I was to take care of any of the whites the tribe had taken captive,” the Reverend countered.

“He ain’t no captive. He came here of his own free will,” the sentry put in.

“No one chooses to join a Comanche tribe. They must have captured him at some point and poisoned his mind, turning him away from his God and people,” Barker explained. “It is MY job to bring him back,” he added.

“Fine,” the corporal ceded. “Put him in the Reverend’s wagon,” he ordered the sentry.

Vin groaned and turned his head. Dull pains in his body started to hone with the return of consciousness. He felt something cool on his face and opened his eyes. A woman, probably in her forties, had placed a washcloth across his brow.

“Wondering when you were going to wake up,” she said with a smile.

Vin ignored the woman for a minute and looked around the room. It looked more like a tool shed than anything else, he thought.

He looked at the woman again. She looked vaguely familiar, he thought. Her voice sounded familiar, too.

“Where am I? Who are you?” he asked, confusion adding to the pain and weakness heard in his voice.

“You’re safe, now,” she began. “I’m Celia Barker. My husband, the Reverend Barker, brought you back from that Indian camp,” she continued. “We’ve been praying here at your bedside for the past two days, now.”

Vin remembered the man with the cross with the soldiers.

“He saved you from the soldiers,” she added. “And the Lord is healing you, bringing you back to us.”

“I’ll have to thank them for that,” Vin rasped, wincing as he tried to get comfortable.

The woman poured some water and offered it to Vin, helping him lift his head up when she realized he was too weak to help himself.

“Thanks, ma’am,” he told her, laying his head back on the pillow.

“Well, I must say, I’m glad you not only speak English, but have manners, as well,” Celia remarked. “Not like the last poor boy the Reverend brought home. I was a bit worried when you were here all feverish. You kept on talking and singing in that Indian language,” she said, shivering slightly, Vin noticed. “The Reverend assured me that you spoke and understood English, but I wasn’t too sure,” she added before heading to the door. “I’ll be back in a little while. You rest now,” she said and closed the door behind her.

Vin had just been pondering her remarks when he heard the distinctive click of a lock on the door. Now he felt nervous. ‘The last poor boy?’ he thought again.

Josiah still wasn’t sure he felt comfortable leaving the group. With Chris hurt and needing tending, they were outnumbered by three men. Though, he thought with a small smile, the bad guys still thought Buck and Nathan were on THEIR side. Still, he kept having the feeling that Vin needed help. He even dreamed about it. He wasn’t ready to call it a message from God, though. It was similar to the images that had made him start this journey, but in more detail. His dream showed Vin, hurt by soldiers, flanked by two crosses. He saw himself holding one of the large wooden crosses, but instead of an image of Jesus, it had Indian writings and pictures on it. He knew they must be Comanche in origin. But he didn’t know what it all meant. His Christian beliefs told stories of angels and messengers of God coming to the people, telling them what to do, or what will happen. It usually wasn’t open for interpretation. But this dream confused Josiah. He knew it must mean something, but he was unfamiliar with the Comanche ways. Was this their Spirits’ way of talking to him?

He continued riding, looking for signs of Vin’s passing. While part of him wondered if he would find Vin’s body along the way, Vin not being able to wake from another vision in time, the other part knew that Vin must be alive, if he was on this quest.

When Vin woke next, the Reverend was at his side.

“You look better, son,” Barker remarked. “That bullet wound is being stubborn, but I’m sure if you pray, God will help it and your ribs heal,” he continued. “We haven’t been formally introduced. I’m Reverend Barker,” he said, extending his hand.

“Vin Tyler,” Vin replied, opting not to give his true name as he shook the man’s hand.

“That’s good that you still remember your last name,” Barker responded. “It’ll be easier to find your family.”

“I know where my family is. It’s in that Comanche village. That soldier killed my father,” Vin countered, wary of Barker.

“I mean your birth family. Your Christian family,” Barker explained, emphasizing ‘Christian.’

“My Ma died when I was little. Any other ‘Christian’ family that took care of me, didn’t do me no good,” Vin said, angry at Barker’s obvious prejudice. “That Comanche tribe taught me everything I need to know.”

“Ah, well, it looks as if I have my work cut out for me, then,” Barker sighed.

“And what work is that?” Vin asked, becoming more uncomfortable by the minute.

“Saving your soul, Vin. Bringing you back into God’s family. Showing you His divine light,” Barker replied.

“Sorry, Reverend, but I’m quite happy with the soul I have. It don’t need no savin’,” Vin countered, closing his eyes, tired in body and not wanting to continue with the religious debate.

“I heard you chanting to that Indian. Talking to his spirits. The spirits of the Devil himself,” Barker said, leaning close to Vin, forcing Vin to look at him.

“That Indian, by all rights, was my father,” Vin countered. “All I wanted to do was give him a chance to die peaceably, with our Spirits guiding him.”

“Your father?” Barker balked. “They truly have poisoned your soul,” he said, his tone full of pity for Vin and hatred for the Comanche.

“I think it’s time for me to leave now,” Vin began, trying to pull himself up and off the cot he was lying on. “I do thank you and your wife for helpin’ me,” he added, lightly patting his shoulder with his left hand as he held his ribs with his right. “But I don’t need no more help,” he continued.

“NO!” Barker yelled, easily pushing Vin back down onto the cot. “I will not let those heathens corrupt another soul. You will learn to embrace the light of the one, true Lord.”

“Look, you believe what you wanna believe, let me believe what I want to,” Vin tried to reason, clenching his teeth to hold back the pain as he started to rise again.

“But it wasn’t your choice when they turned you!” Barker yelled. “You were born a Christian! You will return to Him and I will be the one to help you do it!”

Vin started to get up again, knowing he needed to get away from this man, not caring that he didn’t even have any clothes on. But before he could put his feet on the floor, Barker again pushed him back onto the cot. Vin struggled with him, but his injuries had made him weak, and the pain in his shoulder and ribs was becoming unbearable.

“What is the name of the Lord thy God?” Barker asked through clenched teeth, holding Vin down.

Vin refused to answer him.

“I asked you a question! What is the name of the Lord thy God?” he repeated.

Vin responded with a few choice Comanche curses.

Barker backhanded him, not knowing what Vin had said, but understanding the tone of voice.

Vin continued to speak to Barker in Comanche, cursing some more at him and then calling to the Spirits to help him out of this situation. Barker was going to backhand Vin again, but changed his mind.

“I will come back later,” he said. “Maybe you will be willing to talk some sense, then.”

After Vin heard the click of the lock on the door, he stopped his prayer and sighed. Rubbing his jaw as he painfully sat up, he started to check the room for a means of escape.

Josiah was pretty sure he was heading in the right direction. He had a good idea of where the town of Colesville was to begin with, having passed through it once, a dozen or so years ago. Vin said the Comanche village was about fifteen miles northwest of the town. He had seen some familiar landmarks – large cacti, forked trees, an S-shaped creek bed. But he wasn’t sure why they were familiar. Surely the trees and cacti would have looked different the last time he was here. Maybe Vin mentioned them? Or were they in his dreams? Josiah decided not to question them further. He would accept the signs as good, no matter what the source. Another half-day’s ride and he would reach the small town, he figured.

Vin woke again to the sound of the door unlocking. He mentally braced himself for another round with the Reverend Barker. He couldn’t physically fight the man anymore. Not only was he weak from his injuries, but after the third time he had tried to escape, Barker tied Vin’s hands to the cot. Every hour on the hour, it seemed, the Reverend would make an appearance at Vin’s bedside. He would start out reading scripture to Vin. But Vin would just shut him out, talking nonsense or cursing at him in the Comanche tongue. Sometimes Barker would get frustrated and lash out at Vin, striking him. Vin fought back at first, when his hands were free. But now he couldn’t even do that. It was going to be a mental war with the Reverend, Vin realized. He hoped he had the stamina to continue. The door opened, but it was not Barker, it was his wife. She carried a tray into the shed, putting it on the floor next to the bed.

“Mr. Tyler? Mr. Tyler?” she called.

Vin opened his swollen eyes and looked at the woman. He flinched as she reached toward him.

“It’s alright,” she murmured, reaching behind him to prop up his head a bit with the pillow.

She retrieved a small bowl of soup from the tray and held it up in front of him.

As hungry and thirsty as Vin was, he turned his head away from her. He didn’t want anything from this woman or her husband.

“Now, Mr. Tyler, don’t be that way,” Celia admonished. “The Reverend said you need to eat. To keep your strength up.”

“Why? So he can keep beatin’ me?” he rasped.

“He’s trying to enlighten you. So you can be saved and come back to His flock,” she corrected, bringing a spoonful of soup to his mouth.

Vin turned his head away from the woman. She grabbed him by the chin with unexpected strength and forced a spoonful of the hot liquid into his mouth, scalding his lips and tongue. He spit out the soup, getting some on Celia. Vin glared at her, almost daring her to try it again as he tried to ignore the burning pain in his mouth. Celia just ignored him and got another spoonful and grabbed Vin again, shoving the spoon into his mouth, this time clamping it shut, forcing him to swallow.

“Now, we could do this the easy way, Mr. Tyler,” she began. “Or, we can continue with the hard way,” she finished, getting another spoonful of soup ready.

“Ain’t nothin’ gonna be easy with me,” he replied bitterly.

“Fine, then,” Celia responded, grabbing his chin again.

Josiah rode into the town of Colesville. He stopped at what was the town’s general store to pick up supplies and get some information. He wanted to know if Vin had been through town or not. He also wanted to find out what these people knew and how they felt about the Comanches.

“Can I help you?” the storeowner called.

“Certainly hope so,” Josiah responded, tipping his hat slightly. “I’ll take these supplies here,” he said, putting some food for him and his horse on the counter. “Also, I’m looking for an acquaintance of mine. He said he was going to try to find some Comanche village around here. See if he could buy some horses from them,” he lied, recalling that the Comanches were well known for their horses.

“Ain’t been no strangers in town, lately,” the man said, tallying up Josiah’s order. “As for the Comanches,” he continued. “The Army’s got them. Settin’ up something called a reservation. About fifteen miles northwest of here.”

“The Army’s setting up a reservation?” Josiah questioned, worrying even more for Vin’s welfare, now, remembering his dream about Vin and the soldiers.

“Yeah, they say it’ll keep them savages away from us white folk. We won’t have to worry about them no more,” the storeowner explained.

“You say about fifteen miles?” Josiah asked.

“Northwest,” he confirmed.

“Thank you,” Josiah said, tipping the hat and grabbing the supplies he bought.

As Josiah headed down the street toward his horse, he heard someone calling his name.

“Josiah? Sanchez, that you?” the voice called.

Josiah turned around toward the familiar sounding voice.

“Stephen!” Josiah greeted the man, clasping hands with him. “How long’s it been? Fifteen years?” he asked, amazed to see his old friend after so long.

“About that,” Stephen answered. “Never thought I’d see you again, Josie,” he remarked.

Josiah rolled his eyes at the mention of his once forgotten nickname.

“Same here, Stephen,” he replied. “You live here in town?” he asked.

“Yes, my wife and I have been here about six years, now,” Stephen replied.

“Married now, are you?” Josiah asked, a teasing tone in his voice.

“Sure am. To a good woman, too,” Stephen replied. “What brings you to this neck of the woods, anyhow, Josie?” he asked.

Josiah lied to his old friend, not liking it, but needing to keep to the story he began in the general store.

“Looking for a friend of mine. He was headed this way to try to buy some horses from the Comanche tribe near here,” he said. “I’m gonna help bring them back to his ranch.”

“Think you have time to have lunch with me and the little woman?” Stephen asked. “It would be great to spend a little time swapping stories.”

Josiah felt his stomach growl at the mention of lunch. He supposed it would be alright to take a small break in his journey.

“Lunch sounds wonderful,” he replied. “And I’d like to meet the woman who’d put up with you!” he added with a hearty laugh.

“Well then, come on this way,” Stephen said, guiding Josiah down the street toward the other end of town.

Vin glared at Celia as she wiped the soup from his chin. Part of him wanted to force himself to throw up on the woman, he was so mad. But the smarter side of him realized that he did indeed need to eat if he wanted to heal and gain his strength back. So he just closed his eyes and blocked her out as she began reading from the Bible.

Vin hated this situation he was in. He had nothing against people of other religions or races. He believed every man had a right to believe in whatever Spirit or God he chose. That having any faith was better than no faith. That’s what Quahaka had taught him.

He remembered when he first came to the tribe. He’d been on his own for a year or two, trying to live off the land, working odd jobs on ranches. He’d gotten lost in the woods and literally ran into Quahaka when a noise had startled him into running blindly down a path. Quahaka had immediately seen that Vin was lost, not just in the woods, but in life. ‘There was something in your eyes,’ Vin recalled Quahaka telling him. When Quahaka, who had known some English, assured Vin that he was not going to hurt him, Vin willingly followed the man to the Comanche village. Apparently, Quahaka held some status in the tribe, as one of their best hunters, so bringing Vin into the village did not cause any problems. Quahaka started teaching Vin to survive on his own. He learned to hunt and track and defend himself. He also taught Vin the ways and beliefs of the Comanche people. Vin was reassured that he could leave anytime he wanted. He was not a captive. Vin wound up staying with them for several years, adopting their ways and beliefs as his own.

“My own free will,” he said aloud, thinking of the choice that he had made all those years ago.

“Excuse me?” Celia asked, putting down her Bible to look at Vin.

“My own free will,” he repeated. “I chose to follow the Spirits of the Comanche people. No one forced me. I got nothin’ against your God,” he continued, staring at the woman. “I seen a lot of good He’s done. I got lots of Christian friends, too. One of ‘em’s a preacher, in fact. You can’t force me to believe in your God. It ain’t right,” he finished, exhausted by his own speech.

Celia was about to reply when she heard her husband calling her name.

“Until next time, Mr. Tyler,” she said before leaving and locking the door.

Vin relaxed, sighing in relief now that the woman was gone.

‘She’s almost as bad as the Reverend,’ Vin said to himself. Josiah suddenly came to his mind. He had often heard Josiah quote from the Bible - some of the same passages the Reverend Barker and his wife had read to him. But Josiah never tried to convert anyone. He would be there to help anybody he could, hoping his connection with God would bring about a solution. He’d pray with you and for you, but he never pushed religion on anyone who didn’t want it. And Josiah was coming, he knew.

Vin squirmed around on the cot and tried to get comfortable without too much pain. He’d given up trying to get his hands free. The knots were too tight and he really didn’t want his wrists to get any sorer than they were from his first attempts to get out of the bonds. Finally he found a relatively pain free position and decided to sleep. He hoped the Spirits would send him a vision that had a happy ending.

“This is it, Josie,” Stephen announced, gesturing to the small, white house before him. “Come on in,” he added, guiding Josiah through the front door. “Have a seat, I’ll go get the little woman, let her know we’ve got a lunch guest.”

“I don’t want to impose, now,” Josiah said, removing his hat.

“Not at all. In fact, I smell soup. Always plenty of that to go around,” he replied. “Make yourself at home,” he added before heading toward the back of the house.

Josiah sat down on one of the chairs in the parlor. Looking around he saw that his friend seemed to have done reasonably well in life. ‘Nice house, a wife, seems happy,’ he thought.

Josiah stood up as Stephen returned with his wife.

“Honey, this is my old friend, Josiah “Josie” Sanchez,” Stephen started the introduction. “And Josie, this is my lovely bride, Mrs. Celia Barker.”

“Ma’am,” Josiah greeted, taking her offered hand.

“So I finally get to meet the great Josie Sanchez!” Celia exclaimed. “Stephen has told me all about the trouble you two got into together,” she added.

Josiah raised his eyebrows at her remark, retorting, “He started everything!”

Josiah sat down at the table with Celia and Stephen, where he started to tell Celia stories of his and Stephen’s past, when they had both been starting out as preachers.

“Well, Stephen, Celia,” he said, rising from the table after lunch was gone. “I do appreciate your hospitality, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to call this little reunion to an end. I need to meet up with my associate.”

“Why don’t you stop in on your way back, Josie,” Stephen offered.

“Sounds good. We’ll have to see what Vin wants to do,” he replied.

Celia looked quickly at her husband, eyes silently questioning him at the mention of Vin’s name. He quickly and subtly shook his head.

“You’re always welcome here, Josiah,” Celia told him, walking with the men to the front door.

“Thank you, ma’am,” Josiah replied tipping his hat after he put it on.

After Josiah was out of sight, Celia turned to her husband.

“Mr. Tyler told me that he had a preacher for a friend. He must mean Josiah,” she said.

“We don’t know that, Celia,” he countered.

“How many ‘Vins’ do you know in these parts?” she asked. “How could you not tell him that his friend is here with us?”

“Because Josiah, good Christian that he is, does not agree with our methods,” he told her quietly.

“Well he’s sure to find out Mr. Tyler is here when he talks to the soldiers,” she warned.

“We will deal with that problem when it comes. The Lord will help us,” he replied, heading toward the barn.

Josiah had ridden northwest, as the storeowner had directed him. Ahead, he saw the Comanche village, surrounded by an Army encampment. He approached cautiously, dismounting at the request of a sentry.

“State your business!” the sentry called.

“Looking for an acquaintance of mine,” Josiah answered. “He was supposed to come here to buy some Comanche horses.”

“They ain’t gonna be sellin’ anything no more,” the sentry told him, gesturing toward the village. “New reservation startin’ up.”

“Can you tell me if my friend’s been here, then?” Josiah asked. “He’s about your height, long brown hair, buckskin coat,” he described.

“Sounds like the fella that attacked the corporal few days back,” the sentry replied.

Josiah gave the sentry a worried and confused look.

“Said the corporal shot his father or something,” he explained. “Indian lover,” he added, a little disgusted.

“Where is he now?” Josiah asked.

“Well, if he’s still alive, he’s probably with the Reverend,” the sentry replied. “Reverend has a deal with the Commander to take care of all the white captives around here,” he added.

“If he’s alive?” Josiah questioned, even more worried now.

“Yeah, the corporal shot ‘im,” the sentry replied, a satisfied smile.

“This Reverend? Wouldn’t be Reverend Stephen Barker, now, would it?” Josiah asked.

“That’s him. Lives in Colesville,” the sentry answered.

“Thanks,” Josiah said, tipping his hat as he got on his horse.

Vin looked up warily at Barker. Waited for the next round to start. For some reason he could not fathom, the intensity of Barker’s visits had increased today. His vision was blurred now, as both eyes were nearly swollen shut. Barker got close to him, making sure Vin could see him.

“Might as well save it, Reverend,” Vin said weakly. “I still ain’t listenin’.”

“It’s very simple, Vin,” Barker said, squatting down next to the bed. “All you need to do is embrace Jesus. Tell me that you believe in Him and He will save you – body and soul.”

Vin glared at Barker, starting a chant to his Spirit in the Comanche tongue.

“Do you really believe your ‘spirits’ will save you?!” he shouted, grabbing Vin by the shoulders. “Where are they?! Why haven’t they delivered you from all of this?!” he demanded.

“Go to hell,” Vin said before closing his eyes again.

“Josiah, you’re back so soon,” Celia said, surprised.

“Where’s Vin?” he asked brusquely.

“What?” she asked, trying to feign ignorance.

“The soldiers said Stephen took a man from the Comanche reservation,” Josiah said. “Where are they?” he asked, grabbing her upper arms.

“Out back, in the barn,” she replied, frightened by Josiah’s manner.

Josiah released her and stalked away, toward the barn. As he walked through it he saw Vin’s horse tied in one of the stalls.

Then he heard Stephen’s voice, yelling, “Do you really believe your ‘spirits’ will save you?! Where are they?! Why haven’t they delivered you from all of this?!”

He heard the dangerous tone in Stephen’s voice and hurried toward it. He opened the door to the small tool room and found his old friend hitting Vin.

“STOP!!!” Josiah shouted, crossing the small room quickly and grabbing Barker’s hand. “What are you doing?” he asked, bewildered.

“The Lord’s work,” Barker replied simply. “This man has strayed from the flock. I am bringing him back.”

“By beating him to death?!!” Josiah responded, incredulous. “That is not the Lord’s work,” he added, glaring at Stephen.

Josiah turned toward Vin and looked at his friend’s battered form, his feelings of rage toward Stephen growing by the minute.

“Vin? Vin, can ya hear me? It’s Josiah,” he called quietly, touching Vin’s bruised cheek.

Vin only moaned in response to Josiah’s words and touch.

“Stephen, he needs a doctor,” Josiah said. “Even I can tell his ribs are broken. This wound’s probably infected, too,” he added, feeling Vin’s forehead.

“The Lord will take care of those in His flock. There is no one else for heathens such as him,” Stephen stated.

Josiah suddenly grasped the meaning of his dream, no, his vision, he realized. He was a man of the cross, just like Stephen. But his cross had the Comanche symbols on it. He was meant to defend the Spirits.

“I am here by the will of the Comanche Spirits, Stephen,” Josiah began, enjoying the look of confusion on his old friend’s face. “They showed me the way here, to Vin. Does that make me a heathen? Are you going to beat me senseless, too? Bring me back to the flock?” he added, mocking Barker, throwing his words back at him.

“He claims to be the blood-son of a Comanche chief! There was no reasoning with him!” Barker retorted, defending his actions.

“He is a human being!” Josiah shouted.

“He has aligned himself with the Devil! He has chosen those savages over his own people!” Barker shouted.

“Just because he has chosen to worship God in a way different than you does not mean he has aligned himself with the Devil,” Josiah countered. “This man is a better human being than you will ever be. I have seen him do more good in the short time that I’ve known him than many a man of the cloth I’ve met over the years. Now where is this town’s doctor?” he asked.

“There isn’t one,” Celia responded, standing in the doorway. “And you won’t find anyone in town that’ll help him,” she continued, a hint of guilt in her voice. “These people have had bad dealings with the Comanches,” she added, answering the unspoken question in Josiah’s expression.

Josiah knew arguing further with Stephen was useless. He needed to get Vin away from his former friend. He untied Vin’s hands from the cot and wrapped a blanket around him, gently picking his friend up. He carried him past Stephen and Celia, ignoring the couple, as he headed out into the main barn. He looked around the barn and found what he needed to rig up a litter for Vin. After putting Vin down in the hay, he constructed the litter. He saddled Vin’s horse and attached the litter to it. Again, he lifted his friend up. Vin moaned at the movement, but Josiah shushed him with soothing words and a familiar voice. After he brought the horse and litter to the front of the house and mounted his own horse, Celia appeared. She gave him a bundle of supplies – sheets, food and water.

“It’s not much, but it may help until you find him a proper doctor,” she told Josiah.

Josiah looked at the woman, questioning her with his eyes, wondering about her change of heart.

“Stephen’s first wife was killed by an Indian raiding party. The brave that killed her was a white man,” she said as a way of explaining her husband’s actions, before heading back to the house.

“God will not have mercy on your soul, Josiah Sanchez!” Barker shouted. “You have cast yourself into the Devil’s lot!”

Josiah did not acknowledge Stephen’s warning. He tied the bundle to Vin’s saddle and headed out of town, not looking back. He would try to get as far away from Colesville as he could.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Larabee,” Ezra greeted, seeing Chris awake. “How are you feeling today?” he asked.

“Just fine, Ezra,” Chris replied from his bed at the Eagle Bend Hotel.

“The Marshall said he has everything squared away. The Judge should be in town by tomorrow and those rustlers should be on their way to prison a day or two after that,” Ezra informed him.

“Nathan around?” Chris asked.

“Mr. Jackson should be here shortly. He went to get some lunch for you and himself,” Ezra replied. “Are you alright? Should I get him now?” he asked, seeing something in Chris’s expression.

“I’m fine,” Chris replied as Nathan entered the room, carrying a tray of food.

“Hey, Chris. Ezra,” Nathan said, greeting the men.

He was about to ask Chris how he was doing when Chris cut him off and said, “I’m fine. You need to find Vin and Josiah.”

“I’m already packed,” Nathan replied. “So are Buck and JD,” he added.

“Vin’s hurt and sick,” Chris said.

“I know,” Nathan replied, uneasily.

“And just how do you two gentlemen know all of this?” Ezra asked, totally confused by the conversation Chris and Nathan were having.

“Don’t rightly know, Ezra,” Nathan replied.

“Maybe it came to us in a dream,” Chris put in.

Once Josiah had found a place to make camp, he untied the litter from Vin’s horse and gently lowered it to the ground.

“Vin? How ya holding up?” he asked his injured friend, putting a hand on Vin’s fevered brow.

Vin mumbled a response. Josiah barely heard it, and did not understand the Comanche words, but got its basic meaning. Vin did not feel well at all. Josiah retrieved his canteen and helped Vin take a few sips of the cool water.

“Alright?” he asked, not really expecting an answer. “Let’s see where you’re hurt, now.”

He peeled back the blanket, which was damp with sweat, to reveal Vin’s bruised and broken body. Having more time to examine Vin, now, Josiah confirmed his earlier assessment of broken ribs. He lifted the blood soaked bandage on Vin’s shoulder and winced at the sight. It was badly infected, oozing sickly green pus. He saw the fiery red streaks starting to make their way outwards from the wound, as well. He gently pulled the shoulder up, apologizing to Vin in response to his sharp, painful intake of air, to see a similar sight on the exit wound.

“Damn,” Josiah swore.

After a moment, Josiah covered Vin back up. He rose and went to gather some wood for a fire. He’d have to keep Vin warm and start working on that shoulder wound. After getting the fire started and collecting some water gotten from the nearby stream, he went through the supplies he had and those that Celia had given him. He started heating the water and tearing up one of the sheets.

“You sure you know where you’re going, Nathan?” JD asked.

“Pretty sure,” Nathan replied, looking toward the horizon.

JD looked at Buck, raising his eyebrows. Buck just shrugged his shoulders.

“Sometimes you just don’t question things, JD,” Buck said.

“It’s a matter of faith, JD,” Nathan responded. “Just like Vin believed in his vision and Josiah in his.”

“I just don’t get it,” JD said. “All my life I’ve never known or met anyone who’s talked to God or been visited or nothin’. Now all in one week, I know four!”

Nathan laughed at the remark, replying, “Like they say, JD, ‘The Lord works in mysterious ways!’”

“And you’ve got complete faith in this dream you had? I mean, how do we even know where they’re gonna be?” JD asked.

“We’ll find them, JD. You just gotta believe,” Buck put in.

Josiah again applied the hot compresses to Vin’s wounds, trying to draw the infection out. They’d been at the camp for several hours now. As darkness started to creep up on them, Josiah felt the impact of the day’s events hit him. One more time for the compresses and he’d call it a night, he decided. Tomorrow he’d pack them up again and continue the journey to Eagle Bend.

At morning’s light Josiah took a short walk, wanting to scout the area. He stopped at the top of the hill. Across the way was another hill. At the top he saw an old Indian standing next to a cross. The Indian’s eyes locked with Josiah’s and he was drawn into their depths. In them he saw Vin as a young teen, learning the ways of the Comanches. He saw Vin’s teacher, a younger version of the old Indian on the hill. He was telling Vin a story. He watched in curiosity, as the story was set before him. In it, he saw another man, also an Indian, being killed in battle defending his tribe. Then he saw this warrior in a different light - as a silent watchman as the tribe slept, as an ever-understanding confidant to those in need of counsel, as a bearer of gifts to those in need. He saw a myriad of other roles this Spirit, Josiah realized, took on. As understanding took hold of Josiah’s senses, he again saw the old Indian. It was Quahaka, he now knew. Quahaka nodded to Josiah, thanking him for taking care of his son. Then Quahaka showed Josiah another image. He saw Nathan, Buck and JD riding horses.

Josiah awoke to the morning’s light feeling refreshed. He remembered his vision in detail. He moved over to check on Vin and was dismayed at the heat still radiating from Vin’s body, but he was reassured by the fact that he knew Nathan and the others were on their way.

He spent the day as he had finished the one before – applying hot compresses to Vin’s wounds, trying to draw out the infection and trying to get water into his friend as often as he could as Vin lapsed into and out of consciousness. That was all he could do for him, except pray. And that he did silently, mindful of the days Vin must have spent having to listen to Stephen.

This routine continued throughout the day. Around dusk, he heard his name called.

“Josiah?” Vin whispered.

“Right here, Vin,” he replied, removing the cool cloth from Vin’s forehead.

“Where are we?” he asked, looking around at the unfamiliar surroundings.

“About ten miles south of Colesville, I reckon,” Josiah answered, offering Vin some water.

Vin nodded and tried to sit up. He failed miserably and Josiah helped him to sip from the canteen.

“Thanks, Josiah,” he said, lying back onto the bedroll.

“How ya feelin’?” Josiah asked, putting the stopper back into the canteen.

“A lot better, now,” Vin replied, looking away. He took a deep breath and continued, “Ya knew Barker, didn’t ya?”

“Yeah,” Josiah answered quietly. “We met when we were just startin’ out as preachers. We were good friends back then. I’m sorry you had to meet up with him,” he added.

“Not your fault,” Vin replied. “Part of the plan, I guess,” he added, not really understanding, but accepting the Spirits’ bidding. “How’d you find me?” he asked suddenly.

“You’re not the only one who’s had visions these days,” the preacher replied, smiling.

Vin nodded, understanding. But Josiah saw a look of sadness come to Vin’s features.

“You miss Quahaka,” Josiah stated. When Vin looked up at him, he continued, “I met him last night, in my dreams. He was a good man. It was easy to see where you got your life skills and morals.”

“How come, as a Christian and a preacher, you can accept the Comanche beliefs, but Barker couldn’t?” Vin asked.

“At first, I couldn’t understand it myself. Then, Celia told me that an Indian raiding party killed Stephen’s first wife. I believe that his grief over losing his wife was so great that it clouded his judgement. He believed that anything done against him was the Devil’s work, instead of God’s plan,” he tried to explain, continuing, “unlike you, who accepted the Spirits’ bidding, no matter what the outcome.”

Vin closed his eyes and thought about Josiah’s words. It was so long before he spoke again that Josiah thought he’d gone back to sleep.

“Quahaka always believed that the Comanche Spirits were akin to your angels. That the Comanche’s highest Spirit was the same as your God,” Vin said. “You think he’s right?”

“I don’t know, Vin,” Josiah replied. “If they aren’t then they were at least workin’ together for us this week.”

“Think Barker will ever change his ways?” Vin asked, yawning now.

“I don’t know that either,” he answered. “Maybe I’ll pay him a visit sometime in the future. See how he fares. He truly believed he was doing some good. He just didn’t realize that his methods and reasons were all wrong.”

Josiah looked down at Vin again. This time his friend was asleep. Josiah changed the compresses and pulled the blanket up before heading out to hunt up some dinner.

On the third afternoon, Josiah heard the sound of approaching horses. He stood up and scanned the horizon, knowing whom he’d see. He waved his hand at the three riders, calling them over to his and Vin’s campsite.

“Nathan, it’s good to see ya,” Josiah said, clasping the healer’s hand.

“How is he?” Nathan asked, walking over to Vin.

“Holdin’ his own, I guess,” Josiah replied. “Fever’s gone down, he’s eatin’ some, now, too.”

“But I still feel like shit,” Vin croaked from his bedroll.

Nathan examined Vin’s injuries and rummaged through his medical bag.

“Looks like Josiah’s done a good job takin’ care of ya, so far,” Nathan replied, applying some ointment to the shoulder wounds.

“Yeah, I reckon’ he has,” Vin replied, looking at Josiah.

Josiah knew Vin was talking about more than just medical care.

“We’ve had the Lord and the Spirits on our side as well,” he said with a smile.

“As always,” Nathan asserted.

“So how come they never showed Themselves to y’all before?” JD asked.

“They’re always there, JD,” Nathan replied.

“As long as you’ve got faith and believe in Them,” Buck added.

“Just sometimes, they gotta show themselves, to give you that extra little guidance when the way gets confusin’,” Nathan continued.

“Or if they got a special plan, just for you,” Vin put in.

The five spent another day at the campsite, allowing Vin to get some more rest and gain some strength as well as giving the medicines Nathan gave him a chance to start working. As they started their journey to Eagle Bend, Vin and the others heard an old Indian song being chanted. As it echoed through the woods, Vin’s pain was eased. He accomplished what the Spirits had him do. Quahaka was now as happy in death, among the Spirits, as he had been in life. He knew that he would someday join Quahaka and his Christian mother as well, to live among the Spirits and Angels at the end of his life.

The End