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[Fiction] Echoes of Thunder: Ptesan-Wi's Return


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Sunday October 6th 2017


Ptesan-Wi woke from a nightmare at the end of a night of fitful sleep. Not that this was a new experience; for months now, this had been how she passed the night - the dreamtime that had once been a peaceful place was now rent with terror and death and loss.

The blankets and sheets that surrounded her were not her own, and she sighed as she pushed them to the side and swung her long legs out of someone else’s bed. For three long months, she had been recuperating at Lou Anne’s house, and the experience of living once more in a typical house was both comforting and disconcerting at the same time. Had it not been for MindFlayer, she would have insisted on returning home by now. As she made her way to the bathroom, her thoughts reached out and gave a gentle *Good morning* to her fellow... whatever-she-was. Ptesan-Wi had been using the term ‘mesmerist’ for nearly a year now, but what was really in a term? Whatever she - they - were, it was something different from humans and novas both, and the time comparing mental notes had, to some extent, help to keep her from going mad with the loss of Wakinyan.

Even the brief thought of his name brought tears to her eyes, eyes that looked back at her from the bathroom mirror haunted with grief. The injuries had passed, and so had the flu that had so risked her secret... but some wounds do not so easily heal.

The morning necessities finished, she quietly dressed - in white man’s clothes, as she had done before becoming who she was - and made her way downstairs.

For once, Lou Anne was nowhere to be found, but a note on the counter solved the mystery: she had gone to the store. For the first time since being brought here, broken and unconscious after feeling her mate’s death, Ptesan-Wi was alone in the house - and bored. Habits of childhood died hard, and her eyes fell on the television. Without thinking, she reached for the remote…

*You don’t want to do that.* MindFlayer’s ‘voice’ was loud and clear and grave within her head. And then, connections clicked in Ptesan-Wi’s mind. As long as she had been here, those who were so kind as to help her recuperate here had also kept her from any real connection to the outside world. Self-righteousness flared within her breast, and she sent back to her fellow: *I am Ptesan-Wi, and I decide my own path.*

*I tried,* replied the voice with a trace of sorrow tingeing it, even as the flat screen came to life… and the tragedy that was unfolding in the Dakota hills was revealed to the stunned Lakota woman. In silent shock, she saw the images of her home – images that showed burned-out stores, insane rallies for an impossible war, gunfire and death.

I have to stop this. With that thought and no other, Ptesan-Wi ran back upstairs, changing into her native clothes, grabbing the bentwood “snowshoe” that had leaned in a corner of the room for weeks, and raced out of the house and into the air. Ptesan-Wi was homeward bound.

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Monday October 7th 2017


It was worse than she had imagined.

Oh, to be sure, the lands below looked idelic enough... from a distance. But up close....

A boarded up window here, a burned barn there. An overturned truck. Bullet holes in the side of a school. And little spatterings of blood accompanying each new atrocity. The sings of war - albeit on a small scale - were everywhere.

And then, she came upon the herd.

For over a hundred years, the buffalo had been on the rebound on the prairie around the Black Hills. The herd had grown strong, and withstood harsh winters and long droughts and rancher's fences.

They did not, however, withstand bullets.

By the thousands, huge shaggy carcasses spread rotting across the open grazing lands, so many that the myriad turkey vultures circling the skies above seemed almost confused for the vast bounty. In horror, Ptesan-Wi descended lower, trying to find how, why the gift of Wakan Tanka lay dead across the prairie - and what she saw raised her blood to a boil. Gaping holes had not been caused by mere rifle cartriges, and the angle of entry.... With hot rage, she realized that the herd had been strafed.

History repeats itself; they try to starve us. The rage became mingled with growning sorrow within her breast. And they will win.

Bowing her head, she said a brief prayer to Wakan Tanka to lay the buffalo spirits to rest... and when her eyes opened and looked up, they were the azure glow of the White Buffalo Calf Woman.

Ptesan-Wi reached out with her mind, stretching the tenuous fingers outward in uncountable numbers, reaching out to the entire Lakota People.

*People of the Lakota Tribes, I am Ptesan-Wi, and I have returned. Send your war leaders to Inyan Kara; I will speak with them there.*

Without any further delay, she left the slaughter behind her as she took once more to the skies, arcing toward the distant mountain that was her home.

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Guest Alex WhiteElk

Ptesan-Wi was back, and the word was spreading among the People. They'd all heard her voice in their head, and for one bright, shining moment, Alex WhiteElk believed. Belief faded when he remembered that this was an age of godlings made flesh and that Ptesan-Wi had once been just like him. It would have been easy to let himself get washed away in the rush of joy and acclaim for her.

They weren't war chiefs, but they gathered anyway. The People came, to stand below the cave, to gather on the slope of Inyan Kara and to wait for their guidance. Alex's family came together, but they weren't alone when they arrived; others were there, coming in cars and on horse and on foot, by whatever means they chose.

At first, there was an open area around the WhiteElk family, an opening filled with blame and grief, and Alex felt anger burning in his chest. Then Tina Thunderhawk, her face still hollowed by sorrow, moved away from her family, and motioned them closer. And the WhiteElks stood with the Thunderhawks, shoulder to shoulder, eyes fixed on the black entrance of the cave, waiting together in a stolid silence that said they could wait forever.

And Alex felt that joyous power again, standing with the Thunderhawks, and then all the others who moved around them, drawing them in and accepting them once again. Already, Ptesan-Wi had begun healing the people, just by her presence. And perhaps, that meant that she was so close to being a god, that it didn't really matter anymore that she wasn't.

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Ptesan-Wi looked out upon the gathered war chiefs of her People. Some sported wounds; these were not men to lead from the rear, she knew, and some who had been chiefs still lay with eyes unseeing on the fields and in shallow graves.

When she spoke, the woman with the soft white aura and eyes that glowed with the azure of the Dakota sky spoke with sorrow in her voice.

"When I returned to you, when I spoke to you last year and gave to you the Sacred Calf Pipe, I told you then that I was here to bring to you the Fifth World. I told you then that it would be a time People walk upright and once again remember their true relationship with Wakan Tanka, and for the Earth to be reborn."

She closed her eyes and sighed, and when she opened them again, tears started to work their way down Ptesan-Wi's cheeks.

"What you are doing now will kill that dream. Going to war with the White Man poisons the hopes for the Fifth World, because it can bring only misery and death for the People. We do not win by dying for an idea; we win by living to bring the idea to blossom.

"Wakinyan, my mate, was a great man, a spirit of the Lakota and all the tribes. He is still a great spirit of our people, and still watches from the side of Wakan Tanka. Do we not still have his thunder that heralds the rain? Do we not still see his power in our skies, feel his breath upon the wind? A bullet cannot kill a spirit, no matter how large the bullet."

Ptesan-Wi stopped for a moment. She had no choice, really; her voice choked at the loss of her beloved mate. But when she spoke again, her voice was firm and strong.

"I will go to Washington. I will go and speak on the behalf of the People to President Obama. He is a fair man, a man who I think wishes to see peace. I will seek a fair peace with him: one that will allow us to stand with pride and honor, one that will return to us sacred lands stolen despite treaty, one that will be sealed with the Sacred Calf Pipe.

"I will go... but you must stop the fighting. You must stop the killing. The Fifth World is not gained by war, but by peace, and Wakinyan knew and said that to his last day on the Earth with us."

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Guest James Running Wolf

"Why should we trust the White Man again, Ptesan-Wi?" The man who rose to challenge her was older than most of his fellows, fifty years of hard-won lines etched across his face and his hands calloused with work; his rifle hung from his shoulder, a well-oiled semi-automatic with wear-marks in the grip to match the callouses in his palms. "Did Harney not slaughter our women and children in defiance of treaties? Did they not give us treaties that we should have the Black Hills forever, and then send Custer and Sheridan to drive us away? Is Sitting Bull not dead? Our brothers at Wounded Knee not buried with white bullets in them?" His voice rose with a thunderous fury that echoed the roll of the thunder. "Is our great spirit not dead, his blood shed by white men on the very soil of Wounded Knee? Speak no peace with me, Ptesan-Wi." He shook his head, seating himself again and laying his rifle across his lap. "I will hear no peace with the White Man while I draw breath, unless you tell me that all this did not happen?"

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Because they'll kill us all if we don't make peace, Ptesan-Wi wanted to scream. Couldn't the old man see that? Wasn't it obvious from the dead and dying and homeless after a scant few months of faltering rebellion?

Instead, she said, "Because this is not then. Because the world has changed, James Running Wolf, and the world will not stand by and see us cheated once more. And because you do not stand alone any longer, or do I not walk once more among you? I told you that this is the time for the Fifth World, and the signs of that have been seen for years. The Tribes have been winning back - slowly, in bits and bites - what is our right. The old treaties are seen once more by the White Man, not as something to break, but with shame that they have been broken. And President Obama is not a white man - he is brown. The United States has chosen to follow a chief who is not white for the first time ever. It is time for us to be seen and respected as well."

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