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GAA: The Kuwapi people were more significant than a mere band of nomads scratching out their existence on the Great Plains of North America, yet they did not have the blood ties to mark them as a tribe or even a clan. They began as outcasts from among the Oglala Sioux.

GAB: In Lakhota, kuwapi means "they follow". The outcasts wandered the tribe's hunting grounds as a kind of punishment detail for religious offenses, with the level of Oglala displeasure permanently tallied by the number of whip scars each one bore on their back.

GAC: To the north the Kuwapi were beset by the Dakotas who held the entire Black Hills and the plains around them. The Kuwapi named them the northern raiders and if the mainline Oglalas helped fend them off from time to time it was more to ensure the hunt than to do favors.

GAD: In the richer grasslands eastward the Kuwapi had the fierce Pawnees to contend with. To the south along the Oregon Trail the Kuwapi were buffeted by the Arapahoes and also ran the risk of encountering white settlers and US Army troops who protected them.

GAE: In the scrubby furrowed lands westward they had the Cheyennes to fear. The whole northwest was put out of their minds by dread of the Crow and Blackfeet. But in the ever-moving sliver of meager grasslands left in the wake of the Oglala the Kuwapi hunters rode.

GAF: Wanica led them downwind of a herd of bison drinking water at a ford in a large creek named Squaw River by the whites. When he signaled a halt, they tied their horses off to the roots of sun- bleached stumps and crept unseen through brush to approach the herd.

GAG: Some of the animal grew nervous though they could not see any of the men. As Wanica and his hunters crept through the riparian zone to watch the herd they cast no shadows. The day was darker than most, with a low overcast. It was cold, but it did not rain.

GAH: The bull stopped drinking and stared downstream, sensing danger. Judging the moment to be right, Wanica stood from behind a shrub and loosed an arrow. The bolt struck a cow in a flank but it was not a lethal shot. All the bison heard the cry of the victim and panicked.

GAI: A rapid series of shots were made by other hunters but all of their arrows missed or made non-lethal wounds. The bison fled to a slope north and west and made for the cover of the low cloud bank, although they were too stupid to have planned such a move.

GAJ: The hunters returned to their horses and followed the herd away from the river. The cloud bank enveloped them as a thick fog. They their bows at the ready, turning left and right, but none of the bison were visible to the men in the complete whiteout.

GAK: Further uphill the fog cleared, patches of blue sky were seen. Three of the bison were isolated and exposed. Arrows were loosed and struck home, dropping one of the animals. The two surviving bison ran back down off the hill into the fog, seeking the safety of numbers.

GAL: Wanica ordered braves to carve up the body of the fallen animal. Meat was loaded on skids made of wooden staves and animal skin to be dragged away. Nothing of the bison was wasted. Satisfied with the progress of the young men, Wanica turned away with the other hunters.

GAM: They rode up the slope until they could go no higher. The summit of the high hill stood alone over a sea of clouds that reached the horizon. It was a rare and beautiful moment. Wanica was deeply moved by the sight. He said, "I name this place the Island in the Sky."

GAN: The herd of bison slowly wandered back out of the fog, grazing warily on the mountaintop even with the hunters close at hand. The animals sensed that the humans had done their worst and would leave the rest of them alone. But what followed scattered even the humans.

GAO: Something taller than a tree emerged from the sea of clouds on six pillars of flame. Only Wanica and his fearless steed remained to watch it touch down on the summit of the hill. At first he thought it was just white men doing one better than their smoking horse of iron.

GAP: The object grew much smaller in size and changed shape to resemble a faceless white man. Not like a European, but white as snow, with no eyes, ears, nor mouth. It shifted postion on the hilltop, and the very ground thundered and shook under its feet.

GAQ: Wanica nudged his horse a bit closer as the white man-shape sat on the ground. Its head opened in six petals to reveal a gold object that rose as though it were being offered to Wanica. He dismounted to take a closer look, approaching the shape cautiously on foot.

GAR: Tentatively, respectfully, he withdrew the golden object from the splayed head while the limbs of the man-shape remained motionless at its side. The object fit neatly in Wanica's palm like the hilt of a knife. The head of the white man closed.

GAS: Wanica squeezed the gift to produce a hissing opaque black beam. When he swept the beam around it carved trenches in the stony ground of the hilltop entirely without effort. He watched the white man change again to become a dome on the summit, like a smooth igloo.

GAT: Wanica discovered that when he no longer actively squeezed the Golden Gift the immaterial black shaft retracted and disappeared. He squeezed it again briefly to be sure it still worked, and tested how long he could make the beam. He found it could also make a shield.

GAU: The curiosity of Wanica's companions overcame their fear. They slowly returned to the summit, together with some of the bison. There the hunters saw the white dome on the very summit of the hill, and they also saw Wanica standing next to it with his horse.

GAV: Wanica lifted a large stone and set it down near the white dome. The companions of Wanica joined him stacking stones around the dome as though they were building a second igloo out of rock. When the men finished they stood back to look. The shape was concealed by a cairn.

GAW: None of the Kuwapi hunters understood what happened on the summit of the Island in the Sky, but they all believed it was fitting to build a hallowed lodge for Wakan Tanka after his manifestation to them, which they understood to be his divine blessing for the hunt.

GAX: By the time the People were feasting on bison the animal's horns had been fastened to leather thongs. One of Chief Tatanka's women pinned the horns to his shoulder as though he had actually departed the tipi where he roiled in womanflesh and killed the animal himself.

GAY: Briefly Tatanka and Wanica eyed each other, but there was with no mutual respect whatsoever. The chief said, "There are five stories how this animal was taken."

Wanica looked away and blew a ring of smoke.

"About the hunt, then. What say you, Squaw Who Hunts?"

GAZ: Wanica's gaze returned to the Chief sharply as though he had been slapped, but he controlled his rage and answered. "We followed the herd into a low cloud. I could not see the other hunters. Each man ascended alone. When the clouds parted we took the animal."

GBA: "And the Great Spirit appeared out of the cloud to bless our hunt!" blurted Plenty Lice out of turn.

"You have taught your hunters to lie so easily, Squaw Who Hunts, said Tatanka. I should give you another name.

Even Wanica was annoyed by the outburst of Plenty Lice.

GBB: "Wakan Tanka was white like snow. He sat on the top of the mountain. His head and arms and legs shrank until he became an egg. The hunters who had been with Wanica nodded their assent and grunted.

"And what did you do after you saw this egg, liar?"

GBC: "We built a lodge of stones for the Great Spirit to honor him for his blessing."

Tatanka pulled out his knife and drew near to Wanica. "You built a lodge of lies. There's no white egg." And he flicked just the tip of his blade across Wanica's face.

GBD: Tatanka was satisfied to draw only a little blood. Maiming his best hunter wouldn't do. He said, "Liar, I name you Hole In Cheek!" Wanica put his hand to his face and walked with dignity out of the range of the fires light. Chief Tatanka laughed but nobody else did.

GBE: Wanica's wife Yuha left the circle of light as well and followed her man to their tipi. While she dressed Wanica's wound his son Shy Bear said, "Father, did you truly see the Great Spirit, or did you just want to annoy Bad Heart Bull?"

GBF: Wanica shifted his eyes to the boy and appraised his son but did not answer until Yuha finished staunching the cut. At length he said,

"Yuha, what we spoke about before, now it is time."

Yuha nodded that she understood and retrieved a leather pouch.

GBG: The pouch contained many pigments and the implements to apply them. Using what she had stored in the pouch, Yuha began to paint the face of Shy Bear. For his part Wanica retrieved a ceremonial dress made of bison skins and feathers and many beads.

GBH: Shy Bear turned his head to look at what his father held, which smeared some of the paint caused his mother to grow annoyed. She said, "Stand and be still, son." Wanica laid the ceremonial dress on Shy Bear and fastened it as his wife continued to work.

GBI Wanica said, "You will get no answers from me." He put the boy's own bow in his hands and said, "I will give you no morsel of food." Yuha finished painting her son's face and stood apart from him. His father said, "To this day I only lent you the name Shy Bear."

GBJ: Wanica opened the flap door. "Go now, into the night, nameless one. Kill your own food, if you can. And if you cannot?" Wanica shrugged. "Perhaps in your hunger Wakan Tanka will give you a vision."

Astonishment marked Shy Bear's face at all these words.

GBK: Shy Bear glanced from his fathers face and traced along his arm to the finger pointing outdoors and he nodded, understanding at last. But he could also see his mother did not understand, not really. She was doing this under duress. This was a ritual, with a strict form.

GBL: As was required of her, she said, "The boy will go out from us. The man will return." And Shy Bear sincerely hoped the worry on his mother's face was not rooted in another one of her well-known premonitions. He obeyed his father and stepped out into the night.

GBM: In the moonless dark Shy Bear stumbled across the prairie until the fires of the Kuwapi people were like flickering orange stars far behind him. By midnight he reached the first slopes of the Island in the Sky and ascended slowly, reaching the summit just before sunrise.

GBN: In the light of dawn the boy sat to let his shadow fall upon his father's stone cairn. He watched all morning until his shadow no longer touched the rocky mound. Then the shadow of the cairn began to touch him. By dusk he had not received a vision from the Great Spirit.

GBO: There was a strong breeze. When the sun sank below the horizon the boy grew cold. He gathered woody brush growing on the summit and cut it with the edge of a flint scraper, which he also used to spark a fire to burn them. But the flame and smoke kept changing direction.

GBP: The boy took the changing winds to be an invitation to spend the night with Wakan Tanka within the lodge that his father built. He removed stones from one side to create a door. When he crawled inside he saw the white egg that Wanica spoke about to Bad Heart Bull.

GBQ: The boy was hungry but it was too dark to try to kill a hare. No heat came from his fire outside but least he was shielded from the wind. There was no room to lie down straight, but he could sleep on his side if he curled around the white egg, careful not to touch it.

GBR: But sometime in the middle of the night while he was asleep he touched the white artifact anyway and was awakened by the sting of a needle pricking his hand. Taking even more care not to touch the manifestation of Wakan Tanka the boy stood up and went outside.

GBS: Shy Bear saw that his fire had become glowing coals, but that earlier the wind must have carried embers halfway down the slope and kindled a brush fire that threatened to form a ring around the whole small mountain. He knew that if he stayed on the summit he was dead.

GBT: Small game was running up and over the summit to flee the fire and the boy could have shot his dinner then, but with every wasted moment he risked being roasted himself. He moved toward the fire to have enough light to see, then moved west to get around the flames.

GBU: But the boy could go no further. A chasm of the Squaw River lay before him. He could hear it flowing over rocks far below as wrapped around the entire southern half of the mountain. He needed light to try to cross it. The fire spread to cut off any escape north.

GBV: The boy looked down into the canyon of the Squaw and saw a tiny light of purest white, like the brightest star he had ever seen, bobbing along the west slope as though it were walking. Sometimes it would move north, then at times south, but it always rose higher.

GBW: At length the light reached the rim on a level with the boy and he saw it was actually worn on the head of a human figure even taller than he. The prairie fire behind it outlined an hourglass shape. A female voice speaking his tongue said, "Follow me and you will live."

GBX: Sha turned and went back the way sha came, and the boy did follow, if anything to reach the creek where he could stand a chance of surviving when the wildfire reached the canyon. The path was free of obstructions, but the female turned now and again to check the boy.

GBY: When sha resumed walking the boy admired the patterned skintight leather sha wore, even in the dim light of the fire, which made har ass look like nothing so much as a big ripe plum. But the sound of the water grew quieter the closer they approached, which was strange.

GBZ: By the time they reached the creek the water wasn't flowing at all. It had become a wet staircase of puddles that led up to a low cave entrance in a wall of dark shale. The femaler crouched to splash har way inside the cave with har tall boots, and the boy followed.

GCA: Inside the cave the boy saw a pool of water with a narrow stone ledge all around it. The light from the stranger's headband filled the space and he saw that she looked very much like a young Kuwapi woman but much taller, and sha was not much older than he.

GCB: Sha laid har hand on har chest and said, "Leliel." Sha expected him to give his own name and he did not want har to think him addled, so he said, "My father once named me Shy Bear, but now he has cast me out of his tipi with no name."

GGC: He clearly saw that sha did not understand his words so he laid his hand on his own chest and said, simply, "Shy Bear." The sound of that name seemed to please har. She removed her headband light and dropped it into the water. It faded as it sank.

GCD: Shy Bear saw the water began to glow with a dim green light. Leliel knew that Shy Bear could not understand har words, but sha tried to make him understand with simple hand gestures to follow har. She made this imperative, as there was danger if he did not follow.

GCE: Leliel jumped into the cistern, turned turtle, and disappeared from view. The boy waited for her to come back up for air as he knew she must, but she did not. The water then began to stir and overflow its bounds. Shy Bear took a leap into the unknown and did follow her. GDA: Aside from small raids the Confederacy took the war to Union soilon only two occasions, and both times the congregation that would later become one lung of the Church of Green Dome was caught in the cross-fire. It was as though Lee himself had a grudge against them.

GDB: Muskets fell like two waves of dominoes atop stone walls on the Blue and Gray sides of a quiet little creek. The instant the rifled barrels hit the horizontal they fired, burning eyes with the pungent smoke of spent black powder. The walls bent to become a bridge.

GDC: Union and rebel soldiers converged on foot, shooting as they came. As they merged the fighting changed to bayonet thrusts and finally fisticuffs. The Federals had the greater initial momentum and nearly reached across the bridge before the rebels bounced them back.

GDD: The boys in blue trod backwards over a layer of bodies one deep. Some were dead, others writhed with broken bones or lead balls lodged in their innards. A few of the fallen had survived the battle of Shiloh, where the war attained a high but stable plateau of savagery.

GDE: A tube loaded with canister shot was lined up on the long axis of the bridge and mowed down counterattacking rebels like grass to form a second layer of bodies. Some of the fallen boys in gray had survived the artillery hell at Malvern Hill during the Seven Days.

GDF: Two guns were set up on the Confederate side of the creek upstream. One fired bursting shells that maimed the Union gunners and another fired sev eral rounds of solid shot. The ones that didn't hit the cannon bounced upslope into the walls of a little white church.

GDG: After the giant shotgun became a pile of splinters and dented steel another Rebel attack gained most of the bridge, which had become an abattoir. A colonel on the Union side was shot, but to the wonderment of his men he stood up with a Minie ball in his Bible.

GDH: With his new divine sanction, the colonel led a series of new attacks but the only effect was to make the hill of twisting bodies on the bridge higher. Men standing on the pile swapped empty muskets for freshly-loaded ones handed up to them like in a bucket brigade.

GDI: The Confederates were running low on powder and this fact was brought to the attention of the lieutenant commander leading them. He saw the bridge was lost so he shifted to saving his two pieces of artillery. He ordered a pullback with fresh troops in rearguard.

GDJ: "Tell the commanding general we won a bridgehead here," the federal general told a lieutenant when he saw the retreating gray backs. The junior officer saluted but he saw the bridge was stacked with bodies and refused to desecrate them by walking over the pile.

GDK: Instead the messenger dropped into the creek bed and splashed across on foot, by passing all the carnage on the bridge. After all, the water there was only ankle deep.

GDL: Through binoculars General Robert Lee watched the Federal lines from the saddle of his horse, dreading the inevitable butcher's bill. His face was flushed with a combination of frustration and suppressed rage after he realized his invasion of the North had failed.

GDM: Lee knew McClellan was over-cautious but there had already been a bad misstep when a copy of his battle plans fell into the enemy's hands. The battle had burned itself out like a fire. There had never been such a bloodletting in America, not even at Shiloh.

GDN: But Lee knew a greater disaster was waiting in the wings. His army was surrounded on three sides by a bend of the Potomac River, and on the fourth by the Army of the Potomac.

GDO: Lee's "old warhorse" General Longstreet came in to headquarters after early morning consultations with his five division commanders. First Corps was spread out from Sharpsburg to points south. He told Lee the Union had made no surprise moves forward overnight.

GDP: "Thank you General Longstreet," said Lee, but it only confirmed what he had already observed himself, so he issued the same orders he gave to Jackson commanding II Corps on his left. "An informal truce for the purpose of exchanging our wounded has held since sundown.

GDQ: You will begin moving First Corps back over the river at once, whether this truce holds or not. But Pete, your retreat must be in good order. I do not wish to let those people over there watch the Army of Northern Virginia quitting the field in an undignified rout."

GDR: General James "Pete" Longstreet snapped off a perfect salute and rode away to issue his own orders. Soon all over the battlefield men broke down their tents. The Confederates began to cross pontoon bridges stretching from the little slice of Maryland they still held.

GDS: And all that day Little Mac watched what Lee was doing from the long slope up from the Potomac and refused to advance, even with a two-to-one numerical advantage. Were the forces ten-to-one in his favor he would yet wire Washington to say he didn't have enough men.

GDT: The church near the bridge had become a hospital for the Union army. Dried blood stained the interior walls, only to be overlaid with sprays of new blood. One doctor used ether to sedate men while another doctor sawed off their limbs and threw them into a pile.

GDU: A messenger arrived at the church by horse and addressed the doctors. "Get your wounded on hoof or wheels, we're pulling them back to Boonsboro." The pile of amputated limbs was set ablaze. Horse-drawn ambulances began carrying the wounded north and east.

GDV: Every bump in the road elicited screams from the men inside. No one who witnessed the convoy of suffering and the carnage that was left behind would again say they craved the glories of war, if before the battle they once did.

GDW: Many of the local farmers found it prudent to move their work horses to a place far away from men of either army who would "borrow" them, permanently. Upon their leftover mules the parishioners of the little church rode out, when it seemed safe, to help bury the dead.

GDX: A hundred bodies lay near the church, but most bitter of all was seeing their beloved church riddled with holes revealing glimpses of the interior and how it had become a slaughterhouse. When they tried to enter the struc ture collapsed in ruin. Perhaps this was a mercy.

GDY: Pastor Karl Keller said, "Do not grieve overmuch, my friends. We will build a more beautiful church to stand in its place."

"But what will keep a new one from suffering the same fate, brother Keller?" objected Deacon Mark Lange.

"What do you mean, brother Lange?"

GDZ: "I mean Virginia lies just over yonder river and last month there was a second battle of Manassas. This is a good place for an army to ford the river. What's to stop a second of Sharpsburg? No, I say we should build our church at my uncle's farm in Pennsylvania."

GEA: "And leave our own farms?" "Our horses have already been moved there so as to guard against thieves." "It wonders me why you are in such a hurry, brother Lange. For a decision of this import we must let the Lord make his will known. Let us pray on it, each one of us."

GEB: There is no prayer better than work, but there is no work worse than burying soldiers where they fell. And when they were finished the flock was split in half. Fourteen families joined Mark Lange in seeking a quiet new life far from the threat of war, in Gettysburg.

GEC: When the horses of the parishioners were first evacuated to Pennsylvania it was five of Lange's male cousins on his father's side who took them north, but when the horses were returned it was his cousin Joanna who brought them back, all by her lonesome.

GED: Joanna's own horse was groomed better than she was, yet Mark fell stone in love at first sight. But he persistently had four- legged competition. On the way back to Gettysburg when the weather turned bad Joanna let her horse have the tent while she slept outside.

GEE: Joanna spent more time cleaning her horse than helping her mother clean the house. Mark thought the house was a sty, but the barn was neat as a pin. Joanna's mother said she needed a male companion to quiet some of the rumors going around, so Joanna got a stallion.

GEF: Joanna's father looked askance when Mark began courting her but Joanna's mother was overjoyed at her new interest in something other than equines. One time a jealous Mark found a strange hair on her coat but Joanna got out of hot water when she produced the horse to match.

GEG: At her bridal shower Joanna received a large number of gifts. Mostly they were actual bridles. When the happy day finally arrived and it was time to show up for her wedding Joanna came in late because she took too long cleaning the stalls. Mark Lange married her anyway.

GEH: Three centuries prior to all this King Henry VIII grew tired of his wife so he asked Rome to release him from the marriage. The Pope refused so the king retaliated by taking all England out of the Roman Catholic Church altogether. He started his own national church.

GEI: After that it was like a dam had burst. John Knox founded the Presbyterian Church after a disagreement with Lutherans over the shared meal and church government. John Smyth founded the Baptist churches over the issue of infant baptism and church-state separation.

GEJ: English translations of the Bible appeared, and the Church of England, controlled by Parliament, rejected for use in the liturgy certain books of the Old Testament that had been authored in Greek and had been accepted by Rome and the Eastern Church for centuries.

GEK: After the Western Church divided, it began to sub-divide again and again over the smallest issues, such as whether women could wear slacks, or whether playing cards was a sin, or what color the hymnal had to be. Every new sect had their own doctrinal hobby horse to ride.

GEL: God never had a problem with cousins getting hitched. Milcah was married to her cousin, Nahor. They had a granddaughter named Rebecca who later married Isaac, her first cousin once removed. Isaac ordered Jacob to marry a daughter of Rebecca's brother. Jacob took two.

GEM: God himself commanded Zelophehad's five daughters to marry their cousins so their inheritance would remain in the family. The hoarding of great wealth by families threatened the temporal power of the papacy. Pope Gregory I forbade Catholics from marrying their cousins.

GEN: Before the Civil War no American state banned cousin marriage. In the years following the war thirteen states did make it illegal. The United States is the only western country with cousin marriage restrictions. A fifth of all couples worldwide are first cousins.

GEO: Many animals including humans have evolved an aversion to mating very close within the bloodlines such as between a brother and a sister, or a son and his mother. First cousins mating represents an optimum point between genetic diversity and sexual availability.

GEP: All these scriptural, historical, and anthropological arguments were preached by Pastor Mark Lange of Five Corners Free Congregation, who was deeply in love with his cousin Joanna. And all of this should have been a mere footnote in the annals of American Protestantism.

GER: But Lange made it a doctrine of his church that a man could marry his cousin and no other. It was the mirror-image of Pope Gregory's prohibition, but even in the minds of many who despised "Romanism" this made Lang's church a cult, in the vein of the polygamous Mormons.

GES: In 1863 General Lee rolled the dice and moved North once again, bringing on the biggest battle of the war. On the third day Pastor Mark Lange walked to his church and found all the pews scattered outside. Union officers were sitting on his pews idly smoking cigars.

GET: Inside the church the Army of the Potomac's commander of the week poured over maps laid on the very altar and concluded that Lee's next hammer blow would land on the center. He turned to go outside and bumped into Lange, which prompted him to bark, "Who the hell are you?"

GEU: "I'm the pastor of this church. This is my church!"

"The hell you say, sir! This is the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac!" Outside officers were seen idly playing tic tac toe on a pew with knives.

"Will you tell your men to lay a lighter hand on church property?"

GEV: "Get out of my sight, parson, or I'll put a musket in your hand and stand you up on yonder stone-"

General Meade was interrupted by a crash as the church filled with flying wood splinters. One hundred forty guns of the Confederate artillery have opened a furious barrage.

GEW: Meade ran out of the church picking splinters out of his skin and barking orders. His officers on the pews began to scatter as shells burst nearby. Union artillery was brought up to answer Colonel Alexander's guns but Mark Lange remained inside his church.

GEX: Lange had a delusion that his presence would save the building, but solid shot made gaping holes in the walls, an eerie repeat of Sharpsburg. Lange clasped his hands in prayer. "Lord, forgive your stiff-necked servant. Your will was that we move west, not north!"

GEY: It was 1:13 PM on July 3, 1863. Two shells from the main battery of the Army of Northern Virginia fell nearly simultaneously and burst within the church, completely demolishing it with Pastor Mark Lange still huddling inside with his eyes closed, immersed in prayer.

GFA: When Shy Bear reached air again there was much more light than the alcove at the source of the Squaw River. Many hands reached down offering to pull him from the water, as his ceremonial dress was soaked and weighted him down greatly. Two of the hands were those of Leliel.

GFB: Shy Bear saw that he was standing next to a large pool of water surrounded by a surface of polished planks of wood, and beyond this, a circle of small hut, Behind the huts was a lush forest. Shy Bear could see the sky through branches in these trees, and it was purple.

GFC: But it was also rather cool, and Shy Bear, being soaked, began to shudder with a chill. Leliel was just as wet as he. Sha took his hand and led him into one of the huts on the perimeter of the pool. Shutting the door, she disrobed both Shy Bear and harself.

GFD: This sha did one garment at a time, first his, then har own. Leliel opened the door once to pass through his ceremonial dress to waiting hands. Shy Bear saw that har legs were sculpted far more than he would expect a woman's legs to be. She was obviously a runner.

GFE: Yet as he let his eyes drink in the rest of har he saw that sha was also obviously female, even doubly so, and this surprised him: Sha had two organs of joining. Leliel in turn took in the sight of Jashen as sha thoroughly dried both harself and him with linens.

GFF: Sha held a ribbon with strange markings against Jashen's body, here and there, then opened the door to speak some words to those were waiting outside. There were dry clothes folded neatly inside the hut, specked with green and dark purple, which Leliel donned.

GFG: By the time sha was fully dressed, the servants outside passed another set of identical clothing through the door of the hut, but they were cut smaller, selected to fit Jashen perfectly. Taking mute encouragement from Leliel, he slipped into the new clothing.

GFH: And Shy Bear saw there was wisdom in the color and pattern of the clothing. With face and hands painted, a warrior would be almost invisible in the forest. He wondered if Leliel was a warrior. He wondered if the women in this strange place were accepted as warriors.

GFI: Shy Bear had seen powerful magic since he first saw Leliel, but outside the hut was the most powerful magic yet. A ball of broken timbers rose out of the pool and moved to hover over an empty part of the deck. It touched the ground gently and was allowed to collapse.

GFJ: Two persons approached the pile of wreckage. One was nearly as tall as Leliel, but Shy Bear could not tell if this person was male or female. A much shorter man spoke to the other, and this was the greatest magic of all: Shy Bear could understand his strange words.

GFK: The short man said, "Take great care, Beleth. There is a man alive in this pile and he is injured." i

"Yes, Teacher," said the other. Then the short man touched a beam of wood. Beleth lifted it from the pile and set it aside, though it looked to be very heavy.

GFL: Thus they did until the stack of wreckage was halved, and Shy Bear could see the injured fellow mentioned by the short man. He grunted with pain.

"Do not be afraid," the short man told him with compassion. "You have a large splinter of wood in your kidney."

GFM: All he could manage to say in reply was, "Hurts!"

The short man went on to say, "You also have a broken leg you cannot feel because a beam of wood is pinching. I can't help you until we lift the beam, but when we do you will most assuredly feel it."

GFN: The injured man could only manage to say, "Help!"

The short man told Beleth to lift the beam. The injured man later said everything seemed to turn red when he did that. His face was frozen in astonishment at the pain, and he fainted from the overwhelming cascade of it.

GFO: When the good Samaritan had access to the man's injuries he removed the splinter from his back and closed the wound with merely a touch. With the same effortless ease he made Lange's leg, with a compound fracture, straight and whole again. And the pain was gone.

GFP: Then the unfortunate man was carefully bundled into a litter by Beleth and Leliel, who bore him away. The healer turned to catch Shy Bear's gaze and smiled. Shy Bear couldn't explain it, but he had a deep feeling the man was even more important than his talents hinted.

GFQ: The man said to hym, "Welcome, Shy Bear. I am called Yeshua, and I am also called Teacher by some. You may call me Chief Yeshua, if you wish. Everything you see around you, even the sky, is the lodge of my father, who is known to your people as Wakan Tanka."

GFR: Shy Bear said, "Chief Yeshua, you speak strange words, yet somehow I know what they mean. How can this be?"

Yeshua replied, "It happened after you were pierced by the white egg. It has already changed your mind, and there are changes to your body which will come.

GFS: Now you can speak and understand many tongues, such as the tongue of the whites, which you heard me speak just now to the man who was healed. The changes to your body that can be seen will not be great. Perhaps even now you can feel a hard lump behind your head."

GFT: Shy Bear touched the back of his head to confirm this, and said, "I did not want to be changed in these ways, Chief Yeshua."

"It is a consequence of touching the Artifact. Those changes are not a matter of your choice. Yet you are free to choose to return to your People.

GFU: I would ask you to teach the Kuwapi the language of the whites that you now know."

Shy Bear said, "But they will grow afraid, and flog me, or try to put me to death, thinking I am Coyote come in a human shape."

Yeshua replied, "Do not fear those things, Shy Bear.

GFV: Your father Wanica will protect you. After you return he will become chief of the People."

"All of these things, Chief Yeshua, the changes to me, what is the purpose? Is there a purpose to them?"

Yeshua said "A group of whites will meet the People in three years.

GFW: I want them to live among you. My mother Chokhmah wants these white settlers and your people to live together in peace."

Shy Bear said, "You spoke of a choice, Chief Yeshua. What then will become of me if I do not return to my father and my mother and my people?"

GFX: Yeshua said, "If you do not return, Shy Bear, you may stay here for the rest of your life, and you will be treated well, but your parents and your people are very far away. If you do not choose to return to the lands of your birth they will never see you again."

GFY: Already Shy Bear had seen wondrous things beyond any of his dreams, and he longed to stay in that place and experience even more wonders, and here he stole a quick glance at Leliel. But his desire to see his father Wanica and mother Yuha again proved the greater.

GFZ: Hy said, "I will return, Chief Yeshua, and teach the People the tongue of the Whites as you bid."

"I am very pleased," said Yeshua with a smile. "No more shall you be called Shy Bear. Now you shall be called Jashen. When you go home Jashen shall be your name of manhood.

GGA: Yet do not think I will send you home very soon, Jashen. The angel you have met, named Leliel, has written many words upon a white scroll in the words of har tongue. I would have you copy these words in the tongue of the whites for the man you saw me heal today."

GGB: "Are there many words on this scroll, Chief Yeshua."

"A great number of them, Jashen. It will take perhaps ten or twelve moons to complete this task."

"But if I do not return home soon, Chief Yeshua my father mother will think me to be dead."

GGC: "Take no thought of that, Jashen," said Yeshua. "No matter how long you remain here, when you return to the land of your people it will seem to Wanica and Yuha that you have been gone for less than a single moon. One day you will know how this is not even magic."

GGD: "Such a thing would always be strong magic to me, Chief Yeshua."

"Others have been changed like you, some were Begotten, and some were Made. They call me Teacher. And when I teach, great magic becomes small, and small magic becomes a known thing, not even magic at all."

GGE: When Mark Lange become well enough to walk he was invited to meet Yeshua, who was seated near the pool where Jashen had emerged. Yeshua invited him to sit on one of the chairs arranged around a small table on the a deck of dark wood, and they were outdoors.

GGF: As Lange became comfortable Yeshua stared at him intently and aksed, "Mark Lange, whom say ye that I am?"

Lange recognized the question from scripture. "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." He stood up out of respect, but Yeshua waved for him to sit.

GGG: Yeshua said, "You do well to say so, and you are to be praised for correctly identifying me on so few cues. There was a Pope who foisted the face of his bastard son Cesare Borgia upon the faithful as me and ever since then most people look for a beard and long hair."

GGH: And white skin, thought Lange, but he dared not mention it. "Say what you will have me do, Lord Jesus."

"Yeshua, please. Not Jesus. The Greeks thought 'Yeshua' was too girly and made it Iesous. Much later the English thought Iesous was too girly and made it Jesus.

GGI: There is so much I could tell you, Mark, but perhaps it would be too hard to accept. You wouldn't believe it. Saulus, the fellow you call the apostle Paul, was sitting right here after I picked him up from the Damascus road and not even he could take it all in."

GGJ: "If my Lord is willing," said Lange, "I will try to understand."

"Very good, Mark," said Yeshua. "You spoke truth in your prayer when you said understood I wanted your flock to go west. I have a specific place in mind. Please examine the map that lies before you."

GGK: Lange followed Yeshua's finger as he traced out a line west down the Ohio River to streams far in the west. The map was made as one might expect one to be made in heaven, with no political boundaries, only rivers and mountains. Yeshua's finger stopped at one mountain.

GGL: Lange saw that the feature was marked with words he could read: Green Dome. Yeshua said, "I would that you traveled to this place, Mark. You and your wife and all others from your new congregation who would freely choose to go with you." But Lange seemed puzzled.

GGM: "Then, am I to go back into the world, Lord? I thought I was dead."

Yeshua smiled. "No, Mark, you are not yet dead. But you will be returned precisely to where, and even precisely when, you were taken on the last day of the largest battle in the American Civil War.

GGN: When I send you home, take care you do not linger so close to the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge, nigh to what remains of your church, or you might be right back here, but to stay. You will take with you this map and a codex, a book that is being written for you.

GGO: When you first came here and were injured you did not notice that a young man witnessed your healing. His name is Jashen and he was brought here from the mountain labeled Green Dome on this map. I have given him a...talent. He can now understand many languages.

GGP: He, too, will be returned to his home near this mountain, where he will prepare his people to receive yours. And there is an errand he is doing for me. He is translating the whole history of heaven into a book, in English, that you will bring with you.

GGR: I caution you, Mark, that this book will contradict the Bible on very many points. You will find it hard to accept, even after being brought here. Those who remain in your small flock will find it even more difficult to accept but I will send signs to strengthen them."

GGS: "How did this come to be, Lord?" asked Lange. "That the very word of God is not to be trusted?"

Yeshua smiled with compassion and said, "There are few places in the Bible that record the words of God. I will not say there are none. But it is mostly words of men.

GGT: One book describes the conversion of Saulus three different times and each description differs from the others, because it was written thirty-five years after the event by someone who never even met the man. The only trustworthy description was by Saulus himself.

GGU: But you know all these things already, do you not, Mark? If you were not entirely immersed in scripture you would not have been accepted by your people to lead them. I never told my followers to make their own pale imitation of the Torah. They went astray at once.

GGV: Yes, this new book, perhaps, Mark, you will call it the Book of Green Dome, contradicts the Bible, but not nearly as much as the Bible contradicts itself. In days to come I will tell you how much history was shaped by the fools' errand of trying to harmonize it.

GGW: Yet you will recall the Bible in many places records the promise that I will return to Earth again, and this at least will hold true. Mark Lange, I cast you in the role of the Baptizer, who prepared the way, though he himself did not live to see it come to pass."

GGX: The translation of the White Scroll was not a task that Jashen could do alone. Yeshua had chosen not to give Jashen the ability to read the marks Leliel had made corresponding to the tongue of the Adanites in the time of the war in heaven. This was by design.

GGY: Yeshua told Leliel in secret that he thought to put har and Jashen in close proximity to one another and let nature take its course. But sha had already recited the White Scroll to him up to the death of har mother and Jashen had shown not the slightest in har.

GGZ: When he translated the passage of the refugees trodding west from Rumbek he asked, as though in unbelief, "Were you really this running girl?"

Sha told him to fetch his bow in one hand, took his other hand, and led him through the woods to a large flat clearing.

GHA: The place served as a kind of parade ground in Nyduly. Leliel stood twenty paces from Jashen. "Fire an arrow at me," sha said, and when Jashen howled in dismay that sha was wasting his time she said, "I'm serious. Do your very best to try to kill me."

GHB: He released the dart. Leliel's muscles seemed to explode into motion. Sha ran backwards across the grass of the clearing faster than the arrow could follow. It fell at har feet, and she turned and disappeared into the wall of trees at the far side of the open space.

GHC: In short order Leliel came to Yeshua by woodland paths well-known to har. He was alone, and when he saw Leliel he made a gesture of welcome and bade har to sit.

Sha said, "Teacher, this man, Jashen, is he really the one for me? I see no sign of it."

GHD: He said, "What are your feelings on the matter, Leliel? Do you find Jashen pleasing to your eye?"

"He is a vision to drink in," she replied. "I could imagine spending more than a lifetime with him. Yet I do not think he feels the same way about me."

GHE: Yeshua replied, "Try to imagine how Jashen feels. It's like he's swimming in water over his head. He's felt that way ever since he jumped in after you at Green Dome. I've given him a new name to acknowledge his manhood, but he lacks the full confidence of a man.

GHF: Jashen was whisked from the land he knows to this place, which is surpassingly strange to him, just as I imagine Earth would seem alien to you. He has been given abilities he never dreamed of, but they are used in a task I ordered, not one that he set for himself.

GHG: : But soon he will reach the place in the White Scroll where it was given into the hands of the Laelites who were brought here from downfallen Judah. You cannot read their writings, but Jashen can. When he gets there ask him to read these things aloud to you.

GHH: He will read in the White Scroll accounts of other B'nei Elohim who were sent to aid the Laelites in Haaretz. None of these emissaries really spoke their tongue, they merely echoed the sounds that I passed to them with no understanding of what the sounds meant.

GHI: Jashen will begin to see the agency enjoyed by a b'nei eloah who truly can understand many tongues. Such a one could impose his own meaning on what the other party is saying, and even impose something of his own will on anything to be passed along to them in response.

GHJ: Later he will see the words and deeds of his future self written in the scroll, and then he will grow interested indeed, and commit these things to memory, to see if he can change them when it is time to replay the event, but of course such a time will never come."

GHK: "I wish I could see my mother again," Leliel said. "Take heart, child. Things are rushing to the point where my parent will bring her back again, although as a human woman, not as an angel. But she will rejoice to see again you as well, and regret the missing years.

GHL: And perhaps Jashen will come to you now, as he did on the other path. Your own son and your grandchildren make appearances in the White Scroll. But I cannot say of a certainty that he will come to love you on this path. You always have the freedom to act as you will.

GHM: "But Teacher, what if Jashen seeks to impose his will even in this small thing? Knowing the name of his child from the White Scroll, what if he gives then hem another name? Will there not be two B'nei Elohim who are the same in being, but with different names?"

GHN: Yeshua said, "I cannot be certain, but he will most likely follow the tradition of his people and name his child after an animal. If he does, then in years to come I myself will give Gabriel hez right name, just as I recently gave Shy Bear the name of Jashen."

GIA: In her tipi Yuha had been sobbing quietly for days. Wanica tried his best to comfort her, but there was really nothing he could do. She said, "Nearly a full moon has passed since we have seen our son. Has the Vision Quest ever taken this long?"

GIB: Wanica replied, "I will not lie to my own wife. Ten nights the test was for me, and no more."

Hearing this, Yuha let the full force of her grief wash over her, and all Wanica could do was hope she didn't blame him personally for going through with the ritual.

GIC: Yet there had been no choice, really. The Kuwapi were already the outcast dregs of the Oglala Sioux. If Wanica had denied the boy his test of manhood, he would be outcast even from the Kuwapi, forever a boy. And he would have never forgiven his father.

GID: When she recovered a bit she said, "Shy Bear's last memory of us was that even his mother had a stony heart."

Wanica said, "A heart of stone is part of the ceremony. There must be a...cutting off. There is no way around it. This as always been the way of our People."

GIE: He remembered how Shy Bear always called the leader of the People "Bad Heart Bull" and how even he had to agree. Tatanka piled upon Wanica daily indignities, until even his great inborn patience had been tested nearly to the breaking point. This day was no exception.

GIF: Chief Tatanka barged into the tipi unannounced and pointed a finger at Wanica. "You have brought no food into this camp for a moon, Hole in Cheek!"

"It is the fire," Wanica said. "It still burns the grasslands to the south. The animals are on the other side of it."

GIG: "Then take your hunters and go around the fire or you will be Hole in Neck."

"It will take two days' ride to find the animals," Wanica replied. "Then a day to kill and field-dress them, then two days' ride to bring the carcass back. The meat will go bad."

GIH: "The nights are cold now. The meat will keep. I grow tired of eating jerky. Go!"

Before the Chief left the tipi he let his eyes wander over Yuha's legs. She saw his gaze and tucked her legs under a bison-hair blanket.

GII: When Tatanka departed, Wanica retrieved the Golden Gift from the place he had hidden it. He had shown no one the weapon he received from Wakan Tanka, not even his wife Yuha. He knew that while he was hunting, nothing might restrain Tatanka from pillaging his tipi.

GIJ: Wanica and his hunters prepared their horses for the journey, and packed their share of the People's dwindling supply of dried meat. Wanica mounted his own horse, Kaleetan, and for the first time he pondered that his horse had a right name but his own son did not.

GIK: The fires were burning far away, even from the vantage of the Island in the Sky, but Wanica led the hunting party away south toward that small mountain to better survey the devastation and to see if the cairn they built to Wakan Tanka was in need of repair.

GIL: The party crossed over an abrupt line to the grasslands that were burned and ascended the Island in the Sky, which was entirely seared black. When they reached the summit Wanica saw that his son Shy Bear was restoring the stone he had once removed to take shelter.

GIM: He was still dressed in the ceremonial dress that Yuha had made for him, but it was altered in a curious way to fit better, and had been covered in a riot of colored beads that was clearly no artifice of the Kuwapi, though it echoed the craftsmanship of the People.

GIN: Leliel stood next to him. Wanica and the hunters found har to be striking. Although sha appeared to be a young woman of the People sha was a full head taller than the tallest of any of them. Sha, too, was attired in something much like Jashen's raiment, but more simple.

GIO: Before Jashen sealed the cairn, Wanica saw that the white dome was still contained within. A tame bison was also trodding slowly on the summit of the Island in the Sky amid the blackened ground, wondering perhaps if there was any green thing lying around to eat.

GIP: Wanica searched his son's face and saw that he seemed a little taller himself, and a little older. He was so overjoyed to see him that he forgot he took away his name and turned him out into the night. "Shy Bear!" he exclaimed, and ran toward the boy to embrace him.

GIQ: But Jashen was having none of that. His body language halted his father at a single pace. He extended his hand and gripped his father by the lower arm near his elbow. "You forget yourself, Father. No more am I to be called Shy Bear. My name of manhood is Jashen.

GIR: I have brought my wife Princess Leliel, who is the daughter of Wakan Tanka and Queen Lilith. Her father has commanded us to return to the People and live among them for a season, but there will be much coming and going between here and his lodge in the sky."

GIS: Leliel bowed to Wanica with respect and said, haltingly, using the tongue of the People that Jashen had instructed har over the course of two years, "I greet you, Wanica, and convey the command of my father that the Kuwapi people should ever dwell near this place."

GIT:: Wanica was rendered speechless by the words of Jashen and Leliel at first. He was not displeased. Yet immediately he saw that was a problem. "Chief Tatanka will never believe that a stranger, a woman no less, communicates to him the will of Wakan Tanka."

GIU: Jashen longed to tell his father Bad Heart Bull would not be an obstacle for much longer, but he had been urged by Chief Yeshua to say nothing of the matter, lest events were diverted to a path that sealed the Chief in place rather than rushed him to his fate.

GIV: Wanica realized there was another problem with what Leliel claimed. He said, "The People must always go where the animals go, lest we starve. The People will never believe the will of Wakan Tanka is to dig our own graves in this place and lie down in them."

GIW: Jashen answered for Leliel. "The holy one whom the Sioux have named Wakan Tanka has sworn to make the Kuwapi thrive. He has many servants, as even I now am, and Father, do I not speak truth to say he has already shown his favor to you in a way you alone know?"

GIX: Then all doubt fled from Wanica, as he realized Jashen was speaking of the Golden Gift in a way that revealed he had met the one who gave it. Wanica said, "My heart leaps to see you again, son, if you can forgive me for thrusting you out of the presence of Yuha."

GIY: Jashen replied, "And it is good to see you again Father. I bear no ill feelings toward you for sending me out from your tipi, as I would never have found Leliel otherwise, nor been given the name of manhood, and many other gifts that would be long in the telling."

GIZ: "Your mother will be as joyful as I am to see you again, son, all the more so that you bring her a beautiful daughter. We had both thought you to be dead. The moon has made a full cirle in the sky since you left. And she will wonder about your new breastplate."

GJA: Jashen said nothing of the two years he spent in heaven, time enough to come to love Leliel and make har his wife. He saw that the eyes of Wanica's hunters drifted to the animal that came with him said, "This is the gift of Chief Yeshua, the son of the Sky Father."

GJB: Wanica's hunters drew back their bows to kill the animal Jashen described as a gift, but Wanica said, "Hold!" and the men lowered their aim. "If we kill this animal and take its meat back to camp, Chief Bad Heart Bull will disfigure this gift of the Great Spirit.

GJC: Tatanka will add the horns of this animal to all his other false trophies of stolen merit. But there is another way." Wanica reached into his raiment close to his heart and withdrew the Golden Gift. The black shaft licked the whole head of the bison to nothing.

GJD: His hunters were stunned at the sight. Jashen, who knew the whole history of the Golden Gift, already knew it had been given into the hands of his father. Leliel's eyes brimmed with moisture at a memory of har mother Lilith, who had also possessed it once.

GJE: In the camp of the People word spread that the hunting party was arriving days before they were expected, and it was feared they would bring news that it was impossible to reach the roaming herds by reason of the fire. Yuha was among the women who went to greet them.

GJF: What she saw brought her joy beyond measure, such that she, too, forgot herself and cried out the boyhood name of her son, "Shy Bear!" which she repeated many times as both mother and son embraced. "Jashen, mother," he told her gently. "I am to be called Jashen."

GJG: Yuha's hands roamed over her son as she tried to assure herself he was not a spirit. When they stopped at something hard at the back of Jashen's neck he gently took his mother's hands in his own and stood apart, so that she could see what had been added to her beadwork.

GJH: Her eyes then turned to Leliel, who stood over even the tallest men in the camp, wearing something like a ceremonial dress of har own but skillfully fitted for har curves. "Mother," said Jashen, "this is my wife, Leliel, who is a princess among har people."

GJI: "I greet Yuha, mother of my husband," Leliel said. "In the lodge of my father not a day passed that Jashen did not speak of both you and Wanica with a love that could not be hidden. It was not long before his love for me could not be hidden, much though he tried!"

GJJ: The return of Wanica with his hunters was news big enough, the return of the boy Shy Bear as the man Jashen after a full moon was bigger news, and that he brought a giantess of a wife was the biggest news of all, but Chief Tatanka cared little for all these things.

GJK: That evening, when the People were sharing their communal meal once more, the Chief wondered why his women did not bring the horns of the bison to add to his war regalia as before. He said no words of gratitude to Wanica for bringing the kill in one day rather than five.

GJL: Instead the missing horns occupied his mind and pushed out all else. He waxed more and more angry, until he flat out accused Wanica of hiding the bison's head. Wanica said nothing in reply, but he did not take his eyes away from the Chief after this accusation was made.

GJM: Tananka, already wroth, grew infuriated at the defiance. The leader of the People took out his knife once more. It was an genuine steel blade he claimed he took as war booty from a white trapper, but he really took it from a corpse he had stumbled upon by mere chance.

GJN: It was, at any rate, the only such blade among the People. "This will loosen your tongue, Hole In Heart!" he cried, and he moved toward Wanica, fully expecting the hunter to run as he had done so many times before. But Wanica knew he had the favor of the Sky Father.

GJO: So Wanica stood his ground fearlessly, which unnerved the Chief. Everyone saw him hesitate. The Chief lost precious 'face' with each passing heartbeat, and he knew it. Wanica calmly reached into a hidden pocket in his leather garments and withdrew the Golden Gift.

GJP: Tatanka's rage boiled over. He closed the gap between himself and Wanica but he never reached striking distance. At the Island in the Sky Wanica only took the animal's head, offering it to the Sky Father rather than allowing it to be dishonored by Tatanka.

GJQ: But here before the eyes of all the Kuwapi he took away the Chief, the whole Chief, and nothing but the Chief, all the way down to his moccasins, leaving the very ground he stood upon untouched. The People fell into a state of shock and greatly feared Wanica.

GJR: The group of men who had been with Wanica on the recent hunt had seen the Golden Gift in action, but the rest of the People had never seen such an obvious and deadly display of real magic. Even his own squaw Yuha was afraid. Even so she came to stand at Wanica's side.

GJS: To Wanica's left stood his son Jashen, arrayed in the fine ceremonial dress that had been painstakingly embellished by artisans in Nyduly Wood over the course of two years. And towering over them all at nearly seven feet in height was his wife, the Ophan Leliel.

GIT: "I sent the Chief to answer to the Great Spirit," Wanica said in a loud voice, and none of the Kuwapi save Jashen doubted he had done precisely what he said. "I will lead the People now." Wanica crossed his arms regally, with the Golden Gift cradled in one of his hands.

GJU: One by one the hunters, warriors, and braves of the Kuwapi sank to their knees before Wanica, with hands open to show they carry no blade. Their wives, the widows, and unmarried girls of the People hit their knees before Wanica and before his standing family as well.

GIV: Wanica then gave his first command as the new Chief. "In the morning we will decamp and march south, to dwell at the Island in the Sky, near the place where the Great Spirit came and made himself known to us and where my boy Shy Bear came back to us as the man Jashen."

GJW: So it came to be that the Kuwapi, first among all of the original inhabitants of the North American high plains and the only ones to do so of their own free will, ceased to be a wandering people and awaited the coming of the followers of Mark Lange.

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Strangers In Paradise