Twinkle Twinkle Little Star …

That evening, the first since this adventure began, did not benefit from the presence of Kassie. Since the lean-to was now empty, it was decided that Farmer Sal would appropriate it. Alex would now have his tent to himself.

As was often his wont, he would pace the compound in the starlit night. The sadness of the moment clutched his heart. Here he was in this forsaken world again without Kassie. And now she was actually gone. She took herself away from him. How much more clearly could she state her indifference towards him?

Looking up at the starry heavens and feeling the sadness in his heart, the aria “E Lucevan Le Stelle” (The Stars Were Gleaming) from Giacomo Puccini’s opera, “Tosca” started playing in his head. The essence of the 2 most relevant lines played over and over in his head. “My dream of love Is for ever gone. I will die in desperation a very lonely man.”

His heart was heavy. His love was gone. If only he knew how to win her over. He was now very weary. He went to his tent and lay down to sleep. Tomorrow would be another day.

Where No Woman Had Gone Before …

Kassie had broken 2 barriers. She was not only the first outworlder to take leadership of the tribe. But she was also the first woman to do so. She was going to be housed in El Jefe’s former home.  The same home that ISIS had usurped.

Alex let her keep both mini cross bows, the 2 knives she was to always keep on a belt on her person, her spear, and the white horse that El Jefe had originally given to him. She gave her good byes to both The Venerable and Farmer Sal.

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Anciana …

El Jefe was gone. He had been a good leader for this tribe. ISIS killed him and usurped leadership of the tribe. He was eliminated by the outworlders. This left a void in the normal process of things. It was now up to the elders to select another leader. Most prominent among the elders was Anciana. Her very name translated to “the ancient one”. Her prowess as the premier spinner and weaver garnered her a position of importance.

Anciana listened to the suggestions of the other elders. She gave each its proper consideration. Having heard the suggestions from everyone else, she now made a case for her own candidate. She realized that hers would be an unusual candidate but realized that none could dispute the courage of the one she proffered.

A heated debate ensued. At first, Anciana stood alone. But, one by one, as the evening wore on, she overcame every objection. At final vote, it was unanimous. Anciana’s candidate was selected as the new leader.

“Tomorrow morning, a small delegation will accompany me to inform The Venerable and his party of our selection”, announced Anciana.

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The Deadly Duel …

Alex drove the big black towards the village.  The big horse felt its master’s sense of urgency. His stride lengthened to its utmost. His head was held high. His nostrils flared mightily to suck in that oxygen to fuel his muscles. His hoofs appeared to barely touch the ground before they lifted him to his next stride. Stride by stride, the mighty stallion ate up the ground.

In his brain, the tumultuous moment caused the fiery aria “Di Quella Pira” from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, “Il Trovatore” to play. The blaring trumpets, the frantic call to arms, “Alarmi, Alarmi” kept repeating in his head.  He was now on the warpath. He was going to finish what he started all those oh so many days ago that seemed like such an eternity away. If ISIS harmed just one hair on Kassie’s head, his demise would be a most horrid one. No one was going to hurt Kassie!

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The Looming Doom …

With the specter of the ISIS lecher on everyone’s mind, they each continued with their assigned respective responsibilities.

Alex and Farmer Sal worked together splitting their time first with the tending of the crops, and then continuing with the planning of the project details.

Kassie in the meantime was continuing with her solo training as per the instructions given to her by Alex. She was of course admonished to be ever wary at all times, even more so now that the ISIS lecher was in the general area.

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Bad Day At Black Rock …

“El Jefe” is dead. That was the message from the nearby village.  It seems that a tall lanky stranger came out of the hills, He was dressed in strange black clothes and carried a long curved bladed weapon. When challenged by El Jefe, the stranger cut him down without warning and declared himself undisputed ruler. He proclaimed his name was “ISIS”…!!!

He killed several of the prominent men who had offered objections and took several women for his own. The villagers are all in a state of terror. They now run to obey his every command.

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The Daisy …

That night Alex was troubled. He realized that he had almost lost Kassie, and would have, had it not been for the quick action of Farmer Sal. He retrieved the daisy Kassie had given him days ago when they first arrived here. My, but that seemed so, so long ago.

Alex brought the flower up to his face and took in its aroma. Even though it had dried out, he felt it still contained her scent from when she held it. This daisy made him think of the flower song from “Carmen”, by George Bizet, “Il For Che Avevi A Me Tu Dato”.  The soulful melody just started playing in his head. He realized the lyrics fit him quite well.

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What…??? No Bone Spurs …???

So, Alex started with, “When Farmer Sal was a kid, he worked in his Father’s welding shop. He was his Father’s right-hand man and only helper. When he became of age, he received a draft notice. He did not want to go into the service. He felt his Father needed him. But there was no way he could get out of it. You see, his Father was not a billionaire and Farmer Sal could not claim he had bone spurs.”

At that, Kassie let out with a chuckle, and seeing the puzzlement on the face of The Venerable, she explained the relevance of that statement to him. And now, The Venerable also let out with an approving chuckle.

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An Itsy Bitsy Spider …???

The Venerable was taking inventory of his stocks and of what he might be in need. Alex was off into the woods to the east to restock on firewood. Farmer Sal was tending his treasured crops in the garden behind the homestead.

Kassie had been left to her own devices to execute her general solo training regimen as was her daily responsibility as per the instructions given to her by Alex. She was not happy about it, but she complied with his request. Because, regardless of all else, he did rescue her twice and she did value and respected his opinions in this regard.

She was on the north side of the cabin doing her track work, alternating her jogging with wind sprints. She saw Farmer Sal in the distance tenting to his tender charges. As she swung towards the westside woods, she thought she saw something stirring within. Suddenly, she let out an ear splitting scream as she came to a jarring halt… “Eeeekkk!” Then she screamed aloud, “What is that?”

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North Of The Stream …

Dinner that evening was not as chatty as had been. Both Alex and Kassie were still stewing from their earlier encounter and their dialogue was strained. The Venerable chose wisely not to inquire. Farmer Sal broached the subject he had discussed earlier with Alex.

Alex took this opportunity to interject “Tomorrow morning, as part of our training regimen, Kassie and I will ride north to survey the land and see how to best put this project into operation.”

“And who said I would go with you?” snapped Kassie.

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