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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No. Pagliaccio Non Son …

Alex was still reeling from Kassie’s last biting remarks. Her derision. She called him a clown. The background music in his head changed to “No, Pagliaccio Non Son” (No, I Am Not A Clown) from Leon Cavallo’s tragic opera, “I Pagliacci”. He felt the anguish and fury expressed in that aria. The anger that rose up in his soul filled him with venom. How could she so cruelly trample his heart?

He silently cursed the faiths that put him in this situation. Here he was thrust into a hopeless situation, made to fall in desperate love with such a divine creature, and yet she may as well have been on a totally different world as far as she was concerned. Alex also realized that there was no way really that he would ever change her mind, and if that’s what her feelings were, well, that’s the roll of the dice!

“Wow! What’s that face?” inquired Farmer Sal as he approached Alex from the garden area.

“It’s Kassie. I told her how I felt about her, and she nailed the coffin shut.”

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A Throne In The Heavens…

“Kassie, I’ve never wanted anyone as much as I want you. I’ve never cared for anyone as much as I care for you. We are here to stay. We only have each other. Fate has brought us together for a reason.”

“I don’t believe we are here to stay Alex. Somehow, we will get back to where we came from when “they” realize I don’t want to be here.”

“Kassie, what if that never happens? You heard what The Venerable told us the very first day we were here. He said that NO ONE ever left. They all died here. All of his predecessors died here. What makes you think you will be the first one to be able to leave?”

“Are you going to give up so easily?”

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The Heavenly Vision…

After the departure of the indigent delegation, everyone returned to their own objectives. The Venerable busied himself in the cabin. Farmer Sal returned to the area on the back side of the homestead where the garden was situated, just outside the fencing. Alex brought the filly into the specially constructed corral he had set up for the big black stallion. Kassie brought her newly received gifts into her lean to.

After a while, Alex returned to the front of his tent to retrieve some tools. As he was doing so, he heard Kassie’s voice.

“Well, how do I look?”

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El Jefe Pays Tribute…

Sooner than expected, a small band of the indigents, led by El Jefe showed up at the homestead. They were greeted by The Venerable.

“I have gifts for the new off-worlders”,  announced El Jefe.

“Let me call them”, responded The Venerable. He summoned the othe 3 who were on the othe side of the homestead.

Greetings were exchanged all around and El Jefe was introduced to Farmer Sal. They relayed his exciting entry into his world.

“Hmmm…” mused El Jefe. “The appearance of the T-Rex at this time does not bode well. The creatures do not normally egress from their home area. Something must have disturbed them. It will probably not be the only creature that will beset us. And some are even more terrible and less destructible than the T-Rexes. We should all be on high alert from now on.”

“You are unfortunately correct in your supposition El Jefe. Hopefully, this new incursion will not last too long, and will not involve too many of those creatures.”

“Let me tell you why I came”, interjected El Jefe. “You ordered clothing for the Lovely Young Lady that stole my heart. I wish to regale her with a gift of them to her as a token of homage and my deepest respect.” His head bowed as he said this.

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Farmer Sal…

Before leaving the homestead, Alex added his bow and arrows to his armaments. He and Kassie then began their walk by striking out towards the perimeter of the field on the west side. They would have the warming morning sun shining on them. Alex had them alternate their pace every few hundred yards or so. They had traveled roughly a mile in the southerly direction. Alex then had then turn east towards the woods on the opposite perimeter. That was the side of the woods from which they originated when they came out of the fog. Once they reached that edge of the woods, they turned back north in the direction of the homestead.

“Oh good. We’re finally going back home.”

“Yes. This was a nice warm up for today. But, when we go back, we will begin with some weapons training.”

“Not before I have some breakfast. I am starving.”

“Yes, this exercise will work wonders for your appetite.”

“Helllppp”…  “Somebody help me.”

Those cries came from within the woods. They were followed by the crackling of branches. Darting out of the woods, with a behemoth following close at  his heels was a man in dread panic.

“Oh my God,” cried out Kassie. “It’s Farmer Sal.”

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Training Kassie…

At the very crack of dawn the next morning, Alex sprang out of his sleeping bag and after a few minutes stepped out of his tent. He walked the few steps over to the lean to and called out to Kassie.

“Get up sleepy head. Time to start our day.”

“Y A W N… Go away. I want to sleep some more.”

“Either you get up and come out on your own, or I will come in and carry you out.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Kassie… Now!”

“Y A W N…  All right, all right. Give me a couple of minutes.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

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Returning From The Village…

Alex led the big black stallion as they returned from the village to the homestead. He had offered the opportunity to ride back to both The Venerable and to Kassie. They each declined. As much as he dearly wanted to ride this magnificent horse, he chose not to a this time.

They arrived at the homestead without further incident. The day had been long, very tiring, and certainly very eventful. It was nearing sunset. They repaired to the cabin where The Venerable prepared a hearty meal.

“you made quite a stir Kassie. If not for Alex, right now you would be ‘Mrs. El Jefe’. How do you feel about that?”

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The Challenge

“I challenge you for her. We will combat, to the death.”

“That’s crazy. I’m not going to fight you.”

“Oh Alex, I told you to be wary of him. You have no choice. He will invade our homestead and take her by force anyway.” Moaned The Venerable.

Alex eyed his opponent more critically now. El Jefe was young, well built, strong looking, and a bit taller than Alex. This was not going to be easy. And, it might end in his death. He had to figure a way out of this, and quickly.

El Jefe picked up his axe and his shield. Alex had his shield also. He picked up his spear. He felt that would give him the best advantage in this situation. He could always resort to his wooden sword that was ensconced in his shield if need be. And, he could always resort to the two hunting knives on his belt in an emergency. The two men squared off.

The Venerable drew Kassie off to the side. The commotion had attracted a crowd of spectators. Many were cheering for El Jefe. A few malcontents were cheering “for the new guy”!

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El Jefe

Alex walked over to where there were a few horses fenced in. He now looked at them more closely. He perceived that there must have been at least some Arabian blood in those horses. They had an anvil shaped head, arched neck, and tail held high as they pranced around like precision ballerinas. They were all beautiful examples of horses.

“Do you like them?” a strong, vibrant voice reached from behind him.

Alex, in a trance from staring at the horses, did not hear someone coming up from behind him and was startled. He spun around. Standing before him, was a tall, about 6’ 2”, muscular presence. Behind him was the most majestic looking black stallion he had ever seen. It certainly looked like a fiery Arabian.

“Yes, they are magnificent. And yours is beyond belief. I have never seen one so beautiful, so noble looking.” Alex said. He longed to reach out and touch this beautiful animal.

“My name is Alex”

“My people call me El Jefe,”

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The Village

I can see that the first thing I’m going to have to build you is a small cart. If we are going to do much trading, we’re going to need something to make this easier. And, we may also need a convenient beast of burden. You know, something other than me.”

That elicited a few chuckles from The Venerable.  He replied, “For the most part Alex, the traders would come by with their wares based on their knowledge of my needs and preferences. They have horse driven carts, or sometimes the wares were just on pack horses.”

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