Castle Roland

Short Story

Posted: 31 Oct 15

Castle Roland 2015 Halloween Contest 3rd Place Winner

The Scare-ab Effect
Copyright © 2015 by Kyle Aarons

As the school buzzer signaled the start of the school day, Chayton Glyde stood well off to the side and as close to the door as possible. For the ten-year-old fourth grader, the buzzer meant a number of things, none of them good. This was just another in a long line of new schools he would have to learn his way around. It was also another group of kids to torment him, along with teachers who were far more worried about their next union backed contract than the kids they were supposed to teach.

For Chayton, whose mom was a seeming lifelong teacher's aide, he was used to hearing the talk between his mother and other educators. It was always the same, not enough money, too expensive to finish college, not enough benefits, too many kids in the classroom, bad textbooks... the list went on and on. If students were mentioned at all, it was the talk of the obnoxious brats, the need to medicate kids who were too hyper, or the ever present talk of dealing with the kids who had problems of one kind or another. The fact his mother moved several times a year and never got established enough to get a full time offer or finish her degree was not her fault either. There was always some other person to blame. Even as he stood waiting for an introduction and to find out what kids he would be forced to sit next to, he wondered if any teachers really cared about teaching or kids. He had yet to find one.

The move to Linton, North Dakota was just one more in the life-long quest for his mom to find a permanent teaching position so she could finish her degree and shack up with the right man. At least, the search for the right man for her. It had little to nothing to do with Chayton and he had finally accepted it. He realized by the time he was eight or nine he was not any kind of priority. The real focus for his mom was adult fun, online college classes, and an extremely active dating life. The right man, at least according to his mom, was the key to a good, easy, and fun life for her. Not once was Chayton mentioned in his mom's perfect world. Over the years, the men his mom had somehow found to take her and Chayton in, were far more interested in her than him. As best he could tell, the interest started out as mutual between his mom and the guys, but somehow they simply didn't meet her expectations. They just weren't right for her and the disagreements quickly followed. It started out with a few mean words, then snappy, mean-spirited, remarks and blossomed into knockdown drag-out screaming arguments.

The police would show up at some point, all it took was for a neighbor to get concerned or tired of it. From there, it was only a matter of time before the guy would either toss them out on the street or give his mom a deadline to move out. His mom would then be very mean and blame Chayton. Of course, during all this the one thing he had heard way too often was how his own father was anything but the right man. In fact, Chayton was a mistake and he knew it since his mother had no problem stating it at least a couple times a week.

The naturally tanned skinned, blond haired, blue-eyed boy had learned not to mention his father. The man, according to his mother, had promised the world, but had done nothing. Well, in his mom's mind it was worse than nothing: In her own words he had left her with 'barely a bun' and a move to Omaha, Nebraska. The man had taken off with another woman, on some Indian reservation, with 'more boobs than brains' shortly after Chayton had 'popped out of the oven'. Because of Chayton, his mother had been 'forced' to take a long term teaching aide spot in a horrible school close to some housing project. She hated it and pretty much blamed Chayton for having to deal with the 'budding gang-bangers' for most of the school year. Even years later, the grudge she forged in Omaha was something she brought up often. It didn't end there. Truth be told, she seemed to find a way to blame Chayton for just about everything bad in her life.

The next man to come into his mom's life, Chayton could not even remember. All he knew about the guy was he 'stole' his mom's heart and took them to live in someplace called Sioux Falls. Having looked at a map, Chayton figured it was in South Dakota, but he wasn't sure. He had been too little to remember. A year later the man 'disappeared' and his mom took a temporary teaching aide spot in Norfolk, Nebraska. This was yet another place he had no recall of. At the end of his second year his mom met a boat mechanic by the name of Gordon and moved in with him. The stint in Julesburg, Colorado was the longest he lived in any one place. Julesburg was also the first place he had some memory of since he lived there until halfway through his kindergarten year. Of any of the men his mom had hooked up with, Gordon had been the nicest, and Chayton was heartbroken when things fell apart between Gordon and his mom.

The subsequent man in Mom's life was only around long enough for Chayton's mom to move to Fremont, Nebraska. Before the end of the school year, Mom had found yet another 'perfect man' and they moved again. The cycle continued unabated, moving three, four or even five times a year, from one man to the next never having a chance to establish himself. Yet somehow it was always the guy's fault, often times with Chayton being and underlying reason, forcing Mom to find a new next great dude to shack up with. Chayton had gotten very used to the words, 'Damned kid, you ruin everything' coming out of his mom's mouth. It used to really hurt him, but as he started to see the pattern, he realized he had little to nothing to do with his mom's men problems. In fact, a couple of the men flatly told him they were sorry to see him leave. Not one had said the same thing about his mom.

Now, ten years and three months into his life, Chayton had memories of living in seventeen places, mostly in Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, and Iowa, with one seven week stint in Minnesota. Chayton was just old enough to start wondering when his mom's looks would start to fail her. However, judging by a few turned heads and at least a pair of soft whistles as his mom had taken him to the office the day before, she still had plenty of looks to chase men with. Timothy Lenox was just the latest in the list and he seemed really nice. To Chayton, this meant the expected duration here was going to be short. The nicer and less wild the guys were, the shorter the time before his mom grew tired and got bored. Once this happened, the arguments would start.

He looked around as the nineteen other kids in his newest fourth grade class took seats. The classroom seemed too childish. There were pinups of colorful clowns on the wall, each with a name on the balloon in the hand. He couldn't help but notice all nine clowns looked pretty much the same, but there were slight differences in each. It was actually kind of creepy. Above the clowns, in colored construction paper, were the words 'Mrs. Meyers' fourth grade classroom'. The other things which stood out for Chayton were the six old style hand clocks on the back wall each with a US time zone underneath, including one for Alaska and another for Hawaii. The corner of the room furthest from the door was a circle of chairs with pictures of book covers hanging down including Treasure Island, A Ripple in Time, some book with the title Encyclopedia Brown, one of the Harry Potter books, and two Goosebumps books. A pin-up of an Egyptian pyramid with the Sphinx dominated the front of the room, and by the window there were a dozen small greenhouses with plants and a gerbil cage with half a dozen tubes and a pair of gerbils. All in all the classroom and the walls in particular were way too full and busy for Chayton's liking.

Before he realized it, the kids in the class were standing up, one after the other, and announcing their names. Having not paid any attention to the teacher up till this point, he couldn't help but wonder if he had been introduced already. One thing for certain, he had missed the first four kids and the names of the others quickly blended into each other. This was of little importance, since he figured the sure to happen break-up fight between his mom and the diesel mechanic would happen within a few weeks, which would lead to the newest guy kicking them out or his mom finding a replacement before the inevitable removal from his latest living arrangement could even start to get dust in the corners.

The droning on of the names of the nine boys and ten girls finally came to an end, at which point Mrs. Meyers had him tell the seated class his name and where he had moved from. For a split second he thought about rattling off the last seven or eight towns, but decided just as quickly being a smart-ass on his first day in class was probably not the wisest move. The teacher didn't look like the kind of woman to play games with. Instead he let out a long breath, "Hi, I'm Chayton Glyde. Last place I lived was Watertown, South Dakota. Sorry to ruin your day by having to deal with the new kid in the class."

This actually got a couple of snickers out of some of the kids, while he was all but sure Mrs. Meyers was frowning behind him. He was just about to turn back to the teacher and ask which of the empty desks he was supposed to sit at when a boy with long black hair and an olive colored skin tone pointed to a desk next to his, "Hey Falcon, you can sit next to me."

Chayton's left eyebrow went up, wondering why the kid had called him Falcon, but he quickly brushed it off. The boy had a friendly grin on his face and didn't have the body posture of someone who was playing a prank or being mean. With a shrug he moved to the desk next to the kid and spoke softly, "Sorry, I didn't really pay attention to names..."

The boy smiled widely, "Wamblee, but I go by Eagle."

Once again Chayton's left eyebrow shot up, "Um..."

Wamblee snickered softly, "Wamblee is Lakota Sioux for Eagle, just as Chayton is Lakota for Falcon!"

Both of Chayton's eyes went wide, "I know almost nothing of my dad, but I heard he went to live on a reservation after Mom and him broke up! I wonder if he named me..."

"You don't know?"

Chayton shook his head, "No, Mom almost never talks about Dad."

"Well, you sure don't look Sioux, but hey, it's nice to have someone else with a Lakota name in class."

Mrs. Meyers tapped a ruler on the desk, "Eagle, while I am glad to see you forging a quick friendship and taking the new boy under your wing, this is school time. You can talk more at recess!"

Wamblee gave a single nod and shot Chayton another friendly grin, "Spelling is always first, it's the blue book."

By lunch, Chayton found himself in the unprecedented position of actually liking the school and having made a real friend in record time. Wamblee, who almost everyone called Eagle, stuck by him and over recess introduced him to half a dozen other kids who had at least some Lakota Sioux blood. While Chayton looked nothing like the others, they accepted him very quickly, mostly because of Wamblee. As soon as they found out his father may have moved to a reservation, the tight knit group showed even greater acceptance of Chayton. It was just as lunch was getting over, when a couple of older boys looked at Chayton, and frowned, "What, you an Indian lover?"

Next to Chayton, Wamblee's fists started to clench, but at the same time he looked over at Chayton as if wondering if the boy was going to turn on him.

Chayton saw this and realized there was more going on than met the eye in the K through 12 school, but one thing his only real male role model, Gordon, had taught him was to stick by a friend. Gordon had taken a beating for a friend once, and when Chayton had asked him why, Gordon had said two things which had stuck in Chayton's brain. The first was about friendship: 'To turn a back on a friend is to turn a back on yourself.' And the second was about the color of a person's skin: 'There are only two races, the decent and the indecent, the good and the evil.' At the time Chayton only kind of understood, but over the years of moving from place to place, he had found them to be very important. Friends were hard to come by, so to turn against one was to cut away a good thing and good things like friends were rare. The other thing was, with friends being so hard to make in such short periods of time in each place, what they looked like, and even what they worshiped was not important in the least. If they were nice, they were good; if they weren't nice, they were evil.

With the words of man his mom had moved out on almost five years prior echoing in his brain, he stared at the slightly older kids, "No. I like good people, and you ain't it: Eagle is!"

As the first word came out of Chayton's mouth, Wamblee's shoulders started to sag as did the boy's radiant smile. It took a few moments for the rest of what Chayton said to sink in. By then the bigger of the two boys was already taking a swing at Chayton.

Wamblee surprised both the older boys and Chayton. He pulled Chayton back just in the nick of time, ducked under a second wild swing, took a step closer, stood up straight, and lunged forward with his head. His forehead was level with the older boy's neck, so his head butt caught the kid in the Adam's apple. Before anyone within ear or eyeshot of the event knew what had happened, the older boy staggered back gripping at his throat while trying to scream. At the same time he shook like a leaf as he tried to draw in air.

Wamblee's eyes narrowed dangerously as he looked at the second kid, "You want-a-be next?"

The sixth grader turned pale and took a couple of quick steps back while shaking his head and looking at his buddy with wide eyes.

"Come at Falcon like that again, and neither one of you will be able to ask for candy on Saturday. As it is, this is Tuesday, so if you're lucky you figure out how to say trick-or-treat by the end of the week without sounding like there's a frog in your throat."

The older boy looked back at his friend who had dropped to his knees and was clutching at his throat while making soft croaking sounds. He quickly moved to check on the kid. While this happened, a few other kids started to move up in a threatening manner.

Wamblee didn't back down. Instead he moved toward the two, "Next time I won't hold back. Got it?"

As this was going on, a couple of other boys moved up. Chayton quickly identified them as other Lakota Sioux boys. Behind them, three girls, also introduced to him as being Lakota, watched their backs. With the appearance of more of Wamblee's friends, the others quickly backed down. Chayton noticed the hostile looks of those on both sides, but it only lasted a few moments. Both groups moved apart as if an unspoken agreement existed between the factions. Before the first teacher realized there was a problem, the only evidence was the older boy still down on his knees clutching his throat. While the teacher heard the kid next to the fallen boy lie, saying his friend had taken a thrown ball to the throat, Chayton glanced over with questioning eyes.

Wamblee let out a long breath, "Sorry, I didn't think they would try so fast and neither did the teachers or they would have been watching. Normally they wait a day or two to see how things shake out."

Confusion could be heard in Chayton voice, "Who and why?"

"Most don't care one way or the other, but for some, living this close to the reservation... well they think us Lakota ought to all live there."

Chayton shook his head, not knowing what to say. It seemed totally stupid.

Wamblee patted Chayton on the back and grinned again, "It's over now. They won't try no more, but they sure won't be friends with you..."

Chayton snorted, "I want nothing to do with them. Every school has jerks. At least I know who they are fast this time."

At this several of the Lakota kids smiled and a few even pumped their fists in satisfaction. This steadfast bearing to stand with Wamblee instantly earned him a few more friends and a great deal of respect. By afternoon recess, four things were abundantly clear to Chayton.

First, this school was really hard. He was a smart kid; at least he always saw himself as a smart kid. However, almost everything in his class was at the very upper edges of his abilities or slightly above. Spelling had words he understood, but didn't have a clue how to properly spell. Reading was only slightly better. He was able to push through it, but he was not used to any teacher having to correct his pronunciations. A few words he read he didn't even know what they meant. He pushed past them and guessed by the way they were used, but knew he would have to use a dictionary on more than a few of them just to make sure. Math was on the fringes of what he could grasp and even as he turned in his first worksheet in his new class, he knew he would be lucky to get a 'C'.

It seemed to him as if in the blink of an eye he went from being one of the best his class to one of the worst. If he hadn't been sitting next to Wamblee, who got permission to help him a few times, he would have never made it through some of the lessons.

The second thing which was abundantly obvious to Chayton, was his words and actions had spread through the school with amazing speed. Anyone who was even slightly Lakota was extremely friendly toward him. Kids considerably older than he was introduced themselves and made it clear he would not be harmed by anyone in the school, either at or away from the building. At the same time, a larger number were hostile, not in a physical way, but with words and looks. The rest of the kids seemed to want nothing to do with this 'battle' so they were polite but were not about to draw the ire of the kids who didn't like the Native American kids at their school. He also realized they were every bit as afraid of the Lakota as they were those who hated the Lakota. This meant the fence sitters were not willing to do anything to get on the bad side of the Lakota kids. Chayton figured none of them would be friends, but would at least be cautiously kind.

The third item Chayton picked up on was the teachers and staff of the school were very much aware of the underlying tensions and kept an eye out for problems. As with the kids, the teachers seemed to be aware of Chayton's chosen allegiance. The speed at which this happened might have taken them off guard, but this was rectified rapidly. Any time one of the 'Indian haters' moved close to Chayton during the afternoon recess there seemed to be an adult monitor looking his way. Because of this, the two sides were quietly, yet effectively, kept apart. This kept the possibility of larger incidences at bay.

The final revelation was more of an oddity than anything of consequence. Chayton realized he would be known as and called Falcon by pretty much the entire school regardless if he wanted to or not. Like it or not, and truth be told, he wasn't sure if he liked it or not... He was now Falcon. Not only were the kids calling him by Falcon, some of the staff even asked him if he wanted to be called by his new nick-name. While it was difficult to say he wanted it, he figured it would increase the likelihood of getting more good Lakota friends. With a fake grin on his face, he told Mrs. Meyers she could call him by Falcon as they went out for the afternoon recess.

An hour later, with a bathroom pass in his hand, a totally unknown male teacher gave him a nod. The tall man then spoke with a slight accent Chayton had never heard before. "So how is your first day at school here, Falcon?"

It took a moment to register the large, darker skinned guy was actually talking to him. When it did, he looked up and managed a grin, "I really like it..."

The man heard some misgivings in the boy's voice and stopped him by putting a hand on Chayton's shoulder, "You don't sound real sure."

Chayton took in a deep breath as he looked into eyes, which held a great deal more compassion than he was used to seeing out of a teacher, "I like the school and I have friends already, but..."

"Hey, take a minute, no one is out in the hall and I'll let Mrs. Meyers know why you took a few extra minutes. You won't get into any kind of trouble. If there is a problem I can talk Mrs. Meyers and the other teachers for you and no one will have to know you said anything."

Learning who to trust and who not to was a skill Chayton had been forced to pick up on since he constantly moved and had little to no chance to form long-term relationships with others. Because of this he noted small things in the man standing in front of him, like the strong, yet non-threatening, posture; the cock of the head showing true concern, and the questioning look in the man's brown eyes. It allowed him to make a snap decision to trust the man. "I really do like it here. I hope I get to stay longer than a few months. I almost never make friends this fast, but..."

"Are some of the kids giving you a hard time?"

"Not really, sir. Wamblee, um... Eagle and his friends won't let them."

"You found a good group of kids to hook up with, Falcon. Be kind and good to them and you will have awesome friends for life. We'll also keep an eye out so nothing happens. But you still need to be careful. Most of those who don't like you now aren't bad kids, just a little misguided. Don't go out of your way to bother them and they will pretty much do the same for you. Understand?"

This comment further loosened up Chayton's tongue. Even as he nodded in sincere understanding, it was good to hear one of the teachers say something good about the Lakota kids, since up till now he really wasn't sure what side the staff of the school took. It also really surprised him to hear a teacher show such a degree of caring and concern for a student. With a long sigh, he looked up into the man's eyes, "I just feel stupid here."

This clearly took the man by surprise, "I see or detect nothing except exceptional intelligence about you, Falcon. Actually, as quickly as you adapted to this school and made friends, you must be incredibly bright."

This got a slight, yet sincere smile out of Chayton, "I always thought so, but if the back board with the clowns on them didn't say 'Mrs. Meyers' fourth grade class' with colored letters, I would swear I'm in a fifth or sixth grade room. I bet I haven't turned in nothing all day higher than a 'C', and will be real lucky if Spelling and Math are even passing. Up till now I've never got less than a 'B' on nothing!"

"Mrs. Meyers' class is the higher of the two classes, Falcon. Is it too hard?"

"No sir... Um, well yeah, but I can do it... Um..."

The man knelt to look right into Chayton's befuddled eyes, "If you want a little extra help to catch up, I can talk to your mom and see about keeping you after school for an hour or so a day. I bet a few of us can get you caught up to the lessons in Mrs. Meyers' class in just a few weeks if you are willing to work at it."

Chayton's lips pressed tightly together for a few seconds before he spoke really softly, "I'd like to get caught up, so I stay in the same class as Eagle, but I don't want kids to think you are guarding me or nothing..."

Seeing the look of concern on Chayton's face combined with the words, the man smiled, "If we get permission from your mom, we'll blame it on her not wanting you to walk home until you are used to your new home or something along those lines. A careful word or two to your new friends will also guarantee you have someone around when you get out to talk to and play with."

"You sure?" Chayton asked softly, "I don't want to be looked at as no baby or nothing."

"Let me go make a phone call, get permission from your mom, and we'll take care of everything in a way others will see and place no blame on you."

Reluctantly Chayton nodded even as he asked, "What's your name, sir?"

The man smiled widely, "Well how rude of me!" He extended his hand, "Good to meet you Falcon, I am the History and Social Studies teacher, Mr. Khaldun."

Chayton took the offered hand with a much bigger smile. "Eagle told me about you, sir. He says your Social Studies lessons on Egypt are real cool! He said I would like you!"

This got a warm smile out of the man, "You like History and Social Studies?"

Chayton nodded, "Yeah, a whole lot. The only thing on Mrs. Meyers' walls I like at all is the Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx! I really want to see the real thing someday. I want to see them almost as much as I want to learn how to fight..."

Mr. Khaldun shot Chayton a bit of a disapproving glare.

Chayton held up his hands, "No, not like to fight in school or nothing, just to not get beat up and... you know, not be picked on and junk."

"Oh, then you may want to spend some time with Eagle's great-grandfather. Word has it Eagle's kin gave the cavalry a good fight or fifty. His great-grandfather was raised by a tribal warrior and medicine man."

"You mean in the Indian Wars against the US Cavalry?"

Seeing the man nod, Chayton's eyes glinted, "I bet he has all sorts of great stories about the Old West then!"

"Very good, Falcon, I am sure he does. You really do like History don't you?"

"My favorite subject."

"Then I am sure you will really enjoy my hour with your class tomorrow. You know Eagle shares your craving of the old ways?"

Chayton nodded, "Yeah, he was telling me about your twice a week class and how you lived in Egypt as a boy. It's about the only class I have been wanting to do, cause I know all about Egypt from some National Geographic magazines. It'll be something I get a good grade on. I almost wish I could live in it... To live in bits of all of history would be pretty cool really, but I'd start in Egypt if I could."

Mr. Khaldun's smile grew and the glint in his eyes seemed to take on an inner light, which also seemed to spark. "Would you do this as an noble, normal person, or what exactly"

Taking the look as a love and excitement of the subject within the man in front of him, Chayton responded with eagerness, "A warrior, a army man, or even a navy sea guy, but I don't know if Egypt had boat fighters. Is the Nile wide enough to fight on?"

"Yes, there was some fighting on it and even the Mediterranean back in time of the Pharaohs. In fact, there was a tremendous battle fought in the Nile delta between the Sea Peoples and Ramesses II, more commonly said as Ramses, where his forces took out an invasion fleet. However, most of the battles were on the sands, rivers and forests of the time."

"Did they use swords back then or what?"

Seeing the extreme interest, Mr. Khaldun nodded and went into full teaching mode. "By the time of the Pharaohs of the late Middle Kingdom, ancient Egyptian society began to standardize weapons. First and foremost were the bowmen. Heat and sand made wearing heavy armor impossible so arrows could be fired from a long distance and still penetrate and kill. While the bowmen were the most dangerous, the most common weapon was the spear; ranks of spearmen could hold back charging forces. Spears were also very cheap to make when compared to other weapons. Then, of course, were those skilled with the khopesh, a curved blade of about two feet in length. The best warriors had one with a point and a hook so a shield could be pulled back with the hook, then the point could be used to stab.

"The other very important weapon, and one history does not give the Egyptian people for developing more as a weapon of war, is the axe. An axe swung by a skilled hand in battle is a terrifying weapon. The axe started to fall out of favor, however, as advancements in metal made the khopesh a favored weapon of the Egyptians including one of the greatest Pharaohs, Ramesses II who you may have heard of as Ramses the Great. While not what you would consider a normal sword, the khopesh was a blade born of the desert kingdoms of the time.

"Finally, the best of the best could wield any of these weapons while on the back of a chariot. While not something you may consider a weapon, the chariot was in many ways the tank of the ancients. In Egypt many held just a driver and a bowman, but there were some, the greatest, who could drive and fight. These were the ones both renowned and feared throughout the lands. Ramesses II lead a massive chariot battle, leading to a stalemate and the first recorded and surviving treaty on record. The Kadesh Agreement was put to parchment after a clash of thousands of chariots, bowmen, spearmen, and other men of arms in a fight between Ramesses II and the Hittites lead by King Muwutallis."

Chayton couldn't help but grin at this, "Then I would want to start there!"

Energy seemed to build from within the man in front of the boy, "Just start, huh?"

Chayton nodded eagerly, "Uh huh, then I could go to fight with the Romans, the Saxons, the Crusaders, the British on their sailing ships, the Indians on horseback, the battle lines of the Civil War, the trenches of World War I, the beach landings of both the beaches of Normandy and the Pacific Islands... To see it all and know how to fight on and above the ground, on the sea and under it. Nothing could be better!"

Even as a weird energy continued to build around the man, his voice took on a warning tone, "You realize, young Falcon, being a warrior throughout time would mean dealing with massive death and despair? It is not all glory. For with war there is suffering and unimaginable pain."

These words sobered Chayton a great deal. After a few seconds he nodded, "Yeah, but wars is where history is made and changed. If it wasn't, there would not be so much about them in History, right?"

"Very true, young Falcon. Much of History is written around wars, but living through them... Being on the lines of them is about survival as much as about country and glory. Knowing this, you still think your choice would be to go through history as a child of the sword?"

"If the choice was as a spoiled, rich noble, a poor average person, or a warrior, I would pick warrior!"

"What about craftsman, diplomat, explorer..."

Chayton shrugged, "Explorer would be OK, but I want to grow up and join the Army, Navy, or Air Force. I want to try to fight for good."

"Even if doing so kills you?"

Again Chayton shrugged, "The only guy Mom ever stayed with who really liked me told me to fight, and if needed die, for a good cause or a great friend was the best any man could ever hope to do. Gordon had something wrong with his knee so couldn't join. I want to when I grow up."

The spark seemed to return to the man's eyes, "Very noble of you. I look forward to seeing you in your class tomorrow afternoon. Now you best get to the bathroom and back to class before you get me in trouble. Tell Mrs. Meyers you got confused and I had to point you back to the grade school wing. It happens to many new students. As you leave the building today, do so slowly so I can locate you if I get a hold of your mom."

The rest of the day passed by quickly enough. Mrs. Meyers didn't even comment on how long he had been gone. She simply shot him a bit of a stern look and let it go. With the final buzzer, Chayton collected his books along with a couple of homework assignments. Next to him, Wamblee looked over, "You OK getting home?"

"Yeah, this town is real small, and Mom and her new boyfriend both walked me here a couple of times a day over the weekend."

Wamblee nodded, "OK. Hey, you should ask your old lady if you can come to my house tomorrow and Thursday. Several of us Injuns are getting together to make Halloween costumes. I'm thinking about being a pharaoh."

"I could be a warrior!"

"Yeah, we could go as a pair! Nice idea." Eagle smiled widely, "My Great-Grandfather and Grandmother will be at my house too. I want you to meet them!"

At this Chayton smiled widely, "Mr. Khaldun talked to me in the hall when I went to the bathroom. He said your Great-Grandfather knows stuff about the Old West?"

Wamblee nodded eagerly, "Mr. Khaldun is really great. He has made me love History. Oh, and yeah, Great-Grandfather's grandfather and father both fought several battles and even attacked wagon trains and junk. Just make sure you don't sound pro US Army. This would NOT make Great-Grandfather happy."

"No, way! I won't. Promise!"

"If you get permission, I can come get you about five and you can come home with me and eat dinner."

"You know where I live?"

"Small town, we all do, even some who bus here."

"But I have only been here three days!"

"The new kid always sticks out. Besides, your mom's boyfriend works in the only garage in town, so everyone knows him and knows he has been dating your mom." Wamblee paused and considered the next words before he spoke them, "She kind of sticks out, you know?"

Chayton hung his head, "Don't I ever."

Wamblee swung his backpack over his shoulder with a grin, "Mr. Lenox got a sudden rep by getting her to move in. No one ever thought he'd snag a supermodel."

Chayton rolled his eyes, "If she was, she'd make a lot more money."

This got some laughter out of his new friend, "Could be worse. My cousin almost drooled on himself when she came into school with you yesterday..."

"Eagle!" Chayton shouted as his cheeks turned bright red.

Wamblee grinned, "Hey, you'll hear it from some of the older kids, so you may as well get used to it."

"I am, but, geesh! You're supposed be my friend!"

Wamblee giggled, "I am, but still, just saying..."

Chayton covered face with his hands to hide his embarrassment even as he heard Wamblee leave the room snickering along with a couple of the other kids. He waited until he felt some of the heat leave his ears, knowing they had to be bright red until they cooled. As he made his way out the front door, Mrs. Meyers called to him, "Young Mr. Glyde, your mom's boyfriend said he was going to be late in picking you up and wants you to wait inside until he can come get you. He forgot to leave the key out for you."

One of the Lakota girls from his class turned and looked back at Chayton, "You can come home with me and grab something to eat, Falcon."

Mrs. Meyers gave the girl a kind nod, "Very nice of you Mika, but we can't let him leave now until someone comes to pick him up. Maybe we can get some permission for him to go home with you or one of his other new friends over the next few days."

An hour and a half of hard work gave Chayton a much better understanding of the Math portion of his schoolwork and Mr. Khaldun caught him up to where the class was on his Egyptian lesson. As he talked to the man, Chayton found for the first time a teacher he not only respected, but really liked. Because of this, he decided to find out what Egyptian costumes would look like. Much to his surprise, Mr. Khaldun gave a warm smile and offered to help him and Eagle if they wanted him to.

The time went almost too fast as he worked hard to edge closer to his classmates in ability. Before he realized how much time had gone by, his mom's boyfriend picked him up. The man shook his head as Chayton pulled open the back door of the old Chevy Blazer. "Up front you rascal, I'm not a chuffer!"

Chayton gave the man a weak smile, not really knowing the guy that well and never having spent any time with him alone since his mom had dragged him to Linton. Still, the guy seemed nice enough. He jumped up front and pulled the door closed, waving to Mr. Khaldun as he did so. After pulling the seatbelt over his shoulder, Chayton glanced over at Timothy, "Where's Mom?"

"I lent her the Camaro and gave her some money to go shopping in Bismarck. She needed to check on finding a spot as an aide and to register in the college up there anyway."

Chayton let out a breath, his mom was moving faster than normal or this guy was a bit of a sucker. One way or the other, it didn't look like he would be here very long at all. Not wanting to dwell on the fact he found a place he liked and would not get to really enjoy it, he sighed and looked out the window. "I could've walked to your shop. You didn't have to pick me up."

"I'm sure you could, but I got the call at my shop about you needing a little help to get caught up to your class and they said they could work with you until I got off, so it's no big deal. You hungry?"

Chayton nodded at this, "Oh yeah! Can we cook on the grill again? That was fun."

Timothy's eyebrows shot up, "Sure, we can swing by the store and pick up some meat for the grill, but I was thinking you'd like some pizza."

"I eat lots of frozen pizza and it was fun learning how to cook on a grill Sunday."

Timothy quickly turned at the next street and made his way to the only grocery store in Linton. The fact it was only seven blocks out of his way gave testament as to how small Linton, North Dakota was.

The pair walked through the store and Timothy made sure Chayton picked up some stuff he wanted for snacks as well as breakfast cereal and soda. He also spent some time inquiring as to what healthy things Chayton liked. By the time they got back to the car, the pair had a pretty full grocery cart.

Timothy gave the youngster instruction on firing up the grill, but didn't help. He stayed just close enough to grab Chayton should he do something he shouldn't. Cooking the bratwursts on the grill was handled the same way. While Chayton cooked, Timothy spent time getting to know the boy, including what problems he was having in school. By the time the brats were done, the sky was getting cloudy and there was a cold wind coming in from the north.

Chayton opened up at the dinner table slowly, telling Timothy how the fractions in Math were really confusing to him, but a couple of the teachers got him to the point to where he could do it. The problem was he just didn't quite grasp why he had to add them the way they showed him. Then, as they ate, Chayton pulled out a list of words he didn't know the meanings of and asked. By the time bedtime hit at 8:45, Chayton realized the man was defiantly one of the nicest his mom had found since leaving Gordon.

As Timothy shut off the light he looked back at Chayton, "If you want a bed sheet more to your liking, we can head up to Bismarck this weekend and grab something with more a kid feel and look."

Knowing how his mom used men in the past, and liking the man, he decided to warn the guy as best as he could without totally throwing his mom under the bus, "Be careful. Don't spend too much money on me. Mom'll just pick up and move me some other place, probably before the end of the year."

Timothy paused and moved back to the bed, "You should speak more kindly of your mother."

"It's not about Mom, it's about you. She moves; it's what she does and I hate it. But I'd hate it more if you spent money on me for nothing. It's not fair to you."

Timothy ruffled Chayton's hair. "You don't need to worry about me or what I decide to spend my money on, but your concern is very touching. Have a good night and from now on let adults worry about the more important stuff, OK?"

"OK, but please don't get mad at me when this doesn't work."

"No adult should blame a kid for anything like you are worried about. Now get some sleep."

Clayton woke to the sound of someone taking a shower. It was kind of hard not to since the small spare bedroom in the tiny house had a wall shared with the bathroom where the water hit. He blinked and realized it was only five in the morning. He groaned and pulled the pillow over his head. It did little good. He heard every move and guessed Timothy or his mom had dropped at least two things in the tub, both which seemed to echo into and through the room he currently called his.

Once the water was shut off and he heard the door open, he reluctantly pulled himself out of bed. It was more than chilly. It was cold. With a shiver he pulled the blanket around himself and groggily made his way to the bathroom. He no more than stepped out into the hall than he literally ran into Timothy. He blinked and looked up with wide eyes, "I'm sorry!"

"Hey, no harm no foul..." The man responded with a grin, which faded quickly. "Your room too cold for you?"

Chayton had found complaining about anything with the men in Mom's life would end up back on him. Within a few days his mom would corner him and yell at him for trying to ruin things. Then, when the inevitable happened and things really got bad, she would remember and point to each and every time Chayton had 'undermined the relationship'. To this end he pulled the blanket around himself, "No, I'm fine."

Timothy looked down and noted the boy's bare feet were curling up on the wood floor, yet refused to complain. With a slight shake of his head he patted Chayton on the head and nodded understanding, "Well, the bathroom is warm since I just took a shower. Go use it if you need to and I'll dig up another blanket until I can deal with your room."

Chayton forced himself to say, "Thank you," even as he looked away with a cringe. His mom would certainly get mad at him for this. Because of this, he needed permission to go over Eagle's house before his mom got angry. He looked up at Timothy, "Is Mom here?"

Timothy shook his head, "No, sorry. It snowed last night. The snow melted then froze, so the roads between here and Bismarck are really icy since it had been so warm. I told her to stay at a hotel since the Camaro is back-wheel drive and doesn't have the greatest tires. She'll be back later today. I've already set out some lunch money for you. Also, you don't have a really good coat, so I want you to dress in layers for the walk to school. It's still snowing lightly and not supposed to get above freezing today or tomorrow. We'll get you a good coat over the weekend."

Chayton kept his face as friendly as he could; all the while knowing this was going to end up being yet a couple more things his mom would be mad at him for. "Thanks, but I need to ask if I can go over a new friend's house tonight after school to work on a Halloween costume."

"No problem. Just make sure to call my shop and get me an address so I can pick you up. Do you need any money for stuff?"

At this Chayton bit on his lower lip. He hadn't thought to ask about money for materials.

The man noted the concern and smiled while shaking his head, "Must be hard to find yourself counting on a guy you don't even know, huh?"

"I..." Chayton paused and nodded, "Some of Mom's other boyfriends get real mad when I wanted anything. Plus, I really don't know. I didn't ask about buying stuff."

"Do you know what you are going to dress up as?"

"Eagle, um my friend, was talking about a Egypt Pharaoh. I talked about being his guard or something..."

"Sounds complicated, but pretty awesome if you ask me. But if he is a Native American like it sounds, why do ancient Egypt?"

Even as tired as he was Chayton managed a grin, "One of the teachers is doing classes on Egypt as part Social Studies and part History. Mr. Khaldun helped me with Math some, and kind of got me caught up on what he is teaching my class on Egypt too. He makes it sound so cool. He also said he would help with costume stuff too when I talked to him about what a pharaoh and a warrior would look like."

Without hesitation, Timothy pulled out his wallet and handed the astonished boy in front of him a pair of twenties. "Just make sure whatever you come up with can go over warm sweats. It's supposed to be in the lower twenties Saturday night. If you need more, just ask. Halloween was always my favorite time as a boy. I want you looking as good as you can make yourself and the weather allows."

For the first time in his life, Chayton went to school with a degree of eagerness. His demeanor was only enhanced as Eagle and several of the other Lakota kids met him outside school grounds to get to know him a little better and, as a group, protectively kept him surrounded until they were inside the building. Being surrounded by Native Americans kept those who didn't like the faction he had joined well away. At the same time, he had kids who were genuinely interested in him, who he was, what he liked, and his background. The fact he could tell them little about his real father didn't faze the Lakota kids. Instead they got what little information Chayton did know and promised to have tribal elders look into it. If the man was a registered Native American, they would find him.

As he walked into the classroom, he stopped short as he looked at the clown pictures on the wall. With some bewilderment, he turned to Eagle and pointed, "Why are four of those different than yesterday?"

Several of the other students stopped and looked at him with astonished expressions.

Mrs. Myers came into the room only to find most of the kids standing, most looking at Chayton, while a few studied the clowns with scowls. "Something wrong class?"

Eagle turned and spoke up, "Mrs. Meyers, we never told Falcon about the clowns. He says four have changed, but none of us see them yet and we are all looking at them!"

"Oh, my! I'm sorry Falcon. I should have had some of the children go over my clowns! Do you really spot changes with four of them?"

Chayton shook his head, "Now that I've had a chance to look at them, five of them are different for sure, and I think the sixth one in the corner has a different knot in the right shoe but I can't be sure."

"Very good, Falcon!" The woman spoke with pure praise in her voice, "What else to do you see?" Even as she asked the question she moved over to the 'balloon', erased the name Jane, and wrote Falcon on it, showing it was really an erasable colored board.

A bit confused, but realizing this was a big deal, Chayton went down the line, "Bottom button is blue, was green. The balloon string was being held, now it is tied around the wrist. Mustache was straight, now it's rolled. Um, the hat on the next one is different, not sure how, um... There was a ball or something on the top, now there is a star. The last one is really easy since his feet has heels on his big shoes. They weren't there yesterday."

One of the boys Chayton didn't even remember the name of looked over with shock on his face, "Holy crap, Falcon!"

"Nickolas, watch your language!" Mrs. Meyers stated firmly.

Nickolas nodded with a cringe, "Um, sorry, Mrs. Myers, but Falcon just got thirty bonus points and his name on six clowns before we even sat down! It's almost November and no one has had their name on more than three clowns before!"

"Yeah, really wicked!" A girl by the name of Judy stated with a mixture of annoyance and astonishment as her name was erased from one of the balloons, "He didn't even know to look and smoked us!"

Still not understand what was going on, but seeing this was a pretty big deal in the classroom, he put on an impish grin. "I move a whole lot, so I am good at looking for small things like landmarks or changes in things so I can get used to where I am living. I guess... well, sorry..."

Eagle moved over and patted Chayton on the back, "Sorry nothin'! That was about the wickedest thing I've ever seen! It took like a minute for you to see all of the changes Mrs. Meyers made! The first one to find a change gets five bonus points to any one non-test graded assignment and gets his name up on the balloon. Whoever has a name up gets to jump line for things, and I guess you'll be first in line like all the time!"

Mrs. Meyers smiled warmly at Chayton as she tapped her ruler on the desk to settle the kids down and have them take seats, "I guess I am going to have to be extra sneaky from now on!"

This only got a groan out of most of the kids while a few shook their heads.

She then looked right at Chayton, "From now on, however, I need you to write the changes down on a turned in assignment. This way I can still give some credit to the others who see it before I change the names on the balloons later in the day or the morning following the day the change gets noticed. I must say though, you are beyond impressive. Sometimes it goes two or three days before changes are noticed, especially when I do six like I did last night."

With a bit of a worried look, he gulped, "Sorry..."

"Eagle said it best young man, nothing to be sorry for. Actually I tend to agree with Nickolas, Judy, and Eagle. You did wickedly well. In my eighteen years of teaching no student has ever shown such a high degree of perception, and even more spectacular, you didn't even know to look for changes. Very well done! Now let's get spelling books out so we can get to work."

The school day came and went almost too quickly. He still struggled with Reading and Spelling, but he could at least do the Math. He still could not understand the reasons behind needing to make the bottom number, the denominator, the same for both fractions, but he at least understood how to make them match. Even better, Mrs. Meyers handed him back the worksheet he had done the day before, ungraded, with a note on it saying if he turned it in by Friday she would grade it as normal work. Included in the note was a few 'helpful hints' to guide him to a better grade.

For Chayton, the History class by Mr. Khaldun was super good. The man knew Ancient Egypt backwards and forwards. He also knew all the theories about how the pyramids had been built. As a side project he assigned everyone a combination art and science project to best show how it would look during the building of the great pyramids. Up to three kids could work together and the top three from each classroom he taught in, as graded by the teachers from the whole school, would be shown at the school's high school's pre-Christmas break's science fair. It didn't take but a single exchange of looks between Chayton and Wamblee to know they would be spending several nights over the next few weeks trying to be part of the older kids' science fair. Wamblee pointed over to Mika, who nodded with a look of hope as well. Without hesitation Chayton grinned and nodded. He hoped they could do the work at Eagle or Mika's house so he could stay away from his mom as much as possible. He hated the first couple of weeks with her and a new boyfriend because of how she dressed, actually how little she dressed. It was embarrassing for him. So having this kind of project would get him away from this stage of the boyfriend-girlfriend stuff.

By the end of the day, he realized this was what school was supposed to be like. Even his mean looking teacher had a nice and caring side. The rather stern looking and sounding woman was going to cut him a break on other assignments as long as he continued to attend afterschool study work with teachers. The very fact several of the teachers were willing to rotate and give him needed instruction let him know this was a very special place. All he had to do was work with them and ask questions in the afterschool sessions which were scheduled for the next two weeks. He would then get a chance to redo assignments he didn't do well on. It wasn't a free pass by a long shot, but the second chance gave him heart. If anything, it made him want the extra help since his grades would not suffer during what Mrs. Meyers was calling 'the learning curve'. This was, in Chayton's opinion, the best school he had ever been to. The teachers truly cared and some of the things, like the changing clowns, made school both fun and interesting.

Eagle was waiting for him in front of Timothy's house as Timothy parked the Blazer in the small drive. Chayton jumped out of the vehicle and eyed Eagle's bike. "You'll have to peddle real slow. I don't have a bike."

Timothy glanced over as Eagle responded, "Just ride on the back with me, Falcon."

Even as Chayton shook his head at the offer, Timothy eyed the two boys with a cock of his head to his left. "Falcon?"

Chayton seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and smiled, "My name in Lakota means Falcon. All the kids are calling me Falcon now."

Seeing the youngster's face light up with a genuine smile for the first time since he had met the boy, Timothy chuckled and ruffled Chayton's hair, "Pretty neat to have a name, um, a new nick name this fast. I am glad you are getting settled in so quickly. But..." Timothy shook his head, "Riding double is dangerous enough without the roads being icy in spots. Besides, neither one of you have a helmet. Let me put your friend's bike in the back and take you both. This way I know where to pick up Chay... um... Falcon."

Chayton looked genuinely relived, but saw Wamblee start to argue about being safe and going slow. To change the subject, he focused in on Timothy, "Mom still not back?"

"She is going to stay up there one or two more nights. I guess the Bismarck schools have a few immediate teacher aide openings and she is going to do the fingerprinting and interviewing while she is up there. Besides, it's supposed to snow again tonight." Timothy turned his attention back to Wamblee, "I'm sure you would both be fine with you taking him, but I don't want to have to worry, so I take you both or he doesn't go."

Wamblee quickly held up both hands, "OK, I just didn't want to..."

Timothy rolled his eyes while interrupting the boy, "Stop while you're ahead. Now bring your bike over here so I can put it in the back."

Chayton started to climb up front as Timothy grabbed the bike in one hand and opened the back with the other. He then looked over at Eagle, "He doesn't like to chauffeur. You want the front?"

Timothy snickered, "You're with a friend kiddo. You can both ride in the back."

As the boys jumped in, Timothy let them get some horseplay in as he looked in the mirror at Eagle, "So where to?"

"Where West Sixth Street dead-ends to the south."

Chayton couldn't help but shake his head as nothing more needed to be said. He had lived in some small towns before, but this was tiny to the point of being silly. Those nine words were all it took for Timothy to know right where to go. Timothy didn't even have to think about it. While Eagle and Timothy struck up a quick conversation, Chayton spent the few minutes it took to get to Eagle's house memorizing which way to go. It wasn't hard. It was six blocks south, five blocks west and then two more blocks south. The funny thing was Timothy lived at the northern edge of Linton and as it turned out Eagle lived at the far southern end. As this dawned on Chayton, he realized why most of the kids knew where he lived already. He bet most of Linton knew where everyone else in Linton lived!

Pulling up to Eagle's house, Chayton found himself a bit surprised. It was at the very end of a street. In fact the street ended and a dirt road continued on through a gate, which led to the property. By the time Timothy pulled to a stop in front of the house, a new round of light snow was coming down and there were nine other vehicles parked in the drive, off the dirt road opposite of the small house, and even a couple pulled off to the side along the south side of the house.

Lined up in front of the house were half a dozen bikes and laying in a pile on the corner of the house was a stack of old bikes.

Mr. Khaldun pulled up in a Chevy Avalanche as Timothy looked over the property before focusing in the collection of bicycles. The History teacher saw the two boys and motioned them over while speaking, "Give me a hand, boys. I brought a few things for the two of you to take a look at."

Timothy walked over to the bikes and noted a couple of them could be fixed up with very little trouble. After a few seconds of debate, he looked over his shoulder, "Eagle, does your family fix up bicycles or something?"

Eagle shook his head, "Grandfather does some scraping of metal. I don't know where all those came from, but I looked through them hoping to find something Falcon could use, but they are kind of bent up and none of them have good tires."

"Any chance I can talk to your grandfather and really look through them? I bet I could take one to my shop and fix it without too much trouble."

"No need to ask. I already did and Grandfather said to take one or two if I could make it work, but he told me they were in bad shape. From what I saw, he was way right."

Timothy smiled and moved to the back of his Blazer and pulled out Eagle's bike. He looked it over, deciding to grab one of the dirt bikes so Chayton could have the same kind of bike as his new friend. As he made his way over to the pile of bikes, he noticed Chayton shaking his head. "Hey, I'm not going to let it embarrass you. I will make sure it looks and rides real good before I hand it over."

Chayton took a long breath, "I don't want you to waste your time..." Seeing the man about to go into a lecture about not worrying about money or how long he was going to be here, Chayton hung his head, "No, really, there's no reason Mr. Lenox. I don't know how to ride one."

Wamblee's head jerked hard, his face showing shock, "You don't know how to ride a bike?"

Chayton lowered his head, "Never lived nowhere long enough to get one, let alone try to ride one."

Mr. Khaldun put a hand on Chayton's shoulder, "No reason you can't learn. I bet it will only take a day or two to get you wanting to jump ramps and ditches with Eagle here."

"Not until I get him a good helmet, he won't!" Timothy stated while snickering, even as a huge grin spread across Wamblee's face.

Chayton looked back and forth between the two adults, "Um, I'm not sure..."

"Oh, come now, Falcon!" Mr. Khaldun all but shouted with a strange twinkle in his eyes, "You just told me yesterday you wanted to be a warrior throughout all of time if you could. Certainly trying to jump a bike over a few narrow spots in Beaver Creek, like I know Eagle does, would be something right up your alley."

An elderly man exited the small house with the help of a cane and looked over at Wamblee with a raised eyebrow, "So, would what I am hearing be the reason for a string of bent rims, mud coated clothing, and an abundance of bruises over the summer, Grandson?"

Wamblee gulped and turned to the old man with a great deal of deference, "Most of them, Grandfather."

"Most..." The old man quickly shook his head, "No, do not tell me." He then looked over at Mr. Khaldun and Timothy, "The old ways tell me I should ask; the wisdom with age tells me it is better not to know. I think this is a time for wisdom over tradition."

Both of the other men busted up laughing even as the elderly man shot Wamblee a stern look followed by a roll of the eyes. With this, the man smiled and motioned the men inside, "Come, there is plenty for all and hot cider for the boys. I am Kohana Arctic Wolf, please come into my home."

Timothy almost declined, but the look in the old man's eyes told him this could be taken as a slight of some kind. So, with a nod of his head, he followed the man in even as Mr. Khaldun supervised the unloading of the back of his truck.

With the boys carrying almost more than they could, Mr. Khaldun entered carrying a large iron bound sea chest with a couple of bronze tipped spears strapped to the top. "Swift Arctic Wolf, where should I set this?"

The old man showed a great deal of surprise, "Did Wamblee tell you the meaning of my name?"

Wamblee shook his head, "No Grandfather, he speaks our tongue!"

Kohana showed a great deal of astonishment. "You honor us."

"Your people did great deeds," Mr. Khaldun responded in the Lakota tongue.

Kohana blinked in surprise at hearing no trace of an accent as the man in front of him spoke. After a momentary shock, he pointed to the couch while saying something totally different in Lakota, "The far corner on the rug."

Mr. Khaldun followed the instructions, then gave Kohana a slight bow while returning to English, "You honor us by inviting us into your home. Thank you."

Kohana apologized profusely for the attempted deception as everyone took a seat and introductions were exchanged. Kohana took the lead, asking many questions of Mr. Khaldun and Timothy, while Chayton got to know several of the other Lakota kids who had come over for a costume making party.

Furniture was moved to clear the center of the living room as Mr. Khaldun pulled out very real looking replicas of ancient Egyptian arms, armor, and clothing. There were khopesh swords, Egyptian style wooden shields with hide pulled over the front, bone and wood composite bows, bronze tipped arrows, hide quivers, Egyptian axes, and even a couple of basic armor and clothing types. He looked over at Kohana as he finished pulling out the items from the chest. "This is as close to the original as you will find anywhere."

While Timothy and Kohana looked over the assortment with astonishment, Mr. Khaldun had the boys unwrap the bundles they had brought in. Each bundle was basically identical to what was in the chest, but they held wooden weapons and less fancy clothing. He explained how everything was used and asked them if they wanted a class in using them. Both boys eagerly agreed. Mr. Khaldun then spent over half an hour with Chayton and Wamblee, using the wooden weapons to show them the basics of how each was used in combat. This included using the small hook on the khopesh practice swords to pull back the shield of the opponent, then lunge forward in the created opening. He then took a few seconds to show the boys the padded chest armor and the much rarer vest with sewn on bronze scales.

Kohana observed this all with great interest, "Your knowledge of the gear and how to use all of this is of great credit to you. No wonder my great-grandson speaks so highly of you."

Mr. Khaldun gave a nod as he backed off, "I have taken some time to learn the ways of my people as well as yours and many others. For not to know the past is to repeat the mistakes throughout time." Getting a nod of agreement from the elderly Lakota, he turned his attention back to Chayton and Wamblee, "So boys, other than the bows, I have shown you the basic of all the normal gear of a typical Egyptian warrior. If it is OK with your parents and guardians, I can come tomorrow to help you really dial in your costumes and teach you how and why the ancient composite bow was such a challenge."

Getting a nod from both Kohana and Timothy, Mr. Khaldun smiled. "Now it is time to decide what you wish to outfit yourself with."

Wamblee was first to answer, "Forget a pharaoh, I want to make a shield, bow, and khopesh."

Chayton nodded in total agreement. "I want the scale armor, but I'm not sure how we would make it look good."

Timothy finally saw how he could break some of the ice with Chayton a bit more, as he moved forward and knelt next to the scale chest armor. "I could set up the sheet metal punch to make a bunch of scales out of sheet metal. They would be pretty thick, since the sheet metal I have in the shop I use to bend and stay ridged and strong so I can make cosmetic repairs to bumpers and build fins for the wild ones who want hot rods. But it would work. You could even paint them with bronze spray-paint and hook them onto some vests somehow."

Kohana nodded, "Fine idea. They will even sound metal this way; and with your permission, Eagle and I can show Falcon some basics of leather working. The boys could even sew them if you allow Falcon to spend the next couple of nights here. They will, of course, do all school work before they go back to the leather working shop in the back building."

Timothy saw an eagerness in Chayton's eyes, "I will go home and get a change of clothing, as long as you agree to follow all of the rules of this house, Chay... Falcon."

Chayton nodded eagerly. "Oh, yeah, I'll be real good!"

Kohana moved up to the boy and knelt, "I am sure you will. From what Eagle told me when he came home yesterday, your words to the older boys tells me he has found a very good friend and you are always welcome here. Now why don't the two of you help each other with homework while we set up a cot for you."

Mr. Khaldun moved over to the boys as they continued to look over the gear he had brought over, "So Eagle, did Falcon tell you about our conversation in the hall during his first day in school?"

Wamblee nodded, "Uh huh."

And if you could go through all of time, what would you go as?"

"I think Falcon's idea would be the hardest and scariest, but probably the best."

"Even better than a noble, a craftsman, or an explorer?"

"Noble would be real cool, but... learning how to fight from Egypt all the way to the Navy SEALs of today... Nothing would be more crazy. Way better than jumping the creek!" He sobered some, "Even if I do have to see bad things... I mean, at least I would get to see the how and why, instead of people just saying there was no reason for war like I hear on TV and junk."

Mr. Khaldun's eyes took on an inner power as he stared at the boys and whispered so softly the other kids, only a few feet away, didn't realize he was still talking to the two boys. "An interesting choice. It is obvious to me you two were meant to be friends. Now, I will give you this one suggestion tonight before I leave you. Young Falcon, I hear you have exceptional perceptive skills. Use this in class tomorrow, but only if you really wish for such dreams and nightmares."

Before either boy could respond, Mr. Khaldun stood and glanced over to Kohana and spoke in Lakota. "Thank you for your hospitality and with your permission I will return tomorrow and even Friday if necessary to help them complete their dreams of being Egyptian warriors."

The elderly Lakota man eyed Mr. Khaldun carefully before nodding and responding in a cryptic way, "The boys of this age have no understanding of the way of the warrior. Maybe it is time for this to change. I leave it to them."

Then, as Mr. Khaldun left, Kohana motioned for the boys to follow him into the kitchen, "I sense a extraordinary persona within your teacher boys, and all I can say is, tonight you will watch a movie. Now finish your homework so Eagle can put in The Indian in the Cupboard."

Wamblee cocked his head to the side, "Great-Grandfather?"

"You heard me, Eagle. This is not up for discussion and yes; you can go past your bedtime. Tomorrow, you two will watch it again. I have nothing more to add or say. Now get your homework done."

As the old man left the kitchen, Chayton turned to Wamblee, "What is The Indian in the Cupboard?"

"A kid movie. I really like it, but for some reason Great-Grandfather has all of us kids watch it at weird times. He is a medicine man, and says there are deeper meanings either intended or not. I'm not sure what he means. It is about a kid who has a magical cupboard where he puts toy figures that come to life and it causes all sort of fun and even kind of scary problems. If you haven't seen it, you'll really like it."

The boys walked to school on Thursday, both talking about how they wanted to make their costumes. Even as Chayton walked into the classroom, a smirk crossed his face and he leaned close to Wamblee's ear, "She changed all nine of them last night."

Wamblee blinked a couple of times as he studied the clowns. Finally he whispered back, "I got the swirl on the left boot of the third one and the super obvious skin color change of the fifth..."

"Write down those two plus the new eyelashes on the last one, and the gold tooth on the second one. I'll write down the others and the skin color, since I am sure most everyone will get it."

"You should write down those..."

Chayton shook his head, "No, Mr. Khaldun said to use my perception thing in class today to live a dream or something. I want you in on whatever surprise he is talking about."

"I heard what he said, so OK. But at least write the tooth on yours too. It sticks out too much now. She would guess you told me if you didn't write it."

Chayton gave a nod as he moved to his seat. Glancing around, he could tell well over half the kids in class with him noticed the skin color change of the one clown. He also guessed she had made one so obvious to better hide some of the way more sneaky changes, like the clown without a thumb or the nail head in the bottom of the one upturned boot on the eighth clown. The best was the one with the eye color change, though. It went from matching the blue dots on the hat, to the brown collar. It made him wonder how many boxes of clown parts Mrs. Meyers had and where she kept them all.

This time he did as instructed. He jotted down the changes at the bottom of the spelling quiz. He couldn't help but note every kid except one in the desks around him had written down at least one thing on the bottom of the quiz, which made him wonder how she would decide what name to put up on the balloons when more than one kid got it.

It wasn't until after morning recess, when everyone came back in, did he note she had made name changes on the balloons. Eagle's name was on two, his name on five, Sara's name on one, and Nickolas' name on the other. Up on the dry erase board at the front was a list of names of who also got the right answer along with what the change was to each. He was somewhat surprised to see he was the only one to get the five his name was up on and Eagle and him were the only ones to get credit for the gold tooth. The eyelash change was only under Eagle's name, while the boot swirl was under three names and the skin color change was under eighteen names in total.

He glanced over to talk to Eagle, "So, if my name is up on the board, do I still get the extra points even if my name is not on the balloon?"

Nickolas responded with a mixture of annoyance and respect in his voice, "Yeah, since we all turned it in before she showed the changes, we all get the points. When more than one of us gets it at the same time, she puts the name up of the kid who has not gotten up for the longest, then put up the name of the one who doesn't have a name up already. So my name is up on the twirl like thing on the boot since Eagle already got two and you got five. Sara almost never gets one, so she got her name up because it has been so long since her name was up there. I can't believe you got another thirty-five points!"

Mrs. Meyers eyed Nickolas with a deep frown even as she spoke, "What is the problem young man?"

Chayton spoke up, "It's my fault, Mrs. Meyers. I asked how you picked names for the balloons, and Nick was explaining and giving me credit for getting so many."

Her frown faded even as she nodded, "Understandable and very commendable taking the blame, but next time I expect the student I am asking the question of to answer, understood?"

Chayton gulped at the stern look boring into him, "Yes, ma'am, sorry."

"Good. Also remember, talking is for lunch, recess, and class activities." She then returned to her normal stance and look before smiling, "And speaking of balloons, you see we have a number of bonus earners and a second spectacular showing by Falcon. Well done. Now, before you all let your observational skills go to your heads, pull out math books and turn to page ninety-eight."

By mid-afternoon, several of the kids were actively trying to find out how Chayton noticed the changes so quickly. A few of them, including Nickolas, were going so far as to talk to him around those who didn't like the Lakota kids and their friends. As this shift started to happen, those who didn't like the Lakota and their friends started being meaner to Nickolas and a few of the others. While not being a fighter, Chayton stood right next to Wamblee and a couple other Lakota kids, giving the new budding friends plenty of support.

As they made their way back in from afternoon recess, Mr. Khaldun nodded at both Wamblee and Chayton. "You both seem to have the heart of a warrior within. Chose wisely when given the choice at the end of my class, boys." He then patted Nickolas on the shoulder, "It is good to see you have picked a side and have decided the bullies are not worth being afraid of, too."

Confused, but very interested, Nickolas was able to ask some questions and even asked if he could come over to work on a costume since the idea sounded really awesome, especially finding out Mr. Khaldun was going to be there to help. Wamblee and Chayton both agreed without any hesitation as they took their seats. The trio of boys paid extra close attention to Mr. Khaldun as he talked about various aspects of ancient Egyptian life. One piece of information totally stunned Chayton and Wamblee. It came as Mr. Khaldun talked of soldiers and how they trained, "One thing you all may find hard to believe is, if you had been alive back then and shown interest in being a warrior, you would have started training well before the age you are right now. Most of you are what, ten?"

Seeing slightly more than half the class nod, he snickered, "You are all about four to five years older than when the youngest Egyptian started to train to fight."

Getting the expected gasp out of some and seeing many shake their heads in disbelief, he simply gave a hard nod. "I am in no way joking. Wrestling, fighting with sticks, and even the basics of chariot driving was expected by those picked for the military from a very young age. By the time a boy was twelve to fourteen, and back then only boys and men fought as warriors, most had already seen their first real combat. For many, this first chance at glory was their last. The survivors continued on to serve their pharaohs until they fell in combat or could fight no longer.

"While you all ponder this, however, keep in mind the average person didn't live nearly as long. The average male lived to about age thirty-three while females had an even shorter lifespan of about twenty-nine. Now, before you all think I am crazy... well, I won't argue if you do..."

This got some laughter out of almost every kid. He joined in on the snickers. Once the laughter died down, he pulled out a chart showing ages and how the death of someone very young changed the average age. With a smirk he glanced over the room, "I bet most of you never thought anyone would make you learn some Math to understand History." Hearing more than a few groans he chuckled, and showed how the death of even a couple of very young children changed the average age. While it was clear he knew much of it went over their heads, he was careful enough with the explanation and using stick figures to get the point across.

Finally he pulled up a briefcase just before the end of the day buzzer sounded. "A few of you asked about the bug pendants worn by many of those I have drawn pictures of. This was a common piece of jewelry. It is a scarab beetle. A live scarab beetle was a dung beetle which rolled animal droppings into balls and laid their eggs in them. The baby bugs would feed on this and emerge. Many historians believe this emerging of bugs from the dung ball made the ancient Egyptians think the ball made the baby beetles. Others believed the rolling of the ball represented the way the sun god, Ra, moved the sun across the sky. Whatever the belief, the fact is the scarab beetle paid a large role in worship and in death ceremonies. Scarab beetle jewelry was often engraved with references from the ancient Egyptian's sacred tome, called the Book of the Dead. These scarabs were both worn and placed over the heart of the dead.

"These 'heart scarabs', or 'mummy scarabs', were meant to be weighed against the feather of truth during the final judgment before the gods. The vast majority of these amulets were inscribed with a spell from the Book of the Dead which entreated the heart to, 'do not stand as a witness against me' because it was widely believed the heart knew of the bad and the good deeds done by the person. The heart held this information and carried across into the afterlife. A heart that had bad deeds was a heavy heart and would be heavier than the feather of judgment the gods used to decide where one went after death."

He smiled, "So by putting a spell over the heart, telling it not to make known the bad things done, the person could go to a better place."

With those words he opened his briefcase and showed it to the class. "Any of you who want such a scarab of your very own can now come up and get one. There are many styles." He then eyed Chayton as he spoke, "Should you wish to choose, look closely and choose well."

Off to the side, Mrs. Meyers looked surprised by this, but managed a quick smile, "Such a nice offer, don't you agree, class?"

Most said yes while the others nodded their heads. While this was going on, Mrs. Meyers glanced over to the balloons in the back of the room, "The balloons say Falcon, Eagle, Nickolas, and Sara get first picks if they wish to do so. The rest will go by rows."

Chayton turned a bit red as he made his way past many in his class. He looked into the briefcase noting the backs of the scarabs were all very different from each other. As he looked at the case, Mr. Khaldun looked down, "The underside is way more important than the beetle's back."

Chayton frowned, but spent almost three minutes, picking up each and every scarab. Three of them caught his eye. All three had different hieroglyphics on the back than the others. They were also carved in much cleaner and nicer than most of the others. They were all heavier, too, with a small loop in the top which was connected to the beetle with the remainder of the hook taking the shape of the Ankh, the ancient Egyptian symbol for life according to what Mr. Khaldun had taught them. With a quick glance he selected one, while putting the other two in the top corners. As he walked back past Wamblee, he smiled and spoke softly, "Take one from the top corner, either side."

Wamblee cocked his head to the side, but didn't really have much time since the buzzer sounded for the end of the day and the other kids started telling him to hurry up. With a deep breath, he eyed a couple of the others which he liked the looks of better, but grabbed the one in the upper left corner.

Behind him, Nickolas heard the odd exchange and eyed the two boys, even as he made his way up to the case. He didn't even look. He grabbed the scarab in the upper right corner and returned to his desk to collect his backpack and homework. The rest of the class went through the other seventeen beetles quickly, all wanting to head home as a new round of snow started falling outside.

An hour and a half later, Chayton walked out of the building feeling really good about the study sessions. The teacher who stayed late with him was the junior high and high school English teacher. She worked with him on Spelling and had him do his homework with her, giving hints and guidance. There was no question in Chayton's mind he would be fully caught up to his classmates as long as the other teachers were as helpful. He figured he had learned more in the last two days than he ever thought possible. With a smile on his face, he pulled the scarab out of his pocket and studied it.

He had not even turned toward Timothy's house before a sharp whistle caught his attention. Jerking his head he spotted Timothy's Blazer across the street. He also noticed over an inch of snow had fallen since school had let out. He quickly slipped the beetle back into his pocket as he made his way over.

The trip to Wamblee's was quick. He found out his mom was going to spend one more day up in Bismarck and it sounded like she may be offered a job. He hoped it would happen, since every time his mom found a job, she would say longer. He had learned over the relationships, the job would keep her away from home and world force her to spread out her trashy dressing and partying. In simple terms it would be longer before she would get bored.

As he jumped out of the truck, his heart skipped a beat as he realized the scarab wasn't in his pocket. With near panic he patted both his pockets and then tore into his backpack.

Timothy eyed the almost crying boy, "Did you lose something?"

"My Beetle! The one Mr. Khaldun gave us! I put it in my pocket! I know I did!"

Timothy moved up, not knowing what Chayton was talking about, but figuring whatever it was, had to be very important. As he turned the boy to face him he noticed the beetle stuck on the zipper of the boy's hoody, "Is that what you are looking for?"

Chayton saw what Timothy was pointing at and took a giant sigh of relief and even gave the man a quick hug, "Oh, man, I was sure I had lost it!"

After calming down with the help of Timothy, he looked down and noted its right front leg was hooked into the small hole in the bottom of the zipper puller. He wiggled it loose and put it in his hand. "How...? I know I put you in my pocket!"

Timothy gave the boy another quick squeeze before letting him go. "Must have gotten hooked onto your zipper instead of going into your pocket."

Chayton frowned as he looked at it. "I had my jacket zipped up, so there's no way..."

Timothy gave Chayton a kidding smile, "Then I guess it just crawled up the front of your hoody."

This got a quick giggle out of Chayton, who closed his hand protectively over the scarab. He then almost dropped it as he could have sworn he felt it wiggle in his hand. He rapidly opened his hand and looked down at it, studying it. After a couple of seconds he rolled his eyes, "You got me thinking it really could!"

Timothy laughed hard even as Mr. Khaldun pulled up. Nickolas joined the group as he skidded his bike to a stop on the fresh snow. Wamblee heard the talking and came out of the house, "Come on, Falcon! Grandfather wants to show you how to sew scales on the leather vests he made for us today!"

Kohana came out and smiled warmly at Nickolas, "Welcome to our house, young one. I was told you wish to be a warrior too?"

Nickolas nodded and looked around, "Yeah, but Mom wants to know how much it will cost. Um, with the heating bills going up..."

The old man mad a slashing motion with his hand, "You have no need of money in this house. Friendship and acceptance of the Lakota are all we ask."

Nickolas managed a nervous nod, "I really have not been very nice..."

Mika came out of the house with a couple of other Lakota kids, "You were never mean either. You took a side now, so you are one with us."

Wamblee nodded vigorously, "Grandfather is a tribal medicine man. He says the spirits of the Lakota are now with you since you sided with us. His home is as much yours as it is mine now."

Hotah, a tenth grade boy, came around the side of the house, "Nick, you are indeed one with the spirit of the Lakota according to Arctic Wolf, so come. I will show you how to make a vest so you can add scales to it with the others."

Mr. Khaldun held up a finger and dug into his pocket. He pulled out three small boxes and tossed it to each one of the boys, "Silver chains to hold your new scarabs since you all went with ones with ankh rings. Silver is said to be key to finish the incantations."

Kohana glanced over at Mr. Khaldun, "Silver is the metal of life and protection and a bane to evil as well."

"Indeed it is. Countless peoples throughout the ages had similar beliefs."

Even as the exchange was going on between the men, Chayton wasted no time pulling out the chain and sliding it through the loop of the ankh. He then got help from Timothy to connect it behind his neck while he looked over at the History teacher, "The pictures... um hieroglyphs, they are different on these three. What do they mean?"

Mr. Khaldun let out a breath of air, which almost sounded like a muffled 'wow' as he moved up and turned the scarab so the inscriptions could be seen. "You picked up on more than I expected, Falcon. I am beyond impressed." He paused and lightly ran his hand over the carved in hieroglyphics. "The reality is, I figured you would see the ankh, for it is part of the whole. Anyway, the truth is I'm a licensed dealer. Because of this, I'm allowed to deal in Egyptian antiquities, so these are not replicas. None of the scarabs I brought into class are. The three you picked out, and thus left the last two positioned for your buddies to easily grab, are among the rarest found in the old tombs. The inscription on the back is a combination of two spells found within the text of the Book of the Dead. The best translation would be..." He paused and his voice took on a powerful tone as he spoke, "The spells of Isis, the magical powers of Isis, shall make this great one strong, and shall be an amulet of protection wherein no evil defect shall assail me. My body shall be established. It shall neither become a ruin, nor be destroyed on this earth."

"Isis?" Wamblee eyed the back of his own scarab, "She was the god of nature?"

Mr. Khaldun shook his head, "Many people make this mistake, Eagle. Isis is said to have many domains, nature being just one of them. In the time of the pharaohs, she was considered the goddess of birth, magic, healing, nature and quite a bit more. Her legacy goes back to the very beginning of ancient Egypt, and is referred to over thousands of years. While some of the gods may seem to have more power, Isis is probably the most enduring and certainly the most loved by both common folk and nobles alike."

Wamblee looked back at his great-grandfather, "See, I told you he is a great teacher and knows everything!"

"I can only wish to know everything, Eagle." Mr. Khaldun snickered, "It would take me many more life times to even scratch the surface of everything."

This got a nod out of Kohana and a chuckle out of Timothy, who could not help but notice a deep respect and maybe even hero worship in Chayton's eyes. To this end, Timothy handed Chayton a small bundle of clothing before shoving him toward the front door. Turning to Kohana, he nodded before speaking, "I used the press to make a hundred sheet metal scales and have a few cans of bronze colored spray paint, but it is nothing compared to the hospitality and work you are doing for him. How much do I owe you?"

The elderly man waved him off, "As with the new young friend of my great-grandson, there is nothing more needed. Falcon already offered me the money you gave to him. There is no need. He has taken the spirit of the Lakota within himself and is one with us. Thus my home is now as much his as it is my great-grandson's. Let him use what you provided to buy other things. His instant friendship to my great-grandson and acceptance of who we are is more than enough payment to me and I have asked for the spirits to be one with him."

Seeing Chayton start to pull the money to offer it back, Timothy made a downward motion. "Keep it. I have not known you for long, but you really impress me. You also did a good thing by picking Eagle as a friend. Besides, something tells me you have not gotten much of an allowance, so hopefully this with start to make up for not getting one. We will work out some chores so you can earn a real one over the next week or so."

Seeing an eager nod from Chayton, Mr. Khaldun patted the boy on the shoulder while looking back at Timothy. "You are a good man. I can see you are very good with kids."

"Never really been around a boy before, so I am glad to hear I'm at least getting a good start."

"You are great, Mr. Lenox." Chayton stated with total conviction. "This is one of the few places I will really hate to leave."

"Nothing is set in stone, young Falcon, well other than the spells on the scarabs." Mr. Khaldun responded with authority and a glimmer in his eyes. "Now stop such ridged and pessimistic thinking. Instead, let's see to your costumes and do some old composite bow training. Stringing them is a huge challenge in and of itself. Then we will do some shooting. Tomorrow we will finalize your costumes and get you fully prepared to be Egyptian warriors."

Even as Clayton nodded and followed Mr. Khaldun around the back of the house, he couldn't help but ask what pessimistic meant. It amazed him when Wamblee explained it to him. There was no question the school here was much harder and better than any he had attended before. He was certain none of the kids in his old schools would have known.

Mr. Khaldun spent over half an hour showing Chayton and Nick how to shoot a bow. Wamblee also took part, but already knew. The teacher then showed all three boys how hard the mock-ups of the old composite bows were to string and why they could not remained strung, because it was hard on the bow and stretched the string. It took two boys to combine efforts and even then, they barely managed to get the job done. The pull of the bows were also hard for the boys, but with a great deal of effort and coaching by both Kohana and Mr. Khaldun, they were able to consistently hit targets in a very short period of time.

By the time a late dinner was served, the three were busy learning to sew scales onto leather and forging a tighter friendship with Nickolas, who found everything beyond awesome. Coming from a broken home with only a mother, the idea of learning how to shoot a bow, work leather, and even get a basic khopesh and shield classes from Mr. Khaldun was like a whole bunch of dreams coming one right after the other. It took some convincing, but after a twenty minute long phone call with his mom, he, too, ended up spending the night. The three boys bedded down in the small living room, doing homework, watching The Indian in the Cupboard, and chatting till very late. A good portion of the talk centered on why Kohana demanded they all watch the movie. It seemed weird, because it wasn't like magic was real or anything.

This left the three groggy and a little grumpy about getting going in the morning, but they quickly found Kohana was not going to have any grumbling. He did, however, promise to work on their costumes a bit while they were at school. This perked up all three.

School seemed slow. There was a Halloween party in the afternoon, however, which made the last part of the day go by quickly. With a fresh coat of snow on the ground, several of the kids tried to start a snowball fight. This was swiftly cut off by the teachers. However, Mika frowned as she moved up to Nickolas, "How come you can dodge and duck like crazy and your scarab necklaces didn't move? Mine was going all over the place." For emphases she turned sharply to the side and hers flipped up over her right shoulder.

Nickolas shrugged and did the same thing. His scarab didn't move at all. He reached down and picked it up, "Maybe it's because it is made of stone and bronze or the silver chain instead of the cord yours is on or something."

"I wish I would have come over early last night. I bet Mr. Khaldun had a silver chain for mine too."

Nickolas started to reach around the back of his neck to unclasp the necklace, "You can have mine..."

"No, it was given to you and you are working with Mr. Khaldun on your costume. I am going to be a headless horseman, since Arctic Wolf is letting me use one of his ponies."

"Oh, wow! I was trying to figure out why you were making a costume you could see through the shirt of! You are going to look so cool!"

The girl grinned widely, "Are you coming over to Arctic Wolf's house tonight?"

Nickolas nodded, "Yeah, but I'm not sure if Mom is going to let me spend the night again. She doesn't want me to feel like I am intruding when we can't really let anyone stay over since we can't really afford the extra food."

"Then you should stay over more to take some pressure off your mom."

"I don't think Mom will..."

"Will she be home after school?"

"Yeah, she only has a part time job right now in the mornings at the grocery store."

"Then let me go home with you and talk to her."

"OK, it would sure be nice to stay at least one more night. I'm behind Eagle and Falcon big time, but I was told I could get caught up tonight. Also Mr. Khaldun said I need to know how to use the shield, blade, and spear and axe so I could pick my weapons and could handle them properly. It should like a lot of fun. But I don't get one thing. If I stay over, I was told I would have to watch the Indian in the Cupboard again tonight before bed..."

"Arctic Wolf comes from a long line of Lakota medicine men. His son, Eagle's grandfather, is now one of the lead Lakota tribe's medicine men. Arctic Wolf makes many of us watch it, saying it has a deeper meaning. I think his medicine man side sees something about misuse of magic or something. It's kind of weird. I bet he has made me watch it fifteen times. But, he really seems focused on making Eagle and Falcon watch it for some reason, so if you stay you will to. No one dares to argue with Arctic Wolf."

"He is way too nice..."

"Yes, best ever if you ask me, but everyone in the tribe is very afraid of him, so when he says something even the tribal council has a hard time saying no. You know, his grandfather was on the battlefield when my people took down Custer."

"You mean General Custer's last stand?"

Mika nodded, "From the tribal records themselves, it says Arctic Wolf's grandfather was one of the spirit summoners who helped win the field of battle that day. His family line of medicine men are among the most respected and powerful in our nation and Arctic Wolf says Eagle has a natural spirit link. Eagle is already starting to learn from him, which is why he lives with him. Many of the Lakota say the spirits are strong within their bloodline."

"Does he ever tell stories?"

Mika let out a long breath, "Does he ever. The problem is, once you get him started, be prepared to be stuck listening for a while!"

"I think that sounds like fun!"

"Then when I talk to your mom I'll tell her you want to hear some of Arctic Wolf stories and he wants to tell them to you."

Nickolas nodded as they headed back into the classroom, noting even as he walked the scarab didn't move at all while Mika's swayed back and forth.

By the time Chayton got done with his study session he really wished he had gone to bed earlier the night before. He had to really struggle to keep his eyes open, but seeing Timothy waiting for him chased away the lingering desire to yawn. He hopped up front, noting there was a box with more sheet metal scales in the back, "For Nick?"

"Absolutely, I can't have your new friend get left out."

"Wow, you are definitely the best boyfriend Mom has found in a super-long time! Is she back yet?"

"With the snow, and her having a second interview at four this afternoon, I told her to stay one more night. She'll be back in time to see your costume."

"She won't care."

"Well I do and I want pictures, so do a good job finishing up tonight!"

This got a big grin out of Chayton who chatted about the costume the rest of the ride over to Kohana's.

As Timothy pulled up, Chayton noticed Nickolas' bike out front and Mr. Khaldun's truck in the drive. As he stepped out, he could hear Mr. Khaldun's voice, "No, Nick, you use the hook on the khopesh, pull the shield back, then quickly slide it forward. If you pull back too much the shield user will have leverage on you and will be able to pull the blade out of your hand."

Chayton quickly ran around to the back of the house and watched as Mr. Khaldun had Nickolas come at him with one of the wooden swords. As soon as the boy hooked the side of the shield and pulled back, Mr. Khaldun took a half step back and pulled the shield toward himself. The result was exactly what he just said. The khopesh was hooked on the side of the shield and the pull yanked the fake blade right out of Nickolas' hand.

Mr. Khaldun pointed at Chayton and nodded to the wooden weapon, "Falcon, you got this down very quickly. Show him what I am trying to tell him to do."

Chayton grabbed the weapon and took one of the other shields from the picnic table. He then moved up on Mr. Khaldun, using the shield to block a couple of slashing attacks from the man. Once he got close, he stabbed at the non-shield side of Mr. Khaldun. As soon as the man tried to knock the blade further to the side with the edge of the shield, he pulled back and twisted slightly so the hook caught on the edge. He then yanked back.

This caused Mr. Khaldun to try the same thing he had just done to Nickolas. However, instead of continuing to pull back more, Chayton stepped forward and toward the non-shield side. He then thrust forward, bypassing the shield and scoring a hit on Mr. Khaldun's side with the tip of the blade.

Nickolas let a whistle, "Way wicked!"

Mr. Khaldun nodded, "Yes it was, but now we need to show him the other most common counter, which you were starting to get down last night as well. Remember the shield block while lunging?"

Chayton nodded and did the exact same attack. This time as he went in, Mr. Khaldun swung his practice weapon at Chayton as he came in for the attack.

Chayton, seeing this, went lower and pulled his shield over his head. This blocked the swing against him even as the blade still scored a hit, only this time it was lower, on the thigh. He then spun around and delivered a slash across Mr. Khaldun's back.

Kohana's voice came from the back door, "He is building on his teachings very well. However, will this taste be enough?"

"Enough for what?" Nickolas enquired with a cock of his head.

"Enough for wishes to become true, to learn to be a warrior." Mr. Khaldun responded with an inner glint in his eyes. "It is a wish of many boys, how about you?"

Nickolas looked at the man as his browns scrunched up, "You mean to fight the jerks at school that I have been afraid of?"

Kohana eyed Mr. Khaldun even as he spoke, "Should you wish to fully join Eagle and Falcon, I believe you will find it goes deeper, young one."

"Sounds cool."

Kohana moved out from the house with a purpose as he picked up one of the practice blades. "The way of the warrior is not something interesting or awesome, young Nickolas. It is an inner drive and hardness which cannot be taught in Eagle's Xbox or PlayStation. It must be earned with hard work and a willingness to learn, to take a large measure of real discomfort and push past it, and much, much more. So answer carefully, for within short order your perspective on life could very well change." Before more could be said he moved on Chayton and swung.

Chayton was taken off guard, but managed to deflect the blow with his shield then spun back, "What the hell?"

"A warrior must be prepared at all times little Falcon. Do not let age or appearance fool you. Now let me see what sits inside those bones. Is there the inner beast and can you control it if there is?" With this he moved forward again, aiming a swing low.

Chayton jumped over the swing, only to be caught totally off guard as the elderly man grabbed the edge of the shield with his free hand and used it to fling Chayton onto his back. The impact stunned the boy, but he managed to tuck his feet in even as Kohana moved forward and swung at his legs. He then rolled backwards and jumped to his feet.

"Hold your ground, Falcon, take the fighting stance and brace as I showed you!" Mr. Khaldun commanded even as Chayton started to back away.

It was too late, Kohana showed incredible agility for a man of his age. He boldly stepped forward and did a feint. As the boy moved his shield to block the perceived attack, Kohana spun and delivered a shot from the flat of the wooden blade to Chayton's butt.

Chayton let out a yelp, but noted the old man was not going to give him a moment of recovery time. A second swing was already on its way. This time he dropped to the ground, letting the swing pass over his head and lashed out with the edge of the shield. He hit the old man in the shins, knocking him to the ground. He then swung with everything he had with the wooden sword. He would have certainly done some damage to the tumbling Kohana if Mr. Khaldun hadn't moved forward and blocked the swing with the practice weapon he still held.

Kohana sat up and rubbed his shin. "Well done, but this was still practice. You let the beast out when it was not needed. Should you do this in practice, you will hurt my great-grandson, Nickolas, or one of your other friends." The old man stood with the aid of a hand from Mr. Khaldun. He gave a single nod of thanks and a wince, while still talking to Chayton. "Still your teacher is correct, there is a heart of the warrior in you."

Mr. Khaldun nodded in agreement as he spoke softly to Kohana. "Your inner power is to your credit. I sense between us, we can do much to take the taint of technology off these boys and help them in ways they cannot even begin to comprehend."

Kohana eyed the man, then nodded, "We will speak privately on this. Now is a time for teaching."

Mr. Khaldun patted the old man on the back showing his full agreement, while turning to face Chayton. "Recklessness will not get you far. If it had been me, I would have left a much deeper bruise on you backside."

"But that hurt!" Chayton protested.

The old medicine man's eyes bored into Chayton, "Yes, it did. I meant it to do so. Practice can be painful. Should you hurt Eagle due to recklessness or anger, the stick to your backside will be nothing compared to what I will do to you, so learn to control and save the beast for the real thing. Understood?"

Chayton rubbed his butt for a couple of seconds before reluctantly nodding. "Yes, sir... Um... Sorry if I hurt you."

"The bruises to my shins are more than worth the lesson I hope to have taught not only you, but Eagle and young Nickolas as well." Seeing all three boys nod he gave a half smile, half smirk. "It is nice to know I still have a little spring in these bones though. Now practice and keep this in your heart. The beast is needed in a real fight, but even then do not let the beast, commonly called anger, control you. It is a path to destruction and evil. However, before I go warm these old bones, I must say, other than your beast spirit, you did well."

"Much better than I expected, since I only showed him the very basics of any of this." Mr. Khaldun responded even as he turned his attention toward Chayton, "Very well done Falcon. However, when you are in a large skirmish, there will be other foes around you. This means even as you deal with a threat in front of you, or you make the death strike, you need to keep your shield up and get low after you finish off your opponent. This way you can defend should someone try to come behind you. To do this, spin around keeping your shield up, then face forward again in the ready stance I showed you. Your backside would not have been struck if you had gone into a ready stance, after all." He demonstrated a trio of times before backing off. "Eagle, you and Chayton need to practice this while I work more with Nick. Use what Arctic Wolf just taught you, though. No hurting each other. A bruise or two, yes, but if you get angry, back off or I will have to step in and you will want nothing to do with me should you really hurt one another."

Off to the side, Wamblee pulled the zipper of his coat up and moved to secure a practice shield and wooden khopesh while grinning at Falcon, "I can't believe you knocked him down! Grandfather is impressed!"

"You sure he is not mad?"

"No! He only smiles like that when he is very happy with what I do. Don't worry about it! Now show me how you did it, cause I never have landed a shot on him when he spars with me!" Before he even found the proper handholds, he had to set down the weapon and pull his zipper up again, "Stupid coat! It's been doing this to me all day!"

Still grumbling about his coat unzipping itself, he grabbed the blade again and moved on Chayton. The two took turns practicing a few times, but it seemed after just a minute or so, the zipper on Wamblee's jacket started to descend on its own. After three more times zipping up his coat, he finally gave up and tossed it on the picnic table. "It isn't cold enough to fight with this stupid coat any longer!"

From the back leather working building, Hotah leaned up against the doorframe chuckling at his cousin, "My bet is your coat is smart enough not to want to take on someone who can score a hit on Arctic Wolf, or maybe your bug necklace doesn't like to be covered, Eagle!"

Wamblee looked down at the scarab and poked at it once. He then looked up and grinned, "Must be the coat, cause somehow, I don't think the scarab would have anything to do with it. It came from Egypt, so it's got to be colder than I am! I'm used to North Dakota, it isn't!"

This got a snicker from Hotah, "I'll take this snow over the desert heat! Last summer, going down to the Navaho reservation to learn some of their ways and the deeper rituals, was way too hot for me!"

Mr. Khaldun shot Hotah a smile, "The heat of Arizona is nothing compared to the summer sands of Egypt!"

"Then you can keep it!" The teen snickered as he stopped Nickolas from entering the small leather shop. Instead he pushed him out toward Mr. Khaldun. "Let him work with you so you can match Falcon. Anyone who can score a hit on Arctic Wolf must have been taught right! Besides, you need to be able to stand toe to toe with Eagle. Otherwise we'll all have to hear him brag the rest of the night. I will finish your vest. You can always come back and work with me. You seem to have a good eye and a steady hand, so it won't take long before you can make your own stuff."

"My mom is really worried about all this. We can't pay..."

Kohana cleared his throat and spoke from the doorway with a great deal of authority, "Nickolas, you sided with my people and thus are one with us. There is to be no more talk about repayment. If anything, we owe you for siding with us. Also Hotah is correct, I saw what you were able to do after only a couple of hours. You will be able to come here, make things and earn some money for yourself in short order. Now speak no more of this. Instead, the spirits tell me what your teacher has to offer is where your heart and mind need to be focused if you are to join Eagle and Falcon." He then smiled, "Should you all work hard enough, I may find it in my heart to order pizza so you can eat, work on your outfits, and watch the movie one last time. For I feel the message needs to get through tonight."

Eagle looked at his great-grandfather with confusion, "I have seen it so many times, and I still do not understand..."

"Then look deeper," Kohana stated as he moved back inside and closed the door.

Eagle looked over at Falcon and Nickolas, "Sorry, guys, he speaks in riddles. I don't know what he means."

Hotah shook his head, "Eagle, there are a few points, but for now all I can say is this. There is one line, just one, you should focus on. It is kind of in the middle of the movie. You have heard it fifteen to twenty times. So did I before I went to the Navaho reservation. It was only during one of their rituals did I finally understand."

"Why can't you just tell me?"

Hotah shook his head, "Because you are where I was before this summer. You are really not Lakota at the core, only in blood. The way Arctic Wolf speaks, you have the spirits close and very well may be Lakota soon, much sooner than I. So don't look at the movie. As a matter of fact don't even watch it. Instead listen... I will give you this much, it is spoken by one of our kind. Now do what Arctic Wolf commanded. I will get Nick's armor vest ready and finish sewing on all the scales onto all of your armors."


"Eagle, stop. Besides, if you screw up us getting pizza, I'm going to hogtie you and tickle you till you piss yourself... again..."

Eagle's eyes went wide even as he badly blushed. Without another word he turned toward Chayton, "OK! Let's get to practicing!"

As night fell, so did the snow. The three boys retired to the house exchanging good-natured jabs about the sparing only to find Mr. Khaldun and Kohana at the window where they could watch. It was clear the two had been talking, but quickly stopped before the boys could get within earshot.

Before any of them could really process this, Mr. Khaldun had one final gift to give as he helped the trio put the finishing touches on their armor. Each was given a bronze khopesh blade, a bronze knife, a bow with a trio of strings, fifteen arrows, and a head wrap with hieroglyphics inked in. He explained the heat and the sand made such head covers valuable since they protected the head from the sun, while the lower part of the wrap could be undone and moved to shield the nose and mouth against blowing sand. He went on to explain the writing was specific to each of them. Eagle's told of him being from a spirit touched family, Falcon's told of him being from a noble warrior's family, and Nickolas' was basically saying he was a great fighter of the common people, which was the Slavic/Greek meaning of the name Nickolas. He also noted the wrap would protect their ears from the expected cold of Halloween night, so it would eliminate the need for a stocking hat which would ruin the overall look.

As Chayton eyed the man, wondering why his wrap would say he was from a noble warrior's family, he lifted the blade and noted it was warm. Even as he took a few practice swings and was warned about it being dangerous, he looked over to Mr. Khaldun, who was putting on a coat and heading toward the front door. "How come it's warm?"

The History teacher turned with a snort, "Because I finished forging them before I came over. Those are why I was not there to help you catch up with your school work this afternoon."

Nickolas' jaw dropped, "You made these?"

"Yes," Mr. Khaldun nodded, "blacksmithing is a talent I picked up more than a few years ago and I still play around with it. I waited, because I figured at least one of you would pick the axe over the khopesh. However, you all gravitated toward the blade, so I finished them off after my last class. This meant I had to wait until today to carve your names and titles into the thick part of the blades. You will note the hieroglyphics are the same on the wraps and the blades. Also, the bows are not normally carried by front line infantry, but I made them for you all of you nonetheless. Finally, the wooden blades are for practice. The metal ones are real and could easily kill; they are weapons of war and I made them better than the metallurgical abilities of the ancients. They will, however, pass for the era under all but the most detailed examinations. Don't fool around with them. They were and are designed to be lethal. I just hope they serve you well. Now I hope you all use this chance I am taking and learn something from this. I also want a promise you will not bring those blades, bows, or arrows to school ever."

Even as they promised to not bring the weapons to school and thanked the departing teacher, they glanced at each other. The wording seemed odd. Their attention quickly turned a different direction as Chayton looked down the blade and noted elaborate hieroglyphics running down the meat of the khopesh and Nickolas found the blade of the dagger was not dulled. In fact it was very sharp. Even as he sucked on the blood flowing out of the thin yet deep cut on his thumb, he looked over to Kohana with wide eyes.

The old Shaman moved up and took hold of the thumb. "A lesson well learned, if you ask me. However, I do not wish a hospital visit needing to be explained to a mother of a child left in my care, so let the great healing spirits find it within themselves to forgive this act of childhood curiosity quickly, before more blood is shed."

Nickolas almost fainted as his thumb first become very hot, then just as quickly turned icy cold. Even as Kohana let go of the thumb, Nickolas looked down, noting a long thin pink line where the cut had been but no other sign of an injury other than some remaining blood on his and Kohana's hand. "How…?"

Even though Wamblee's eyes were as wide as his two friends, he managed to speak, "I told you Great-Grandfather is a medicine man, a powerful one. There is a reason the entire council of elders fears him!"

"But that was magic!"

"No, it was spirits." Hotah stated as he brought in three boxes of pizza, put them on a table, and moved over to Kohana who looked a little woozy. "Now don't do whatever you just did again. It takes great effort for Arctic Wolf to channel the Lakota spirits so quickly!"

While still shaken and totally astonished at what just happened, Nickolas managed a nod, "OK, but Mom will freak out if she finds out I was just handed a real super-sharp knife and I sure don't want to carry it out in the open all night. I might accident cut someone with it!"

Chayton quickly agreed, "We need to make a thingy to put them in!" He then paused and looked over at Nickolas, "Um, I'm sorry you got cut, but kind of glad it was you, cause I was about to run my hand down the edge."

"Your teacher warned you and you did not listen. No weapon is a toy, young ones. Let this be the first lesson you take with you on your adventures." Kohana spoke with authority even as he took a seat and took a long drink of water. "Hotah, I leave it to you to make them good sheaths. Put thin blocks of wood in them so the blades do not cut through. I need a nap." He stood, looking a little weaker than he normally did, "And boys, before you sleep I expect you watch the movie one last time. Now eat, have fun, and get a good night's sleep. For the spirits tell me tomorrow will be a very eventful day for all of you."

They ate pizza, worked on their costumes, and made sure their scarab necklaces would be a focal point in front of their scale armor vests. They got extra help from Hotah on some of the more complicated leather items such as the quiver, weapon sheaths, bow slings, and belts. Even as they put the finishing touches on their vests, including double-checking they would go over heavy sweat clothing, they put in the movie.

Several of the other Lakota kids started packing up as the music started, saying they had all seen it too many times because of Arctic Wolf. This left Wamblee, Chayton, Nickolas, and Hotah in the living room. The three younger boys basically ignored the movie until Chayton saw Hotah glance over at the TV then over to Eagle.

"Hold up." Chayton commanded as he focused on the movie.

The screen showed the tiny brought to life Indian by the name of Little Bear. Little Bear was speaking to the boy, scolding him actually, "You should not do magic you do not understand!"

Chayton glanced over at Hotah and saw him nod, "Really? Magic?"

Nickolas poked Chayton and held up his thumb, "You ask me, magic is pretty real."

Wamblee shrugged, "Spirits are kind of like magic, I guess. Even though Great-Grandfather has been teaching me the ceremonies and I have felt a swirl of power, I've never seen nothing like what he did tonight. Still, what does magic have to do with any of this?"

Seeing Hotah, roll his eyes and stand, Wamblee looked over, "What?"

"You have all looked past things. I have seen it and others have noted it. I don't know what it means, but Arctic Wolf seems to, as does Mr. Khaldun. All I can say is continue to play with it at your own risk. Your costumes are done, your straps all adjust to whatever clothing you wear under the vests, and the sheaths are safe for the sharp blades you were handed. If nothing else, start there; since there is no way I would have given you real swords and knives! Good night guys and have fun trick or treating."

As Hotah left, Chayton pulled the dagger and looked it over, "These are pretty nasty."

"Wicked nasty!" Nickolas agreed, "But he warned us they were weapons. They will make super cool reminders for us forever. Just think these are handmade and carved with stuff just for us. No matter what, I'll never sell it or give it up!"

At this, the other two fully agreed. In fact they started talking about making stands for them, so they could be displayed in their respective rooms on desk or wall mounts. Wamblee assured the other two Hotah and a couple of the others would know how to build such stands and would help them. The trio then spent another hour outside in the cold with their new vest on, practicing with the wooden weapons. As the boys made their way back to the house a distant sound caught their full attention. It was a howl. Nickolas looked to the south, across where the creek ran, "I've never heard a dog sound like that!"

"That was a wolf!" Chayton stated. "I heard and saw them in Minnesota when I lived up there for a few weeks. It was about the only thing Mom's boyfriend up there ever did with me, though."

"At least you had someone take you somewhere," Nickolas countered with a hint of annoyance. "I have lived here since I was born and other than field trips and the every few month trip to Bismarck for shopping, I never get to leave. But there are no wolves in North Dakota, right?"

"There are, but they are very rare," Wamblee corrected his new friend. "There are no known breeding populations either, but Grandfather says they used to be here in great numbers."

Kohana appeared at the door, "The spirit of the Wolf calls out in warning, boys. It is time to get in, clean up, and get some sleep. For the spirits are always restless when people worship evil."

"Worship evil?" Chayton asked.

Kohana all but pushed the boy inside, closed the door, and put up a dream catcher over a hook on the doorframe before speaking, "Think about your words, young Falcon. People dress up as devils, demons, monsters, ghosts and ghouls just to name a very few. Even Mika, who will be a headless horseman, is in essence worshiping a demonic force. How could the spirits not be restless at such things?"

"Then why did... I mean why are you helping her be one?" Nickolas asked.

"I warned her. Just as I did Wasula, Chaska and Takoda about their costumes. They wanted to dress as evil beings. After such a warning from me, who am I to stop them? As it is, I put out a long list to the tribal council each year of things I do not recommend dressing up as. The parents of everyone here knows of what was being worked on and has access to the list, so I do not see it as something I should step in on. At least with me helping them I can put some protections on their costumes. The Spirit of the Wolf tells me my efforts may not be enough this year, however."

Wamblee looked confused, "What does the wolf howl have to do with..."

"What is the Wolf to our people, Eagle?"

"The spirit of the hunt and of war?"

Kohana nodded, "And it is calling out a warning." He pointed up to a large clock on the kitchen wall. "The howl happened how long ago, Eagle?"

Eagle shrugged, "Only about two minutes ago..."

Chayton's eyes went wide as he looked at the clock, "And it is now two minutes after midnight!"

Kohana gave Chayton a sharp nod, "As I said, the spirits are restless and the Wolf calls out in warning for those willing to listen. There is always a war on between good and evil and hearing the howl should tell you there is a brewing battle. Now, I want you all inside until dawn. More than enough energy is around to focus the wrong kinds of attention toward you all. Now take turns in the shower and either watch the movie again or get some sleep."

Sleep came slowly, but then so did waking up. The three finally crawled out of their cots to the smell of a late lunch being cooked. Makawee, Wamblee's Grandmother, grinned as he saw Chayton stumble into the kitchen, "Nothing like the smell fresh bread and pulled pork in a light bar-b-que sauce to wake the dead!"

"Smell's awesome, ma'am!" Chayton nodded as he eyed the crock-pot with a watering mouth.

Wamblee entered the kitchen wiping the crusties out of his eyes, "Oh, man, I'm suddenly super hungry!"

Nickolas was only a couple of steps behind, stretching, yawning and peering into the kitchen with a near animal lust for food.

Kohana gave Makawee a kiss on her cheek, "I believe the aroma has done more than any poking and prodding or spirit ritual I could have ever tried."

"Not fair Grandmother!" Wamblee complained even as he unsuccessfully tried to fight off a yawn. "I'm still tired, but that smells too good!"

Makawee quickly handed each boy a plate with fresh made fries, a pair of homemade buns piled high with pulled pork, and a side dish of chopped apples and peaches. "Eat, there is more of everything if you want it. Once done, make sure to brush your teeth. But you all need to get moving. Hotah is on his way over to open up the leather shop, since there is one very important thing you three overlooked."

Nickolas frowned deeply, "We got armor, back slings to hold the bows, arrow holder things, a thingy for the khopesh and dagger, leather leg guards, and head wraps. What else is there?"

"Oh, come now boys," Makawee giggled, "as good as you all look, you can't go holding out a pillow case or sack."

"Oh, yeah!" Wamblee nodded in sudden understanding. "What are we going to carry the candy in?"

Kohana set out three strips of paper on the table, "I took rubbings of what your teacher put on the swords so you can add the same marking on whatever goodie bags you come up with. Let Hotah work with all of you on burning markings into leather, even you, Eagle. If I were one of the three of you I would practice a few times on some of the scraps. Also, use the soldering iron this time with a fine tip. It will be easier than using the old ways."

Several hours later Kohana entered the leather working shop carrying sacks. "Boys, it is almost dark and it is getting cold. Falcon's guardian just dropped off some new tan colored sweats to go under your armor, and robes. He is in the house and wants pictures." He smiled, "So does Makawee and Nickolas' mom. So get dressed up and come to the main house."

Arctic Wolf then moved up to Chayton, "Young man, your teacher, Mr. Khaldun, wanted me to talk to you for a minute."

Chayton looked up with fear on his face, "Do I have to move down to the lower class?"

"No, no, no." Arctic Wolf reassured the suddenly very worried child. "He just wanted someone else hear you say where you would prefer to live if given a choice and if being a warrior is what you really want."

Chayton nodded, "I'm gunna be in the Army or Navy... Or Air Force... so yeah, I want to be a warrior!"

"OK, fair enough. How about where you want to grow up?"

"Here..." Chayton's face lit up in a quick grin, "Well, I mean your house is great, but I really mean in Linton... Um with Mr. Lenox. He is Mom's best boyfriend since Gordon. I know this is the best place I have ever lived and I have only been here for a few days!"

"Very well, so let me ask this..." Arctic Wolf paused and made sure he had the boy's undivided attention. "Would you say this even if this meant something would have to go wrong for someone?"

Chayton looked down and shuffled his feet as he considered the words, "Well, I don't want anyone to die or get hurt for life or nothing. Um... Well... I know it's mean... But as long as nothing bad happens to Mr. Lenox, you, or any of my new friends, including all of the Lakota. I have never had no friends like this. Oh, and none of the teachers at the school here. I didn't know what a good teacher was till I came here... If it means me getting hurt, I'd do it... Why?"

"To be honest, Eagle has had a hard time making non-Lakota friends, so I wanted to hear what you thought of your new place of living. Mr. Khaldun has put a great deal of effort into you and I am glad to hear you appreciate those who deserve notice. Also, as with anything in life there is a tradeoff. Everything we do or attempt to achieve comes with a downside. You answer tells me you would not cross many lines to get something you want, but do not need. This tells me you have a good spirit. However, there is one person you left off of your list?"


"Your mother."

"Mr. Arctic Wolf, Mom will do whatever she does. It may sound mean, but if I can stay, I ain't saying she has to. No one really gets it. Mom never wanted me, and I just get in the way."

"Do you really think she doesn't want you?"

"I don't have to think it. She says it at least ten times a week. Having her not here for the last few days has been awesome. This is the first time I can remember everyone around me being nice. But I know what comes next. Before I can do more than catch up in school, she'll get sick of this place and Mr. Lenox, just like she gets tired of everyplace. She'll blame me, call me names, and tell me I'm a big mistake all over again. I just wish she would just leave me someplace like this and go away."

"I am very sorry to hear anyone would say such awful things to you, Falcon, but one must be careful for what one wishes for."

"Why?" Seeing a questioning look Chayton took a deep breath as anger bubbled up inside, "Mom doesn't care about me. She blames me no matter what goes wrong. I want something to be her fault where there is no way it can be me. Maybe then she will not say how giving me away would make her look bad, which is the only reason she doesn't do it. Well, that and no one would ever want a blank-head like me!"

Kohana eyes narrowed, "She has actually said this to you?"

Chayton clenched his first and stated to walk out into the night, "Many times... I'll just go now..."

Kohana put his hand on Chayton's shoulder, spun him around so he could see the boy's face and used his fingers to brush away a couple of tears. "No, do not go. Nothing your mother has told you is truthful. You are a fine young man and should be proud of yourself for braving the hardships you have gone through in the way you have.

"Also know, I am sorry to hear all of this and should have never upset you on a night which is supposed to be full of fun, excitement, and deeply steeped in tales of monsters and scary things. You worked hard on your costume and need to get dressed up in it. Enjoy what you have done and the friendships you have forged. Just do this one thing for me tonight: stick close with your new friends and keep your eyes open, for the spirits move in mysterious way when people dress as evil things.

"Also know, no matter what happens this night, my door is open as are all the doors of the Lakota in and around Linton. Finally keep this last thought I give to you in mind: While the core of history has been written there are waves and fluctuations within. Also the future has not been etched yet. So where there are wishes and hopes, there are doors to be opened in an attempt to fulfill such dreams. However, stepping through those doors can lead to other challenges."

Chayton gave Kohana a small hug, blinked back some tears and started to pull on his costume. After only a couple of minutes he realized taking everything he had planned was just too much. After looking everything over he glanced over to Kohana, "Can I keep the bow and arrows here?"

"Sure you can." Kohana responded as he moved up to help the boy remove the quiver from over his shoulder. "Better?"

"Much." Chayton started to move to the door as he adjusted the head wrap, then turned, "Thank you. I've never really felt I could tell a adult any of that."

"Falcon, you are most welcome, however, the spirits tell me there are others you can confide in. In particular, Timothy seems to have your best interests at heart. At some point you need to trust others."

"Maybe... Hopefully..."

He was interrupted as Nickolas came in, also without his bow, "Come on Falcon! We need to get some pictures so we can go get candy! I NEED to get enough to last till Christmas, since Mom really saves up for presents and candy gets cut off for me from now till then!"

Chayton's mood changed considerably as he grinned, "Almost ready."

The three boys entered the house only to find Timothy, dressed in a really cool storm trooper's outfit, Nickolas' mom, and Makawee with cameras out and ready. It took almost ten minutes for the adults to decide they had enough pictures and angles, before letting them head out.

As the three made their way to the front door, Chayton glanced over to Timothy, "Did you make your costume?"

"Mostly, yes. I also spent a whole lot more then forty dollars on it, and yours looks way better. You should see your mom..."

Chayton forced a smile, "Let me guess, Princess Leia?"

Timothy bust up with laughter, "No, but it would have been a really good idea! She's Xena."

Nickolas' mom looked over, "Oh, where is she? I would love to get a picture of the two of you!"

"She's not here, Ellen. She said she'd let me get pictures so she could finish up and meet me down in Strasburg at a party down there. I'm helping to set it up so I have to be there early." He then give a lustful grin of his own as he as he added, "Besides, what she is wearing is a bit cold for walking around outside too much."

"Well, it's too bad she is not here to see this in person."

Chayton had to bite his tongue; since he really wanted to say 'she doesn't care.' Instead he let out a sigh, "Come on, can we go already, please?"

Ellen smiled warmly as she snapped a few more pictures, "OK, but if you all get cold, get here, or to my place."

Timothy handed Chayton a key to his home, "Or mine. But hopefully the sweats I bought you all will be warm enough. Now stick together and have a great time."

Even as the boys left they could hear Timothy tell Ellen not to worry about the cost of the sweats and that Nick was always welcome to come over if things started to get too tight on food or anything else.

Nickolas spoke softly as they walked up the dirt road, "Wow, Falcon, you are so lucky to have Mr. Lenox as your mom's boyfriend."

"Yeah, best boyfriend Mom found since I was five." Not wanting to talk about it any longer he looked back, "Race you all to the first house."

The three boys ran as quickly as the snow covered street would allow. Their folly prevented them from noticing Mr. Khaldun leaning next to a tree dressed in all black save for a pair of scarab beetle silver bracelets and an old bone scroll case over his left shoulder. As the boys passed by, he pulled open the case, blew off a large amount of dust from the papyrus scroll inside, and carefully unrolled the delicate ancient paper out on a stump. With the needed words from the Book of the Dead laid out before him he turned his wrists until the beetles on the bracelets touched the scroll. "Oh great mother Isis, I come before you for the first time in centuries, for I have found three of a kindred spirit wishing to taste your power and for a time serve the Pharaohs of Egypt..."

Back at Arctic Wolf's, Ellen and Timothy turned to thank Kohana, only to find the chair he was sitting at empty. The two exchanged glanced, realizing neither of them had taken notice of his departure. To this end, they gave their gratitude to Makawee before heading out. Timothy saw Ellen turn to walk, so he offered her a ride before heading to Strasburg. They passed the boys as the trio was stepping off the first porch, after collecting their sugary loot. Neither noticed the lone man kneeling at a stump just off the road.

At the same time, Kohana made his way around the back of the leather working shop and headed into the woods near the creek. This was his land and he knew it well. He didn't take the path to the creek. Instead he turned to the east and moved into the thicket of trees and undergrowth. It took almost five minutes of carefully pushing his way through the undergrowth, leaving no trace as he went. Finally he stopped and eyed the small leather dome of his medicine lodge and summoned his strength, for the ceremony he would need would not be easy on him, but this was for Falcon, and thus for his great-grandson, Eagle. Yes, it would take much out of him, but this was a time for the spirits of his people to give needed aid to three fine lads, who he was certain were about to bite off more than they could chew.

Entering the small lodge, he grabbed a bag of colored sand and traced a picture of a wolf out on the dirt floor. He then knelt in the middle of it, "While the war wages I call to the spirits of my people for aid..."

Forty minutes later, with another dusting of snow falling, Wamblee jumped off the porch of the last house on his side of Linton and looked in his sack, then at his watch. "It's only seven forty-seven. I bet we can hit most of the house on the other side of Highway 83. My bag isn't even close to full."

Nickolas looked into his bag, "Yeah, the farmhouses was a great idea, Eagle, but I need more than this!"

"I'm game." Chayton agreed without any hesitation. While it was cold, the combination of the sweats and the head wrap were working well. If anything, carrying the shield and wearing the armor was kind of a workout, so he was lightly sweating. Also, like Nickolas, Chayton didn't get a whole lot of candy normally, so this was a great chance to really stock up.

Wamblee led the way, taking a shortcut through the Linton feed elevators so they could cut over to Broadway. As they got to the edge of Broadway, a quartet of other kids were in the process leaving the firehouse where a pair of firefighters was handing out goodies. The four were just starting to cross and move toward the grain silos when a car turned off of Sampson at a pretty high rate of speed.

Chayton was first to notice the danger. He shouted out warning, but it was already too late. As if the wind had a mind of its own, a hard gust sent a wave of harder snow in the direction of the car, obscuring the vision of the driver.

Wamblee and Nickolas were a couple of steps behind, but Chayton's shout was enough to alert the two. They sprinted toward the other group.

At the same time, the four kids turned away from the sudden violent gust of wind and snow. This caused them to avert their eyes from the danger, while the wind drowned out the shout of Chayton.

In the firehouse, the two firefighters stood and watched in stunned amazement, as the snow was whipped around in such a way it took on the form of a wolf and seemed to open its mouth and snarl at the onrushing car. Both men would later swear the wind itself had even sounded like a howl.

Chayton's mom glanced down at her watch as she turned onto what she thought was Highway 83. She was running late and knew she was looking really good in her skimpy Xena costume. The last thing she wanted, was to be late to the party where she was certain she would be the center of attention and the men would drool over her. The problem was she was just not used to the small town. Making matters worse, the blowing snow obstructed the street signs. She knew she needed to turn by the silos, however. So spotting them through the sudden break in the snow squall, she turned. The problem was she needed to be on the other side of them. This put her on Broadway, not Highway 83.

Thinking she was on the highway, she stepped hard onto the gas just as another hard gust of picked up and swirled the snow in a crazy way. The next thing she knew she was driving head on into what looked to be a huge white dog of some sort. She slammed on the brakes and turned the wheel to avoid the collision. The rear wheel drive of the car was no match for the thin sheet of ice. The car went into an uncontrolled spin.

Chayton saw the car spin, totally out of control. He also realized the kids in front of him had their heads down from the wind. He did the only thing he could do, he lowered his wooden shield and knocked the middle two of the four back and out of the way. Behind him, Wamblee and Nickolas saw what he did and did the exact same thing, each one taking one of the remaining kids.

The four shouted in shock and anger as they were knocked back. A moment later, the rear end of the car slammed into the three standing boys who did the only thing they could. They lowered their shields to protect themselves the best they could and cringed.

The back end of the car tossed the three boys back into a small metal-sided building, while the front end of the Camaro spun and took out a power pole with a transformer on it. The car continued into the side of the building dropping the roof on the three boys. A couple of seconds later the power pole fell over onto the car and building sending out a cascade of sparks.

The firefighters recovered quickly. One raced to call in other volunteers while the other ran out to check on the four kids he had just given small baggies of candy to. Seeing all four sitting and looking at the sparking pole with wide eyes and two with bloody noses from getting shield bashed, he pulled a radio off his belt. "This is Linton Volunteer Fire Department! We need an emergency power shut off and a power crew in front of the station NOW!"

For Chayton, Wamblee, and Nickolas, the only things they felt was the car slam into them and their backs hit the metal wall of the small building. They were unconscious before the roof even fell on them. A split second after the power pole fell, their eyes snapped open as they all felt the gut churning sensation of falling a very long way.

Back at the medicine lodge, Kohana lowered his head and touched the outline of the wolf figure he had marked on the dirt with his forehead. "Spirit of the Winter Wolf, if Khaldun does not come through, kill him! If he does, be with those boys and guide them!"

Not far from the accident, Mr. Khaldun saw the snow form into a wolf and heard the crash. He smiled as the power pole sent out a display of sparks bright enough so he could see the resulting carnage. "Isis, the Spirits of this land have come through. Now I implore you to guard and protect Kohana even as you take three new servants back to your lands so they may begin the journey of warriors. With the wisdom of Isis, and the power of Ra and Set flowing through me, I request you activate your spells of protection within my eyesight."

Chayton was first to notice his arm was badly gashed and broken. Even as he continued to fall into nothingness, the scarab detached from the silver chain, leaving nothing but the Ankh behind. It then crawled over to his shoulder and down his arm. A second later it went into the break of skin where the arm bone was poking through. He tried to scream as he felt it first grip both sides of the broken bone with its legs and pull the break together. The pain of this caused him to scream, but no sound came out. Just as he thought the pain could not get worse, it did. The beetle came back out of the wound in the arm and used its mouth to bite and pinch the open wound until it closed. It then moved down the arm, fully closing the gash.

He wished he could pass out, but not being able to, he looked over to Wamblee. They were indeed falling, and his friend was right next to him flailing away even as the same kind of thing was happening to his body. Even as he looked over, Wamblee's beetle was crawling out of the boy's right ear after fixing a skull fracture and was moving to repair the horrid gash to the back of the boy's head.

Next to the two boys, Nickolas found he could not even try to scream since his shield had crushed his throat. His scarab had crawled into his mouth and was actively pushing out the crushing damage, slowly returning his mangled throat to normal from the inside. If his throat hadn't been flattened he was certain he would have thrown up repeatedly from the feeling of the scarab walking around inside his neck.

The horror was not over for the three. The massive collision had caused other serious injuries, of which the scarabs seemed to know which ones were the worst. They crawled over the three boys, scurrying from wound to wound until there were none left. As this happened, a hot wind swirled around them for a few moments before they were gently lowered onto sand.

Wamblee was first to regain his senses. He rubbed the back of his head even as the scarab beetle scurried up his leg and reattached itself to the Ankh. It then curled back up and became an inanimate stone and metal pendant once again. Before he could really come to grips with what had just happened, his eyes went wide as a large wooden chariot pulled by two horses and carrying three men went by him. The middle man shouted something in a language Wamblee couldn't understand. A moment later the man on the far side lowered his spear and drove it into the back of a fleeing man. He then had to shout as he spotted a duplicate of the first chariot rolling right toward Nickolas.

Nickolas was still gagging at the sensation of the beetle crawling up out of his throat, pausing to set a loose tooth, then exiting his mouth to become a pendant again, so he was unable to move. Fortunately, Chayton was a little quicker and managed to grab Nickolas and roll him out of the way seconds before the chariot's left wheel rolled over the top of him.

The two chariots continued past the boys as if they didn't notice them. This gave them precious seconds to gather their senses and really look at their surroundings. What they saw made their blood go cold even though they were under a hot sun. Scores of dead surrounded them while double that in wounded men screamed in agony and seemed to praying, but the language was also unfamiliar. The rest ran past them in terror as footmen and chariots continued to cross the river.

Looking in the direction the chariots had come from, they could make out a shallow river where there had to be another hundred chariots crossing in the shallowest points. To the north yet another group of chariots, backed up with more men than could be counted, chased men fleeing the onslaught. Only one small group seemed to be fighting the hoards coming across the river. It included a man who was both driving and fighting from a chariot and a group of no more than a hundred men.

It was Chayton who then noticed the shield lying next to the man who had just been speared. It was almost an exact duplicate of the ones Mr. Khaldun had helped them make. On the front was a painted in symbol of the Eye of Osiris. A spear, also exactly like the one they had been shown, was still clenched in the dead man's hands. Even as his mind screamed to him that there was no way he could be in ancient Egypt, other things caught his attention. Most of the dead around him wore the padded armor he had been told was more common than the scale armor vest he now wore. In addition, most of the dead and dying had no shoes, others wore sandals. "No... No... this can't be real!"

Even as he said this, however, a lone chariot, slowed because of a wobbling wheel, spotted him and his friends. The shield bearer in the chariot pointed towards Chayton and shouted, getting the attention of the driver who turned and made straight towards them.

Glancing over his shoulder at the dead man, he shook his head, "Oh, no way are you going to spear me or my friends!" He turned and shouted, "Nick, Eagle, incoming!"

A second later a lone warrior, not much older than him, dressed in a what looked like a scale armor dress came around an overturned chariot carrying a weird looking sword with a curved handle. "Oh, crap!"

Nick saw what Chayton was pointing at and suddenly remembered what Mr. Khaldun had told them about how dangerous chariots were and the only way to fight them was to stop the animals pulling them. He grabbed a pair of spears dropped by the dead and tossed one to Wamblee, "We got to stop that," he pointed at the chariot, "then help Falcon!"

Wamblee grabbed the spear and jumped to his feet. As he did so, he realized the only things he was wearing was the costume. His sweat suit, shoes, socks, even boxers... all gone. It didn't make much sense, but none of this did and if he didn't do something he would end up a human shish kabob. He looked over at Nickolas, "Did he show you how to use a spear to brace for a charge?"

Nickolas nodded and spun in the direction of the onrushing chariot. "He told me to wait until the last second or they would see it coming! How did he know..."

"At the moment, who cares!"

Chayton pulled up his shield and blocked the sword swing, feeling and hearing the wood crack as he did so. He shuffled back as his mind raced. This almost caused him to get stabbed as the warrior in front of him jumped forward at what he saw as an opening.

Suddenly he was super happy Mr. Khaldun and Arctic Wolf had taught him as much as they had. He dropped down letting the thrust go over him. He then pulled the dagger and slammed the point of it into the leather boot. It lanced through the leather like it wasn't there. While he had no idea what was said, the accompanying scream let him know his attack had been devastating. He yanked the dagger back and rolled to the side just as he had been shown. As he came up with his shield over his head, he switched his hold on the knife and stabbed it into the exposed back calf of the uninjured leg. The young warrior let out another ear piercing scream as he fell. He then crawled away, crying and leaving a blood trail as he did so.

At almost the same time, Nickolas and Wamblee exchanged terrified looks as they jammed the back of the spears into the ground, stood on them and raised their shields over their heads. The driver saw this, but it was simply too late. The left horse was impaled by both spears and went sideways into the horse on the right. The chariot then hit the two animals and flipped over the top of the two boys. The spearman and the driver were launched while the shield bearer managed to jump off, but still hit the sand hard.

Wamblee and Nickolas spun to the right avoiding the tumbling horse and chariot. As they did so, they both felt bile rise in their throats as the chariot came down on the spearman, cutting him in half. The driver fared no better. The uninjured horse was wrenched by the combination of running into its dying partner and the tumbling chariot. It went hard to its right and trampled the helpless driver.

Chayton saw the shield bearer jump to his feet while shaking his head as if to clear it, all the while pulling a nasty looking short blade. He moved forward to protect Wamblee and Nick just in time. His shield managed to block the swing of the knife aimed at Nickolas.

The man glared at Chayton while saying something which sounded pretty nasty. Chayton sheathed his knife and pulled his khopesh. He used the tactic taught to him. He made a thrust, let the man try to knock it aside with the edge of his shield, and turned his blade so the hook caught on the edge. He then gave a sharp pull.

It was clear the man in front of him had never dealt with this before, since it took him totally off guard. He didn't even try to yank back. This left his chest exposed.

Chayton didn't hesitate. He lunged forward. The tip of his khopesh easily punctured the man's abdomen until it hit the backbone. Chayton had no way of knowing just how much damage he had done, so he did the follow through of spinning and slashing into the man's back. The second attack was just as destructive as the first. The man face planted, unmoving, with blood gushing out of his gut and back.

"Oh, that's just gross!" Wamblee gasped out as he shuddered. His thoughts, however, were interrupted as a nicer looking three-man chariot with a bronze coated front angled toward them. Spotting a bow lying next to another dead man wearing Egyptian looking padded armor, he picked it up. He then pulled an arrow from the dead man's quiver, and notched it. He started to take aim at the driver, but noted the shield bearer swing the shield to give the driver protection. "Poor horse," he pouted briefly before letting the arrow fly.

The arrow flew true, hitting the muzzle of the right horse. It tumbled. As it did so, the chariot hit it and flipped sending all three men flying off. The tumbling chariot then smashed into a second chariot, which was slightly behind it. The resulting collision was tremendous. Bits and pieces of chariots and bodies went flying.

"Nice shot!" Nickolas shouted as he cut the strap of the quiver and handed it to Wamblee.

Wamblee didn't hesitate to notch another arrow. This time he sent it into a man wearing an armored dress who looked to be leading spearmen in his direction. The man fell as the arrow caught him in the face.

Behind Wamblee, Chayton grabbed another bow and sent an arrow into the chest of a horse puling yet another three man chariot. The driver lost control and the chariot rolled, forcing all three to jump off at the last second. Two of them came up limping, while the third looked fine as they came right at the three boys. Chayton stepped up on the basically unhurt man, while shouting for Eagle and Nick to take the other two. Unbeknownst to the kids, their actions caused a large moral shift.

The loud noises caught the attention of several fleeing Egyptian warriors. Seeing three young ones standing up to the assault on their ranks, they turned back to fight. At the same time, the loss of a pair of leaders was enough grounds for the enemy forces to pause. The whole assault on the Egyptian troops started to falter.

While as this was going on, a new group came over the hill. There was no question it was a sizable Egyptian force since it included a large number of two man chariots and many of the foot troops had the Eye of Osiris on their shields. Seeing the enemy forces at the river in disarray, they charged. What had appeared to be an Egyptian defeat turned into a rout the other direction. The much faster and more mobile Egyptian chariots cut off large numbers of enemy forces and slaughtered them. At the same time, the man who had been down by the river fighting for his life with a small detachment turned his focus away from surviving to attacking.

For the three boys, this all but went unnoticed since each was face to face with an opposing warrior. Nick was first to score a hit, using the man's already damaged leg to his advantage. He kept moving to force the man to put more weight on the leg with a limp. After a few seconds and having to raise a shield to deflect a blow, the man's knee locked. This gave Nickolas the opening he needed. He went low and shield bashed the knee, then as the man tumbled he stabbed him in the side with his khopesh.

Nickolas then moved to help Wamblee. The distraction allowed Wamblee to slice his khopesh across the man's leg. As the man swung wildly in Wamblee's direction, Nickolas plunged his blade into the man's exposed ribs.

Up in front of them, Chayton blocked a quintet of blows from his opponent's spear. The spear wielder was good though, and changed from using the spear normally to using it as a staff. He went low and swept the legs out from under Chayton, then pulled the spear up to plunge it into the boy.

Chayton acted out of desperation. He tossed a handful of sand into the guy's face, then rolled toward him while pulling his dagger. He desperately slashed as hard as he could across both feet, opening up a pair of gashes all the way to the bone. Finally, as the man fell on him, Chayton pulled up the knife and held it point up. The opposing warrior fell on it, but even as he died, he tried to strangle Chayton with his bare hands.

Fortunately, an Egyptian footman moved up, pulled the man off and plunged his own spear through the man's lower torso. Chayton was then yanked to his feet, patted on the shoulder. The spearman then moved further down the hill, impaling another warrior wearing the dress-like armor.

Over the next two hours the enemy was totally routed, while three chariots were dispatched to pick up the stunned boys and take them to the top of the hill where a war camp was being established. The boys didn't understand a word being spoken, but it was abundantly clear what the chariot drivers wanted. They didn't even try to refuse, even though they did exchange glances.

Once in the camp, water and bread was handed to them. Even as they ate, they remained silent. Yet they couldn't help but watch in morbid fascination as the leaders of the hostile forces tried four more times to send a sizable number of men and chariots across the river. The Egyptian leader, however, was not a foolish man. He was not about to be drawn into a straight-up fight, since he held the advantage. Instead of charging across the river, he let them come across the shallows; then, before they could form up into a strike force, he sent his charioteers down and crushed them. Spearmen then followed and eliminated survivors. At the same time, ranks of bowmen from a reserve Egyptian unit showed up and started showering the opposite side with untold hundreds of arrows. As the sun started its decent to the west, the river was flowing with the red tinge of blood.

Chayton, Wamblee and Nickolas, however, did not take part in any of this. Instead, they were given a very large tent and, as they walked to it, ranks of men tried to talk to them in what seemed to praise filled tones. With the sun disappearing into the western sky, a group of six girls, very close to their ages, came in. The girls, much to the boys' horror, help them strip to nothing other than their scarab necklaces, then held up large vases of water so the boys could wash. At first they tried to refuse, but a look from a couple of the men who brought the girls in told them more than the words could have. Besides, Chayton noticed even as the first girl tried to help him out of his armor, all three of them had serious amounts of dried blood on them. The events of the day had somehow allowed all three to overlook this fact. Once clean, the girls took the armor and helped them into what amounted to skirts with a leather tie to secure it around their waists. While all three wanted to refuse, Nickolas pointed out the obvious. They had no idea what they were supposed to do with what they were being offered to wear and he really wanted something on, since there were six girls and three men in the tent. Once 'dressed', bread, strong smelling meat, honey, and dates were then brought in, once again by the six girls, while the men took guard positions outside the tent.

As night fell, the Egyptian leader entered the tent wearing a large amount of gold jewelry, yet still wearing armor and carrying a khopesh on each side. The odd thing that stuck Chayton was the reddish tinge to the man's hair. It didn't fit at all with his dark complexion. The other thing was how short, yet powerfully built, the man was. He stood at just over sixty-seven inches, but had to have weighed in at close to 180 pounds of solid muscle. To his right was a man, who, even though bald and wearing flowing robes, a gold necklace, silver bracelets, and a gold and jeweled piece with a cobra head on the front clipped to his head, he recognized instantly. It was none other than Mr. Khaldun who looked not to have changed in age!

He almost blurted out Mr. Khaldun's name, but managed to stop himself since the Egyptian leader was looking at him and Nickolas. After several seconds, and an exchange with Mr. Khaldun, he turned his attention toward Wamblee. However, since everyone around the shorter man was showing extreme deference, and Chayton had seen the guy kill at least thirty men from the top of the hill, Chayton took a knee. He then lowered his head while motioning for the two with him to do the same. This didn't prevent him from glancing up at Mr. Khaldun a dozen times. As he did so, he couldn't help but notice the History teacher looking down at the hieroglyphics on the khopesh swords he had made for the boys.

The Egyptian leader spoke and seemed to get annoyed when Wamblee didn't respond, but Mr. Khaldun interrupted before the Egyptian leader could get angrier. Mr. Khaldun pointed to the blades given to the boys and said something else, which calmed the man further. The Egyptian leader then nodded, pointed at the six girls and back at the three kneeling lads and said something which sounded like a command. He then stepped forward and put his hand on each of the three boys' heads one after the other while speaking a phrase. Finally he motioned for the kids to stand, gave them a smile and turned sharply. A few minutes after the man's departure, a soldier came in, put down a small wooden chest and a small sack, slammed his fists together as he gave a slight bow, and left.

Wamblee glanced over to the girls, then back at his friends. "OK, now what?"

"How am I supposed to know?" Nickolas asked with a whisper. "I don't even know how we got here or what was being said. I think we're dead since I know the car hit us. Do you think we in heaven or hell?"

"I'd say we are in Egypt, just where Mr. Khaldun offered to put us... I mean he was standing right in front of us!"

"Huh?" Nickolas responded.

At the same time Wamblee asked, "When?"

Chayton suddenly realized the other two didn't recognize Mr. Khaldun. "The guy in the robes with the Egyptian general!"

"The bald guy with the gold snake crown?" Wamblee asked while a sideways cock of his head.

Nickolas frowned deeply, "Are you sure?"

"No different than the clowns, only in reverse. He was dressed way different and had a shaved head, but it was him!"

The other two weren't totally convinced, but conceded the fact out of the three of them, Chayton would be the one to see through the differences. The three talked till deep into the night, wondering what was in store for them. Part of the problem was the girls stayed close, sleeping in the tent with them. As the sun came up they found they had a totally new life in store for them.

The war camp stayed on the hilltop for over a week. During this time, the boys started to figure out a few things. First, they were stuck with the girls tending to them. They did all the small things like bring back their armor clean, bring them food and water and insisted on dressing and bathing them. Trying to say no seemed to insult the men, so they simply accepted this horribly embarrassing situation.

Second, the small box and sack left by the warrior had been given to them. The sack contained oil, sharpening stones, hooks, and thick threads to repair their armor as needed. It also held pretty well made leather sandals, which was nice since they had been in bare feet since they had been dropped off in the sands of what they were now was certainly ancient Egypt. The box was really the focal point since it was full of jewelry and a good amount of gemstones. Chayton noted one of the bracelets had been worn by the teen he had first fought, so he guessed all the other items had been plundered from the dead.

Third, they were brought out to work and spar with the soldiers. While they couldn't speak the language, they learned very quickly what a few words meant, such as 'now', 'go', 'stop', 'fight' and the like. While they were treated and fed well, they were also expected to help with camp duties such as digging waste pits and burying those who died from their wounds days after the battle.

The whole army finally broke camp and headed south, while the Egyptian commander and Mr. Khaldun took some of the best soldiers and went northwest.

The army marched for several weeks, often within sight of a massive body of water to the west. They followed the coast, stopping at a few villages for a night or two of needed rest before continuing on. The pace was hard on the boys and food seemed to be in short supply at times, but no one took pity of them. They were part of the army and those traveling with it. When they stopped for the night, they oftentimes had to train with the men. Then they retired to their tent, which was put up for them by the six girls.

During this time their understanding of the language grew by leaps and bounds. Once again, Chayton's observational skills aided them greatly in this.

After two full moon cycles and over five hundred miles of walking, the large detachment came to a wide river. In the distance they could make out the pyramids, but they didn't look like the ones in the pictures. Instead they were covered in smooth white stones and the biggest one had a block pointed top. Any doubts as to where they were vanished at this point.

They spent three weeks along the Nile River, and even got to cross it for a few days. This allowed them to get a close look at the pyramids and the Great Sphinx well before it had lost a portion of its face. The military force they had become part of then moved back up the Nile to Pi Ramesses, the capital city being built by Ramesses II. While Nickolas and Chayton looked nothing like the Egyptians around them, their heroism and the fact they had been given gifts of both female slaves and wealth by the Pharaoh prevented anyone from challenging who they were.

Here they labored for four long years, helping with various construction projects. One thing Mr. Khaldun had never mentioned, was being in the ancient Egyptian army was not all fighting. In fact the troops were used to build infrastructure in times of peace or when they were not needed. This didn't mean they didn't practice combat, instead this was done in the cooler early mornings and evenings. The few times a month, when they broke away from building and digging to work on large scale combat was actually a welcome relief.

By this time they had learned a great deal and pretty much figured they were stuck in Egypt. While they talked of home, playing electronic games, and having air-conditioning, those things seemed worlds away. They were all closing on being fifteen years old when a known Egyptian Prince, Setepenre, tenth son of Ramesses II came to them as they helped to dig a channel to a garden within the still being built city. Even as the three teens bowed, along with all the men around them, the Prince's guards made straight for them.

The prince's guards motioned for them to exit the ditch they were digging. Once in front of the prince, the young man who was only a trio of years older than they were spoke, "The High Priest of Isis says I am to take you into my force before we march out to slay the Hittites. I have also been told of your deeds at Kadesh, helping to rally the broken Division of the mighty Ra. You may each bring one of your female slaves and tell my guards who I should take as part of my lead fifty men to include yourselves."

At first light of the following day they were each given a chariot and a driver. After a week of practice, 2500 soldiers, including 150 chariots, moved out of Pi Ramesses and headed northeast following what the boys now realized was the Mediterranean Sea under command of Prince Setepenre. A month later they entered combat again, but this time they had over four years of intensive training and untold hours of hard work to build muscles. As the Hittite chariots come into view, the boys knew what they were dealing with and how to really fight. Their drivers circled the slower Hittite chariots while the boys showered them with arrows. Then, as they closed, their blades came out. Scores of men and teens fell to them. Being blood splattered was seen by others as a great sign and even an honor. For the three, this was beyond disgusting.

Prince Setepenre proved to have inherited much from his father in both leading and fighting. Half a dozen engagements over a month forced Nickolas, Chayton, and Wamblee to get used to the terrible suffering and death caused by war. The sacking of a small walled town was almost too much to bear. Watching men being slaughtered, even as women were taken for enjoyment of the victorious Egyptians was sickening. Watching as Prince Setepenre then selected several women and girls as 'his', forced them all to bite their tongues to prevent speaking out. Finally, seeing many of the females taken by a small number of wounded but still able bodied men, back to Pi Ramesses as war trophies, made them want to rethink ever wanting to see what being a warrior was all about.

The night following the sacking of the town, Prince Setepenre made the rounds, handing out small amounts of treasure looted from the town. He entered the boys' tent and smiled, "The High Priest of Isis was correct. Regardless of your strange looks, you have proven to have the hearts of lions." He then motioned the boys out, where over a hundred young women, girls, and a smattering of boys were being held. "Take your pick, one to each of you."

Seeing Chayton glance back toward the teen girl who had been given to him years prior as a slave, Prince Setepenre laughed, "You have proven yourselves! Having one or two is boring! Come now, you are warriors of Egypt!" He then hardened, "Take one, enjoy new flesh! I am giving you first pick after my personal guard, do not dishonor me by refusing."

It was Chayton who realized the obvious; every person being held was going to be taken by someone. He moved forward, managing to give a bow as he did so. He then pointed to one of the youngest girls, who was pushed to him by one of the men guarding the captives. He took hold of the sobbing girl and pulled her toward the tent. As he closed on Wamblee and Nickolas, he spoke softly, letting the sobs of the girl drown out any chances of those watching from overhearing. "We can each save one tonight."

Nickolas was first to understand. He followed Chayton's example, taking a younger girl. It took just about everything Wamblee had within himself, not to spit at Prince Setepenre, but saw a boy of only nine or ten and decided to take the boy to the tent rather than hand him over to others.

They did what they could to ease the plights of those they took, figuring all three had probably seen parents either killed, enslaved, or both. To this end, they gave the terrified kids food and water and used hand motions to reassure them the best they could.

The next morning, the Egyptian force departed the ruins and joined a larger Egyptian force commanded by Ramesses II in the siege of a much larger walled settlement. Prince Setepenre's force was directed in as the first wave of an assault on the outer walls. The chariot force was directed to move in support of foot soldiers, who rushed the walls with ladders.

Wamblee's chariot was one of the first victims of this tactic. His horse was hit by a spear thrown from the upper wall. His chariot rolled with him in it. Nickolas lasted only a couple of minutes more. His driver fell to an arrow. As the dying man pulled back, the horse turned sharply to the right. This exposed his back to the archers on the walls. He managed to take one out before three arrows lanced into him in rapid succession.

Chayton saw Nickolas fall and ordered his driver to go after his friend. As they closed on the wall, a large rock was dropped from above crushing Chayton's head.

Nickolas was first to wake. He let out a scream of pain as the scarab pushed out the last arrow from inside his right side and went about biting and pinching the damaged closed from the inside out. Wracked with pain, he almost didn't notice he was falling... No, he was flying... He was being pushed upward by a strange vortex of strong wind. Off to his right, he watched as the top of Chayton's head got pushed out, from the inside, until it was once again round. The final action of Chayton's scarab, before returning to the Ankh, was to pull the boy's right eyeball back into his head by the optic nerve and walk over the eyeball to fix the squashed eyeball.

Wamblee took by far the longest for his scarab to fix since he had been nearly cut in half. The scarab worked tirelessly to pull intestines back inside the boy's ruptured abdomen before going to work on the backbone. The silent screams and tears pouring out of Wamblee's eyes showed this was being done while he was very much awake.

Even as Nickolas tired to say, 'Take me home, just take me home', his scarab crawled up his chest and secured itself to the Ankh. Moments later he felt warm sand under him. He sat up shaking his head, "Oh, no, not again!"

Next to him, Chayton gripped both sides of his head as if expecting to find it would squish in his hands. After a couple of seconds, he opened his eyes and blinked as the glare of the sun coming off the water of the beach he found himself on was nearly blinding. As he turned away from the water to look over at Nickolas, he let out a high-pitched whistle, "You look like you're ten again!"

Nickolas looked over, "You haven't aged a day since we got hit by the car either!"

Wamblee finally spoke, "Please tell me we are someplace with a Wendy's or Burger King close by!"

Nickolas stood, realizing as he did so, he was wearing tattered remnants of the Egyptian armor, but it was different than he had been wearing as they started the assault on Dapur. He did, however, still have his khopesh and dagger. Looking at his two friends, they were identically dressed. Further down on the beach were dozens dead bodies, also wearing Egyptian clothing. Bits and pieces of wood were on the beach as well. "I don't think so."

Even as he said this, the memories of the three of them boarding a large boat at the edge of the Nile, filled his head. Events of years, condensed down into seconds flooded his head. They had been in Egypt, but it was well after they had been killed. Egypt had rebelled against the conquering Persian Empire, but was about to fall again. They had been assigned to defend a grain ship... but to where... Why... The answer wouldn't come to him.

While this all sunk into Nickolas, Chayton looked over at Wamblee and helped him to stand. "Um, did we really fight through a Persian invasion of Egypt and then help in the rebellion?"

Wamblee let out a long breath, "Yeah... I think... No, I know I was speared by a horseman... Then trampled by a camel... Wait, we were on a boat and we were attacked by Persians... What... Where..."

Nickolas let out a long breath as he moved up to verify the closest body was indeed dead, "It's all just fragments... The last thing I really remember was firing arrows up at the wall under Prince Setepenre. Then... I got shot again... And again... Oh, geesh, this really is the fourth time we have been brought back. I don't know about you two, but I sure am tired of growing up over and over again!"

"I'll take the growing up again over getting my head smashed in. Taking a rock, then a mace, and this last time a section of boat to the head is more than enough of getting my head bashed in!" Chayton chimed in.

Wamblee managed a grin. "You need to learn how to duck!"

Nickolas managed a weak snicker as he verified the man he was looking at was indeed dead, "And you need to stop getting underneath animals, carts, and chariots!"

Chayton snorted with some humor, "While we are at it, you would do better not being turned into an archery target." He shook his head, "Ok, so... Last thing I remember... Um, being on a ship, and we were hit with a ram..."

"OK, yeah, I was shot again!" Nickolas sighed. "I am really beginning to hate arrows!"

"Well, the mast fell on me and almost cut me in half... Again..." Wamblee grumbled.

"And I fell and the ram hit the top of my head," Chayton sighed. "So yeah, this is our fourth life, but this sure doesn't look like the coast of Egypt. Where are we?"

Wamblee shrugged, "It sure ain't North Dakota, so does it matter?"

Nickolas let out a long breath, "Good point Eagle. Let's see what we can gather up and get off this beach. It looks like the tide is coming in."

The three boys scrounged up what they could. It wasn't much, but there were a few wooden shields, a pair of bows, quintet of spears, and all told they were able to scrounge thirty decent arrows. They then looted the bodies, finding a few pieces of jewelry, some bow strings, and plenty of cloth to work some makeshift clothing, sandals, and even backpacks. It didn't even occur to them to be squeamish about any of this. Truth of the matter was, they were beyond the point where taking belongings off the dead bothered them. They had seen much worse than drowned bodies at this point and looting the dead after battle had become part of the greater battle for them.

As evening fell, and the tide came in, the boys found they had to climb a rocky cliff to get well away from the incoming waters. Once at the top, they looked down fifty feet to the narrow strip of beach and out across the water using the moonlight. Wamblee spoke first, "Nothing out there guys, and we need to find some food."

Chayton glanced around, "The sun set to our right, so the ocean is to the south... That means we are on the opposite side than it was in Egypt. Egyptian men washed up around us, so we can't be too far from Egypt. What's across the Mediterranean from Egypt?"

Nickolas answered without hesitation, "Straight north of the Nile Delta is Turkey. Persian territory, if we are close to the same time."

"At least we can speak Persian since we were under their occupation in our second life." Chayton pointed out.

"It would be nice to know the language." Wamblee agreed, "The first few months in Egypt sucked."

Banter back and forth continued as the boys made their way further up the hill. It didn't take long for them to figure out this was totally different than where they had been. This land was much more hilly and even mountainous, plus green and lush. They walked until deep into the night before stumbling on an apple tree. They wasted no time in climbing up, picking several of the fruits, and enjoying a food they had not had in... Well, it had no easy answer. They debated this between bites. Was it hours, days, or years?

They woke late the next day. The sun was high in the sky and while it warmed the land, it was not nearly as intense as the deserts they had fought on. The shade from the forest canopy combined with a gentle breeze off the nearby ocean helped their demeanor, as did the seeming abundance of fruits they actually knew. For not far from the apple tree, Chayton noticed a blackberry bush and just up the hill Wamblee discovered a pair of pear trees.

The trio collected as much as they could carry, making pouches out of cloth and tying them to the end of spears so they could be easily carried over their shoulders. It was heavy, but years of dealing with carrying lots of gear, food, and trudging across the sand as part of an army prevented any of this from seeming harsh. They even joked about how they would have all claimed abuse if they had been forced to do any of this back in North Dakota.

After two days of walking, skirting the larger hills to the north, heading west, they settled down for the evening next to a large stream with a decent amount of blackberries growing alongside. The sounds of the ocean hitting rocky shores could be heard not far to the south. They settled in for an early night, spearing a pair of fish each. Lighting a fire proved to be the hard part because things were not as dry here as they had been in Egypt, but the principals they learned with making a fire from a friction stick, coupled with leafs and shavings of wood finally allowed them to make fire they could cook over. They let the fire die down to embers before covering it and went to sleep early.

Well before morning, something woke Chayton. He sat up and grabbed his dagger. It was dark with little moonlight. Nothing seemed to move. Years of being in an army, however, told him to not simply roll over and go back to sleep. As he grabbed a spear and stood, Nickolas and Wamblee both woke and grabbed weapons out of pure instinct. Nickolas quickly whispered, "Falcon, what's up?"

"Not sure. Something woke me though."

The other two didn't hesitate, they both secured shields and spears as they stood.

Knowing the dark was doing nothing to help him figure out what first woke him, Chayton did what he was taught by those who trained him in Egypt. The pitch blackness of the desert allowed the mind to play tricks, even to the most experienced soldier. Because of this phenomenon, when something seemed off he was taught to close his eyes and use the sense which was harder to deceive, hearing.

After only a few seconds he heard something, at first it didn't register over the sounds of nearby waves, but then... it was rhythmical, so not natural. It took a few moments before they realized it was the sounds of splashes. They were almost unified, but not quite. "Oars!" Nickolas shouted. "There is a large rowed ship right off the coast!"

The boys gathered their belongings and moved in the direction of the coast. As they did so, the three saw something and all stopped. It was a figure sitting on a rock, watching them. Since it was a human figure and he figured he was in Persian lands, Wamblee spoke in Persian, "Who are you?"

There was the sound of a deep chuckle followed by a voice speaking in Egyptian. "My, my, it was been quite some time since my eyes last fell on the three of you!"

While the words didn't elicit an immediate response from Nickolas or Wamblee, Chayton recognized it. He gasped out in English, "Mr. Khaldun, what are you doing here?"

The figure stood and moved slowly closer, keeping his arms out to show he had no weapons in his hands. He continued to speak in Egyptian. "The language you speak is not one I know, at least not yet. Khaldun, however, is a name I gave myself countless moons ago. Hello again, boys."

Wamblee spoke in English, "Khaldun, Egyptian for eternal. How come the pieces are starting to fall in place?"

"Boys, please use a language I know. Persian, Egyptian, Greek... just to name a few. May I approach?"

Chayton glanced back at his friends before nodding while switching back to Egyptian, "Sure, as long as you tell us where we are and why!"

"Where? Well, this I believe you need to figure out for yourself. The why... This is a much more interesting question. I have to assume a future conversation and close acquaintance with you caused me to offer you a chance to explore something you wanted to know more about. You three, however, are a much larger mystery to me than the others."

"Others?" Nickolas asked, "How many?"

"At this point, just over a hundred singles and small groups."

Wamblee joined the conversation. "Why are we more of a mystery?"

"Quite simply, it is because I have had multiple contacts with other groups over a much shorter period of time than the three of you. I heard rumors of three boys fighting a Persian landing, then being captured by them. I gathered it was you all since there are so few fair skinned boys in Egypt. Since you say you speak Persian, this was you, no?"

"Yeah." Chayton snarled, "After getting killed outside of Dapur... You sure didn't put us in a place giving us much of a chance!"

"While you are like all the others, blaming me, I had very little to do with anything but the first fall through time. Even in your first, one of you provided the exact setting. The rest was taken care of by Isis and other beings beyond the touch of most mortals, and only on the fringes of what I know and understand."

Nickolas shook his head, "I don't understand. You don't know what we asked for?"

"How could I? I have not really talked to any of you before this." Seeing all three start to argue he smiled, "Listen to my words boys, I did not say you haven't talked to me, only that I have yet to talk to you."

Wamblee ran his hand down his face as some of the teachings of his great-grandfather allowed him to comprehend more than his friends. "Spirits are out of time but you aren't right?"

"Very good young... I believe I heard you have the name Eagle?"

"Yeah. I'm Eagle, this is Falcon, and Nick."

Seeing his friends looking at him with total bewilderment, he took a second to combine what he had been taught with what Mr. Khaldun was saying. "He is going through time just like we do. He never really spoke to us when he was at Ramesses' side. He really got to know us in the future sometime. He doesn't remember this because it hasn't happened for him yet!"

"Most excellent, Eagle." Khaldun praised.

Nickolas shook his head as he tried to make sense of this. "OK, so are you saying in this time, whenever it is, you don't know us and don't even know why you sent us back in time?"

"First, I did not send you, I channeled the spells within the scarabs and asked for Isis to do so. This takes energy from me, but it is a way to keep life interesting, since She always sends those I channel for close to me. This allows me, over vast periods of time, to see what I have wrought. This has ranged from astonishing to disastrous. The only reason I first knew who you were was the mark of Isis I put on the hilt of your blades. She has a ship in her hand. I use this symbol to tell me she is transporting you through time."

Chayton frowned deeply, "So you change time for fun?"

"No, no, no." Khaldun laughed, "I am not even sure the likes of Isis has such power. Time does not get effected. I only affect what comes after you return to your time, which is the leading edge. At least as best as I can tell this is the way it works."

"No." Nickolas argued, "You have to change time by sending us back. We all killed hundreds at this point. Are you saying this means nothing to the future?"

"Believe me or not, young Nick, no it does not. Time has wrinkles in it but the main focus cannot be altered. For instance, you arrived at Kadesh and astonishingly, fought, and survived! This is a first for me up to this point in time. Not one person or group has survived their first impact in time with a success such as you all managed to do. Still, what you did and whom you killed is a side note in History. Those you killed would have been killed by others. Those you saved would have been saved by others. Ramesses still takes full credit for Kadesh, and there are no mention of the three of you. Tales handed down of your exploits will have died out by now or attributed to others. You were part of history in the making, but did nothing to change the flow. The treasures given to you would have been given to another and would have been lost just like yours were. If they were meant to be found to really alter history, they will still be found by the same person. It is just the way the Spirit of Time makes the needed alterations as to not destroy the flow."

Chayton shook his head, "So this all means nothing?"

"Oh, young one, no," Khaldun countered. "While it seemingly means nothing, what you live and learn as you make your journeys will stick with you. The memories tend to get jumbled but they sort out quickly enough. Eventually, with some luck and guidance from Isis and other spirits, you will return to your time with skills, knowledge and much, much more, than you would otherwise have. Sometimes this means great things, other times just the opposite for those in your time and the near future of your time. Most of the time, it means something to you all, but little to the greater world. I will just have to wait and see what is in store for the three of you.

"However, since I finally have a chance to talk to you, would one of you mind telling me what it is you wished to do in the recesses of your history?"

Wamblee gave Chayton a pretty hard punch in the shoulder, "Falcon, here, thought it would be great to be a warrior through all of time!"

Chayton sighed, "Yeah, and after talking to you..."

"No, young one, do not tell me of the conversation. Part of the joy of me doing this is not seeing all the pieces fall into place until they at last do. Right now, in your time, I now know of this conversation, but no others. It is enjoyable for me to see things develop."

Nickolas stepped forward, "Can I ask you something which really bothers me?"

"You may."

"Something you said... With some luck and guidance we will return to our time. Does this mean we may not get back?"

"Indeed it does. Over half I have sent back do not. Many by choice, I might add." Khaldun held up a hand to stop comments, "With luck and the guidance of Isis, we will talk more of this. Right now, I feel it is time for me to step in and give you a chance at two paths. One is to stay the course with being a warrior. If you do this, everything you have been through will seem like a dream compared to the nightmare before you. The other is to take a second branch, to live and see history as a commoner in this time..."

Chayton shook his head as he interrupted, "I didn't have my head smashed in and put back together again just to do nothing. I want to be a SEAL when I grow up. I say bring it!"

Wamblee and Nick exchanged glances before nodding in agreement. Wamblee spoke for both of them. "We wanted to be warriors and each time we have moved in time we have been given the chance to become better. Let's do this."

"Very well." Khaldun spoke, while eyeing Chayton with an odd look. He seemed to shrug something off as he moved up and studied the necklaces and scarabs. "You have lasted in each life much longer than most, so getting through all of time may prove to be problematic, depending on how much more time is left between now and the leading edge of time. However, this period will make or break you. I will step in at the needed time to see to this chance you wish to have. When this happens, make no sign you know me and expect the worst. May Isis and all spirits be with you boys."

Chayton help up his hand, stopping Khaldun, "I need to ask one more question."

"Please. It is most interesting to hear what comes to those I assist in living outside of their times."

"The slaves... The girls we were given and those we took before we attacked Dapur... What happened to them?"

"Ah, living again means questions about former loves and acquaintances. This is a question I hear much. As for those you owned, the girls were freed by my hand since you died in honorable service and I know you all, reluctantly at first, learned to like them.

"Those you were given at the siege of Dapur, if they were the three in your tent, Prince Setepenre took them. One was added to his harem. The boy, and I must say that was an interesting choice..."

"I took him so the men wouldn't!" Wamblee shouted with a very red face.

"It would have been better if you had taken liberties with him. Since he was untouched, one of the prince's guards took interest. I can only guess he died a slave to the man. The other, I have no knowledge off. From here on out I really need to pay better attention to such interests of those I send back. I will endeavor to do so."

Nickolas looked up with a truly hurt expression. "How could you let them..."

"He was a captive, a slave by right of conquest. Surely you must all understand this!"

"But it's wrong..."

Khaldun blinked in surprise, "Wrong to take spoils of war? Come now, it has been the right of the victor to take spoils from well before you first arrived back in time! No wonder you all wished to be warriors. You must come from a land of spineless men with no primal drive. The future, upon your return, will be interesting indeed!"

All three were at a total loss for words and it must have showed since Khaldun snickered, "Just remember the next time you see me you must show no familiarity toward me or this chance will be lost. Now let me see what you have learned and show those I will have with me you are indeed filled with the hearts of warriors!"

The trio watched the man move off into the forest before the sounds of oars hitting the water distracted them. Even as they moved back in the direction of the coast Nickolas glanced over at his friends, "It's Mr. Khaldun, but it sure isn't the same guy who sent us back in time!"

"Nothing like the guy we know, but look at what we have seen!" Chayton argued. "If he really doesn't know the future past where we are, this is what he knows, all he knows. The Egyptians and Persians both take slaves and I have read Greeks, Romans, and almost every power until about the time of our Civil War did the same. Slaves were even in the Bible and I guess I never really thought about it, but the bad guys in the Middle East are taking girl and women slaves even in our time. While it sounds bad back home, seeing what it means... It is so much worse. We just got lucky we were taken by the Persians and turned into warriors for them or we would really know what it's like!"

"OK, yeah," Wamblee cringed as he spoke, "And to think, I was about to ask what could be worse than being trained to fight in the deserts of Egypt while on a march back to Giza."

"Guys," Nickolas responded, "everything we have been through has been more than anything I could have had in any nightmare back in North Dakota, so don't think about it. One thing is for sure, I am never again going to complain when Mom doesn't let me turn up the heat in the winter or turns off the air during the summer to save money! I never realized just how spoiled I was!"

This caused some nervous giggles of agreement as they turned toward the coast, which proved to be much closer than they thought. As they did so, the topic of discussion was, not surprisingly, time. The conversation with Khaldun raised more questions than they answered. Wamblee seemed to grasp more than the other two, but it was still very confusing. The biggest part was trying to figure out how they could not be changing the future. It really didn't make much sense.

As they got to a rocky edge leading down toward the ocean, the sun was just starting to cause a glow to the east, but the ocean was still pretty dark. All three spotted torches on the deck of a pair of long flat boats with curved rams in the front. The two ships were angling toward a beach with a small village nestled up on a nearby hill.

"Persians!" Wamblee hissed as he pulled the bow he was carrying and pulled down until it was bent enough to string it.

Even as he did so, Chayton looked over with a whistle, "Wow, I've never gotten one of those strung by myself!"

Wamblee glanced down at the bow with some astonishment, "Me neither!"

Nickolas pulled the second bow and did the same thing. He eyed it, then tested the pull, "Some of the other lives must be sticking with me. Cause I couldn't do one of these even when I was sixteen or seventeen-years-old back in Egypt!"

Chayton dropped his food while securing his khopesh and shield. He then started running toward the nearby village. "I hope you're right, cause there has got to be close to a hundred Persians about to come ashore and there can't be but five hundred people total in those buildings. Most will not be fighters and those who are, probably aren't going to be able to handle a single Persian."

Nickolas glanced over to Wamblee as the two moved to catch up to Chayton, "I sure hope Mr. Khaldun knows what he is talking about, because this seems more like suicide than smart."

"No, this is crazy," Chayton stated. "Deciding to charge King Cambyses was suicide. I still can't believe I went along with you two on that."

"It almost worked." Nickolas chuckled.

"Only because no one ever expected anyone to try!" Chayton retorted.

"Which is why I wanted to try! They were going to slaughter us anyway, so what difference did it make?"

"Maybe they weren't going to kill us..."

"Hey, he marked 2000 Egyptians for death after those morons under Pharaoh Psammetic III decided the killing of the Persian envoy and the entire ship's crew was a good idea. Since we were soldiers, we would have been picked. You two charging him allowed me to get an arrow off. It's not my fault his guard took it for him."

Chayton couldn't help but smile, "I still think getting trampled by the horse and chariot served you right for ever dreaming the idea up."

Nickolas pointed down toward the water where the first group of Persian scouts was already hitting the beach. "Well, those aren't envoys this time!"

Wamblee held up his hand to stop the other two, pulled up his bow and fired an arrow. Two long seconds later it fell out of the sky and caught the lead scout in the face. He fell screaming.

Nickolas took a knee, "Nice shot, showoff." He then did exactly the same thing, only his arrow went a little low. It sunk into the third man's calf.

Chayton glanced down as the last four men on the beach looked around with bows up scanning the hills leading down toward the beach, "Too bad I don't have a bow and we don't have more arrows. They have no idea where we are."

Wamblee let another arrow fly into the pre-dawn gloom. "At least we can take out the first unit which will slow them down and let us get to the village."

"You know they will come in force because of this."

Wamblee shot Chayton a sinister looking grin as a third man on the beach fell, clutching an arrow sticking out of his stomach. "We'll save those for you since you are the best up-close fighter."

"Gee, thanks, but you better use those arrows well, because there ain't no way I am taking a hundred of them!"

Nickolas snickered as yet another scout fell to one of his arrows. "If they stick to fifty warriors per ship like normal they'll be down to ninety-four shortly!"

Each boy fired another arrow, leaving only one on the beach alive, but with an arrow deep into his leg. Chayton pushed the bows down even as both his friend readied to finish the man off. "No, let him tell the others what happened. It will force them to move up the hill slowly, with shields up to fend off an unknown force of archers. By then we can be in the village and try to warn them to flee."

"I don't think we will be able to talk to them, though. I've never seen buildings like those down there." Wamblee argued as he notched another arrow.

"All we can do is try, and if you kill him they will do what Persians always do, they will rush to the village, bent on revenge," Chayton countered. "Keep in mind, the sun will be up high enough for the ships to see their scouts lying on the sands in just a few minutes. If one is alive, they will find out what he knows. If he isn't, they will charge."

Nickolas gave a single nod to Wamblee who lowered his bow. Each of them had their place and had grown to accept their positions. Each could do what the others could, but they found it best to play to their strengths and this was one of those times. Chayton was best in tactics and close in fighting. Wamblee was the best at archery and scouting, while Nickolas turned out to be the cool headed one and the best at repair of weapons and leather. He was also better in close quarters than Wamblee and better at archery than Chayton.

The three moved into the village only to find many had seen the ships just off the beach. Most were fleeing while a much smaller group of men and older boys grabbed weapons, most of them makeshift, and stood at the edge of the settlement.

Wamblee eyed the twenty-three villagers, even as they turned to face them in a threatening manner. He glanced over at Nickolas, "On a bad day I bet we could take most of them."

Chayton noted them holding knives, sticks, and a trio of spears, only one of which was being held properly. "Once the old guy in the brown dress goes down, they have nothing left. Even if we can get them on our side, they will be of no help."

"So let's show them how it's done and stop making fun of them," Nickolas hissed. "At least they are willing to try. We have seen way less."

Chayton could find nothing in Nickolas' statement to argue with, so he nodded. "Try to talk to them, or do your hand motion thing. You're better at it than we are. Hopefully, once they see us take a couple of those Persian idiots down, they'll understand, but they have to let us first."

At this Wamblee nodded in agreement. Before the small detachment from the village could do more than look threatening, he turned, pulled up the bow and fired down the hill. One of the men on the beach fell face first with an arrow firmly embedded in his back.

"Shields!" Chayton roared as he pulled his over his head and ducked down as low as he could.

Behind him, Wamblee and Nickolas did the same thing. A spilt second later slightly more than a score of arrows rained down on them, one hitting an older boy in the hip who had moved up with a stick raised while shouting at them.

"Stupid!" Wamblee snarled as he snap-fired another arrow, dropping yet another Persian.

A second barrage of arrows fired from much weaker Persian bows rained down around the boys. The teen behind them was stuck multiple times by this flight and died with his hand still clutching the first arrow to hit him. Behind the boy, two others were hit and the rest scattered in panic.

At the same time the Persians saw this and charged.

"Ah, crap," Chayton spat. "If we live through this it will be a miracle! Fall back to the buildings so we can fight back to back!"

The first four Persians moved up on the boys did so at a full charge. They saw boys and the distain on their faces at being opposed by children showed. It didn't last. Two fell to Chayton's khopesh, while the other two crumpled with arrows in their chests. The light Persian armor was no match for the heavy power of the well-made Egyptian bows. Three more men quickly fell, one to each of the boys. Chayton pulled the shield back and plunged his khopesh into and through the biggest of the three who clearly badly underestimated him. To his right and left, his friends were slightly slower, but just as effective with their own khopesh blades.

The rest of the Persian force saw this and charged in mass, fury all but written on their faces.

Suddenly, a new sound came from the east side of the village. As if out of nowhere, thirty-two of the biggest, meanest, nastiest looking men any of the three boys had ever seen poured out of an alley and into the narrow street right in front of them. Each looked identical; a helm covered everything but eyes slits, metal breastplates covered their chests, a large round metal shield with designs painted on them was in the left hand, and all wore sandals with armored leg grieves. All had spears in right hands and blades which looked like a type of short sword at their sides. Before the Persians even knew what they were up against, the men expertly formed into four lines of eight, raised their shield with their left arms and pointed spears straight forward at the onrushing eighty plus men. The resulting carnage was by far the most awful, yet awesome, spectacle the boys had yet to see.

Persian bodies crumpled in mass on the wall of metal and muscle. Then, to make things even more devastating, the men pushed forward a few steps, slamming spears into those behind the first to fall. Those further back in the ranks of men, showed their spears sported yet another surprise. The back end held a small but nasty spike. Any who were still thrashing under them were ruthlessly dispatched by this added weapon even as they continued to push forward. In a matter of two minutes it was over. Seventy-nine dead Persian were stood on by thirty-two men. The last few Persians ran in terror back toward the beach. Not one of the new arrivals had fallen and none appeared to even be winded. Only a few bled, and this was universally ignored. It was also of some note most had blood coating their feet from those they had stepped on, but none seemed to notice.

A man in the middle of the front rank removed his helm, eyed the boys, then spoke to someone off to his left.

Khaldun came out from the alley dressed in robes, but holding a round shield and carrying a spear. He responded, got a return answer and turned to the boys, "My king says you hold untapped potential. Finish off those who fled. He wishes to see you in action where he can fully observe."

Chayton glanced at the ranks of men and what they wore, then turned to his buddies and, "You heard the man, let's do this!" Before this could even register with Wamblee or Nickolas, Chayton charged.

This spurred the other two into action, even though they were both awed, stunned, and bewildered by what had just transpired. As they moved toward the beach, Nickolas spoke up, "Why aren't they doing this?"

Chayton answered, still stunned by his sudden revelation, "Dude, haven't you ever seen the movie 300?"

"Rated R, Mom won't let me…"

"Same here…" Wamblee responded in a sudden awe-struck reverence as the bits and pieces of the movie he had seen combined with what the men behind wore dawned on him, "Holy shit! They're Spartans! But I thought that was all fake…"

"My mom doesn't care what I watch, so I've seen it a couple of times. And, yeah, lots of it is fake, but the stand of the 300 happened. I saw it on the History Channel! And, I'm telling you, the one Mr. Khaldun called 'king' looks a whole lot like King Leonidas did in the movie and on the History Channel special! If you think I am going to tell him 'no' you're freakin' nuts!"

Down on the beach, the remaining six Persians saw the boys moving at them. One of the men shouted at the others to give him time to get to his ship even as he made his way to the water. Three men moved on the boys, while two others stood at the water's edge, protecting the last man.

Chayton took the swung blade of the first charging man to his shield, pushed forward, and used the shield to help him roll around to the man's non-weapon side. Chayton was ready for the predictable response of the man trying to push off with his bigger and stronger build. As soon as the push happened, he shoved his khopesh under the upraised shield, and sliced a deep ten-inch gash across the man side. He then spun around and sliced into the back of the man's neck, nearly decapitating him. He finished the spin so he was in a good fighting stance facing the remaining men down at the water's edge.

Wamblee took a different tactic. He let the man knock him down. As he hit the sand, he rolled into the man's legs and shoved his dagger into the man's groin. As the man fell forward gripping his crotch, Wamblee continued the roll and shoved the dagger into the man's back.

Nickolas did the standard shield hook, and thrust. Seeing intestines spilling out of his opponent, he didn't bother to follow up. Instead he moved to catch up to Chayton.

A shout of warning from one of the two remaining guards caused the last man to turn. His eyes seemed to bug out at seeing three more of his men down and all three boys coming at him with grim determination in their eyes. With a deep breath the man turned away from the water's edge, pulled a nasty looking sword, and readied himself.

Chayton made right for the man, knowing from past experience the biggest and toughest was his. Nickolas would take the second strongest and Wamblee the weakest. The other two would have to decide which was which, because there was no question the guy closest to the water was the Persian leader and leadership was earned. The dead giveaway was the barely noticeable outline of scale armor under the normal baggy cloth of the standard Persian warrior.

Even as he made a beeline toward the warrior, he knew he was not coming out of this unscathed. However, he had one advantage, his age. It really didn't matter how many he had taken down. The look in the eyes of his opponent told him there was no fear, only anger. Being challenged by a boy, while men stayed back was an affront to the Persian army, plus an insult to him personally.

Still, the Persian was lighting fast. As soon as Chayton got within range, he used his free hand to yank the boy's shield aside while his other hand, still wrapped around the hilt of the blade, punched Chayton in the chest, knocking him down. He then tossed the shield off to the side while a malevolent glint flashed in his eyes.

Chayton scooched back on his butt away from the man, purposefully not digging his heals into the sandy beach deeply enough so he didn't move far at all. To add to the deception of him being terrified, instead of just afraid and angry, he dropped his khopesh and covered the spot on his chest where he had been punched.

The man only had to take a couple of steps forward to close, then raised his sword up and tried to drive the tip into Chayton.

This was the kind of move Chayton had been hoping for. Even as the blade plunged downward, he rolled. The blade nicked his side, but even as this happened he pulled his dagger with his left hand and drug the blade across the back of the man's foot, cutting it all the way to the bone. Then, as the man fell toward him, Chayton rolled over the man's back driving the blade deeply into the back of the man's other thigh, then pulled it toward him with everything he had.

There was no way the Persian could stand again, and Chayton knew it. This gave him a chance to shake off the blow to his chest and put his right hand over the cut on his side, He stood, grabbed his khopesh, and swung. The last second attempt at blocking the swing by holding up both hands proved to be worse than fruitless. Both severed hands hit the sand even as the edge of the khopesh cut into the man's ribs.

Chayton paused to whip his dagger into the side of Wamblee's opponent, then turned look at Nickolas, who had dropped his opponent and was in the process of using the fallen warrior's own spear to skewer him.

Even as Wamblee took advantage of the surprise dagger attack to drop his foe, Chayton looked toward the village. What he saw caused his blood to boil. Thirty-one of the men were leaning against out outermost buildings, observing. Even as his felt this burst of rage, however, the man referred to as 'king' came forward with Khaldun.

The king held both hand out to show he was not armed, spoke, then waited for Khaldun to translate.

"Boys do not talk to me or even look at me. Talk to him. I am nothing but his voice and your voice. To shorten what he said: he wants to know if you wish a chance to hone what the sands of Egypt has started to forge within you?"

Out of the corner of his eyes Chayton noticed both of his friends nod. Still he couldn't just accept, he had to know for sure, "Is he really Leonidas, and even if he isn't, yes!"

Whatever Khaldun said caused all the men behind the king to slam their spears into their shields loudly enough to sound a great deal like thunder.

The king spoke again.

"To answer your question, you are correct, even though I have no idea how you would or could know of this. Do not tell me in this time. I look forward to finding out in a distant future. Again I shorten his words. He warns this offer is not to be taken lightly, as it kills as many as it makes men out of."

Chayton took a deep breath, having seen the History Channel special. He knew Spartans took young boys away at age seven and trained them to fight by pitting them against other boys, tested pain by flogging kids, forced them to fend for themselves and even steal food since not enough would be given. If caught punishments would be beyond vicious too. Yet, if they could make it through all of this, there was no question, the three of them would be way more than anyone could hope to be in his own time. Besides, to say 'no' to a legend… there was no way he could. This was King Leonidas of the 300!

Chayton steadied his breath, "Great King, there is no honor larger than what you offer. We accept, as there is no one power who can shape a boy into a soldier like Sparta!"

As the words were translated the men all slammed their shields with spears again.

Leonidas tuned to his men and spoke. After only a few seconds all thirty-one spears were held high in the air.

King Leonidas turned back, "I asked who would approve of me taking you in as future Spartans and who would sponsor you. As you see, there is no dissent and no spear was lowered, so there are plenty to sponsor you. Now, go take your spoils off those you fell and bring them to me. I will hold them for you until you become men. Now, a few words of advice.

"The boys we barracks you with, will try to drive you out. We will say nothing, nor do nothing to stop them. It is up to you to show them why thirty-two Spartans stand united in letting you add your bloodline to our great people. The next time I speak to you, should I live, will be when you are moved into a warrior house."

The first few months were brutal on two fronts. First the training was non-stop and in many cases flatly sadistic. Wrestling matches between them and their new bunkmates often turned into fist fights and degenerated into brawls. Those who gave up faced caning from the adult overseers. Those who cried were ridiculed. Those who ran were expelled from the city, never to be talked about again.

Second, they were taller and slightly larger than the ten and eleven-year-olds of Sparta. This meant, King Leonidas had them put with boys of about twelve years of age. While they fit in size-wise, they were a bit under developed in the groin region when compared to their new bunkmates. Since the only clothing any of the kids in the bunkhouse had, was a single cloak-like garment of wool, it was impossible to hide behind clothing. This caused them to be seen as impotent and unmanly. Furthermore, the other boys saw newcomers who had not gone through the first four years of training and figured it would be easy to force them out. They were not even of Spartan blood, and deserved no such honor. Sure, warriors had sponsored them, added them to their own houses. The why, however, was never disclosed. Making matters worse, Chayton, Wamblee, and Nickolas didn't speak the language, so it was easy to conspire against them.

It was halfway through the third month when Chayton took a stick across the back of the head from the biggest boy and simply had enough. He stepped back into the boy, delivered an elbow into the boy's face, then grabbed the stunned kid's arm, pulled him to a nearby tree, and swung him face first into it. Chayton didn't stop there. He secured the boy's other hand, so he had one wrist on each side of the tree, and yanked the fledgling Spartan face first into it. Finally, he held onto both wrists and pulled himself up on the tree with his legs, using the helpless kids arms to do so. Once he walked up the tree a trio of steps, he pulled the boy tightly to the opposite side of the tree, bent his knees, then yanked, gaining a great deal of extra power from extending his legs.

Both shoulders came out of place and there were audible snapping sounds as both of the youngster's collarbones snapped.

Wamblee used the distraction to take out the kid's best friend with a leg sweep, then a flurry of kicks to the face.

Meanwhile, Nickolas slammed his fist into the overseer picked 'lead boy', knocking the wind out of him. He then locked his hands together and slammed them down over the kid's back while bringing up his knee. The 'lead boy' was unconscious before he hit the ground, but like his friends, Nickolas was bent on delivering a message. He kicked the boy over so he was laying on his back then jumped, tucked his knees, and landed on the kid's chest. Several rib bones broke.

A whistle from the overseer brought a trio of other Spartan warriors over. First the men pulled Chayton, Wamblee, and Nickolas off the terribly injured boys, then, once they were certain the blood fury had subsided, they patted them on the back. The whole bunkhouse, minus the three who had been taken out, was then lined up. The Spartan warriors spun Chayton, Wamblee, and Nickolas to face the remaining kids from the bunkhouse, praised them, before handing them extra rations. The message was clear to all. The three outsiders were not weak, were not seen as non-Spartan children, and pushing them too far was potentially fatal.

A new kid, one who had never been part of trying to drum the boys out, was named 'lead boy' and the victims were taken and tended to. One died, the other two recovered enough to be placed in a lower bunkhouse to continue training with the next age group down, but were never the same.

Over the next few years they endured it all, including floggings while holding onto a pillar once a year. The adults screamed for them not to yell out, not to pass out, not to even show pain. Those who handled it the best were rewarded, those who fell first were ridiculed by the overseers for weeks.

Upon completion, as promised, the spoils they had taken as boys were handed back to them by King Leonidas and at last the story was told of what had lead to them getting a chance to become Spartans to all. With the king's help, all of them were quickly accepted into an adult barracks which had lost men fighting the growing Persian threat. A month later, Leonidas led them to Thermopylae. There, using the phalanx formations of four lines deep of spearmen, they held the line for over a day, killing well over a thousand Persians.

Once it was discovered they were being flanked, King Leonidas ordered all men who didn't have kids back while he stayed with his 300 men. Chayton's group was tasked with going to help the Athenians. The boys and their group of Spartans never got to see home. Instead they were taken by the Greek commander Themistocles and put aboard a ship where they fought and died defeating the Persian fleet at Salamis.

Once again they spiraled upwards from their watery graves and lived yet another life in Japan in the Iga Province, where they learned patience was something a warrior needed to learn as well, while training under the tutelage of the Mori clan.

While learning the arts of combat from a totally different perspective, they once again ran into Mr. Khaldun. This time the man was a master metalworker in the village where they ended up. Chayton remembered what the man had said when handing them the khopesh swords, 'I have been a blacksmith for more than a few years. When Chayton reminded Nickolas and Wamblee of this, they couldn't help but snicker and roll their eyes.

Khaldun once again helped them get accepted then did little but observe. In total, the man only had a dozen short conversations with them even though they lived and trained in the same village. Six years later they fell as yamabushi, or ninja, to a samurai led force during the Iga Revolt.

This time, as they spiraled upwards, the beetles seemed to repair the damage to the sword slashes, arrow wounds, and smashed bones slower and the pain was greater. However, after living as a boy in Sparta, pain was a strictly relative thing.

The three woke as the scarabs moved back to the Ankhs and nestled into their chests. The luster of the silver necklaces was gone and they were much thinner than they had been when Mr. Khaldun had first presented them. All three could tell, not all the injuries had healed this time. There were bumps, bruises and a few minor cuts left. They opened their eyes to find themselves all but trapped under debris. Above, the sound of a chainsaw could be heard, as could the shouts of people calling for a paramedic to get a woman out of a car.

Nickolas blinked and managed to shove off a section of wall so he could free himself. "Are we really back?"

Next to him Wamblee grinned as he felt the swirl of cold air rush over him, "Oh, yeah! Burger King, here I come!"

Chayton snickered despite the fact a large crate was lying on his chest, making breathing a little difficult. Yet, it didn't compare to having an overseer standing on his chest as he did lying down pull-ups in Sparta. "Man, Eagle, is burgers all you ever think about?"

"Over the last several lifetimes, yeah!" Wamblee grunted as he shoved something heavy off his shoulder.

"Better than honey." Nickolas snickered as he wiggled himself free enough to help Chayton push the crate off his chest.

"Oh..." Wamblee shuddered, "the month of honey... Nope, don't think I'll be eating any for a very, very long time!"

Chayton rolled free of the rest of the debris on him, then used his shoulder to shove a chunk of something off of Wamblee's right leg. "Depending on how you look at it, Eagle, it has been a very long time!"

Nickolas snickered as the three boys glanced at each other with the help of light streaming in from some floodlights shining into the building.

Nickolas grinned, "Do you have any idea how stunned they would be if we all just stood up, and pushed our way out of this mess?"

Wamblee laughed, "Oh, yeah! Let's do it!"

A couple of minutes later the three shoved the last of the rubble off and emerged as a group. Their sweats were shredded, they were in bare feet, and they had a few cuts and scrapes on them, but otherwise they were in astonishingly good condition. The jaws of the rescue workers and dozens of onlookers dropped as they each brushed some remnants of the outbuilding off their shoulders and took deep breaths of the snowy night air.

Mr. Khaldun was first to move forward followed closely by Kohana. The men grabbed blankets and put them over the boys' shoulders. Chayton sent Mr. Khaldun a bit of a disapproving glare, "We are Spartans: we don't need blankets."

Kohana eyed Wamblee who also pushed the offered blanket aside and stretched. "Sorry, Great-Grandfather, been colder wearing less. No need."

As the boys were escorted toward waiting ambulances, Chayton looked over as his mom was handcuffed to a gurney and loaded into a separate ambulance. The officer was reading the rights thing and telling her of charges of reckless driving, speeding, and a whole host of others, including 'dozens of counts of child endangerment' for driving recklessly with so many kids on the streets trick or treating.

Chayton whispered, "Going to be a bit harder for you to move me somewhere now..."

Mr. Khaldun couldn't help but chuckle, "Being around as long as I have, I know a judge in the area who owes me a few favors. I bet I could get it transferred to his court. We could get her an offer of 3000 hours or so of community service, here, in exchange for no felony record. It'd take her at least four or five years to work it off, if not longer."

Kohana glanced over with a raised eyebrow, "I could almost begin to like the way you think."

Even as they were talking, Timothy moved up to secure Chayton in a hug while Nickolas' mom did the same with her son.

Seeing this, Wamblee leaned against his great-grandfather who was motioning another man over.

All three boys were then lifted into the back of a running, thus warm, ambulance with paramedics insisting they get checked over.

The boys all looked up as a man with olive colored skin, dark brown hair, and odd-colored very light brown eyes moved up.

The man looked down at Chayton and started to speak, but his voice faltered.

Kohana spoke up, "Chayton, it took me a few days, but once I got your father's full name, it didn't take the council much effort to find him. This is Hiam Suhtai, your father, full name Hiamovi Suhtai, translated in Cheyenne as first name High Chief and his last name is of a lost tribe that seems to have joined the Cheyenne tribe, then helped in the defeat of Custer."

Chayton blinked for a second, then looked down at his khopesh and the hieroglyphics on it. "Falcon, son of a high noble of a great warrior tribe..." He glanced back up at Mr. Khaldun, "You knew?"

"I know many things. Now your father has come a ways to see you, only to wonder if he ever would. Now is the time..."

Hiam glanced between his son and Mr. Khaldun, "No, I will let them get to the hospital; we will be able to talk there once I am sure he is all right."

"Oh, come on, I'm fine!"

Hiam looked down, "You are going to get your butt to a hospital and I will see you there; no more arguments!" He paused, then shrugged, "I am your father and I am sure your mom's boyfriend, Timothy, would agree you need to be checked out and he is your guardian at the moment..."

Timothy nodded in full agreement, pulling Chayton into a hug again before letting go. He did, however, stop to run his eyes from the top of the boy's head down to his bare feet, fully inspecting the boy. The lack of any serious injuries astounded him. After another careful look, he spoke up while ruffling Chayton's hair, "You know, by all rights, you should be dead."

Chayton glanced over at his friends, trying hard to suppress a smile but failing, "I think we might have been for a time."

The other two couldn't help it. They busted out laughing.

The paramedics exchanged astonished looks before the lead one spoke, "I'm shocked to hear myself say this, but they appear to come out of this nearly unscathed! Getting them checked out would be a great idea, but there is no need to transport them by ambulance and cost you all a fortune."

Mr. Khaldun spoke up, "I have a warmed up Avalanche. Why don't I take them and you all follow just so we can make sure."

"You don't have to..." Timothy started to argue.

"According to the firemen, these three saved kids by pushing them out of the way. It would be my honor to take them."

Kohana shot Mr. Khaldun a questioning glance, but said nothing. Instead he turned to Timothy, Nickolas' mom, and Hiam. "Tim, why don't you follow him with all of us. I feel it would be best just to make sure, although they do appear remarkably intact."

The boys were carried over to Mr. Khaldun's Avalanche by firefighters who didn't want the boys walking across the snow with bare feet and also wanting to congratulate them on their heroics.

As Mr. Khaldun pulled away into the falling snow, Chayton let out some of his annoyance, "We didn't even make it to a time of real guns! How can I be a warrior if I don't know how to shoot?"

Wamblee decided to join in, "Why'd we come back after only getting to the time of Samurai? Plus, we skipped over Rome! I was kind of hoping to see it!"

Nickolas also spoke up, "Rome would have been awesome. But after Japan, we could have at least gotten a chance at World War I or something!"

With a gleam in his eyes, the History teacher spoke. "Where you went in time after your first stop had nothing to do with me. Isis guides to where She sees as best. As for why you are back here, the silver in the first chains gave out because of how long you lived in each time. The spells of Isis need the silver to keep you anchored in time. She could not keep you behind your time safely any longer. However..."

He dug into his pocket and produced three more boxes containing silver chains. A wide grin spread across his face as he held them out, "The spirits of the dead are worshipped elsewhere tomorrow, so the gates will once again be thin and Isis' power strong. For tomorrow is day of the dead. Shall we continue?"