Key To The Highway, Chapter 8: Let The Laughter Begin

I have always had a sense of humor. Though it tends to be a little more cerebral than most people are able to handle, it has always been there. Sometimes dark, sometimes absurd. The darker seemed, at times, to be a bit sadistic but had purpose. The absurd was typical childhood humor without the cruelty that often gets called ‘practical jokes’. 

This isn’t to say that I didn’t play practical jokes. I did. And often at the expense of those who were too slow to catch on what was going on…specifically those so immersed in greed, hate, and ignorance that they had no clue that they were being made the rube. Wealthy men and women often fell to my pranks. Hatemongers too. 

Some of my more elaborate pranks would not be pulled at this time as I was too small and not willing to plan anything big. But it was not my pranks that would grab attention. It would be the comedy skits I would begin recording at this time. 

They started as asides during recording, something to get the other musicians to lighten up and laugh. They soon grew into an opportunity to show more talent. Another side of me. 

And so, ‘Baby Jay’ grew into the first studio-only comic who was both self-depreciating and irreverent all in one. Playing off my actual age, I began piecing together the ‘baby’. By the time recording was done, I had everyone in the studio rolling with laughter.

Singles were made, small animated vignettes of hilarity playing off the character portrayed. They went over so well that I quickly became an underground comedy favorite. Adding to my myth and mystique, the comedy helped build the legend.

I also began becoming adept at playing cards. All forms of poker. Solitaire. Rummy. 

I could also call where the roulette wheel would stop. And the dice. And the slot machines. My grasp of mathematics allowed me to observe and note, then accurately predict. 

And though I was too young to be a danger, I would be officially banned from all casinos simply as a safeguard. If I were unable to enter, no adult could use me as a ‘good luck charm’. At the same time, this would work to my advantage when I got older.

But, at the age of one, I was not allowed in. not even under adult supervision. Except as part of the entertainment. Not that we ever played in the casinos.

***

I had yet to prove myself in the home of my biological parents. This would be the first winter I would spend with them. It would be my first winter of being ‘normal’. Whatever that was. 

I was not really looking forward to it, as I knew that I had an older sister I would have to fool as well as my own parents. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to pull it off. Especially if she got too rough with me. Luckily, I would be able to walk and babble. After all, the average one year old could ‘talk’. 

I just had to be careful how elaborate I got with my words. At the same time, I could speak almost any foreign language and still be thought to be babbling. It would be interesting to see how they reacted. 

As far as I knew, none of their close friends were multilingual. That would keep most from knowing what I was saying. It would make the ‘babble’ effect work well enough to fool them. I could practice my linguistics and not be suspect.

I just couldn’t do anything else. No martial arts. No writing. No music. Nothing to tip anyone off.

Luckily, the first winter would be short. It would go from October to January or February. After, I would return to my beloved Louisiana. It was my first vacation. I would treat it as such. 

But the vacation was still a moth or so off. I could be myself until then. I could practice my music. I could act in films. I could make people laugh.

There was also the social events that I hated. And the stage appearances I loved. And the classes that I relished. 

Life would be good until I had to go. I would be more than satisfied when the time came. Perhaps I would be ready for a vacation.

At the moment, I sat playing guitar. But not just any guitar. David Bowie had given me a brand new guitar shaped like a skeleton key. He had called it ‘the key to the highway’, a sort of joke referring to how music was always the key to freeing the wandering soul. 

The neck fit my tiny hands perfectly. I could fret it with such precision that I could get the precise sound I wanted. I could hit all the right notes.

I had retired the ‘toothpick’, the guitar I had designed and had been using, upon the receipt of the key. It just seemed right. After all, ‘the toothpick’ was getting a bit worn. And the ‘key’ resembled a normal guitar where ‘the toothpick’ did not. 

***

Night always brought dreams. Sometimes, they were nightmares. Mostly, they were enigmatic dreams. Riddles without clues. 

Being raised with a spiritual grounding, I saw all dreams and nightmares as messages. Some were prophetic. Others were more warnings against a certain course of action. Or against getting too close to certain people.

And being spiritual made me less religious. In fact, it made me non religious. I was a child of nature. Not a child of the unnatural.

And religion was unnatural. It lacked soul. It still does. 

Nature provided all I needed. All I wanted. I lived in my soul. 

I still do. A concept that most have a hard time understanding. It is a concept man has strayed from.

I was a soul in a human body, not a body given a soul. I saw my body as the car that my soul was driving, not as its prison. The uniqueness of my view set me at odds with most religious people as they always saw their souls as their possession, not as their only form of being.

Religion always taught that the soul was your possession. Something you could buy and sell. I came to realize that we did not own our souls. They were on loan, so to speak, to us. They were ours only in the fact that we were to repair the fractures already in it over our lifetimes and leave it better than it had been when given to us. They were not ours to sell or barter with. 

I also realized that religion’s fixation with the souls of those around it was wrong. The individual was never meant to control their fellow humans’ actions, but was meant to learn how to control themselves so that they could change their view of those around them through changing their internal world. Only by changing what was hidden within could one ever change the outer world. 

I had also realized that the truth was not an exclusive commodity. It was not held by just one ideology. It was everywhere. In everything. 

There was no single book that held it all. There was too much of it to be contained in a book. Or even a set of books. 

Key To The Highway, Chapter Seven: More Mature Than Most Adults

Most adults prefer fantasy to reality. It seems the basis of their religious beliefs as well as their political convictions. Children do not have that failing. Their fantasy is less complex.

Being a tad different has its advantages. It strips one of all illusion. Thus, there is no fantasy.

That doesn’t mean that I did not have an imagination. I did. I still do.

It just means that being different put things into perspective. Makes one think logically. 

It also means seeing through the facades of those around you. The religious leaders. The actors. The producers. The musicians. 

For a one year old, I was rather mature. I thought little of playing with toys, though I often had spare time. I thought most of the business at hand, whether it was music or writing…acting or building new businesses. Or just about my studies. 

At my accelerated learning rate, I had already earned a bachelor’s degree in every subject I was studying. And I had top grades, too. From what I gathered from the discussions I had overheard, I had the highest IQ ever discovered, and at such a young age.

No child had ever exhibited such a high IQ at such a young age. None had ever matured as quickly, mentally, as I was. I could read beyond the level of most adults. I could work out problems, mathematical and scientific, that adults were still struggling with. And all before I could tie my own shoes.

But, then, I would always have trouble tying my shoes which was probably why I preferred boots and slippers. There was nothing to tie. Nothing to trip over. 

I had designed my own costumes for the stage. They had been intended to hide my age. My appearance.

As a result, I had added to the myth. I had created a personna. An illusion of being older. 

I was a renaissance child. I was multi talented. Even those who knew nothing of the truth could see that I was no ordinary child. No ordinary person.

***

Dōshite son’na koto o shimashita?” Haido Matsumuri demanded. (why did you do that?)

Sore wa tekisetsudatta,” I responded simply.

We had been in the middle of lessons on the ways of the samurai and I had made a move that had both surprised and delighted my Japanese teacher. 

“Sōdatta,” he nodded, “shikashi, yosō sa rete imasendeshita. Anata wa mada sore o shiranai hazudesu. Anata wa kesshite odorokanai.” (it was. But wasn’t expected. You shouldn’t know that yet. You never cease to amaze.)

“Yatte mimasu,” I smiled. (I do try.)

“Anata wa tameshite miru ijō no koto o shimasu,” he smirked, “Kimi wa seikō suru.” (you do more than try, you succeed.)

High praise from the master. He rarely praised. Still, I was his best student. I was far better than his older students. I learned quickly. He knew I could be lethal if the need arose.

“I think Naruto Agisaki should begin teaching you the way of the shadow,” he said, his Japanese accent bending his English, “though I would hate to see what you are like with real swords. You are very dangerous.”

“Dōmo arigatōgozaimashita,” I stated, bowing in respect, “Arigatōgozaimashita.” (Thank you very much, thank you, Master.)

“Dōitashimashite,” he replied, bowing in a very pleased manner. (you’re welcome)

He left the gym and I continued to practice. A short time later, Shu Won Chow entered.

Zhǔnbèi?” He inquired. (are you ready?)

“Shì,” I responded. (yes)

“Ránhòu ràng wǒmen kāishǐ ba,” he instructed.

Aside from the linguistics and philosophies he taught, he also instructed me in every form of Chinese martial arts. These lessons began with kung fu and ended with Tai Chi or Wushu. Strenuous to relaxing. 

Like Master Haido, he rarely gave compliments. Strict and austere, it took a lot to surprise and delight him where a student’s actions were concerned. But, as always, I was the exception. 

***

I had spent my morning and early afternoon learning to fight. Sarge, my military tactics, military statistics, intel, and history teacher, knew better than to be a drill sergeant when instructing me. He also knew that any attack on me would be futile. I was dangerous, even at my young age. I was a living weapon.

He had spread the word to avoid me. I was his boy. His pupil. No one was to bother me.

And for the first four years, there would be no attempts made to prove him wrong. That made it easier for me. It kept me free to explore my talents. My strengths.

With an education most could only dream of, I could play the struggling student in school once I reached the age to be in public school. It would be necessary. No one could know of my true intelligence level. I had to play the average child.

Strangely enough, I already had a normal education. By normal, I mean a high school equivalency. After all, I had tested higher than most college students on the SATs. I had tested high on the military tests as well. I had placed higher. Much higher. 

Thus, they had seen to it that I learned what most children 2 years older than I was learning. I flew through kindergarten level material, then through grades 1-8. I even found high school classes way too easy. 

Thus, within a month, I had completed what would take 13 years for the average child to acquire. I had completed in one year what took most young adults four years to acquire. And I did it with nearly every subject within the core of the collegiate degrees I was going after. Medical. Political science. Business. Mass media. 

I was a walking human computer. I was a consummate actor. And I was only a year old. 

But I was well on my way toward my second year. Deadly, extremely intelligent, and extremely talented. That was the best way to describe me. And yet, it kind of fell short.

I was more complex than I seemed. And yet, I was still rather simple. After all, I was a child.

 

Key To The Highway, Chapter 4: The Wee Hours Of Sixpence

There wasn’t always a work schedule. Sometimes, recording lasted well into the night. Other times, it lasted only three hours. 

It just depended on how much we had to do. Concerts lasted well into the night. Small club venues also lasted into the night. 

I began writing stories and rough novels at this time. Not that they were really all that good, but I began experimenting with words. And at my accelerated mentality, they were a kind of oddity. 

Those around me, and especially Jean Edivere, ghosted on them rewriting them into better stories and books. The end results were…fascinating to say the least. And very profitable.

I suppose it was this fact that helped build the myth that I was a midget disguised as a child. But the adults around me did nothing to dissuade that notion. Instead, they seemed to encourage it.

In a way, I think the myth grew out of people’s inability to accept that a child – a toddler, really – could write such dark and terrifying books and short stories. Hell. Most could not accept that a toddler could write anything, let alone walk and talk.

I didn’t care. I simply wrote down my nightmares and dreams. And every little inspired piece of nothing that came to mind.

I also began experimenting with writing lyrics. These, I distilled down until they sounded professional to myself, then distilled them down even further until they sounded professional to the musicians around me. They were added to select melody tracks already recorded. 

The resulting songs would define my early work. Or, at least the more radio friendly portion of my work. After all, radio tended to dislike the instrumental. It tended to like the story song, the ballad. 

Mysteries. Horror novels. Action/adventure. Suspense. Science fiction. Fantasy. Dramas. Historical fiction. 

I incorporated everything I was learning into what I was writing. Nothing was wasted. Nothing was sacred.

My books became popular and each book and series began to grow a sort of cult following. Even though I never appeared for book signings, my books became underground best sellers. Not that I cared.

 

***

 

Oi, jovem,” Jair smiled, “O que você está fazendo?” (hi, young man, what you doing?)

“Nada,” I shrugged, “Falando com você, eu acho. E aguardando o início da sessão.” (Nothing. Talking to you, I guess. And waiting for session to start.)

“Veremos?” He grinned. “Você está fazendo alguma coisa!” (see? You are doing something!)

“Sim,” I nodded, “ você está certo. Eu acho.” (yes, you’re right. I guess.)

“Sim,” he chuckled, “Sim.” (yes, yes.)

I loved speaking to the Brazilian. It helped me exercise my knowledge of portuguese. 

“Eu tenho um filho da sua idade,” he stated suddenly, “Espero que um dia ele se junte a uma de suas bandas.” (I have a son your age. I hope one day he will join one of your bands.)

“Eu também,” I smiled, “ficaria honrado.” (Me too, I would be honored.)

“Eu também,” He smiled and nodded, “você seria um professor tão bom para ele.” (Me too, you would make such a fine teacher for him.)

“Você também,” I stated simply, “você me ensinou muito apenas trabalhando com você.” (you would too, you have taught me so much just working beside/with you.)

“Obrigado,” he replied humbly. (thank you)

“Não é nada,”  I responded. (It’s nothing)

I had touched his heart. But I loved working in the studio with him. He actually did teach me a lot. Especially about Brazilian music. 

Whether it was rhythm or guitar stylizations, I could rely on him to help me get it right the first time. He was a sweetheart of a man as well. He had three sons. Both of the older sons already worked in the bands as rhythm. His youngest was too young to do anything yet, though he was old enough to walk. Sort of.

 

***

 

I had auditioned for a part in a movie. All I had to do was act like a toddler my own age. It sounded easier than it really was, as I was no normal child. 

I was a born prodigy. The adults continuously used the word ‘genius’. But I did not think of myself as a genius. Just lucky.

Lucky enough to have an easy time learning at a very young age. Lucky enough to have my own career. Lucky enough to travel the globe as a musician. 

And now, despite my apparent lack of knowledge on how a ‘normal’ child my age acted, I was lucky enough to begin an acting career. It would be good practice for when I had to go back to Iowa. 

I was not SAG. I was not union. I was too young. Still, I was well enough connected that I could get parts. And I did.

I had over a dozen lined up, one after the other. I had dozens more waiting after. Each would be a two week workout. Each would make me more connected. More experienced. 

I would become part of many powerful families in Hollywood. This, alone, would make it imperative that I be a part of social events in Hollywood and New York. It would also make me dislike the very rich…and the very powerful.

But that was in the future. I was just beginning on my road to fame on the screen. I was still naive about much.

At this point, it was two films per month. The bands would perform where the films were being shot. I would pull double duty.

And I would observe all. How to direct. How to get the best out of an actor or actress. How to make it all come together.

I would learn the art from within. Producers would see me as one of their children. Or as the child they never had. 

Or most would. There would be some that I would learn to stay away from. Others would prove a bit idiotic. 

Key To The Highway, Chapter 3: Calico Jack And His Cactus Playboys

Calico Jack was not his real name. Nor was his band called The Cactus Playboys. That was the name they used when they didn’t want to be recognized. But they were well known country musicians. They had crossed paths with my mother when she was working in the west on a ranch. It was there that her father had sold them her lyrics out of jealousy.

But instead of stealing her songs and recording them as their own, Jack had seen the grievous wrong that had been done and had kept the notebooks in case he would meet up with one of her children. And he did.

He recognized her in me immediately.

“Well, now,” he smiled, “you must be ‘Baby Jay’. you look like your mother.” He paused and looked at me. “She is  Carla Starkie, is she not?”

“Yes,” I nodded, “that was her name before she married my father.”

“I have something that belongs to her,” He admitted, “or should I say several things. They were sold to me out of jealousy and vindictiveness by her father. I decided that I would keep them for you. You see, I would never steal the lyrics of someone else. No matter how good.” He looked at one of his band. “Will you go get the case with Carla’s things?”

The man left for a few minutes, then returned with a briefcase and handed it to Jack. He nodded to the gentleman and sat it on his lap. He opened it carefully. 

“These now belong to you,” he smiled.

“So,” I began, “I can do whatever with these?”

“Yes,” he nodded.

“Then I will record them,” I smiled, “and put the money aside for her.”

“That’s very noble of you,” he averred, “do you have anyone in mind to help you?”

“Perhaps you,” I admitted, “and various other vocalists. Or I might form a band specifically for these. Not sure yet.”

“Take your time,” he advised, “plan wisely.”

“I will,” I promised.

I immediately set about forming Supersticion to record the new songs. The final lineup of the band would not emerge at this time. It would take time. And much consideration. 

I would never see Jack again after that. I would learn later that he had died a short time after our meeting. His bandmates would retire from the business after his death and vanish into obscurity.

 

***

 

Disfrutando la musica?” Mario inquired. (do you like the music?)

“Si,” I nodded. (yes)

“¿Puedes jugar?” he pressed. (can you play)

“¿Por el oído?” I returned. “O una vez enseñado?” (By Ear? Or after a lesson?)

“Ambos,” he responded. (both)

“Si,” I nodded again. (yes)

“Dejame escuchar,” he demanded, reluctant to believe me. (show me)

I began playing the Cuban guitar riff I had just heard him play. His mouth dropped open. 

“¿Como es eso?” I inquired, smiling. (How is that?)

“¿Pero cómo?” he stared at me in disbelief. (But How?)

“No es nada,” I shrugged. (it’s nothing)

“Ah, Mario,” Mel Tibideau mused as he entered the room, “I see you’ve met James. What do you think?”

“Is not possible!” the Cuban exclaimed.

“James is a born musical prodigy,” he chuckled, “I assure you that it can and is possible. He also knows how to speak multiple languages. Very proficiently, I might add.”

The exasperated Cuban simply shook his head. Mel burst into a bout of uncontrollable laughter and looked at me.

“It’s almost time,” he announced.

I nodded and left the room. I knew what he meant. Recording would be started soon. I needed to get ready.

I headed for the studio down the hall. Once there, I would get my drums ready. First, we would have a short lesson. A sort of warm up.

After, we would begin to record. Drums. Bass. Lead and rhythm guitars. Piano and organ or keyboards. Then, vocals.

 

***

 

“Well done, my boy,” Mel nodded, “well done.”

“T-thank you, Grandpapa,” I responded, blushing.

“You’re welcome, son,” he grinned.

“Will there be more of the same tomorrow?” I inquired.

“Recording, yes,” he nodded, “visitors, no.”

“I don’t mind visitors,” I shrugged.

“No,” he grinned again, suppressing the urge to laugh, “I guess you don’t at that.”

“Bonne soir, Grandpapa,” I hugged him. (good night, Grandpapa)

“G’night, my boy,” he whispered in my ear, “now off to bed with you.”

I ran to my room and climbed in. I had done very well. No retakes had been needed. No note had been played offkey. All had gone as planned.

Mama Tibideau entered and began reading my nightly bedtime story. I sat back on my bed and closed my eyes. Life was good. Life was very good.

The story droned on for about an hour. She always read to me for an hour every night. It wasn’t that I didn’t already know how to read, it was just her little tradition with all her children. And I was one of her children.

When she was done, she closed the book and put it back on the shelf. 

“I heard you did very well, chile,” she smiled.

“Yes.” I averred.

“Then it has been a great day,” she nodded, “tired from the day?”

“Wi,” I nodded. (yes)

“Then lay down,” she admonished, “and let the night take it all away.”

“Wi, manman,” I answered sleepily. (yes, mama)

I laid down. She tucked me in, kissed my forehead, and turned off my light. I lay there, after she had gone, thinking of tomorrow. 

“That’s a good boy,” she whispered, her Creole accent lulling me to sleep.

I yawned and closed my eyes again. She was right. The day was done. Tomorrow was not yet.

In a way I couldn’t wait. The morning would be my daily lessons in everything from economics to creative writing. Those would be followed by martial arts and music. But music was always last. 

My last thought was of music. My play. My fun. My escape from reality.

Then, I knew nothing. My day was over. I was asleep. 

Key To The Highway, Chapter 2: Raising A Legend (the new ‘chapter 2)

I was introduced to my teachers over the first month of my new life. Izaak Berg would be my fiddle/violin teacher. He was an old German Jew, a rabbi in a local synagogue. He would also be teaching me my classes in Jewish theological studies. 

Father Malachi would be my instructor in the concepts of Catholicism, Thomas Creed would teach me an unbiased, nondenominational, non religious yet in depth course in Christian theology. In other words, he would teach me the truth. Not the lies used to pull poor saps into religion. 

Faisal ibn Awat would teach me about Islam. What it had been meant to be. What it had become. He would also teach me about Rumi and the mystics of Islam. 

Haido Matsumuri would teach me about Shintoism. Shu Won Chow would teach me about Chinese enlightenment. Lankahr, a special emissary from the Dalai Lama, would teach me of Buddhism. Mahmut Shivala would teach me of Hinduism. 

There were shaman and priests brought in from every known belief system in the world to teach me every known philosophy. But Mama Tibideau would teach me Voodoo. 

Professor Allen would teach me economics. Professor Loire would teach me political science. Professor Matthews would teach me ethics. Sergeant Acton would teach me military tactics and all things concerning the military. Several martial arts senseis were brought in to teach me their methods of self defense. The best known scientists, physicists, doctors, mathematicians, and historians were to be my instructors. I had the best teachers from MIT, Stanford, Yale, Cambridge, UCLA, and other universities. 

Not only me, but a handful of toddlers and young children as well. Some were of school age, but I was the youngest. The purpose was to see if a mere baby was able to learn or whether a child had to be older.

I would prove to be unique. A fluke. One of a kind.

I would be the only child who would be able to learn at six months. There would be no others. I would be a celebrity among celebrities.

Still, I would not see myself as a celebrity. I would be just ‘James’ or just ‘Baby Jay’, not some wickedly famous person who was known by everyone in Hollywood and New York. and I would grow to hate social functions rather early in life. 

I would learn to hate personal attention from others as well. Especially from adults. I would learn the evils that lurked in their minds. The darkness they tried to hide from their adoring fans.

 

***

 

“Isn’t he just the cutest?” I heard one actress say.

“Just makes you want to go have one of your own,” I heard another state.

“Girls,” I heard Cher say, “knock it off.”

I had grown close to Sonny and Cher, though I hated going to their social events. I was just getting to know Chastity, their daughter and saw her as a friend. 

In a way. I saw them as a strange part of my extended family, much the same way I would come to see others in Hollywood. But only away from the social events and fundraisers. 

Here, I was both ‘Baby Jay’ and James. It just depended on the reason I was visiting. When it wasn’t for something to do with society ‘responsibilities’, I was James. At social events, I was ‘Baby Jay’. 

A double life of sorts. The public and the private. But it was what it was. 

“So,” I heard a man’s voice say, “this is the much talked about ‘Baby Jay’ Tibideau.”

I looked up at the sound of the voice.

“Yes, John,”  Cher agreed, “this is Jay Tibideau. Jay, this is John Barrymore.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Barrymore,” I stated, bowing.

“Likewise,” he smiled, then looked up at Cher, “quite a charmer. You’ll want to keep an eye on him when he gets older. He’s going to be quite the beguiler.”

“He’s already quite the little actor,” she giggled, “he has to be.”

“Indeed,” John’s right eyebrow arched, “I wish my son and his…wife…would give me a grandchild.”

“Patience, John,” she replied, “all in good time.”

I would meet Robert De Niro, Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, and many others those first six months as I made the rounds. Some I would find worthy of my friendship, others I would attempt to remain aloof from. But I preferred the company of children to the company of adults. Children were less likely to be…questionable.

 

***

 

Six solo albums. Six band albums with me in different positions within the band. Drums. Piano/keyboards. Bass. Rhythm guitar. Lead guitar. Saxophone. Steel guitar. Whatever needed to be played.

Those band albums would be released in 1975, just before we set out for our first tour with me on those instruments. Our first singles were released immediately, but no promotional videos. The mystery was intentional. 

My solo projects were released immediately, but I recorded an extra for release in January. Again my singles were released, but without the obligatory video sample. Again, the mystery was intentional. 

I would record the rest of 1975’s album projects in January. Twelve albums in all. Each with unique and original compositions. Some with lyrics sung by various vocalists. 

I was a natural. A born prodigy. I learned my instruments very quickly. Almost instantly. It was as if I had been born with an instrument in my hands. 

I would never be any good at ‘normal’ employment. I would never feel right as a factory worker or as a cook. Or anything else. 

With each future job, I would feel like a caged animal. They were so unnatural. So unnerving.

Perhaps some were due to my not being a people person. Or my total lack of interest in them. But most would be because I was never suited for them.

But those were still a ways in the future and I was still a budding musician. I had no clue, yet, what the future held. I was but a babe. 

Key To The Highway, Chapter 5: Daddy Dewdrop

“Do your lessons, boy,” the golden haired old man smiled, “Don’ let de res’ t’ git ahead on ya.”

“Yes, sir,” I responded in my small voice.

The old man, Jean Edivere, was better known as ‘Daddy Dewdrop’ for his silky smooth and sometimes dewy eyed jazz and blues. He had founded one of the bands I now performed in. His piano work could be heard in hundreds of uncredited recordings dating back to before the age of rock-n-roll. 

The lessons in question were my studies, not my piano lessons. The reason, we were now on the road and I needed to keep up my studies. I had already mastered the piano, so I had no worries.

They were slowly working me in. This was to be Jean’s last tour. He was retiring after this.

He was in his late seventies, after all, maybe early eighties. He was getting too old to do this sort of thing. Even he said so. 

He had met my grandfather in Europe during the Great War. they had become fast friends and Grandpa had renovated Jean’s estate in Louisiana. Jean’s son had, then, added the plumbing and electricity a decade later. 

But Jean’s son had died in World War II fighting the Nazis, something Jean had not forgiven the nationalist movements for. I supposed that was why he surrounded himself with the people he did. Creoles. Native Americans. Hispanics. Minorities of every shade. 

Aside from their ability to play music, of course. Besides. They were all friends. Almost family.

He was a hard man, stern, but he was also a kindly man. Completely grandfatherly. And yet, he was strong. Far stronger than anyone else I knew.

“Whut ya workin’ on?” he smiled.

“Statistical predictions,” I replied, “part of the military tactics studies.”

“Lessee heah,” he murmured, “mmmmhmmm. Mmmmhmmmm. They’s gunna be jealous wit’ dat un. Methinks ya got ‘er perfect.”

I blushed, embarrassed. I would never be able to take a compliment easily. Even in my success. 

“T-thank you, sir,” I stuttered.

““Ce n’est rien,” he smiled, knowing full well  that I was also very fluent in both French and Cajun Franglais…as well as Creole. 

The old Colonel had given me high praise, something he almost never did. I had done something perfectly. 

It had been six months since I began my journey and it was now my first birthday, June 4, 1975. I rarely spoke so as not to raise suspicions about my age. Not that it mattered, especially before a show in my dressing room backstage. Onstage was a different story. 

“Ready fer the crowd, son?” The Colonel saw me as a son of sorts and often referred to me as such.

“Oui, Papan,” I smiled, “certainment.” 

“Dat’s my li’l chile,” he chuckled, pleased at the ease with which I had answered him in French, “dose uddah chilluns have nuttin’ on you. You speck trois languages, c’n count higher th’n any uddah…an’ could probably mix dynamite in yer sleep. I declare, you’uns gunna be big.”

I blushed, not knowing what to say. Though it felt good to have someone who believed in me, I was still easily embarrassed by open praise. 

“Naw, boy,” he grinned, “no need fo’ embarrassment. C’est bon d’être loué.”

“Pardon moi por…eh…” I began.

“Ce n’est rien,” he replied, then hugged me, “just know we all proud on you. You learn fast. Faster than those older than you.”

“J’aime la connaissance,” I responded.

“An’ so you should,” he nodded.

I went back to my studies and he left the room. That would always be our conversation. It was inevitable.

 

***

 

Being raised Cajun is a unique experience. Being raised Creole also. But being raised as almost every nationality was an amazingly strange one. 

You learn languages you would normally never be exposed to. Lakota. Ute. Navajo. Apache. Cherokee. South and Central American indios. African dialects not spoken by most. And Romani. 

And that was on top of French, Spanish, Creole, Cajun Franglais, Italian, German, Gaelic, among others. And I reveled in language and linguistics. Each became natural to me. 

And I learned to speak them all before learning how to write. At one, I was a chatterbox that could switch from language to language at ease, never missing a beat. Indeed, I was living proof of the researchers’ assumption that a young mind could learn easier than an older mind. Mentally, I was more nimble than those four years older than I…and they were more nimble than youths four years older than they. 

Onstage, I was quiet and mysterious. It added to my mystique. And though the band called me ‘Baby Jay’, the audience often believed that I was a midget adult that no one got to see. And though there were lines of fans outside my dressing room door, none would be allowed to enter–adding more mystery to my persona. 

And the idea of my being a midget rather than a child would remain until the visible signs of growth could be seen. By then, it would be a moot point. Until then, I enjoyed the ride. And the secrecy.

Band by band, I was eased into the lineup and a member retired. Guitar. Bass. Rhythm guitar. Drums. Saxophone. Fiddle. Steel guitar. Whatever was needed.

Up to this point, I had released twelve solo projects and founded one band. Each solo project had been released on a per month basis. All had been recorded at the same sessions. The first six had been recorded the year previous and released as a box set. Those being released in 1975 had been recorded in January and were being released one a month, but also as a box set at the end of the year.

As I was known as ‘one-off Jay’, I almost never had to redo a recording. Timing. Rhythm. Solos. Music was an extension of my soul.

Everything else never crossed my mind. I cared nothing for money. I had no concept of what fame was.  There was only music.

Soul Shard Chronicles: Houses of the Holy; Episode 1, Chapter 2

2.

 

John was paralyzed by the scene playing out in his head. It felt so real that he thought he was literally there! It was so dark! So frightening!

Santa appeared. Not the traditional Santa, though the creature was dressed in the same red, white, and black suit, but a Santa that had fiery red skin and a hideously demonic visage. Instead of a bag, this Santa wielded a sword and a club.

“You will bow to me!” It demanded. “I rule the world! I am your god! You will observe my day! You will speak of no other! You will bow to me!”

“I bow to no one,” he heard himself say.

“Then prepare to die!” the Santa cried.

It seemed to take him forever to come to the realization that he didn’t need to run. After all, the dream had begun the moment he had gone to bed and fell asleep. How long he had been asleep was anyone’s guess. One hour? Two? Three? All night?

Then, he turned and faced the monstrosity. Suddenly, it stopped chasing him and became indecisive.

“You hold no power over me,” he stated, “be away with you.”

And then, it was gone. A wisp of smoke marking its passing. He opened his eyes and looked at the clock. It was 4:30 AM. he had been asleep most of the night.

Again he had been shown something. But what? What had been revealed to him? And why?

As with his vision of the headless bodies, he could tell no one. Not one soul. Otherwise, they would think him crazy. Or merely seeking attention.

He knew he wasn’t crazy. Nor did he really want attention for such things. They frightened him. Confused him.

He didn’t like the idea of having those kinds of dreams. Nightmares. Nightmares that he couldn’t wake from until they were over. Nightmares that held messages.

No, he would rather gain attention from things he did right. Not dreams he had. Or visions. Or anything that could be misused.

He rolled over and went back to sleep. Maybe he would have better dreams from this point on. Darkness consumed him and he drifted back to dreamland. This time, there were no Santas. Only dark worlds filled with war. Destruction. Like an old war movie.

But at least it was less frightening. Less abrasive. He could handle war scenes.

Perhaps it was because home was a warzone. Or because it was a break from the religious crap his parents believed. Whatever it was, he was willing to watch it play out.

Bombs were exploding everywhere. And yet, he was oddly unafraid. It was as if he was in the lead of those around him. They seemed to follow him into the thick of battle without question.

But who were they fighting against? And why? What had happened to the world?

***

He hated dreams. But here he was, in the middle of yet another terrifying dream. Mystery of mysteries. And all mysteries seemed to be shown in dreams. And nightmares.

This time, he was being chased by a giant horned ram’s head. Or was it a goat’s head? Or a mixture of both?

There was no body. Just a head. A living, bodiless ram’s head. Or goat head. First black, then changing color constantly. And that grin!

It was almost human! And extremely evil! As if the head meant him harm.

No words. No warning. It simply appeared and began chasing him in his room. Then up and down the stairs.

Again, it took him seemingly forever to realize that all he had to do was turn and stand his ground. Maybe hours. And even when he did, he hesitated.

When he finally turned to face it, it shrank and disappeared. He was getting tired of the cryptic dreams. The strange, otherworldly visions. He wanted a peaceful night’s sleep.

Something he had not had for a while. When he wasn’t having dreams that scared the shit out of him, he was dreaming of wars in places he had never been. Ruined cities. And yet they all felt so familiar. So normal.

It unnerved him. He was a child. He wasn’t supposed to have these kinds of dreams.

And yet, here he was. Being given clues. But to what? And why?

***

He loved hearing the coyotes howl just outside his window. It was one of the plusses, for him anyway, of living in the country. Another was being around animals. Playing hide and seek with the goats. Having a safe haven from his sister in the old barn near the lower pastures.

For some reason, the spirits there defended him. Hid him. There was no other way to explain it.

The old tack room was a great place to find solitude. And John loved to be alone at times. Especially after being threatened by Leanne.

There, he could ponder the meanings of his dreams and visions. Not that he would have any revelations, but he pondered them anyway. But because they haunted him on a daily basis.

And the coyotes put him to sleep. So soothing. So serene.

Thunder had the same effect. It was soothing, especially when it was distant. Even the sound of rain soothed him.

But there were dangers out here as well. Lightning. Tornadoes. His sister.

But he had friends. Billy Marliss and his sister, Nicki. Their sister Regan was too young to hang out with them on the bus. Nicki, though seemed to have a crush on him. Billy, though, watched his back.

And then, there was Nicole Arlington, who also seemed to have a crush on him. She would sit with him when Billy was not on the bus and want to play house. Not one of John’s favorite games, but it passed the time.

Then there were Craig Wills, Danny Harolds, Wynn Paldry, Jonnie Pensley,  and Stan Johnson. Chuck Fields and Jeff Upheldt didn’t really count. They weren’t as close as ‘the gang’. Penn Dringer had moved in Kindergarten, so he had long since faded from importance.

But even ‘the gang’ was not as close as Billy and Nicki. Or Charles and Nikki. Those were John’s closest friends.

Billy and Nicki lived just up the road. John could go visit them any time. Charles and Nikki were family friends and he could visit them whenever his mother went to visit theirs.

And then, there was Ellie, Donnie, and Daria. The Morrisons. John’s father was a friend of their father, his mother a friend of their mother.

Finally, there were the Walstons and the Maldwells. The Maldwells were also old friends of John’s parents. But the Walstons were ‘church friends’.

The Maldwells had seven children. John had become friends with the two youngest, John and Terri. Leanne was friends with the others as they were too old for John to get close to.

The Walstons were a whole different matter altogether. All of the Walston children were too old for John to be friends with and their parents made him uncomfortable. Robert Walston was a braggart and Mindy was a prude. A snob.

All the boys were too old to be too friendly with. The girls as well. John was too young to enjoy cars or girls. Nor was he interested in racing, football, or wrestling.  

 

The Vampyr Wars: Witch Doctor; Book 1: When I Was a Child, I Thought As a Child…; Chapter 25: My Sacrifice

I am to go with Ninurta for a season.  I will return after the Sumerians have trained me in their ways. In my place, Sekhmet will be training a ‘youth’ named Gil-Amarek.  Of course, Gil is not exactly a youth. He is 2,000 years old, the same age as Resos the scribe. Correction. 1,000 years younger than Resos.

But our fates are tethered together, Gil and I. We are of the same…cloth. We are both neither human nor Eldyr race. Nor are we of the ancient hunters. We are a separate people altogether.  Would that be an accurate assessment?

I am both excited and a bit scared at this move. I have never been outside Egypt and know nothing of the outside world. Until recently, my little piece of Egypt was the world. Now, I will be going into another very foreign world to me.

“Will we see the city-states?” I ask.

“From a distance,” Ninurta assures me, “but there really isn’t much to them. Just small settlements surrounded by supportive farmland. Sumer isn’t really a kingdom. Just a bunch of allied cities that act independently.”

“Somewhat like Egypt,” I state.

“Well,” he smiles, “yes and no. There isn’t really a push to unify at the moment. Just a tendency to cooperate, yet war with one another when the mood strikes or stores get low.”

“I see,” I nod, “but unification is inevitable.”

“Indeed,” he nods, “as it is everywhere.”

“And your settlements?” I ask.

“They lay in the desert,” he remarks, “beyond human settlements. much like here. It is part of our treaties with the people of Sumer. As they expand, we move farther out into the wastes.” He looks at me. “Eventually, we will be left with no place. We will have to…disappear from the midst of man. That is where you and your breed come in. You blend in better. Especially you and Gil. You both can leave this realm and enter the unseen.”

“This is not normal?” I press.

“Not for hunters,” he remarks, “no.”

****

Night is falling and we have one more hunt to go on. The hunt to destroy the alliance between Tiamat and Set. The dragon and the Devil. We cannot afford their alliance to remain intact, at least not within the bounds of Egypt.

We must push Tiamat back into Sumer so she can be dealt with by her own. Just as Set will be dealt with by our hunters. Or they will flee from the known lands into the abyss. We would rather see them flee into exile if we cannot kill them.  The Wadj-men, those Fallen who fled earth with their pale shadow brethren-who are neither hedj nor kem, but a cross between the two-would take them in.

Still, the ideal end would be for them to be killed, not exiled. But it won’t be easy to kill either of them.  Balance must be restored and the breach healed. Even if it means the end of the Eldyr Race in order to protect and preserve mankind.  Yet, we must try to preserve all races. Man. Vampyr. Lycanthi. Scarabi. Scriboi. Archoni. Serephi. Terrephi. Feyin.

Harmony must be kept, balance restored. Light must overcome the dark, order over chaos. Otherwise, the universe will be destroyed. And I, I will play a part in the defense and preservation of the universe.

“Be light on your feet,” Ninurta instructs, “Tiamat can feel rhythm, especially made by heavy footsteps or marching.”

“We have noticed the same with Set,” Sekhmet replies.

“My earlier scoutings have shown me that Ammit and her pets will be nowhere near Set’s abode,” Naunet states, “Meretseger, Khepri, Renenutet, Sepa, Wadjet, and Selket helped on patrol. We patrolled in an inconspicuous manner.”

“In other words, they became snakes,” Khnum smirks, pausing for a bit of drama, “and bugs. Always fun when they become something smaller to avoid being noticed. They can go just about anywhere.”

“And where did they go?” I ask, in response to Naunet’s piece of information, but nodding to acknowledge Khnum’s wisecrack.

“They were sent westward into the western desert,” she replies, “to seek a temple. Or some safe place where Set could hold out if need be.”

“He must be expecting an attack,” Sekhmet nods, “and is seeking a place to hide.”

“If he expecting an attack,” Aten begins, “then we must strike him on all sides. Give him no room for retreat.”

***

As we near Set’s hellish abode, a great dragon rises from the ground and flies to the east. Tiamat. She is retreating to Sumer. Set is on his own. Luckily she has not spotted us.

We wait until she is no longer visible, then move in. Set, it seems, really isn’t expecting us. His blood drinkers offer little resistance.  I can’t really call it much of a battle. Apparently, they have glutted themselves on blood and are unable to put up a defense.

They die almost too easily.  It’s all a little too easy.  Almost unnerving. It is almost as if they had held a blood-feast to celebrate something. But what?

We gain access to Set’s palace. There are dead everywhere. Farmers. Slaves. Minor nobles. Town folk that have been missing for weeks.

“You’re too late,” Set says wickedly, “if you’re here to save them.” He motions to the bodies littering the floor of his throne room. “They served as a wonderful banquet to celebrate a wonderful alliance.”

“We already know that you met with Tiamat,” Ninurta interrupts him, “The question is why?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Set grins darkly. “We want to defeat you. Unfortunately, she could not stay to relish in your defeat.”

He rushes to attack me, but I see a weakness in his approach and trip him…moving quickly to one side to avoid his reaching grasp. he falls harmlessly to the ground, embarrassed. He rises, angry at the affront.

“Until next time, runt,” He hisses, then vanishes.

“Looks like you caught him off guard,” Khnum snickers.

“He’ll be back,” Sekhmet replies, “when he thinks things have quieted down.”

“You’ve just worded his pride, boy,” Ninurta smiles, “But to truly defeat him, you’ll have to come with me and learn our ways as well. The more you know, the better you will become as a fighter and a defender.”

“Then,” I nod, “I shall accompany you to Sumer.”

 

The Vampyr Wars: Witch Doctor; Book 1: When I Was a Child, I Thought As a Child…; Chapter 24: The Wayfarer

We are playing host to a wayfarer, a traveler from Sumer. Ninurta, a great legendary warrior and blood drinker hunter, has come in search of Tiamat. He believes that she is working closely with Set.

“The Dragon,” Ninurta is saying, “has left Sumer. She is wandering the lands of Earth. Elell, or Enlil as you know him, has sent me to find her and kill her if I can. He thinks that she is here in Egypt, helping Seqt.”

“Would you know anything about a new ally of Set’s,” Sekhmet probes, “named Wishmaster?”

“He is a priest of Seqt,” he nods, “who was sent to gain her alliance for Seqt. Apparently, she accepted and they have combined their power. Something to do with a youth that has evaded death more than once.”

“That would be our young child-priest, Amun-Nekeb,” she smiles, “who happens to be more than he appears to be.”

“Ah,” he grins, “one of the promised ones, is he?”

“We are thinking so,” she responds, “he is far more powerful than he appears. And far more powerful than any other pupil we have had.”

“Power to see the future?” He inquires.

“He has that,” she replies, “as well as all of our powers combined….and possibly yours and those of your clan.”

“I believe that we must put him to the test,” he agrees, “perhaps we should arrange a pupil swap. After all, we have a youth among our own who is possibly as powerful.”

“The 1,000 year old youth we have all heard about from Resos?” She pries.

“Yes,” he avers, “Gil-Amarek….better known as Gilgamesh.”

“We shall arrange a trade before Amun is to take up the priesthood,” she states, “the more powerful he is, and the more he knows, the better able he will be to protect humanity.”

“Agreed,” he nods, “but, for the moment, we need to make sure that Tiamat and Seqt are not joining forces…or we will have a problem on our hands.”

“Indeed,” Amun interjects, “and not just a problem. A calamity.”

“When do we start?” Khnum inquires.

“I need to rest,” Ninurta replies, “I suggest tomorrow night. Darkness will give us enough cover to sneak close enough to Seqt’s little piece of desert to find out who he’s making allegiances with.”

****

Our guest is asleep and we are under attack. Seems that Ammit has sent her little servant, Kinslayer, to try again.

“Seems you have a problem,” she sneers at Sekhmet, “my master’s lover has a visitor from beyond the peninsula.”

“Kinslayer,” Amun begins, “those who hate cannot love. they can only use, abuse, and take for granted through lust.”

How dare you!!!” She snarls. “You’ll pay for that.”

“Why not try the one you came to kill?” I inquire with a humble smile.

“It’ll be my pleasure!” She hisses.

My teachers look at me with questioning looks. I smile at them and shrug. After all, she has no clue what I can and cannot do. She still thinks that all I can do is shape-shift, since that was what I was learning when she attacked the first time.

The battle begins. She slowly, awkwardly, picks at my defenses trying to find my weaknesses. Her inability to find any starts to burn as anger in her eyes.  She is frustrated, I can tell. I keep meeting her every attempt with an equal defensive move that leaves no opening.

“You’re not playing fair,” she whines.

“In other words,” I smile, “I am not as inexperienced as you believed.”

“Your cockiness will be your fall,” she threatens.

“Experience,” I respond, “is not cockiness.”

Around us, her blood drinkers are dying by the hundreds. We are locked in a life and death battle, both of us determined to win. But there can only be one winner, and we both know it. Yet, neither of us wants to cede to to other the victory.

But she is growing tired. Her power is weakening. Her resolve, now beginning to crack. But I am not weakening, nor am I growing tired. And my resolve is unbreakable.

I feign a weak point, causing my body to become a mist-like mirage. Thinking that she has the upper hand, she strikes but finds emptiness. My hand enters her chest and I grab her heart.

“If I become solid again,” I inform her, “I will be able to pull your heart from your body.”

“Do your worst,” she hisses bitterly, dropping her weapons from exhausted hands, “you have me at a disadvantage. You have beaten me.”

I materialize and yank my hand out of her chest, grasping her heart. She blinks in disbelief at the sight of her heart, then falls lifeless to the ground.

I kneel next to her and place her heart next to her.

“I really didn’t want it to end that way,” I comment mournfully, “I would rather she yield, not die.”

“They rarely give in and surrender twice,” Amun states sadly, “It is their pride. They cannot accept that one bests them the first time and chooses to die rather than surrender the second time.”

“Send her heart to Ammit,” I respond, “as a warning. I want her to know that her servants are failing her.”

“It will be done,” Khnum replies, “feigning weakness and becoming a mirage was ingenious, especially grabbing her heart and giving her a choice. You did what was right in the end.  Had you been merciful and turned away, not taking the opportunity you had, she would have killed you.”

“Agreed,” Sekhmet avers, “and she would have taken your lifeless body back to Set with her. You showed infinite wisdom in killing her.”

“What did I miss?” Ninurta asks, emerging from the palace.

“Long version,” Atum smiles, “or short?”

“Short will suffice,” our guest responds.

“We know that Tiamat is definitely with Set,” Horus states, “as is Ammit, the soul eater.”

“We were attacked by Kinslayer,” Thoth smiles, “and her blood drinkers. Young Amun-Nekeb defeated her. Ripped her heart out of her chest. The most surprising thing to watch.”

Ninurta looks at the dead Kinslayer, rolling her over to view the hole in her chest. He grimaces at the sight, then notes the glazed look of pained shock on Kinslayer’s face.

“That had to hurt,” he shakes his head in pity, “having your hand solidify inside her chest. Not to mention the extreme torture of having one’s heart pulled out of their chest. Novel approach.”

“He gave her a chance to yield,” Satet remarks.

“And yet,” he smiles sadly, “her pride was too much to allow her a second defeat.”

 

The Vampyr Wars: Witch Doctor; Book 1: When I Was a Child, I Thought As a Child…; Chapter 23: Live To Tell The Tale

The death of Negus has most assuredly reached Ammit by now. If that is the case, then so has the tale of my survival despite her attempts to kill me. Both of these facts are sure to enrage her. But then, so will the loss of most of her blood drinkers.

Thousands of blood drinkers were burned during the morning hours after being stacked like kindling. We slept through the burnings and now rise for a night of hunting. A rumor has reached Sekhmet that shadows are coming to life and attacking humans and hunters alike. She has called them the Shadowkin.

Living shadows. Vile and ruthless, they seem to be everywhere. It leads me to wonder if they will be the next weapon sent by Ammit. No matter, I shall be ready for anything.

I only wonder one thing. How will we see them after dark? Is there something special about them that makes them visible even though they seem to be made of shadow? If so, what?  And how do we know that we have actually killed them?

“Half of us are staying behind to defend the sanctuary,” Sekhmet begins, “while the rest of us will go in search of these Shadowkin.”

“Is there a reason for the sanctuary’s defense?” Khnum asks for my benefit.

“Yes,” Sekhmet admits, “we expect another attack tonight. If it comes, it will be in retaliation for killing Negus. He was pretty high up the chain of command and Ammit will be seething and wanting to exact revenge.  We must be ready from this point on for whatever she may throw at us.”

“And Amun-Nekeb?” Amun asks for my benefit.

“The boy-priest will be out hunting with us on purpose,” Sekhmet answers with a smile, “Ammit will expect him to be here, but he will not. Those left in defense must be extra careful. They will be coming to kill, not to injure.”

“Duly noted,” Isis nods, “they will be bringing the fight to us as you are taking the fight to them. Sort of.”

“Precisely,” Sekhmet agrees, “and those in the hunting party will have to be just as careful.  After all, we know virtually nothing about these Shadowkin or what their powers are.”

“Understood,” Khnum avers.

With this, we leave the relative safety of the sanctuary. We are only at half the strength we generally take with us. But I am not afraid. We shall overcome.

We travel in silence. We must not draw attention to ourselves where blood drinkers or other possible allies of the Fallen are concerned. Our targets will not be drawn by noise, but by our casting shadows. Seems strange to be drawn to shadows, but that is their tendency.

We are out three hours from the sanctuary when the first Shadowkin appears. Then, we are surrounded. They’re everywhere. In front of us. Behind us.

“What do we have here?” a disembodied voice seems to sneer. “A group of hunters?”

Their red eyes, almost slit-like, mark them as something other than shadow as do their vile white grins. Now I realize how to spot them. And I realize exactly what they are. And how to kill them.

“Thrust for their hearts,” I alert the others, “or their heads. Those are the only way to kill them.”

“The man-child is smart,” the disembodied voice hisses, “but he will soon regret his revelation.”

I wait for a Shadowkin to draw close to me, then stick my staff through its shadowy head. It screams and bursts into flame. There are bursts of flame everywhere. But the more we kill, the more that appear.

We are at a standstill in our advance, unable to move forward. Or backward. Still, we have accomplished exactly what we set out to do. We have drawn out the new foe and successfully diminished their numbers.

The battle seems to last a few hours. With dawn nearing, the Shadowkin retreat back to their world of shadows, the slowly emerging light destroying their ability to be of any effect.  Now, with our path back to the sanctuary clear, we also retreat to safety. Still, we cannot figure out why they attacked with such ferocity. What were they preventing us from returning to find?

We finally return to the sanctuary after three hours. Blood drinkers lay everywhere. Neither dead nor living, they were soulless and now lay lifeless. We find that none of those left to defend the sanctuary have been killed or injured.  This last revelation is a good thing. But the carnage is phenomenal.

“They showed a new leader,” Khnum states, “one that the blood drinkers call Wishmaster.”

“Wishmaster?” Sekhmet inquires, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes,” he nods, “at least that is what the blood drinkers called him.”

“What did he look like?” She presses.

“Almost like Set,” he responds, “but not as dark.”

“Send out messengers to the other hunters,” she gives him a concerned look, “and see if they have any information on this new foe.”

“Will do,” Khnum answers.

I watch the diminutive hunter vanish. I look around and find both Neith and Satet also missing. I shrug. They are never far from Khnum.

Atum appears from inside the sanctuary palace.

” Let’s clean up,” he states dryly, “we need to rid ourselves of blood drinker corpses.  There isn’t as much work, so we’ll be able to get some rest rather soon.”

It only takes three hours to pile the dead corpses. Atum lights the pyres and we head for our beds. As I ready for bed, I ponder what I learned this night.

Shadows can bleed. They can die. They can talk. And they can wound.

Set and his blood drinkers have a new ally. He is unlike any other we have encountered. He looks like Set…much the same way I look like Amun. And we have yet to find his weakness.

In the mean time, we will try to find out what we can of this new enemy. And hope that none of those we have encountered will return anytime soon. We need time to rest. I need time to finish my training.

The Shadowkin will be back. So will Wishmaster. And so will Kinslayer and Shezmu, eventually. We can be sure of that.