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18

F I V E D A N C E S W I T H D E A T H

19

C H A P T E R T W O

I could interpret the visions, in his land, a place among nobility could be bought with that gold.

Hernán was vulnerable. He had enemies back home and more enemies right there at the boats. He hungered to be accepted amongst the nobility of his nation, and for that he needed a treasure of gold. Could we find a way to play on his vulnerabilities? On an impulse of joy, I did a short spinning dance. And then I no longer felt alone or safe.

Hernán’s spirit, to which I had attached myself, grew in its radiance, and I realized it had now become aware of me. My spinning must have disturbed our bond. Soon the pressure intensified so much that I was no longer able to stay connected at all. My double was made of the slow-moving energy of the world’s deep regions. A direct exposure to human awareness could kill it, and me.

I stretched along an energy line linking the middle of Hernán’s stomach with his forehead and tore myself out of his body. The f low of life force inside him was clogged and irregular, such that I couldn’t exit smoothly. He cried out in pain and grabbed his temples.

“Sorry, friend,” I shouted, although he could neither hear nor understand me.

I made a circle around the room, taking it in with short glances, careful not to get drawn into the infinite worlds inside each object. There was a pile of clothes next to the wooden platform on which their mat rested, with a sword atop it. Wooden benches, some of them made only for one person to sit, surrounded a table with scrolls of paper and writing implements neatly arranged and looking ready to use. I hovered over the scrolls expecting to see their writing, but instead saw some spidery patterns covering the paper line by line. A tall metal helmet sat at the table’s edge. Its conical top reminded me of one of the headdresses usually drawn on the images of our god Feathered Serpent. The dance of ref lections on the helmet fascinated me, and for a while I circled around it, admiring the play of light and shades. Anabel ’s glance stopped me mid-f light. With her mouth shaking, she stared straight at me with eyes so large they took most

whelmed by the sight of dusty weapons, troops marching across sunburnt hills, and faces grimacing with pain. All the images connected with his father in Hernán’s mind now surfaced to suffocate me. The father had known all about death.

How much death was to come from the hills where Hernán’s people did their killing? Was he a part of an advance band of con-querors scouting for new lands, and how many more were to come? The questions made me uneasy, and I permitted myself to feel frustration.

Hernán’s heartbeat quickened. He pushed the woman away and sank into gloom. He searched his mind for an explanation of the sudden feeling of danger. Faces of enemies f looded his mind. A fat man dominated that procession of illusions. The man held un- mistakable power over Hernán, for he was remembered in precise, unsettling detail, from his soft white fingers and a neat beard to how he bared his teeth in mocking laughter. Were all the boat people the fat man’s slaves? Was he the leader of a rival clan? I couldn’t tell, but I had to know the story behind that fear.

The fat man, though, seemed a distant threat. Another dangerous face, this time of a person much nearer, plagued Hernán’s vision. This was a man with curling orange hair, growing so thickly around his head and face that his eyes were hardly visible. The memory of that orange man whipped Hernán’s heart into a frenzy.

Listening intently, I caught another of his thoughts. Hernán’s rivalry with the orange-haired man stemmed from immediate matters of their voyage. There was a stream of scenes in Hernán’s mind that were set in large rooms decorated with precious stones and metals, fitted out with furniture of many colors, and peopled with men whose faces bore the expression of utmost self- importance. He craved belonging to the world of those men who were, without a doubt, the high nobility of his land. One image underlined his craving, and that was an image of gold melted into neat bars. His desire for the gold bars was endless; the bars in his mind’s eye surrounded him and stretched into infinity. As far as

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