The old man shuffled around the circle slowly, chanting in the old tongue. At the four cardinal points of the circle were fire, earth, air, and water. In the center Chakotay lay waiting, the setting sun painting his naked skin in shades of red. He’d fasted for the last three days and had spent the afternoon in the sweat lodge purifying his body and spirit. He felt light, his vision sharper than he could ever remember. He could feel the blood rushing through his veins and the air rolling into his lungs. Images danced at the edges of his vision. There and not there. Seen and not seen.
The old man sat his bowl of ink down by Chakotay’s head and picked up a quill. Chanting softly, he asked the spirits to guide his hand as he worked.
His body jerked as the quill pierced his skin. There was no anesthetic, no dermal regenerator. This was the old way, the way of his ancestors. Sucking in his breath, Chakotay focused on the burning pain as the quill bit into his skin again and again.
The pain began to spread; licking its way down his body. The old man’s voice faded away. A gray wolf trotted into the circle and licked at his face. Sitting up, Chakotay stroked the soft fur lovingly. It had been years since he had seen her, but he felt no anger from her. Only unconditional love. “Hello, sister.”
“Walk with me, brother.” She padded out of the circle.
Following her, he looked over his shoulder at where his naked body lay in the circle. The old man smiled and nodded at him.
The way rose slowly until stars surrounded them. Chakotay could see the path stretching before him, curving in a gentle spiral. “The stone! This is the design on the stone my father gave me!”
“The gift of the Sky People.” She nodded. “The map.”
Map? Planets spun past as they walked through the stars, some familiar, some not. “Where are we?”
“On a journey.”
The wolf flicked her tail against him. “Does it matter? From here to there.”
A warrior galloped across the stars on a black horse. Chakotay could see the stars shining through them. A tomahawk whirled around the warrior’s head, slicing through the planets and creating chaos.
Turning, Chakotay found his grandfather walking beside him. The she wolf had vanished. The old man’s amber eyes glowed. “Why is he angry, grandfather?”
“He feels he has lost everything. His people are gone, his home destroyed. His anger is all he believes he has left.”
Chakotay knew the warrior must be himself. “Hasn’t he the right to be angry?”
“Anger is your enemy, Chakotay. It clouds your mind, steals your spirit.” His grandfather tapped his chest. “It kills your soul.”
“Anger is all I have.” He felt its weight resting in his chest at night as he tried to sleep. It lived in the hollow space where his heart used to be.
“You have more than you know. The journey is just starting.”
“There is no journey, grandfather.” He shook his head. “There is only vengeance.”
They walked along the path in silence. The warrior had vanished. Stars twinkled and danced around them. One silvery shape darted and danced to its own rhythm.
Squinting, Chakotay strained to make out the shape. Was it a bird? Or was it a ship? Gracefully it pirouetted and curved among the other stars.
“Beautiful, isn’t she?
“Father?” Chakotay spun to find his father walking beside him where his grandfather had been only moments before. “Father?” Clutching at his father’s shoulders, he pulled him into his arms. He’d taken several vision quests in search of his father, but Kolopak had never appeared.
“Chakotay, I’m always here with you.” He patted his son’s back. “Just because I don’t appear to you doesn’t mean I’m not listening. On your journey you can speak to me whenever you need me.”
“What journey? I’ve just come home! My journey is ended!”
“You have just started.” He shook his head and sighed. “Always contrary. Chakotay, put away your anger.”
“Do I just forget the murder of our people?” Tears stung his eyes. “Do I forget your murder?”
“Yes. If you would truly honor me, my son, put away your thoughts of murder and vengeance.” Kolopak gestured toward the center of the spiral. “Embrace your future.”
“I have no future –” The warrior charged between them, his horse knocking Chakotay to his knees. The animal thundered to the center of the spiral. Stopping, it reared and snorted.
A spark ignited in the core of the pattern. Spinning quickly into a ball of fire. The horse reared and bucked until the warrior was forced to dismount. Slowly the fire took shape. Long flowing hair swirled around the slim dainty body. Fiery tresses covered and revealed her nakedness. The warrior dropped to his knees beside her, his tomahawk forgotten among the stars.
Flames danced around her as she turned to look at Chakotay. Her eyes were stars blazing with such intensity that he was forced to shield his eyes.
Abruptly he was aware of the old man chanting softly once again. Opening his eyes, he saw the rising sun at his feet. His forehead and temple stung as if on fire.
“You’ll be far from home. A long journey will test you. If you pass the test, you will return home to your people.”
“I have come home, grandfather.” Chakotay sat up slowly.
“You’ve been given wisdom to help guide you on your voyage.” The old man drew his fingers over the new tattoo causing Chakotay to gasp at the pain. “Anger is your enemy. Be wise, Chakotay.”
Pulling on his clothes, Chakotay went back to the Liberty. Seska was lounging on his bed in his quarters.
“Oh, lover, I like it.” She slithered off the bed.
He caught her hand before she could touch the newly drawn lines. “I need to rest, Seska.”
“It’s been three days.” She pouted. “Haven’t you missed me?”
He’d tried explaining to her the preparations for the ritual before he’d left. Her reaction had been a barely disguised disdain. “Of course, I missed you.” The lie was easier and made her happy. He didn’t need her anger right now.
“There’s word of a Cardassian base on one of the outer planets by the Badlands. Shall we go kill them?” She licked her lips as he pulled off his shirt.
“Set a course for the Badlands.” Chakotay accepted the kiss she pressed to his lips. After she left, he sighed. Already he was beginning to wonder if he’d made a mistake in taking Seska as his lover.
Lying down on his bed, he drifted into sleep and dreamed of the angry warrior and the woman of fire.