I will take this opportunity to practice my Latin by conveying the results of the great risk we three have taken by trusting our “covenant mates” so completely.
It was easy to discount them when their personal, magical, and political gains were relatively transparent. They freed us from Setting Son in order to lay claim to the prize for capturing Waldorf, as well as to lay claim to our valley and its magical resources. That they treated us better than Tiberious Cole did was a nice consequence, but we were under no illusion that they were anything other than kinder, gentler masters. They needed a base of operations from which to conduct their hunts for the criminals among them, and they needed to make us reasonably competent in the ways and means of their Order so we could defend that base for them when they were gone.
It is true that they took greater pains than they needed to gain our help and trust. They procured tutors in Latin and Hermetic Theory, not to mention the great power that is their Parma Magica, to improve our lot as members of their “House Ex Miscellanea” but all of these things were also of direct benefit to them, and so we kept our own council and waited to see how things would play out. Certainly, we made them honorary tribespeople. And certainly some of them have even made an effort to learn our language, but even with the one who took a Ute name, or the Ute who was taken as a child and raised among the white man, we have been hesitant to fully extend our trust.
But then they returned from a lengthy sojourn to the Mormon city of Provo in the company of a negro man, one “Blacky Aston”, who had once been a magically gifted slave. This slave had been in hiding ever since the white-man’s war-between-brothers. Although declared a free man by the government, he nevertheless needed to conceal himself against the angered wizards who hunted him for escaping them. Our covenant-mates found him, as was their purpose, but rather than slaying or imprisoning him they used their political and social influence to pardon him and declare him a full member of the Order, also of the “Ex Miscellanea.” Then, realizing he was in similar straits to us in that he had no training or resources of his own, they invited him here as a guest.
It is true that our situation and Mr. Aston’s are dissimilar in many respects. There is a common theme, however, in that both of our people have been brutalized or exploited by the white man with impugnity. Both of our people struggle to survive in the white man’s world. Once again, these three white people and one who may as well be white are using this negro man for their own political gain in that they hope to legitimize many of his formerly-enslaved yet gifted brethren and support their uplift in exchange for their votes. But it is becoming increasingly clear that their motives may extend beyond the merely politically mercenary.
When they proposed finding a magical site where they could build a “chapter” to house these once-slaves, you took what I considered a terrible risk. You revealed the caverns of the afterlife. I cannot fault your reasoning. As more and more white Europeans flood these lands our better-hidden sacred sites will not remain hidden forever. Best to reveal them to those white people who might have a vested interest in preserving and protecting them than allow them to be despoiled. Still, I was half-certain leading them to the caverns would be my final act as Little Brother.
I brought outsiders to a cave that heretofore only Little Brothers have been permitted to enter. I introduced them to the Antlered Lady. I gave her my blood and my life hoping that she would see I meant no betrayal, and that these outsiders could be trusted.
It appears that she looked into their hearts and was satisfied. Hesesiwox, once John Westphal, seems to have done more than merely change his name. The Lady treated him as a newborn child haunted by his past. Oukonunaka, long tainted by the white man’s ways, was also welcomed back. When the Lady asked Douglas Turner and Elisavet Whalen if they would spill their blood on behalf of the People and in defense of the caverns, they both took extraordinary steps, giving themselves potentially fatal wounds as I did. I was surprised. I had expected some small shedding of blood, but to place such trust in the Lady was beyond my expectations.
She accepted our offerings and enfolded us in her arms. We were healed, and thus all of us were accepted. We can no longer stand partly-aloof from our white benefactors. The Lady has accepted them, and we must acknowledge her judgment.
We spent some time with the Lady negotiating the terms under which the Cavern of Welcome might sustain a small population of the living, ostensibly these freed negroes who may become a chapter of our Covenant. First, though, these negroes need to be suitably vetted and weighed.
The first three that Blacky Aston brought in, Jeremiah Washington, Maggie Carter, and Deliliah Johnson, all had uniquely tragic tales to tell. They seem like trustworthy people, but I understand why they have not yet been informed of the Cavern, or even that they might someday become covenant-members. They first need to be educated to a point where they can participate in their own defense. Secondly, we will need to fend off the three declarations of “wizard’s war” that have come as a result of their public legitimacy.
In one month, we may face our first test of Hermetic violence. Ironically it is not Setting Son come to reclaim what they see as their property but rather more distant magi who feel the same way about their fellow human beings.
It is not a fight we chose, but I cannot help but think that it is a worthy fight nonetheless. Father Wolf would, in my opinion, approve.