Seek Him What Made Them Seven Stars
By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 67

"The artist is the opposite of the politically minded individual, the opposite of the reformer, the opposite of the idealist. The artist does not tinker with the universe; he recreates it out of his own experience and understanding of life." ~ Henry Miller (1891–1980)

The Night of the Brandenburgs

Miss Molly spent the night with Pard Andreeson and his Great-grandmother in their two bedroom suite. The beds were older and higher off the floor than usual. Molly had difficultly jumping upon Pard's bed. Pard asked Ms. Kate if he could take one of the old milk crates on the back porch to put next to his bed.

“For Molly?” Kate asked.

“Yes, 'um,” Pard replied.

“Sure, it should do the trick,” Kate said and winked conspiratorially at the young boy.

He thanked her and took the crate to his room with Molly following. The crate worked perfectly, and it was heavy enough it didn't move about. Molly was happy. She said a word of thanks to her lost mistress and assured her she would be all right. Then, she sent a message to her new friend, Pard, << Thank you, Master Pard, for sharing your bed with me and making it easy for me to get up and down. >>

“You're welcome, Miss Molly,” Pard replied, “You don't have to call me 'master,' Molly. Pard will do nicely since we're gonna' be friends for a while,” he said aloud.

<< You don't have to call me 'Miss' either, >> Molly sent.

“Thank you, Molly, I appreciate it. We got to get you talking, but we'll work on it tomorrow,” Pard said.

<< I hope I can learn quickly. The idea sounds fascinating to me. How long do you think it will take? >> she asked.

“I'll take you to meet Miranda and her pups tomorrow. She can talk and so can her pups. I heard them say, it didn't take Miranda but about a week to learn. She can tell you – that is, if she can get her pups to keep quiet long enough,” Pard added and laughed.

“It's late, Son, you two stop talking and go to sleep,” Pard and Molly heard Evangeline Andreeson say.

“Yes, ma'am, Grandma,” Pard replied. << Goodnight, Molly. Pleasant dreams, >> he sent.

<< Thank you, Pard. If I get scared in the night may I move closer? >> Molly asked.

<< As close as you like, Molly. I promise to protect you from ghosties, ghoulies, long leggedy beasties, and things what go bump in the night, >> Pard replied and petted her gently.

* * * * * * *
Thursday morning at breakfast everyone was in great spirits looking forward to the weekend. Molly was the hit of the morning. Those who didn't meet her the night before came around to introduce themselves and welcome her to the greater Daniels family.

Bubba, Jack, Grover, Cletus, and David transported to the ranch for breakfast and to be there for the Griffins. Since Jack and Bubba were the Griffin's first contacts, Billy was going to let them go through the gate to gather them.

“After breakfast what are your plans for the day, Brother Pard?” Billy asked the young boy.

“I promised Molly last night, with your approval, I would open a gate or ask brother Clyde to transport us over to the Tate ranch to meet Miranda and her pups, and introduce her to Mr. Tate and Everett. I thought maybe Miranda and the pups might inspire Molly to learn to speak quicker,” Pard replied.

“Excellent idea, Son,” Billy said, “But do me a favor and wait until we open a gate to bring the Griffin family to the ranch. We got some work to do on Mrs. Griffin, and I'd like you to take Tommy with you if you don't mind,” Billy said.

“A diversion, sir?” Pard asked and smiled.

“Exactly, Son, I knew you'd understand. I know he'll be concerned about his mom. H'it's only natural, but I got faith in you and Molly to empathize with him and keep his mind busy. By the time you spend some time with the Tates and Miranda's family, we should have everything taken care of on this end, and there won't be anything for Tommy to worry about,” Billy said.   

“It will be our pleasure, Master Billy,” Pard replied, and Molly barked her agreement.

* * * * * * *
Clyde opened a gate to the Griffin's garage. Clyde, Pard, Bubba, Jack, and Brute went through the gate and exchanged joyful greetings with the family. Mrs. Griffin carried a small suitcase containing lady things, but Griff and Tommy were in their western clothes ready to go to the ranch as they were. They stepped through the gate into the front foyer of the big ranch house and were met by the Daniels family. Everyone was introduced, and after some refreshments of coffee, a special spiced herbal tea for the guests, and Hosanna Cakes, the ladies took Doris Griffin off to their new 'Ladies Enhancement' rooms the women of the ranch decided they needed for just such an occasion.

They explained to Doris the tea and Hosanna Cakes would relax her and make her less apprehensive about the procedure. They also shared with her she would be the first lady healed in their new ladies suite of rooms they created. They hoped she would find them comfortable and relaxing. They explained they wanted something a bit more private for healings and enhancements for women which would be warm, cozy, and comforting. While the slave processing rooms and barns were all right for the men, they decided they wanted something more intimate and pleasant for their sisters. They got their heads together and decided they not only had the talent and knowledge, but also the ability and resources to make it happen. They created a main room, an enhancement or healing room, and a recovery bedroom where a patient could remain until they were strong enough to take another room in the house. It was beautifully done; warm, cheerful, charming, and inviting.

The ladies accomplished the three new rooms without a cowboy on the ranch knowing anything about it until they heard Doris Griffin needed healing, and they were bringing her to the ranch. The men had no idea where the women were taking Doris. They told them to have another cup of coffee, while they got Doris ready. They would send someone to get them when Doris was prepared. Doris didn't know what to expect, but when she walked into the main room she breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't cold or sterile like a doctor's office. It was decorated with warm colors and lots of small homey do-dads Kate, Ros, Zelma, Dorcas, and Aunt Helen gleaned from the attic. It looked like a turn of the century parlor with comfortable, overstuffed chairs, and many little dust catcher odds-and-ends to make it look inviting. Doris Griffin immediately felt at home.

They gave Doris the option of having them with her, her husband, or both; however she felt most comfortable, they would abide by her wishes. Doris ask Kate and Zelma to be with her, but she would leave the choice of her husband attending up to him. She would be comfortable either way. It didn't take them anytime to get her ready and the two older ladies stayed with her while the others went to gather Master Billy and his posse. They told Griff he was welcome to join them, but he declined. They said they would come get him as soon as Master Billy and his men were finished and they would take him to her or he could go with him and sit in the entry room. Griff opted to wait in the kitchen with the older cowboys. Pard and Tommy left with Molly for the Tate ranch.

Billy and his men were impressed with what the ladies accomplished and complimented them lavishly. It really was a much better atmosphere for the ladies than what they provided before and Billy let it be known he was very proud of them. It was perfect. It didn't take them long to heal Doris. The men left while the ladies got her dressed in her nightgown and into the comfortable bed. They sent for Griff, and after she assured him she would be all right, the ladies took him back to the kitchen to let Doris rest and recover. Roz was working on some music transcriptions and sat at the small writing desk in the room to watch over Doris.

* * * * * * *
Pard opened a gate to the Tate ranch and took Molly and Tommy with him. Billy assigned Clyde to go with them and do his big-brother-chaperon routine. Billy found the younger cowboys had a warm spot in their heart and were quite fond of the large Cowboy-Angel. Clyde seemed to communicate with them on their level and was always ready for a new adventure. There was a little boy inside the big man what was at ease and comfortable with the younger set. Clyde grabbed his guitar – just in case he might need it. Buster and Everett were happy to see them and pleased to meet Tommy and Miss Molly. Miranda took to Molly right away and after the new wore off, the pups treated her like a visiting aunt. They were beginning to learn manners and were respectful of the pretty little female. Molly hadn't been around other dogs very much, but the Tate's and Miranda treated her like a special guest and made her feel right at home. After Pard told Miranda the reason for their visit, she took Molly off to her area of the house and began to work with her. Everett made sure the pups stayed with them to keep them from distracting Molly and their mother. Tommy and Pard had a good time playing with the pups. They begged Clyde to play his guitar so they could sing together. They were working up a new number they hoped to perform for the Fourth of July Barnyard Concert.

* * * * * * *
“There ain't nothing to learn'n to talk, Molly Darling,” Miranda said, “I'm surprised some of the cowboys we know ever learned to speak a 'tall,” Miranda shared with Molly and laughed, “If they can learn to talk, it should be easy for an intelligent lady like yourself, Dear,” she added. By the time their visit was over Miranda had Molly speaking in pigeon-English. “Hi-row, mu' name es Maw-ree.” Molly wasn't quite getting the 'L' sound but Miranda encouraged her and told her not to worry; with more practice and little more time, she would be speaking better than her; certainly as well as the cowboys. Pard told her he read on his computer about speaking vowels, and he began to teach her the A, E, I, O, U, sounds and had the pups repeat the sounds after him so Molly could see their mouths and the positions. Miranda joined in with the pups and urged Molly to join in with them. That way she wouldn't feel so self-conscious about making mistakes.

Pard got a call from Bubba, and he talked with Tommy for a few minutes. He told him his mom was going to be all right, she was resting, and for the boys to take their time; everything was fine. “We been invited to have lunch with the Tate's. The Sheriff's coming home to have lunch with us, and I'd like to meet him. Is it all right if we stay a while longer?” Tommy asked.

“Of course, ain't nothing happening over here. You'll like Sheriff Tate. He's a good man. We're taking your dad out to show him around and get his mind off worrying about your mom. You men stay over there and come back when you're ready. Is Molly having a good time?” Bubba asked.

“She seems to be. The pups are calling her Aunt Molly. She and Miranda are talking with each other. They're helping her a lot. With Clyde's help, they done taught her the ABC song, and now we're sitting in front of the video watching old DVD's of Sesame Street,” Tommy replied. He heard Bubba laugh on the other end.

“You tell Miss Molly that's the way I learned to talk. Big Bird is a good buddy of mine,” Bubba said and laughed.

The boys, Clyde, and Miss Molly ate lunch with the Tates and spent the rest of the afternoon touring their ranch. Everywhere they went the Irin cowboys assigned to the ranch were in awe of Molly and stopped what they were doing to welcome her and the boys to the ranch. Molly was getting over her shyness and was making a grand effort to say a word or two to the cowboys and cowgirls. They fell in love with her. The Tate Watchers offered her some of their milk and she took a bit from each so no one's feelings were hurt.

Buster asked a couple of the Irin cowboys to saddle up five horses for him, Everett, Clyde, Pard, and Tommy. They would take a ride down to the river. They left Molly with Miranda and the Irin ladies, but the pups wanted fly down with them. Buster put his boot down and told them they had to stay with their mother. The last time they tried to fly down to the river they were attacked by a large bird and one of them almost got carried away. If it didn't have the good sense to reach up and bite the big bird's leg really hard it might have become food for her babies. As it was, the pup suffered some holes in its side from her talons.

It was Pard and Tommy's first time on the back of a horse, and they were thrilled. Buster was good with kids and told them what to do and how to let the pony know where they wanted to go. The ponies Buster picked were so docile and good natured they rode the boys like they were young princes from a foreign land whom they were sworn to defend and protect. Of course the boys cheated and used their minds to talk with them and got to know them. By the day's end they were on a first name basis. Buster even let them help rub the ponies down after their ride and taught the boys how to feed them. They were learning to be young cowboys. They couldn't have been happier.

* * * * * * *
Meanwhile, back at the Daniels ranch, Billy and his posse ate a light lunch with Griff and decided since he'd never been to the ranch before, they would take him on a tour. Billy explained he put Doris into a deep sleep, and she wouldn't wake up until late afternoon.

“When do you folks have to be back to Hearne, Griff?” Billy asked.

“Friday and Saturday mornings are my busiest times. Sundays we open, but it's slow. Almost ain't worth our time. We ain't on the main drag through town so most of our customers are local and they gas up Fridays or Saturday morning for the weekend. I don't know how Bubba and Jack found their way to our station, but I thank whoever's out there watching over us, they did,” he said.

“Tommy looked you up on the Net and found your YouTube music site. He listens to your music by the hour, and I have to say, I'm learning to like some of the classical stuff, but I really like ya'll's down-home county and Cajun music. We'd sure like to come and see a show sometimes, if you could work us into your schedule,” Griff added.

“What about Saturday week, the Fourth of July, at noon? I can send Bubba and Jack to bring you back by gate, and we'll gate you back later in the evening. We's gonna' have the Houston Symphony out to play a bunch of American music and some Sousa marches to get the blood of patriotism boiling in our blood, plus we's gonna' have one Hell of a fireworks show,” Billy asked.

“Should we bring something?” Griff asked.

“Just your family, and dress western,” Billy replied and grinned, “We'll provide the rest. We got us a big barbecue and plan to cook all kinds of good foods to eat. I promise, if you go away hungry, it will be your own damn fault,” Billy added. “If you needed to, do you have someone who could run the place while you folks are gone?” Billy asked.

“Yes, sir, my older brother, Doutry Griffin – we call him 'Tree' 'cause he's big as one – and his husband, Tank Barger. They own a ranch ten miles South of a small town in the Pine's area, and they work for me a lot. They's both excellent mechanics, and when I get rushed or have a bigger job than I can handle by myself, they drop ever' thing and drive up to gimme' a hand. They's both Tommy's uncles. He loves his uncles. They liked to done went crazy when we had them over for dinner after you men healed Tommy. They kept looking for his wheelchair, and I told them it was out in the garage hanging on a nail; Tommy didn't need it no more. They thought I's blow'n smoke up their butts when I told them two big cowboys about the two brothers of the Walmart Jesus what stopped by for gas on their way back from rescuing a dying prisoner from Huntsville. We invited them in for pie, and they healed Tommy.

“Well, sir, when Tommy came running into the room, I thought my brother and his mate were gonna' fall out of their chairs. I ain't never seen two such big men become so completely discombobulated in my life. They turned into basket cases right before our eyes. Tommy was in their arms giving them hugs and kisses, and they weren't being stingy with theirs, neither. I swear to you, Master Billy, I ain't never seen my big brother cry before in my life, but he broke down and sobbed his heart out with joy. Hell, both them men cried. They got us crying. Of course Tommy had to tell them all about it; you coming back with them later and bringing your big Watcher Husband and your dad with you. They said they'd love to meet you and thank you themselves,” Griff said.

“Close down the station for the fourth and bring 'em along. I take it you don't have no problem with same sex relations?” Billy asked like a rhetorical question.

“To be honest, I did at first, but thankfully I got me a wife what was raised in a truly Christian home what believes in the more liberal and humble teachings of Christ and cast aside the teachings of Paul. Some folks call it Paulism 'cause it sure as Hell ain't Christianity. Beside, I love my big brother too damn much to think ill of him no matter his druthers. He was my idol growing up, but he was always a mite standoffish. I never understood why until he come out to me after he come back from them nasty Middle-East wars. He told me him and his Marine platoon Sargent fell in love, and they were living together. Tree said he never allowed me to get close to him because he didn't want to influence me. He wanted me to grow up to be my own man. The more I come to know Tank the more convinced I become they belong together. And I have no fear of leaving Tommy with them nor would I have a problem with him staying here on your ranch, sir,” Griff replied, “If you're serious, I know they'd love to come with us,” he added.

“I'm serious. You have them at your place by ten-thirty Saturday morning. I'll have Bubba, Jack, Pard, and his little brother, Ramrod Randy Rutherford, come gather ya'll,” Billy said. “When the boys get back from the Tate ranch, I'll take Tommy out to the barn, and I'll check his blood. I don't expect nothing bad, but it won't hurt none to check. I won't have time between now and the fourth unless you got a major problem – then you call me immediately – understand?” Billy asked firmly.

“I understand, Master Billy, and I can't thank you enough,” Griff replied.

The men started showing Griff everything. The big man was stunned at the volume and scope of Billy's venture. He never saw anything like it. Griff seemed to accept it like it was something he always dreamed about, and now, it was finally coming true. They took him on board Captain Nick's ship, and he met even more strange and wonderful creatures, including Jethro. No matter how strange or different, everyone seemed happy, well adjusted, and working at peak efficiency. The crew just finished their lunch.

* * * * * * *
Zeke didn't have a job assignment yet. Billy told him to take a few days and decide what he wanted to do. If he come to stay for a while, they could certainly use a man of his knowledge gained throughout the centuries. Billy introduced Zeke as Ezekiel the Archangel to Griff; one of the handful of early Angels who escaped the massive lock-down and stasis storage of the Angels what belonged to Jehovah. Billy explained, the so-called Fallen Angels were put out of commission because they refused to go along with his autonomous and cruel oppression of early humans on Earth. The Angels tried to help the humans and teach them things to make their lives better.
Jehovah didn't want them to possess intelligence and independent thoughts that one day they might be free to live as they choose. That they should suddenly become aware of their nudity was only a metaphor for the reality of how badly they were treated. The myth they lived in a lush garden where they were innocent as children and played with the animals all day was as wrong as most any information you might get from Fox News. It was total lies and propaganda. Griff took it all in with amazement. Zeke asked if he could tag along with Master Billy's group because he hadn't seen everything yet, and Billy agreed.

After a grand tour of Billy's new city, Griff held an even greater respect for the young cowboy. He knew any man who could pull so many things together and get his people coordinated to create something as new and magnificent as he was sure the new city would be, Billy must be blessed with extraordinary capabilities and talents. Healing people and making their lives better or a little more comfortable was only a small part of what he witnessed. He was impressed beyond words. He did manage to get out one line which the old angel Zeke picked up. “I can imagine The Sapphire City as a new Jerusalem,” Griff observed, almost to himself.    

“The metaphor is good, Son, but let's hope the Sapphire City holds a greater promise for the people of this world than just a couple of middle-eastern desert sects wallowing in the quagmire of unworkable and stagnant religions of the Abrahamic cultures. From this city will flow the headwaters of a new paradigm which will be pure and clean. It shall be strong enough to purify the son's of Levi,” Ezekiel said, “And all nations will see it together,” he concluded.

* * * * * * *
By the time Billy and his posse got back to the main ranch house, the ladies awakened Doris Griffin and got her up and around. They were in the kitchen preparing supper for everyone and Doris was sitting at the table eating a Hosanna cake and drinking a cup of hot spiced tea looking radiant in her new state of health. She cried in her husband's arms when he came to embrace her. She looked wonderful. Clyde, the boys Pard and Tommy, and Miss Molly returned from the Tates to have supper with the family. Tommy was thrilled to see his mother looking better. He went to Master Billy and gave him a big hug and a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, Master Billy and your Cowboy-Angels for helping my mother. I will be forever grateful,” Tommy said.

“You're very welcome, Son,” Billy replied.

The Griffins seemed to have a good time, but they were mostly quiet and reserved. They were floating on a sea of disbelief. Their whole world was turned around in one day from one of despair to one of hope, peace, and contentment. Tommy wasn't quiet. While he respected his mom and dad's reserved state, he and Pard related their day as being one of great personal joy and discovery with Miss Molly and getting to play cowboys at the Tate ranch. Tommy didn't hold back and said he fell in love with Mr. Tate and his two boys Everett and the Sheriff. He never had so much fun in his life. His parents were happy to see their boy was expanding his horizons when a couple of weeks ago he had limited possibilities in life. Griff and Doris never saw their boy so animated, happy, and full of life. They were pleased and happy for him.

“Dad, Clyde said he thought it would be all right if I asked you if I could stay with Pard for the weekend, and they will bring me home Sunday evening?” Tommy asked, “It might give mom a chance to rest and recover faster not having to worry about me,” he added.

“Did you clear it with, Master Billy?” Griff asked.

Billy spoke up, “Goodness, while I understand your wish for Tommy to grow up to be a gentleman and I highly encourage it, in a greater sense you folks have become part of our family, and as such you're welcome anytime you can get away and spend some time with us. Tommy is more than welcome to stay the weekend and Clyde, Pard and his great-grandmother, Eve, will be his hosts. I think Tommy has a good idea. It would give Doris some quiet time to adjust to the changes we made. Besides, I still need to check him out and will after supper. It will give me a little more time to observe him and make sure he's stable. From the sound of his and Pard's day, he's doing well,” Billy said, “Clyde and Pard will return him after supper Sunday evening,” Billy added.

“You didn't bring an extra set of clothes,” Doris said.

“We'll have those laundered while he sleeps,” Kate said.

“I think it would be all right,” Griff said.

“Thanks, Dad, it will be my first sleep-over with a friend,” Tommy said with enthusiasm.

The evening came to an end and Clyde, Balthazar, and Mack made arrangements to take Griff and his wife back to their garage in Hearne, Texas. Just as they were walking to the gate Griff's cell phone rang. Everyone stopped for him to answer. “Excuse me a moment, it's my brother,” Griff said, pressed the button and spoke. “Hello, Brother,” he said and smiled, “Where are you?” he asked.

“We're in front of the station and café. Your truck and car are here, but you ain't,” Doutry Griffin said.

“We're at the Daniels ranch in the Hill Country, but we're on our way home right this minute. We'll be right there in a couple of seconds and let you in,” Griff said.

“How can you get from there to here in a couple of seconds? That's about three hundred miles, as the crow flies,” Tree said.

“We got us some fast crows, Brother. I'll explain in a few minutes. Trust me, see you in five minutes, max,” Griff said, laughed, and disconnected.

Good to his word, in less than five minutes, Griff came to the front door to let his brother and his husband, Tank, into the house. “Sorry to keep you waiting. We spent the night at the Daniels ranch, and just stepped through a gate from there to here,” Griff said, “Come in and you can meet three of Master Billy Daniels Cowboy-Angels. Doris is making a pot of coffee, and she made several pies before we left,” he added.

The big cowboys removed their hats, and followed Griff into the kitchen area to see three big cowboys sitting around the Griffin's table. They stood when the men walked into the room. Griff introduced each man, and they shook hands. They were impressed by the men's body jewelry and could only imagine these cowboys were some special kind of Angels. They were handsome and almost flawless in their bodies. The black angel impressed them as being the most handsome of the three.

“So, what were you doing in the Hill Country, Brother?” Tree asked, “And where is my handsome nephew?” he asked.

“I'm sorry, Tree, we didn't tell you and Tank. We didn't want you to worry none, but the doctors discovered Doris had ovarian cancer, and they were going to have to do radical surgery on her. You know how difficult it is to get insurance companies to pay for cancer operations, and in this day and age, if you ain't rich, you die. It's just a fact. Tommy and Randy Rutherford have become good friends, and like brothers, they ain't got no secrets between them. Tommy shared his sad news with Randy, and he told his big brother. Master Billy called me yesterday to invite us to the ranch to check Tommy again, and told me he'd be glad to take a look at Doris. We went through a transportation gate, and he and his Cowboy-Angels, including these three wonderful men, healed Doris last evening,” Griff said. “Tommy's staying the weekend with his new buddies Pard Andreeson and Randy Rutherford,” he added.

The two big cowboys sat looking at Griff, the other men, and Doris, “How are you feeling, Little Sister?” Tree asked Doris.

“Like I'm free of the cancer, Tree. I have to go back for a check up next week on the Fourth of July, but we're making a day of it. We're closing down the station and café for the day. Master Billy is having the Houston Philharmonic out to the ranch to perform, and they're inviting some of the local families out to celebrate the day with them,” Doris said.

Tree hung his head and looked at his mate. He had tears in his eyes. “I would give anything to meet Billy Daniels,” he said.

“Me, too,” Tank agreed.

“Good news! You men have been invited to go with us and spend the day at the ranch. I told Master Billy about you and Tank, and he told me to bring you along,” Griff said, “I saw such wonders today you wouldn't believe it if I's to tell you. I think it best you men witness it for yourselves,” Griff said, “You simply would not believe me,” he said again.

“We watched his two videos they put on the Internet. Tommy sent the link to us, and we were blown away by his talent and professionalism. The music was wonderful. We sent off for the two DVD's, and we just received the first one today,” said Tank, “Are you sure he won't have no problem with me and Tree?” Tank asked.

“Certainly not,” Balthazar replied in a booming voice, “He's married to his male Watcher/Bigfoot Protector, and he shares his bed with a Fallen Angel he adopted as his surrogate dad, Nick Samuels, whose life he saved when Nick's spaceship crashed into the James river,” he replied.

“There really are such things as Bigfoot?” Tree asked.

“Absolutely! We got us our own Watcher-Protector. We named him Barry, because he's got a deep voice like Barry White,” Doris said, “Tommy drinks his milk,” she added.

About that time a small knock came on the back door, “That will be him. I'll let him in to meet you men,” Doris said. She went to the back door, and they heard her talking to someone. “No! No, it's all right. C'moan in, Barry. It's just me, my husband, his brother and his husband, and three cowboys from the Daniels ranch. They want to meet you,” Doris urged Barry not to be shy, but to come with her to the kitchen to have his supper and a piece of pie with them. Doris walked back into the kitchen followed by an enormous hairy creature with fur the color of light sand. “Everyone, this is our Watcher-Protector, Barry,” she introduced the long leggedy beastie to them.

Barry caught sight of Clyde, Mack, and Balthazar and when he recognized their auras were those of Angels, fell to his knees, and bowed his head. The three Cowboy-Angels walked to him like he was a long lost brother. “Arise, Brother Barry, we mean you no harm. We are the slaves of Master Billy, the Cowboy-Angel who assigned you to the Griffin family,” Balthazar said. Barry rose, Balthazar took him into his arms, and gave him a hug and a kiss on his furry cheek; so did Mack and Clyde. Tree and Tank were a bit more reserved and shook his huge paw.

“Master Billy is the supreme ruler of every Watcher and Daddy Long-leg on this world. He is our master. I am pleased and honored to serve him by belonging to the Griffin family. I provide sweet milk for my bairn, Tommy, and I think now, Mrs. Griffin, will milk me so she may reap the benefits of the healing powers of Watcher milk,” he said in a booming bass voice. He sounded just like Barry White.

Doris got busy and fed Barry his portion of slave chow and a nutrient biscuit. Then she sat a goodly slice of pecan pie before him. The big beast smiled and thanked Doris.

“Why do I feel like I'm having a piece of Derby pie and a cup of coffee with three kings from the East?” Tank asked after a period of quiet between them. He got a laugh out of the others.

“I am told one of the kings was of a priestly cast from Persia; he was named after me,” Balthazar said. “The other two were Gaspard, and Melchior. My namesake was said to be carrying a gift of gold to the newborn child,” Balthazar said humbly.

“Then you have been alive for centuries, Mr. Balthazar?” Tree asked.

“Yes, we were three of a handful of Angels who were rescued by two ancient races rather than have us rounded up like cattle and placed in stasis. Those of our brothers who were caught and forced against their will to remain these many years in a state of suspended animation because of petty jealousies of our overlords who did not wish us to continue guarding and looking after early humans. They used their new hybrid race as slaves to mine their gold. We were more alike and had more in common with humans than the reptilian race and their insect-like drones who bought us from the earlier race of ancients called the Anunnaki. We found ourselves growing empathetic to the young human race. We took pity on them and tried to help them by domesticating them – teaching them tool making, how to grow crops, and how to provide for themselves. We also gave them the soul enhancing gift of the arts to express themselves and grow into something far greater than that for which they were originally created. Now we have returned as Master Billy's slaves to help him liberate our brethren from stasis, to help him build his world as an example of what others might have as well, and eventually take this planet back from the evil forces who continue to rape and pillage Earth and cause such a great division between the people,” Balthazar said.

“Approximately, how many years have your brothers been in suspended animation?” Tank asked.

“Over ten thousand,” Mack said, “The Sphinx and the pyramids of Egypt are much older than archaeologist date them. They are eleven thousand years old. Several of us watched them being built. Some of us Angels ain't always been on Earth. Mack, Balthazar, and myself were taken to other worlds to live and learn their ways, knowing one day we would return when the time was right. Other so-called Fallen Angels have been here living among you all these years doing what they could for humans. Over the years, we have formed a close bond with your race. We can't reproduce our kind, so in a way, you have become our children,” Mack added.

“Will there be terrible times ahead? Will there be a final battle at Armageddon?” Tank asked.

“Not if we can help it. There might be bad times ahead, but ask yourself how much worse can they become under your current regime. You are no longer free. We don't know all the details yet, but Master Billy will guide us to victory without a great deal of bloodshed. It is not in him to become a demon of war, devastation, or killing. We look upon him as a prince of peace; however, we can't rule it out altogether. Sometimes, there's just no other option, but he will save his people,” Clyde said, “We're not in any hurry. We will work behind the scenes. You will begin to notice a slow but sure turn to the left and a growing discontent with the rabid religious right-wing's brand of life choking conservatism,” he added.

“I met the archangel Ezekiel today on my tour of the Daniels ranch. He looks like any old cowboy you might run across,” Griff said.

“Why us, Mr. Clyde? Why our family?” Doutry Griffin asked.

“Why not you, your husband, your brother, his wife, and son, Mr. Griffin?” Clyde asked in reply, “Ain't you folks suffered long enough? Hasn't mankind suffered long enough under the yoke of the wealthy few at the expense of the many – you men, your family, and your neighbors?” Clyde asked. “We're not a band of nomadic warriors who have come to Earth to rape, pillage, and burn. Some of us have traveled for years by your side through the good times and bad to get to where we are now. Beyond an empathy for all mankind and the other sentient creatures on Earth, there is no politics in our cause. We will use our wits and accumulated knowledge to reset the society here on Earth to become one of greater equality for everyone, and not just the few,” Clyde elaborated, “Besides, one ancient group of aliens, the Grigori or Watchers like Barry, have chosen your nephew, Tommy, to play an important role in the future. They came to him and told him about two Cowboy-Angels who would come to him and heal him. That was Master Bubba Kirkendall and his close friend Master Jack McCormack,” Clyde added.

“We didn't tell my brother and his husband that part, Mr. Clyde,” Griff said quietly.

“I'm afraid our world is dying, sir,” Doris said.

“It is,” Balthazar confirmed, “Earth's natural resources and pristine beauty has not been carefully managed but systematically destroyed by wealthy corporations of such uncontrolled greed they neither care what scars they leave on the planet nor the people they hurt as a result of their devastation as long as it brings them more money. When the Earth is no longer habitable, do you think they will linger to live among the disaster they created? Not on your life. They will leave the planet to escape to other habitable worlds and take their plundered wealth with them – only to start again and destroy some other world,” Balthazar said, “They are parasites on the backside of more gentle intelligent life and must be stopped or they will spread out into the other galaxies,” he added.  

The men finished their pie and coffee. They wished the Griffin family well, but said they must be returning to their ranch. Clyde told them to bring Barry with them on the fourth of July. There will be food for the Watchers, and they enjoy the music. The Cowboy-Angels took their leave and the family walked them out to the garage. Tree and Tank were in awe of the gate and watched as the three large men disappeared through the wall of blue electrons. The gate disappeared and the Griffin family was left alone in the silence.

“It shore' beats driving three hun'nert miles to the Hill Country,” Tank allowed.

“I look for them gates to become the accepted way to travel from place to place. Gates like that could almost do away with gas powered automobiles and airplanes altogether. Every home will have a gate. You will just set the destination and step through. No more standing in long lines to have every inch of your body searched and crammed into tiny seats like sardines in a can or polluting the air with jet emissions or hydrocarbons from automobiles. Why, you could work in downtown New York and live in a small seaside village in Argentina. Talk about a mobile society; the possibilities are endless,” Tree said, “Thanks little Brother, for scoring us an invite to the Daniels ranch. We'll look forward to it,” he added.

* * * * * * *
Ramrod Randy arrived in the foyer of the big ranch house accompanied by his sister. They were surprised everyone was waiting for them and welcomed them with much enthusiasm. They walked into the kitchen dining area and found several others waiting for them. Molly remembered how kind Randy was to her several days before to show her around and ran to him.

“Molly!” Randy exclaimed, “You look wonderful, Dear! How are you?” he asked as he petted her.

“Gud, Masser Rrrrundy,” she managed to get out.

“Great! Close enough, Little Sister. I done some deep searching in my applications files and with a little push in the right direction from one of my close associates who can do anything, I discovered a little known app I didn't know was available which will help you you learn to talk almost immediately. I'll share it wiff' you after breakfast. You might have some minor problems, but Lord knows most of us cowboy done got our own mess of problems with speaking. My motto is, never let a big word intimidate you even if you gotta' butcher it to cut it down to size. As long as you get the point of your message across, there ain't no foul,” Randy declared and winked at his big brother. Billy almost fell on the floor laughing at him.  

“I can say 'ain't' reel gud,” Molly said proudly.

“That's wonderful, little Darlin'! You's well on your way be becoming a gin-u-wine cow-dog, Miss Molly,'” Randy said and petted her again. Molly was proud of herself and reveled in Randy's praise. “After breakfast, I'll give ya' a hi-octane-language-speaking-booster-app what will have you talk'n as good as any of them big cowboys,” Randy proclaimed.

Oh! Dear God, I hope not!” Kate was heard to say under her breath only it was a bit too loud and everyone in the Daniels family broke up laughing.

“Amen to that, Sister,” Zelma said firmly and everyone laughed more.

“Is everyone ready to go in for breakfast?” Kate asked.

“Naw, Grandma, but you folks go on in. Randy, Clyde, Balthazar, Boomer, my pa, and me, are gonna' gate to the Johnson ranch and bring back them folks and two big critters. Harlen wants to spend the day wiff' his son, and Jessie wants to practice on the harpsichord. He's gonna' play continuo for a couple of our pieces tomorrow. We'll be right back. Pard, you and Tommy come go wiff' us. Somebody keep Miss Molly in their lap. You know how Daffy and Chloe can love you to death,” Billy said and grinned.

“Come, Miss Molly, you stick close to me, Sweetheart,” Zelma called to her and Molly followed.

“Do yore' thang, Bossman!” Billy said making a sweeping gesture to his little brother.

Randy waved his right hand and a gate sprang up to the Johnson ranch. They walked through slowly and cautiously as they knew Daffy and Chloe were waiting on the other side like two giant vultures what ain't scored a decent meal in a month of Sundays, and rushed the gate to make love to their beloved Master Randy and his friend Pard. The two enormous dogs were so happy to see their friends and showered them with big wet sloppy doggy kisses. Randy, Pard, and Tommy's arms were filled with dog, and they were laughing and carrying on trying to move slowly into the area so the others could get through the gate. It was pandemonium for a couple of minutes.

“Hell, they never show me that much love and attention when I come home,” Harlen said, and everyone laughed, “And I know they both talk mind to mind several times a day with Randy and Pard, and them McMartin boys, too,” he added.

“They's just like two big kids. I done told Harlen he shouldn't never a' show'd 'em the rest of the world,” Jessie said and got everyone laughing, “What's that old song, 'How ya' gonna' keep 'um down on the farm after they seen Paree'?'” he asked and laughed.

Daffy and Chloe were equal opportunity lovers. They didn't stop with the boys. Every man got his fair share including Boomer who rarely laughed, but was rolling on the ground laughing with one huge dog on either side of him smothering him with kisses.

“Would you monsters behave yourselves. Not you Boomer! I'm talking to them hounds,” Harlen yelled and got everyone laughing again.

“We're sorry, Master Harlen. We're just so happy to see our friends we just couldn't hold back,” Chloe said.

“Welcome, ya'll!” Daffy almost barked and got everyone laughing again.

Randy and Pard introduced Tommy Griffin to Harlen, Jessie, Daffy, and Chloe. Tommy was fascinated by the talking dogs.

“You folks ready to gate on-over to the Hill Country?” Billy asked.

“We got up a mite early. Hell, with two alarm clocks the size of them critters, there ain't no sleep'n when they get excited about going some'ers,” Harlen said in his best cowboy drawl, “I guess we're as ready as we'll ever be,” Harlen said.

Daffy and Chloe were sniffing Pard, Randy, Tommy, and Billy, “You got somebody new over to your ranch, and she's like us only a mite smaller,” Chloe said and got the men laughing.

“Yes, she's a lot smaller than you, and you both need to rein in your enthusiasm. You can go bananas with the rest of the family, but she's small, petite, and not used to being around such rambunctious monsters. Be gentle, polite, and mannerly, and she will be your friend. Her name is Molly, and she's very pretty. I promise, you will like her,” Billy said.

“Let's go! I can't wait to meet her,” Chloe said dancing around like she was trying hard but just couldn't curb her enthusiasm.

“Yes, yes, let's go,” Daffy urged prancing on his tippy-toes and shaking his behinder like he was about to launch into an impromptu break dance.

“Go, Daffy! Go, Chloe,” Billy said and pointed to the gate. They didn't need a second invitation and were through the gate in an instant. The men laughed and followed them. The big dogs were waiting for them on the other side. “Come,” Billy walked past them and motioned for everyone to follow.

“Mind your manners, My Children!” Harlen shouted, but it was too late. They were already in the kitchen dining area.

The family hadn't seated themselves around the table and were standing around talking. Zelma was sitting in her usual place in a small space between one of the two large Wolf stoves and the corner of the kitchen. She liked it there because it was out of the way from people bustling about, and she could talk with Kate anywhere in the room. Molly was in her lap and Zelma was slowly stroking her. They heard the commotion of the men arriving and the slipping of huge toenails on the wooden floors of the foyer. She knew at any moment they would see two enormous heads come through the door. “Brace yourself, My Dear,” she managed to get out before Daffy and Chloe came bounding into the room.

Chloe caught sight of Zelma holding Molly, took a couple of steps into the room, and stopped. Daffy wasn't prepared and bumped into her, lost his footing, and fell on his side. It was so comical everyone in the room laughed at the big oaf. Chloe didn't pay any attention to her mate's plight. She couldn't take her eyes off the pretty little dog sitting in Mrs. Zelma's lap, “Oh, look, Daffy! She's so pretty. Hello, little one, I'm Chloe, and this clumsy oaf getting himself together is Daffy, my mate. You don't need an explanation why he's called Daffy,” Chloe said with mild disgust and everyone in the kitchen laughed.

“Sorry. You may talk better'n me, but you ain't got no taillights. How was I suppose to know you were gonna' stop so suddenly?” he asked like he was embarrassed and emotionally wounded. “Forgive me, Pretty Lady,” he said looking directly at Molly. Molly took pity on him.

“You talk?” she asked Daffy.

“Yes, ma'am. Not good, but I'm still trying. Chloe learned quick, but it took me a while longer,” Daffy replied, “May we come closer?” he asked.

“Yes,” Molly said and the two dogs approached and sat right in front of Molly and Zelma.

“I try. No gud yet, neither,” Molly managed.

“You're doing fine, Dear. It's frustrating at first, but you just have to keep at it, and you'll get better quickly. I had to keep after Daffy to try. He got embarrassed when he couldn't get it right, but I can't shut him up now,” Chloe said and Molly laughed.

“Am I the only one in this room who feels like they just walked into a Disney movie?” Zelma asked and got everyone laughing.

“I can appreciate it, Precious,” Kate replied, “Zelma, put Molly down. I think she'll be all right with Daffy and Chloe. Everyone take your places,” she said and the family sat down to breakfast.

Daffy and Chloe turned, laid down in the same corner, and Molly lay down between them. She never felt so safe in her life. She knew she made two wonderful new friends.

Everyone was looking forward to a great day and talk around the table was lively. When they finished, the adults were still sitting around talking as several of the cowboys and kitchen helpers were removing the plates and beginning to clear the table. Randy pushed his chair back, turned to the dogs and spoke, “Come here, Molly, and let me hold you for a minute,” he said.

Molly went to Randy, he picked her up and set her on his lap. “Good girl,” he complimented her, “Are you ready for my gift?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

While Randy petted her with his left hand, he raised his right hand over her head and a blue beam of light or plasma fell on top of Molly's pretty little head. Randy held it over her, slowly moving it around from time to time. Molly shuddered. “Does it hurt?” he asked.

“Tickles,” she said.

“Only a minute more, Molly, and I'll be finished,” Randy said soothing her. The family was in awe of the young cowboy's abilities. He finished and patted Molly gently on her head. “No hurt?” he asked.

“No, none,” she replied.

“Now repeat after me, Molly – the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain,” Randy said.

“The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain,” Molly repeated flawlessly.

“Again!” Randy said.

“The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain,” she said.

“By, George, I think she's got it!” Billy exclaimed, “Everyone!” he shouted and raised his hand as if to give a downbeat, and everyone joined in a chorus of 'The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.' Randy and the boys were laughing their asses off at the nonsense of the cowboys, but Molly saw it as a grand approval of her new speaking abilities. She was quite pleased with herself and so were her new friends, Daffy and Chloe.

That's fantastic Bossman. You must a' dug deep for that one,” Billy said.

“H'it ain't so much what you know, Big Brother, it's who you know what will direct you to the info you need to get the job done,” Randy said and everyone agreed with him.

“Say something else for us, Molly,” Billy asked.

“What would you like for me to say, Master Billy?” she asked perfectly and everyone applauded for her.

“That will do nicely, Lovely Lady,” Billy replied, “Well done, Bossman. I think we'll keep you around for a while,” he said to his little brother.

* * * * * * *
It was a typical Friday morning around the ranch. Everyone was in great spirits looking forward to knocking off work at noon, kicking back, and getting ready for the weekend. Randy got a bug up his butt he wanted to explore the areas of the old castle on Captain Nick's ship and got his big brother and Captain Nick's okay, but they had to do it after lunch because the McMartins were coming for the weekend and Billy thought Randy should invite Rory and Cal to go with them. Randy asked Captain Nick if there was anyone he would recommend as a guide who might know more about the castle in case they ran across locked areas.

“Check with my retired fearless halfling warrior-protector Cloog and his young Grand-nephew Aeron I introduced you to several times. Aeron is one of the finest village acrobats. They might know some things. Then there's always my first mate Beauford. He will know how to get into the sealed places. We started refurbishing a portion for extra apartments and workrooms when we brought the giants on board, but they's still about three quarters of the building what ain't seen anyone's footprint in hundreds of years. It's a perfect place for young folks to explore. They's no telling what you might find. Take Aeron with you. He's pretty knowledgeable about the castle and the surrounding grounds and forests. He and his mates played in them when they were wee bairns,” Nick said, “I think they still hunt deer and rabbits there. Your favorite giant, Gog, has the day off today, check with him. He just might agree to go with you,” Nick added.

Most of the morning, the boys and dogs followed Master Billy and his cowboys around checking out things for the weekend. There was a larger family gathering than usual for Friday lunch. Bubba, Jack, Grover, the Tates, Perry Reed, Mick Flynn, and the Breedlove family were invited. The Tates brought Miranda and the pups, and they were everywhere at once, except they were beginning to grow up and weren't quite so rambunctious. The pups loved Daffy and Chloe and wanted to be where the big dogs were. Molly fit right in. She could now talk almost as well as the rest of the dogs and didn't feel left out. Everyone noticed she wasn't so shy or retiring. She was gaining confidence by the hour and everyone seemed caring and interested in her. She was like an untended garden flower coming into bloom from a little love and encouragement.

After lunch, Billy assigned Clyde and Mack to chaperon the young posse or pack. Billy wasn't quite sure. There were more dogs than kids. Kayla asked if she could come along to explore and to her surprise and delight her little brother encouraged her. “I been watching you lately, Sister, and I'm worried about you work'n too hard. I ain't say'n you don't get results. I'm proud of you. Your hard work is paying off, and it shows. You make me have to work double-time to keep up. You need to get away from your cello, piano, and computer to think on other things for a while; broaden your horizons, as it were. I think it would do you good to go exploring with us,” Randy said like a mature sage, “Wear some older play clothes, flannel shirt, slacks, boots, or have Clyde outfit you with at pair of lady Wranglers, so's you won't mind get'n dirty. Like Master Billy said, no telling what we'll find,” he added.

Kayla ran off to her room to change. Randy told everyone to meet in the front foyer right after lunch. Everyone in Randy's posse gathered, he opened a gate to the village square on the ship, and they walked through. The town folks stopped what they were doing, hailed them, and came over to greet and welcome them to the ship. They ran into Zeke and his two dogs Pancake and Dolly. When Zeke found out what the kids were up to, he asked if they would allow him and his dogs to come along. So far he only got guided tours and wanted a chance to explore on his own. With Randy's, Clyde's, and Mack's approval Zeke and his dogs joined the group. Zeke's dogs couldn't talk. It was the first talking dogs they ran into and Zeke was fascinated by them. He wondered to himself why he never gave his companions the gift of speech. He took a minute to wing up and made a quick correction in each of his beloved companion's P-2 genes and they were adjusted to speak. After Randy gave them his additional app they began to talk almost immediately. Zeke was as wowed and impressed by the young cowboy as anyone. He couldn't thank Randy enough.

They found Cloog and Aeron. They were both thrilled Captain Nick recommended them. Cloog said he held a set of keys to most of the castle floors and wings, but he wasn't sure it was complete. He thought Beauford might have some he didn't, so they went to the great Shedu bull, and he gave them another set of keys he said completed the set. They didn't know why there were two sets, but it seemed it had always been that way. They got a map from Jethro and he carefully drew lines around the areas which weren't explored. When they asked why? Jethro replied Master Billy and Captain Nick were going to open up the whole castle, but after exploring one wing, they got tired, lost interest, and decided to wait until later. They found enough to grow into, and they were happy for the moment. Randy's group were like kids on a treasure hunt. It didn't really matter what they found, if anything. Their excitement was in the anticipation and the possibility.

And so, with Jethro's wish of good exploring, they set off to open the rest of the area where Billy and Captain Nick stopped. They walked by apartment after apartment each with a minimum of four rooms and some with several more rooms. They looked in a couple, but decided they wanted to explore unknown territory. The dogs were as excited as the kids, and they added the extra benefit of having super hearing and smell. They could almost tell what was in a room before they walked in. Exploring unknown country was a bit intimidating for Miranda's pups. They stayed close to their mother and the bigger dogs. After seeing one room after another, which began to look like a copy of the previous thirty rooms they wandered through, they finally came to the end of the newly inhabited area. The thought of going through hundreds of more rooms of the same began to weigh on the group, and Randy said he could understand why Master Billy and Captain Nick gave up their original plan to open up the whole castle. Cloog suggested they climb to the huge attic and work their way down. He said he was up there once with Captain Nick and there was a lot of junk and old stuff stored in small dormer rooms within the vast expanse of the attic itself.

There was also four tower apartments up there looking out on the landscape which were never explored. From one of the turrets, Aeron claimed you could see the top of the mountain on the other side of the lake by the castle into the dark, foreboding forest and thicket they referred to as Sky-lander. Nobody knew where the name came from. No one ever ventured deep into the forest because the village people said there were ghosts who dwelt there; sometimes they saw strange ghostly lights and sometimes heard even stranger music come from deep within the thicket. For adventurous young explorers, words like that were like waving a red flag in front of a bull to get his attention. The intrepid explorers spent several hours going through the attic and found all sorts of treasures.

One section was devoted to the storage of old musical instruments. There was everything you could imagine: violins, violas, cellos, bass fiddles, more viols of ancient origins, lutes: large and small: small double reed instruments, baroque oboes, oboe d'amores, angle horns, and larger bassoon like instruments; including several complete chests of recorders or fipple flutes. Brass instruments: coach horns, baroque French horns, baroque trumpets, sackbutts, serpentine horns, and one large instrument no one ever saw before. There was a dozen or more ancient keyboard instruments including an early pianoforte with only one set of strings. They were badly in need of tuning, but Randy found a tuning wrench and managed to pull one up to a decent pitch. The instruments alone were like finding a gold mine for them.

They stood and looked out of the highest turret over the lake and into the dark forest and thicket. They decided they were done exploring the castle and would leave the rest for another day. They turned to leave, when a flash of light caught Tommy's eye. He turned to focus and asked if anyone else saw the flash of light in the top of the trees in the forest. Everyone turned just as it flashed again. “I saw it!” Kayla shouted with excitement.

“I saw it, too, Sister,” Randy said. “Can you make out what it is?” he asked.

“There! There! I see it? Stand here. At this angle you can see it clearly!” exclaimed Rory.

“Yes, I can see it, too,” Cal said.

“Oh, my God, it's a small gold cross,” said Pard. There must be an old religious relic hidden in the forest,” he added.

“I have to know what it is,” Randy said firmly.

“I'm with you, Brother Randy,” Tommy said, “Let's go!” he said with enthusiasm.

“We don't ever go into the forest, Son, and we tell our children to stay away. Aeron was right. There are strange going-ons in there we just don't want to deal with,” Cloog said.

“It's still early afternoon. There will be light for several more hours. I don't think it would hurt to take a look,” Randy said, and against Cloog's wise advice, the enthusiastic band of intrepid explorers went down the stairs and around the great lake by the side of the castle and into the dark forest. Cloog insisted they wait for him to gather his sword before they left the castle grounds. Being the consummate warrior, he felt a paternal need to protect the children and their guests. The kids giggled among themselves. They thought Daffy and Chloe were enough to frighten the scare out of any haint. When Cloog returned wearing his broadsword as a sidearm he looked intimidating and ever bit the fierce but older warrior. They set out for the forbidden dark forest and foreboding thicket. It was slow going, and the kids soon change their patronizing attitude about Cloog and his weapon to one of admiration and respect. He was able to hack his way through the underbrush and hurtful briars of the thick undergrowth with his broadsword to provide a path for his young visitors and their guests.

It seemed every other pup or dog got a thorn in their paw, they would have to stop, Randy or Zeke would remove it and heal them. Then, off they would go again to cover the ground Cloog cleared for them. It was slow going, but it finally paid off when they came upon an enormous structure built out of the same block stone the castle was made from. It was a great chapel and not just a small private place of worship. It was built to accommodate an entire village of people. It was huge and the gold cross was perched at the very topmost point of the spire. There were huge stained glass windows which were in perfect order. Nothing was broken nor out of place. For being in the middle of the encroaching plant growth of a great forest and surrounding thicket it was in pristine condition.

It seemed like the forest and undergrowth grew right up to a certain point and then was forbidden to grow any further. It was as stunning as it was unnatural looking. The windows were immaculate and beautiful, but the strangest thing about them was they bore representations of birds, animals, abstract arrangements of color, and one of a white dove next to the baptismal fount. There were no pictures of Christ, his disciples, nor themes from the old testament. It was simple, but elegant in its design and decoration. It caught up one's spirit without the usual blood and guts tasteless melodrama. The party of explorers walked into the clearing in front of the entryway and marveled at the workmanship and beauty of the structure.

“Has anyone ever been inside?” Kayla asked Cloog.

“No, ma'am, Miss Kayla. We didn't even know it was here,” the perspiring older warrior said.

“Beautiful,” whispered Zeke.

“Stunning,” allowed Gog the giant.

“Haunting,” said Kayla.

“Oh, my,” Randy added.

“Oh, my what?” Kayla asked knowing her brother's 'Oh, my' usually meant trouble.

“Look under the alcoves,” Randy replied.

“They're blue. A nice light sky-blue,” Kalya said.

“Haint blue,” Randy said.

“What do you mean it aint-blue, Brother? Of course they're blue,” she said.

“I don't mean they ain't blue, but I understand how you might misinterpret it as cowboy talk. I'm talking about ghosts. Haints. Haints don't like water, so in older days they painted porches and alcoves with a mixture of indigo blue, quick-lime, and milk to keep evil spirits at bay,” Randy said.

“Where do you come up with arcane stuff like that?” Kayla checked him.

“Sorry. I read a lot about such nonsense on the Net, and it sticks in my brain. It's a rat's nest of trivia up there,” Randy replied.

“I'm not putting you down, Randy. I'm just amazed by some of the stuff you know. If we ever go exploring for real, I want you by my side,” Kayla said firmly and smiled at her brother.  

“This is real enough for me, Dear Sister. Let's take a look,” Randy said and walked to the entry to try the door, but it was locked, “Keys?” he asked Cloog.

“I don't know if we have one for it, but my best bet would be the large ornate brass one, Son,” Cloog said.

Randy tried it, and it work more easily than he imagined a lock on an old abandon building might respond. It was like it was brand new and oiled regularly.  
 
Randy's rag-tag posse of kids, canines, Cowboy-Angels, one giant, and two halflings slowly made their way into the building but not a word was said by anyone. They were stunned and in total awe of the shear size and beauty of the church, but the most amazing thing was, there wasn't a bit of dust or decay in sight. Everything was in perfect order. You could run your fingers over the dark stained oak pews and not have a bit of dust on your fingers. It was perfect. It was immaculate. They slowly moved to the center and came to the great altar and two side wings where a mighty choir would sit, and they could see all the way through to the other matching pews on the other side of the center altar. It was built in the shape of a giant cross.

Randy pointed to a rank of gold and silver pipes on either side of the altar and called Kayla's attention to them. “Do you think it still works?” he asked her.

“As clean and well preserved as this place is, I would bet my allowance it's in perfect working order,” Kayla replied.

All of a sudden the bellows started pumping air into the wind-chest. It was a large manually operated air-pumping mechanism requiring two men on either side to man the bellows, but here it was filling itself by some unknown mysterious means. “Do you think it's an invitation, Sister?” Randy asked.

“If it is an invitation, it's got your name written all over it. I'd say now is the time for you to let loose on all them Bach pieces you think you've been hiding from me. Go for it, little brother. Good luck with the pedals,” Kayla said and urged her brother on.

“Maybe the seat is adjustable. Beside I got me boots on. They give me legs a bit of cheating room,” Randy speculated, turned, and walked away toward the organ bench. He pulled himself into the tight little space and was amazed to find it was built for someone of smaller size like himself; perhaps even a halfling. He recognized several of the stops from his last session sitting in the choir loft in church watching Vox Humana and sitting next to his big brother while playing the Skinner Organ at the ranch. He pulled out several stops and launched into Bach's choral prelude Sleepers Awake, 'Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BVW 645. It awoke every corner of the great cathedral. The very name of the piece was synonymous or at least metaphorical in relationship to what happened next. Vortices began to form in both auditoriums and from each emanated four perfect rays of almost brilliantly blinding light. Randy saw them forming with his peripheral vision, but knew he must not stop playing. Somehow, he understood his music was the catalyst to draw them forth and make them take form.

Randy's mates were stunned and moved closer to the organ alcove to watch the sleepers awake. There were star-like formations floating in the air all over the place from the far corners of the balconies to the ground floor in front of them. They were of many sizes and each more beautiful than the next. They slowly continued to lower themselves into the pews where they began to form themselves into the shape of steel-blue giant humanoids; much like the alien males from the movie 'Prometheus,' but they were not psychopathic killing machines. The males were stunningly handsome with a superior musculature to make any muscle builder on Earth look like he deserved to have sand kicked in his face, and the women were of equal perfection and beauty. The young adults and children were no less stunning.

The females were dressed the long flowing gowns and the men wore great uniforms with leather kilts, tall boots, and metal breast plates made of a blue silver metal. One carried a great helmet under his arm and wore a great broadsword on his hip three times larger than the one Cloog wore. Some sat in the pews and others stood and milled around like they were trying to find the perfect spot to hear the wonderful sound Randy was making on the organ. The only thing they were lacking was a long stemmed glass of a vintage white wine and a crab-cake in their hands as they gathered to listen to the small human play the great organ. They continued to materialize until there was several hundred of them filling both sections of the church. When Randy finished the chorale, they applauded politely and waited. A voice came into Randy's head. << Please. Play another, Son, we have gone so long without music. Your playing awoke us from our slumber, >> a strong male voice said. Randy recognized the voice as the great warrior holding his helmet.

Randy started playing again. This time he played Bach's little Prelude and Fugue in g minor. It must have been a piece they recognized because he heard them sigh in great ecstasy like they were welcoming an old beloved friend into their hearts. By the time Randy finished everyone was materialized and sitting or standing around looking at Randy's rag-tag group of intrepid explorers. They politely applauded Randy's playing again. The only critter of Randy's posse who was shaken was Kayla. “Do you think they're friendly, Randy?” she asked.

“Darlin', if'n they weren't we would be dead by now,” Randy said as he walked up to the biggest of them, the huge warrior, bowed deeply from his waist, and fearlessly held out his hand, “I'm Ramrod Randy Rutherford from the Hill Country in the republic of Texas on the planet Earth. Thank you for your kind and generous response to my playing. Alas, I apologize, I am but a beginner and have not yet taken lessons on the organ, but I have watched and practiced on my keyboard I have at home in my bedroom where I sleep at night,” he explained.

“You have a great talent, Young Human,” the giant said taking Randy's small hand and gently shaking it. We are the Skilander Essengurda. We are unwitting stowaways here on Captain Nick's ship barely subsisting beneath this great chapel. By choice, we are in stasis most of the time. We rarely come forth unless we are needed or called upon. The last time we awoke, the great Shedu, Beauford, called out to anyone who would help him, his crew, and the people of the village get into stasis to keep them from dying from the smoke caused by a crashed landing here on Earth. We awoke, placed everyone into a deep slumber and carried them and Beauford to the stasis chambers. We put out the fires and did what we could to restore life support. When we were satisfied everyone would survive, we returned to our world of controlled stasis,” he said.

“And your name would be...?” Randy asked.

“Hunnikagruden,” he replied.

“May I call you 'Hunk'?” Billy asked.

“I would be honored, sir,” Hunk replied and bowed slightly.
 
“Your species is not originally from Earth,” Randy said like a fact instead of a question.

“Astute of you, Young Human. No we are not. We came to Earth because our sun went supernova and we needed a place to relocate and begin again. We settled here and rebuilt our society. We were worshiped by the early Northern tribes of proto-humans and later their descendants. Some of us interbred with the larger human women and when we left, we left behind our bloodlines,” Hunk said.

“Why did you leave Earth?” Randy asked.
 
“The reptilian race and their drones tried to subjugate our race to become slaves for them and to become the keepers of their subhuman and human hybrid slaves. We refused. They captured and enslaved many of our descendants and treated them like cattle,” Hunk said, “We never actually left Earth. Neither do we actually sleep. Like the American Indians suggest reality is the dream and our dreams are our reality, we live our lives interacting with each other on a subconscious basis,” Hunk explained.

“Wait! I done that several times when I went to a prisoner in his dreams, took his hand an led him to a place I created for us to be with each other and share information and affection. I'm familiar with the concept,” Randy said.

“That's exactly right. It's what we do. You can't tell the difference between the dream and reality. We voluntarily placed ourselves into suspended animation or stasis to wait out the occupation of the more powerful aliens, but we would physically awaken every Walpurgisnacht to physically socialize, and clean up the interior and surrounding grounds of the chapel. We never counted on the castle and Abby being purloined by space pirates to become a part of their living quarters on this vessel. We simply remained in stasis until the vessel was captured by the Grigori and given as a gift, a reward to the Fallen Archangel Lucifer or Samu'el for his many feats of compassion and heroism. Since that time, we have grown fond of the captain and his crew. We are comfortable on board his ship. He runs his ship like a social democracy, but like all ship captains he must be respected as the last word on disputes. We have never known him to be unfair. Now, we understand we are subjects of a new master who was partially responsible for saving Captain Nick's life. We watched his quick action and tested his heart. We found him without flaw, or we never would have allowed him on board the ship,” Hunk explained.  

“That would be my big brother, Master Billy Daniels. We ain't blood brothers. We're closer than blood. He saved my life and healed me from a terrible crippling degenerative disease. He has helped everyone of my posse here today. Several of us would not be here if it were not for him. You have nothing to fear from him. He will embrace you as brothers, but I can't say he and Captain Nick won't be surprised. That's fine with us. We love to put one over on him and his adopted pa,” Randy said and grinned wickedly. His posse laughed at him.

“We must be honest with you, Young Master. We caught you out wandering in your dreams several times and wanted to share you and your talents with us. We called you here today. We have been expecting you and your friends. We would like to invite you to come with us to our world and we will further enhance you and your friends. You will be gone no longer then five minutes of your time, and we will return you to your reality,” Hunk asked.

“I must take it up with my elders who have been so kind to accompany us today and put-up with our youthful exuberance,” Randy replied.

“Certainly, sir. We understand,” Hunk said.

“What do you think, Clyde, Mack, Ezekiel, Gog, Master Cloog, and Brother Aeron?” Randy asked.

“What about your brothers? Ask them first,” Clyde said.

“Of course, sir. Sister, Tommy, Pard, Rory, Cal, Daffy, Chloe, Dolly, Pancake, Miranda, pups, and last but not least our beloved Miss Molly, do you think we should visit the world of the Skilander Essengurda and enjoy their hospitality?” Randy asked.

“I could use the extra enhancements,” Pard replied. The others, and the dogs agreed with him. The older men agreed they would like to visit their world.

And so, Randy and his posse visited the Skilander Essengurda's world for several hours, received their gifts of extra-added enhancements and shared more music with them, but when they were returned to the chapel, less than five minutes of their reality time passed. They thoroughly enjoyed their visit with the giant people and were treated like visiting royalty. Even the older stoics Clyde, Mack, Ezekiel, Gog, and Cloog, were impressed. They returned Cloog to a much younger man and promised if he brought his wife to them they would do the same for her. They even gave the Cowboy-Angels more enhancements than they had before. Everyone seemed happy and in a receptive mood. Randy told them there was room for them should they wish to return to a permanent state of reality.

“We will consider your kind offer, Master Randy, we think it's time to reveal ourselves to your master and his pa. Depending on their reactions and wishes, we will certainly consider the option if they should offer,” Hunk said.

There was many hugs, kisses, handshakes, wet sloppy doggy kisses, and offering of paws to shake, when it came time to leave. They watched as the Skilander Essengurda returned to their slumber-world in their stasis chambers. They were happy but a bit sad the poor folks had to return to an artificial reality. “Who's to say our reality ain't somebody else's dream we's just sharing, Son?” Zeke asked wisely, but his words didn't make their reality complete knowing the Skilander Essengurda had so much to offer, and they had so much to share with them – even more, now they held the peaceful giant's wisdom and talents within them for safe keeping.

“I think we should pick up some of those instruments on our way back to the ranch,” Rory said.

“Yeah, I agree wiff' ma' Bro. We ain't got much time to practice, and I wanna' blow my parent's and my granny's socks off,” Cal agreed.

“And climb all those stairs again?” Kayla whined. Randy and the boys started laughing and so did the dogs. “All right, so I forgot about Angel-Flight, let's go,” she said.

After they locked the door to the chapel, Clyde, Mack, and Zeke winged up and transported them back to the attic in the castle where they found the instruments. Randy stopped Cal from putting one of the double reed baroque oboes in his mouth. “Wait until we get back to the main part of the castle and sterilize the reeds with liquid bleach. Plague germs live for years on such as that and you don't know who the person was who put that thing in his or her mouth. A little caution could save a lot of tears,” Randy said, and the boys took his word. Each boy and Kayla gathered up several instruments. To their delight so did Gog, Aeron, Cloog, Mack, Clyde and Zeke. “I always wanted to play me one a' them wood flutes or a brass instrument. That smarty-pants Gabriel was all the time show'n off blow'n his trumpet. What did he know? It was about the only damn thing he could do worth a tinker's damn,” Zeke said and harrumphed. Zeke got a laugh out of the company, and he felt more accepted and loved than he experienced in a long time. He never knew kids and talking dogs could be so much fun. It put him in touch with the little boy whom he forgot lives within him and all mankind.

Pard surprised Randy. He picked up one of the violas and started playing it like it was the second half of his soul. Everyone in the group stopped in their tracks mesmerize by his playing. Tommy picked up a violin and started playing second to Pard and before they knew it, several others joined in; but no one blow'd a trumpet, a flute, nor a double reed instrument. Pard and Tommy's second choice were the baroque wind instruments. Kayla picked out a baroque oboe d'amore for herself, and an alto fipple flute. They left several of their choice of instruments in a spare apartment next to the giant's assigned quarters and decided to return later to work on them and sterilize them. Randy advised those who chose a string instrument to take it back with them to the ranch and keep it in their room so they could bring it along in the morning to Uncle Tom's cabin for orchestra practice. They agreed. Aeron, Cloog, and Zeke asked if it included them. “Of course it includes you. I'll open a gate for you in the morning to come to the big house wiff' your instruments. We'll go through the gate together to Uncle Tom's cabin.

 * * * * * * *
That evening at supper, Billy and his cowboys were really up and talk was lively around the table, except for the group of intrepid explorers. They joined in the fun, but they seemed just a bit more mature and didn't giggle as much. Billy could tell something was up, but he couldn't find an opening. Finally he just asked and knew instinctively if they were hiding something he would get more near the truth from Kayla than the boys. “How did exploring day go, Kayla?” Billy asked.

“Tolerable. Right tolerable, Brother Billy,” she replied using cowboy speak.

“Did you find anything of great value?” Billy asked.

All eyes were on Kayla and the boys were holding their breath, “Depends on your definition of 'great value,' Master Billy,” she said, and Billy heard the boys let out a breath of relief at Kayla's dodge of the fast ball.

“I see. Did you have an interesting day?” he asked.

“One of the best I've ever experienced on the ranch. I got to see definite signs my little brother is growing up, and I can easily say, for once in our lives together, I not only have great hope for him, but I'm also convinced he will grow up to be a man I can stand beside and tell the world I'm proud to call him my 'brother,'” Kayla said without giving Billy much except her personal new-found pride in her younger brother.

“Well, I have no doubt he will be able to return the compliment with just as much sincerity as you just expressed. I'm impressed,” Billy allowed and several agreed with him.

The rest of the boys didn't have much to say but complimented Billy on his recommendations of guides and chaperons for the day. They agreed they had great fun and admiration for the old warrior Cloog, and his grand-nephew Aeron; as well as, Gog, Clyde, Mack, and Zeke.

As they were having dessert, Billy asked the boys how Molly was coming along. She was taking a snooze between Daffy and Chloe in the corner.

“She's one of the brightest and most talented pups we've run across,” Randy said about to eat the last bite of his strawberry short cake,” Molly come here, Sweet Lady,” Randy said. Molly raised her head and immediately came to Randy's side. He picked her up and with his spoon fed her the last bite of his short cake. She ate it quickly and thanked Randy for thinking of her. Her speech was perfection.

“Can you remember the song our friends taught us today, Dear-heart?” Randy asked her.

“I think so, Master Randy, but I heard Mistress Kate say there would be no singing at the table after the 'Rain-in-Spain' incident,” she replied. Everyone laughed.

“I'll make and exception for you, Pretty Lady,” Kate said firmly. “Cowboys are still not allowed to sing at the table,” she added, and got more laughs.

“Do you need my help or can you sing it by yourself?” Randy asked.

“I think I can do it, sir,” she said.

“Whenever you're ready, Dear,” Randy whispered.

Molly looked around, threw back her pretty little head and began to sing, “Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling, from glen to glen and down the mountain side. The summer's gone and all the roses falling; It's you, it's you, must go and I must bide,” Molly sang out in the sweetest pure voice anyone at the table ever heard. Billy damn near dropped his fork in his plate he was so taken with the purity of her sweet little voice. It was like listening to the voice of an angel who fell from heaven. Molly took a deep breath, threw back her head and began to belt out the next verse, “But come ye back when summer's in the meadow, or when the valley's hushed and white with snow. It's I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow. Oh, Danny boy, oh, Danny boy, I love you so."

She paused for only a moment and launched into the next verse, “But when ye come and all the flowers are dying, if I am dead, and dead I well may be, you'll come and find the place where I am lying and kneel and say an 'Ave' there for me." There wasn't a dry eye around the table. It was gut wrenching to hear the little dog who just lost her beloved mistress sing of such sorrow. But like a trouper, Molly threw back her head, took another breath and sang, “And I shall hear tho' soft you tread above me, and in my grave will warmer, sweeter be, for you will bend and tell me that you love me, and I shall sleep in peace until you come to me,” On the last three words she held them and ended on a higher note of promise. She was finished, and everyone around the table was devastated. They swallowed hard, choked back their tears, and began to applaud for Molly. Randy moved his head down, kissed her on her cheek, and whispered, “That was so fine, Molly. I'm very proud of you,” he said.

“Bravo, Molly!” Billy said sincerely. “That's a rough song to sing convincingly, but you did a fine job,” he added.

“You are officially the only critter who may sing at my table,” Kate said wiping away a tear and Zelma agreed with her. Daffy and Chloe were thrilled for their new little companion. Miranda and the pups were equally impressed.

* * * * * * *
Billy announced he and his Cowboy-Angels would be retiring to the tubs in the dungeon on Captain Nick's ship for a brief while and those men and younger cowboys who wished to join them were welcome. It would not be a long bull session as he wanted to be fresh for the morning to gate over to Uncle Tom's cabin for rehearsals for the Barnyard Concert later in the afternoon. He looked around and got nods from most of his usual men, but Randy and his group didn't seem interested.

“You men interested in joining us for a while, Bossman?” he asked.

“Thanks for the offer Big Bro, but after the strenuous day we had climbing up and down them stairs in the castle and going from room to room, I don't know about the others, but I'm pooped. I think I'll just kick back, do some surfing on my computer, and call it a day,” Randy said, and the other boys agreed they were too tired.

Billy seemed a bit dejected, but he didn't say anything. He let it go. Again Billy thought it was strange none of the dogs seemed interested in going with the men, but after all, they couldn't get into the hot water and sitting in a steaming hot area was uncomfortable for them. Randy and the boys busied themselves helping Kate's crew clear the table and helped with clean up. They were still busy when the men went to the foyer to open a gate and transport to Captain Nick's ship.

“In the name of some unknown god, I thought them men would never leave!” Randy exclaimed like he was frustrated.

“Amen to that, Brother,” Rory agreed.

“Is there anything else we can do for you, Ms. Kate?” Randy asked.

“No, you men and Kayla have been a great help, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness. Now you want to tell me and the rest of these ladies what you kids are up to? You boys would never pass up a chance to be with your cowboy heroes. You been acting strange all evening. Not bad-strange but just not your usual selves. I know you got something going you don't want them men to know about,” Kate said.

“You're good, Mistress Kate. You know us pert-dang well. Us cowboys done took a vote. Go on, Sister, we want you to tell 'em about our discovery,” Randy urged her.

Kayla was so touched and flattered by her little brother's magnanimity and faith in her, tears came to her eyes. Being the consummate gallant cowboy, Randy whipped out his bandanna and handed it to her. Kayla thanked him and dabbed at her eyes, but continued to hold onto it. She started to tell about discovering the musical instruments and then the rest of their adventure. She didn't leave out a thing, but would refer to one of the boys or dogs from time to time who would confirm or support her telling of their unexpectedly exciting day.

“So you have these new toys, these ancient instruments, you need to clean and spruce up?” Zelma asked.

“Yes, 'em,” Kayla replied.

“The alien creatures enhanced you with the knowledge and talent to play these instruments?” Kate asked.

“Yes, 'em, Ms. Kate,” Kayla replied.  

“And you need a place and some help to get them cleaned up; and you want to try your hand at them before you announce your new abilities to Master Billy?” Ros asked.

“Exactly, Miss Ros, but we got to invite Master Cloog, Aeron, Gog, and of course Clyde and Mack,” Rory replied.  
 
The women sat stunned for a minute; then, they broke up laughing at the same time. “I been wondering if I opted for a prolonged life would it be worth it, but you kids come up with some of the darndest things what makes me think it just might be. Get your people and things together and bring them here. We got everything you need within a few feet, and we can take them up to the auditorium for you to try them,” she said.

Randy's posse didn't need a second invitation. They dispersed like they already had the rest planned. All they needed was the word from their Earth Goddess, Mother Kate with the blessing and approvals of the real power behind the Daniels throne, the ladies in the kitchen. They even brought Aunt Helen and Clarice Wombat into the fold and several of the other ladies. Randy already had his other men standing by to transport to the house. When they brought all the dusty old instruments into the kitchen area the ladies were stunned at the variety and the hidden beauty of them. Everyone got busy, and it looked like a bizarre scene of some fifteenth century musical instrument peddler's shop.

They took great care to clean and sterilize the mouth pieces and reeds of the instruments. When they finished, each person had three to five instruments they could play. They tested them one by one so's not to draw too much attention to their machinations. Each kid and the men who accompanied them could play every instrument they picked up with equal talent and limitless dexterity. They literally, instantly became a virtuoso on the instrument they were playing. The enormous Gog, the three large Cowboy-Angels, Clyde, Mack, Zeke, and the diminutive Cloog and Aeron were equals in their statue as musicians.

“What will we try first?” Randy asked, and everyone broke up laughing. “Okay, okay, but I just wanted to give everyone a say. Bach it is!” Randy proclaimed and everyone cheered. Rox and Aunt Helen got busy and retrieved from the storehouse of ancient works they were stockpiling, the complete Brandenburg Concertos which called for exactly many of the same instruments they just finished refurbishing. “Where we gonna' play?” Randy asked.

“I thought you might want to play in the organ room on the third floor?” Kate said.

“It's too late, and the cowboys and cowgirls will hear us and want to listen. It will interrupt their evening,” Randy replied.

“Gate to the turret room in the castle to play a tribute in honor of our benefactors!” Kayla exclaimed.

“Great idea, Big Sister, but they might hear us down in the dungeon,” Randy responded.

“Yeah! Exactly, Kayla!” Cal exclaimed, “I think you missed the point, Bossman,” he added.

“You're right, I did! We'll need our maximum people power to pull this off. We got a harpsichord up there. Grandma Kate can we count on your help on continuo?” Randy asked.

“Absolutely! I wouldn't miss putting one over on my smug grandson and my son. What about his beloved twins for fiddles?” Kate asked.

“You have a delightful but delicious wicked streak, Ms. Kate. I like that in my women,” Randy said and everyone laughed.

“You have no idea how delightfully wicked she can be,” Zelma said raising an eyebrow and those over the age of puberty laughed harder.

* * * * * *
<< Pssst! Poly? Cass? Bossman here, >> Randy sent.

<< We's here, Bossman. What's up? >> Poly sent back.

<< I have need of your talents and fiddles. You game for playing some late e'nin clandestine Bach? >>

<< Always, Bossman. What chu' got in mind, Cowboy? >>

<< Can you tear yourselves away from his nibs and company, gather your violins, and meet us in the turret at the top of the tower above you in about thirty minutes? >> Randy asked.

<< If we can get his permission. You know how engaging and scintillating our young master can be sometimes. We can barely tear ourselves away, >> Poly said.

<< Liar! >> Randy shot back and heard Poly and Cass break up laughing in his mind.

<< We'll be there, Bossman! Don't start without us! >> Randy heard and laughed.

* * * * * * *
“Hear! You men! What chu' giggling about over there?” Billy asked his beloved twins.          

“My dear brother tickled me beneath the water, and I returned his assault, Master. Sorry if we caused a disruption in the flow of conversation. Our hearts just don't seem to be into the baths tonight, sir. I think we need some alone time with each other. Would you be offended if we excused ourselves and retired to the line cabin?” Poly explained and asked.

“No, not at all. We ain't talk'n about anything of great import. Go ahead-on, and we'll join you later,” Billy allowed and the twins left the bath as soon as they could.

Poly and Cass gathered their Strads and materialized in the tower just as the last of Randy's posse were coming through the gate. They didn't take time to explain to Poly and Cass their new improved talents, but they got set up and decided a good place to start would be with the first Brandenburg. They brought in the harpsichord Randy tuned earlier in the day. Aunt Helen brought her bass, but Randy decided he wanted another cello player. He asked Aunt Helen to play the other cello along with his sister and she agreed. Randy thought one bass player should be enough and asked Mack to play it. He got a big smile on his handsome face and looked pleased Randy chose him to play the big instrument. Randy decided Zeke and Cloog would play the two baroque coach horns for the piece. Roz and Clyde would play violas and Randy, Tommy, Aeron, Poly, and Cass would play violins. Randy found a smaller than usual violin in the attic. It was love a first stroke. Kate told him it was known as a Piccolo Violin. Randy needed three oboist, and Pard, Rory, and Cal, held up their hands.

That left one baroque bassoon to play and Gog was already holding it, cradling it in his huge arms like it was his baby; and that completed the complement of Randy's instrument assignments. He was proud of his rag-tag ensemble. They shared a wonderful day together and he knew the evening would be just as rewarding. The dogs couldn't wait to hear their friends blow and saw their brains out.

Randy explained they would have no conductor, but for everyone to watch him. He showed them the tempo he wanted. It was brisk but not hurried. He learned a trick from Cletus, stomped his boot three times, and they were off. The sound was brilliant and controlled. It was almost like they practiced together for years and the first Bach Brandenburg Concerto was their signature piece. And could the big giant Gog toot a bassoon? He was so powerful he sounded like two bassoonists were carrying the part, but Randy didn't care. Like cowbells, the more bassoon the better. Even Gog's chimera, Mr. Penis, came out to listen. The beautiful music was so high up in the air it was difficult to tell where it was coming from as it wafted over the village and up the hill into the dark forest and foreboding brier thicket. Randy wondered if Commander Hunk and his people could hear them. He hoped they could and found himself day dreaming about them as he played the notes on the page.

* * * * * * *
Meanwhile, in the depths of the steamy dungeon, the faint but unmistakable sounds of Bach drifted in through the windows. All conversation stopped immediately as the men listened. Billy looked around at his posse and got blank looks from all of them. He knew without asking they knew nothing about it. “Am I the only one hearing the first Bach Brandenburg Concerto?” Billy asked.

“No, Kemosabe, I think we all hear it,” Nick replied, “Maybe somebody's got their computer or CD player cranked up too loud,” he added.

“I don't think so. H'it ain't canned music. Somebody's playing it,” Billy said, and there came laughter from his posse. They suspected somehow, someway, Bossman Randy had something to do with it. Billy got up and walked naked out of the dungeon onto the balcony surrounding the dungeon and looked out between the stone openings in the wall. The music was coming from either the village or a room in the castle. Slowly, one by one, the other men joined him and Captain Nick on the balcony.   

“They's damn good, too. They ain't no amateurs. Whoever it is, they's seasoned professionals. What the fuck! Shit like this drives me crazy!” Billy shouted and started laughing, “If this is the Bossman's doing, I'm gonna' tan his little backside until he can't sit down for a week,” Billy threatened in his best cowboy hyperbole and laughed at his own nonsense.

“Oh, my god, would you look at that!” Bubba shouted and pointed to the horizon. Strange lights were rising out of the forest and shaping themselves into four pointed stars of all sizes. They were beautiful and haunting. “They's being call forth by the music. That's amazing. Watch and you can see them sway to the beat,” Bubba shouted. The men stood naked on the balcony watching the apparitions or electrical energy they speculated about.

“Do you know what they are, Pa?” Billy asked.

“Naw, I ain't never seen 'em before, but the village people claim about once't a year they see strange lights moving about in the forest. I always thought somebody was playing a prank, or they's just being superstitious,” Nick replied.

“We seen 'em before, Captain Nick,” Joe the blue giant said, but they never bothered nobody so we never thought much about it. “Maybe the music brought them out. They look like they're really enjoying the treat. You can see them radiating their joy,” he added.

The men stood, watched and listened until the concerto came to an end and turned to go back to their hot tubs. They no sooner got into the water when Randy and his posse started up the second Brandenburg Concerto with the trumpet blaring through the night. Zeke was playing the baroque trumpet and wishing Gabriel could hear him. Zeke knew he was every bit as good a trumpet player.

“That does it! That's one of the most difficult of the Brandenburgs, and I got to know who's playing it. We's naked, but pull on yore' pants and wing up, we're gonna' use our wings for some'um besides transport'n and heal'n. We're gonna' fly out and around to find out where the music is coming from,” Billy said.

“Boss, I don't think you wanna' do that. You might wanna' rethink that one,” Bubba said firmly. “Them Star folks is drawing nearer to the castle and they's hundreds of them. I keep getting vibrations, they got something to do with the music and the players. I don't think they'd take too kindly to a number of us flying up and around like we might be trying to do harm to them musicians,” Bubba warned.

“Good point. I didn't think about that, Brother. Get me a couple of my winged Sun Bears,” Billy said and in no time a couple of the Sun Bears flew onto the balcony. It was Sun'surrah and her husband. “My children, I need you to fly up and around the castle and discover where the music is coming from for me, return, and let me know,” Billy said. The Sun Bears fell together laughing.

“That's where we come from, Master Billy. We flew up when we first heard the music, and we been sitting on the balcony listening. They're wonderful, aren't they?” Sun'surrah asked.

“Of course they're wonderful. That's why I wanna' know who it is, Sweetheart,” Billy wailed.

“Don't you know? There's only one male in your family who could pull off something like this. Have you not learned your lesson?” Sun'surrah asked taunting her master.

“Where are they, Dear-heart?” Billy asked.

“The turret room at the top. Directly up the back stairs,” Sun'surrah said and laughed at Billy.

“Thank you, Darlin', I appreciate your honesty. I guess I done it again. I underestimated my little brother. Do you know why the Star people are moving closer to the castle?” Billy asked.

“Yes, they're friends of Master Randy and his posse. The music they're playing is for them and a thank you for their generosity and kindness. They mean you no harm, but Cousin Bubba was right to advise you not to appear threatening to the musicians. They are a race of peaceful warriors. I know that sounds like a contradiction of terms, but it's true. Master Randy will take you and Captain Nick to meet the Star people later,” she replied. “Now can we fly back up and enjoy the music, sir?” she asked.

“On your way, Little Sister, and you, too, Sun'sabastian,” Billy sent them on their way. “C'moan, Pa, put on your Wranglers and boots. The rest of you men stay here. We're gonna' wing-up and transport up them stairs to the turret room. I got to think about my poor old pa what just ain't up to walking up all them steps,” Billy said and poured on the hyperbole.

“Speak for yourself, Youngster. Tell the truth, Kemosabe,” Nick demanded firmly.

“I don't wanna' walk all them steps, Pa,” Billy whined like a contrite little boy and the cowboys laughed at him.
         
“Neither do I, Son. I suppose being a cowboy-angel has its perks. We might as well use the lift,” Nick agreed, and they left for the stairs after winging-up. They disappeared and reappeared in a great flash of light on the balcony in front of the doorway entry to the turret room. There they found the winged Sun Bears sitting on the large stones of the balcony.  Billy and Nick joined them and waited for the last movement to begin. They didn't want to interrupt the performance. So far it had been flawless, and Billy just sat back and enjoyed the flow.

The musicians took the last movement at a pretty good clip and the trumpeter, whomever he or she was, articulated the piece so precisely and accurately, Billy felt great chills running up and down his spine. He never heard such playing in his life nor could he ever remember hearing the Brandenburg Concertos played so well. If this stunt by his little brother was any indication of what was to come, he couldn't imagine what the young cowboy would think of next. He had a feeling this was just the first step and Randy was making a statement. Billy didn't think it was a challenge to him so much as statement of who he is and who Randy needs to become.

Nick called Billy's attention to the Star people. They were moving quite close to the castle but neither he nor his pa was particularly worried about them. When the final note was played Billy and Nick started applauding and yelling 'Bravo.' The Sun Bears joined them and there was a roar came up from the village of applause and shouting for the unknown musicians who treated them to such a wonderful work and an evening to remember. They didn't seem to be particularly bothered by the Star people either. The door opened to the balcony from the great room and Randy peaked out sheepishly with a big grin on his face.

“Come to me, you Little Monster,” Billy said and opened his big arms. Randy was in them in a minute, and the other musicians came to see. “You have several appreciative audiences this evening, the Sun Bears, the village people, and the Star people,” Billy said.

“The Star people? Really, Brother?” Randy asked and looked around Billy's shoulder. Tears came to his eyes and Randy leaned out of the balcony and opened his arms to them. They heard great thunderous applause from the Star people for a couple of minutes as the other musicians joined them on the patio to wave and acknowledge them. Then slowly they started retreating. Randy took Billy's hand with his right hand and Captain Nick's with his left. Billy watched tears of joy run down his little brother's face as he watched the Star people return from whence they came.

When they were gone, Billy gathered his little brother into his arms and stole a kiss. Everyone gathered around them. “You folks had a bigger day than you let on,” Billy said as fact, “And to think, my own dear grandmother was part of your conspiracy,” he added.

“T'weren't no conspiracy, Brother. It was a surprise,” Randy said.

“It was at that, Buckaroo. One of the best surprises of my life,” Billy said complimenting them.

“Who was the trumpeter for the second concerto?” Billy asked. Zeke held up his hand and grinned. “Never heard a trumpet nor that piece played so well, Master Ezekiel. It was a stunning triumph,” Billy complimented the old cowboy-angel.

“Thank you, Master Billy. I enjoyed playing it. I can do better. I gotta' work on them trills,” Zeke replied.
 
“I don't know how you plan to improve on perfection, but I'm always interested in learning, Maestro,” Billy said, “Do you folks plan to perform for us tomorrow,” he asked.

“We would be happy to, Brother, if there's room on the program,” Randy spoke for the group.

“We'll make room, Bossman,” Billy said, “I think it's time to wrap it up for the evening. We got a big day ahead of us tomorrow. Let's gate back to the house and have some Texas Tea together. Is there anything immediate we should know about the Star people?” Billy asked.

“No, they's peaceful and an advanced race of good folks. They saved Captain Nick, his crew, and the village people's bacon several times when they was in tight spots; they just don't know about,” Randy said.

Billy gathered his posse and Randy opened a gate. Everyone went back to the ranch house for some late evening dessert and Texas Tea. It was an evening Billy and Randy would recall with great fondness the rest of their lives.


End of Chapter 67  ~ Seek Him What Made Them Seven Stars
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01/18/2014
01/10/2017