Chapter One

An Anasazi Village, 1250

PASSING TIME meant nothing. Ta-Kuat sat silent, letting the darkness and the kiva fire speak. All-Times-in-This-Place wove together in the spirit-bowl of the young shaman’s belly—familiar, clear, strong. From him, the winding paths to All-Places-in-This-Time led outward into the sacred darkness. When he was ready, Chiyuskanek would speak, and Ta-Kuat would listen.

The little fire burned low. Chiyuskanek bent forward to place two more sticks on it, and the flickering light reshaped the craggy furrows of his face with shadows as he moved. “I have journeyed far into tomorrow,” he said, eyes fixed on the fire, “to see a time when the rains will return to us, and have not found it. Instead, I have seen the houses of our people empty, empty as bird nests in winter, all along the cliffs of our valley. Silent. Barren.”

The old man paused, as if to rest from carrying the burden of his vision. “No sign at all of our people remained but the empty husks of our living—our village had become a dead place. This will come to pass unless I find another way for our people, a door to a different tomorrow. This is not an easy thing.”

Ta-Kuat honored his mentor’s vision with strong silence. He knew Chiyuskanek was not finished, so he held a still space for him, filling the whole kiva with his listening.

“In the Great Time,” Chiyuskanek continued, “the time when the dwellings of our ancestors glowed with the beauty of their singing, when people and animals spoke only one language, in that time our people could change yesterday and set tomorrow as they chose. They moved from tomorrow to yesterday, and from mountain to valley, as if walking from one house to another.”

Chiyuskanek looked up from the flames and fixed Ta-Kuat with eyes full of their ancestors’ spirits. “Though all the doors to that time have been closed to us, a powerful stone, charged with the knowledge of the wise ones of that time, still exists. It holds the power to shape things, events, even in the spirit-world. This Door-Stone lies sleeping in some time-place I have not found yet.”

Again Chiyuskanek’s gaze dropped to the fire. “My old enemy has worked his magic to seal the doors to many time-places against my passage. How he has done this, I do not know, and I cannot undo his curse, even to save our people.” Chiyuskanek sighed and looked up, staring at his apprentice, his successor. “The time for me to join the ancestors draws near. My deepest wish is to give our people this gift, a changed tomorrow full of plenty, before I die.”

Ta-Kuat met his mentor’s gaze and acknowledged his speaking. He already knew. Less than a moon ago he had looked with spirit-vision upon Chiyuskanek and seen a dark cloud that sat like a storm in his belly. Death had entered him and would soon take him. Chiyuskanek would have known this long ago, but he had not said anything of his crossing until now.

But there was much in what Chiyuskanek had said that Ta-Kuat did not understand. Seldom had he mentioned this enemy that prevented him from traveling as he once had. That must have been a fierce struggle if a great shaman like his teacher had lost to such a foe. Perhaps he himself had never encountered such an enemy because Chiyuskanek had always protected him, sitting as guardian as he’d traveled. If so, he was grateful. An enemy capable of sealing paths in the spirit-world before him might also be able to seal those paths behind him. It would be a terrible thing to be trapped in the spirit-world, unable to return to his body, to the people he served.

He had, it seemed, felt the burn of pride in his mentor’s words, although perhaps he was mistaken. It was true their people suffered, and he too prayed for their relief. He too had done everything he knew how to do to bring the rains. But the rain had not come to them, and their people suffered still.

It was not wrong if Chiyuskanek wanted to gift his people with rain. Even if pride did sit in his mentor’s heart, what he wanted was a great blessing for his people. Long before Ta-Kuat had been born, Chiyuskanek had served their tribe for many harvests. Now his mentor, his spirit-father, was asking him to travel in a way that he himself could not. It was an honor. Besides, Ta-Kuat had no knowledge of this Door-Stone or how to use it. But Chiyuskanek did. He made peace with his uncertainty and waited.

Chiyuskanek spoke in the tone of a command. “This Door-Stone lies in a time-place closed to me—a place full of rain, my spirit guide tells. You must find it and bring it to me. With the stone my powers will be restored, and I will be able to travel freely again. I will open a door to a tomorrow full of plenty for our people, that will let us prosper in our valley.”

The old man fell silent. Ta-Kuat waited, making space, until his listening had come to rest and he himself was ready to speak. “Send me as you will, Chiyuskanek.” Fragrant smoke caressed the young shaman’s face, purifying, strengthening him. “Your enemy does not know me. I will travel for you, and bring you the Door-Stone, for the sake of our people.”