San Jacinto

Before him loomed a cave. Above the entrance, carved deep into the orange-tinted rock, was the unmistakable shape of the Great Yellow Eagle entangled with a serpent. Eddie did not know what it meant, but that was a sign that here is where his journey went next. His first steps inside were met with the cool air from inside the earth, where his ancestors would go escape the heat of the day. In the dim light, he could see more carvings and pictograms. There were pictures of warriors hunting great buffalo, of owls and eagles, of wolves and creatures of the night. At the end of the shaft, just before all light diminished, was a carving that gave him pause.

The unmistakable diamond-shaped head of a great serpent, the rattlesnake, gazed back at him through its narrow eye slits. He stepped closer to inspect the glyph. It was so life-like, Eddie thought it watched him.

“Sahale!” came Hania’s voice from the dark. Eddie let out a shrill chirp in fright at hearing his voice. “Come, Sahale. Your next trial awaits.” Hania sparked a flint onto a torch and the cavern glowed a dull orange. He turned to go deeper into the cave and Eddie followed.

Around the next bend the cave ended into a room with a small smoldering fire set in a ring of rocks. The stones hissed from the dampness involuntarily drawn from them by the heat. Hania motioned for Eddie to sit on one side while he sat opposite.

“Sahale, child of the Apache people and future warrior,” Hania said in a deep tone that echoed through the room. “Are you prepared?”

“I am prepared,” came the response his grandfather told him to say. “I am ready to face the trial of the Great Yellow Eagle. I will be a warrior among my people.”

“This is good, young brave,” Hania began. “Many moons have passed since the Great Spirit brought you to this world. Among his greatest creations is the Yellow Eagle, which our people revere.” The heat from the fire intensified. Eddie could feel the sweat forming on his brow, even though the temperature in the room was cool. Hania continued.

“Even the great Yellow Eagle was not without trials, and his greatest foe was the serpent. Will you face the serpent as Yellow Eagle has, and become one with him?”

“I will,” again was the prompted response. “I will become one with Yellow Eagle and face my trial with his blessing.”

“This is good,” Hania said, and lowered his head down. He began a low chant as Eddie stared into the fire, watching each glowing ember shift and squirm from the heat. The chanting went on for several minutes. Eddie was mesmerized by the stillness of the room, the tone of Hania’s chant, and the dancing flames. Suddenly, he noticed movement above Hania’s head. Eddie strained to see into the shadows, to determine what it was. It was small. Barely noticeable at first among the thick wolf pelt draped over the medicine man. Then, it broke through the shadows, growing in size and made its way over Hania’s shoulder, down next to the fire. Eddie froze with fear, eyes widening as the Western Diamondback moved effortlessly across the space between them. Its eyes were fixed on Eddie, just as the glyph outside on the wall was. It was the same snake that Yellow Eagle had faced, and now it was here for Eddie.

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