Production No. CVT526

written by:
Paula & Robin

edited by:
Cindy, Shallan, Lori Wright, and Linda Chapple


With original text from Lori Wright's "Determining the Right Path" in italics.

Two weeks earlier

The ride in the yellow car took a far shorter time than Nya had envisioned. A sense of impending danger settled over him during the ride as scenes from his spirit journey ran through his mind. Most of what had happened, he had forgotten, but it started to reemerge. The black jaguar had led the wolf away. During the dream, it had seemed that he was both the wild dog and a spectator. He had felt joy when the wolf drank from the lake of knowledge with him. He had rejoiced when Blair had lay down beside him and experienced the spirits in all their wonder. Then the jaguar had come and led the wolf away. That scene was still very vivid in his mind. Nya remembered the feeling of abandonment, but also the rightness. The wild dog, left behind, had observed their departing forms through slit eyes. Nya, looking on from someplace else, had felt the danger lurking. He had wanted to warn his spirit animal, but the dog's focus had been on the disappearing wolf. A black adder had slithered along the ground. Nya had shouted a warning, but it carried no sound. With a rush of movement, the adder had struck, biting the wild dog in the belly. The snake had turned towards Nya; his golden eyes had mocked Nya's powerlessness. When Nya had looked at his spirit animal again, death had held him in her grasp, and the dog had looked at him with sad, defeated eyes.

A spasm of shivers racked his body. "Could you increase the heat?" Nya asked the taxi- driver.

"Almost there," was his only response.

Several minutes later they pulled onto the airport's main road. Shoving the vision from his mind, Nya pulled out the money to pay the driver. The taxi stopped behind at least six others, all discharging passengers. Nya gave the man his money, then closed the door. His legs were stiff from the trip, but also rubbery from the effects of his remembered vision. With hesitant steps, he slung the duffel over his shoulder and walked through the revolving doors. Each step felt closer to the danger his dream forecasted. He started towards the baggage check-in station, when a hand gripped his arm.

"Let me help you," a voice said.

Nya turned to see a well-dressed gentleman. He was immaculately groomed, wearing an expensive suit and shiny shoes. Even his fingernails looked manicured. It wasn't until the stranger had turned his head and smiled that Nya knew he couldn't escape his fate. The smile echoed in glowing gold eyes. The eyes of the adder.

The old Botswanan had hoped to face his destiny with serenity, but only dread filled his mind. Forcing himself to look away from the mesmerizing stare of the stranger, Nya searched the faces that hurried by him. He knew that he would find no help from a people who were afraid to make eye contact. They were too afraid of becoming involved with their fellow man. He and his plight might as well have been invisible. "I do not need your help, Nyoka." He felt the grip on his arm tighten as he tried to pull away.

The stranger's eyes narrowed and his head jerked back as if he had been slapped. "Nyoka?" He drew himself to his full height and considered the power of the man that stood before him. He felt his respect for the shaman grow and bowed from the waist. The old man had not only recognized his spirit animal, the adder, but had also spoken to him in his Swahili dialect. Awe now mixed with the jealousy he felt. He almost regretted that he would be sending the shaman to the spirits. "Mwalimu."

"I am not your teacher." Nya was taken aback by the title. It sounded perverse coming from the mouth of this deadly stranger. Closing his eyes, the shaman sought his centre. He pictured the grassy plains of his home and his old friend Kuguri. He knew that he would be joining the sentinel soon and his dread was replaced with joy. The old man began to feel the peace he would need to face his destiny and strengthen his soul. He finally recognized his dread for what it was. He was afraid for Blair Sandburg. The paths of the wolf and the snake would cross and he would be powerless to intervene or help. He did not know if the spirit world had yet revealed itself to the young shaman. Blair might not see the adder for what it was. The only hope he could find to ease his mind was that the black jaguar protected the wolf. Surely it would recognize the snake.

"You have nothing to fear from me, Mwalimu." The Bantu's face split into a bright smile. "I only want to talk. It is not often that I have the opportunity to benefit from the wisdom of one as powerful as you, Nyajiru." The golden colour of his eyes seemed to flash once more and then faded into their normal deep brown. "In fact, I have taken the liberty of cancelling your flight. You shall come with me," he added with hard determinism, then lightened his tone. "We shall talk, share a meal, and then I shall bring you back here so that you may return to your home." He shifted his hold on the old man's arm.

Gasping, Nya felt the sting of a barb as it pierced the rough fabric of his shirt. "What have you done?" He could feel the effect of whatever substance had been injected into his body take immediate effect. The grinning face of the stranger began to swim before him and he felt his legs begin to weaken.

"Done?" The tall African's voice seemed to waver and twist in Nya's ears. "Why, I have done nothing, Baba, except to give you something to ease your journey."

The elderly shaman felt his knees buckle. His vision began to narrow and darken. He didn't know if the poison that ran through his veins was lethal, but it had left him without a voice or the means to defend himself. It was with distaste that he felt himself fall into the embrace of his enemy. He heard the adder's voice, calm and soothing, explain to airport security that his father was feeling ill, that the trip had been too much for him. Nya's mind screamed its warning as it had done in his vision, but again his voice carried no sound. Strong arms encircled his shoulders and waist as the stranger and the unwitting security guard carried him to his death.

Blair picked up his fork and began eating again. Jim took a bite of meat and thought about what Blair had said. Neither of them had all the answers. They'd been flying by the seat of their pants for so long it felt normal. Considering he was a genetic throwback, as Blair had said when they had first met, it was only fair that the answers had been buried centuries ago. Jim took another bite. As much as he disapproved of Blair drinking the hallucinogenic tea, he was grateful for the way things had turned out. Blair wasn't considering himself a failure, yet nothing had really changed in their lives.

Blair dropped his fork. "Jim?" he said with stress.

"What?" he responded warily.

"One thing I don't understand. In your dream, Nya and I, or rather the dog and wolf were asleep. The jaguar came and took the wolf away. Remember?"

Jim thought back. Then it hit him. "When the jaguar went back, the wild dog was dead."

"-was dead," Blair said the same time as Jim.

They looked at each other.

"I should call," Blair said, jumping up from the table.

Jim followed Blair over to the phone where Blair called the Y.

"Can I talk to Nyajiru."

Jim listened in.

"I'm sorry," the desk attendant told Blair. "He checked out about an hour ago. He left a letter for a Blair Sandburg."

"That's me."

"It'll be here at the front desk when you want to pick it up."

"We'll be right there." Blair looked at Jim.

Quickly the two men cleaned off the table. Miraculously, someone had already returned the truck.

The old Ford roared to life and was quickly backed out onto the street. Blair grabbed for the dashboard with one hand as his partner took the first corner without braking. The truck seemed to travel around it on two wheels.

"I've got a really bad feeling about this, Jim." He groaned in frustration as the light ahead turned yellow. "We're already too late, aren't we?"

"I don't know, Sandburg, maybe." Without warning, the detective hit the siren to clear the traffic ahead of them. "I'm with you, though. I have a bad feeling about this, too. Hopefully that letter will give us some idea of what his plans are. If he hasn't left Cascade yet, we'll find him."

"Yeah," Blair said softly, almost to himself. "But in what condition?"

The truck shot through the quiet intersection and travelled to the downtown core. The Y was only a few miles from Prospect and the traffic was miraculously light. The two detectives pulled up in front of the old brownstone barely 15 minutes from the time Blair had finished speaking with the desk clerk.

The young Asian man behind the desk gave a startled look as two men jogged through the lobby to where he sat. The taller of the two dug into a pocket and flipped open a folder that held a gold badge and photo identification. Rising, the desk clerk bowed quickly from the neck. "Detective Ellison."

"We're here about one of your guests. Nyajiru." Blair couldn't contain his impatience. "I think we spoke to you earlier."

Nodding, the young man reached under the desk and pulled out a white envelope. "Yes. You're Blair Sandburg?" He waited a moment for confirmation and then placed the letter in the man's outstretched hand.

Blair quickly tore open the envelope and walked a few steps away from the clerk and his partner. He knew that Jim would collect any information the Asian man had. Unfolding the sheet, he began to read the elegant scrawl of the old shaman.

Looking up into his friend's face when he felt a hand on his shoulder, Blair sighed. "There's nothing here to tell us exactly what his plans are. It sounds like he must be heading for the airport. All it says is that it's time to leave."

"I didn't get much from the clerk either." Jim shifted his stance to read the letter over his partner's shoulder. "He left in a cab about an hour ago. C'mon, you can check flights and times on the drive over."

Nyajiru slowly came awake. He felt strangely disconnected from the rest of his body. The motion of the car he was travelling in had tossed him heavily into the passenger door. The pain that had erupted when his head connected with the thick glass felt distant through his drug-filled haze. Through still blurred vision he watched the scenery that whizzed past him. It seemed harsh and barren compared to his home on the Moremi Reserve or the Okavango. He found himself longing for the lush grasses of the delta that teemed with wildlife. The hard mountains that jutted out around him now blocked out the sky and seemed to cut him off from the living earth where he would always draw his strength.

"Ah, Nyajiru, you are awake!" The dulcet tones of the car's driver drew the old man's gaze to him. "I am pleased. Washington is very different from our Africa, but it is still beautiful. I am glad that you will be able to enjoy the drive. Very soon we shall be high in the mountains and away from the concrete bound cities. There we may talk and share our knowledge." The man turned to smile at the shaman. "I know that you are well versed in the use of herbs and that you may have some with you. I read about the misfortune at the airport. About the young man who smoked your tea. The poor fool."

The car made a sudden turn, sending the elderly man once more into the door. This time the pain that radiated from his elbow felt less numb. Nya wasn't sure if this was a blessing, but he took some courage in the fact that whatever his enemy had injected into him was beginning to wear off. Perhaps he hadn't been poisoned after all?

"Is that how you know about me, Nyoka? From the newspaper?" The Botswanan's tongue felt two sizes too large for his mouth and his words sounded slurred and lazy.

The driver of the car glanced briefly at the shaman. "Yes. Is it not strange how the spirits work, Nya? You were made known to me. It was not very hard to find you."

Squeezing his eyes shut against the headache that was starting, Nya asked, "What is it you hope to learn from me? There is nothing I can teach you."

"You are wrong, Mwalimu, there is much you can tell me. You and I share an interest. I am sure that interest is what has brought you half way around the world. Were you not here to witness the truth about the sentinel and his shaman? What did you learn from them?" Another glance at the old man proved that he had hit upon the truth. "Rest, Baba, it will not be very long now."

Dom Cantelmi put down the telephone and waved the two detectives into his office. The small room seemed barely large enough to hold the solidly built security chief and his ancient wooden desk.

"Gentleman, have a seat." He pointed to the chairs that occupied the small space between the piece of furniture and the filing cabinet. "I know it's a little cramped in here. They've been promising me a new place since I was made chief. And that'll be exactly 15 years, two months and 5 days... tomorrow." He shrugged his wide shoulders and laughed. "Hey, I'm a patient guy."

With a grin Blair moved into the chair that butted against the office wall and watched his partner fold his longer frame into the inadequate space next to him. He bit down on a chuckle when he heard Jim's knees whack up against the unforgiving side of the desk. "Mr. Cantelmi, my name is Detective Sandburg," Blair began the introductions, showing his badge and identification. "This is Detective Ellison. We're here trying to locate an African National that we believe was dropped off in the last couple of hours to catch a flight."

"This wouldn't be the same African National that ended up in the middle of that mugger's death, would it?" Cantelmi's strong Brooklyn accent didn't seem to have suffered in the 15 years or more of living on the Pacific Northwest. "I think I remember your name coming up in the case file as the investigating officer, Detective Sandburg. But I also remember that the case was closed and the man's death attributed to misadventure during a criminal act." He rocked back in his chair. "Have things changed?"

"No, nothing's changed," Jim offered. "Our reason for being here, at this moment, is unofficial. My partner and I have reason to believe that Nyajiru may be in danger."

The security chief scratched at his chin. "What? You think it's some kinda vendetta?"

"The threat isn't related to the death here at the airport." Blair checked his watch. They were wasting too much time.

"Well then, I don't see how I can help you."

"We've been able to trace Nyajiru's movements up until he arrived here at the airport." Sandburg looked to his partner to fill in the details.

"We know that he took a taxi from the Y and was dropped off here..." Ellison glanced down to check his notes. "He was dropped off here about two hours ago. We've checked the departure gates that we're assuming he might leave from and have come up empty."

"You're sure you know where he was headed? A lotta planes leave here every hour."

Jim heard his partner's heartbeat increase ever so slightly. He knew that worry was escalating his friend's frustration. "Right now everything we have is an assumption, but from a letter that the man left for Detective Sandburg we're assuming that he was returning to Botswana. There's a flight leaving for Gaborone in the next half hour." He closed his notepad and returned it to a pocket. "If Mr. Nyajiru is taking that flight he should be at the gate. Is there anyway for you to find out if he's there or if he's boarded the plane?"

"Yeah," Cantelmi said as he picked up the phone. "I can have him paged. Gimme a minute." The two detectives sat quietly as the information was quickly relayed. "Okay, that's done. They're not going to give me the passenger information from the gate over the phone. We're gonna have to go down for that in person. What's the gate number?"

"C 17." Ellison and Sandburg's voices were as one.

The head of security reached behind his chair and snagged his jacket. Before putting it on he checked the snap over his holster and gave it a pat. "Let's get down there. If your man answers the page, they'll forward the call to me." He opened his door and ushered the two men out. "So, how much danger do you think this Nyajiru is in?"

Blair looked up at his friend as they followed Cantelmi. Neither one of them could dismiss the sentinel's dream. Nya's life could be at stake.

12 days later

The bay window of the cabin faced the desolate stone side of the mountains. The jutting formations of rock seemed as alien to Nya as anyplace he had ever been. As he watched the trees sway in the strong wind he felt a heaviness form around his heart. He had never felt so spiritually or physically apart from the grasslands of his home. Not willing to surrender all belief that he would one day return to Moremi, he had watched vigilantly for signs along the road during their long drive up the North Cascade Highway. He had memorized names that had sounded foreign and strange to his ears. It had been his desperate hope that he could escape his captor and find help. A small chill had run through him when they had passed a large and brilliantly painted board that had announced they were heading towards Diablo Lake. The old shaman, familiar enough with the teachings of the Christians, recognized the named as meaning Devil's Lake. Christian devils and African evil spirits shared the same traits in both religions. They embraced chaos.

Sighing, he once again tested the ropes that held his wrists to the chair. For days he had been following the same routine. Long talks into the early hours of the morning with the man who held him captive, meals that consisted of foods from his homeland, and the long hours in between when he was left alone in the cabin. His "host", who he had come to think of as Nyoka when no other name was told to him, had proven himself to be more than hospitable. Nya had been denied nothing since his arrival. Nothing but his freedom. Resting his head against the soft cushion of the chair, he stared into the clear blue of the sky and wondered how long it would be before he was released. Released from his prison and from his time upon the earth. As solicitous and friendly as Nyoka had been, the old shaman had no doubt that his life was nearing its end.

The crunch of tires on the gravel road that led up to the cabin reached Nya's ears. With a grim smile he knew that the adder was returning to toy with his prey. The Botswanan hoped the man would tire of his game soon. So far he had been able to keep secret Blair's burgeoning talents as a shaman. As impatient and discouraged as the young man was in his lack of visions, Nya had felt the warmth of power he radiated. It wouldn't be long before Blair would realize his gift and talents. The old shaman felt it was his last duty to protect the young man from the adder for as long as he could. The soft slam of a car door made the old man tense ever so slightly. His vision of the wild dog, lying dead at the edge of the lake, was never far from his thoughts.

"Mwalimu," Nyoka's greeting of 'teacher' floated in on the cool draft of air from the opened door. "I hope you have spent a pleasant day."

Nyajiru watched as the tall and lanky African gracefully folded himself into the chair that sat across from him. The dwindling light from the large picture window glanced off the man's clean- shaven head creating a blurred white aura. His face was cast in deep shadows, making his eyelids seem hooded and his smile a tightlipped slit across his narrow face. Nya thought that everything about the man seemed serpentine. He was as Nya had first called him; Nyoka, the adder.

"I think," the younger man paused, his voice a pleasant, deep rumble. Smiling when he had gained Nya's complete attention, he continued, "I think that this evening you and I shall finally talk about the things that have drawn us together. You will tell me about the policeman. The sentinel. But..." He leaned forward to emphasize his next words. "I need to hear about his companion. The one who wrote the study. He is becoming, is he not?"

The old shaman sank deeper against the back of the chair, putting a few small inches between him and the leering face that was so close to his. "Sentinels were a myth of my tribe, Nyoka." Nyajiru surprised himself at how calm his voice sounded. "I have not met one in my eighty-three years. You are saying that one of the policemen I met in that young man's death is a sentinel?"

The Bantu leaned back in his chair, gracefully crossing his legs. His smile was slow and his eyes became mere slits. "Why is it that I don't believe your ignorance? Many have said that there is no true coincidence. There is no coincidence here. You have travelled far from your home to witness for yourself what was written about James Ellison. There is no myth, only fact. He is a sentinel. You will tell me about him."

The old man shrugged his shoulders. "I have nothing to tell you. I spoke with him only once. It was very brief. I cannot tell you what it is you seem so eager to know. I do not know if he is a sentinel." He looked his captor in the eye. "I can only tell you that he is a good policeman."

"Liar!" The word erupted from the other man in an angry roar. Rising from his chair with such force to send it tilting backwards, Nyoka stood trembling with rage. "You," he hissed as he pointed a well-manicured finger in the shaman's face, "will stop lying to me. You will tell me what I want to know." The finger was withdrawn and suddenly became a backhanded slap.

"I have told you what I know. You choose not to believe me." Nya winced against the stinging of his cheek, wishing he had a hand free to massage away some of the pain.

"What I choose not to believe are your lies. I shall hear the truth. I had hoped that we could talk as civilized people. We both live by the wisdom the spirits have given us. We are brothers in that respect." Turning to walk to the kitchen, the younger man sighed, "I see that this is not how it shall be. I will make us tea."

Nya's eyes widened as he watched the man's retreating back. He knew that the other meant no ordinary tea. If he were drugged he would have no hope of protecting Blair Sandburg or James Ellison. "Nyoka! Please wait!" He swallowed hard as his eyes met the golden stare of his captor. "I...I will tell you what you want to know. There is no need for tea." Now all he could hope was that his half-truths would be believed.

"I am pleased, Nyajiru," Nyoka cooed as he walked back to where his captive sat. Bending, he undid the restraints and offered his hand in assistance. "Come, join me in the kitchen. It is rare that you can find anything more exotic than a sardine in the Cascade markets, but today I found Blue Kurper. We will have a feast of grilled fish and corn cakes. It will be delicious."

Nya's thoughts were in a tumble as he was gently but forcibly led to the kitchen. The idea of enjoying a traditional braii with this man seemed too absurd to even contemplate, but he found himself nodding automatically at the continuous patter of the other man. The snake always did enjoy its dance before the kill.

They stopped before one of the heavy maple chairs situated around the table and Nya was silently directed to sit. With a sigh, he obeyed the command and watched dejectedly as a restraint was once again put around his wrist. "I have agreed to talk. Is this necessary?"

"Let's just say that this will remove any temptations and allow you to relax as I prepare our meal." Smiling, Nyoka went to the counter to start his preparations. "So please, begin. Tell me what you have learned about the sentinel Ellison."

"I do not know for certain that he is a sentinel," Nya began slowly; his eyes fixed on the brightly coloured pattern of tiles beneath his feet. "I did only speak with him once. Nothing happened that could prove or disprove it." The steady thwack of vegetables being sliced stopped, making Nyajiru look up.

"But," the other man prodded. "What do you believe? Do you believe he is one? Did you not get some feeling or intuition when you met?" He put the knife down and circled the small island to sit next to the shaman, his eyes large and questioning. "Sandburg believes that it is true. Did you speak to him of this?"

Gazing into the animated face of his captor, Nya could sense the man's genuine enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge. He wondered what could have corrupted it so to have brought them both to this point. "We did talk about it," the old man sighed. "You are correct in thinking that it was curiosity that brought me to Cascade. I wanted to see for myself if there was any truth to the story I had read. And I did sense some power in the police detective. Not as much as I had expected." He bit back a small smile. If his old friend Kuguri had been sitting next to him he would have recognized Nya's statement for what it was. A lie. "A sentinel needs someone to help him... guide him. I came to offer myself as that guide."

Clapping his hands together, the Bantu barked a short laugh and rose. "I knew it. It was the only reason for you to come. But you have chosen not to stay, but to return to Botswana." He went back to the chopping of vegetables. "I have to ask myself why, Mwalimu. Is it that this sentinel already has someone to help him?" He held the tip of the knife to his chin and tapped it as if in thought. "Blair Sandburg, I would think."

"Yes, you are correct again, Nyoka." Nya hoped that he could carry out his lie without betraying himself or the sentinel and his shaman. "Blair Sandburg is helping him. He has taught him some techniques to control his senses. Mostly relaxation exercises and ways to deal with the stresses Ellison's senses bring about."

"You make him sound like one of those new age gurus," Nyoka laughed, making quotation marks in the air as he said gurus. "Surely Sandburg is more than this. You would not entrust the safekeeping of one so revered in your culture to a mere amateur, would you?" With practiced ease he quickly seasoned the fish and placed them on the grill. "I think you would not."

"But that is only if I believed the detective to be a true sentinel. I am not sure that he is. As I said I only felt a small bit of power. Nothing like..." Nya hesitated.

"Nothing like your sentinel?" His captor finished for him with a smile. "Ah, but now I think that you are lying to me. I think that this James Ellison is a true sentinel. I think that Blair Sandburg is helping him, but using more than relaxation techniques. I think he is becoming."

Nya swallowed. "Becoming?" he asked. "You said this before. What is it that you think he is becoming?"

"Every culture has a different name for it, Baba. A shaman, medicine man, wizard, a spiritualist. He has the power." Nyoka's face grew feral when he saw the older man begin to shake his head. "I know that he has. He has not learned to recognize it or use it yet. What did you teach him?"

"I have taught him nothing." Nyajiru's heart sank as he realized that it didn't matter what he told the snake. Blair Sandburg and Jim Ellison would not be safe. "I don't understand why this is so important to you. They are not a threat, are they?"

"Why is anything important in a country like this?" Nyoka deftly flipped the corn cakes that were sizzling in a pan. "Power. One can never have enough if one is to be successful. I'm afraid that I cannot allow Blair Sandburg to become a shaman."

"Cannot allow?" Nya's voice rose. "Why? I don't understand why you fear him."

Nyoka slid a fork under the fish and turned them gently. "I do not fear Sandburg. I fear what he can take from me." He waved the fork in the air in a sweeping motion. "All this could be gone. A shaman is respected and honoured in his tribe. Here in the United States it is different. People are skeptical or worse. It has taken time to build their confidence in me. I use my herbs and salves to cure their minor ills and they think it a miracle. They come to me for advice and spiritual healing and hang on my every word. For many of them, all of whom are very rich and do not know what to do with their money, they will not do anything without consulting me first."

"But Blair..."

"But Blair Sandburg can take that from me. I will no longer be unique. They could turn to him. I have become very used to this lifestyle. I will not let it be jeopardized. It is sad that the reasons are so base. Money and position are worshipped here, Mwalimu. Power is important and I shall make his power mine."

Bowing his head, the old shaman could bear to hear no more. The wolf and the panther had walked away together in his vision. He had thought that he had seen the future of the sentinel and his shaman and that they would be safe from the snake. Nya now wondered if the vision had been about his future only, telling him that he would die alone at the hand of his enemy. The clatter of dishes broke through his thoughts and he looked bleakly at the meal that had been placed before him. He slowly raised his eyes to meet those of his captor who now sat across from him at the table.

"Eat, Nyajiru. The food will not taste as good if it gets cold." Nyoka smiled cheerily as he stabbed a piece of the fish with his fork and raised it to his mouth. "You have told me much tonight. I thank you for this. But the time for talking has ended. Let us enjoy this meal together."

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