Golden Seven

By: Wolfa Moon

Disclaimer: Own nothing, just having fun with a great ides. Magnificent Seven with a Golden Compass twist. Thank you Star Stuffs Animal Totem page for their animal description. Thank Aussie Lass for providing episode transcript.

M7G7

Chris watched through the window as a golden eagle soared in the high noon sky. It's wings catching an updraft gaining altitude. Sitting in the dimmed bar he wonder who the eagle belonged to? Sarah's daemon was a kestrel. She was his wife. Lost to him in fire. Even his son couldn't be saved from the flames. The man in black turned to his own daemon. His opossum sat on the bar staring at the bottle in front of them.

"Chris, Do you really want to drink that?" the opossum spoke angelically to him. Chris Larabee's daemon spoke with deep concern for her kindred that was now a constant nag between the two.

"Yes I'm sure, Oriana." He raised the bottle to take a swig of Red Eye. The bottle never made it to his mouth as a shot rang out shattering the bottle. Both of their heads turned to the direction the stray bullet came from. Chris stood headed to the broken window, ready for the show. Lowering his Arm down to the bar edge, Oriana climbed to her perch on his shoulders. Many daemons perched on their companion's arms or walked beside them. She perched. Deciding it is safe out there as it is safe in the building. Stepping out onto the boardwalk, they turned and watched as a black man being dragged down the street to the cemetery. Looking behind the corral of aggravated men stood a marsh deer surrounded by several dogs and other daemon forms. The black man's daemon sorely out numbered. Especially with an animal with no razor teeth to fight with against several daemons with fanged jaw lines.

The golden eagle swooped down from the heavens landing on the over hang of the hardware store. A man with long locks came out to stand under the bird. The broom tightening in his hands. The eagle looked down to him.

"That is just not right, Vin." The man nodded to the bird watching the procession go by.

"I know Sano." She tilted her head.

"So are we going to do something about this?" He nodded. Turning he grabbed a rifle from the store, and placed a hat on his head. the manager followed behind the armed man.

"you walk off with that rifle, and you're fired." Vin just looked to the man ad shakes his head.

"Hell, I'll probably get myself killed." Sano chuckled above him. They weren't meant to be dust sweepers anyway. "Now, I got to worry about a new job too." He looked up to his daemon. "Ready to go?"

"Always, but I think we might have company." Vin turned to follow the gaze of his daemon. There he saw Chris with his daemon, ready. The two nodded to each other. The unspoken communication spoke, together on this showdown. The two began to walk up the dusty street. The townspeople stayed out of the way. For with past events they knew to stay out of the way. Still didn't mean that they wouldn't watch. Even if they didn't help.

Up on the hill the black skinned man was being hung up to the lone tree in the cemetery. Vin and Chris took their post. Wide in the open, guns loaded, and ready for the fight. No fear, nothing to lose.

"Cut him loose." Chris ordered. The rowdy men turned to the two lone figures of unknown authority. They laughed at the two lone people to rise up against them

"Reckon you'd all be happier if you just rode away." Vin also pointed out with his gun that they would fight.

"Not a chance, boys." The men ignored the two and began to get ready the mule to hang the colored man dead.

"You shot a lot of holes in the clouds back there. Anybody stop to reload?" Chris pointed out the obvious facts what drunkenness caused one to forget. That didn't matter. Shots began to fly through the air. Dust swirled as the men were disposed of. Vin shot the rope that dangled the man from its hold on the tree branch. Plummeting the man to the ground safely. Grabbing a knife from one of the deceased bodies he got his licks in too as he threw a knife at the last man. Dust swarmed and settled in the cemetery. The once hanging man's daemon deer approached him with a knife in her mouth from another body.

"Thank you." He said warmly to his marsh deer. The deer nuzzled at the rope around his neck.

"Not very fashionable." He laughed while his now free hands removed the offending necklace.

A young man climbed up the hill disturbing the settling dust. Ready to fight the fight that had ended quickly. He aimed to get the coward who was running away. The new arrival was stopped by Vin and Chris. Oriana climbed down and hissed at the boy's kinkajou daemon.

"You never shot a man in the back." The boy backed off quickly at his fault, picking up his daemon as he ran away in shame. Chris leaned down and let Oriana climb up to her perch again. He turned to his fellow fighter.

"Chris Larabee, this is Oriana." Vin tipped his hat to the lady opossum. He raised his leathered arm out for his golden eagle daemon to perch too.

"Vin Tanner, this is Sano, Sanoske." Chris nodded his head to Vin's daemon. She nodded back. Daemons were sometimes placed as a second thought. As merely a shadow to watch for the truth in the human half of the duo. To them it is important to confer with each other's daemon is in the mix of life discussion. They respected each other. And also showed respect with the daemon half as well. That is a good friendship.

The black man came over to join the little social gathering. His marsh deer daemon following right beside him.

"Thank you." He told the two saviors.

"Your welcome." Vin tipped his head to the both of them.

"Thank you dearly." The marsh deer spoke.

"I'm Nathan Jackson, this here's Serifina."

"Pleasure to meet you." Sano spoke. A blond haired woman approached them. A small sparrow fluttered around her.

"Gentlemen, I run the Clarion News. Where did you come from?" All six looked from one another back to her. Chris spoke.

"Saloon." They headed back toward the town.

"Hey, I-I want to talk to you. Where are you going?" All six spoke at once.

"Saloon." The group traveled down the hill to said destination.

Inside the saloon, the atmosphere had calmed down, a little. The three men ordered a victory shot together. The saloon got even quieter when two men walked in. One an Indian and the other African. Everyone listened as they spoke to the three men. For everyone had quieted enough to hear a pin drop in the crowded bar.

"We want to hire you." The three looked between each other. They were informed about the ghost and how much they would be paid. They also learned about each of them and their daemon. Tastanagi is fellow chief of the tribe with Eban. Tastanagi's daemon an armadillo is named Ossa. Eban's jaguar daemon is named Mira. They knew they didn't trust each other. What other choice did they have? Especially in this day of age. But who lived forever anyway.

They needed more man for this upcoming battle. Each split up in search for more guns.

Vin and Chris arrived outside the hotel. Chris came up with a plan to get another member for their group. Plan set, Vin went up to do his part. Sano took a high perch on the hotel's roof to watch the show. She laughed as a man fell through the window and rolled down to the street below. A cottontail rabbit came to the edge and looked down at the fallen man.

"Did you have fun?" Buck looked up to his daemon.

"Come on Flynna." He dropped his cloths standing ready to catch her. Buck didn't want that madman to get a single bit of him for having a friendly sleep partner.

"Afternoon, Buck. Interrupt something?" Flynna jumped and landed in Buck's waiting arms.

"Chris!" Buck set down Flynna to run over and hug his old friend. Flynna and Oriana greeted each other, as if time hasn't passed.

"Long time no see." Flynna approached her. Oriana laid her paws on her.

"Yes it has." Chris turned to Vin as he approached the two men.

"Got a job. You interested?" Sano landed next to the other two daemons and joined in their gathering.

"Yeah? What's it pay?" Buck began to pull on his cloths.

"Five dollars."

"It ain't much." He began to button up his shirt. "It's just our kind of fight. How'd you know I was here?" He tucked his shirt in and tethered his pants together.

"I make a point of knowing who's in town. Live longer that way." Chris nodded, good job, to Vin.

"He with us?" Buck looked at the new stranger, recognizing the voice.

"Is he with you?" Chris confirmed both statements. Buck extended his hand out to Vin. He accepted. "Buck Wilmington, that there is Flynna." Vin nodded to the rabbit. The rabbit turned to the eagle.

"He always that courteous with daemons?"

"Always." Buck's voice interrupted their conversation.

" There going to be ladies where you're going?"

"I apologize in advance." Flynna warned of her guardian. They all smiled at their antics.

The group of three men and three daemons made their way to a broken down old church outside of town. Their friend Nathan stood watching a man lift heavy rocks. Nathan was pleading with the man to come and help out.

"The Seminoles are the dispossessed of the earth, Josiah. Ain't saving lives a part of saving souls?" He landed the rock hard down into place. A crow flew over him tossing a rag at him.

"Thank you Aella." The others watched as the man's crow daemon landed on the dropped rock. The three rode closer.

"Seems to me a man ought to put his own house in order first." Vin stretched his arm out so Sano could land. She ignored it and landed next to the crow.

"We can promise you a hell of a fight." She spoke to them. Josiah turned from them to pick up another rock. He placed it hard next to Sano making her wings flutter. Aella informed Sano.

"We've already been there." Sano shuck her head and went back to her soul mate. Nathan got back up on his horse.

"We could ride by tomorrow." They all nodded to one another, tomorrow. The four headed back to town.

Upon entering town they were greeted with more gunfire. They were looking for guns and opportunity arises wherever. The men entered the saloon. Two men were engaged in a shooting contest. Up on the bar an artic fox and an alligator were guarding a stack full of bills. The man in red made a fool of himself tripping on a bottle. The eight watched the show with great interest. With the ploy out of the way they upped the stakes. An ace of spades was the intended target of the individual. The man aimed, smiled, and fired his shots right into the spade.

"My, my... how astonishing. I've never done that before." He said as he reholstered his weapon. The fox began to collect the money. The alligator snapped at her.

"You sure sobered up quickly, Mister." He smiled to the man then turned to his daemon.

"Must be the desert air." He went to reach for her when the man grabbed the man in red.

"We don't take kindly to being hustled. Let's see how good you can shoot with one eye." The fox jumped on the back of the alligator and bit hard on it's tail. The man yowled and let her man go. Her man engaged a hidden derringer from his sleeve and cut down the overhung beam with a knife that the man tried to use on his person. That tactic blocked the other men form stepping closer.

"You only got one shot left in that popgun." The men who were blocked warned. The Arctic fox collected the money again and hopped on her man's shoulders. She snarled at the offending men.

"Well, then... you best discuss amongst yourselves which one of you is going to die." The man moved further down the line past the searching four. Vin watched carefully how the fox protected her man, and he protected her. The red jacketed man tilted his head slightly so he would take the brunt of any facial attack so to miss her heart. It would still have the same effect if the bullet hit either one of them. But she would just vanish swiftly into the winds.

"Nice shot, pard." The fox turned to Vin.

"Dreadful." She responded to Vin.

"I was aiming to kill him but the... mirror was cracked." The man informed his daemon and the questioner. Chris tilted his head up,

"First shot was louder than the other five." The fox turned to Chris.

"What are you attempting to suggest?" The gambler's daemon spoke to them.

"First bullet was real. The rest were blanks." The man turned for the first time to face Chris.

"Well, sir... I abhor gambling and as such, leave nothing to chance."

"We're looking for guns to protect an Indian village. You interested?"

"Who's financing?" the man's eyes turned back to his intended targets if they wish to become one.

"The village. Five dollars a man." The man laughed.

"Five dollars... wouldn't even pay for my bullets. Would, uh... would he be riding with you?" He motioned to Nathan. The man saw the look of don't want you around in Nathan. Serifina nipped at him at those words. The fox snarled more. "Not interested."

Vin looked then both up and down.

"Reckon you should be leaving town anyway." Vin spoke.

"I'll sleep on it." The man backed toward the door. His daemon watching his back.

"Meet us at the livery at dawn if you live that long."

"We always do." The fox responded as they exited through the doors.

"Why would we want to use a cheater?" Serifina questioned their new friends.

"Might need one." The night went on as they got everything prepared for tomorrow's expedition.

Early morning, outside the stable they prepared their mounts.

"So do you think he will show?" Oriana questioned her mate. She sat watching form the saddle as he checked his bags. The horse turned a little and nipped at him. His horse notifying him the bags were uneven in weight. Horses you can consider a little bit like polar bears but more domesticated. They live to serve but should still be respected. Horse's don't really speak more a telepathic nudge and mix of sign language. And the horse chose to ride with you. You could buy one but then you have to earn their trust to ride. The ones who volunteer are yours for life. Chris began to resituate the saddle bags, a more even weight.

"Who knows?" the young man from yesterday came galloping into the alleyway where they are preparing in. He stopped on the dot in front of them. His kinkajou daemon crawled up to the head of the horse between the ears.

"Whoa. I hear you fellas are headed for a fight. I can fight and ride. My name is JD Dunne, this is Kestra Whoa." his horse moved when the kid drew his gun. the horse didn't know if the kid could even shot that gun. "And I can shoot." The horse bucked at his shoot. The horse was new to the kid. A bought horse. The kid still had to earn his seat. J.D. landed into the watering trough.

"And he can fly." The man in red entered the circle. His fox jumped down to pluck the kinkajou out of the water.

"And he can swim, too." Buck announced. The fox set Kestra down on the earth. She shacked out her fur from the mild wetness. Vin watched all in great detail as Chris had. He had chosen an interesting cheat.

"Thank you." The fox nodded. Upon approaching her man's horse it bowed to let her climb up to her mate. Chris's horse looked to him saying, not doing that trick. Vin's smile just broadened at their new friend. Defiantly an interesting cheat chosen. J.D. climbed out.

"Real funny." He picked up Kestra and sloshed after his horse.

"You made it." The man nodded. Chris mounted his horse. "I'm Chris Larabee, this is Oriana." The man nodded his head. It was a good sign. He acknowledged her. That added points to his favor. Nathan growled at them.

"Ezra P. Standish, this is Renesmee." The fox laid herself comfortably in front of the man's lap.

"What changed your mind?" Oriana questioned. She was use to talking to people. And no one in this gathering seemed to mind. He smiled at them all.

"Hell, I couldn't stay away not once I saw I'd be riding with a genuine celebrity..." he lifted a paper from his saddle and began to read what was written. ""The streets ran red with the blood of 20 men yesterday as new resident and notorious gunslinger Chris Larabee turned our quiet town into a shooting gallery."" Chris rode toward Ezra and snatched the paper. Ezra turned to look at the other men. They looked right back at him. None knowing what to make of the other.

Chris went to see the lady and her sparrow. The conversation was brief and intense. Then they were all off. To see if they had another member.

Riding upon the broken down church they were greeted to an interesting sight. Josiah was upon his horse and ready to go. Nathan spoke up first.

"Why'd you change your mind?"

"Crows." Everyone turned to his daemon as she perched on his shoulder. She pecked at his headband.

"Not me." She informed the gathered.

"Then what does he mean?" Nathan's deer asked.

"A sign." Josiah spoke as he repositioned his headband.

"He has lost it." Buck's daemon popped her head out from the saddlebag. Nathan ventured forward, curious.

"What sign?"

"Death."

"Whose?"

"Probably mine." Josiah scanned the crowd of men in front of him. He spent more time contemplating their daemons then the man. Daemons are the settled form of ones spirit. And all spirits represented the true self that made one whole and who they are. He learned with the Indians, as did the one with the golden eagle has, about the meanings of daemon representation. Josiah went through his category of totems.

"Well, well, a sense of humor. I look forward to many lively conversations." Josiah looked to the man and his arctic fox. Since he was the first brave one to speak of the new. He started with him. Fox: skilled, cunning, power of observation, shape-shifter, courageous. Josiah nodded his head to them and followed the pack. He observed his friend Nathan and his deer, next. Deer: power of gentleness, balance, alert, love. Going down the line he came upon Vin with the eagle that soared with his crow daemon caught his attention next. An eagle: courage, wisdom, strength, sees the hidden truths. The next man's daemon is a cottontail rabbit. A rabbit: movement in life, sensitive, fertility. He is a lady's man. The last man was the unassigned leader of the group. His opossum: strategic, courageous, pretender, wise. The ride was a long and informative one. The group turning out to be an interesting pairing of assorted individuals.

Josiah learned the man, Ezra is one to have a mighty good conversation with. And is always observing the world around them.

When you watch the relationship between a daemon and their companion. You can see the dynamic of life. The fox, Renesmee, hovered over Ezra as if a kit. Ezra dotted on her like the mother he didn't have. Josiah noticed these things as they rode. Vin rode close to Chris but always ended up beside the gambler. Seeing a similar spirit between the too. People who only real companions are their daemons. Sano watched from the air. Her gaze always looking ahead. Making sure all are protected. The two had wisdom and their daemons knew that they would do anything for their charges. Any daemon would. But those two had been lonely in life and recognized that in each other. May it be consciously or unconsciously.

Chris' opossum sat ready to go, always planning, ready for anything. They probably played chess for fun. But who wins when you play against yourself. Then the rabbit and her man are just a ball full of energy to be expended. Buck rattling on about the latest conquest of his. Lightening the mood of the newly joined comrades so all are at peace. Enjoying life to the fullest. And willing to share his wealth with the world. His friend Nathan the healer and his deer both the protective observer of anyone who is hurt no matter who they are. All people who watched the world go by and learning to live free. This group needed to be together. To fix all the internal battles and outside all in one swoop, as one, as one magnificent group. Josiah sighed. his musing getting the better of him.

"You alright?" Josiah turned to the fox. They had settled down for the night and all were making themselves comfortable.

"I am fine Ren – esme." He tried to pronounce correctly. She nodded.

"You are wise in to think that death is coming."

"You are worried about Ezra."

"I always am." She cocked her head and smiled knowingly. "You've noticed." He nods. "All daemons do look after their companion." Josiah nodded in agreement. He would be lost without Aella.

"You seem to get along well with Sano?"

"Are companions are the same as you observed?" The fox is smart in seeing through the question guise.

"Yes. You are quit bold to talk to me. Don't you fear that I will touched you?" She bristled at the comment. Touching another person daemon is the worst thing you can do. To touch another's soul. The foulest thing to do to another, especially without permission. With permission an entire different sensation, a sensation of true connection, true love. The reaction Josiah observed meant she must have been man handled in the past, unwillingly. "I gathered as much."

"We learned. Do you wish to touch?" Josiah nodded. He had never touched another person's daemon who he had not know for a good while and cared for. But the action was more than a common want. This was to gain information to see what would become. The fox sat still and waited. Josiah reached out but never touched.

"I can't." she smiled and walked back to Ezra. Josiah watched as the man stopped what he was doing to pet her and caress her face in a loving manor. The first real emotion he has ever seen from the gambler. Josiah turned to his daemon and stroked her feathers.

"It is a sad thing that happened to them." Aella spoke while she observed the enigma that walked away.

"What do you know?" Josiah became curious of what his daemon observed that he had not.

"The same that you have. And the line of missing fur on her left shoulder." Josiah watched again as Ezra had lifted Renesmee up at sat her on the horse's bare back. The horse turned and nicked at her. She playfully batted back. Moving to the ears of the horse to give a scratch. Vin stood next to him stocking his daemon, Sano.

Sano in turn scratched Vin's horse back, in thanks for taking care of their owner. He watched as Ezra gave his a piece of candy.

"To much of that and it will make him sick." Ezra's horse turned to Vin and nipped at him. Stay out of it, the gesture meant. Ezra smiled and patted the horse's neck. Pulling another piece out he offered it to Vin's horse. The horse greedily accepted. Smiling he turned back to his own,

"He is a good friend and deserves to be treated highly." His horse turned to him and rubbed his big head against him. "Good night to you too." Ezra bent down to get his things and felt Renesmee jump from his horse to his back to the ground. Vin laughed. Ezra smiled.

Chris sat on the ground asleep or pretending to sleep. His ears alert. His opossum playing with the rabbit in an old game of tag. Buck watched with amusement as he cooked dinner. The rabbit hopped away and ran under Serifina, Nathan's daemon, legs. Oriana skidded in front and moved back a little. Serifina ducked her head down between her legs to glare at the rabbit.

"I am not a tree." Nathan organized his saddlebag and watched the antics of the daemons. Renesmee slipped away from Ezra and slowly stalked up behind the rabbit. Serifina spotted this and turned her gaze to the opossum. Oriana lay waiting. Turning back to see what the fox was doing. Flynna hopped quickly from between her two front legs right into Oriana. Renesmee came between Serifina's front legs.

"Rabbits." Renesmee commented and watched as the other two raced around. Serifina kept her eyes closely on the fox. Not trusting the fox to attack the rabbit with serious intent.

"Ezra, tell your daemon to leave mine alone." Buck shouted to the gambler. Ezra ignored and began to place his blanket down. Buck's daemon stopped the fake fight and moved in front of her man.

"We are just playing Buck." With that said Flynna hopped over to the arctic fox. She tapped Renesmee hard and jumped away. "You're it." The fox looked from the rabbit to the other animals. Last turning to her companion for help in this predicament. Serifina noticed the distress and lowered her head to talk to the fox. She didn't know many games too, but this one she knew.

"You are suppose to chase her."

"Whatever for? I already hunted her."

"It's a game."

"A child's game."

"Yes." The fox nodded. Gathering that she was in the mist of children. A smile grew on her snot, Renesmee tapped Serifina front leg quickly.

"You're it." And ran after the others. Vin sat down between Chris and Ezra. Sano took a perch on Vin's crossed legs. Sano watched in great detail the antics of the land daemons. Suddenly Aella flew from her perch and dived bombed Sano.

"You're it." Aella flew high into the night. Sano sat and turned to her guard and then to the sky. Vin winked at her. Sano flew off after the other sky daemon.

The next morning the group headed out on their journey again. A new relaxation fell over the group. Yet there are still lines drawn in the sand. Hopefully with time waves will wash it away.

J.D. watched as the group came down the final pass to the village.

"J.D. you should move back a little more into the shadow." J.D. gave a quick look to the kinkajou then back to the men.

"One… two…"

"J.D.?" Kestra seemed strained.

"Three… four… five…" a hammer sounded in his ear.

"Six. If you're trying to hid, it's best to remove your hat." J.D. looked to Kestra.

"Tried to tell you." J.D. couldn't justify that with a response. He just shuck his head in shame at being caught.

As they entered the village Tastanagi stepped forward to great them. Coming forward he looked to all the new members of the hired guns.

"Welcome. I greet you with hostility." the team looked from one another and back to the chief. Chris leaned over a little toward Vin.

"I think he means hospitality." Vin dismounted and began to look around. The others noticed how the people studied them. The look in their eyes some knew to well. Ezra for one became more intent on stroking down Renesmee. Having seen the looks upon him to many times in the past. But what motioned calmed who more. Josiah silently closed his hands together, lifting his head to the air and pray silently. Nathan had to shut his eyes and separate the present from the past.

"Nope I think he means's hostility." Vin closed his eyes seeing the damage of the town through Sano's eyes. The group dismounted and looked over the town. Tastanagi stepped toward them.

"Some of our people find it impossible to trust white men." Nathan felt smug and looked around at the rest of the group. Him alone being the token black of the group. He specifically smiled at Ezra. His daemon though walked over toward them. Serifina liked the fox. The man was another issue. Even though they are one and the same. It was still a presence. A love hate relationship.

"And you?" Chris spoke to the chief making sure they would be no trouble between the village and the men who where hired to help.

"Not impossible. Just… difficult." Vin opened his eyes and turned to the chief.

"You never told us they had a cannon."

"You didn't ask." Ezra upon hearing the word cannon headed toward the destruction. Kneeling down he scanned the damage. He recognized the model, the size and amount of gunpowder used to cause this. Artillery men never forget training that saved their lives. Josiah came to stand behind him. He recognized the eyes of knowing and knew what Ezra knew. They were up against a mighty ghost. One that is tangible and dangerous.

Noises made all turn as a cottontail nudged a kinkajou down a hilly pass. Following behind came Buck and the little prospect who tried to join them the other day.

"Hey boys! Look what I found." Buck tugged on the rope connecting him to the boy. Not to strongly but enough to tell that he was in charge. Buck is to much of a kind heart to hurt without reason. And the boy, well…

"I was covering you…" he pulled away from Buck. Buck happily obliged. "Making sure you weren't walking into an ambush." Chris came forward and removed the bounds.

"How'd you get here ahead of us?" Chris knew the boy was following them. Hell he bet all of them knew that he was there. Men didn't survive the war not being able to realize when someone was behind you.

"I told you I can ride." Both horses' came up behind the other horses. They must have found a safer way to come to the village. At least J.D.'s horse didn't run away. A good sign that the horse was beginning to be loyal to him. "I cut around the canyon rim." the horse nodding along with the route they came. Chris had seen to many young people die. He didn't want to see more. Or be responsible for his death.

The others had taken to letting the minor war battle go on without their interaction. Chris is the appointed leader. He is the one who recruited them he could deal with the kid. They would settle the horses.

"Go home. You're not the type." Orianna took her position ready to make a move to save them both from this. To young to fight, to young to die.

"A man comes to you because he respects you." J.D. picked up Kestra, already reading the dismissal. "Because he'd be proud to work for you." J.D. reminded him of all the hopeful young men he fought along. So eager to fight. No choice in the dying department.

"Go home, kid." he would not become another face to be remembered over a shot of whiskey. Oriana settled back at Chris' shoulder.

"He is young and proud." Chris looked over toward her.

"You can carve that on his tombstone." She jumped back onto the saddle. She was not in the mood to fight an old battle. Especially since the lost of their heir to the world was an open gapping wound. So young lost.

Josiah came up beside them.

"I'm an expert at prayers for the dying." the crow squawked at him. She hoped that it was not called for anytime soon. So did Ezra but to take thoughts away he became a voice to break the tangent air. Ezra laughed.

"Oh, I like this guy."

"Lord help us." Renesmee spoke as she tapped the horse's flank to drop down onto the earth.

"I like him." he swung of his horse. Patting him with affection. "I'm in this for the laughs, if nothing else." Chris glared at him. How could a man laugh at this? A boy eager to fight. To die. Taking a better look at Ezra, a young man. Maybe joined early. Seen things people shouldn't see at a young age. Maybe even Vin, to young. He turned to the chief.

"Let's get started. We have four days." Tantanagi stepped toward the group. His armadillo tuck closely to his body.

"Less." his voice spoke of fact and all turned to learn. "He is an old warrior. He will come early… to surprise us."

"There goes some prep time." Sano said as she flew back to Vin.

The group unpacked their horses and set them lose to mill around where they pleased. They had done their duty in getting them there. They didn't need to stay and fight. Some of the horses had to take some persuasion to frolic in the open range while their human friends stayed to fight. Ezra's was no big surprise that his wanted to stay. Josiah watched as the two, daemon & human, promised to see him again. He did the same to his horse. Ezra had to use a peppermint stick to sweeten the negotiation more smoothly. Ezra gave a piece to Vin for his horse to persuade. It helped. Those two rode off together. Chris' black waited for the others to join him. Even the more reluctant horses thought to follow the example of their riders. Chris' horse the leader of the rag tag herd.

The men came to a small huddle around a mock up of the town. Orianna and Ossa walked around the town making sure they had laid the lay out correct.

"Very nice. The children might like to play with this when this is over." Ossa voiced as she settled by her man. Orianna circled the town a few more times before stopping by Chris.

"There is a lot of ground to cover."

"His main force rode straight into the village. Then he left some men back here." all the military recognized the strategy.

"He is s trained soldier." Aella sat on Josiah shoulder as she noted the facts.

"Probably repeat himself." Chris noted. Oriana stopped at the lay out entrance of the town.

"We should take the high ground." Everyone's eyes looked to the ridge and back down.

"Yeah. If we can force him through this choke hold we'll have him." a man came by with a bushel on his back. The group looked at the balls of hay bombs.

"We may not have guns but we have our ways of fighting."

"Anderson will provide the guns."

"And hopefully we will get a chance to use them." Oriana spoke these words and all prayed with that no one would be hurt in vain.

Vin gathered up some of the men to get use to firing weapons. Both man and daemon watched patiently as they are taught the finer points of this weaponry. Vin also discussed that your daemon should learn to avoid weapon fire also. For if they die you will pass. Sano took the daemons aside to give techniques to avoid being hit. Vin picked up his rifle and walked over to Eban.

"You ever fire of these before, Eban?" Eban took the gun hesitantly.

"They don't give guns to slaves." Vin hated those words. He hated that people were used in such a way. Yes he fought. He fought for his land, his family heritage, their pride.

"Well, you're not a slave anymore." Vin positioned Eban done on the ground to follow the sight and aim. Making sure to keep it locked in his shoulder. He fired. The shot rocketing him back off his rock base.

"Whoo! Kicks like a mule, doesn't she? You ok?" Vin smiled as Eban rolled his shoulder. He had been in the same place a long time ago. And can remember the jolt even today.

Ezra had taken to being the pied piper. He gathered all the children up so their parents can work. Nathan didn't agree thinking he was getting out of work. If Nathan would only listen to Serifina he would see as she does and understand. But when Nathan had his mind set on what a thing, person is. They are that till they prove to be reviewed again. Women watched as the children followed the new stranger with so much trust. With so much trust that their daemons began to take the form of Ezra's own daemon, arctic fox. Daemons when you are children take shape into whatever their hearts desired. Upon reaching puberty they dust that is the daemon settles into the shape of their soul spirit. And will remain together in that form till the end of their days. So if the children trusted the man enough then it was good enough for them. Especially since he was keeping them occupied while they worked. For that they are grateful. He gave them a task and they went coming back he promised them card tricks for work. And the rhythm began. Work, trick. Renesmee with each new task the children daemons would keep piling on her. It was amusing to watch. Chris walked by several times and watched as the children flocked to Ezra. He also observed how Renesmee interacted with other children's daemons. She would lick, pull, carry, pounce, play with them. Chris smiled at the memory of his son's daemon taking the shape of his opossum and the two playing. Oriana remembered those memories too. They had to walk away as the memories came to the fore ground. Watching you saw Renesmee loved every moment of play. For she understood. Understood this is what they couldn't lose. innocence.

Josiah lifted another rock up onto the ever growing wall. Aella circled the next perfect rock that would fit into the spot the recent rock formed in the wall. Josiah moved over toward it. Nathan had hooked up a satchel up to Serifina so she could help carry wood back to his mock up hospital. Nathan cringed when he saw some kids go by with old cloths. Serifina smiled as an arctic fox kit and a puma cub walked under her after their charges. Stopping he watched Josiah pick up the circled rock and place it on the wall.

"Still doing your penance, Josiah?" Josiah grunted as he settled it into place. Days of practice made up in the routine of building his own church in penance made the progress move faster in building a sturdy wall. Serifina walked up to the wall. It was almost up to her head.

"How high you going up?" Josiah took his bandana off to wipe his brow.

"Oh, high enough to make a sensible horse think twice about jumping it."

"Needs a couple more feet. If I were scarred I would still attempt this." Josiah nodded to her taking her words into consideration. Then he saw the satchels filled with firewood.

"Collecting firewood, my friend?"

"Mm-mmm." she responded and headed of to their make shift hospital tent. Nathan stayed to observe the other hard workers. Soon they would be in his tent for him to tend to.

"We got a battle coming. Boiling some water. Going to be plenty of men wounded up in here." Josiah nodded.

"And dead." Josiah went to the next stone Aella chose. Nathan couldn't disagree. But he would try to save all he could with all the training he possessed. Josiah watched him head off. Turning back to his work he thought upon the greatest of saints. He started to pray to himself.

"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy." Josiah looked at the 6 hired guns working to save strangers. At risk of their own lives. Aella sat on the rock he set down and listen to him pray. Oriana was sitting next to her.

"Praying Josiah?" he turned to face Oriana's kindred spirit.

"Just getting some divine inspiration."

"In the prayer of St. Francis?"

"You know it."

"Don't know anyone who doesn't. Use to sing it all the time in school." Josiah smiled. Even their gambler probably could sing it.

"Do you wish to pray with me?" Chris smirked at him.

"No maybe later. Just checking on things before I go talk to Tastangi about the progress."

"You need to keep a look out for Anderson. If he is an old solider. He won't care if we see him coming."

"True but he doesn't know about us." Chris walked off scooping up Oriana as he went.

"It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life."

"Amen." Aella stared up at her man. They knew. They understood what was about to come. Everyone needed prayers; to the unbelievers, to the ones afflicted by true faith.

Nathan unloaded the satchel and decided they needed more fuel for the fire. Serifina climbed up the hill ahead of them. Spotting something interesting she sniffed at it. Turning back Nathan was lagging behind. She stepped carefully onto the interesting dirt.

"Come on out of there, now. You don't want me coming after you." Serifina stopped what she was about to do and turned back to her man. Stepping from behind the rock she spotted Nathan hung upside down. But he was surrounded by women. He was staring at the one who stepped in fornt of all the woman.

"Cut me down."

"My father told us they hired white men to protect our village." she stepped closer to her man

"Cut me down, now."

"They sent us here because these men cannot be trusted." the woman stepped closer to her man

"That was probably real smart of them." she stepped closer. Nathan's shirt had come up exposing his back.

"You were a slave?"

"A long time ago."

"Then you are one of us." she looked around. "Where is your daemon?" Nathan stared back into the woman's eyes.

"Here!" Serifina didn't see the girl's daemon but she sure did feel it. Turning her head quickly she saw the daemon. A male Nigerian dwarf goat hit her again in the rear to move her forward toward the gathering. Serifina wasn't going to argue. She stepped down the path and over to her man.

"So she is yours?"

"Yes, she is Serifina." The goat moved to his mate.

"And this is Bashir."

"Hello, now you going to cut me down?" Rain squeezed his arm.

"You are strong? Do you have a woman?"

"Only Serifina." she smiled to the deer.

"No human, Opa Locka is looking for a husband." All the woman begin to laugh. How did he get in this situation, oh yes. But the reason one was up here in the first place.

"That's real sweet, ma'am, but, uh… can y'all please cut me down here, please?" Rain went to the tree and gently lowered him to the ground.

"Thank you."

Buck grabbed the rope tight then let it slack down to the ground. Vin secured the rope through the upper branches. Buck smiled thinking what a surprise the riders would get when the rope was pulled taunt. Sano guarding on a branch up over Vin's right shoulder turned her head at a noise coming from the rocks. Chris noticed movement too coming from the hillside. Stepping back he watched as Nathan lead the village's hidden women back to home. Buck looked up as one of the men he was working with stopped and stared toward the new comers. A smile grew on his face as he approached Chris. Flynna just shuck her head,

"Lord, help us."

"The wind blew, the clouds parted and out came the sun." he friendly slapped Chris on the shoulder. " I knew you wouldn't let me down, you old dog. Well what do we have here?" Buck came forward a little eyeing up the woman behind Nathan.

"Found them up at their canyon." Serifina huffed as she walked past them.

"Actually they found him." she followed along her newfound goat friend as Rain made way to her father. The two chiefs came over and were quite cross that the women had returned.

"What y'all doing? Didn't I tell y'al to stay hid?" His Jaguar growling the whole time as he spoke to his daughter. Her goat had it's head down ready to uses it's horns if needed.

"Is it not our village too?" Rain looked toward Buck's daemon. "Why should we hide like rabbits while our grandfathers defend us." Buck ignored the way she looked at Flynna and just smiled at her spirit. Vin observed too the interaction counting up the new tally of people they had to protect.

"I say let them stay." Eban faced his new foe.

"You touch my daughter I promise I'll kill you." Flynna laughed at this and hopped over toward the children. Hearing her man stutter to the chief.

"W-Which one is your daughter?" the jaguar's growl grew and that caused Buck to hop away toward Flynna. Chris stepped forward to defend his friend and reassure.

"No harm will come to your women." Orianna spoke then.

"He is just playing. He will not touch any of them but he will flirt." Eban wasn't fond of the idea of a white man smoothing his ways over the women. Tastangi stepped in front of both Eban and Mira.

"Let them stay." Eban grabbed Rain and pulled her into their hut. Serifina said good-bye to Bashir and came toward her man. He didn't even notice when she came back to his side. She licked his hand to bring him back to reality.

"Come on lover boy." he just looked down at Serifina then back to Rain before following the marsh deer back to his hospital tent. Vin came over to Chris telling them that the ropes were ready.

Buck stopped to watch Ezra with the children as he made some final artistic touches to the fake villagers. A child came over and placed a hat on the figure's head.

"Well… the hat is a marvelous touch." Buck watched as the kid's daemons changed forms as they played around the serious activities. When Ezra had finished the first one he went on to the second figure. Ezra didn't show that he noticed them observing him but he did. Flynna came over to Renesmee.

"He certainly has a way with children." The rabbit commented to fox about her mate.

"Yes." Flynna thought that Renesmee was going to say more but then a flutter of changing daemons pounced upon the fox. The animals varied from the earlier ones they attacked with to other such smaller forms so all could get a piece of the fox. Some fluttered in the air to watch the confrontation others then changed forms and dive bomb the arctic fox. Flynna laughed. Buck smirked but spotted some lovely ladies to flirt with by the horses. But then a stern gaze from Eban had him searching the hills just to keep guard and his own safety.

"That added brain of yours is going to get us killed one of these days."

"Not this argument again."

"We wouldn't have to keep having this conversation if you could control the other animal in this family." she hopped along down the mountainside.

"Fine, fine. But come on. And don't worry about the chief's daughter. Nathan already smitten with her." Buck bent down to pick up Flynna and stroke to forgiveness. He never reached her. A man flew at him pinning him to the ground.

"Why are you? Why are you in my village?" Buck turned to Flynna as she watched wanting to jump and help her man but that would interfere with the concentration of Buck on keeping the man from injuring him.

"Hey! I'm one of the good guys." the man raised a knife.

"You're wearing the wrong skin." the man collapsed in a heap on top of Buck.

"I got him." At the voice Buck roughly pushed the Indian off him and headed toward the kid. He slammed his fist into J.D.

"You stupid son of a…" he grabbed the guns. "You damn near got me shot." J.D. stood proud still. Buck looked the kid up and down for any serious after affects. He manly wanted to startle the young bit. That he did succeed in doing. Knowing the information sunk in. The two quickly got the Indian up and tied his hands together. They walked back to the village. On the way they noticed a small movement by his ear. There sitting right above it was a gecko. The two were wondering where his daemon was.

They entered the village. People from all parts started yelling 'Imala'. Realizing that he was one of the villagers and not a hired spy. Buck released him. The ghost may be racist confederates but they would still use any means to get information. The chief came out and greeted his son and introduced Imala to his son.

The hired guns watched as the family reunited.

J.D. came bounding over. Stopping in front of Chris, Buck, & a partial shaven Ezra.

"He'd be dead right now." Buck pointed a finger at the boisterous kid.

"You damn near took my head off." Buck knocked J.D.'s hat off.

"But I didn't. I saved his life,"

"Twice." the boy's daemon added after placing the hat back on his head.

"Twice." he confirmed showing two fingers to the man to make a point.

"You think I couldn't handle it."

"I just want to prove myself." Buck picked up his own gun turning around to show what the kid did then returned the gun to it's home.

"Get ride of that hat." he knocked it off again. Kestra ducked from the blow as the hat went flying again. J.D.'s hand went to her pulling into his hands protecting the daemon. Vin smiled at the antics of the two. Watching the boy's gaze fixate on the only thing he had left in the world. To make the situation light and not let Buck's bear attitude make the man scared of the other. Sano watched as the kinkajou secured her arms firmly around his left arm. Vin laughed.

"What Buck means is thanks, kid." Sano dropping the hat back onto the kids head. Chris smiled as the hat landed perfectly on the kid's head.

"If you want to die young… stay."

"Yes!" the right hand flying out to shake Chris' hand. Chris just nodded his head and parted away. Vin nodded welcome then followed their leader. Ezra remained the only one to shake the young man's hand.

"Kinkajou right?" Ezra pointed to Kestra. J.D. nodded confirmation.

"No one normally knows what she is." Ezra smiled and pointed to his own.

"I always get albino fox." J.D. looked to Renesmee.

"Arctic Fox." he smiled at Ezra. Confirming the truth Ezra smiled. Nodding to the object behind J.D. J.D. turned to see Buck standing there. Ezra went back to his shave, Renesmee following behind, smiling. J.D. smiled at Buck running up close and backing off. Buck grabbed for the hat hitting it. J.D. grabbed the hat again and waved it in front of Buck. Buck made another swipe for it. The two began to chase around.

Sano soared high in the sky. The fading sunrays gleaming on her wings. Chris looked from the eagle to the tracker. Vin gazed through his eyeglass confirming what his daemon saw. Chris had been sitting next to him since they left the camp. The silence lasting long enough between the two for thoughts to come out into the spoken word. Lowering the spyglass he looked to Chris.

"There's a backwater town up in the Texas panhandle. Tascosa. You know it?" Chris shrugged.

"Heard of it." Vin looked up to his free flying daemon.

"If I wind up getten killed take my body back there. You'll get 500 for it." Oriana ears perked at the amount on her friends head.

"How come you're so valuable?" Vin's eyes watched as his daemon soared above catching another air current to raise her higher into the clouds. He told his tale to Chris. Chris nodded and watched his friend observe his daemon. Knowing that if he should die his daemon would die as well. His eyes turned from the sky to Chris. Vin laughed.

"So if a friend collects. I get the last laugh." the two both smiled at each other at the dark humor. Chris' eyes turned to the sky.

Night had fallen. Renesmee was trotting back to the fire where her other half sat fixing his derringer rigging.

"They make it home safe?"

"Yes." she climbed up onto his lap. The day with the children brought back memories of days when she was still flickering between forms. When she was the only thing that each other had. And staying in tiny forms for people not to use against her boy. Ezra placed the rigging in it's set position. He stroked her fur feeling the memories as they washed though her hair. Josiah set his bedroll down beside the fire designated for the seven. Ezra noticed how Josiah watched the interactions of the day that passed. Each time it made Ezra question, wonder. What was he seeing that he did not?

"Why'd you sign on Josiah? What is you expect to gain?" Josiah took a deep sigh.

"I saw the birds of darkness in a dream. When I woke up, a crow was sitting on my windowsill, staring at me like the devil himself." Ezra looked to Aella his crow daemon.

"Anything would look scary after all you drank. And I just said it would be a nice change than burying yourself in past nightmares." Renesmee had turned to face the duo.

"Then why come here?" she spoke wondering what it was that made them really decide why to come.

"If death's coming. I'd just as soon meet it head on." she nodded. To head it off before it became more of a problem. She rested back down on Ezra watching over her cub. Josiah smiled.

"And get you're reward in the hereafter?" Ezra fiddled again with his derringer device. Josiah smiled at the young man.

"No. No, I was, uh… I was a priest once but, uh… had a little trouble turning the other cheek." the smile on his face showed that there was pain involved and he had fought hard. Ezra wanted to give a nudge that he too had a problem with the building of Catholicism. So he told of how he got back at them.

"I did a turn preaching the word myself." Josiah smiled.

"Is that right." Ezra continued

"The best swindle I ever knew. Just stand under that tent terrify the congregation with the vision of hellfire and pass the collection plate." he didn't look over at Josiah. He knew he should have stopped when the eyes turned sour. Josiah sighed

"Right." for that is what the church had become a home full of sinners lead by sinners. Ezra though laughed at to what stopped his rain dance routine.

"Did fine, too until I attempted to save the soul of the mayor's daughter." Josiah smiled. Every sinner had his day.

"Yup, saving souls has it's hazard." Ezra looked over to him realizing he had just shown a bit of what he did. Of who he is. Confessing. Ask now for the information Ezra learned while watching his friend studies the others. Curious by the man's way of repenting he wondered did this man, did he ever…

"Have you ever met an elephant?" Josiah perked at the question. Aella squawked at the surprising question. Josiah turned to face fully to watch the con man.

"Yes I have." Ezra nodded at being correct. Elephants like the horse were sentient of their own mind. Ice bears are the warriors of the north. The horses the messengers of the east. The elephants are the wise of the west. The frigate the singers of the south. All the sentient true animals and of their own soul. They chose to coincide with us. Elephants, the wise ones, spread wisdom from great experiences of life. They loved to teach. They love all the colorful emotions of life. And when elephants repent they build great structure to repent in. Then constructing his pain to help save souls.

"How'd you know?" Ezra smirked and stroked Renesmee.

"Elephants are interesting…" he paused. "Gamblers." he smiled at a faded memory. "Elephants love to play games." Josiah looked upon Ezra with a new light. "Particularly games of chance." For life is the ultimate chance. And the games of life are what bind it together. Josiah was going to ask where he met one when Chris came into camp.

"Buck and J.D. are taking night watch. Everyone else go to bed."

"Yes dad. Going to tuck us in too?" Standish said as he lowered down onto his roll out. Chris glares at him and walked off. Wrong words, Ezra thought as he saw something in that glare. Something beyond shut up you con artist. Josiah smiled reassuring to Ezra.

"Good night Ezra."

"And to you too Josiah."

Chris sat in his position ready for the ghost to aperate back into town. Sano cried from the sky making known that the ghost are coming. Chris began to count the men.

"There is a whole regiment there." Oriana voiced to her man. Chris looked to the chief.

"I thought you said there were 20." the chief smiled at him

"No I asked if 20 would scare you."

"20, no. 40, yes." every hidden body watched if they could as the ghost gathered around their fake offering of sand instead of gold. Anderson began to scream his demands from earlier and why they were not met. Chris stood out first addressing Anderson. The others followed one by one. They may be few but they had the right stuff. The little show wasn't going to adhere to his better judgment and lead the men away instead. Anderson gave the village the guns they needed. Them losing more then men in the shootout. The town shouting in victory. Now for the cleanup. Nathan's makeshift hospital had people milling around everywhere. Imala lay on his OR bed as he dug a bullet out of him.

"You know how to use that knife." Nathan grinned as he set the bullet down.

"I prefer to use it for healing. Keep pressure on that, huh?"

"Me-doh." Imala thanked him.

"Ta-gah." Nathan moved away to wash his hands as one of the lady villagers took to sewing the wound. Serifina came up beside him nudging him. Nathan looked to the dear. She motioned to the newest arrivals. Ezra was helping carry in an injured villager. But his arm though was in a sling. Renesmee lay around his neck as if a scarf. Setting the man down he began to back out. Nathan came quickly over to help. Addressing Ezra,

"Let me see that arm." that caused Ezra to back up even further.

"It's fine. I just…bruised it when I fell." backing away he nearly bumped into Serifina. J.D. came in with another villager and set it beside the one that Ezra brought in.

"No, no, no that ain't a bruise, now. Let me see." Ezra swallowed all the hurt down glaring back at the healer.

"I said it's fine." Nathan held up his hands.

"Suit yourself." Nathan grabbed Ezra arm and wrenched it back. Renesmee slipped from his neck. J.D.'s instinct came in and caught her. Ezra groaned and passed out when J.D. caught her. Nathan had a firm grip on Ezra as he fell to the ground. Nathan turned to J.D.

"J.D., Set her down now!" J.D. jumped and did it quickly, laying the fox beside her man. Nathan knelt down next to the two. Glaring up at J.D.. "Don't you know never to touch another person's daemon unless giving permission." J.D. backed up. Buck had come running over when he heard J.D.'s name being screamed. The big brother coming into protect the younger. He had watched as J.D. laid Renesmee next to Ezra. Everyone knows not to touch another person's daemon unless given permission. It is an intimate thing. And an unknown surprise can cause pain or shock. Sometime the shock can be so great that the person could recede into their id and never venture forth from there again. Serifina nudged Renesmee. Nathan turned to his deer.

"She okay?" her doe eyes looked into his own dark ones. Her worry traveling from her to him. The information learned from the campout playing to the worry. They had heard when the fox questioned Josiah about petting. The impression already made of unknown contact. Slaves had to get use to their masters using that touch against them. For them to bend under their command at the offensive touch. Nathan shuddered at the past.

"She is fine. But they need to be moved from this spot and she needs to be closer to him. We need a amiable daemon to help move her." Nathan looked around.

"Could Sano do it?" she looked up to the bird.

"She is an eagle. Or?" Serifina ran off to get help.

Josiah had overheard what was going on but he was taking care of his own deeds. Talking to the great winds that may the dispersed dust join the rest of the universe creative dust. Imala came over and angrily forced Josiah up.

"We don't believe in your white man's religion."

"Nor do I, my friend." Josiah collapsed. Eban and Chris grabbed him as he fell. Eban noticed the blood.

"He's been hit." Chris raised the poncho up.

"Looks like the bullet went through but he lost a lot of blood." Oriana spoke next concerned for the large preacher.

"Why didn't you tell us you were hurt?" Josiah smiled as the men half carried him toward the hospital. Chris noticed as he walked in the gambler lay on the ground unconscious. Nathan and Chris spoke at once, both the same question.

"What happened?" Chris nodded to the gambler first. Nathan looked to Ezra.

"His arm was dislocated. I fixed it. Renesmee fell from his shoulders and J.D. caught her. Then the result, passed out. Buck grabbed J.D. and took him away. Serifina is trying to find a daemon who can help move her closer." Nathan motioned to Josiah.

"Gunshot wound. Nicked the side of him pretty good. Blood lost is the major concern." Nathan took in the information. "You take care of Josiah. I'll watch Ezra." the healer went back to his duty. Chris looked at the man before him. Ezra and Renesmee were back to back. In the short time he noticed that the fox always laid on his chest. Close to his heart. Protected in his arms. Eban came over, jaguar in tow.

"Mira can move the fox." Chris nodded. Both men leaned down and lifted the gambler to one of the shaded hay layered ground outside one of the homes. Mira, Eban's daemon, followed behind. Renesmee held firmly in her jaws as if she was carrying a cub. Oriana rode on her back holding the fox's tail keeping it from dragging along the dirt. Settling the man, the cat came over and set the fox down on her man's chest. Oriana jumped from the cat's back to nuzzle the fox a little. Mira watched them curiously.

"What are you doing?" Oriana continued to nuzzle the white fur.

"Making sure she knows that she is not alone." Mira stepped forward and licked the fox. The two men watched as their daemons gave affection to the unconscious man's daemon.

"Interesting what battle does." Eban looked into Chris' eyes. "It brings strangers together in a great cause and there are no longer boundaries between them." Eban held out his hand. Chris shuck it. With a nod Eban walked away. Serifina came walking over with two of the villager's children in tow.

"What's going on?" Serifina looked to the groups undeclared leader.

"Backup. People in this situation need to be grounded. And the children are what keep him grounded. And also when I mentioned Ezra was hurt they volunteered to help." each took a position on each side of the gambler. "They were trying to make their daemons into something big and strong to help carry Renesmee. But they are children." Chris smiled as the boy sat close picking hay of the man's cloths. The girl ran her small hands through his hair. The actions seemed practiced. As if they had touched another daemon before or personal experience. The boy's daemon had taken the form of Renesmee. She lay beside the original fox with her head resting on the other's neck. The girls' daemon is a mouse in this instant shifting through the white fur. Chris smiled as he watched the interaction. He had defiantly chosen an interesting cheat.

Night was closing in. the villagers are in great spirits and celebration. Chris wondered around the village keeping an eye out. He spotted Buck and J.D. getting drunk against a wall a little way from the festivities.

"Is he all right?" Buck nodded.

"Beating himself up for touching Ez's daemon. And…" he nudged J.D.. "Wasn't like them dime-store novels, was it?" J.D. tried to shake the demons away.

"I didn't expect to see their eyes." J.D. took another long swig. "And I didn't mean to hurt Ez." he drank again. "She fell and I reacted. I know the rules but I didn't want her to fall." he took another long haul off the heavy liquor. Chris looked the young man over.

"Why don't you slow down a little bit, son?" Whatever fire was burning of guilt or fear surged in intensity.

"What in the hell gives you the right to tell me what to do?!" J.D. took another swig just to make his point. Chris walked off and nodded as Josiah joined the other two.

"Josiah, you still with us?" Josiah took the offered booze. Taking a swig. A satchel hung around him. Aella head popped out from under the flap.

"You shouldn't be drinking that." Josiah smiled and took another swallow. When a human is hurt the daemon feels it too. When it was one you could carry like a wounded bird a satchel was perfect to keep them near their soul mate. Never left behind.

"Buck, I'm a spiritual man. Sometimes I turn to the wrong kind of spirits." the men laughed.

Chris continued his rounds. He spotted the gambler. He looked in better health. The children gathered around him. The pied piper. Renesmee lay securely between his feet. He listened to the gambler for a bit as he told the boy about becoming a great warrior.

"Like you." the boy said enthusiastically. The boys daemon taking Renesmee form.

"There are two kinds of people in this life my friend:" he motioned to Chris as Vin came up beside him. "Those who seek battle and seem not to fear death – like them." the three nodded to each other as Chris & Vin passed. Ezra continued on with the children gathered around him. Then motioned to the village folk. "And those who avoid battle but will stand and fight to the death if their loved ones are threatened-- like them." he lifted the boy up into his lap. Renesmee bit at his heals. Now for the reason he could only think of and people would expect of him. Instead of not wanting to fight his old comrades.

Chris spotted Tastangi holding a baby. Needing to see the true reason to fight he sat down beside the chief.

"I've had many children. I've outlived most of them. Now, all of these are my children.

"Home, family—things worth fighting for." people laughed and danced. They had survived today. Tomorrow is another day.

The group gathered around the breakfast Josiah sat cooking. Chris looked around at the gathering counting up the guns.

"Who's on watch?" Buck gathered a plate and began to eat.

"Ezra. Replaced me a couple hours ago."

"Alright." Chris confirmed.

Flynna jumped up onto Buck's knee and began to eat some of the beans. Buck watched as she ate. "You are riding back in the saddlebag with the flap down." she stared back at him.

"As long as yours is up." J.D. smiled at their antics. Kestra resting around his neck stole a bit from J.D.'s raised fork. Chris looked over his group.

"All right, we'll take a wider arc across the plain. Make sure the ghost are really gone." s shrill sounded through the air.

"What the hell is that?" Vin looked to Sano. She began to take off when earth erupted all around them.

"It's the canon" Vin closed his eyes and saw through her eyes.

"They're almost in range." he informed the others around him. People began running for cover as another folly hit closer to the village.

Ezra had rode off. He checked out the cave to see if there is any truth in the gold. Renesmee sneezed at the dust.

"Some El Dorado." he raised the torch to examining the ceiling.

"This must have caved in years ago." an explosion hit above. Dust rained down on them.

"The canon's back."

"And so are my friends."

"What about the new ones?" Ezra picked the fox up quickly as another shot rained making the ceiling collapse.

People scattered as the shots rained down. Villagers fell also with the rain.

Shouts cried over the rain.

The rain was winning.

Ezra looked back at the falling village.

"Then there' a third kind." Renesmee looked back to the town.

"I don't like being the third kind." he looked at her.

"Then what do you suggest."

"Be the man you are."

Chris huddled up with his group.

"We got two options:" he waited for the dust to settle a little. "We can ride up after that gun…"

"That's no option." Buck began, Flynna finished. "That's suicide."

"Or?" Kestra began.

"What's the other option?" J.D. finished.

"We could raise the white flag." all of them wanted to voice other options. But was there a better option.

"Or three." Flynna popped her head out from inside buck's jacket.

"We could mount up and we could ride the hell out of here." Rain held the gun in her hand like a pro. Her father's spirit running through her veins now. His dust dispersing when the second shot fell.

"Go then! With my last breath, I will fight these men." Nathan nodded to the woman who is creeping into his heart.

"Them's rebs up there. That makes it my fight." Serifina remained quiet. Her thoughts telling him not long ago he was helping a reb. J.D. reloaded his gun. Kestra handing the bullets to him.

"I'm not going anywhere. I haven't shot anyone yet." Oriana shuck her head at the youth ideals of fighting and proving oneself to be a man. Options flew around about what to do.

"There has to be away out of here!" Bullets still rained. Imala stepped into the gathering.

"There is. We can climb." getting no argument. The group climbed to the top of the rock face. Imala lead the way. All were up. Looking to the prodigal son he fell back to the earth with a shot. A wisp of dust floating away off his shoulder. The group watched as the ghost surrounded them. Daemons snarling with their masters.

"Surrender… or die where you stand." Vin leaned over to Chris.

"I'll take that five dollars now." Chris looked to him. Vin's eyes where skyward watching Sano soar. But his eyes also watched as a falcon soared along right behind her.

Daemons normally stayed compliant when their other half is in danger. Especially at gunpoint. The group lay along the log. Anderson came out his boar daemon walking along beside him. The six listened how he told of the last days of the war for him. And how it made him sick that they had given up so easily.

"Well… we're going to raise the stars and bars over that little village. I want it to be the last thing these boys see." he motioned to Darcy. "Take them down and let them see their fate as our canon turns this little village back to the crater it was." guns pointed into their backs as they made their towards their fate. Buck hated to see the young man taken down before his true colors showed. And when he was upset. He spoke like an idiot but his heart still stayed strong.

"How do you like the wild west now, kid?" J.D. fought the man behind him to remain standing to make his point.

"You think you got me pegged, don't you Buck? Rich kid, had it all." the man tried to force him down again. He stayed firm. "Yeah, I lived in a mansion. My mother was a chamber maid. Never knew my father. They made me a stable boy and I taught myself how to ride." the soldier had reached the final straw. He hit the kid behind the knees.

"Get down." J.D. wanted to fight still. But the small whisper from Kestra had him settling beside Josiah. He wasn't done making his point though.

"Mama died last year. She'd saved a little money. Wanted me to go to college. It wasn't enough." the kinkajou nuzzled his cheek. Buck leaned over more toward the kid.

"Life's tough, huh? And then you die." everyone looked as the canon was aimed at them. Josiah grunted toward Buck.

"Mind not leaning against my bad leg?" the group went quite again. The army getting ready to set off the fireworks. Unknown to the rest Ezra had sneaked into one of the men's tents. A duck sat on the bed asleep, beside a soldier. Ezra smiled to the duck.

"Hello Sisko." the duck startled awake at the female southern drawl. He looked at the new comers.

"Captain?" the owner of the duck spoke. Ezra half smiled to the man.

"Hello Paris." the man stood. The pair not having seen each other in along time fell into step as if the war was yesterday. And then as suddenly as it sparked it dulled to the wonder.

"What are you doing here sir?"

"I'm one of the guns and am here for you to repay our debt." the man nodded. Life for life.

"What's the plan?" Ezra smiled that all knowing smile. The man smiled in return missing that mischievous smile. Paris went up to the hill side to take a leak. There he met up with Ezra. Ezra handed him his trademark spade card. the card telling him this is the last time we will see one another. And debt paid.

"I want you to leave Paris. Take Sisko and head home."

"Yes sir." the man smiled as he handed over he jacket to his formal captain. Ezra took it. "It's good to know you're still alive." Ezra nodded. Paris handed him his hat next.

"Now get."

A drum roll began to play.

"Yes sir." the man walked away. Ezra put the jacket on. Tipping the hat down to cover his face he made his way down to the canon. A man spoke to him as he came up beside them

"About time. They'll be raising the flag soon."

"I wouldn't miss this." he raised the rifle and aimed it at the ghost. His new friends looked with interest as Ezra revealed himself. "Nobody move, or he's dead. I leave you boys alone fore five minutes and look what happens." he spoke to the group never taking his eyes off the man in front of him. Chris had spat on his wrist and began to work his ways out of the cuffs. Blood began to bleed making his wrist slick. The pain came, that he could live with. Oriana was working hard not to make their discomfort known. She made her way into the log. There she could cringe as she felt the blood run over Chris' wrist.

"You'll only get on shot off before we take you."

"Then you best discuss amongst yourselves which one of you is going to die." the ghost guns hammered back. Darcy laughed.

"Pick'em yourself. The rest of us will tear you apart." Ezra moved the gun to the powder keg.

"Why, that powder keg's empty. Mister. Drop it." the smiles vanished as Ezra dropped the rifle.

"Big mistake sonny boy." Ezra lowered his hands. His mind already set for the backup. Chris watched as he saw Ezra's wrist flick. Knowing that Ezra had engaged his derringer, Chris pulled his hand free of the cuffs and got ready for the show to begin. Ezra raised and fired at Darcy. Chris grabbed the man in front of him. Dust mixed with dust as the bullets did their job. When the good side to us won Chris retrieved the cuff keys. Ezra retrieved the guns. The former captain captive spoke.

"You're out numbered 3 to 1. Anderson's a mad dog. You'll all die." Chris uncuffed him.

"We know what to do with a mad dog." Chris stood and confronted Ezra. Ezra braced himself for the blow. The blow never came. But a finger pointed into his chest. "Don't ever run out on me again." Ezra eyes looked shock for an instant but the mask came on quickly. Chris saw it. He picked a good cheat. One that needed to belong. Just like him. To be a member of a family. The world that people wanted people to be honest.

Chris went the way he came and saw the village and Imala's mortal coil.

"We finish this." he came back around to where they were chained.

"Captain, do you know how to fire that thing?" Corcoran let his koala daemon climb up his arm.

"No, sorry. And you killed the only men who knew." Ezra had walked over to it. Renesmee lay down on the tip of the canon. She appeared to know how to walk it well. J.D. came over to admire it. The two men looked at the two who are by the canon. Chris walked over to them.

"Renesmee, he know how to shot a canon?" if daemon are the truth of what's within. Maybe she would give a simpler answer then her man.

"It's in the past."

"I need him to…" she rose up on all fours. Chris felt like his wife was staring him down again. Oriana felt as Chris' hair raised at the stare.

"If you want his help ask him."

"He should do it after his stunt." anger boiled at her statement. She ignored him and looked at the dead body.

"Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, his daemon was a bat named Yar." Chris looked to the body then to the fox. She tugged on Ezra sleeve as he was checking out the canon balls. He looked from her to Chris. Chris looked to the man who ran away.

"Can you fire one of these?" Ezra nodded.

"Good."

Josiah once he was freed from his bounds was felt up by Nathan. Nathan examined the wound again.

"I'm fine Nathan."

"Yeah but we don't have time for a proper examination but when we done this you are resting up, ya hear?"

"Yes Doctor." Nathan liked the sound of that. Next he opened the shoulder pouch which Aella sat in.

"You doing okay Aella?" the bird squawked at him.

"I think I preferred building walls." Nathan smiled at her and pulled the flap back over. Josiah watched J.D. follow Buck up an embankment to relay the position of the ghost. But before heading up. Buck knocked off his Bat Masterson hat. Vin came back from his scout. Sano sitting on his shoulder. He relayed his information.

"Not that many of them but enough." Buck and J.D. came back quickly.

"They are almost done." everyone looked to one another. Chris made the announcement.

"When Ezra fires the canon. We make our move."

"How we moving?" J.D. asked.

"We walk straight in." everyone smiled..

The drum roll finished.

Nothing happened. People waited.

Then the noise came. The shrill announcing the thunder.

The thunder brought down a rain of dust and destruction. Then the hail of bullets came into play. The main target: Anderson would not fall. His men pasted around him. Their souls returning to be renewed. Anderson drank from his bottle. Nathan figured out why the man wouldn't just fall down.

"He's so pumped full of laudanum someone could chop off his head and he wouldn't feel it." to much adrenaline flooding through young veins allowed J.D. not to think before he acted.

"Oh, he'll feel this!" he ran out no thought. Pure adrenaline. The colonel came at him with a sword. J.D.'s guns ran out. Buck the big brother came running out to save. Pushing J.D. out of the way Buck was struck down by Anderson's sword. The fight continued for a little longer till only Anderson was left. Then it was down to a duel to the colonel and his captain.

Anderson fell for the last and final time. Chris came out and spoke to the residual of the ghost.

"The war is over! Go back to your families." Chris watched the remaining men depart. Seeing early his long time friend go down he went toward all the commotion. Nathan was tending to him. His daemon grabbing his medical kit and returning to aid her man. J.D. sat close by. His hands keeping busy by stroking Kestra's fur. Worry coursed through him, radiating from him. He had caused this wound to his new friend. Possibly killing the only man who was willing to teach him the ways of the west. Treat him like the little brother they never had. Chris came over and knelt by his friend. Oriana went to Flynna who lay motionless. The pain of her mater radiating to her.

"How can I help?" Flynna twitched her nose at Oriana.

"A male rabbit would be nice for once." Oriana worked her way under the hurt rabbit and letting her seek comfort against an old friend.

Chris took Buck's hand.

"Hey, pard. We got him."

"We did it." Nathan occupied himself over the sword wound. Cleaning out as the two talked. It wasn't to bad. It'll be another lovely scar for the ladies man to get flaunted over.

"Mm-hmm." J.D. came over. His daemon held tightly in his arms.

"Buck…"

"Hey kid…" J.D. took the hand that Chris released. J.D brought their hands down so the back of Buck's hand touched the kinkajou's fur. Buck stared wide-eyed for a moment at the gesture. J.D. closed his eyes and felt the gesture register. Allowing another person to touch was a sign of immense trust. And sometimes considered very intimate. But in families it is a common thing to touch the other. But there is still the rule of permission first.

"J.D." their eyes met. "Get yourself a real hat." He picked up his hat with the other and shoved it at his new brother. Resting back after the exhausting little ordeal. He smiled.

"Never did get to spend any time with those fine ladies." Nathan smiled as he placed a clean bandage over the wound.

"You will, but first let's get you stitched up, Buck."

Villagers came back. Buildings destroyed. Village gone. People lost. Yet this is their home. And this is where they shall stay and rebuild. Chris walked with Tastangi around the remains. He returned his son's blade to him.

"You fought with him… not against him. Me-doh." it wasn't even noon and the ghost had been exorcised, and the village was returning to normal. The horses still packed ready from this morning to head back to town were coming back for them. The town giving them a wide berth, silently saying thank you and your job is done.

Vin walked with Chris to his horse. Sano resting on the horse's saddle. Chris not really wanting to lose his new friend asked him,

"Where you headed?"

"Tascosa." the look that passed between them was shock.

"Tascosa?" Chris looked to his friend as if crazy. He wanted to go to the place where his bounty originated. "Why?" Vin shrugged and stroked Sano's breast.

"Never know how much time there'll be to set things right." truer words were never spoken. Chris had his demons and people had their own.

"They got a saloon there?" the two smiled. They wouldn't be separated so easily.

"I rekon." the two watched as the rest of their gang came out from the ruins to join back up. To return to a life that still remained to be seen. Tastangi came over to them.

"You leaving?"

"Yes." they knew their job was done and time to get back to their own realms of existence. Chris returned the gold medallion.

"Never could figure out how to split it seven ways." the little gathering smiled. Tastangi took it with a great heart.

"You will always be welcome in our village. Travel safely on the winds."

"For all time." Vin spoke back. They all nodded to each other. Tastangi departed from them. J.D. came over next. Still looking like a kicked puppy. His eyes staring longingly at Buck's hat. Chris and Vin smiled as Buck came riding up quietly behind him. Flynna's head popping out of her seat in the saddlebag. Her eyes wanting to see the kid's reaction to their return.

"Hey kid." J.D. turned so fast at the voice Kestra nearly slide from her perch o his neck. "If you're not going to wear that hat, then I'll take it back." J.D. walked with a smile in his step as he approached the man he trusted enough to touch his daemon.

"Buck," all surprise. "Buck, you look awful." he handed the hat back to it's original owner. Buck welcomed the hat back and placed it on his head.

"Well, son, it's damn near impossible." Buck laughed at his own joked and cringed as it jarred his stitched chest. Flynna smiled at the boy.

"You riding with us?" she asked. Kestra sat up on her back to legs.

"Try and keep us away." J.D. jumped onto his horse.

"Yee-haw." the horse just shuck their heads, kids. Buck vocalized what the horse's were thinking.

"Don't make us laugh, kid." Ezra was the next to rejoin their little group. One of the villages child on his shoulders twirling up a dust storm. This particularly boy has been his shadow since he arrived. The man set the boy down.

"Ezra… Can I come now? I'm a man now." everyone watched as the boy turned to someone.

"Bella, you can come out now." the gang watched as the boys daemon approached. The form is identical to Renesmee. "She just settled. So I'm a man now. Can I come?" the boy asked again. The men were in shock. Especially Nathan as he came back into the gathering circle. he noticed that the boy had chose the gambler's daemon form. the boy idolized a cheat. Serifina nipped at Nathan for his thoughts. She always could see what he did not. Ezra was speechless at what he saw. Renesmee, who was settled around his neck, covered the shock.

"A brave warrior like you?" Ezra pet his daemon a thank you. Then took over the conversation.

"You got to stay here and protect the village." the boy picked his daemon up and held her out to Ezra.

"I'd like you to pet her." Ezra smiled at the trust in the boy's eyes. Renesmee walked down into the cradle that Ezra made with his arms. Ezra understood the gesture.

"If you will pet mine." the two pet each other's daemon. The action of friendship. "It's good to have met you Tobias." the boy hugged Ezra one final time.

"Good to have met you too."

"Remember what I taught you?"

"Never draw to an inside straight." they both smiled. And as quickly as Tobias had entered his life, he was gone again. Serifina had come over beside Ezra.

"That was good." she walked over to Nathan's horse and grabbed it's reins. Ezra turned to Nathan, his horse coming over to him. The horse knowing it was time to go came over to his friend. Ezra kept his eyes on Nathan as he mounted.

"What about you, Mr. Jackson? You, uh, willing to ride with an old Southern boy?" Nathan kept an arm around his newest fascination since medicine. Rain smiled at the two men. Jackson smiled to her then to Ezra.

"I figured I'll stick around for a while, help these folks get things right." Serifina walked over to the horse. Renesmee stared up at her.

"A pleasure meeting you, Serifina."

"Same here. You need a lift up?" The fox bowed in her own right like the horse done before to allow her up. Standing she looked to her knew friend.

"I would be honored." Nathan watched wide eyed as his daemon knelt down to allow the arctic fox to climb up. Rising up on her back legs she set her hooves on the side of the horse. The horse looked to the daemon as it touched his flank. When a daemon touched one who was not with daemon but real animal, no daemon. A sensation passed, a welcomed one. Serifina looked to Ezra.

"He's still young. But he will learn." Serifina spoke of her man. Ezra leaned down so Renesmee could join him.

"He is a better man then me."

"Hmm. Equals. But still you. See you around."

"You too. And we are all still very young"

"And a lot to learn." Renesmee chimed in. Making a foxy noise, the horse moved away to join the leaving guns.

"See you in town." Nathan added to the two. He squeezed Rain closer to him. Serifina came back to join Bashir by their mates. Nathan giving an affectionate pat to them both.

Sano soared low over Ezra's head as he joined the others. Vin held up his arm for her to land. Ezra road up next to him. He tipped his hat to her.

"Sano." she looked to him.

"Ezra." She nodded back.

"You shot a canon pretty well pard." Renesmee looked over at the tracker. The comfort level had just settled on that, comfort. Not sure if all was forgiven. She spoke to Vin.

"It was dreadful." Vin looked to Ezra. He merely shuck his head.

"I was aiming for Anderson." But the flag was a nice miscalculation. The war is over. to bad the ball was chipped, that caused the miscalculation. Vin laughed at him as the guns lined up to head out. Each nodded greetings to one another. Welcoming all into the fold.

Josiah secured himself in the saddle before taking the satchel, which held Aella from a helpful villager.

"Thank you." he road up slowly behind Nathan. The horse snorted alerting them. Not agreeing with his rider that he should be moving. Nathan turned to face them.

"Where are you going?" Nathan said coming in front of the horse. "Get down off that horse. You lost too much blood." he looked to Serifina for backup. "You'll die out there."

"If that's what's meant to be." Josiah said and patted the horse. Serifina came up next to voice her opinion.

"The damn birds will get you soon enough."

"I resent that remark." came from the satchel.

"Then tell him to stay."

"Me tell him, that is a good one." she popped her head out from the bag flap. Serifina smiled at him. She went over to Nathan's horse grabbing the reigns. All the horse were made up and ready to go this morning. Nathan had plans to scan the area and volunteered to come back and tell the village that the ghost were gone. Nothing ever went as planned.

"You're a good man Nathan." Josiah backed off to head over to the rest of the team.

Nathan took to Rain as to ask forgiveness. She knew. Taking his hand she rested it on Bashir..

"Go. I'll wait." Nathan looked down to his hand. The sparks flew deep inside his heart. Serifina came over and brushed herself against Rain.

"We'll be back." Rain ran her hand down Serifina's neck. Nathan kisses Rain on her cheek. The horse came up to him, nudging him. Time to go, he meant. Nathan moved to the horse petting his side. Getting on he looked at the town. He would come back.

Joining the group they gave a final nod to each other and to Nathan for coming with. They knew he wanted to stay. But he needed to go. Keep an eye on the injured and the rest. Everyone looked to Chris.

"Let's ride."

The End.

This AU is open.

Character: Daemon form: Daemon name

Chris: opossum: Oriana

Vin: Golden Eagle: Sanoske "Sano"

Josiah: Crow: Aella

Buck: Rabbit: Flynna

J.D. kinkajou: Kestra

Nathan: marsh deer: Serifina

Ezra: Arctic Fox: Renesmee

Mary: Sparrow: Navarre

Billy: Changing/owl/puma: Isobol

Orrin: Servile : Aquila

Maude: Mink: Bridger

Nettie: Red Tailed Hawk: Cullen

Casey: Otter: Potter

Tastangi: Armadillo: Ossa

Eban: Jaguar: Mira

Rain: Nigerian Dwarf Goat: Bashir

Tobias: Arctic Fox: Bella

Imala: Gecko: Kimara

Anderson: boar: Torres

Cocoaran: koala: Janeway

Paris: Duck: Sisko