That evening, Dawnstar began the preparations for the ritual of seeing or the vision quest. She had little trouble fasting, since she had never been the type of woman to center her activities around meals. She also was not unduly modest in the physical sense, and thus she had no problem shedding her traditional costume for a more revealing two-piece outfit of white-gray fur. The top was basically a halter, while the breechcloth was not much briefer than some bikini bottoms. She remained still and meditated as the shaman applied a chalky-white clay to her face and body until certain ancient glyphs had taken form. She knew that the shaman Nightwalker was respected by her peers, but she did not like the man, and she did fight to resist the urge to twist away from his touch as he painted her with the clay.
Dawnstar exchanged a silent farewell to her family as she flew high above their village and followed the shaman to an isolated glade near the top of the twin mountain range that ran nearby the one shattered by the quakes.
“It is here among the solitude of the mountains that you will find your way,” said Nightwalker. “Should the visions come to you, they will tell you all you need to know, although your own senses and your own wisdom might refuse to accept their instructions. Such was always your proud way, Dawnstar, daughter of Mist-Rider!”
Dawnstar bit back her heated reply and merely lowered her eyes demurely. She would have to try to see beyond Nightwalker’s lecherous and stern manner in order to embrace that part of the shaman that was holy and devout. He was to be her guide, and she had no choice but to try to work with the man.
She helped him build a strange wooden structure that consisted of a tall central post with certain offerings looped or laced to its ends. The post was one of four, and together they formed a crude pathway or shelter with two on each side. They met at the top where stout rope bound them together.
Dawnstar crawled beneath the poles and reclined on her back with her wings flattened to her body. She drank from a small flask that Nightwalker handed her, and she tried to ignore the now-noxious odor of the dried clay on her body. “You will rest, and your mind will be led as the spirits will,” whispered Nightwalker as he bounded away from sight.
Closing her eyes tightly, she inhaled slowly as the potion began to take effect. If her thoughts returned to Wildfire and the Legion, it was only reasonable, since her friend and her team had occupied so much of her life after she first joined them.
However, the image of the heroic Drake Burroughs faded as she heard the sound of something coming closer. She waited a moment until she located the source of the noise. The rumble grew louder and louder until she saw a huge animal charging toward her. She gasped and tried to fly away from it, but it struck her and sent her rolling across the mud until she managed to stop herself.
By the Great Spirit, I’m unharmed! she thought. That creature must be some type of wraith! It passed through me but left me unscathed! It has to be a sending of some type. I’ll follow it to where it leads.
The charging animal was unknown to Dawnstar, but a student of ancient natural history might have known it as a buffalo. She did notice how the thunder of its hooves echoed like the rumble of a quake.
She soared across the mountaintop until she came to a shocking sight. The strange animal passed through what appeared to be a solid embankment. Its passage brushed aside the thick moss until it revealed an opening that led into a clearing surrounded by brush.
“The buffalo is a symbol of intellect and wisdom.” The voice seemed to echo in Dawnstar’s mind as she drew closer. She had not known the nature of the animal nor its meaning. The awareness just came to her mind.
The spirit buffalo had vanished, and in its place stood two men. The distant rumble that made the ground shake came from the shorter man. She did not know him, but she quickly realized that vibrations from his hands were creating the tremors. She certainly knew his companion all too well.
Nightwalker stood beside the man in purple and looked intently at him. The other man was bald and wore tinted goggles. “Vibrax, do not fear the Legionnaire,” he said. “She cannot oppose us!”
Vibrax scowled and said, “I told you that if we could drive your people away, my employer McCauley would reward us both. He wants time to plunder the untapped minerals and natural resources of this place. I assumed your status as a holy man would enable you to make my vibrations seem like a divine omen to the natives! I didn’t wager on fighting a Legionnaire!”
“Our plan will work, and I relish having little Dawnstar in my power,” said Nightwalker. “You see, she is the reason I lost my faith. Her rejection of me led to baser emotions, and those dark feelings separated me from the Great Spirit. I will help you and enrich myself, but I will also gladly make that proud temptress suffer!”
Dawnstar frowned as she hid behind thick trees. She had solved the mystery easily enough, yet she was rocked by the revelation that she was the cause of Nightwalker’s fall from grace. I was ready to place the blame for this on his shoulders, she thought. He’s greedy and profane. Still, now I wonder if his words were true. I have been overly proud. I need to rethink my behavior. The vision quest promises to bring wisdom, and now I know both why the quakes started and how to stop them. I also feel as if my conceit and vanity ruined another person!
Dawnstar had started forward in order to attack the two men, when she heard a small sound and felt something brush against her bare feet. She glanced down and saw a tiny rodent scurry by. I didn’t recognize the buffalo, but I know the mouse is associated with parts of a vision quest, she thought. I wonder what I’m to learn from him.
She heard Vibrax say, “My vibrations will drive your people out or bury them alive!”
Dawnstar realized she could no longer afford to wait. She swooped down at the odd pair and gasped as her body bounced away from Vibrax and crashed into Nightwalker.
“My vibrations shield me from physical attacks!” cried the bald villain. Dawnstar reeled back as the rogue raised his arms and sent waves of powerful vibrations sailing toward her. “I can turn that shapely body into pulp!” he cried.
Can’t fly above those waves! Got to try to get beneath them! thought the Legionnaire as she struggled to break free from Nightwalker. She twisted free as Nightwalker clutched at her, and then she flipped him over her shoulders. She swiftly hurled herself face down into the mud and dirt and crawled beneath the attack as she ignored the grime and soil.
Nightwalker landed in the path of Vibrax’s blast, and his screams echoed across the mountain as the crushing impact hit. His wings were wrenched from his back, and he fell off the side of the slope before Dawnstar could do more than flatten herself deeper into the mud.
I can’t soar, but maybe I can crawl! she mused as she inched her way forward like a serpent. Finally, the woman who took such pride in her aerial speed and grace managed to draw closer to her foe by crawling through the wet mud. She rose up and hurled dirt at Vibrax’s face.
The villain deflected her efforts, and yet the vibrations scattered the dirt into the air and blinded him for a moment. She took the opportunity to soar skyward and dart past the waves of vibrations. Dawnstar dodged the deadly impulses and fought the winds as she tried to catch the falling shaman.
Dawnstar gritted her teeth as she managed to grab his belt and carry his struggling form to safety. The mouse is a symbol of humility and compassion! she thought as the words seemed to ring out in her mind.
Leaving the injured shaman in the brush, she then flew back to find Vibrax. Instead of seeing the man in purple, Dawnstar saw another strange animal. An eagle screeched and sailed over, and she matched it in flight. “The bird is a symbol of illumination!” she said slowly. Again, she did not know where the knowledge came from, but she embraced it.
She saw Vibrax as he raced out of the embankment and glanced over his shoulder as he fled. A memory of Wildfire’s words came to her, and she saw her friend as he paced the floor of the Legion Academy. “You have to make the maximum use of what powers you possess!” he said. “Any ability can be used for offense or defense if you apply thought and plan ahead!” Dawnstar’s mental image of Wildfire faded, and she knew what to do.
Smiling grimly, Dawnstar then flew ever higher until she was far above the fleeing rogue. She changed direction and plunged downward at him in a swift and certain arc. Dawnstar grabbed his arms and carried him high into the air even as he struggled in her grasp. “You can’t use your powers against me while I hold your arms away from my body!” she said.
Vibrax scowled and said, “I don’t need to touch you to shake free!” Generating an internal vibration, he tore his body out of her grasp.
Dawnstar waited in midair as he fell to the ground far below. As she had hoped, the fall was enough to stun him, even after he slowed his descent and cushioned the impact with vibrations. Dawnstar checked on him and then sighed in relief. He’ll recover, but not before I can restrain him properly, she thought. As for Nightwalker, I’d say his days as shaman are over, and I doubt he’ll ever fly again, either!
She returned to where the injured shaman lay, and he struggled for breath. “How did you find us in the hidden valley? I thought the potion I gave you would have left you sleeping for days. I never meant for you to truly have a vision quest. I did not give you the proper potion of seeing!”
Dawnstar lifted his head, and his breathing became more regular. “By the Great Spirit!” she said in shock. “What you meant to be nothing more than a means of getting me out of the way turned into a divinely sent vision quest!”
Making sure the shaman was stable, she then flew down to bring her family and friends to secure the villains. She knew the quakes were merely Vibrax’s powers at work, and there was no need to leave Starhaven.
She also smiled as her flight carried her over a wooded area where a bear roamed through the forest. “A bear is a sign of introspection! That means my vision quest is ending!”
After making sure the two villains had been properly treated and secured, the winged beauty washed away the clay and regained her costume. She turned to offer her farewells to her family after Windsinger promised to seek a new shaman and explained the truth about the quakes to the others.
“My daughter, you have made me proud,” said Mist-Rider. “You have saved our home. Yet you seem pensive.”
Dawnstar nodded and said, “I truly did experience a vision quest in spite of Nightwalker’s tricks. The Great Spirit showed me my own vanity. I also saw my own responsibility for the madness of Nightwalker. This, in turn, led me to see the need for compassion for a foe. I showed that compassion, and for the first time I feel better about the man who died fighting me not long ago!”
“Your friends ruled the death to be an accident or a matter of self-defense, did they not?” said Mist-Rider. “His heavy armor caused him to fall upon your sword. You were ill and wounded and had only raised it in defense.”
Dawnstar smiled and said, “And yet I blamed myself in spite of the Legionnaires’ support! I now see that that loss does not rob me of future chances to save lives and live my own!”
“And what else did you learn from this vision?” asked Mist-Rider.
“Father, I also gained illumination about my own feelings,” she said. “I need to be more open to others. I need to form friendships that go beyond simple unity with those in my group.”
“And what of your heart?” asked Mist-Rider.
“I found the way to defeat Vibrax when I recalled Wildfire,” said Dawnstar. “He gave me that lesson, and I now believe more than ever that he and I are meant to be together. He may not have a way to touch me, and yet he does touch me more than anyone else! His care, his love, and his personality are always with me. My doubts have faded away.”
Mist-Rider embraced her and then watched her fly off into space. “Go in peace, Dawnstar!” he whispered. “You have found your inner peace, and I am thankful!”
Later, back at Legion Headquarters, Dawnstar knocked at the door of Lesla Vol-Lar’s room and waited as the pretty blonde from Rokyn opened the door. “Andromeda, Lesla… I would be pleased if you would join me,” said Dawnstar. “I would be happy to show you some of my favorite places here in the city.”
Lesla smiled and said, “I’d like that. Thanks so much!”
The two women walked down the hall, and Dawnstar took the first step in forging a new way of life for herself. She would slowly try to become closer to her friends, and she would accept Wildfire as he was. Her trip to Starhaven had taught her many things.