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Mazaska Wicahpi raced across waving spears of crystal-green grass. Named for the silvery stars that graced the night sky, the horse spirit rode as one with Tate, Spirit of the Wind.
They kissed the ground, one with hooves light as air, the other with breath warm and soothing. Beneath them, blooms of purple, yellow, orange and blue harmonized with carpets of green.
Silver Star shifted and dipped her hooves into the stream as she gave herself over to the simple joy of being. Her long, moondust mane and tail floated behind her and around her and her eyes matched the blue of the heavens. She was fluid; molten silver streaking above the fast-moving river. Water sprayed into the air, glittering like diamonds in her wake.
Tipping her head up, eyes fixed on the far horizon, Silver stretched out fully, her hooves gracefully leaving the confines of Maka, the earth.
She soared high into the sky toward the setting sun, which flowed across the heavens like a spill of red wine and liquid gold.
Higher she flew, blending with cool, pure air, a crystalline shimmer among the wisps of clouds. Descending from a cloud above her, the spirit Wambli joined her in soaring across the sky as they honored the end of day, the beginning of night.
She opened her mouth and sang, her clear, pure voice spreading joy across the earth on the wings of dusk. Mahpiya, Spirit of the Heavens, Clouds and Sky, had gifted the world with a sunset of bold, harsh color. No soft, pretty pastels to lead the land gently into night. Tonight, dusk struck as a raging fire across the sky, lining the edges of the puffy white clouds with gold and red.
In silence, the two spirits, one dark as the forthcoming night, the other nearly translucent, floated on the unseen breath of Tate.
Far below them, the prairie rolled, rising, then dipping into shallow valleys where streams of blue water sparkled in the waning light. Movement below caught her eye. Silver swung around and watched as a young woman passed beneath her.
The woman's feet dragged over the grass. She walked with shoulders hunched and head bent as though a great ball of weight made moving difficult. Silver Star sighed sadly, her joy fading into worry as she dropped gracefully from the sky.
Humans had spirit helpmates to guide them in their lives' paths. Many years ago, Silver had walked beside the child this woman had once been, had watched out for her, talked to her, taught her.
But no more. Renny's eyes were now blind to the spirit helpers who walked beside her, her ears unhearing of whispered words of comfort, her soul cut off from beliefs that had once given her great joy.
Renny no longer believed in what she could not see or touch. Her faith lay in shattered ruins.
Tate's touch curled around Silver. "She walks her path unaware, my friend. The human does not see."
"Or remember," sighed Silver Star as she studied the red-haired woman standing at the foot of two graves. Her attention was so fixed on the tall, wooden cross that she didn't see a tiny bird hovering to her left, its tiny wings beating so fast they blurred.
The hummingbird rose a bit higher, staring intently at the human, willing the human to turn and see. But the troubled woman turned her back on the ruby-throated bird.
Silver watched Renny O'Brien shove her hands deep into her worn denim pants and back away. The tiny bird hovered for a few more minutes before giving up.
Silver shook her mane sadly as she watched the bird fade from sight. To have a hummingbird fly close enough to see into its eyes was an honor.