The first thing you notice at the gates of Shikaakwa are a bronze statue of a bear with a cub on its back playing with a sock on one side and a bronze statue of a bull and a native warrior on the other, both standing on a huge granite platform. On the platforms were engravings of the four events that helped mark Shikaakwa's history in the United States when it was known as Chicago, Illinois.
The Great Fire.
The World's Columbian Expo.
The Century of Progress Expo.
Aside from celebrating their sports heritage, the statues also marks two sides of what the old city of Chicago was all about. The bull and bear represents the fact that Chicago was once a worldwide financial hub in the days before the world grew smaller "thanks" to the Great Reaction. Financial exchange began in this mighty city in 1848, the oldest in the world. The native warrior is Black Hawk, leader of the Sauk tribe. He represents the three tribes that once considered this land home, the Sauk and Fox Nation, the Miami, and Potawatomi.
The bloodline of the three tribes flows through the Feuerbrand family. As rightful heirs to the land of Chicago, as decreed by law, the Feurbrands declared themselves its proper leaders. Through their leadership in the years after and renamed the entire territory Shikaakwa, which is the Miami (that's "me-AH-me," "mi-AM-uh" in Oklahoma) word meaning "wild onion" as well as the word where the Americanized "Chicago" comes from.
When you step into the gates, you'll know that this isn't like the rest of northern country at all. The Chicago River flowed, though it was barely a trickle. The land around the river though was an oasis filled with vibrant plants, fruit-filled trees, and fields of veridian. A mixture of jasmine, lavender, and roses filled the air, giving it a sweet aroma. You'll see the flag and crest of the territory flying high and proudly. White background, two light-blue stripes, five six-pointed stars in the middle. The first four red stars represented the four items engraved on the platforms at the gate. The fifth red star represents the territory's rebirth after the Great Reaction as well as the 25th anniversary of the Feuerbrand reign.
It has been a peaceful reign. The people are happy, enjoying the world. There's even signs of telecommunications here not seen outside this land. Even computers and interconnectivity. I don't know the last time I've seen a computer, especially one that worked like these ones did.
The Rider and I were riding in a huge truck that was towing the Pinto into the kingdom. As we were heading to the Firebird Tower, another tower caught The Rider's eyes.
"This building, Lord Feuerbrand. What is this?"
"The Old Chicago Water Tower," he began. "Kind of figured this place would get your attentions, Cavalier. After over 300 years, it still stands. It survived the Great Fire that burned the land and the Great Reaction that burned the sky. It stands as a monument and a testament that if one can stand in spite of devastation around it, we all can stand."
"It's a symbol of life, your lordship. It still lives. I can feel it."
Lord Feuerbrand looked at the tall dark stranger and me and nodded proudly.
"Mr. Levin," he asked me, "how long have you been travelling with the Cavalier?"
"Just a couple of weeks, your lordship," I said. "I joined him after saw the Manhattan Miracle."
"It really happened??"
"Yeah. I saved The Rider who was floating up in the river. He asked me to be a witness to what he's doing."
"A recordkeeper. A writer. A wandering archivist. Then you would certainly enjoy this land of history."
"It is beautiful."
We all walked down to the Chicago River. It was much higher than the Manhattan was, but it was barely three-feet deep. The Rider realized that this was no mere detour.
"How do you actually . . . you know, do that thing you do?" Feuerbrand asked.
"I just touch the water," the Rider replied as he placed both of his hands on the top of the river. "Like this."
"Then what happens?"
The spot where The Rider touched had a bluish-white glow that was expanding in the water. The glow was spreading across the surface and the water began to rise immediately.
"We might need to get out of the riverbed," the Rider said.
"Good idea, Cavalier," his lordship replied as we ran back up to the edge.
"What happens next, Rider?" I asked. "I've seen you do this a couple of times, and I still don't get what's going on."
"The Aquaura expands along the borders of the old bed," he began. "The water and the Aquaura are one with each other, a living, breathing being. Water has mostly been dormant. The Aquaura wakes it up and gives it renewed life. It grows to the old capacities, boundaries, and heights. It's . . . you guys remember the old water cycle?"
"Well, the Aquaura kind of works like a thousand years of the water cycle within minutes, and once it reaches the natural limit, it'll stay within the water and will keep it fresh for many lifetimes. It'll detoxify itself, purge impurities, and will sustain life for all who imbibe it and creatures that once called it home."
"My God," Lord Feuerbrand whispered under his breath as he's seeing The Rider's words come to life as the mighty Chicago River is flowing once more before his eyes. "You brought her back."
The Lord of the Land of the Six-Pointed Stars grabbed the Rider and gave him a mighty big hug.
"Thank you Cavalier! We shall have a feast in your honor at once."
"No, no, your lordship," the Rider replied. "I don't want a lot of credit for all of this. Plus, I prefer to remain in the shadows and out of view of the public."
"Well, we'll have a private feast instead of a public feast. Me, my wife, and the kids. But of course, you and Mr. Levin will have to wear the royal clothes."
"We get new suits?" I asked. "Cool."
"No kiddin', Bristol. I need to change out of these clothes. Been wearing these striped shirts and jeans forever."
We road to the Golden Tower. the tallest building in all the territory, probably in the world at this point. Before the Reaction, it had a pair of names. It's final name was Willis Tower, but the one the locals referred it by was Sears Tower. Neither company exists today, so the building largely became an antenna to the territories where all telecommunications come from, including radio and the few television channels. Not much use for TV nowadays. The Reaction made it impossible for digital devices to work, and many digital media, including tape, hard drives, and memory, all fried from the electromagnetic pulse that came from the event.
Remind me to tell you what I remember.
The first 10 floors of the Golden Tower is known as Feurerbrand Manor. That's where we headed. We got dressed in the traditional robes, shirts, pants, and shoes of the royal family. We got cleaned off with some of the fresh water The Rider had just returned. There was still a little of the glow in the taps. By the time we were finished, we were guided to the banquet hall.
"Our guests of honor," Lord Feuerbrand bellowed on a microphone.
The crowd, comprised of his family, workers, and friends, erupted with clapping and whistles. I was humbled, but I awkwardly waved to the crowd. The Rider gave a side eye to Lord Feuerbrand, who only smiled and tipped his glass in his honor.
The Rider also noticed a younger woman sitting on his right hand side also smiling at him. He walked towards her, gently grabbed her hand, and kissed it.
"I've tasted the sweetest berries and grapes in this country," he quietly said, "Smelled freshly-cut roses dripping with the morning dew. Seen the fullest of full moons across the sky, but nothing has been more stimulating to the senses as being in your very presence."
"In addition to being the waterbringer and the Cavalier," the lady said, "you are quite the charmer. Typically royalty forbids such tactics from commoners."
The Rider stepped back. "I apologize, milady, Lady . . . what's your name?"
"Lady Aquila Feuerbrand," she stated. "And you didn't need to apologize, Cavalier. A girl's gotta be flattered once in a while. It even takes guts to do that in front of a girl's father."
Lord Feuerbrand looked on and smiled a bit. The Rider looked nervous, but he too smiled, sipped his drink, and enjoyed the rest of the banquet.
After the banquet, The Rider and Lady Aquila walked in the Garden of the Firebird and noticed the markings of the Firebird monument. The Rider didn't understand the language, so Aquila read it for him.
"Préservez la terre des étoiles Six-Aiguës de tous ce qui la menacent aussi bien que ceux qui vivra ici après nous."
"What does that mean?"
"It's French. It means 'Preserve the land of the Six-Pointed Stars from all who threaten it as well as those who will live here after us.'"
"It's beautiful. Just like this land, the trees." The Rider paused for a moment and looked into the eyes of Lady Aquila and held her hand. "And you."
Aquila leaned her head onto The Rider's shoulder and looked at him.
"What are we doing, Rider?" she asked. "We just met just a few hours ago."
"I know," the Rider explained. "It's crazy. We're just talking, I was just flirting. Maybe it's the land, the peace around here."
"Maybe it's the wine."
"I don't drink."
"I didn't either."
The Lady and the Rider didn't say anything. They only looked into each other's eyes. It's the unsaid words that often say a lot. The expression "love at first sight" has been hackneyed to a point of ridicule if written or said, but dangit, that's what this was. A quiet moment between two people who were only strangers just 24 hours ago. The kiss was the first time they were linked.
"Step away from her Ladyship," a voice cried out as a fireball was hurled in their direction. A quintet of armored soldiers came towards The Rider.
"What is this madness, Uccello?" Lady Aquila asked.
"Wait, that's your father?" the Rider asked.
"No, worse. My younger brother."
Uccello's hands started to glow red with flames encircling around them.
"You may have my father and my sister fooled, Cavalier," the soldier said, "but you aren't worthy to be a member of the House of Feuerbrand. So, I'll have to defend this land and those who dare invade it. Even if it means killing you where you stand."
End of Chapter Six