“The trail you walked was here long before this Mission. The churches came after the first peoples, following their trail. My guess is that your friend, Paciano, hunted on that trail when he was a boy with his father. That is how he knows the name of our people.”
Sarria stopped his story to catch his breath. He was not an old man, but a shrunken soul. His elbows and knees jutted out of his robe. He blinked his eyes to keep his focus on the guests. Two children attended him with water and he was revived for a moment.
Paciano spoke and motioned toward the other native men. They passed his words to Brother Sarria. “You continue north to see Duran? He is a good man. I have been waiting for someone to take him this message.” He reached into his sleeve and drew out a small folded packet. “Duran found this trail as a young man. He respects the history of the first peoples in this territory.” He handed the packet to Sal and seemed anxious to continue his story.
“Duran once brought his baby girl to be blessed by the people of the trail. We named her Maria Theresa and the Chuttusgelis sent one of their own with him in friendship, the little girl we called Ria.” Sarria leaned back as if he was preparing to sleep. “Promise me, whatever happens, you will give this to Duran.”
Sal inspected a scrap of parchment wrapped in the packet. It was blank except for a squiggled line. “This is the Soledad brand," Brother Sarria said. "Duran has promised the Mission’s native converts will share the herd and the land when I go. Change is coming.”
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