Half Shaman, 25
|Site of Street Camp|
Jeb outlines the ways that Lotor tries to eat the Old Earth-born ...
Links to Previous Chapters:
Chapters 1-5 Chapters 6-9 Chapters 10-14 [These links send you to the archives for January, Feb and March. Read from the bottom up.]
15: Ant's Idea 16: The Automatic Transponder 17: New Chief, Old Shaman
18: Walking ... 19: The Meridian 20: Girl Questions 21: The Village Square
22: AZ, Ship to Shaman 23: The Silver Storm 24: The Leadership Challenge?
25: The Street Camp
The situation unfolds as I feared. The larger of the two groups enfolded the smaller while they still skirted the city’s environs. They settle together in opposition to ours, filling up the other half of the thoroughfare. An argument is in progress and time marches on.
Bear leads the larger group with the help of a couple of bully boys. Bear is stout, almost flabby. Certainly the best-fed in his group. I wonder how long his group has been together. “You’re towns-folk like we are. You should join your group to ours, woman,” he says.
The woman he speaks to is called Ibis. I don’t recall a Totem by that name. “Knuckle under to your side-kicks?” she says. “I don’t think so.” She signals her people to separate themselves from among Bear’s group and they pick up their bundles and percolate out to stand around at the bottom end of the thoroughfare.
“Who says we have to camp here, anyway?” Ibis says.
“Jeb,” Uncle Puma says.
Mongoose and I stand up. “I’m Shaman Jeb,” I say. “Our ArkShip told me that we all, the last of the OldEarth-born are the people it has come to pick up, and that we should camp here in this thoroughfare, wide enough to hold us all, it said.”
The woman and all her people turn to me during my speech. They draw closer, to see me better.
“You’re young for it,” Ibis says.
“Shaman Thyalsene showers me with his wisdom,” I say, indicating Thyal who waves with his stump to show why he isn’t the last Shaman.
“I don’t like it,” Bear says. He’s drawing nearer too, still trying with his lieutenants to surround Ibis and her people. “Such a young shaman will have her head turned, one two three, by some man.” He peers at Mongoose. “We should take her chip and put it into someone reliable.”
Puma can’t take that lying down and nor do I want him to. He confronts Bear and his group with Lithe and Limber, Ant, Meerkat, Vulture and Eider. The rest of our group bunch behind them, and everyone of our group stares at the opposition.
“You people lived wild, what have we in common with you?” Bear says. His men back down with him, though one stays. And that one stares at me.
I start with exactly the same words I already told my own group. “The ship has to operate within the confines of the ways that gravitational forces …” And end with the words that so impressed Puma. “The ship will cry, but we will die.”
“We suggest each of you leaders assign a couple of people to the guard squad run by Red-tail.” I point to where our guards limit exploration. “I’ll revise with you the dangers we might encounter. In the air, contained in a storm, there’s the silver. It kills and it kills fast. We have a man who while helping to hold down a tent-cover lost the tops of four fingers.”
Lithe holds up his shortened fingers.
“Hard to believe that it didn’t take the tent,” Ibis says.
“It’s after meat,” Bear says.
“One of the mysteries we aim to escape,” Lithe says.
“Second is the meat-eating sand, which is quite quick at its feeding.” I don’t know of any other way they could have come but through the desert. That there’s no argument or discussion proves they have all experienced the meat-eating sand.
“Third is what I call creep. Fawn-coloured, boneless appendages, about the size of my pinkie finger, that cover a Field of Dreams. Has anyone ever seen them?” I don’t believe it when no one puts their hand up.
“Well, have you ever seen a Field of Dreams?” Mongoose says. “How do you know what they look like?”
“Even you haven’t? You didn’t see that one near the prison where I was?” I ask.
“We didn’t get nearer than the guards guarding it,” he says. “Puma encouraged us to be taken. I think he knew you were nearby.”
I speak up to everyone, “I guess you, like me, know about the Field of Dreams from Soowei’s stories. The Fields are meant to offer a pleasant way to be eaten, but we all know that Soowei did all in her power to escape it.”
“The fourth danger is black creep, another granular sort of thing. It’s mean, it’s hungry, and it’s fatal. It’s why we have posted guards. Tomorrow morning I’ll be taking a woman and a man from each group into the warrens, to show them what to look for, what not to accidentally walk into.”
“I’ll be looking to see that you pick a man and a woman you can’t miss,” Puma adds.
A couple of people chortle. The one staring at me still stares. I slip my fingers behind Mongoose’s belt to hold onto him. “You see a problem?” he says.
“Nearly finished,” Mongoose says. “I’ll see that he gets the message.”
I continue. “When I come back from that little jaunt, with the six people still with me, I hope you will all have your bags packed because we will split into four groups, to meet again at the Painted Tower tomorrow evening.”
I hold up my hand against the buzzing. “That’s for tomorrow. There’s a lot still to do tonight.” I search for Puma and Thyalsene to discuss the call-signs with the leaders.
I’ll need the time later to think through the coding and the totem songs I will need. Right now I wish Mongoose and I could go find a private place and do a little old-fashioned … well, there’s a reason why we can’t. The same as for every other couple.
The staring man licks his lips suggestively. A wave of heat engulfs me. I’m furious. The man smiles. He thinks my face is red from shy embarrassment? Desire? Who the fuck does he think he is? He thinks he’s won something, somehow?
“You’re mad about something,” Mongoose says. “Your hand is sweaty suddenly.”
“Idiot staring. Smiling. Thinking he’s got me interested.” I mumble and mutter. “That I’m blushing for him. When I’m furious!”
Mongoose slides an arm over my shoulders. “Ignore him.” He flicks his fingers.
Meerkat arrives. “Yes?”
“What you said,” Mongoose says. He squeezes me. “Meerkat said this might happen.”
Ant joins us too.
“Meerkat said this would happen,” Meerkat says. “People thinking that if they can influence Shaman Jeb, they’ll have the power to do … be…” He shrugs. “Chiefs? Kings? While we still march? On the ship?”
He and Ant laugh.
Ant crows. “They think it an ArkShip still.”
“They believe they’re preparing for a generation journey,” Meerkat says, smiling broadly.
“Rude awakening coming up.”
“Meantime we have these unwelcome swains making advances,” Mongoose says.
Meerkat laughs harder. “You sound exceedingly disapproving.”
“Jeb?” Mongoose says. Asking me how unwelcome.
How will I best explain? “At all times I have to stay open-minded enough to recognise signals from the ship. At the same time I need to be ready to withstand the nightmares that Lotor sends any time of the day. I steal a few minutes here and there to be a person with my friends.” I squeeze Mongoose’s hand, him especially.
“That one,” I gesture with head shake, “caught me unprepared. He gained on me mentally while I scrambled mentally to resist him. He came out feeling encouraged. I worry how you three will deal with such as him? How you will prevent large scale fighting, if it is a political plot? And come out of such fighting unhurt? Or should I take my attention off our main concern to … to better resist these advances?”
Meerkat laughs in a ugly way. “No fighting by you, Shaman Jeb. Mental or physical.”
“Jeb, I’m right beside you at all times,” Mongoose says. “Just pinch punch tweak me. Get my attention.”
I imagine it. “If they come at us with three or four?”
“Do they have that many fighters?” Meerkat says.
“If the groups club together,” Ant says.
“Not out of the question.” Meerkat sounds gloomy now. He explains. “See how they’re camped? Them along the rubble. Us along the wall. Walkway between. I wonder who organised that?”
Mongoose takes charge. “Meerkat, you prep Red-tail. Ant, you talk with Lithe. Jeb and I will hang out with Thyal and Puma by the cook-pot, where I’ll do the talking.”
Thyalsene sees us coming. “I see a troubled young Shaman.” He pats Eider’s hand massaging his shoulders. “A cup of ginger will help settle her. Shaman Jeb?”
Mongoose and I sit down. “Yes please Eider, ginger will be lovely.” I pass her Mongoose’s mug and water-bag that we share.
Eider raises her eyebrows, probably at my manner. When I don’t feel positive, bouncy, glass half full, it shows.
“What kind of trouble?” Puma says.
“People seeking to overpower us by advancing on Jeb,” Mongoose says.
“Come sit with me, my pretty,” Thyal says. “We’ll practise our shamanic ways of thinking.”