Half Shaman, 30
|Harpy Eagle from San Diego's Zoo.|
Jeb's totem before she became a shaman.
In which the newly weds quarrel, kiss and ...
Links to Previous Chapters:
Chapters 1-5 Chapters 6-9 Chapters 10-14 Chapters 15-19 [These links send you to the archives for January to April. Read from the bottom up.]
20: Girl Questions 21: The Village Square 22: AZ, Ship to Shaman 23: The Silver Storm
24: The Leadership Challenge? 25: The Street Camp 26: The Unlooked-for Amulet
27: The Food Supply 28: Into the Warren 29: The Painted Tower
30: Wedding & Honeymoon
I am so unsettled that I don’t want the wedding celebration. Is a wedding even necessary now that we know Lotor is at the bottom of the troubles for which we thought it a solution?
But remember how happy I was? It was going to be a solution for a lot of things, not least … we were stupid to think there’d be time to … Not that I don’t want to be married.
I think it through again. I hold on to the image of my love-struck loon. I mustn’t let that picture go out of my mind. It’s just that I don’t want to be married right now. Under these circumstances. In a minute we’ll be joined by all kinds of strangers and …
Do I say any of this stuff?
Does anyone take notice? They do not. They call my concerns my nerves. Their hearts are set on a wedding. On Mongoose’s clever words. On my tearful appreciation. Their organisations proceed.
Obduracy is my middle name. Sometimes it takes in a lot of space in me, sometimes a little. Sometimes people call it my harpy.
There is a wedding. Mongoose says his words. “I rend my shirt hame to heart. Will you weave among me, hold me, heart me and enfold me?”
I can see that Mongoose believes every syllable of his words. “I will,” I say while I cry. Because if he doesn’t believe me, it is as if he doesn’t believe in me. And then why are we bothering with this?
People applaud. They hug us and I stuff Mongoose’s words somewhere among my memories. I’ll look at them again when I feel better about everything. My tears are of frustration.
Perhaps he hears something of my feelings in the tone of my sobs. He mouthes a protest against me. “Remember that I love you and you love me.”
It’s the only reason I haven’t run into the warren.
Eider has even been able to arrange a two-hour honeymoon. “Take them to their bower,” Ant shouts. He’s bright-eyed. They all are. Everyone carries us up the spiralling stair around the inside of the tower.
First there is the guard platform. Windows all around. Above it the attic room. Mongoose and I are thrust up into it through a hatch. Everyone laughs and cries and cheers as Mongoose drops the hatch over the hole and shuts out all their faces.
“What is your problem,” he says.
I cry furious tears.
“I feel quite angry as well,” he says. “And I’m totally disappointed that you couldn’t even pretend to be happy.”
I sob. Get some words out. “I trusted you to believe me. You couldn’t even pretend that. Not that I want you to pretend. Or have you pretended all along?”
Mongoose sits a little distance away. Against the wall. His knees up.
I want to go and sit alongside him so I don’t have to see how his hands hanging over his knees look so helpless and why should he feel helpless? I close my eyes.
Hours later, which is silly because we have only two hours up here, Mongoose shifts himself. He sits down closer than mere touching. “I’m sorry. Really. I see now that I’m not the perfect lover for you.”
“What?” A storm of tears roars through me. I shift and wriggle onto my knees. “You didn’t say that!” I smack him. “You didn’t!” Smack. I cry harder. “Why?”
He seems to have to choose words. “Because I have trouble with some of the things happening to you.”
“What things? What trouble?” I cry.
He catches my flailing hands and pulls me between his knees, keeps me there with a hand around my head, the other round my arms, and by kissing me on the side of my face, my ear, my hair.
“I don’t understand what-why-you’re even kissing me?” I struggle getting the words past his hand.
“Best opportunity we’ve had. Didn’t say I don’t love you. Love you to bits. But doesn’t a proper loon-lover … accept everything … no questions asked?”
“Everything like what?” I stop struggling to let him ruck up my shirt.
He stops to think. I don’t. I unbuckle his belt.
He comes alive. Pulls his shirt over his head, then my shirt over my head. “Everything to do with the ship is fine. Totems and totem singing, all good. The ship’s message system, I know how that works now.”
Then we are too busy to think. Best opportunity yet.
“But,” I say, folding down to the panelled floor. I pull him with me.
He rolls over me, holds himself on his elbows. “Dreams. Visions. Snatches of foresight. How do they all work?”
“I don’t know. I’m a less-than-perfect shaman.” I laugh and cry through his fingers, then into his mouth. “Let’s just work this.”
And we do.
And it is good though I hurt and Mongoose cries. “I hate hurting you.”
“From here on …” I start to say.
“Will we ever get another …” he starts to say.
“Make our own opportunities,” I say.
Which we don’t at that moment. We dress. Sit down side by side, leaning back against the wall.
“Tell me again,” Mongoose says. “I let every other thing distract me. When I said that I didn’t see Bear and Dingo change. When I asked whether you saw them through one of your dreams, I meant did you have a vision while you were looking at them, saw something superimposed over them?”
“That’s a clever thought,” I say. “But that isn’t what happened this time. I didn’t see them turn into Lotor-blanks. Just saw them morphing back into Bear and Dingo. I don’t know anything much about that species except what I saw of them at the prison where bunches of them marched into the yards after a clean-out and then were converted, I don’t know how, into guards. Bear and Dingo had a couple of chances to get you but didn’t. So I think they’re waiting to get me.” I shudder.
Mongoose slips his arm over me. Hugs me tight against him. “Could Bear and Dingo have been killed and replaced?”
“Dingo winked when they were complete. The blanks at the prison came with instinct, the old faun told me. Not specific memories. Why would he lie about such a thing?”
“I’m sorry I didn’t listen. You’re afraid that some or all the others with them are also blanks?”
“And that they are everywhere, hiding in the city. That they’ll overrun us in the Field of Dreams. So near to the shuttle.”
“If only there is a way to test them for what they are. Wish it was easier to ask the ship, because it aren’t a light touch,” Mongoose says. “Sweat on my brow, lover. The ship surely knows me.”
I smack his chest. “Bear’s supposed to get an amulet. The ship already has his call-sign.”
Mongoose takes my hand. Kisses my palm. “Too late when we’re all in the shuttle.”
Someone banging on the hatch cover. It’s made of old steel, I see. A cover originally from the shuttle we’ll be using?
“You got ten minutes.” Meerkat’s voice full of suppressed excitement. There sounds to be a tussle on the guard platform.
Mongoose raises the cover. Checks those present below. “Good. Just us,” he says to them. “I’ll go first,” to me. He squats, hangs with his fingers from the hatch edge and lets himself drop. “Your turn.”
I do what he did and he catches me, and lets me slide down him. Ant, Meerkat and Wren await us with expectant looks.
“Put away whatever you are thinking,” Mongoose says. “Who knows anything about the Sand-people?”
Ant frowns. “Why?”
“I’m thinking that they might be the same ones as Jeb knows as Lotor-blanks. She saw Bear and Dingo transform back from blanks into who they are pretending to be.”
“If you did …,” Wren starts. She calms me by signing for peace. “I mean, if they are blanks, they’ll be getting mighty tired trying to maintain shape. And that would be why they showed themselves like that.”
“What else do you know?” Mongoose says.
“There’s a story. Is now the right time?” Wren says.
“Just the facts,” Ant says.
“It won’t sound real because as I said it’s a story. In the right time and place, Lotor balloons out a membrane that when filled with sand takes on a personality.”
Ant begins. “I have a thousand questions …”
Meerkat cuts in. “What happens if the membrane is punctured?”
“I doubt if anyone will let you get near enough,” Mongoose says. “We don’t know how many else in the group are them as well.”
Thump thump thump.
Meerkat hauls open that hatch. Also a steel shuttle hatch. “Man himself,” Meerkat says. “Woodchuck and company.”
“We come to relieve you,” Woodchuck says with an open guileless expression.
I don’t hear the details of the plan Meerkat Wren and Ant concoct on the way down the spiral stair.
I wonder whether we should take the two hatch-covers with us to the mountains.