Half Shaman, 31
|"Feet in the water already," Thyalsene says.|
Jeb, Mongoose and Thyalsene keep the eleven men in the courtyard company ...
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 and Honeymoon
31: Jeb is Puzzled
Vulture takes Mongoose by his arm—I meet her expectations by tagging along—to meet the new people among us. I take Mongoose’s hand before we come to the five girls, but not to worry, the girls seem already to have paired off within Ibis’s group, and are hard at work with everyone else chipping ration bricks from the tower’s wall.
The gardeners brought two identical girl-children who are helping by bringing the food bricks to their parents for packing into lots for carrying. Eider and Ant work with them.
Puma has to be everywhere organising, but even so has his ear bent to Wren’s mouth quite often. He waves for us to come to him. If I’d been practiced at reading the code eye-blinked, I would’ve known what he said to Mongoose but I’ll have to extrapolate as the clues present themselves. There’s no time and no privacy to ask.
“The eleven men from the block-house village are in the yard,” Puma says. “Thyal is keeping them company. Maybe take Jeb there next?”
The eleven are keeping themselves to themselves. I wonder if they suspect all of us because they aren’t comfortable with Woodchuck’s group.
Mongoose wanders away from me as we reach the group. Thyalsene keeps me with him by grabbing a handful of my shaman-cloak. If I pull away, it will tear it is so threadbare. I glance toward the group.
Eleven men. Ha. Who thinks that? More like six men. I see one old woman, one mature-aged woman and three young women. They wear colourful kerchiefs around their necks or heads where the men wear washed-out old rags similar to every other man here. How hard was that? Or do people expect to see only men? From a long-lived village? Not logical.
I see Mongoose hunkering down and study the dusty ground. Hundreds of shoe and boot-prints last time I saw it. Some of the eleven peer over at him. I blush when he sniffs the ground as if he is a mongoose in reality.
Thyal seems to have had enough of Mongoose’s mysterious behaviour. “Mongoose, isn’t there somewhere else you could be of use?”
“Possibly,” Mongoose says. He rises and walks to the back of the eleven-group. “Jeb and I got married just now without me realising that I still don’t know about her shamanic gifts. Maybe I can learn something about them here if I’m not interrupting business already going?”
I lift a fold of my cloak to my face to hide my puzzlement. I still don’t know what’s going on. Mongoose’s intentions as he states them do seem to follow from our quarrel earlier. I had thought he wouldn’t be so blatant about his ignorance.
“That’s good, Mongoose-man,” one of the men says. “I like hearing you admit your faults. My name is Venn.” He rises to shake hands. He has a stocky build, brown eyes and artificially bleached hair. He’s taller than anyone in our group.
“Sounds like the Mongoose’s business is our business, Shaman Thyalsene,” says another. “I’d like you to lead with your questions, Mongoose-man. We’ll add or subtract where you bypass us. My name is Quill.”
Mongoose does not preen at the compliment. If anything, he becomes more watchful. Thyalsene, sitting beside me, signals understood with the eyes-shut-eyes-open signal that I see only because I’m looking at the corner of his near-side eye. What’s going on?
I study Quill. It doesn’t seem now that the business these people have with Thyalsene had begun. I’m suspicious of the way that Quill, their leader—I suspect him to be that—deftly puts Mongoose in the hot seat. Venn obviously got his looks from Quill. Father and son? Wonder how tall Quill is? I hope I’m seeing irrelevant detail.
Mongoose squats down by Venn. Winks in my direction. Eye of the beholder, he means to say superficially. I feel good that I know him well enough that I realise he just made a decision that will impinge on us both, and probably Thyalsene too.
Thyal has another supposed go at trying to get Mongoose out of the scene. “What part about Jeb being a shaman don’t you understand? The totem singing? Calling the ship?”
Is Thyal prevaricating? I’m sure all at once that Thyal is intending to slow the conversation so that … ? I don’t know.
“I have no problem with the totem singing and thereby calling the ship … even the ship’s answers I understand,” Mongoose says.
“How does the ship answer?” Venn says. “If I may take us on a sidetrack?” He looks from Thyalsene to me and back as if he finds me an impenetrable thicket.
Mongoose clears his throat. He stares straight at me as if begging me to understand.
“You decided just now to explain how the signalling works?” I say.
“Sort of. There’s a couple of bits neither you nor Thyal have heard yet.” He stops. Waiting for permission?
“Feet in the water already,” Thyalsene says, winking.