Half Shaman, 32

Human Magic: What do You See?

In which Mongoose surprises everyone and Jeb describes the magic everyone is capable of ...

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


32: Human Magic

Mongoose smiles, oh so fleetingly. The eleven seem to believe he was waiting for Thyal’s say-so, I hope. “I think that the ship sends long and short pulses to our amulets. We get the meaning because our amulets vibrate to the rhythm of the pulses,” he says. “If we know the code.”

“You have felt this pulsing?” Quill asks.

“Jeb tells him everything,” Thyal says, explaining the matter according to his understanding of us. 

Mongoose stands up and folds the side of his cloak to his neck. He pushes his shirt from his shoulder. “I have an amulet,” he says, touching Eider’s careful stitching. 

I look at Thyal. He’s surprised, of course. I pull his sleeve before he forgets himself enough to gape. 

Mongoose flicks us a glance. He includes the eleven in his announcement. “The ship told me my call-sign, and the sign by which I am to know it—sorry, Jeb, I forgot to tell you in all the excitement—and the ship told me that Thyal should have the next chip we find. That’s the ship’s word for an amulet. The same as Soowei called it, Jeb. My apologies to you both, Shaman Thyalsene. Shaman Jeb.” 

He bows toward Thyal and then toward me. Galumphing fool, I smile at him. But I worry. What are the ship’s expectations of Mongoose? And Thyal doesn’t have a call sign yet. … 

Silly me. Of course Thyal has a call sign. He had an amulet in the arm he lost. 

“How is it that you trust us to hear this news alongside your partner and Shaman Thyalsene,” Quill says. “When you never knew us before today?” 

I knew it, Quill is the spokesperson. Good question, Quill.

“Fair question,” Mongoose says. “Jeb told me we have Sand-people among us. She calls them by a different name …”

“Lotor-blanks?” Thyalsene says. He frowns. 

Mongoose nods. “I tracked you good people just now to where you are sitting. None of you leave the same spoor as Sand-people.”

A couple of younger men grin appreciatively. Some others smile behind their hands. What’s that about? “Inside is not a safe place,” Venn says. “Many of Woodchuck’s group are Sand-men.” 

Mongoose rises and sidles around the group to join me. He maybe sees me picking threads from a bight of my old cloak, not asking the question. He makes sure we sit with our knees touching. He tells me. “Yes, a different call-sign. I swear I don’t know any more than that.” 

Of course in the situation as is, he doesn’t tell me his new call-sign. But the fact that the ship may say different things to different people upsets my equilibrium.

“When did the ship tell you all this?” Thyal says. He stresses when as though that’s the place that he can’t believe. 

That’s the next thing that makes me feel bad. I make a huge song and dance when the ship signals me. The pain. The pain. And Mongoose makes no sound? 

Mongoose takes my hand and squeezes it. Does he know what I’m thinking? He starts explaining. “Jeb first sang her own, and what we proposed as my, call signs. Then, while she began the singings for Puma’s and Bear’s and Ibis’s call-signs, the ship straightaway took me into thrall. There was no mistaking it, Jeb. Steel blades sliced into me. Knife tips poked holes through my skin. I felt like Soowei must have when her father sewed up her wound. Nothing to see afterwards, of course. I’m totally with you, Jeb, about the pain of receiving long strings of elements.”

Venn frowns. “Of course the elder shaman should have the next … chip,” he hesitates only a little over the new word. “He,” he points toward Thyalsene, “Should have had the first one.” 

I almost miss the different treatment of the two instances that Venn mentions the-elder-shaman and Thyalsene. I don’t believe he means the same person.

Thyal proceeds as though he thinks Venn is saying that Thyal should have the next amulet. “The Shamans of the Shaman School taught that each chosen person had a right only to the amulet passed down their family,” Thyal says. “Lost mine with my arm. Jeb and Mongoose knew no better.”

“So now we have a problem,” Mongoose says. “Puma will rightfully expect the next amulet we find. I should probably go and apologise to him.” 

Both Quill and Venn rise. “Not safe inside, young man. When you are favoured by the ship. A lot of Sand-men present.”

 “Jeb,” Thyal says. “Is Puma dealing with the Sand-man issue?”

“Yes.” By now Puma has probably extrapolated Wren’s grandmother’s story into an action plan.

“Mongoose.” Thyal points at the ground beside me. “Quill. Venn.” Thyal sweeps his hand for them to sit down as well. “Venn, you watch the doors from where you are. Young person at the other corner?” Thyal lifts his brows in question. 

Young person at the other corner laughs with a woman’s voice. “I’m to watch the gate? Done. My name is Jade, Shaman Thyalsene. Shaman Jeb. Mongoose.” 

“Shaman Jeb’s shaman gifts, Mongoose-man?” Quill says.

Mongoose blushes despite the situation we are in. “She sees things better than I do and with only such a careless glance sometimes, I don’t believe she doesn’t have supernatural help. How come I didn’t see that Bear and Dingo are Sand-men? Jeb did. How do you do that?” he asks me. 

Thyal takes back the running of the conversation. “Jeb?” he says. “What do you say?”

I look at them all. Think. How do I see? “First. Among you,” I ask the eleven. “Was it men or women who recognised the blanks?”

“Women look at men differently to the way men look at men,” Jade says. “No blame on men.”

“It’s sexual?” Mongoose says. 

All the women laugh. “Hark at him.” “He worries that his bride’s eye wanders.” “That’s a man thing.”

“Mongoose. Please. Don’t be stupid or jealous or whatever you’re being,” I say. 

One of the girls, helping me, says, “Men are nearly always the stronger. We always have to assess threat.”

Though his face burns red, Mongoose follows through. “All right, how do you assess threat?”  

“No different, I bet, from Shaman Jeb,” Jade says. “Man is taller, wider, muscled, does he vibrate with physical intent? Eyes, how are they set? Are his hands lax or clenched? Is his stance relaxed or does he rock on the balls of his feet? We mark all these before we decide a man safe to romance.”

Mongoose laughed an unfunny sound. “How am I to think about you now, Jeb?”

“As your life-partner.” I pinch him. “Woman teases you. I hear Puma approaching, his specific footfall. I hear him by human magic, close observation using all my senses, the same magic you use every day in every way.”

Everybody rises to greet Puma. 

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