Half Shaman, 34
|Part of a Shaman's dreaming cloak|
From within a Shaman's dream, Jeb discovers the fake shaman's plot. A Dark Swan thinks he has discovered the reason for Jeb's dream. Is he right?
Links to Previous Chapters:
Chapters 1-5 Chapters 6-9 Chapters 10-14 Chapters 15-23 [These links send you to the archives for January to April. Read from the bottom up.]
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 33: The Pinch Test
34: Shaman’s Dreaming
My strength drains out of me.
I’m feeling so dreamy, I caress Mongoose’s back with my knuckles sliding down to his belt. Hold onto it. I remember what’s coming. Have I time to tell Mongoose what will happen to me?
My mother used to give me bread and honey but she’s gone, long gone. The tower-yard walls turn about me, tower-yard-walls, toweryardwalls, faster and faster. I fall, my hand falls. Mongoose is gone. My nose on the clay, I smell the dust.
“I’m in the well. Falling and falling.” My mouth shapes the words but am I speaking them? Does he hear me?
I lick dry clay from the ground. I feel light from surprise. “All the other times I dreamed the well, I never reached the bottom.” I gave up believing there must be a bottom.
The bottom of the well hangs in the sky. Broken mud-brick walls surround me. A city. A maze of streets and roofless houses. I just left that place and I’m disappointed.
Then I see what I’m meant to see. “The eleven white-wash their houses inside and out. The dark one throws no shadows. She’s after a shaman’s blood.”
Where did I get that thought?
The dream rises bubbling like cool clear spring water through all the layers of my mind. I take its power and rise rise rise up the well, floating swimming stroking turning twirling up the water column.
Heavy suddenly I struggle to climb the final distance and spread-eagle over the old stones to rest on the well’s coping.
“Leave the old shaman,” I hear the black-heart say. “It is the young one’s blood I lust for. She has the fire I want, slow-burning. With her essence in me I will take us wherever we want to go.”
In the dream I let her have me, I need to discover what she wants. The dream fast-forwards me over the city to the block houses. Eleven hands lay me on a bed of shaman-crusted old satin. I see from the fast-cut imagery of blood transfusions, needles and shunts, long white tubes that they intend to drain my blood. Indeed, I am flicked into the long slow scene where she is infused. I climb out of my dream self, hover to study her.
She’s the youngest of them but the oldest. Her skin is ice white, venous where my blood enlivens her. Her hair is spun charcoal. Her eyes glow like live coals. She has nothing of Lotor about her so who is she? How many shamans has she used up? Her lips part, they glow soft and pink and satiny.
Mongoose covers my clay-rimed lips with his mouth, he swipes me clean with his tongue slopping and fell and wet. “Jeb! Don’t leave me! I need you to love, and to love me. Who else will have a soldier?” He shakes me by my shoulders.
His urgency ripples through me, through my flesh and blood and bones.
“Jeb! Wake up! Thyal and I need your magic.”
Mongoose needs my help! Thyal needs my help! I rise above the scene, my clothes are wet and so heavy they try to drag me down. “Don’t turn your back on them!” I shout from the near-edge of the dream.
Mongoose drops me and turning draws his blade from its scabbard. He crouches over me. Thyal plants his foot in the angle of my shoulder and head, and swings a long jawbone inset with a dozen pyramidal flesh-tearing teeth.
I hold them both, Mongoose by his ankle, Thyal by his heel. “Mongoose, be your totem! Thyal, be the thylacine!”
“Mongoose, be the mongoose, weave when the young woman weaves. Hypnotise her with your fiery flinty eyes, with your teeth, and with your fierce sword. She is the shaman-devouring shaman-drinking Malificent. Make her your snake-enemy.”
“Thylacine, be the ancient tiger. Your enemies are the old woman and the old man. They serve her. They hunt for her. Be the black and tan tiger, the lingering longering marsupial of button-grass plains of ancient forest glades of cliffs and caves. The carnivorous, the predator, the human-hunting flesh-eater.”
Mongoose chitters and dances, his sword is a blur. His fur stands out well past his usual size. He rages, sheers and stabs the old man twirling twin blades and twists back to face the young-old snake.
Thyal leans and lengthens. He bites the old woman in the neck with his toothy muzzle, flesh-tearing jaw. She flops and falls.
Cale screams. “Help! Help us, Eleven!” Thyal drops his bloody snout and ends Cale’s flailing.
“Now I will kill you,” shouts the young-old shaman-drinker. She drives her flicking steel-strong forking tongue into Mongoose.
I smell his blood, I feel its spatter, and shocked I slip from the well’s coping. I plunge down tumbling over and under further and further than before. I slam into the ground.
Mongoose ululates a war cry.
He’s alive! What will Puma see? A mongoose, a puddle of cloth and a thylacine? A bloody blade and a spit-drooled jawbone? In the dream I laugh and laugh though I know that we don’t have a rope long enough to reach down to where I lie.
I wither and wander in the clay-brown underworld among organic structures wrapped with Lotor’s mud. Their shapes are familiar, but I can’t get to them … Lotor’s membrane is too tough. I need something like the pinch test.
“Don’t do it, Jeb,” says Meerkat. “See my hands? Lotor has got me and I am dead. I will leave you in the Field of Dreams.”
I’m weaker. So hungry. What if I rest? Lotor will gratefully receive me. I wish I had something to eat. Did I think that already? The well is so deep I must be in the spirit world. Can I start looking for my dark swans yet? Black swans white swans. Geese honk. Swans bugle. I hear them hear them coming. My black swans circle down, their red white-striped beaks call me. My cloak over me is mud I lie on the mud. Can they see me?
“Jeb, I have you. Come back.”
I would if I could. I am so weak. Emptied from hunger. “My mother used to feed me bread and honey. Bread and honey.”
The swan swore. “The damn ship is right. All this is due to hunger. When did she last eat? She’s emptied of nutrients. Her liver feeds her its wastes. Poisons going to her brain.”
“Bread and honey,” I remind him.
“Bread and honey!” he shouts.
“Bread and honey!” I hear his shout through the over-world. My mother is dead. No more bread. No more honey.
“Drink, Jeb. It’s grape juice. Come back from the dark place.”
I want to tell him how it is mud-coloured.
“More of the juice, Jeb. Sip sip sip.”
A pegasee flies between the under and the over, the mud and the clay. I hear him flying over my head, while Limber carries me to the bottom of the well, where it opens in the clay, so wide now that a pair of swans can carry me spiralling up and up, carry me to the mountains.
“Hurry,” says the flying horse. “Lotor’s great sink-hole is coming.”
We wing up the well-head. “Lotor’s greatest sink-hole is coming,” I shout. “The sink-hole is coming!”
“Stretcher!” calls Lithe. “Jeb, I’m tying you down onto it.” Limber wraps me around with his cloak, knots the whole with a couple of belts.
“Some bread, beloved,” croons a mother. I nibble the bread, given into my fist by I don’t know whose mother, between Lithe and Limber’s long strides. I give my liver something fresh to work on.
The things that the dreaming gave into my mind don’t leave me. “The sink-hole is coming. The eleven blocks tumble down. She is a voracious nibbler.”
I nibble bread. “Lotor cries don’t leave me oh feed me oh feed me. Don’t jump, Meerkat. Lotor took his hands. His adversary pinched him. The test. His call-sign is K. Wrap his hands and run him to the mountains. He is K.”
Lithe slings words to Red-tail running alongside. “Hear that? Meerkat. Wrap his hands and hoist him onto someone’s back. His call sign is K.”
“We’re halfway, Jeb,” Limber says. “Got any words for crossing the field of fingers I see?”
“The hardest part. The fingers stroke and smoothe and steal and swallow. Trample them flat. Mish mash them. Don’t slip don’t slide. Your feet like pistons tamping corn. Carry the children. Run very fast and don’t stop at the end lest you murder your brothers and sisters following.
Run run run until we are all in the cup of the mountains.”