Half Shaman, 35

Rim of the mountains before the watchtower is built.

Someone living on the rim of the mountains signals with a sequence of colourful flashes. Jeb doesn't realise it's her being signalled. 

(In this, the third last instalment, the author/narrator seeds clues for a future part. She hasn't worked out yet how to glissade that set of characters, or just the one, into the background to allow them to appear in the second part of part 2)

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




35: In the Mountains

Everybody sleeps except me still tied to the stretcher. I can move my head enough to check out the scene. A dull metallic shine indicates where the shuttle, a wide, flattened egg-shape lies in the centre of the cup-shaped hollow within the first rampart of the mountains. It will need to be able to turn on its axis while rising, or rise straight up, or … 

Wink wink wink.

What’s that? I crane my head leftward to see the highest point of the cliffs where a cave, hole, or window is a dark blotch on the lighter stone, lit up from within by a pulsing glow.

Wink wink-wink wink. 

Then the blinking becomes a spurting, fim-fiddling, sizzling fountain of colours. Light and heat. Indigo, amber and azure, glittering rubies and gold-green sapphires. I know of only one species who can live up there. I am amazed they keep such a watchtower. 

The fountaining stops. No blinking anymore either. The message has been received? 

I’m still not sleepy. Can I get an arm free at least? 

Yes, sliding it up while I breathe out. Can’t get loose one-handed though. I find the crumbly crust of bread and the bulb of grape juice tucked beside me. I eat the bread. Squeeze the rest of the grape juice into my mouth. 

The red dawn comes reluctantly, it seems to me. Lotor can meddle even with the stars? I wish I lay in my loon’s arms. 

Someone comes, a silent dark red shape. I see the glint of Mongoose’s blade. Did I wish him? 

He does not speak he does not whisper as he unties me and pulls me free from the swaddling folds of the blanket. Hugs me. He kisses me my name. Jeb. I nuzzle him his in between kissing him. Mongoose. Mmm. 

We climb up onto the shuttle and are bathed in the red star’s light. And we lie down. Nearer to the real dawn, we talk. 

“Thyal and I sang the number of people, seventy three, and a whole lot of other stuff,” Mongoose says. “See the bruise where he gripped me to feel the ship’s vibrations?”

I tease him. “Very impressive. The ship told you stuff as well?” I ask.

“It knew you were hungry. Why didn’t I?” 

“When did we have time for me to be hungry? The ship woke me from the dream in time to warn you,” I say.

“I don’t understand that bit,” Mongoose says. “How I saw Thyal as a thylacine and he saw me as a fighting mongoose while we fought. How?”

“Sometimes when I’m low on nutrients I can see things I never saw before. I don’t know how you came to see it too. Did you ask Thyal?”

“He said Shaman magic. But also that he needs to think on it. Not another word out of him about Shaman dreaming.”

“I hope I can still learn all that one day,” I say.  

 “The singing we did, did more to meld us all into a tribe than anything. What about the sinkhole?” he asks.

“We’re in a hole where molten rock once got pressed out. It can’t be reversed, I think.”

Mongoose laughs. “You think?” 

“I’ll need to sing Meerkat’s call sign. When we get up in the ship, he’ll need help right away.”

“Done. You shouted it. Limber foghorned it. Meerkat is K. Isis and her man carried him like a corpse slung between them in a blanket, very uncomfortable but at least it kept him from lying down.”

Mongoose slides down the shuttle-slope and waits for me to slide down feet first onto the stony rim. I jump down and step into his arms. He kisses me. “Good morning to you, my Jeb.” 

“One more thing. In a few minutes, I’ll need Eider and her sewing kit to cut and sew up an arm, Meerkat with his forearms and hands wrapped still, and you to hold him. A short blunt knife right away. Can you do?”

“Meerkat’s amulet? I’ll feel guilty having one if there aren’t any more.”

I punch him. “There's no time for guilt!"

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