The party broke up early by Tribe standards; even at Nightwatch animals have to be fed and milked.
The next day was the usual bleary struggle to achieve the minimum necessary without your head falling off. I had had the foresight to prepare certain mixtures and potions well in advance, obviously – I am a shaman, after all – and they helped a lot. But not enough to make the day a happy happy fun time. The only enjoyable side was the way Young Dae flinched whenever he saw me.
Consequently, the day after was spent getting back to where we should have been, and it wasn’t till the day after that that we could relax a bit.
Well, everyone else could. I couldn’t.
I was in my making room, pounding coltsfoot root, and worrying about the teaching I would be doing in only ten days’ time – ten days! By the Stones, why had I left myself so little time? What had I been thinking?
Anyway, I was there when Crear wandered to the door.
“Hello, my dear,” she began. “It’s a long way off, I know, but I know not for sure whether you’ve given much thought to the teaching session you’re doing?”
Not really; only having it on my mind almost every waking moment and lying awake at night worrying. “I’d been trying to,” I said. “Come in, if you’re wanting to talk about it. Please.”
She smiled, and sat on the bench. “And how are you getting on?”
“I wish I knew how many are coming. I mean, it’ll be quite different if it’s just the two, or if it’s four or five.”
“Some of the people at the Nightwatch party were talking about it, did you know?”
A chill grew in the pit of my stomach. “They were? Really?”
“I think you may be seeing twelve or more.”
“TWELVE? I mean, twelve?”
“Oh at least, I think. You seem to be known around here. I think they are all expecting to become shamans on the moment.”
“They are, I mean, all of them, they are women, though?”
“Yes, my dear, that’s gradely at least for you. But I was thinking your making room is a bit too small, maybe?”
A bit? We’d have to take the roof off and stack them three deep. “Well, yes, but, I mean, I suppose I could use the stables…” Twelve? Or more? I can’t do this!
“Nonsense, my dear Lady Seer, of course you will use the house room. You will have to sit round the table – will that be hard?”
I am a shaman. I am a shaman. I can do this. I am a shaman. I can do this.
“No, I mean, well, it might’ve been better not, but I don’t think, probably, I mean…”
“Good. Well, have you thought how long you will take?”
Yes I had. Either I had a ridiculously tiny amount to teach that was going to last two sneezes and a wagtail, or I had so much I would still be teaching two days later. Unfortunately I didn’t know which.
“I think – from what the two ladies said – I think people will probably be expecting an hour about.”
“Yes, I thought that was how you would be thinking,” Crear nodded. “I’ll ask not what you will be teaching, because you will be asking the Spirits that, as I understand.”
She looked at me. “You are still hurt by the boys. By what they said.”
“What was it they said? Oh, I’m sorry. I should be asking never such of you.”
“No, it’s all right. I’ve had time to get over it. A bit, anyway. Well, for instance, that the Spirits had said we should make a cauldron because we were wasting the food we hunted, but they did nothing to help us, or to show us how to make it. We tried lots of times, but it never came close to working.”
“And.” And this was the worst. “And that Zirakzigil, he doesn’t believe, and yet he can make a cauldron. We saw it.” It was out now. “So if I am a shaman, shouldn’t they have told me as well as him?”
“What did the Spirits say when you asked them?”
Do you know, that question rocked me. I suddenly wasn’t sure that I’d ever asked. Not really. But then, what was the point if I didn’t believe the Spirits existed?
The truth was that all of this was calling my bluff. On the one hand I was claiming to be a shaman, while on the other I didn’t really believe the Spirits existed. On the one hand I was claiming to teach meditation, and on the other I’d almost given up meditating myself.
And that was why I was so stressed out about this teaching thing.
Well, no. The reason why I was so stressed out was that I had no idea how to teach and no idea how to – to reach across to these people. Would they understand? Would they despise me? Would I make a fool of myself? But the hypocrisy wasn’t helping.
“I haven’t asked them.” There, I’d said it.
“Then why do you not.” She didn’t sound shocked, or even surprised – just helpful.
“It would need a full vigil, all night, in a holy place. I wouldn’t be able to help with the chores the day after – I’d be too exhausted. I’d be letting you down.”
She laughed. “Nonsense, my dear, we got on perfectly gradely before you came. I can manage without you for one day!”
She was right, of course. There was no reason why not. Not for a real shaman. But was I a real shaman?
I could put it off. I could say I needed time for preparations, that the Moon was wrong – which it wasn’t, actually, especially if I did it tonight, at the Full Moon – or that I needed a particular herb.
I could, but for once I didn’t.
“I could do it tonight, I suppose. There’s a few things I’ll need, but nothing I’ve not got. But you really wouldn’t mind? I won’t be able to help you with the house till tomorrow afternoon?”
“The day after tomorrow, ben’t it? Such a long time, it is! No, my dear, you do it. And I’ll make sure the children keep out of your way as well. What about Whisper?”
“Keep him out of the way as well, please. Even if he was a shaman I should be doing this alone, and I’m not sure he’d understand.”
And so it was decided. I would ask the Spirits with a full vigil that very night, and tomorrow… Tomorrow I’ll know whether or not I am a shaman. But I didn’t say that to Crear. I was too afraid.