The Outing (part 1)

(This is another one of the stories that are based on my real life. Except, you know, with magic and other fantasy elements added in.)

Attempting to commune with the diverse spirits that inhabit this plane is a tricky proposition. Spirits are just as prone to games and falsifications as their material counterparts, which is to say quite a lot. In addition, being for the most part immaterial as well as invisible, spirits excel at avoiding unwanted encounters.

This made her job a touch on the difficult side. Earlier one of the other villagers had made the journey to her dwelling to seek counsel. During their conversation it became clear that one of the sources of this villagers difficulties was that a rather ill-natured spirit had taken up residence in her. Or, at least it was rather apparent to the shaman in question, for even though she was young, as shamans go, she was knowledgeable of such things and quite capable of dealing with them.

The difficulty was twofold. The first layer was time. Cleansing off a spirit could be a simple enough task, but it also needed to be done correctly. After all, if the spirit were simply tossed aside with nothing else being done, it would be all too simple for the spirit to find its way back to the original host, or to just take up residence in a new abode. It would need to be placated, at least somewhat, and sent on its way to some other plane.

The other layer might be seen as the more difficult one. And that came in the form of the bouncing figure singing songs around the main room.

The young shaman suppressed a smile and yet again thought about how unsurprising it was that so many shamans she knew of were of more advanced ages. Or, to put it more accurately, were old enough that any children they had more than likely were taking care of their own babies.

She fretted. In return, her husband smiled. “The boy will come with me. I’m sure the two of us can find some kind of trouble to enjoy.”

The shaman parted her lips to begin listing the items the husband would need, but already he was grabbing a water skin, some wooden toys, a handful of biscuits, a change of garments for the lad just in case. He seemed to be grabbing the sensible things.

“Will you need your heavy coats?” The voice her tone rose he knew it was meant to be more of a reminder than a question, still, he merely shrugged.

“I figure we can just journey to the river and back. We’ll return before sundown and well before the cold sets in.” But even as he rebuffed her, she noticed he grabbed a small, but thick cloak for the lad and slide it into his pack.

All the while the child in question was playing with wooden knights on floor of their main room. The knights were taking turns introducing themselves and sharing their favorite colors. Both parents took a moment to appreciate the gentleness with which he played. The Gods only new how much longer that would last.

With a smile to his wife the father knelt down next to his son and picked up one of the knights. Together they played, still covering the introductions, for a few minutes. The shaman gathered her supplies for the communing, if it should indeed happen.

For, while he was indeed gentle, both parents were familiar with their son’s stubbornness. The father swore it was an inherited trait of his wife. The mother would insist that it was a mirror of the father. Perhaps both were right.

Slowly the father put down the knights he was handling. The son looked up at him. 

“Daddy is thinking of going to the river. Maybe to see a fish or a duck. Maybe you would like to come with your daddy. What do you think?”

The son pursed his head to one side and puffed it his cheeks. His lips started moving into the shape of a no. Both parents felt their shoulders begin to sag.

“Okay, daddy,” the boy answered at long last.

“All right then.” The father beamed at his wife. Already he was leading his son to the door, hoping to be well on the way before the lad could even consider changing his mind.

The shaman said her goodbyes to her man and child, and shut the door after them. When she spoke, to no one in particular, her voice was not unkind.

“Such a simple thing and it makes him feel so proud.”

She took a moment to enjoy the rare peace and quiet that reverberated through the house. And then it was time to begin her own work.

(To be continued.)

Art by Reza Afshar

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