The old Shenkar hung the dried roots up, wondering if they were still as potent as he needed. He paddled back to close the flap of the tent. Only the shroud of the ceremony, the smoke of the tobacco leaves, the effect of the herbal paste in his teeth could eradicate the anxiety that filled his mind.
It had been two days since his old friend Marcus has come through the region, bearing dark tales out of the North. And Maas-Naar needed to feel the trembling of the wind as he chewed. He did not trust the hard walls of a house, such as his younger brothers used.
Naar-Al-Maas, Seeker of the Underworld, Knower of secret lights, Devolver of swirling waters, Dark Mage of the Apocalypse, was troubled. In his dreams he saw many stars falling over a point in the Northern sky that had seen its share of troubled cosmic disturbance. His days and years as a Medicine man had prepared him for something like this.
But for it to come unbidden to him, this kaleidoscope of vibrative metaphysical event, in his days of fading, was a surprise.
Of course, Marcus has another name. Many other names. So did Maas-Naar. Now, they used the names that came most readily to the tongue in these abbreviated times.
The ceremonial names could take twenty minutes to recite. And Marcus was a swift sort of thinker. But his way of always putting his head right to the heart of a problem had been of great usefulness many times to the old Shenkar. And now, even Marcus was plagued by doubt. Naar-Al-Maas had rarely, if ever, seen him this troubled and unsure.
“You’re sure?, “ he had said. “Certain that the three dragons crested right above the forked river town?” They had pored over the map for hours in the dim torch light. Marcus has come from the Americas and seen some stark sights. Even in the heat of chewing the root leaves Maas-Naar could hardly believe the most fantastic things Marcus had spoken of. And Marcus was not one to exaggerate.
As the smoke sifted through the hole in the top of the roof, Shenkar relaxed. He saw again the visions from his dream, the sharp-fanged animals and the clawing humans, who fought with one another. Yet they seem in curious accord. Maar-Naas always thought such creatures were rudimentary beings, not possessed of sophisticated thought. But the words of Marcus showed fresh sorrows on the horizon for all of them.
As the shadows danced on the wall, Maas-Naar drew idly with his pencil upon the lightly finished hide. The she-wolf prowled over her lair, followed closely by the fanged prince whose dark lady stood afar in the tower, calling to him. The old, rheumy wolf watched now over the tower, seeing that the fanged prince approached. Shenkar was amazed, these beings never wanted to be both places at once. The fanged prince had many companions who hovered in the background near him. Maas-Naar thought he dreamed a fantasy; in all his lore he never know of a story or tale where these beings hunted side by side, they never hunted or abided together.
But Shenkar saw what the wolf pack and the fanged one did not. A mist swirled around the mountain where the pine trees grew besides many-pronged rivers of slender width. In the mist, both the wolf pack leaders and the fanged one and his brethren were trained on the lady’s tower. The red-haired she-cat crept up to it, but could not approach her prey. A storm of rain fell, trapping the fanged ones and the wolf pack in the tower’s dominion. The she-cat stood alone on the wet mountain, harried and hungry. Angrily she yowled, racing away in frustration. Shenkar focused. Confusingly she was parched, yet raced under thunder storm near a sea of flowing rivers and water.
Shenkar realized even in his premonition that the she-cat with the red crest was the mortal enemy of the lady in the tower. The she-cat with the red crest prowled the wolf lair when the pack’s back was turned, devouring the precious young. The wolf mother lay broken and torn on the floor, the corpses of the wolf young strewn about. Then the she-cat licked her lips, and she grew fangs. Suddenly Shenkar was afraid. For the first time in his waking magic dreamhood, he wanted the revelations to stop.
But the pattern continued to unfold. The wolf pack returned to its lair triumphant, only to be sucked into a screaming panic at the massacre. Maas-Naar ground his teeth together to stop himself from chewing, but the trance was strong and he was held within it. The leader wolf, his brown black eyes snapping, traveled with the corpse of one infant in its mouth and laid it at the tower door. The sky overhead thundered and lightning struck. The lady and the fanged prince had been cooing like doves, but now she screamed and he had a face like stone.
Shenkar could feel the waves of misery and fright from his dream. The intensity could not be mistaken. This was no projection. This was real. He dreaded what came next, and would have screwed his eyes shut if that would have stopped the unknowable tragedy that came after. The lady in the tower turned a face of accusation to the fanged prince, whose brothers came running to protect him from the wolves’ fury. Maas-Naar saw and felt the speed at which these things had happened (or were happening?).
The wolves turned their anger unleashed on the fanged brethren, and many were rended with tooth and claw. The fanged prince fought bravely, but the sight of the dead wolf young stabbed at his eyes. The lady of the tower threw herself on the lead wolf, speaking words Shenkar could not see. The wolf tensed, then cried a shrill, unknowable ultrasonic whine and all the wolves froze. The fanged prince turned green and started throwing himself at the dark lady, who turned her back on him and went up into the tower. A shrill bell kept clanging throughout.
Shenkar had a suspicion what the lady intended. What shocked him was the obedience of the wolves to her will. They were rumored to be vicious beasts. In his vision, the fanged prince stood immobile, watching it all. His trembling black fury was evident, but he didn’t move a muscle. Maas-Naar felt the trance weaken, and he slumped in relief. He wondered what details he might tell Marcus.
The fire died and the wind blew, but Maas-Naar did not feel it. His mind was trained on the forked river country, his unseeing eyes tracing many pathways. How mother Earth wound the threads, he mused. How the spirits danced their dance anew. His conscious thoughts could not reject the clarity of dream, could not contest the reason of his revelation.
Maas-Naar could now understand the swirling waters, the roiling heavens. The events here went against Nature. Shenkar’s mind even now evaluated the impressions he had received anew. What shadow hung over these spirits? Why did the dark lady wield such power? A human seemingly directed both destinies, of claw and fang? Shenkar resolved to write her chart and analyze the elements therein.
No wonder Marcus had been sweating. The world of claw and fang was kept well hidden. The intensities were simply not of this world. The mission of ones like Marcus was to make sure innocents were not harmed. But how could that be avoided now? This would be difficult to counteract. Shenkar hunkered by the fire, drawing his stick back and forth, testing his plans. He detected a dark shadow minutes before the voice spoke, but did not move.
It was Fate.