The Shaman

The Shaman by Christopher Stasheff Read Free Book Online

Book: The Shaman by Christopher Stasheff Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christopher Stasheff
men to kill him, but that, too, was as
well—he found that he enjoyed the taste of blood. Enjoyed the taste, and reveled
in the thought of human blood to come.
    Lucoyo
ate and rested and regained his strength, planning his revenge.
    Ulahane, he prayed, send me someone upon whom to vent my anger! Send me a victim for
vengeance! Someone of my own erstwhile tribe, by preference—but I will take
whomever you send me! Only let it be human!
    He
liked to think that the scarlet god heard.

Chapter 4
    Ryl
gave a racking cough, then thrust herself up to catch Ohaern’s hand. “Husband
... please .. .”
    “Hush,
dear one. Lie still.” Gently, Ohaern pushed her back down on the pallet. “You
are ill, my love. Conserve your strength.”
    “But,
Ohaern . . .” Her hand tightened on his, and he fought against the sudden tears
in his eyes. “Husband, hear me. I ... if I ... die ... our son . . . who shall
...”
    “Hush,
hush!” Ohaern spoke through the tightness in his chest. “I know I am a great
worthless hulk when it comes to small babies, but there are women enough in
this village to see that the child is well cared for. Rest, and recover; your
friends shall ward your babe for you.”
    “But
if I should die!”
    “You
shall not die,” Ohaern commanded. “The fever will break!” But his
stomach was hollow within him, for he knew it might not.
    Ryl
started to speak again, but he pressed a finger over her lips. “For now, be still.
Lie and sleep during the hours of darkness—for the child’s sake. For mine.”
    Her
body tensed to struggle against his hand again—but she saw the pleading in his
eyes and sank back. He took a deep breath and murmured, “Rest, and gather your
strength to fight the illness. That is the greatest thing you can do for all of
us now.”
    She
swallowed, eyes closed, then nodded. “As you wish it.”
    “Dear
lady.” His hand closed around hers and he bent to kiss her again, then
straightened—and saw Mardone watching him, eyes stern.
    Ohaern
nodded, patted Ryl’s hand again, then rose and stepped aside, so that Mardone
might kneel by the sick woman, bathing her forehead and face with a cold, wet
compress.
    A
touch on his arm startled him. Ohaern looked up and saw Chaluk, the clan’s
other shaman. Chaluk beckoned, and Ohaern followed, with one last, anxious look
back at Ryl.
    By
the doorway, Chaluk whispered, “That was well-spoken—but you must not stay here
any longer. She will feel more fear from your fear, and that will keep her from
the sleep she needs. Go outside, Ohaern.”
    “No—”
    But
Chaluk held up a hand, and Ohaern closed his mouth, biting back a refusal.
    “Be
sure, I shall summon you if she nears death—but step outside, Ohaern. You can
do no more here. Leave her to sleep, and to those of us who know the spirits
that bring illness.”
    “What
spirit plagues her now?” Ohaern hissed.
    “One
sent from Ulahane, of course.” Chaluk frowned. “What else?”
    What
else, indeed? Just as Lomallin did all he could to bring humans happiness,
love, and life, so Ulahane did all he could to bring them misery, loneliness,
and death. But why Ryl? Why this one poor woman, twice in three months?
    There
was no answer to that, nothing the shamans could tell him that he did not
already know—because told him they had, and several times each. Ryl had been
weakened, that was all— and where there was a weakness, Ulahane would seek to
break through and destroy. He was a god and could do what he pleased; all that
stopped him were Lomallin and the gods who were Lomallin’s allies.
    Ohaern
looked back at the still form of his wife, so small, so frail, her eyes so
unnaturally huge as they fluttered open and gave him another stare filled with
the agony of helplessness. Fear wrung his heart again, then a surge of
tenderness followed. He turned back to Chaluk, closing his eyes and nodding in
submission. “As you will, Chaluk. But tell me.” His fingers bit into the shaman’s
shoulder.

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