Nahdep’s Journey by John Anglin

Nahdep looked out over The Storval Deep. It was quickly growing hot, even in the shadow of Spindlehorn. Nahdep let his hair blow in the warm breeze knowing today would be the last he felt its touch for years to come. A nervous energy fluttered through his stomach at the thought of the coming ceremony. Seven would be braves set out this day on their Journey. It was more braves in a single year among the Shundar-Quah than had set out in generations. The People were abuzz with speculation on who would end up where and what would become of the seven. There were only six other quahs and each youth spent three years among their ascribed quah strengthening the relationship between that quah and the Shundar-Quah. It was the duty of their quah to be mediators between all the people, to try and bring all quahs closer to one unified people. Nahdep tried not to but he speculated like all the rest.

He knew it would come down to what the spirits told Ahtam, the quah’s Shaman. He liked old Ahtam and was proud to be one of his apprentices. Nahdep knew he may never serve the quah as Shaman. Ahtam had many years left most likely and then there were other more experienced apprentices that would be prepared to replace him. Never the less, it was something special among The People to even be an apprentice. Perhaps a new tribe would form among the Shundar-Quah and he would be chosen as its Shaman, or another tribe might need a Shaman. That was less likely though as each tribe had their own apprentices waiting and hoping. Nahdep sighed. He was used to letting time flow by during meditation, but it seemed the current had stalled; motionless in a shallow pool.

“Nahdep, there you are little brother! Mother sent me to make sure you were clean for the ceremony.” Tikra smiled at him. She walked up with the prowess of a Firepelt. She tussled his hair “You going to miss it?” She asked.

“No, I am taking the time to let it blow in the wind so I can carry the memory with me. I look forward to being shaved though.” He let out a little laugh. “I remember when it was your day. You barely let father wake before you were sitting at his feet ready to be a woman.”

Tikra playfully smacked the back of his head “That is no way to speak of your elders little rabbit.” She invoked his baby name, getting in a dig she might never use again. The two of them had always been close. He had missed her while she was gone. She had only returned last year. Her three years with the Sklar-Quah had only made her a more fearsome warrior. The Sun People were renowned for their fierceness. Now it was Nahdep who would be gone.

“Well I will leave you to your hair blowing, but don’t be too long or mother will have me come back.” She rubbed one hand over her own smooth shaven head the other making a cutting motion across her neck. She shook her head as she merrily stalked off back toward the yurts.

Nahdep looked out at the sun sparkles dancing on the waters of the Storval Deep. He thought back to the day when he was only six when Ahtam spoke to him of his lifepath.

***

The Spire Clan of the Shoanti were at their winter camp. The morning had passed drearily on the Storval Plateau. Most of the tribe’s children were gathered near the back of the camp kicking around a leather hide ball, but not Nahdep. The small boy set in front of his yurt drawing runes and symbols in the dirt with a stick. He had noticed some time ago that the old shaman had been watching him all morning, but he had been trying to pretend he wasn’t aware of his audience. It wasn’t hard. He was infatuated with what he was doing and wondered at the meaning of the strange symbols that had been plaguing his dreams since the solstice. Now it seemed that the shaman was not going to let him pretend any longer. The elder was getting up from his fur and walking straight for him. Luckily he remembered his manners and addressed his elder with the honor he deserved or he would have been in real trouble with his mother.

“Greetings Grandfather Ahtam, how are you today?” he said sheepishly, fearing the old man was about to get onto him for his drawings.

“I am well Little Rabbit. I have been watching you this morning and noticed you aren’t playing with the other children. I thought that strange as I know you love to kick the ball. Then my old eyes noticed you were drawing.” Ahtam watched the little boy squirm as he spoke. “You aren’t in trouble Nahdep. I was just wondering where you learned these drawings.” He studied the glyphs, noting what Nahdep had drawn.

“Well Grandfather I’m afraid you will get angry when I tell you because I haven’t spoken with you about it, but I have been having dreams.” Nahdep looked nervously at the old man but his stoic visage gave away nothing so the boy grudgingly continued. “They aren’t like normal dreams. I am always in a great fog, there is light but I can’t tell from where.” The boy sighed. “Then the voice starts speaking to me. It is a deep rumble of a voice. I am sure he means me no harm, I instantly feel at peace where before I felt anxious.” Nahdep continued now more sure of himself. “His name is Moktu. I haven’t seen him yet, he says that can wait. He says we are connected like twins. He is my other half, and that I will be able to call him to our world one day and do magic. We will have grand journeys and he will be at my side.” Nahdep quickly added “I don’t think he is bad Grandfather. I can feel he is good. He is like me!”

Ahtam listened carefully to Nahdep, nodding to him. “I see, and you worried that I would stop this because I am the shaman. Is that right Nahdep?”

Nahdep nodded furiously “Yes, Grandfather.”

The old man unceremoniously plopped down on the ground next to Nahdep. “You know that the People have many traditions of magic Nahdep. We rarely go and learn magic from books like the outlanders do. Long ago the stories say that the People served great wizards; that we were their strength, but they became corrupted by the magic. They meddled with things best left alone. That is why The Shoanti rely on the blood. The great mystery bestows magic on the ones who are meant to have it. I believe you are speaking of a gift that the Shundar-Quah have not seen in some time.” Ahtam smiled at the boy. “I think you may be a spirit caller. The outlanders call them summoners. You are but one half of a whole Nahdep at one with your spirit brother. It is odd that you would feel the pull so young though, most magic doesn’t start to reveal itself to one so young.

Nahdep’s eyes were wide now. “Do you think I will become a shaman Grandfather?”

“That is yet to be decided, but I think you should become one of my Donrie. Remember each tribe only has one Shaman, but others with magic in their blood help him to look out for the People. Some Donrie even become more powerful than their Shaman, but it is their sacred duty to listen to his or her wisdom and follow them just like a hero of the people follows their War Chief.”

“I will!” Nahdep said, the small boy bursting with excitement.

Ahtam rose, his bones popping as he did. “Come, we must go speak with your parents.”

***

Heat shimmered in the air of the Storval Plateau. The Shundar-Quah gathered in a large loose circle. A quiet murmur rippled through the crowd, all eyes on the lanky boy in their center speaking with their Shaman. It was Nahdep’s tenth birthday and he was going to call his spirit brother to the world for the first time. Nahdep looked around, a sureness in his stature that only a confident youth could possess. With Ahtam sharing his wisdom by day and Moktu instructing him in his dreams the boy knew he was going to see Moktu for the first time today.

“Remember Nahdep, you are not some outland wizard who must transcribe some formula. You are a Spirit Caller of the Shundar-Quah. Your ritual is your own, like your breath, or heartbeat. You will know when it is right. You will know when to call Moktu forth. Today your spirit power is great as it is the anniversary of your birth. You will succeed.” Ahtam said, giving him a few last words of encouragement. He looked at Nahdep and proudly put his hand on his shoulder. “Today is a good day to be Shundar-Quah.”

Nahdep let his mentor amble back to the side of the Chief. He felt the eyes of his people on him. He felt their encouragement, their excitement, and their love. He smiled at the thought that one day old men and women would be telling their little ones of the day Nahdep first called his spirit brother and brought this long lost gift back to the People.

Nahdep held his spear high to the sky then he spun the point down to the earth. The tip flowed across the parched ground, it’s point receiving no resistance from the hard baked clay. Nahdep could feel the magic coursing out his arm into his spear and finally to the earth itself. It seemed as if time didn’t move, yet the circle was complete. Nahdep’s spear was directly between his feet now and there was only one thing left to do. It was time to make the bridge rune. Moktu had told him how this would bind them forever. It was to be unique. It would be his and Moktu’s alone. He made the mark as it came to him; it felt right, he knew it was done. With a thunder to his voice he did not know he possessed he called out. “Moktu!”

Nahdep’s Journey concludes in Part 2