The storm had subsided a bit and the morning sun had begun to peek through the clouds. In this new light, Makkitu’q could see the the remains of shiver corpses scattered all around the WayMound. They had already began the process of dissolution before the sun. They dissipated, tuning into a black, oily vapor which seeped away, into the air, fading into nothingness. There was no sound to it, nor any smell. The senses were devoid of any real evidence of it happening except for sight. The snow remained stained, for a while, sprayed with the tar-like nastiness that passed for blood, or whatever vitals, the things once contained. Even that would have quietly faded from existence by time the sun was high in the sky.
She looked over at M’nwtsa, who sat beside her. They were wrapping their drum and humming some song that Makkitu’q thought seemed familiar but she couldn’t quite recognize. It was soothing, whatever it was. Returning her attention to the fading shivers she let out a heavy sigh.
“Soon, it will be like it never happened,” she mused.
M’nwtsa looked up at her and then across the shiver covered snow and nodded.
“It’s weird,” They offered. “The curious thing about fighting shivers is that sometimes, when it’s all said and done, there is not much that remains that shows the the monsters even existed. Though I think there is a poetry in it. The world is always working to cleanse itself. It’s a reminder that healing will come. When healing comes, it is worth it to remember that there are often scars. Likewise, even though the shivers are gone, evidence of the battle always remains.
“You have to look for the secondary signs. Look for things like places where the vegetation has gone brown and sickly from exposure to the creatures. There will be places where they have torn up the ground and sundered stone with their bizarre claws and clumsy motions across the ground. Look also for the terrible wounds that they leave on the bodies of their victims. Of course, there are always the nightmares.”
“Nightmares?” Makkitu’q questioned.
“Yes, you know. The nightmares that come to those who survive. Haven’t you ever had them?”
“A few, maybe, I guess. But not more than usual.”
“You’ve probably always been behind the walls or someone else did the ugly part of the fighting. You haven’t really had to stand. I don’t mean that as an insult. When you get in there, face to face with them, tooth and nail, the nightmares always come. They remind survivors of the horrors they overcame that night. They remind you that you could have failed. Sometimes they show you what would have happened as if you had failed. Over and over and over.
“You have to speak a dream like that to someone, or it will become wóčhaŋtešiča, what some people call sorrow. This is why the stories are important. They let us know we can win and what we fight against. Without them, people would be caught unawares by the shivers. Some still are. They would have no tools to fight them and they would be taken in the night. We would only know that people went missing and never know the reason. That’s the way it used to be before we began to share the nightmares. We learned that when enough people are having the same nightmares then there is something to be dealt with.”
“Thank you for the reminder.” Said Makkitu’q as she knelt beside M’nwtsa to help them with the drum. “We did not get to talk last night. . .” She began.
“No,” interrupted M’nwsta. “But we did sing together and you received my song. There is knowing in that. You stood atop the hill with your bow, beside me, and slew shivers. You never questioned my song. There is knowing in that. You shared joy and lifted your voice with me when the sun awakened. That too has knowing. From all of these things I have a sense of you. I know that I would stand with you again.”
Makkitu’q thought about their words and nodded. “Yes,” she agreed. “Thank you for your song. I too would stand with you again.”
“Good!” M’nwtsa smiled. “And now we have talked.”
Makkitu’q smiled back. That seemed like an end to the conversation. She respected the drummer’s space even though she had wanted to ask them so many more questions about their medicine path and what was it like to study with Ayalo.
She helped M’nwtsa carry the drum down the hill to the sled where the wicate-wa were bouncing about chasing each other. They had already packed the sled full of stuff. She watched as the drummer carefully affixed the drum to the sled, treating with the tenderness that someone might give an infirm elder. It reminded her of things she heard last night.
“The ones who traveled last night, said they could hear your song and your drum in Dream. How is that possible? I did not know one could make a thing happen in one world that could be experienced in another.”
M’nwsta stopped working on the drum and gave Makkitu’q a curious look.
“All things affect all things, everywhere. You know this. You can connect to the Mysteries. You said words that changed the lances so that they were more dangerous. Your words from here changed the lance’s world, which in turn adversely affected the world of the shivers.”
“True, but that’s not the same,” countered Makkitu’q. These things were all in the same space and what I did was small.”
“No,” said M’nwtsa. “You saw them all in the same space. The truth of the flow of things is that all things are made of overlapping worlds and small things in relationship. If you can learn to see the overlap and understand the connections of the small things, then you can create results where you wish to create results.”
Makkitu’q pondered these words in silence for a moment, then worked to assist M’nwtsa in affixing the drum to the back of the sled. As they did so, BrownFox came to talk to them.
“Hey!” She called out. “How are you two doing? I haven’t seen either of you rest since the battle ended.”
“I told Nergui that I’d ride on the sled and rest a bit as we traveled.” Offered M’nwtsa. “How is she doing by the way? How’s the arm?”
“I set it and instigated mending in the bones. She’ll be fine in no time. Both she and Tu’Urok have survived much worse injuries.”
She turned to Makkitu’q with compliments. “Your blessing on the spears certainly made the difference last night. Without you we would have never spotted the Y’yahila until it was too late. Tu’Urok and Dal have both recommended to Ja’qolimaq that he offer you places in his band on the line.”
“Me? On the line?” Makkitu’q uttered a nervous laugh. “My stomach is still in knots from one night of this. I’ve helped to slay one or two shivers here and there, but never made a stand like that. I don’t think that’s my place.”
BrownFox smiled at her. “You’d be a fine asset to any band. The fact that you feel the effects of the fight in your belly says that you are aware of your limits. That’s a good attribute.
“However,” she continued, brushing loose snow from her hood. “I believe you are correct in the thought that the Line is not your place. I would actually like you to come with me. Both of you, actually.”
“With you?” questioned M’nwtsa. “Where? Just us? Are the others coming.”
“To Wisdom Keeping Temple,” explained BrownFox. “And no, they won’t be with us.
“The Temple?” M’nwtsa returned. “Shouldn’t we be prepping for the The Line?”
“This would be prepping for The Line. Nergui told me you saw a Strand last night. The thing she called a Strangle. We need to deal with it.”
“That weird, dark, threadlike shiver? It fled didn’t it?” Makkitu’q recalled, looking to M’nwtsa for comfirmation. They shrugged. “I don’t know. I was drumming.”
“Yes! That thing! It’s not actually a shiver.” BrownFox corrected as she pulled her bags and blankets from the sled. “It’s far, far more dangerous than any of the shivers we slew last night. It’s the smallest piece of one of the Sorrows. A Sorrow who is supposed to be imprisoned not far from the Temple. We’re going to need some help and we’ve been directed to seek it at the temple.
“Wouldn’t it be better to hunt the thing down and kill it?” countered M’nwtsa.
BrownFox stopped to look at the drummer. She tilted her head and looked off into the distance in consideration. “Perhaps, but I don’t think this is the only one. If our sources are correct, it definitely isn’t the only one, and that would be a deadly underestimation for us. Besides, I’m a decent tracker, I know you are too, but I doubt either of us could track a strand of hair through snow. Not to mention, there’s going to be a lot more snow before this is over. So, we need people who are used to hunting bizarre, impossible stuff in the deep snow. Those people we’ll find at the Temple”
“Okay,” said Makkitu’q. “I’ll go. I’ve always wanted to visit one of the Woe Temples. Who else is coming?”
“There will be six. Yourself, myself, M’nwtsa, Nergui and two of the warriors whom you didn’t meet, who went into Dream with us, Megis and Maȟpíya Zi.”
“On foot?” questioned M’nwtsa
“Yes, for a bit.” The Dove explained. “The others will take the sleds back into town. It’s much easier for me to cover our tracks if we’re on foot. Anything that might be inclined to follow us will instead be drawn to the tracks of the sled and the larger group. Ok?”
M’nwtsa and Makkitu’q gave a resigned nod of affirmation.
“Good! Nergui should be functional enough to move by midday, aŋpéčhokaya, so we’ll head out then.” With that, BrownFox turned and strode back up the WayMound to finish making plans with the others. The two watched her for a moment, then cast glances at each other.
“So much for resting on the sled,” M’nwtsa sighed. The two friends then returned their attentions to now unpacking the sled they’d just packed.