Sunday, November 08, 2009


Grem looked at the ground.

"The earth grows barren," Inga told him. "The crops wither and rot in the fields. No rain has fallen in months.

"I do not wish to do this," Grem said. "There are risks to any intercession with the God - grave and terrible risks! I might be killed, or worse! Then where would the village be?"

Inga sighed. "I know, I know, you have told me this before," she said. "But it has been months! You must act, or we will all die when winter comes!"

"Also, it is a lot of work to intercede with the gods," Grem said. "And I am very lazy."

Inga looked at him.

"Very well," Grem sighed. "I'll be back in an hour."

Grem traipsed to his Super Secret Shaman Cave. He fetched his equipment. He traipsed out to the fields.

"Hello, the God!" he said to the sky. "You're the best! I know it, you know it, everyone knows it! All those other gods - some people like 'em, I guess. But you're totally the best! Could beat them all in a fistfight, at once! That's just the kinda God you are. Eh? Eh?"

Grem waited for a response.

The sky rumbled.

"Yeah, that's the way of it!" Grem said happily. "So, you can see I've got some sacrifices, some incenses to burn and be pleasing unto your sight, some holy symbols, eh, the God? I'm'na burn the sacrifices, and burn the incense, and cover the holy symbols in blood, as is your preference, and maybe we can see about some rain, eh? Because, you know I wouldn't bother you normally, but we're probably all going to die if you don't give us some rain. So I hope this is worth your while."

Grem lit the incense.

Grem gutted the rabbits and rubbed the holy symbols around in their entrails.

Grem set the rabbits on fire!

"Ahh," Grem said, leaning back. "Nothing like a good bonfire to lighten a mood - "

Grem lost his balance.

Grem fell over, crushing the incense, snapping the holy symbols into bits, and knocking the rabbits into the dirt. (Also, setting himself on fire.)

"Aaagh!" Grem screamed. "Aaagh! Aaaaagh!" He rolled around on the ground for a while.

When he arose, still smoking faintly, there was a curious conviction in his mind.

"I know what I must do," Grem said. "I know how I can recover the God's favor. I know how I can save our village!"

"How?" Inga asked.

"Wait, you're here?" Grem asked. "How long have you been here? Not long, right? Right?"

Inga looked at him, still smoking.

Grem's shoulders slumped.

Then they straightened again - with determination.

"I need to repair a carriage!" Grem said.

Inga's eyebrows raised.

"A carriage?" she asked. "What's that?"

Grem thought.

" know, I don't properly know," he told her.

"Then how are you going to repair one?" Inga asked.

A moment passed. Grem's eyes lit up.

"I have," he said, "a plan."

Inga considered Grem.

"Do tell," she suggested.

"This is a plan in three parts," Grem said. "First, I build a carriage."

"Without knowing what one is?" Inga asked.

"My intuition will guide me!" Grem declared.

"If you say so," Inga said. "Hopefully it won't guide you into another fire."

"Second," Grem said, "I will damage the carriage."

"Again," Inga suggested, "Perhaps not with fire."

"Third," Grem said, pausing for emphasis, "I will repair the carriage!"

Inga looked at Grem and considered her response carefully.

"You're quite certain that this is the only way to win the favor of the God?" she asked. "And that, say, performing the rain-ritual again - but without setting yourself on fire this time - wouldn't work better?"

Grem thought. It did seem odd, this compulsion to repair a carriage - but he knew it was right! He knew it! It must be the work of the divine! "This is the only way!" he told Inga. "I'm completely certain of it."

"Very well," Inga sighed. "I'll sent Greta over to - " supervise? make sure you don't set yourself on fire again? "assist you."

"Thank you," Grem said graciously. He turned his eyes to the sky. "I will build this carriage!"

The sky rumbled.

"Now," Grem asked Greta, "Do you know what a wheel is?"

"No," Greta said. "What's that?"

"The wheel is a secret of the shamans, carried from the ancient West by our ancestors," Grem explained. "I will demonstrate. You see this piece of wood?"

"Yes," Greta said. "It looks like a tree trunk that you've cut and trimmed."

"It is," Grem agreed. "But it's something more. We take it, we put it on its side, we give it a push... you see?"

"It fell over," Greta said.

"Well, yes," Grem admitted. "But before that?"

"It moved very strangely," Greta said. "Spinning, whirling...?"

"The secret shaman word is rolling," Grem explained. "That is what a wheel does, and what a carriage must do."

"So a carriage is a wheel?" Greta asked.

"No," Grem said. "But it has a wheel. It has... four wheels."

"How do you know this?" Greta asked.

"The God speaks to me!" Grem said. "But as to the details... I am uncertain."

Work progressed.

"So you have the two tree-trunk chunks -the wheels - and you cut a hole in them and put a long, straight branch in-between," Greta narrated helpfully. "And what will this do?"

"Now they roll together!" Grem said.

"So?" Greta asked.

"So, now we build another pair!" Grem said.

"And then?" Greta asked.

"We build a box, and put it on top!" Grem said.

"And what goes in the box?" Greta asked.

"You do!" Grem said.

"...can't you go in the box?" Greta asked.

"Nope!" Grem told her. "I'll be behind you, pushing!"

Greta looked at the lop-sided wheels lying on the ground. She extrapolated the likely stability of anything that Grem built. She sighed.

"At least there'll be someone right there to say the prayers to the God when I die," Greta said, resigned.

"That's the spirit!" Grem said. "Now come help me with this ax!"

The carriage took shape.

Grem and Greta observed their work.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Grem asked.

Greta was touched, despite herself. "It's the prettiest hacked-together box of wood I've ever seen," she said.

"Glad you like it!" Grem said. He looked over his shoulder. "Well, it looks like the whole tribe's here now, ready to see the first trial. Get in!"

"Already?" Greta asked. She stepped up. The box creaked under her weight.

"Perhaps we should test it without a human occupant first?" Greta suggested.

Behind her, Grem pushed the carriage into motion.

"Aa!" Greta said, being rather unused to vehicular transportation.

"This isn't so bad," she said after a moment more. "Bumpy, jarring, but I nearly think now that I'm going to survive this!"

The carriage hit a stump.

"Are you all right?" Inga called, running as fast as she could to where Greta lay bleeding on the ground. "Talk, Greta!"

"I'm... I've been worse..." Greta said through gritted teeth.

Grem looked at Greta regretfully; but he found his gaze irresistably drawn back to the carriage. "It looks... damaged," he murmured to himself.

It was!

And Grem fixed it!

"Yes!" he said. "I fixed it! I fixed the carriage!"

"So where's the rain?" Inga asked.

Grem looked up.

He stared at the clear blue sky.

Slowly, his hands clenched into fists.

"Come on, the God!" he shouted. "Come on! I just repaired a carriage for you! A carriage! In your name! This is more than any shaman has done for any god, anywhere, in history. This is the most amazing thing ever. And you won't give us a tiny bit of rain? For that?"

The sky rumbled.

The sun continued to shine.

Grem's shoulders slumped.

"I'll be in my cave, making new holy symbols," he told Inga. "Let me know when we all starve to death, because I'm a failure as a shaman."

He tramped away, leaving the carriage behind him.

And in the depths of the Super-Secret-Shaman cave, it was several hours before he heard the thunder, and the rain.

No comments: