November 19, 2018


The Aser Stories 49: Run for Cover


The evil wizard Fellmount has every intention of tracking down the two shamans who exposed his wicked deeds -- now Aser and Danner have no choice but to pay their respects to certain deceased relatives.

"How do you think Fellmount is going to go about finding us?" asked my clan relative Dan Ur-Jennan. "Will he sort of conjure a scry to look at and try to figure out where we are by what he sees? Or can he just say, 'Send myself to wherever it is that damned meddlesome shaman is so I can turn her into a pig?' Or will he have to hire a seer, seeing as we blew up his laboratory and his magic hat? But then, wouldn't the seer know that he was trying to kill us, and so he could only use an evil seer, but wouldn't that limit the seer's power?"

The River Ur was now only as wide as a small creek, and tumbled down shelves of rock as we ascended the path beside it, away from the clan, drawing the evil wizard Fellmount's revenge after us.

Danner tugged on Cloudraft's tunic as he climbed, causing him to stumble in spite of the walking stick he had cut. "Do you think he'll kill us outright, or will he toy with us, trying to prove his superiority?"

Cloudraft turned to her and put a hand on her shoulder. "Danner," he said to his off-and-on apprentice and lover, "I may be a wizard, but I don't know what Fellmount will do. I was the one who thought he was a good friend, remember? Now please shut up about him killing us."

"Oh, sure, that's going to help us find a solution," said Danner to the younger baboon librarian, Guillaume. "'Shut up, shut up, shut up.'"

"Tell me about it," said the baboon. "I hear 'shut up Guillaume' from the time I yawn in the morning until I fart at night."

"That is a lie," snapped his older brother Narsai. "You are exaggerating. Yesterday I only told you to shut up one time, when you were chanting the lyrics to 'Bohemian Rhapsody' over and over. In the land from which we were taken, that sort of behavior would have earned you perimeter exile to take your chances with hyenas and the cheetah. You must develop a sense of self-control or you will be eaten by an unexpected predator or lose your job and have to take on employment as a doorman in a sleazy hotel!"

Guillaume asked Danner, "So does a doorman get told to shut up many times a day?"

She replied sadly, "Only if he speaks without being spoken to."

"Life's a bitch," commented the young baboon. He sighed. "And I hate knowing life could be worse."

"It gets better," Danner said. "Once you can buy your own beer."

"And get yourself blown to the ninth icy ring of Hell by a vindictive wizard," I added, unasked, turning to look back at them all.

"Then you do think he'll use some explosive force to kill us, or is it more likely that he'll conjure up a herd of cobras to spit in our eyes and bite us to death?"

"Shut up, Danner."

The water narrowed as we traveled, from streams connected by waterfalls to a series of tiny ponds fed by trickles, to a flat place among the rocks of the mountain where a deep icy pool reflected the trees and the steep rise. "Have you ever been here?" I asked Cloudraft. He shook his head. "This is the source of the River Ur. From here on up to the top of the western face of this mountain is where we scatter the ashes of our kin. We give ourselves to the watershed that gives itself to us."

Pulling cups eagerly from our packs, Danner and I dipped cold water, and raised our cups toward the mountain in thanks. While we sipped, we also filled the water skins of the company. And then it was time for me to do what I dreaded the most. I found a space of dirt between the rocks and embedded the tail of my staff. Various ghosts of various clans began to appear, faint and gray in the dimming light, turning to face the staff, and me.

"Someone is seeking us to kill us."

The ghost of my ancestor Stone Ur-Jennan approached. "Someone is always seeking to kill the Ur-Jennans. Why do you come to this place?"

And this was the essence of my reluctance: asking the deceased of Ur for help. It's hard enough to ask a neighbor for assistance in a task that you cannot do by yourself. But to have to ask a relative, you know, that's just miserable; and if the relative is dead, and thereby has an immortal memory, well, that's got to be the worst.

You go to the next farmstead down the road, and say, "Can I borrow a cup of flour? I ran out."

"Sure," the neighbor says, "here you go, take three in case you need to make gravy again before you get to the miller."

But go to your Cousin Cheff or Auntie Skeef, and the answer is, "Oh, they don't teach you how to keep track of supplies in Shaman School?" or "Too busy being a shaman to go to the store?" or "You're an Ur-Jennan, can't you earn a living, or what?" or the ever-popular "I can't keep on supporting you forever, you know."


Why should asking for help be a humiliation? Why should we often rather suffer than undergo the treatment that accompanies a request?

The goodwife next door tearfully wails that her husband has lost his job at the castle. In no time, the neighborhood if not the entire village rallies and supplies casseroles each day and bread and milk for breakfasts for the afflicted pair. Yet when she tells her mother the same tale, the mother screeches, "What, you don't have anything put away for emergencies? Why in the name of heaven did you marry such a loser? No one loses a job unless they were crooked, or stupid, or crooked and stupid! Oh, yes, I'll help you out, but you remember I told you this would happen!"

Oh, good, carve adversity into the granite face of the universe.

To the ghost of Stoner I said, "The wizard who cursed the Jennan Well may be seeking us even as we speak. Can you cover us with your spirits while we rest?"

Stoner gave Cloudraft a chook under the chin. "This attractive and nicely alive wizard can't help you?"

Cloudraft sputtered and waved his hands to disperse Stoner's fingers. "No, I can't, Fellmount is far more powerful than I am. Do not touch me. Leave me alone and discourse with your relatives," said Cloudraft, sitting and wrapping himself in his blanket. "I'm tired and I have no idea where we are or who you are and I just want to go to sleep."

The ghost of Stoner peered at Danner. "You're going to have to teach him better manners, you know."

"He's a wizard, they're above manners unless someone has them on the ropes," Danner replied.

"Ayyeeee," one of the revenants called, "Just so you know, there is a necromancer casting about the ether, seeking two Ur-Jennans and their wizard companion."

Cloudraft covered his head with his arms, muttering to himself.

"How's he doing the casting?"

The spirit rushed near to us, spectral arms raised to show ancient metal bracelets on his arms. "Can you believe this honker is using a crystal ball the size of a basketball?"

I read the specter's name on the bracelets, "Seeve Ur-Trabben, where would he get the crystal ball? His tower was destroyed."

The ghost shrugged. "Looks like he offed some seer and took over her operation."

"No!" cried Cloudraft. "I can't believe that Fellmount, who was such a close friend, is such a despicable villain, a traitorous and irresponsible -- "

" -- Creep from the Deep", intoned Stoner.

" -- Rat-head jerk," chimed the revenant with the metal bracelets.

" -- Fat-ass greaseball hot-dog-on-a-stick violator," said Danner, with a dreamy look of fatally insulting someone.

As the ghosts screamed laughter like the sound of a rising evening wind, I waved my arms and wagged my staff back and forth. "We're not here for a comedy club! Can you cover us from his search and keep him from finding us for the night?"

Seever rattled his bracelets. "Keep your staff embedded in the ground, Aser, and we shall keep watch and cover you with our gifts. I was a seer, back in the day. If he casts this way, I can invade the crystal ball. I know their mazes well, and I can make him see penguins dancing with gangsta rappers or reruns of Andy Griffith, but he will not find you."

"I thank you, and the Life that guides the world thanks you," I told the ghost.

"You're welcome," Stoner said, "but don't get too comfortable. None of us want to have this place blown off the map, you know. Our ashes could end up anywhere. Tomorrow, cross the ridge and bear north. There's an enchanted village whose magic will keep you hidden."

"How are they enchanted?"

The specter rolled its lidless eyes. "Who knows? Who cares? They're so boring that we never even drift their way. There are worse things than being dead, that's for sure."

Yeah, like having to ask your kin if they can pick you up from work for the next week while your donkey is in the shop. Or borrowing money from your mother.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-05-12

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In the same series:

The Accursed
The Aser Stories: Sidelong
The Aser Stories 80: Cabin Fever
The Aser Stories 79: Just Don't Say It Before Spring
The Aser Stories 78: Judgment Call
The Aser Stories 77: "Are We There Yet?"
The Aser Stories 76: A Bone to Pick
The Aser Stories 75: Coalition Forces
The Aser Stories 74: Flying Monkeys
The Aser Stories 73: Elspeth, Ad Nauseam
The Aser Stories 072: Starve a Cold
The Aser Stories 071: House Call
The Aser Stories 70: Dinner Dates
The Aser Stories 69: Fire in the Hole
The Aser Stories 68: The Silk Fable
The Aser Stories 67: The Simple Life
The Aser Stories 66: For What You're Worth
The Aser Stories 65: Taking a Shot
The Aser Stories 64: Second Chances
The Aser Stories 63: The Second Step
The Aser Stories 63: Second Thoughts
The Aser Stories 60: Fish Story
The Aser Stories 59: Ace in the Hole
The Aser Stories 58: Knowledge is Power
The Aser Stories 57: Animal Tracks
The Aser Stories 56: Oz Can Keep Them All
The Aser Stories 55: Small Comfort
The Aser Stories 54: Letting Go
The Aser Stories 53: In a Spirit of Healing
The Aser Stories 52: Stinkin' Kids
The Aser Stories 51: No Words For It
The Aser Stories 50: The Friend in Need
The Aser Stories 49: Run for Cover
The Aser Stories 48: On the Fly
The Aser Stories 47: Just Thievery
The Aser Stories 46: Take My Shaman ... Please
The Aser Stories 45: Hot Stuff
The Aser Stories 44: Courtesy Call
The Aser Stories 43: Adding Insult to Injury
The Aser Stories 42: Natural Selection
The Aser Stories 41: Funny Business
The Aser Stories 40: Happy Endings
The Aser Stories 39: Working Dogs
The Aser Stories 38: Taking Sides
The Aser Stories 37: Dumb Animals
The Aser Stories 36: Harsh Words
The Aser Stories 35: Endangered Species
The Aser Stories 34: Common Language
The Aser Stories 33: Legal Torture
The Aser Stories 32: Whose Fault Is It?
The Aser Stories 31: Money Talks
The Aser Stories 30: The Perils of Sympathy
The Aser Stories 29: Raccoons
The Aser Stories 28: The Ghost of Garfer Miller
The Aser Stories 27: Dynamite
The Aser Stories 26: Junk Mail
The Aser Stories 25: Rose-Covered Cottages
The Aser Stories 24: Crime and Punishment
The Aser Stories 23: Image Is Everything
The Aser Stories 22: Is As Does
The Aser Stories 21: Gourmet Dining
The Aser Stories 20: Families and How They Are
The Aser Stories 19: The Difference Between Men and Women
The Aser Stories 18: On a Silver Platter
The Aser Stories 17: Point of View
The Aser Stories 16: Easy Street
The Aser Stories 15: Moguls
The Aser Stories 14: A Mile Toward Change
The Aser Stories 13: The Price of Freedom
The Aser Stories 12: A Question of Nudity
The Aser Stories 11: Rabbit From a Hat
The Aser Stories 10: Awards
The Aser Stories 09: On A Roll
The Aser Stories 08: Raising Children
The Aser Stories 07: Crosspasses Market
The Aser Stories 06: Judge, Jury, Shaman
The Aser Stories 05:Habit and Stubbornness
The Aser Stories 04: The Wrong Question
The Aser Stories 03: The Labor of Love
The Aser Stories 02: Soup du Jour
The Aser Stories 01: Popping the Big Question
The Aser Stories 40a: Customary Behavior
The Aser Stories 36a: Madly In Love
The Aser Stories 03a: Descent to the Underworld

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