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Note - the spelling of names in the narrative reflects the Quechua alphabet, which is written without using the consonants b, c, d, g, v, x and z. When these names are used by an English speaker, they are spelled normally.
Some of the wording is taken directly from the episodes.
It wasn't as if we hadn't seen white men before. We had, though only briefly; several times over the years travellers passed through, carrying boxes that they told us took pictures of the things they saw, who gave us gifts of metal knives. It seemed they were always in a hurry, seldom took the time to contemplate anything, wanting always to move on to something new, for they never stayed for more than a few days, leaving us once more to continue with our lives; and we were not sorry to see them go, for their presence as often as not disturbed the game, especially when they wanted to accompany the hunters to take pictures of the hunt. They made too much noise, so the hunting was usually poor when they were there. And once, when I was still little more than a boy, there was a missionary who tried to persuade us to leave the land where the Chopek have lived for generations, and go to live beside his village further down the river, to learn about his god. But he did not speak even one word of Quechua although he claimed to have lived in our land for many years; he spoke in a strange tongue, words we could not understand, and one of the Yagua, who lived where - for some reason known only to himself - the man had built a house to honor his god, repeated his words in Quechua so that we could understand him. As if the spirits needed a house built so that they could wait for us to visit them; they are around us all the time. One of two of the younger men were tempted by the description of the wealth that would come to those who followed his god, and left with him, only to return, disillusioned, a few weeks later.
The Yagua who lived beside the 'god-house' had been seduced into believing the missionary, but our men - once they had learned a little of the man's language - balanced his claims of a wonderful life after death, where everyone had all they could imagine wanting and nobody had to toil or sweat, against his complete inability to draw out the evil spirits causing even a minor illness - something even I, as recently apprenticed to our shaman as I was, could already do. He pretended to speak to his god, but did not even enter a trance to do so.
How could the Yagua have been foolish enough to believe him?
A year or so later, the missionary came again. While he was still some distance away, Paku - one of the young men who had been fooled by him before - saw his canoe on the river. He ran to warn the tribe; but this time we all knew better than listen to his persuasive lies, and melted into the forest, so that he and his Yagua dupe found only an empty village. They waited for a little while, but even the youngest child knows when silence is essential, and when they heard nothing and there was no sign of us, they left, the missionary sitting on his lazy hindquarters while the Yagua paddled the canoe back downstream.
We made sure they were well away before returning to our huts. He never came back.
There was a space of several years before any more white men came into our lands. These new men were not missionaries, but neither were they the travellers who brought gifts and asked if they could take pictures of us, paying us well when we agreed. They camped beside the river, and they had guns - weapons that we had seen in the past, that some of the travellers used for hunting.
By then Qawaqa had died, and I was the tribe's shaman; with Tupak, I watched as these white men gathered the leaves of the coca plant, more leaves than they could ever use; they stripped bare many of the bushes, which was wasteful. And when they heard movement among the trees, they fired their guns at the noise, not caring what their bullets hit. We benefitted once or twice when they injured animals that struggled away, to die before they had gone far, and we gathered up the bodies for the meat; more often, though, the noise they heard was a bird already flying away, and their shots went wild, hitting nothing.
There was nowhere and nobody we could look to for help. Although there were not many of them, their guns made them dangerous; and many times we hid in the forest when it seemed that they were coming near our village. They never did find it, but we remained watchful. Yes, we could have moved away, but that would have meant moving into the land of another tribe; it could have led to war between us and that tribe. The only way to avoid conflict would have been for us to accept the domination of the tribe whose land we entered, and that we were not prepared to do. No, it was simpler to remain in our own territory, and hide when necessary.
Apurimaq and Qalluni remained near the strangers' camp, watching them; and one morning they returned home, saying the strangers had packed their things together and left in a boat that had arrived in the half light of dusk.
As shaman, I had thought long about these men, and I was not convinced that they had gone for good - yet I was not sure how we, armed only with arrows and blowpipes, could combat men with guns, for the range of their weapons was far greater than ours.
A few days later we heard a noise in the sky and I recognised it for one of the flying machines of the white men - we did not see those machines often, and it was a wonder to us how something so big could remain in the air. But there was something wrong with it; it did not sound as such machines normally did, and then the noise stopped. Moments later we heard the crash as the machine hit the ground, a sound much louder than that made by a falling tree.
Ah - so something about the sound made it stay in the air?
We went cautiously to see what had happened. The men in it could be more of the bad ones, and our own safety was more important than helping them. As we crouched in the bushes looking at the wreckage, one man moved. He pushed himself upright from where he had been thrown out of the machine, looked at it, said something in his own language then stumbled over to it. We watched as he lifted one man carefully out and laid him on the ground, then went back and pulled out another. That was when we realised that these men were all wearing the same kind of clothes.
Beside me, Paku murmured, "I saw men wearing clothes like these in the Yagua village. These men are Amerikan army."
There were eight of them. Five were already dead, killed when their flying machine hit the ground. Two others lived, but hurt so badly that there was nothing even I, the tribe's shaman, could do to save them; all we could do was give them coca leaves to chew, to keep them from suffering as they waited to die. One died the next day, the other lingered for some days. Only one - the man who had been thrown out of the machine - was destined to live. Himself hurt, he had ignored his injuries to see to the others. He spoke Quechua - not well, but well enough that we could communicate. For it was my duty, as shaman, to discover his intentions.
"My name is Ellison," he told me. "I am - was - the leader of our group. We were sent here to stop the drug dealers."
I frowned, not sure of what he meant, for the last words were in his own language. I tried to imitate the sounds. "Hrrruq heelrs?"
"Ah." He paused for a moment, and it was clear that he was thinking. "You chew the coca leaves, and it helps you breathe more easily, run faster, hunt more efficiently; it eases pain."
"And coca leaves must be picked fresh."
"Yes," I agreed. "They do not keep well."
"Some men have learned how to save the juice from the coca leaves. They make it into a powder and sell it - do you have money here?"
"We understand about money," I said. "We do not use it, but we understand how it is used."
"There are men who are greedy for money, and will do anything to get more and more of it, far more than they can use. They think it makes them important."
I thought about that for a moment, and Ellison waited, with a patience surprising in a white man, for my next comment.
Try as hard as I could, I could make very little sense of his statement. How could someone be important because he had more of something than he could use? Among my people, the man who has more than he can use gives the extra to the others in the tribe; the man who can do that often is highly regarded, for he is making sure that nobody in the tribe goes hungry. A man with plenty who did not share it would not be respected, and I said so.
Ellison smiled, but sadly. "I did not say they were respected among my people. These men think it makes them important. And in many cases, they don't look for respect. It is enough, for them, that they can buy the loyalty of the men who work for them. Or they would rather be feared, thinking that because men fear them, they respect them."
I shook my head, and he paused again, giving me time to think. Once again, it was something I simply could not understand. I could understand that a man might want to be feared; such men were sometimes born, and often tried to bully those who were smaller and weaker. But they were never respected. It was my place, as shaman, to make them fear me more, otherwise such a man would be banished from the tribe. It was seldom that a man travelling alone was welcomed into another tribe; the question was always asked, why was he alone? Nor did a man alone live long; there are too many dangers in the forest.
After a while, Ellison went on. "What these men do is often against our laws, and if they are caught they are punished. But it can be hard to catch them. My chief has sent me here to ask if your people will help mine to stop the men who are gathering the coca leaves.
"Here, anyone who needs coca leaves to chew can go out and gather what they need. The leaves help people, and do not harm anyone."
I nodded, although I did not entirely understand how coca leaves could do harm.
"What these men do to the leaves... whatever it is in the leaves that helps your people when they chew it, is made much, much stronger, so that when anyone takes just a little of the powder they make, it is as if they chew all the leaves on one big branch at once."
"But that would give them too much of the coca juice," I said.
"Yes. Taking it once makes them feel good, so they take it again, and it makes them want more and more; they can't do without it. The men who sell the powder to them want a lot of money for it, and they starve themselves to buy more. They take the property of other people to sell, to get money to buy more. Sometimes they kill for it. They are not your people, but will you help me stop these men who are taking the leaves to misuse them?"
These men who came, who fired their guns at the slightest sound without aiming, without knowing what they fired at; who didn't care what they hit, who didn't care if they left injured animals to die in pain. Yes, we kill animals; we kill to eat - and if we injure an animal, we make sure we follow it.
True, Ellison's people were not my people; but these men who were harming them were also harming my people, harming the forest that is my home. It was in my own interests to help him.
"Yes," I said.
Of course, it wasn't quite as simple as that. Although I had accepted the stranger, he still had to prove himself to the tribe. Despite his age, he had to prove that he was a man, able to survive alone in the forest for five days. He also had to show that he could hunt and help provide food for the tribe, rather than depending on the tribe to support him - for he was not a man alone, so we would not reject him and leave him to die in the forest, no matter how useless he might prove to be. What we would not do, until he proved himself, was fight for him; he would be considered a child, being trained until he could go out and prove he was a man.
Our boy children are trained by their fathers, and when they go into the forest for their five days, we know they will be very unlucky if they fail; and if they fail, if they die, although it is unfortunate, we know that they would never have been good providers for the tribe, might even have hampered the hunt.
We had noticed that the white men who had visited us were not, in general, good hunters; were not, in general, forest-wise. And from what Paku told me about the village where the missionary lived, the way the missionary himself lived, it seemed that the people there divided the work of the village between them in such a way that certain people always did certain things. I can understand that; I am shaman, charged with the health and welfare of the tribe, and nobody else in the tribe can do this - although I was considering taking Chaqwa as apprentice. And the men and women of the tribe have different skills. But in the missionary's village, Paku said, only some men hunted. Others, urged to it by the missionary, actually did women's work - grew plant food, built huts - while the women were positively encouraged to be lazy, spending their days only in cooking, making clothes and caring for the children.
But Ellison was the leader of his group, and his group, according to Paku, were Amerikan soldiers, so it was possible he had more knowledge, more hunting skills, than the white men we had known in the past.
I explained to him about the test given to our boy children, the five days they had to spend on their own, supporting themselves, before they were considered to be men, and he nodded his understanding.
"I can do this," he said, and there was a quiet confidence in his voice.
He would have left immediately; however, I made him wait for some days, until his injuries had at least formed scabs instead of continuing to ooze blood. To go into the forest with open wounds was to ask for trouble. He admitted that that might indeed be so, but what really persuaded him to stay was the worsening condition of the last of his men. There was nothing anyone could do except ease his pain as much as possible, and on the fourth day after their flying machine crashed, the man finally died.
Ellison had explained their custom of burying their dead in a hole in the ground, adding that when his people finally came looking for them, they would dig up the bodies and take them back to Amerika, to be reburied there with honor. It seemed a strange custom to my people - we burn the bodies of our dead - but we had helped him bury the others and mark the place where each had been put. Now we buried the last man, and Ellison told me that there was no longer any reason for him to delay. His injuries were healing, and he was anxious to complete the Rite.
I admit I worried a little when he did leave, armed only with a knife and a bow; after he left, Paku admitted that he had expected Ellison to take his gun, to maximise his chances of survival. I had half expected that, too, but when I asked him what weapons he planned to take, he said he would take only those which our boys took with them - that he considered taking the gun would be cheating. If the tribe was to take him seriously, he must succeed as the boys of the tribe did, or die trying. He seemed confident enough, but I was very aware of the inadequacy of all the white men I had previously encountered. I was tempted to follow him and watch over him, but the boys had nobody, even their fathers, to watch over them. If the Rite was to be meaningful, it had to be in accordance with the rules laid down many generations past.
During the next five days, I thought about Ellison. I liked the man; he had a self-control that I had found lacking in the other white men who had visited us over the years, and he had tended his injured men with gentleness and consideration, although his medicine was as useless as mine in the face of the damage done to their bodies. The wonder was that Ellison had escaped relatively unhurt; it argued that he had a powerful spirit watching over him.
He returned on the evening of the fifth day carrying a dead peccary, which he put down in the centre of the village, and I smiled with satisfaction as my people gathered around him. Not only had he completed his Rite successfully, he had also proved himself to be a competent hunter who could indeed contribute to the welfare of the village. I was sure that the other men would agree to follow him when he attacked the strangers who gathered the coca leaves.
And so it was.
But there was more.
While the women began preparing the peccary, he joined me. "Incacha."
"You look worried," I said.
He nodded. "Not worried, exactly," he replied, "but it is true that I am troubled. I have a faint memory... When I was a child, it seemed to me that I could hear and see things that no-one else could. I could tell by the taste if food was not quite fresh, smell what we were to have for the evening meal from a long way away, and I was always right." He fell silent for a moment, and I almost forgot to breathe as I waited for him to continue. "My father told me it was impossible, that I must stop imagining things, that if I continued to say I could see things from an impossible distance or hear clearly what was whispered a long way away, people would either call me a freak - " a word in his own tongue that I did not understand but sounded bad - "or a liar. Whichever one it was, nobody would respect me, nobody would ever believe anything I said, I would be laughed at... and so I made myself stop seeing and listening and tasting and smelling things. But while I was in the forest, I began to see and hear things again... I found that peccary because I could smell it.
"You are a shaman, Incacha. Am I crazy? Am I simply imagining things that are not there?"
"No - you are not imagining things," I said. "Sometimes people are born into the tribe who have very acute senses. You are one like that. Do your people not know of the sentinel-mi?"
"No," he said.
"You are a watchman, a guardian. That is your position in the tribe. Normally the watchman works with the shaman, who helps him control his abilities."
"But why now?" he asked. "I was normal - "
"You are still 'normal'," I told him. "There are some men who have the eyes of a hawk, or the ears of a bat, or the sense of smell of the hunting jaguar. Does that mean there is something wrong with them?"
"No," he said, but there was doubt in his voice.
"Just as there is nothing wrong with you," I said. "The only unusual thing is that you have all the senses, instead of just one. That makes you a watchman, and a watchman is of very great value to the tribe."
And as we feasted that night on the peccary, I introduced our watchman Enqueri to the tribe.
Enqueri stayed with us for many months, and during that time the tribe did well. It was rare, during those months, for a hunt to fail - though even the best hunter has the occasional day when no large animals come near. Several times in the early days of that time men came to gather the coca leaves, and we killed them all. Oh, yes - we guarded the Chopek Pass well. But after a while no more leaf-gatherers came; it seemed that they had learned it was death to enter our lands. We would have relaxed, then, believing that the evil men had learned we were a tribe to fear, but Enqueri would not allow us to relax our watch.
"That way danger lies," he said.
He taught Paku, who had been in the missionary's village, many things, and sometimes sent Paku to lead the men who watched the pass. "My people will come for me," he said - confidently in the first weeks, then less confidently as time passed. "I will not be here for ever. They might leave someone else with you, they might not. But if they do not - I would ask you to continue guarding the pass."
I knew that he was right; his people would come for him, though not as quickly as he hoped. And although I would be sorry to see our tribe lose its Watchman, I knew that although I could help him with his senses, I was not the Companion he needed, and so, although we had a bond, I never tried to establish it fully. With me, he was good; with the right Companion, Enqueri would be great.
It was a long time before Enqueri's people came, but at last they did; several men wearing clothes that we recognized were similar to those Enqueri had worn when he first arrived. He still wore some of them, but not all; some had torn and could no longer be worn.
We surrounded them, of course; but because they wore Enqueri's clothes, we did not try to kill them. They fired their guns at first, but their leader stopped them; Paku translated what he said; "They could have killed us if they wanted to."
A man of insight.
And then Enqueri joined us, and I knew it was time for him to go.
They dug up the bodies of Enqueri's men, to take away with them; it seemed that Enqueri was right when he told us they would be taken home to be honored. At last they were ready to go. As Enqueri bade us farewell, I looked deep into his eyes and willed him to forget his skills until such time as he found his true Companion. And so he left us.
Time passed. And then one day more white men arrived. They were not interested in the coca leaves, so we simply watched them at first. They seemed to be interested only in digging holes in the ground, but then they started cutting down the trees, destroying the forest. And then they brought in big machines.
We had grown a little lazy since Enqueri left; Amaru allowed himself to be seen, and was shot. Paku watched carefully, noting the Great Eye on the side of the machine...
And we began watching again. We saw the man who gave the orders. And when he left, I followed him with a group of picked men - Paku, Chuseq and Qalluni.
We had heard about the sea, that great stretch of water too bitter to drink, though none of us had ever seen it. I think we all believed the stories we had heard were exaggerated, but as we were soon to learn, the sea was bigger than even the wildest story indicated. There were boats tied to the shore - boats bigger than I had thought it possible to build.
Although I had learned a few words of the language, I was far from fluent; however, Paku had learned enough of it to let us discover where our enemy was going; a place called Kaskayt. We were unable to follow him onto the boat he went on, and for some hours I was afraid we would be unable to follow him further, but we found another boat that was leaving for Kaskayt in the morning, and managed to get aboard it and hide among the boxes it carried.
At night most of the crew slept; only one or two remained awake and it was easy for us to take a little food and water from the boat's supplies; the crew suspected nothing. It took several days before the boat reached Kaskayt, arriving late in the day, as it was getting dark. We slipped ashore and went in search of somewhere to hide - but my spirit guide is a hawk, and he had already found a hiding-place for us; a forest-like place fairly close to the big house that bore the sign of the Great Eye. And we continued to watch.
The man who had been in our land, who had ordered Amaru shot - we soon learned that every day at the same time he walked in a huge clearing, accompanied by a little animal with which he seemed to have some sort of symbiotic relationship - possibly a live animal of the same species as his spirit guide. Paku and Chuseq approached him, Paku asking him to take us to his leader, a man whose picture we had found back in Chopek lands. He had a small gun, and before any of us had time to act, he shot Chuseq - fortunately, as it turned out, it was a not very serious shoulder injury. But I had to act quickly to protect my people; it was easy to kill the man with a blowgun dart, although it lost us the easiest way of finding his leader.
Well hidden, we delayed to see what would happen and make sure he was dead, and so it was that we once again saw Enqueri.
A woman with another of the little symbiotes walked down the path just minutes after the man died. She saw him lying there, stopped, bent down, shook him, then from the bag she was carrying she took a small box. She touched it then put it to her ear, and said something. Then she put the box back in her bag, moved a little way down the path, and waited. Soon some men arrived; one started taking pictures of the man we had executed. There was a big black man who appeared to be the leader; at least the others seemed to be doing what he told them. We were just about to slip away when another of their wheeled machines arrived, and Enqueri stepped out of it.
He was accompanied by a smaller, younger man I immediately recognized as an untrained shaman. I could feel the link between them. So... Enqueri had found his true Companion - but it seemed he still did not remember that he was a watchman, and that was bad. He should have remembered the moment he met his new shaman, untrained though the young man was.
I sent the others away, telling them to go back to the forest in the sky, and waited.
Enqueri had been accepted into the tribe; it was his responsibility to help the tribe, to help us stop these men of the Great Eye who would destroy the forest. My hawk could follow when Enqueri left, and then lead me to him.
And so it was.
When I went into Enqueri's home, the young shaman was there too, which was a good sign.
I looked at him. "Are you Enqueri's shaman, here in this great village?" I asked.
It was immediately clear that he understood very little Quechua. Enqueri translated what I had said. The young man's reply was 'I learn from him. He learns from me. It's more like a partnership.' But at the same time he made a gesture with his linked hands that said more to me than I think he understood it to mean, and I had to laugh. Even Enqueri, who had spent so many moons with us, did not understand it; for it was the gesture a shaman makes when a man takes his mate, to wish success to the bonding - not something that indicated mutual learning.
Enqueri and I spoke together for a minute while I explained to him why we were there, and he told me his friend was La'ar, before inviting me to look around his house. I touched one or two things, strange things that I did not understand, and suddenly there was the sound of earth music - a rhythm and an instrument strange to me, but a sound I could not fail to recognize. La'ar smiled, and I knew the music was his.
Yes; he had all the instincts of a shaman.
I turned back to Enqueri. "You must help us," I said, and explained the situation to him.
"There can be no more killing," he replied. "I will help you, but there can be no more killing."
This, from the man who had killed enemies without a second thought when he was in Chopek lands? And then he added, "I have no more power. My senses are normal."
I frowned slightly. La'ar was his true Companion, and a shaman - untrained, yes, but he had the capability to be a great shaman. I could tell. Why were Enqueri's senses still 'normal'? Unless, for some reason, he had chosen to ignore them. "A sentinel will always be a sentinel - if he chooses to be," I said quietly.
There was a ringing sound, and La'ar picked up a small box similar to the one the woman in the clearing had carried. While he spoke into it, I slipped away.
We had to catch the man who was responsible for ordering the forest to be damaged. We had to take him back to the land he was destroying, to let the Chopek see that he was being punished for it. It would have been easier if Enqueri had been willing to help us, but it seemed that here, in his own place, he had forgotten the laws of the forest.
And yet... Here in his own place, he would have to obey the laws of Kaskayt. Probably the laws of Amerika. But law and justice are not always the same thing, and it was justice we needed.
We went to the big house of the Great Eye, searching for a way to reach the man who led that tribe. There was one unguarded door that led us go into a big room full of the machines the white men used to move about, instead of walking. Two men stood there, talking - and one of them was the man we wanted!
It was our chance. We attacked, and would have captured both men, but a sudden loud noise, such as I had never heard before, startled us for a moment. One of the white men took the chance to pull out one of the little guns so many of them carried, and fired it. Something hit me, and knocked me to the ground; I was aware of a sharp pain, and knew one of the bullets had hit me.
I forced myself to look up, in time to see Qalluni hit one of the men - the one who had shot me, the one we didn't want. My people had captured the other. Qalluni looked at me, and I waved from them to go. Although I was their leader in this hunt, both Qalluni and Paku were well able to take my place. They pushed their prisoner into one of the machines, forcing him to make it go, and they left.
Now it was time to think about myself... and Enqueri. There was not much time, I knew; I was dying, and nothing could save me. By the time I reached Enqueri's home, I could barely stand. I hit the door hard, hoping that Enqueri was there.
He wasn't, but La'ar was.
The young shaman helped me to a comfortable bed and I lay back, wishing that I could communicate with him - but neither of us had enough knowledge of the other's language to let us talk. I heard him saying something, but I was too intent on retaining enough strength to remain alive and speak to Enqueri, when he finally came, to pay attention to what La'ar was doing.
He had moved away, but then he came back and tried to stop the bleeding. All he was doing was delaying the inevitable, but it showed he had the right instincts.
And then Enqueri arrived. As he moved over to me, La'ar said something, and Enqueri nodded, then told me, "A healer is coming."
I said, "No. He will be too late. I know I am dying. Listen, Enqueri; my people have captured the man who harmed the land. They are taking him to the forest in the sky."
It was getting harder to breathe. Enqueri said something to La'ar as I struggled to take another breath and finish what I had to say, had to do. "You said you no longer have the power. I made you forget, when you left us. Now I say you must remember your gifts; become a watchman again and help save the tribe."
Then I looked at La'ar, and with the last of my strength I caught his arm. "I pass the way of the shaman to your companion. Let him guide you to your animal spirit... Enqueri... my friend."
I could no longer hold on to life. My spirit watched as men came and tended to my body, and La'ar pushed Enqueri into contacting his spirit animal.
I watched as Enqueri saved my warriors from the men of the Great Eye and took those men prisoner. My warriors took my body and returned to Peru the same way we had reached Kaskayt.
But I could not forget Enqueri and the young untrained shaman. By giving him my ability in the moment of my death, I had done what I could, but I knew it would not be enough. And so I continued to watch.
I knew, when Enqueri was with the Chopek, that he was an independent man, slow to trust and only reluctantly relying on anyone else; as if he feared that such reliance would make him vulnerable. He worked with us willingly enough, had no enemies among my people, and he and I were friends, but I had always known that it was on his terms. He participated in the tribal ceremonies, but only when custom said he must; from choice he remained on the outside, watching, but - he said on the one occasion I asked him - mindful of his position as watchman. It was his duty to remain on guard, and he must not put the tribe at risk by allowing himself to forget that. It was a reason the tribe would accept without feeling that the white man scorned our customs, but I knew the truth was that he felt uncomfortable having fun - and I wondered why.
One day, as I watched, I discovered why. He explained to La'ar that his father had taught him not to trust, not to relax, that even play was a serious competition. It answered a lot of questions. I did not understand, though, why the man believed that being the best was so important, why he thought that losing was so bad. Among the Chopek a man did the best he could, and we had always found that there was balance. If a man was poor at doing one thing, he was better, sometimes the best, at another.
With La'ar, Enqueri seemed to have found a balance. Oh, they had their disagreements - all men will. For a while they worked together well - but suddenly that balance seemed to be lost.
I should have known that a man with the instinct to help one watchman would automatically be drawn to do what he could to help any watchman having problems, no matter how devoted he was to his companion. But something about the woman was wrong. The woman called Aleks had the heightened senses, but she felt wrong. Enqueri was aware of it even before he met her; he knew she was a threat to his Kaskayt tribe. I was surprised that La'ar did not seem to feel it at all - but, of course, although I had passed on to La'ar the way of the shaman, he was untrained. Although he studied people, he had not learned to read the hearts of individuals. Where Enqueri did not trust easily, La'ar often trusted too readily.
Certainly that was one of the things that created the balance between them. In so many ways, where one was weak the other was strong.
I could tell that the woman's animal spirit was not happy, but Jaguar was completely helpless to do anything to influence her because Aleks was completely unaware of him.
Of course, Enqueri hadn't been aware of Panther at first, but in his time with the Chopek he had learned - although I have to admit reluctantly - to accept visions as portents, so when he dreamed of a jungle and killing a wolf that changed shape and became La'ar, he accepted that as a warning. Unfortunately he misinterpreted the warning, and instead of keeping La'ar with him, where he would be safe, he pushed La'ar away, leaving them both in danger.
The woman called Mehkan was not a companion, but at least she had the instincts of a protector, so Enqueri did not leave himself completely vulnerable to Aleks' trap; but La'ar had no such protection. I could only watch helplessly as she pushed him into the stone pool and then held him down until he drowned. Fortunately, Enqueri had realized by then that she would attack La'ar; but I could only hope that he would arrive in time.
He was, but only just. A minute or two more, and La'ar would have journeyed too far along the path to the spirit world to be able to return. As it was, everyone thought he was dead; but I was able to use Enqueri's despair to make him see me, and tell him that his animal spirit could call La'ar back.
They followed Aleks to the Temple of Light, where watchmen of that region still go to confirm their commitment to their duty.
She had arrived at it a full day before them, had been there long enough to read some of the writings on the inside wall, but she was impatient. She did not take the time to read everything, and so she missed the words that warned watchmen not to misuse their time at the Temple - although even if she had read them, she would not have heeded them. She was too sure that general warnings were not for people like her. She was too sure that what she wanted was what was best for her, and that these warnings were only the words of jealous fools who lacked her abilities and therefore tried to keep her from using those abilities.
All the plants needed for the drug that helped watchmen to focus grew near the Temple, deliberately planted there centuries earlier, even before the Temple was built to give protection to the dreaming watchmen. Aleks found it easy to gather what she needed, and it took little time for her to make the drug.
At first unaware that she was being so closely followed, she took a mouthful of the drug as soon as it was ready, and lay back in one of the stone pools. Soon, she began to have visions, and because her mind was filled with lust for the powerful male watchman, she 'saw' him while he was still a little way from the Temple. It never occurred to her that although he had responded to her earlier, it had only been in response to her desire for him; that he did not in fact even like her. I can remember the lure of a woman in sexual heat, even one who was modest and retiring - which Aleks most assuredly was not - although now that I am in the spirit world, I find myself amazed by how powerful a lure it is.
She did however remember that when La'ar called to him on the beach, Enqueri had lost interest in her, so as she pulled herself from the pool she was already planning how to defeat the pull of the companion - the companion she thought she had already killed.
The tribes knew stories about watchmen who had refused to accept a companion, but I had always been doubtful that they were anything other than fables. Now, however, I was seeing a sentinel who not only refused a companion - although she had been willing to use La'ar's help for a short while - but who had also killed the companion of another watchman.
It seemed that the stories were true, after all.
I knew Enqueri would try to help her - it was in his nature to protect, as it was not in hers - but I also knew that the time when she could have been helped was many years past.
Watchmen are not common and are always needed, but she had no instinct to find and serve a tribe. I wondered why, but I knew I would never find out. It was a terrible waste.
Enqueri slept, and dreamed. I went to meet him in his dream.
"Incacha!" he said, and I knew he was indeed pleased to see me.
But there was no time for the reunion that I wanted, that I could see he wanted. Instead, I said, "Finally, you have come."
"How am I seeing you?" he asked.
"My body is dead, but my spirit lives on within you," I told him. This much he could understand. "Your journey has been long. Now you must face your most difficult trial."
He knew what I meant. Facing Aleks, with the sexual draw she was exerting, would indeed be difficult for any man. "It's as if I have no power to control my feelings."
"Power can lead to truth or corruption," I reminded him. "You must choose your path. But you must go alone. The danger you face is not to be shared by your friends." It would be easier for him if La'ar was with him, but she had already killed La'ar once, and would kill him again if she could, knowing that his death would weaken Enqueri. And La'ar, strong though he was, was not a warrior; Mehkan, although a woman, was a warrior, and would protect him.
"How will I know the right path?" Enqueri asked.
I smiled to myself. "You already do."
Aleks used a white man's drug to overcome Enqueri, and dragged him to one of the pools, forcing him to swallow some of the potion. He glared at her.
"It's no use trying to move," she told him. "The drug on the dart is still in your system."
And indeed, he had already realized that.
"It's amazing, isn't it?" Aleks went on. "The early sentinels discovered that extreme isolation in these chamber pools heightens the senses - especially when accompanied by a drink made from local plants and herbs. I found the instructions carved on the wall. It was a two-thousand-year-old language and yet, somehow, I understood. I tried it last night... And I saw inside myself - my true being."
Somehow I doubted that. I was sure she had seen in herself only what she wanted to see.
Enqueri forced himself to speak. "Aleks, you're moving way too fast. This knowledge has to come from understanding, not in some kind of drink."
"My sensory awareness has doubled!" she boasted. "There's so much more to experience. I want you to see what I see, feel what I feel." Yes, she had the illusion that she was irresistible to the male watchman.
Enqueri tried to reason with her. "Listen to me," he said.
"No," she replied. "You listen... And see... And feel." She gave him a quick kiss, then poured a little more of the liquid into his mouth. He had to swallow it or choke. "I'll be back... After I've seen the eye of God."
She ran off, leaving him alone to face the visions that would come to him.
The visions were not comfortable. I was aware of many of them; things from the past, from his days in Peru. Others, from the days when he and La'ar hardly knew each other, were new to me. Then there were things that I knew had not yet happened... and all were violent, unhappy, visions of suffering and death... Enqueri finally shouted, "No! Incacha, help me!"
I allowed myself to appear to him. "Why do you call me?"
"I'm losing my mind," he gasped.
"Do not be afraid to walk through your dreams," I told him. "You must allow your spirit to speak."
"But all I see is death in my dreams."
"If there is darkness, then you must face it. The darkness will flee from the light. But the light must shine from within. I cannot bring it to you. What do you see?" Although he did not say it, I knew he was seeing himself shooting the wolf.
"What do you fear?" I went on.
He still said nothing, but I knew what he feared. He feared failing his tribe. He feared that people would die because of that failure. And he was aware that only his companion could help him; that La'ar, his Companion, was his light.
"This is not me!" he shouted. Again I knew what he meant. He was used to depending only on himself, and now I understood why. His father had made him fear trusting so fully to someone else.
He lay for a moment longer, then pushed himself up. He climbed out of the water and looked over towards the second pool. Aleks was lying in it.
Foolish, foolish woman.
There were sounds outside, and Enqueri moved quickly to the entrance. I watched through his eyes.
La'ar and Mehkan stood there, obviously the prisoners of the men with them. Enqueri immediately recognized one of them as Arquillo, the man who had tried to kill him and his friends. He too had come searching for Aleks.
They were not particularly clever; Enqueri found it easy to overcome them all. He went straight to La'ar. Although I had spoken only Quechua during my days in Kaskayt, I knew enough of the language to get the meaning of what they said.
"You all right?" he asked as he cut the rope fastening La'ar's arms.
La'ar nodded. "Yeah."
Then Aleks sat up, and Enqueri's attention was immediately drawn to her. "Aleks."
"I'm home," she said. "I can feel the vibrations of the earth itself. I can hear the clouds moving in the sky. I can see the molecules in a drop of water." She looked straight at him. "I want to share this with you."
Enqueri walked over to her. "Aleks, this isn't home. It's time to go now."
"You need to see as I see!" she said, as she reached into the water and took out a metal jar. Her voice was very calm. When Enqueri told her to put it down, she just smiled.
"Are you afraid?"
"If you open that up, we all die," Enqueri said. "Now, put it down."
"Once I've cleansed the world and you've left your flesh behind, maybe then you'll understand what I've seen," she said. I could hear the words she didn't say. Why didn't you see it too? Maybe I didn't give you enough of the drug.
"Aleks, this isn't the way of a sentinel," Enqueri insisted. "We've got to watch over and protect people."
"There's so much you don't know," she said. "But you will." She began to open the jar.
"Aleks, look at me. Look at me!" Enqueri insisted. "This isn't you. This isn't the real you. That lies deep within you. Listen to that voice deep inside of you and let it guide you. You wanted to unite our vision." He held out his hand to her. "Let's do it together. Give me your hand. Come on."
He leaned down to kiss her, although I was aware that he no longer felt any desire for her. Suddenly she screamed. "My skin - it's on fire! My ears!" She fell backwards.
Enqueri grabbed the jar from her, tightened the lid again and put it back in the water. "What? What?"
"Oh! My eyes!"
Enqueri said softly, "Let me see. Wait, Aleks. Easy, easy. Shh."
She stared up at him, then as awareness left her eyes, she whispered, "We were one. We were one."
Enqueri looked down at her, and quietly shook his head.
Together, Enqueri, La'ar and Mehkan got Aleks, Arquillo and his men out of the Temple. They were still discussing how to get back to the city when Enqueri raised his head, listening.
"What is it?" La'ar asked.
"Helicopters. More than one."
La'ar grinned. "Looks like Simon's found us."
While the prisoners were being put aboard one of the flying machines, and Aleks placed carefully in another, Enqueri moved back towards the Temple. He sat on a rock and gazed up at the doorway they had used.
La'ar moved over to join him. "Hey, man. Are you okay?"
Enqueri did not answer directly. "You know, when I got out of that grotto, I realized I had it all laid out right in front of me - all the answers to it all. In one way, you know, I just wanted to go back in there so bad. I mean, just... " He shook his head, unable to find the words.
"But you didn't," La'ar said softly.
"See, that's the difference between you two. She was greedy, so she lost her way. The second time she went into the grotto, it must have been too much for her; her senses were enhanced not just once, but twice. Nobody could tolerate that much input."
"But it's changed me," Enqueri murmured. "You were right, Chief. There is a whole other world out there... and it's inside yourself." He twisted a little to look at La'ar. "I think... I'm ready to take that trip, Chief."
La'ar smiled, and put a hand on Enqueri's shoulder. Enqueri leaned back, relaxing.
I watched them for a few moments, seeing the thread of their partnership firming, then turned away. I had done all I could; the rest was up to them.
And after their partnership had completely firmed... nothing could stop them.
Nothing could stop them - except the well-meaning interference of a woman who was certainly old enough to know better.
I had returned to my own land - my responsibility to the Chopek had not ceased with my death, for Chaqwa, who had been my apprentice before we went to Kaskayt, was still only partly trained when I died; although when the responsibility for the tribe's welfare had fallen on his shoulders he had become a satisfactory shaman for the Chopek. I occasionally visited him to continue his training in his dreams.
I was drawn from my satisfied observation of Chaqwa by an awareness of my other pupil's distress, and willed myself back to Kaskayt.
Watchmen were not known in the white man's world. It had taken me some time to realize that; to realize why Enqueri had not immediately told everyone what he was. His tribe in Kaskayt would not have understood. I had finally come to understand what the word 'freak' that he had used once or twice meant; it was an oddity, like the white jaguar cub I had seen once or twice when I was still an apprentice, that had not lived to become an adult. Its color made it stand out so that its intended prey noticed it and ran before it had the chance to pounce. There is no place in nature for such a creature.
It had finally become clear to me that Enqueri feared being treated by his tribe as an oddity; he was desperately trying to pretend that his senses were the same as everyone else's - or, rather, hide that they were not. I had visited La'ar in his dreams - dreams that he did not remember when he awoke - and he had explained why Enqueri was so concerned about his gifts being known.
La'ar's explanation made it far clearer to me how much life in the white men's world differed from life in the forest. It was, as Enqueri had tried to explain to me years previously - some white men would do anything to obtain more and more, more than they could possibly use, thinking that possessing so much made them important, and Enqueri worked with the white men's law to stop those men from taking what did not belong to them. He did not, however, need anyone except his leader to know the advantage he had. But there was more; the Amerikan army, that had taken Enqueri back to his own land and honored the men who had died, would, he believed, seek to use his abilities if it learned about them, seek to make him do things he did not want to do, things that he believed were wrong, in the name of duty.
It could, as I knew, be a harsh taskmaster. In my world, men who offend against the tribe are banished, and once or twice I had to banish someone because of my duty to the tribe - something I was personally reluctant to do, because banishment is akin to a death sentence. While a man may hunt alone, while our boys spend five days alone to prove that they are men, a man living totally alone in the forest, denied the right to return to the village if he is hurt, rarely survives for very long; he quickly loses the will to live.
But as shaman, the decision to banish those men was mine, in accordance with Chopek law. If the penalty was decided on by the village chief, it would have been an almost impossible task for me to carry it out. Such an extreme penalty can only be inflicted by the man who has decided that it is necessary.
But I have noticed that in the white man's world, it is the leader who makes the important decisions and the followers who must do what he has decided. So it seemed more than likely that Enqueri's fear that the Amerikan army would to force him to use his abilities in the name of duty was correct.
Although as a spirit I understood a great deal more than I had done when I was alive, I still could not understand why La'ar had written down everything Enqueri could do, when they worked together much of the time. But he had done so, and his mother, in a misguided attempt to help him in some way, sent what he had written to a friend who in turn wanted to let everyone know what was in it, and didn't listen when La'ar told him no. It nearly destroyed the growing bond between Enqueri and La'ar.
La'ar declared publicly that he was a liar; that what he had written was not true. That was his duty, as Enqueri's companion; to do whatever was needed to protect his sentinel, whatever the cost to himself. He did not question that; and as I watched them afterwards, it seemed to me that although he regretted the loss of what he had been doing, he had no regrets; it was a willing sacrifice, and therefore he should not have to suffer for it.
A shaman dies to show the break from his old life; to show that he accepts his new life as the servant of his tribe - for he is a servant to the tribe, no matter how high his status. La'ar had indeed died - he had stopped breathing, his heart had stopped beating - but he hadn't died. He had continued with his life as it had been. This was another death, and a more fitting one; it was the death of what had been his world of learning. Enqueri and the men who worked with him now offered La'ar a new life, one where he would indeed be the servant of the tribe instead of serving it just some of the time, when he worked to help Enqueri serve it.
Yet it seemed to me that he was reluctant to accept this new life, even as he thanked everyone, smiling and joking; I could see that he was hiding doubts, and fooling them all - with the possible exception of Enqueri. But later, when they had gone home again and Enqueri asked him what was wrong, he shook his head and denied that there was a problem.
"Just... well, overwhelmed, man," he said. "I thought I was finished at the PD, but everyone seemed really pleased when Simon offered me that badge. I didn't expect that."
Enqueri smiled, but it seemed to me that it was not a very happy smile although he now had what he had always wanted, although he had denied it more than once; his companion as a partner, working with him all the time. "They all know how much help you've been, Chief," he said. "To all of us. I just wish, though, that you hadn't thrown away your academic career quite so thoroughly."
La'ar glanced at his mother, who was keeping very quiet. "Jim, even if Mom hadn't been quite so impulsive over what she thought was going to help me, I'd come to a point where I was going to have to make some major decisions anyway. Oh, not instantly, but soon. Even if I'd been able to take your name off it, submitted that thesis and then defended it successfully, Edwards never liked me much, and while she's Chancellor at Rainier the odds on my getting a job there, even without tenure, are nil. So I'd've had to leave, go somewhere else, if I wanted a job lecturing in anthropology - and I doubt she'd have given me much of a reference, so even with those letters after my name I'd've had to struggle to get accepted anywhere. But I couldn't go somewhere else and continue to work with you, so my academic career was shot, anyway.
"At the same time, I needed some sort of paying job; working with you as an unpaid observer was fine while I got some money from teaching, but I couldn't work with you full time without an income from somewhere. So a job with the PD is the perfect answer."
I could see that Enqueri was still unconvinced that La'ar was really happy about everything, and I didn't blame him; I wasn't convinced either. What La'ar was saying sounded as if he had gone over and over it in his head, trying different ways of making it sound as if he really did accept what had happened.
His mother remained silent.
Once again I visited him when he slept on the big seat where I had died, while his mother slept in his room.
"Incacha!" he said, and I knew he was pleased to see me again. I hadn't actually visited him for some time. Not since I left them at Sierra Verde. Even although I had been drawn back to Kaskayt by his distress, I had chosen to watch for a while, to make my own judgement on what was happening to him.
"You seem to have a problem, my apprentice." I knew I needed to remind him of my position as his teacher, needed to remind him that I was there to give him help and advice.
He took a deep breath that was almost a sob. "I don't know what to do," he said. "I want to stay with Jim... Enqueri. I need to stay with him. But am I endangering him by staying with him, working with him?"
"How could that endanger him?" I asked. "Enqueri needs his companion by his side."
"Yes... but I said - very publicly - that I lied when I wrote that he had heightened senses. It was necessary... but if people see us still working together, they'll start wondering why he bothers with a self-confessed liar, and all it would need would be for the wrong person to guess that maybe I hadn't really lied to land us - land Enqueri - in a shit-load of trouble."
"I understand that you are afraid that he might be asked to do things in the name of duty - " I began.
"That's the least of it, Incacha," La'ar said. "Some of the evil men that we seek to stop might put a contract on his head."
I frowned. "A contract?"
"Pay someone to ambush him and shoot him, to stop him investigating their actions."
"But even discounting that... If I'm working with him...
"When we catch someone doing wrong, he has to be tried in front of a group of people we call a 'jury', and they decide whether or not the things that led us to accuse the man constitute solid proof that he did indeed do what he's accused of."
I nodded agreement. It was even so among the Chopek; if a man was accused of wrongdoing, he had the right to defend himself and his accuser had to say why he believed that man was guilty.
"I said, very publicly, that I had made up the 'facts' about Enqueri; my reputation for honesty is shot to hell and back. If I have to give evidence in court, the defending lawyer can claim that what I say has also been made up; that I'm lying to get a conviction. It could mean that someone guilty of a very serious crime against the tribe could be found not guilty because I wasn't believed, even though I was telling the truth - and released to offend again."
I thought about that. One or two of the words were strange to me, but I understood their meaning.
"Then you must find some way to regain your reputation for honesty," I said.
"I don't see how I can without admitting that Enqueri is a sentinel," he said, "and as I told you already, if I do that, it puts him in danger."
"That is the reply of a fool," I told him, "and you are not a fool, young shaman. If you were, I would not have passed my gifts on to you. Back then, you saw your way clearly. Why do you let doubt blind you now?"
There was misery in his eyes as he looked at me. "Back then, my sentinel still trusted me. Since then, he has told me, more than once, that he does not trust me." He fell silent for a moment. "I made too many mistakes, Incacha. I did not fully commit to being Enqueri's companion, although I truly thought I had. I spent time helping him that I should have spent studying, time working with him that I should have spent at the university. But when I discovered another watchman, I thought I could help her as well, learn from her... "
"You thought that writing about her would protect Enqueri," I told him.
"Well... yes, but I should have realized that he would see that as a betrayal, think it meant I wasn't committed to him."
"And yet, when he lay in the temple pool, the knowledge that you were there for him kept him from the insanity that struck her down."
"How can you be sure of that? She was greedy, wanting more. Enqueri was satisfied with what he had."
"I was there, young shaman. I told him he must seek the light that shone from within, and he knew that you were his light."
"Incacha, if I had truly committed to him, truly committed to being his companion, I would have stopped studying what he could do long ago, and told him I would write my thesis on the work of the police. My thesis was always a barrier between us."
"La'ar, watchmen are not common in your world. They were not common in mine, either, but the Chopek remembered about them where your people did not.
"When Enqueri lived with us, I helped him, but I knew I was not his life's companion. When he left the Chopek, I knew that somewhere in his own world he would find that companion.
"It was fortunate that you already knew something about watchmen and the work of their companions, but you had to learn more, and you went about learning it in the only way you could. It was not, is not, your fault that Enqueri does not easily trust anyone - but I can tell you that if there is one man he does trust it is you, even when he tries to deny it."
"I know he's afraid to trust," La'ar said quietly. "He's been let down too often. Yes, even by me, when I tried to help Aleks. But I swear to you, Incacha, although I tried to help her control her senses, I never saw her as more than a way of adding to what I knew about watchmen. And he seemed to get past it, but I wasn't really surprised that he never really trusted me again the way he had before her."
"And yet he wants you by his side now," I reminded him.
"Until the next time I screw up," he said, and although the word was strange to me, I understood what he meant. There was no bitterness in his voice, just a resigned acceptance. "He can't help it, Incacha. He learned distrust in a very hard school and from several masters, the first of them being his father and the second his brother. I understand that, but I ask myself how many more times I can forgive being pushed away or blamed for what is not my fault before I finally break - and yet I know that when I do break, when I can no longer forgive and walk away in self-preservation, it will destroy him.
"That's the only reason I'm still here. The safest thing for him would be for me to disappear, but he won't see it that way. If I leave, he'll see it as desertion, not protection."
"Is that the only reason?" I asked.
He looked at me. "No," he said at last. "I love him. I want to stand by his side, live with him, work with him... "
"Than you must talk to him, La'ar. You must make him listen to you and understand your concerns - and decide together what is best for you both."
I faded away, letting him sleep, but remained for a while watching him, thinking about what he had said; then I moved to Enqueri, and slipped easily into his dreams.
"Incacha?" he said. "Why - ?"
"Your companion is troubled," I said.
"I know," he replied. "But unless he tells me why, what can I do?"
"He fears for your safety," I told him.
"I know that," he said.
"You are known as a man who does not readily forgive anyone you believe has wronged you; therefore he fears that if he stays with you, still working at your side, people will realize that what he wrote about you was true."
"If I'm asked, I can say I knew he was writing a story using my name. It wasn't his fault that his mother thought it was his dissertation."
I said nothing, just looked at him. He made a face. "I know. It explains why he's still working with me, but it still leaves him with a reputation as a liar."
"And because of that, he fears that when he gives evidence in court, he will not be believed." Still not quite understanding exactly what La'ar had meant because one of the words was strange to me, I simply repeated what the young shaman had told me.
I took on the shape of a black panther, roared, and turned away.
Unseen, I watched as Enqueri jerked awake and sat up. He leaned over the edge of his sleeping platform to look at his Companion, who was finally sleeping quietly in the room below him. "Oh, God, Chief," he whispered. "How do we resolve this?"
He lay awake for the rest of the night, and I knew he was thinking over what I had made him understand, what he had known but not admitted to himself; what La'ar feared.
In the morning, as they ate, Enqueri said quietly, "I was thinking, Chief. We need to sue Sid whatshimname. You told him that manuscript wasn't for publication, but he went ahead and publicised it anyway. And maybe we need to sue Rainier as well for wrongful dismissal, because you never actually submitted your dissertation."
La'ar shook his head. "That makes everything high-key again, Jim. I just want it to go away."
"It won't. The moment you have to give evidence as a cop, even though you're under oath all the defence lawyers will bring it up. It's their job, after all - try to get a not guilty verdict even when they know the guy they're defending is as guilty as it's possible for anyone to be.
"I know academic fraud isn't something most people would consider all that big a deal, but - I see it now, what I think you saw all along. All it would need would be for a lawyer to suggest that you have a history of making up your facts to cast doubt into the minds of one or two members of a jury, and we've lost a conviction. We've got to do something to make it clear that you aren't in the habit of making up your facts."
"It's true that a scientist, even one with a good reputation, can be totally discredited if he comes up with a way-out theory," La'ar said. "Especially if someone else tries to duplicate his findings, and can't. And you're right, nobody outside the scientific world really seems to care... but someone in that position isn't likely to end up having to testify in court on any sort of regular basis.
"I don't want to sue Rainier, though. I can't really blame them, though since the Ventriss mess I've known Edwards was looking for an opportunity to get rid of me. Sid Graham, though... Basically it's his word again mine, that I told him the manuscript wasn't for publication - nobody heard what I said to him. He can't deny, though, that it was Mom who sent it to him, not me. So yes, I could sue him... "
"Okay. You don't actually have a lawyer, do you?"
La'ar looked at his mother, who had been listening quietly but looking more and more unhappy as they spoke. It was clear to me that she had not fully realized until that moment just what her ill-considered action was costing her son. "Mom? Do we have a lawyer? I've never needed one."
"Not here. I use a lawyer in Los Angeles any time I need one."
"Too far away," Enqueri said. "The lawyer I use is an old friend. He's good, and he's known as a guy who won't represent anyone he has doubts about - so the simple fact that he's acting for you should speed things up."
"Wait a minute - you don't know that he'd be willing to represent me."
"He will," Enqueri said confidently. "Now finish your breakfast, and then I'll phone Evan, make an appointment for us to see him."
I smiled with satisfaction. Enqueri had finally accepted that he had to act so that La'ar's second 'death' would not destroy him, but instead leave him free to truly be the companion that the watchman needed.
However, I knew I would continue to watch them. He learned distrust in a very hard school and from several masters, the first of them being his father and the second his brother, La'ar told me, as if I needed to be told that Enqueri did not trust readily - I knew about his father, but I had not known that his brother, who should have stood at his side, had betrayed his trust. And so I watched, waiting, ready to step into Enqueri's dreams if it should seem that he was about to push La'ar away again; ready to step into La'ar's dreams if he needed instruction.
"Jim! Nice to see you again. What can I do for you?"
The lawyer was a surprisingly small man, not as tall as La'ar, and standing beside Enqueri as they shook hands he looked even smaller.
"Not so much for me as for my friend. This is Blair Sandburg. Blair, Evan Ritchie."
Ritchie gave Enqueri one sharp look before he turned to shake La'ar's hand. "Mr. Sandburg."
La'ar smiled a little nervously. "Call me Blair."
"So what can I do for you, Blair?"
La'ar hesitated. "I guess you know who I am, right?"
"I know you recently claimed that you wrote a fraudulent doctoral thesis, claiming that Jim had heightened senses. Yet Jim has brought you here to see me, which tells me there's more to it than is obvious."
"Yes. I was writing what appeared to be a thesis on sentinels - people with their five senses heightened - using Jim's name in it, and without my knowledge, my mother sent it to a friend of hers who's an editor with Berkshire Publishing for a bit of professional advice on grammar, presentation, that sort of thing. Next thing I knew, I got a phone call from him, totally out of the blue, wanting to publish it and offering me a small fortune. I told him that no, it wasn't for publication, and to forget about it. He approached Rainier University about it and kept upping the offer until it hit three million dollars. I kept refusing him, and he wouldn't listen; he released excerpts from the manuscript and the whole thing turned into a media circus that interfered with Jim's ability to do his job properly and also resulted in the serious injury of two of his fellow workers in Major Crime. Mr. Graham wouldn't listen to anything I said, and in the end I couldn't see any other way to stop it all except by saying the whole thing was fraudulent."
"Saying it was fraudulent; not 'admitting' it was?"
"Evan, everything he wrote was true," Enqueri said. "I do have senses that are more acute than the average."
"But it could be very dangerous for Jim if we admitted to it," La'ar said before Ritchie could reply.
"There are downsides to having enhanced senses," Enqueri explained. "If I concentrate too hard with one sense, I can lose track of my surroundings. Or... you know what it's like if there's a sudden loud noise or flash of light - it can make you jump. It can even be painful. With heightened senses, things like that can really hurt, if I'm not careful - to the point of incapacitating me. God, all it would need to delay me chasing a perp could be someone blasting a car horn unexpectedly!
"Blair's been working with me for over three years," Enqueri went on. "According to the records Blair found, a sentinel usually had someone working with him, whose job it was to keep the sentinel from being overwhelmed by his senses. Our original deal was that he'd help me control my senses, and in return I'd be his thesis subject, but it didn't take long before we realized our relationship had become much closer than... well, subject and researcher. We became close friends."
"I do plead guilty to stupidity," La'ar said. "Even without the dissertation, I needed to record everything Jim could do, to see what worked and what didn't work, what bothered him and what didn't. I stalled for ages, but eventually I had to submit something to Rainier.
"I'd taken Jim's name off the introductory chapter I submitted to Rainier about two months ago, but I hadn't taken it off the main document. When Mom thought I'd finished and I told her I still had to do some work to finalise it, she assumed I meant just... well, cosmetic work. Obviously, I didn't. I had to replace Jim's name throughout with something anonymous, but I also had to find a way to replace my own, before I submitted the final thing to Rainier, otherwise anyone who knew us would be able to guess who 'Subject A' was. But there would have been a lot less harm done if I'd simply referred to him as 'Subject A' right from the start. And I shouldn't have assumed that Mom was computer illiterate. I should also have remembered that she takes things very literally when she wants to. I told her she couldn't read it - so she didn't. She just sent it off to Sid Graham so that he could read it.
"In the end... The only way I could put an end to it all was claim I'd made the whole thing up," La'ar finished.
"Hmmm," Ritchie said. "Damned if you do, damned if you don't?"
"The thing is," Enqueri said, "that although Naomi - Blair's mother - sent the thing to Graham, it wasn't as a submission, she wasn't acting as Blair's agent, and Graham should have accepted it when Blair told him it wasn't meant for publication. Do we have a case against him?"
"It's worth trying," Ritchie said.
"I'm not looking for money out of it," La'ar said. "I'd be satisfied with a public apology, an admission that I hadn't submitted it to them, and had told them the thing wasn't meant for publication. I'd add 'especially as a factual document', based on what I said at the press conference I held - that the paper quoted ancient source material, but otherwise was a good piece of fiction."
"We need to re-establish Blair's reputation for honesty," Enqueri added, "because he's been offered a place working with me as a detective."
Ritchie was nodding as he scribbled on a piece of paper. "And unless he does re-establish it, I can imagine what some of the slimeballs working as defence lawyers would try to say any time he had to give evidence in court."
"Exactly. But Blair's too forgiving for his own good. I think he should get some money out of it as well - at least enough to pay off his student loans, preferably with a few thousand over; but just getting the loans covered would let him start off his new life without a huge debt hanging over him."
"I don't see why not," Ritchie agreed. "Blair's willingness to settle for nothing more than an apology tells me a great deal about his integrity, but I agree with you; I don't see why the publishers should get away with what would actually cost them nothing. From what you say, this man - Graham?"
"Sid Graham," La'ar said.
" - acted totally unprofessionally, totally unethically." He grinned. "I'll make it clear to them that we'll accept a lot less money than we might otherwise look for - provided they make a reasonable offer - if there's a full and complete public apology aimed at establishing Blair's integrity included. The embarrassment suffered by Blair, and by you, Jim, as a result of it... Mmm... Yes. It was not submitted to them for publication, indeed Blair told this Mr. Graham that it was not for publication - they can't claim that they were hoodwinked by Blair into accepting a 'good bit of fiction' as factual. Indeed, they could only claim they were defrauded if Blair had accepted the money Mr. Graham was offering and then, after publication, said he'd made up his facts. Yes - leave it with me. It might take a few months - Berkshire Publishing's lawyers will try to stall, but that's routine. One thing, Blair - your mother. I assume she'll be willing to give me a statement?"
"Yes. She's staying with us for a few days. She offered to come along today, but we thought it best if we saw you first, see if you thought we had a case."
"Oh, I think you have a solid enough case. Get her to come and see me tomorrow morning - " Ritchie looked at a book that had some writing in it. "At eleven. I'll get her statement, and get things moving right away.
"Now, what about Rainier? You haven't said much about it. How are the authorities there reacting?"
"Badly," Enqueri said. "He's lost his position there although he never submitted the thesis to them. They were quite willing to go along with all the publicity Graham was throwing Blair's way and never once did they object and say that they hadn't seen the document, that it wasn't a properly submitted and approved thesis."
"Do you want to sue Rainier for wrongful dismissal?"
"No," La'ar said. "Not yet, anyway. I think a lot of it was personal - the Chancellor's been looking for a way to get rid of me for a while. I'd like to get my PhD - I have an idea how I can make the chapter I already submitted fit a slightly different theme - and I'd like to try a less aggressive approach first."
"And if they turn him down flat - that's when we sue," Enqueri said.
I drifted with them as they drove to the place they called Rainier.
As they got out of the truck, an elderly man walking past glanced at them and stopped, smiling broadly. "Blair!"
La'ar looked around, gasped, and moved towards the man. "Eli!"
The man called Eli took two steps forward to meet La'ar and threw his arms around him in a very affectionate hug. La'ar responded by hugging him back, but then tried to pull away. Eli gripped his arms. "It's good to see you, Blair." His voice was warm and friendly. "Now, what's this nonsense I've been hearing about you making up your facts?"
La'ar seemed to collapse, laying his head on Eli's shoulder for some moments. I looked at Enqueri, who stood watching but not as defensively as he might have done. Enqueri, it seemed, had some idea of who this man was.
After a few moment, La'ar straightened again and half turned to look at Enqueri. "Eli, this is Jim Ellison. Jim, Eli Stoddard." His voice was very unsteady.
Stottart held out his hand, and Enqueri shook it firmly. "Nice to meet you, Professor. Blair's told me quite a lot about you."
Stottart smiled. "I wish I could say the same. He's mentioned you once or twice, and I know it was because he was working with you that he turned down the chance to go to Borneo with me, but that's all I know." He glanced at La'ar. "I think it might be a good idea to move this little reunion to my office, eh, Blair?"
"You're working here again?" La'ar asked as they began to walk towards one of the big stone huts.
"Started on Monday. Just in time to miss all the furore, but I've certainly heard about it. In some quite slanderous detail. I wasn't sure if you were still living at 852 Prospect, but I was planning on visiting soon in the hope that you were."
They entered the big hut, and went along a long passage. Several people passed, and most of them stared at La'ar for a moment before being discouraged by the glares both Enqueri and Stottart directed at them, and turning away. Stottart pushed open a door and led the way into a small room.
"Sit down, sit down!" he said, and went to what I recognised was a little machine for boiling water. He poured water into it from a bottle. "Coffee?"
Enqueri and La'ar looked at each other, then La'ar said in a very subdued voice, "Eli, I did say that I'd made up my findings on Jim. Do you still feel like giving us coffee?"
"Blair, my boy, do you think I've become half-witted with age? I know you; I know there's a lot more to the story than Nancy Edwards ever realized. So do a lot of the others here.
"I'm not asking you to confirm anything, but as far as I can make out, and leaving out all the imaginative details, someone - and I'm quite sure it wasn't you - sent an early draft of your dissertation to a publisher. Right?"
"My mother. I told her I needed to go over it, make corrections... She knows a lot of people, and thought that if she got a professional editor to go over it, give me advice on how to improve the presentation... "
"And that wasn't what you meant at all."
"No. The whole thing turned into an almighty mess, and... " He shrugged.
Stottart said quietly, "A responsible researcher protects his subject's privacy, his subject's anonymity. I don't see that you had much choice. Using the word 'fraudulent' was unfortunate - "
"Eli, it had to be that extreme to get the media off Jim's back! All that Press attention - it had already stopped him from capturing a hit man who was contracted to kill a union representative. Then the guy took a shot at Jim - missed him but injured two of the other detectives.
"Well, anyway, what I said shut the Press up - "
"And Nancy Edwards grabbed the opportunity to kick you out without stopping to consider whether there was a logical reason for you to discredit yourself quite so publicly. The woman's an idiot. God, even Sidney Green suggested that there was more to it than was immediately obvious, and he's so into playing office politics he can't understand not pushing something under the carpet to avoid making waves."
"Sidney?" La'ar almost squeaked the name.
Stottart remained silent for a minute while he prepared three mugs of coffee. He gave mugs to La'ar and Enqueri and sat down with the third one. "Almost everyone on the faculty is in agreement that you wouldn't cheat. A few have suggested that you maybe exaggerated Detective Ellison's abilities, slanted the tests to make it appear he had better eyesight and hearing than in fact he has, but only Edwards and one or two of her yes-men are insisting that you out-and-out lied."
Enqueri said quietly, "Professor, you deserve to know the truth, though we're playing it down for obvious reasons. Yes, I'm a sentinel. But without Blair, I'd be locked away in a secure mental facility, probably diagnosed as schizophrenic - or else completely catatonic. Someone described Blair as my 'guide' and that's pretty accurate; he guides me in the use of my senses, helps to keep them from overwhelming me - which they could easily do.
"The media attention we got when Berkshire Publishing released excerpts of Blair's thesis... it kept me from doing my job properly. Zeller - the hit man Blair mentioned - would only be the first of several trying to take me out for as long as I was working if we admitted the truth. And even though all the perps we've put behind bars were judged and found guilty using evidence obtained through 'normal' investigative work, they could appeal on the grounds that I'd used illegal methods of getting evidence, because nobody else could overhear something at a distance without using illegal monitoring. Oh, we can prove that the evidence was all legit, though I can't deny that there have been times my senses have led us to the evidence we could acceptably use, but it would keep the whole thing in the public eye for quite some time, and probably bring me to the attention of the government. I don't want to be hauled back into the army, back into special ops.
"I had the senses as a child, and my father knew it - but he refused to admit it, bullied me into denying them, to protect me. He... I hate to admit it, but he was right; he just went about things the wrong way."
"Thank you for trusting me," Stottart said. "I had guessed it was something like that. As I said, so have most of the faculty - but I won't let anyone else know what you've told me.
"Now - what brings you back here, Blair?"
"I wanted to see if I could persuade the Chancellor into letting me submit a proper thesis on the work of the police, since I never actually submitted the sentinel one."
"You did put in an introductory chapter for it," Stottart said.
"Yes, but I could easily fudge around that. Sentinels are protectors of the tribe; so are the police."
"I'd be more than happy to say yes, but it isn't up to me. I can persuade pretty well everyone that you deserve a second chance, on the grounds that you didn't benefit in any way from the sentinel 'thesis' and indeed rejected a lot of money by... well, withdrawing it. Nancy Edwards is the real problem; I don't know just what she's got against you, but she'll do everything she can to block you."
"A lot of it was clash of personalities," La'ar said, "but it really came to a head with the Ventriss case a couple of months ago. Brad Ventriss was cheating, and everyone told me to let it go because his father was funding a gym for the university. Actually, it turned out it was a lot worse than blackmailing another guy into writing his essays; date rape came into it, then it turned out he was stealing from his own father - millions - and in the process he killed a man. The case hasn't come to trial yet - it's some time next month, isn't it, Jim? but of course that was the end of the Norman Ventriss Gymnasium, and Edwards blames me."
"We've thought about this," Enqueri said. "You're right, it's a pity he used the term 'fraudulent', but he also said 'It's a good piece of fiction'. So the public story is that I have 20/20 vision and pretty acute hearing, which encouraged him to write a story in the form of a thesis, using my name for his sentinel protagonist because it helped him focus, intending to change it once he'd finished. Only before he had a chance to do that, his mother, thinking it was his proper thesis, sent it off to her editor friend for some professional input, and he, trying to cash in on what she'd led him to believe was a factual document, refused to listen to Blair when he said it wasn't for publication. Incidentally, we're suing Berkshire over that. This left Blair with no option but to deny its validity."
Stottart smiled. "Okay, Blair. How long will it take you to finish the thesis on police work?"
"Maybe a month if I work pretty solidly on it. It's already half done - I've got all the material I need, and I'd begun compiling something on the subject to submit to one of the journals. It's just a case of developing it a bit more and putting it into the relevant chapters."
"All right; leave it with me. I'll sort everything out here." He hesitated. "I shouldn't think, though, that there's much chance of you getting your job back. I can only push Edwards so far."
"That's all right, Eli. I've got the offer of a job with the police, and if I can get my PhD, we could probably swing it to be as a forensic anthropologist rather than a detective. I'd probably have to spend some time with Homicide or maybe even Vice, but I can always work from Major Crime."
As they left, La'ar said, "This is going to slow up my taking firearms training."
"It's more important you get your PhD," Enqueri told him.
They went home, where La'ar's mother was waiting for them. They told her all that they'd done that day, and she collapsed in her seat with a sigh of relief.
"Oh sweetie, I'm so glad! Yes, of course I'll go see this Mr. Ritchie. Sid's an old friend, and I know I was excited because he thought the sentinel thing was so good, but really, all I asked him to do was check it and give you some advice so that the second draft would be better. He really didn't have the right to do more than that, so - yes. I trusted Sid to help you, and he betrayed that trust. I don't owe him anything."
She left Kaskayt a few days later, promising to let them know where she was every time she moved until they knew the result of the case.
I went back to Stottart's office once La'ar and Enqueri had returned home. He wasn't there, but it was easy to will myself to where he was. He was talking to a woman, and I soon learned that this was the E'war's they had spoken about.
"The man's a fraud and a liar!" she was saying. "I've never understood how you could put up with him. You just have to look at him to know he's completely dishonest!"
"That's slander, Nancy," Stottart said quietly. "You can't judge anyone by how he looks. You just have to consider the Ventriss boy. He looked respectable, came from money, and didn't have two honest bones in his body. As for Blair - he never presented that sentinel thing to the University; you can't say that he submitted it as his doctoral thesis."
"It was being published as his thesis!"
"Nancy, Blair is suing Berkshire Publishing over it. He didn't submit it to them for publication - he told them it wasn't for publication, but they went ahead anyway."
"So how did they get it if he didn't submit it!"
"It was a bit of fiction he was writing in the form of a thesis. His mother thought she was being helpful, sending it - without Blair's knowledge - to a professional editor friend for a bit of constructive criticism. They both thought it was his thesis, but you know what a proper thesis is like - full of technical terms no layman could understand and really pretty dry reading. There's no way a professional editor would think a proper thesis could ever be a best-seller!"
She hesitated. "Well, no, he didn't actually submit it, so it wouldn't have earned him a PhD even if it did hit the best-seller list," she admitted at last. "But he said it was fraudulent!"
"As a thesis, yes, you could say that. But as a piece of fiction being called a thesis? Of course the 'facts' would be made up. Are we going to accuse all professional fiction writers of being frauds because they've made up their 'facts'?"
"His introductory chapter - "
"Concerned the police as 'protectors of their tribe'," Stottart replied. "His actual thesis is about the police, and he tells me it's almost finished. Nancy, do you seriously think anyone could write two dissertations at the same time?"
"No," she said, though she did not sound happy about agreeing. She sighed. "All right, Eli. If he submits a proper thesis reasonably quickly, I'll allow it to be considered and defended. But I'm not having that young man back teaching here."
"He'll be content with that," Stottart said.
I went back to the Chopek for a few days, to check on Chaqwa - though he had been doing well as the tribal shaman, I could not forget that I had not finished training him. He was still working well, and the tribe was content, so after a week I returned to Kaskayt; my apprentice there was the one who would still benefit from my guidance.
When I arrived, it was to find Enqueri gently bullying La'ar into stopping work on the 'thesis' for the night. "It's getting late, Chief," he said. "You need to get some sleep."
"The quicker I finish the better," La'ar protested.
"Yes, but if you're fresh from a good night's sleep you'll do better work - you won't need to waste time thinking over the best way to word something, it'll be far easier to think of the best phraseology."
La'ar looked at Enqueri for a moment, then gave in. "All right," he said.
Nodding in satisfaction, I turned away. They both understood, now, what it meant to be sentinel and companion; they had learned when to listen to each other. Their partnership was now complete - and with it complete, nothing could stop them.
This time, it really was so.