I waited for seven suns. Then each morning, I walked to the foot of the mountains, watching for her descent, but she did not come. The fevers continued to spread, and even the Chief fell ill. She came off the mountain on the third day of his illness, she already knew it when she returned, straight backed, with a set look in her wolfish eyes. She put a lead around a fat black ram, and set the hat of her station upon her head and walked to the Chief’s house without saying a word.
I ran behind her, but I was not going to stop her. The people in the Chief’s household parted to let her walk though the room. She cut the rams throat and collected his blood in a dish, and she drank it, though I knew it revolted her.
She sang until she fell into a trance and then she battled with other shamans as she tried to ascend the mountain to call the Chief’s soul and wrest it away from those who held it captive. She battled all day and all night and the next day and the next night. She wrestled with the spirits and rolled on the floor, she fainted and was revived, she sang in a strange language that no one understood. But everyone knew that she tried to heal him at the risk of losing her own soul. They knew, and they praised her even when the Chief died. The spirits that took him were too powerful, they said.
I took her home and helped her bathe and change her clothing, and then I asked what she had done.
‘I sent his soul to the infernal regions from whence he will never return.’ She turned her face to the wall and didn’t say another word.
I cooked some broth for her, for she was weak from her fast and then I went out to tend to the horses, because I knew she was exhausted and would sleep for a long time. I thought about what she had done and what her vision might had shown her. Soon afterward, the fever stopped and no animal or person fell ill.
I tended to the Shamanka, but I could see she was not recovering her strength. She did not talk to me about anything important, only small things, about my horses and the things they did. One day I said, ‘You are not improving, but you did not teach me how to do the things you know how to do.’
She thought for a while and said, ‘When you were a little girl, I saw you in my looking glass. You were a powerful leader, a Chieftain, though a woman.’
‘I am maimed and will be no leader,’ I said, ‘and the dead Chief’s younger brother will lead us now.’
She thought for a time, and said, ‘When I was young, I believed I could see the true future in my glass, but now I see there are only possibilities. The distant future itself can be changed according to our deeds.’ She sat up in her bed, under the skins, her blond hair tied in a thick braid, and I wanted to ask her so many things, but I saw she was struggling to stay awake.
‘Why don’t you get better?’ I shouted.
‘Because I have done a bad thing and no longer wish to live.’
‘No, your vision showed you he would cause more death and devastation. The evil was with him and not you.’
She sank back onto her pillows and finally said, ‘No. I waited many days and nights for a vision until I began to despair. I had given up, but then one day it came, and I saw that we would have many foolish leaders like the Chief, and that one day a yellow people would rise up, many in number, and ride over our lands until we were obliterated and lost to history. Few would know us, they would see the small things we left behind in our graves, but nothing would truly remain of us, not like the Hellenes nor the Seles, nor the people of the Indus. We are rich but warlike and spoiled, we leave nothing of value to the world, and even our gold stuffs are borrowed.’
‘And the Chief?’
‘I took that upon myself. If he had gone to battle again, it is certain he would have lost and caused the suffering and deaths of many. This way, the people are safe for a while. His brother is no warrior, and your life will be lived out in peace.’
‘But you said the future can be changed.’
‘Yes, but there are certain probabilities. I know the character of the dead Chief and of the new one. I know the people will be safe if no wars are fought.’
‘Then change your future and live!’
‘No. I am no better than he. I took one life, and he many, but the deed is done.’
‘What about me? What am I to do?’ I wiped the tears from my eyes.
‘Do what you want. Do what you choose to do.’ She closed her eyes and was asleep. She slept for three days and three nights, and then she was gone.