“No,” he whispered, “it cannot be done.”
Calling back the dead was beyond his powers.
“But you’re our shaman,” she wept, “if you can’t bring back our son, then who can?”
He sighed inwardly. This was not the first time. He was just as distraught as she was over the dead child, but he knew that the line between this world and the next was a nebulous one, and any time that he crossed over to seek answers for the tribe, there was always a danger that he would join the ancestral spirits in their misty ether for good. Any request to borrow their strength or knowledge left him drained for at least three market days. She knew this, and she would always be solicitous in his recovery, for she knew it was his sacred duty to guard the tribe. A shaman could never use his powers for anything personal. And here she was, begging for the return of their son, even though she had seen his strength wane with the passing of years.
He held her tighter, despite knowing her tears would not abate with his touch. He loved them so much, with a fierceness that he’d never felt until Nwo had been born. Nwo made them a family, flesh of their flesh, blood of their blood. He’d felt so much pride at every little thing thing that Nwo did, from his gentle gurgle to his first tentative steps to his learning to hunt for wild cat, the thing that would mark him as a man in a mere three weeks if only the accident hadn’t happened. He was too far away, but he could still see Nwo’s petrified eyes beseeching him for help that could not come in time.
“Nwo, Nwo,” he called silently in his heart for the thousandth time that day, “Your mother weeps every day, and your father’s heart is heavy. Send a sign and comfort your parents who have loved you so much.”
The silence in a shaman’s heart is a learnt art, an impenetrable fortress, for to let in the tiniest stray thought would be to invite Death to hunt with you. Even with his implorings, he heard no echo in the vast cavern, but felt only the crushing despair all good fathers felt of having failed to protect their offspring, of having their firstborn wrenched from this world. He envied his wife for her free flowing tears. A shaman who lived for the tribe would never enjoy the liberty of tears like a woman.
“I can’t bring him back, but I will try to speak with him tomorrow. Ask our forefathers to watch over him in the next world.” It was a humid night, but an icy chill descended his spine as he said this.
He felt her sobs ease with his promise. He held her tighter. It would be the last time he could embrace her in his arms like this. He loved his wife, but he now knew that Nwo missed his father too much.