Superman meets a young and unconventional shaman in Minhay.
|The band of Wolf Speakers had been pursuing the two Ín Duári men for a span of three days. But now the Wolf Speakers had closed in on their prey, cutting them off from the mountain pass that led to their refuge in the thick forests of the Lower Kilmay Rī. But then the Kryptonian swooped from the skies and drove off the Ín Duári's pursuers. The Ín Duári fell to the ground and bowed, thanking him in their tongue, almost hysterically. The Wolf Speakers, had they succeeded, would have tortured them before killing them. But once again, Superman had saved the day.
He flew off and found a pleasant field ringed by a hardwood forest in Dog Speaker Country, less than a hundred miles from the eastern seaboard. He landed and admired the view. He had flown many times over Minhay, but this was only the second time he landed in the country and stayed for more than a few seconds. The forest was enticing, and he strode into its depths.
"I had expected you'd arrive by now," a voice in the woods startled him. He was surprised his super hearing did not earlier catch the sound of the person concealed among the trees. But now he knew the direction of the sound, and so he called out.
"There's no need to fear. Come out and let's talk." He was surprised the stranger spoke in English.
"I am comfortable where I'm sitting, and in any case I have my tools around me. You'll be able to find me without any problem." The voice was tinged with sarcasm.
Superman pushed aside some low-hanging branches aside and with his X-ray vision, he spotted a lad, perhaps fifteen or so, through the forest cover. He was dressed in ragged jeans and a grimy tee-shirt of a rock band. Beside him lay assorted paints and brushes spread out on the blanket he had placed on the ground.
The Kryptonian approached the edge of the blanket. "May I join you?" he asked.
The young man simply pointed at the corner of the blanket with one of his brushes, then resumed painting, as if he were oblivious that Earth's most powerful superhero was beside him. Nevertheless, Superman tried to strike a conversation with him. "My name is Superman," he said in greeting.
"No shit, Sherlock," was all the young man said. Then he looked up, his lip curled in a slight smirk. "So this is your first time in Dog Speaker Country?"
"Yes, it is. This is a beautiful country you have here." He paused, then asked, "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."
"You didn't catch it because I didn't give it." Then the sarcastic tone softened a bit in the young man's voice. "In the capital Aškuan, I am Patrick O'Malley. And in Hara Prefecture, I am Ummali min Perrek. But right now, we are in Nassaškub Prefecture, and so I have no name."
He carefully laid his brush and canvas aside and gave Superman his undivided attention. "Congratulations for driving away the Wolf Speakers. Congratulations for saving the Ín Duári they were pursuing. Nevertheless, you are arrogant in thinking you were helping Minhay."
Superman protested. "How can you say that? Those men were about to be murdered in cold blood!"
Patrick O'Malley/Ummali min Perrek looked to the side and shook his head, with a snort that said: "You think you understand, but you understand nothing." He turned back to the Kryptonian. "Tell me, Clark Kent, what have been the ramifications of your interventions here in Minhay? You have come here twice already. I worry what your third visit will bring."
"How did you - how do you know my name?" Clark asked, stunned.
"If I told you, you would not believe me, Kal-El," Perrek answered.
"So you also know my birth name," Clark said tartly.
Perrek sighed. "You are not Minhast. And for that, I worry that you will also be sloppy with the name your totem gave you, the one he commanded you to keep close to your heart." He turned around and reached for the sketchbook that lay behind him.
Clark, unnerved, turned the conversation back to the topic of his rescue of the Ín Duári. With a steely edge to his voice, he said, "I saved the lives of two men from a band of criminals who were going to kill them. How can you dismiss that so cavalierly?"
"You still haven't told me the ramifications, so now I will tell you. When you first came here, you saved a village from being destroyed by an avalanche. It was a Wolf Speaker village, the same tribe of those men that set out to kill the Ín Duári."
"Do you mean to tell me you think that I should have let the villagers die because of that?" Clark asked incredulously.
"That avalanche was caused by Kaymawākan. Now he is enraged. He does not suffer those who meddle in her affairs"
"Where can I find this Kaymawākan? Tell me and I will speak to him."
"That which is dead will not be dissuaded. She will not listen to you, no matter how much you implore him."
"Wait, what do you mean 'That which is dead will not be dissuaded'? Stop talking in riddles! And who is 'she'?"
"She is he, he is she. And I spoke no riddle, but you don't understand, because you are not Minhast." Perrek reached for his water bottle, unscrewed the cap, and took a swig. "Not only have you poured fuel into the fires of Kaymawākan's wrath, you have inflamed the Wolf Speakers. They will pursue their war against the Ín Duári even more ruthlessly."
Then Perrek opened his sketchbook. He flipped through the pages, each divided into frames with scenes crowded with superheroes fighting supervillains. He finally stopped at one page, one filled with the figures of twelve people, each dressed in the traditional native clothing of the people of each of the Twelve Karaks of Minhay. Then he gave it to Superman.
"Who are these people?" he asked.
"They are the Ikkūne, the ones who occupy the twelve seats of the War Council. These are not good people, and yet with your meddling today, you have increased their power threefold."
"I still don't know what you're talking about!" Clark said exasperated.
Perrek took the book back from Clark's hands. He reached behind again and took something out of his bookbag. It was a short, thick stick with carvings gracing its entire surface. He offered it to the superhero. "Here, take."
"What is it?"
"It is a raknēsippī. In your language, a traveler stick. You will need it soon."
"What do you mean?" the confused Kryptonian said.
Then with surprising force, Perrek grabbed Clark's shoulders and brought him inches before his face.
"Kal-El, look into my eyes."
Superman was surprised when he felt his strength leave him as he fell through pupils that had grown into giant black windows. He couldn't break his fall, and the shock he felt when his body struck the ground sent agony shooting through every nerve. It took nearly an hour before he could struggle to his feet and stand.
He scanned the desolate plateau he had landed in. The skies were a dull gray, even though he could see no clouds. He tried to magnify his view, and to his surprise, found himself unable to.
The sharp shriek of a horse rang in the air, followed by the thunder of hooves. In the distance, he watched a great cloud of dust approach rapidly towards him. For the first time in his life, he felt the fear of mortality quiver in his heart. He jumped to take to the sky, but he fell to the ground hard. He panicked as he scrambled to his feet, but it was too late.
The cloud halted before him, and out stepped a magnificent stallion, with supple coal-black fur shimmering a glossy sheen despite the gray skies.
"You are in the Turħatūman, the Spirit World," the Black Horse said. "Show me the raknēsippī the shaman gave you."
Clark obeyed and presented the traveler stick before the Dark Lord. The Black Horse examined it, sniffed it, and satisfied, turned his attention to the superhero. "I dislike entering the affairs of the Asumpuħtakmanaft, the Ones Who Stand on Two Legs, but this is one of those situations where I must step in." He neighed and shook his head. "The shaman says that he spoke plainly with you, but you have trouble understanding. I can understand why that would be so. You see yourself as a crusader for good, for justice, for what is right, and it guides your actions. You see everything as black and white..."
"But everything is really just shades of gray, is that it? I've heard this conversation before, so spare me - "
The Black Horse's glare cut through Kal-El's soul like a knife, silencing him. "As I said, I can understand your failure to understand, but regardless, I have my duties to dispense. In pursuing that which you believe should be, you have created imbalance, and I cannot allow that to continue. Your deeds threaten the Realm of Existence, which I am charged to protect."
"Saving the lives of two men today will threaten all of existence? Saving the lives of the villagers who would have died in that avalanche will also do that? I don't believe that for a minute!"
"Of course you wouldn't, Kryptonian. Even though you are an alien, you were still raised in a small community, and you still think as they think. So perhaps if I explained it another way, you will understand. The shaman told you that Kaymawākan caused that avalanche. You saved the villagers. But the Ghost Deer refused to be denied his revenge. Instead, she later went on a rampage and destroyed five villages and four towns. You saved a village of fifty people and as a result, now almost a thousand people have been impaled by her antlers. He did not kill just the warriors, she did not spare the elderly or the children either.
"In inflaming Kaymawākan's wrath, all of Wolf Speaker Country trembles in even more fear. Did you not learn that fear makes a cornered wolf even more dangerous? You saved the two Ín Duári men, and yet they have still entered the Turħatūman, cut down by Wolf Speaker swords, along with five hundred more. Those two men whose lives you saved for a mere speck in time inadvertently led other Wolf Speakers to the hiding places of those five hundred people who died.
"And the twelve Ikkūne will point at your actions as another example of foreigners scheming to destroy Minhay. And of course the Prefectures and the Karaks will listen to this and will take out their fury on Aškuan and the City Speakers, who suffer enough as it is already. You have increased the War Council's political power! And the Ikkūne do not fight like you. You wield your alien powers to defeat your enemies, but they use guile and cunning to disarm theirs. They have already done that with you already, and you are totally unaware of it.
"In trying to help Minhay, you have made an even bigger mess!" The Black Horse ended his lecture, then turned around and began walking away. But for one last time he turned his head back to the Man of Steel. "Next time reflect more carefully when you decide when and where you intervene. Any more wrecklessness, any more imbalance you create, and I will be forced to summon you back to the Turħatūman. And if that happens, it will not be for the purpose of giving advice."
And then he turned and faded as he walked across the plateau.
"Wake up, Kal-El." Perrek's voice yanked Clark out of the trance. Kal-El tried to get back his feet, steadying himself against Perrek's body, his weak and shaking legs nearly collapsing from under him.
"Here, sit back down. A visit from the Black Horse is always a difficult thing. Every time I speak with him it takes me days to regain my strength." Perrek then sat on his haunches as he observed the Man of Steel struggle to recover from his encounter with the Black Horse. It was only after two hours passed that Superman could shakily get back to his feet.
He leaned against a tree and panted as he stared blankly at the young shaman as he gathered his art and other belongings.
Perrek turned to Clark. "I must leave now. You will be fully recovered soon." He paused, then added, "Kal-El, please do not return to our country. Minhay has suffered enough from your help already." Then he began his return to his home in Aškuan.