System Admin Note: Documents in this series come from translations drawn from the pre-technological societies in Multiverse 163, or the world from the station core’s Inkosi Tiikeri books. Please make certain you notate the date of retrieval, the initials of the data collector, and the date of publication.
Ludger settled down onto the hard packed dirt floor near the hearth. The rest of the steading was gone – the men on their hunt and the women doing whatever it was they did when the men left. The only ones still inside were Ludger and his master, the broad shouldered shaman Halvdan.
The two sat facing each other in silence for several minutes. Finally Halvdan looked at him. “It is time for your first test,” he said in his deep, gruff voice. “To prove to me you are still a worthy student.”
“What is it you wish of me, Master?” Ludger asked. He knew he must sound a little sullen. The seventeen year old didn’t want to be stuck inside with the shaman. He’d been planning on joining the hunt until Ortwin stopped him.
Halvdan’s eyes narrowed. “Your test is to call to a spirit and see if you can coax it into answering,” he said. “If you can’t do that at your current skill you are worthless as a Shaman and will be sent back to your mother’s hearth.”
Ludger cringed. His mother was already displeased with him over his lack of progress. “Lazy, useless lump,” she often called him. Even when he tried to step into his missing father’s place, as the eldest son should, but Agathe wouldn’t let him. She was always pushing him away, trying to get him into trouble with both his teacher and the leader of the steading.
Ludger knew becoming a shaman was the only thing that would save him from banishment from his home and family, if you wanted to call this band of people who were, at best, disinterested in him a family. He took a few deep breaths and tried to settle himself into the calm that was supposed to come with summoning a spirit.
Ludger tried for several minutes but nothing happened. Halvdan sighed. “Perhaps you do not have the potential I thought I saw in you,” he began.
Ludger wasn’t paying attention to his teacher’s words. In the distance, he heard childlike laughter. He began casting around with his magic, seeking the source. A log in the fire broke and sparks flew out into the room.
One tiny, nearly invisible spark flew over in front of him. Ludger’s eyes were fixed on this tiny dot of light. He watched as it grew to the size of a small bird. It laughed again at him and introduced itself as a fire spirit.
“I have never seen anything like you before,” Ludger said, his voice barely above a whisper behind the tangle of his newly grown mustache. His thick, stubby fingers twitched as his desire to touch the spirit momentarily overwhelmed him. He knew better though and tried to settle down into some semblance of calm.
The spirit laughed again. “Fire” and “calm” were hardly synonymous with each other. “True,” Ludger replied with a smile. “However, if I cannot control myself I cannot speak to you like a reasonable person.”
The spirit inclined its head. It asked him what he was trying to accomplish. Ludger explained what his test was. He told it about how his future was no longer his own because the Fates put his feet on this path, and he didn’t want to disappoint the gods even though he’d never wanted to be a shaman to begin with.
The spirit asked him why. Ludger found it hard to put into words, so he allowed the little spirit into his mind. As it – she, Ludger realized, the spirit held a female aspect – rummaged around she made several unhappy noises at the way his mother treated him. She also gave him a good scolding for his thoughts on Halvdan, who was a mighty shaman and deserved more respect than he actually gave him.
Finally, the spirit withdrew. She was quiet for a moment, and then asked Ludger if he knew something of his future importance would he consider being a shaman a worthwhile position? Ludger snorted. “I’m the unwanted son of a foolhardy man who abandoned his wife and children. I have no status, and even as a shaman it’s doubtful I’ll have the kind of authority you’re talking about,” he said with some bitterness. “How can my future be anything but one step above pure revulsion from those in my steading?”
The fire spirit asked him again if he wanted to see wanted to see a glimpse of his future. Ludger finally said yes. Images washed over him – pictures of a flame haired man and a woman with skin the color of coal; a towering set of gates that so repulsed him he felt like vomiting; a snowstorm that seemed fit to bury more than just the steading but everything in the whole land; a strange looking feline far more massive than even the largest wolves in the territory around the steading; and finally, the impression he stood beside that same flame haired man as an advisor and a friend.
“This is what the gods have in store for me?” Ludger whispered, awed by what he’d seen. The spirit told him they were possibilities, but only if he embraced the path the Fates put him on to achieve them. Ludger closed his eyes briefly and then opened them, the crystal green full of determination. “Then I will accept this path. I will see these people and do these things. I’ll be a powerful shaman and earn the respect of those around me, even if the steading never accepts me fully.”
The spirit told him that she was leaving him a gift and that he now needed to return to the Overworld. It took Ludger a moment to realize he’d been conversing with her in the narrow strip of existence between the realm of the gods and the mortal plane. He nodded and, with her help, sent himself back to his body.
“…Really don’t think you deserve to be my student, Ludger,” Halvdan was saying. “You cannot even summon a spirit.”
“Are you so certain, Master?” Ludger asked. He felt something in his hand and looked down. A fire opal the size of an egg rested in his palm. It was twisted by fire – the only way these stones could be formed – into the shape of a lynx roaring. He held up the token. “I have seen much, Master. I now know why the gods gave me my gift and the Fates put me on this path. I will not fail those who will come to depend on me. I will be a powerful shaman, and those who doubt me can rot in Helvete’s halls.”
Halvdan stared at the lynx in his hand. “You were granted more than just a vision, my student. You’ve been bound to a path by the gods and the spirits I do not think you’re prepared to walk.”
“That is why you are here, Master,” Ludger said. “To give me some guidance. Else I will falter and fail, and bring dishonor to myself.”
Halvdan raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you mean to yourself and your family?”
Ludger shook his head. “No Master, I don’t,” he said. “My mother considers me less of a man than my father, no matter how hard I try to help the family. So I will now no longer allow her to influence my life. I am a shaman, and as you’ve said on numerous occasions, shamans walk alone among mortals but in good company among the spirits.”
Halvdan nodded. “You are ready,” he said. “Tie that stone around your neck as a reminder of that path, of your oath to the spirits and the gods, and we will continue our lessons.”
“Yes Master,” Ludger said. He went back to his sleeping area and retrieved a long piece of leather thong and some smaller fire opal beads. It didn’t take long to wrap the stone securely in a web made of leather and beadwork. Agathe would most likely try to take it from him, but this was his first gift from the spirits. Only death would take it from him.