The One Who Sees
Copyright 2011 Jodi Ralston
Short Blurb: After nearly drowning in a magic lake, young Osan can see the souls dwelling inside people, and he discovers they are in the wrong bodies and have been so since birth. Mythic Fantasy Novelette, 18,000 words approx.
Osan understood, slowly, yes, but he understood. Villagers, both large and small, young and old, wilted under his attention as if he were Shaman--Eldest Shaman-- ready with a curse to match any small insult. They did not speak at all, as if afraid to know him.
Family--his body-family--met his gaze with wooden faces. Met his greetings with wooden voices. Called him Shaman.
Not Osan, not family.
Perhaps because he was not family. Long before Osan was born, Eldest Shaman had been someone else: Tomar's wife's twin-brother. Then he was reborn and was not Ula's twin anymore.
Osan had been reborn.
He must not be Osan anymore.
Then who was he?
What was he?
And what was Olas?
His questions and his feet both took him to where he was alone but not alone. The great wooden figure of First Brother stood there in the field, taller than any canoe. Osan had never stared into the protector's eyes before; hadn't dared.
Time had softened First Brother's face just as time had shrunk the Lake. How could First Brother see anything, much less watch over the entire village? Why did no one do anything to stop this destruction?
Perhaps First Brother had always been this way, blind from the first moment He stepped into the Lake, when it had been vast and deadly without Lakefaces. From when he stepped into the Lake and became more than a flawed man. From when He prayed to became wood to bear His sister, heavy with His niece, away from the slaughter of their village and toward the safety of their distant cousin-tribe of legend. Or perhaps it happened after, when she hauled Him from the water and planted Him in the village before giving into labor pains. Or perhaps it happened when no one would look Him in the eyes anymore, not the cousin-tribe who came and believed First Sister's tale of a simple man's sacrifice and not her husband or her children or her children's children. It happened when no one saw Him anymore.
When He lost His name.
That was how Rood found him, staring up at First Brother who could no longer stare back, looking for answers he was too dense to find.
"Come with me," Rood said, rubbing his chin hard: not pleased. Disciplining a daughter must be trying; being someone you were not was always trying, after all. At least, though, Rood did not speak wooden-voiced.