Chapter 52

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"As we spied on the shaman and apprentice, we witnessed a rather intriguing shrix root lesson. And so later," Teshin said, a glint in his eye, "we decided to try it on our own. Because, well . . ."

"Fourteen and bored," Leithan finished for him.

"Precisely," Teshin said with a grin. "That's when it all started. We loved it, of course. Had some great times. We spied on them again, stole from them, too. Not enough to get caught. And then, eventually, when it wasn't enough, we went to Clan of the Snake to steal from their shaman's stash."

Leithan nodded, amused. "Clever."

"We thought so too," Teshin said. "And we still didn't get caught."

Teshin hesitated, seemed to think about what he wanted to say next. They both drank a bit more. By now, the Red Flame had warmed Leithan, and a fun glow was settling in his chest. Leith drank some water, too. And he opened a pack of roasted almonds.

"Skip ahead a few seasons," Teshin said. "We actually – well, it was Xefen really, but I was in it too – we coerced the shaman into taking us as apprentices. To teach us everything he knew about the klar."

"How'd you do that?" Leithan asked before popping an almond into his mouth.

"We threatened him," Teshin admitted. "Well, we threatened to tell everyone about the klar."

Leithan wanted to clarify, "So, when you say we . . .?"

"Xefen did," Teshin corrected. "But I was there the whole time, and I wasn't complaining. Anyway, by then, Xefen had already decided that these rules and traditions – all this ancestral mysticism and the whole maintaining of the shaman persona – to him, that was all nonsense."

"So for a while," Teshin continued, folding his legs and turning to face Leithan, "that's how it was. Just us, the apprentice, and the shaman. Xef was true to his word, at first. Well, that's not entirely right. We did tell our sisters."

Leithan smiled. "Could've guessed that."

"Nalia already knew, it turns out," Teshin said, shrugging. "She was the clan leader's son's yaklizi. Mikai . . . she wasn't too interested in the klar at first. That came later."

Leithan saw Teshin's eyes venturing to the pack of almonds, and handed it over to share. Teshin threw a couple into his mouth, taking a little break from the story.

In the sky, Leith thought he glimpsed a shooting star, though he couldn't be sure. Still, it made him smile.

"You already told me about Nalia," Leithan reminded. "Well, a part of it."

"I should fill in the blanks," Teshin said. "She was the opposite of Xefen. She cared deeply about traditions and respecting them. She didn't approve of what Xefen was doing. You see – sorry, I skipped over this bit – he started telling people. We had a group of friends, and we basically . . . we partied and got high a lot."

Leithan laughed. "Figures."

"Yeah, so, when the shaman died – oh, I skipped over something else too. This is hard." Teshin pressed a hand to his temple.

"What'd you skip?" Leithan asked, gently.

"The clan leader died first. Making Nalia's yaklizi the new one. And when the shaman died, Nalia's man chose the other apprentice to be the next shaman, instead of Xefen or myself, which I really didn't blame him for."

"But Xefen did?" Leithan asked.

Teshin wore a slight frown. "Not really. But he . . . stopped caring. Completely. He told everyone about the klar – anyone that was interested. We roamed Elissi and Ashira, gathering klar on a daily basis to make sure there was enough for everyone who wanted some. No more of that shaman-and-apprentice-only rule. Oh, and Mikai started coming with me on those klar picking sessions."

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