Originally published in Sensory Overload #10, from Neon RainBow Press
Author's Note: a missing scene from the episode "Warriors."
Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters, I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. That's it, typing practice. I'll return them to their actual owners (relatively) undamaged. This is an amateur work of fiction; no profit beyond pleasure was derived from the writing.
by Susan M. M.
"We cannot return our brother to the land of his fathers. His body must rest in a strange land…" Blair Sandburg stumbled over the unfamiliar ritual.
"He must rest in a strange land," Jim Ellison and the Chopec warriors chanted in unison. They stood in a circle around a fresh grave mound, hidden in a glade in the national park just north of Cascade, Washington.
"His spirit must be free to return home. Let his grave drink our blood. Let his spirit follow the taste of our blood home," Blair read from the index cards where he had written the funeral ritual phonetically.
"His spirit will follow our blood home," they chanted.
One of the Chopec warriors pulled out a knife. Blair watched nervously as the Indian cut his forearm, handed the knife to the next man, and then squeezed his arm to force the blood to drip onto the grave. The second Indian followed suit.
Staring with morbid fascination, quotes from Crocodile Dundee ran through his mind. Blair tried to remember how long a tetanus shot was good for. He tried not to think about germs for exotic jungle fevers, and consoled himself that the Chopec were at extremely low risk for AIDS exposure.
The knife made its way around the circle. Each Chopec warrior in turn bled onto the grave, binding Incacha to them and their people at home.
Jim rolled up his sleeve as the knife approached. "You gonna be okay with this, Chief?" the cop asked quietly.
"Don't worry, Jim. I won't embarrass you by wimping out in front of your friends," Blair whispered back.
"I'm not worried." His voice was calm and confident. One of the Chopec warriors handed him the bloody knife. As Jim made a shallow cut in his left arm, Blair rolled up his own sleeve.
Jim handed Blair the knife, then squeezed his arm, letting the blood flow freely onto the grave.
The anthropologist stared at the weapon in his hand. He gulped. He licked his lips. He hadn't realized until he had it in his hand how large and heavy it was. Participant-observer, he reminded himself. I'm participating.
"Doesn't have to be deep," Jim reminded him. "Did you want me to do it?"
"No, I'll do it." Steeling himself to the effort, he drew the knife against his arm. Blood welled up from the scratch… or dripped down from the blade, he couldn't decide which. Determined not to shame Jim in front of the Chopec warriors, he increased the pressure, gritting his teeth against the pain as he cut deeper.
"That's enough," Jim said. Blair tried to hand Jim the knife, but the sentinel stepped back, raising his hands in a warding-off gesture. "Not me, Jiroc."
"Of course, the circle must be completed," Blair realized. He reached over, returning the knife to the Indian who had started the circle. "Deosil, not widdershins." Wincing, he squeezed his blood onto the grave as the others had.
Jiroc thrust the blade into the loose soil of the grave mound. He spoke quickly, too quickly for Blair's very limited Chopec vocabulary.
"What did he say?" Blair whispered.
"The knife knows we are of one blood," Jim translated. "The knife carries that blood to our brother."
"What's he saying now?"
"He's telling how Incacha helped him overcome his father-in-law's objections and win his bride," Jim explained.
They went around the circle again, each man sharing a memory of the shaman: how he had cured a child of illness, his fondness for bad puns, a hunting accident when he had saved a life. When they came around to Jim, he spoke in Chopec, and did not translate his words for Blair. Then it was Sandburg's turn.
"Incacha was the friend of my friend, and the brother of my brother," Blair said. "He liked my music. I… I wish I'd known him better."
Jim translated Blair's eulogy for the others. They nodded their approval of the sentinel's young guide.
Once the eulogies had finished, Jiroc split the group in two. Half stayed to guard the grave, half went hunting.
"Isn't it illegal to hunt in a national park?" Blair asked. "Isn't that poaching?"
"I doubt the park rangers could catch them," Jim said. "If they do, I'll try to make it right. A funeral meal is traditional. It helps connect the mourners back to everyday living."
Blair nodded. In many occult traditions, fasting was normal before esoteric or spiritual rituals – such as binding the shaman's soul to his comrades' blood – and eating a meal helped ground them back to the secular, the mundane, once the ritual was accomplished.
"After we finish here, I'll make arrangements for them to get back to Peru," Jim said.
"Wonder how they'll react to their first airplane ride?" Blair mused.
Jim shook his head. "Boat. Even if I could afford plane tickets for all of them, I think it would freak them out too much. 'Big canoe' they can understand, even though it means taking longer to get home."
Blair nodded. After all, they'd gotten to Cascade by stowing away on a cargo boat. He had no idea how they had coped with journeying from their village in the rainforest to the coast, nor how they had found a boat going to the right place so they could get Jim's help.
"By the way, Chief, helping Jiroc with the funeral, filling in as acting shaman," Jim Ellison said, "ya done good."
A small pedantic corner of the Ph. D. candidate's mind wanted to correct the detective's grammar. It should be: 'You did well.' But only a small part. The rest of the guide's body – not just his face, but his whole body – was too busy beaming at his sentinel's approval.