Oliver clamped his history book shut as he got to his feet in one swift motion. This was being played out by every other student in the class as well since the bell had just gone, it was the end of the day, at last.
Following the flow of students, Oliver made his way in the direction of his little locker and flung open its door, collecting his things. No homework, like usual. They had rarely gotten homework in this school. It being a small town, the teachers didn't seem to care as much, which was fine by Oliver, well, at least at the moment. All that he had on his mind now was that it was Wednesday and that meant that Hesper would be here to collect him. He wondered if she would even show up?
"There you are." He heard her smooth, dreamy voice speak through the crowds of students and parents at the front entrance of the school. Oliver dodged around a wandering kindergarten girl before he was able to look up and see her standing in the middle of the mass. She stood quite out of place, her long, deep blue gown and whit sweater flicking in the wind magnificently made everyone else's clothes seem dull. Her eyes were set on his like two miniature moons shimmering in the faint light of the sun through the clouds. It was easy to tell that she was not enjoying being around these people who were giving her strange glances over their shoulder every few seconds as if they were double checking that she hadn't deteriorated into thin air.
"Hesper!" He called as he pushed through the people to get to her. "How are you?" Before she could answer the question, Oliver felt something brush up against his leg. "Oh, and hello, Noelani!" The fox gave a strange, toothy grin.
People who were watching the interaction gave a disturbed look when they noticed the fox as well. Oliver spotted a women that looked down at the fox as if it were a pile of dog dung that she was about to step in. It almost wanted to make him laugh, and judging by the look on Hesper's face, she saw the women too and felt the same way. But instead of laughing, they just smiled.
"I'm fine, Oliver. Thank you for asking." The both of them were paying more attention to Noelani who was jumping up on his back legs and pawing at Oliver's knees with his front paws happily. Hesper laughed.
"He had been most excited about coming to visit you again. All day he couldn't stop- well- trying to talk about you... Poor chap. His tongue isn't too fond of the English words quite yet. But he's trying."
Oliver could see that this was very much true. The fox was twisting his lips in strange ways and was breathing a sound that sounded like 'O' over and over again breathlessly. He was trying to speak his name, Oliver knew this. At this point, it was impossible to not notice the people who had been obviously eavesdropping and were now whispering behind their hands to each other.
Hesper gave a wicked side glance at all of them which made them quite down a little. Turning back to Oliver, she spoke loudly for everyone who was listening to here. "Come, Oliver. Let's get going!"
Without another word, she turned swiftly on her heal, making her dress swoop in an elegant circle that made everyone around her back away. As she began to walk through the crowd that was clearing a way for her, she took her umbrella, that Oliver didn't know that she had had, and began to use it like a cane. Except, when she jammed the end onto the stone street with a clear, click, something rather odd happened. From where the ground and her umbrella touched, wisps of pale mist puffed out of nowhere, just like magic. Naturally, everyone noticed. Oliver smiled, knowing that she was doing this on purpose. But what he didn't know was whether she was trying to impress people or to scare them. If she was trying to impress, then she had failed.
Oliver watched her walk ahead in awe, admiring her mystical, proud figure step down the street, then snapped back to reality, realizing that he was supposed to follow her. Noelani tugged at his pant led to get him to hurry up. As they strode down the clear walkway that she had made after her, Oliver took in the many horrified faces that were turned to look at Hesper and fixed a smug smile upon his face. He was proud to know that a women as amazing as Hesper had requested him to join her at her home. He wasn't quite sure what she would ever need him for, but it made him feel he had a very important purpose. To spend time with a women just as powerful as herself. To be treated like an equal even though he wasn't exactly that. But as he found his spot at her side, a thought dawned on him... Was she going to teach him to be just like her? Oh, there was nothing that he wanted more in the world!
"Take this." Hesper thrust a big leather drum into one hand and a mallet into the other. "Sit."
Oliver did as he was told and immediately lowered himself into the chair behind him. He watched Hesper curiously as she shuffled a few items on one of her tables and lit a blue candle stick, the old wax from previous use dripping down the sides and pooling at the base. A memory struck him. He had seen her light candles like this before. He couldn't place his finger on it right away, but he figured it wouldn't take too much time since he had only been present in this house a few times. But he did not have time to think about it because Hesper had just turned back to him, waving her match out in the air.
"Listen now," She said as she sat on her bed. "When I close my eyes, you will rap lightly on that drum for about thirty seconds. After that, you will quicken the pace to a fast, constant rhythm for roughly five minutes. After that, you hit the drum with five sharp blasts and then resume lightly hitting it just like how you started... Got it?" Oliver sat dumbfounded for a moment, trying to analyse what she had just said. "Good!" She suddenly exclaimed and laid down in her bed, closing her eyes. Oliver immediately began his first instruction, and played a soft beat. "Now watch carefully," She said.
Time passed as he went through all the steps he had been told to follow. It seemed to be working, whatever the purpose was. Hesper laid there, dead to the world, her breaths deepening and her heart rate slowing. It was at this point that Oliver was wondering what he was supposed to be watching, her taking a nap?
Before he got too lost in thought, the soreness in his arm reminded him that five minutes was probably up and that he should probably carry out the final steps. He paused in his beat and gave five sharp blows like she requested then played a softer beat. He watched her as her eyes fluttered and she slowly came back to consciousness. Finally, her eyes snapped open and Oliver watched her pupils shrink to the light of the fire lit room, though he suspected that her eyes had added an additional glow as well.
"Ah." Hesper smiled as she sat up and got to her feet as if nothing had happened. "That was refreshing."
"Were... were you tired or something?" Oliver asked awkwardly as she walked past him, still clutching the drum and mallet.
"Me? Oh, no. I won't be tired for a while yet. I had a good sixteen hour snooze the other day."
"Sixteen hou-" Oliver choked in disbelief.
"I was just merely visiting..." Hesper interrupted. This disturbed Oliver a little more than the idea of a 'sixteen hour snooze'
"Visitin-" He was interrupted again.
"Do you, Oliver, know what the art of shamanism is?" She asked. Oliver was a little caught off guard at the question.
"Good, because I'm going to teach you," She said simply. Oliver didn't know what shamanism was, but it intrigued him. Perhaps the rest of this day would become much more interesting than how he thought.
"Listen to my voice." Oliver heard Hesper speak as if she were a distant echo. He now lay on her bed. He was a little reluctant at doing so, for whatever reason, but was actually found it to be quite comfy and was immediately relaxed. He wasn't quite sure what he was doing except to follow the instructions that Hesper was giving him. So far he needed to 'lay down, close your eyes and relax,' and of course, 'listen to my voice,' Easy enough so far.
"Let yourself slip deep into an empty thought..." She said. Okay, a little bit more complicated. "Focus on nothing but an inner peace..." There was a slight pause. "Now let all your worries leave you."
Hesper paused for a long while to let him complete this task. It was working, Oliver felt extremely relaxed. "Now in this peace, picture your favourite place to be. Imagine its sights, sounds, smells, feelings... Let it paint a picture in your mind... Good." She paused once more. "Now picture your soul stepping from your body."
If Oliver were fully awake, he would have found this order rather disturbing. But in his state, he did so without thinking. Hesper's voice was becoming an echo.
"Step into your sacred place, let it indulge you... and slip away..."
And that he did. He felt himself step out of nowhere into a most beautiful place. A place entirely his own. As Hesper had said, his sacred place. He stood on the bank of a little river that ran over the long hills of grass. The river flowed off into the distance before the horizon of mountains swallowed it from his view. Above him, the sky was a clear blue, but thunder clouds could be seen rolling in the distance. It was perfect.
Oliver just stood and took in the sights, sounds, feeling and smells, wishing that he could stay here forever, alone with his thoughts. But that did not last long. Suddenly he sensed that he wasn't alone. There was a sound, the sound of something disturbing the majestic swaying noise of the long grass. He had heard this once before. Without warning, a wolf emerged from the wall of grass on the other side of the river. Though Oliver had had a bad past with wolves, he was not afraid of this one, and neither was it. Oliver just stared into the intense golden eyes of the gray and tan furred wolf as it stared back.
As Oliver stared deep into those fierce yet friendly eyes, something strange took place. He felt his limbs lengthening and bending differently; his face lengthening with his teeth growing into fangs; fur sprouting from all over his body. Before he knew it, he stood on four legs, his paws sinking into the moist soil of the river bank, his claws touching the cold water ever so slightly. He now stood as a wolf.
They were like opposites. The other wolf's fur being a bright colour and Oliver's was a deep brown. And their eyes matched up to be the opposing colours of silver and gold. But no matter the differences in appearance, there was something connected between the two of them.
Oliver leaped across the river easily with his long, powerful legs. Him and the bright furred wolf gave yips of joy as they bounded together through the long, drying grass. Oliver felt amazing. The grass sweeping at his sides along his thick coat as he pressed his huge paws into the ground with each stride, pushing himself a great distance forth with each stroke. With his long, pink tongue lolling in the head wind that his speed was creating, he looked over at the bright furred wolf who ran just a few feet beside him. Their eyes met for a second before-
Oliver sat up with a gasp, drenched in sweat. Blinking his eyes several times, he realize that he was sitting in Hesper's bed inside her house. He looked to his right to see her still sitting in the chair next to the bed, smiling.
"Well that was abrupt," She said with a soft chuckle.
"What?" Oliver gasped, catching his breath.
"Do you know where you just were?" She asked.
"Not quite. Now what did you see? Where were you?"
"I was standing next to the river bank..." He replied, looking off at nothing and remembering the perfect sight.
"Were you alone?" She surveyed. Oliver eyed her, suspicious at how she knew all the right questions to ask.
"No," He replied.
"What was with you?" She was scribbling with a feathered quill on a thick piece of paper as she listened to his answers. Was this some kind of test?
"A- a wolf," Oliver said shyly, not knowing if there was a right or wrong answer. Hesper only smiled to herself as she scribbled a few more words down.
"As I thought..." She spoke almost under her breath.
"What do you mean by that?"
"I mean that I thought you would be approached by a wolf..."
"So..." Oliver tried to think of something witty to say, but couldn't," What does that mean?" Again, Hesper laughed. But this time she dotted the end of her sentence and looked up at him.
"Do you know what a shaman is?" She suddenly asked.
"No...?" Oliver said.
"Hmph!" She folded her paper in half neatly before continuing, "Well get used the term, because I just taught you how to be one."
"What?!" Oliver was furious to have all his questions answered. He got up from the bed and pulled a chair up across from Hesper. He sat and looked at he eagerly. Hesper just eyed him.
"Comfy?" She almost laughed. Oliver smiled as well.
"Just tell me," He ordered. Hesper nodded.
"Alright," She filled her chest up with air, "Shamanism is being able to travel in your spirit form..." She paused to check that Oliver wasn't going to interrupt. He sat inventively, craving her every word. Good, good. "You're spirit travels to a place called your sacred space. It is your most favourite place in the waking world."
Hesper paused. She played with her fingers that were topped with nails stained blue.
"And?" Oliver suddenly burst out. It made Hesper jump in her seat and fix Oliver in a frightened gaze.
"And?" She asked.
"More. There is more isn't there?" He urged.
"Hmm..." She thought, fixing her strange nails on her chin, "Oh, yes! You're power animal. That is your wolf!"
"A power animal?"
"Precisely. It is the animal that reflects your soul the most!" She chimed. Oliver sat and thought for a moment. A wolf? He wasn't exactly proud of this. Considering his history with the animals, he thought them as savage beats. Vicious and arrogant.
"What's your power animal?" He asked quietly, distracting himself from his thoughts.
"An owl," She said as she got up and organized a few dishes on her counter. Oliver liked the sound of an owl better. There was a silence that was only filled with the sound of clanking cutlery as Hesper placed her clean dishes in drawers and cabinets. Oliver caught her gaze flicker up through the window after she placed her last fork away. The glow of her irises intensified as her eyes widened. Quickly glancing down at an old, golden watch loosely attached to her wrist, she shuffled over to several hooks on the wall that held her bow, arrows and jacket.
"Come, come. Time to go!" She ushered him out of his chair and slid it back next to the table where it belonged.
"Already?" Oliver whined.
"Yes, Oliver. It will be dark soon," She said while strapping her jacket on. "We don't want to take any risks..." Oliver knew exactly what the risk was.
"The wolves," He spoke quietly.
"Yes, Oliver... The wolves."