Siuvai returned to Gale Heights with an ancient denizen and a brand new name. Siuvai the Hurricane. It had a fierce ring to it, as if it represented a warrior or a dancer, someone in constant motion, a roaring force.
Everything Siuvai was not.
The denizen, Procella, churned within her totem, her power settled in Siuvai’s veins willingly, though with a discomfort that had made it difficult for Siuvai to sleep in the days since he’d found and freed the ancient force.
Gale Heights did little to settle his blood either. The great Heaven Falls poured into the sky betwixt Watertown and the Heights, its booming voice not as tranquil as it’d once been. In the other direction, Ashburg burned on through the night, flames of the tallest buildings licking at the undersides of the Steamstone Bridgeway that rose to the Height’s hovering islands.
Siuvai could occasionally feel the heat from the steam whenever the gusts whipping and whistling through the islands dragged it in its wake. Not for the first time, Siuvai considered moving closer to the other side of the city where crystallized homes wafted a chillier, dryer air upward into Gale Heights. Perhaps there he would find what he was looking for. Then again, leaving the Heights in favor of the serene lakes at the base of Watertown might prove more worthwhile.
When he finally found sleep it was out there upon his veranda, the never-ending roar of the Heaven Falls a crushing lullaby and the turbulent winds of Procella sweeping around his house, emptying the void his home had felt since Verravia.
He woke to Procella as well, a splash of sea-rain spraying against his face to alert him someone stood at the door. Siuvai pushed to his feet with a reluctance that sank all the way to his bones. With mind lagging still, he took his time straightening himself out before stepping off the veranda and inside the house proper. There he paused.
Procella had been busy. Her totem, freshly carved with swirling streaks of grey, hung swaying in satisfaction from his mantel above the hearth. His house could be aptly described as a disaster zone. The outer walls shook with a frenzy not seen since Saburranae, while oft-moving spinning columns pulsed throughout the room. Siuvai closed his eyes briefly as one such hurricane-strength column swept over his bathing area, spitting a jet of water across his small library and the dining table beyond.
“Procella, please,” he murmured.
Her columns settled into more understandable and predictable patterns, shifting around the edges of the bathing space, the library and the sleeping area to give a sense of privacy within those sections of his house. The floor remained a slippery mess, spotted with ink-blurred paper, unworn clothes and odds and ends that Nim, Verravia or Mirrimati would have never thrown about. Procella swirled even more, that disconnect between them growing, yet her strength dimming. With another murmur, this time in apology, Siuvai stepped up to the door and willed the whirling wind and rain to part. It did, with a last spit that blew directly into the face of the man standing just outside the house.
“My apologies,” said Siuvai instantly, “I’m terrible at—”
“Connecting with your denizens,” finished the man as he wiped a hand down his face. “Yes, I know.”
Siuvai cocked his head, then leaned against the whirling hurricane that was his door frame for the time being. Appraising the man, Siuvai said, “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
“Not yet,” agreed the man. He wiped his wet hand against gray-blue pants that smelled of salt and sun and cocktails flavored with orange. “But I am here to make your acquaintance.” He checked his hand, then held it out. “Naiysu the Baywater.”
An unfamiliar mortal name, though Siuvai had studied enough to suspect Baywater was in reference to the water denizen Aestuari.
Naiysu himself could not claim handsomeness in the most classical sense of the word, though his round face clung to a youthful babyness that the stubble he maintained only marginally diminished. His eyes were a striking blue, with just enough of a hint of green that they seemed to change color at times when the gale-force winds far above their heads blew clouds over the sun. He had a compactness about him and though he was of average height, that compactness made him seem shorter. His manner, unassuming and confident, also held an aura of passivity about it, as if Naiysu would be content to watch events unfold as they may despite knowing full well what might come of them. His smile, bland yet patient, did not reach the depths of his gorgeous eyes.
Siuvai took his hand in a firm grip, then just as quickly released him. “Siuvai, the Hurricane.”
Naiysu’s gaze flickered just so, enough Siuvai suspected the man had caught on to the slight hesitation before Siuvai had finished his introduction. The walls to their either side gave a rush, a howling that sprinkled rain in a straight sheet across the pale grass. Naiysu narrowly missed getting peppered himself.
“Might I speak with you?” Naiysu nodded, indicating the inside of Siuvai’s home.
With a great deal of misgiving, Siuvai glanced at the ruin his home had become, then backed away to allow Naiysu entrance. Then he picked his way toward his hearth, where beside it cloudy cupboards stood speckled with water droplets, each one tracking its way to the bottom edge before dripping onto the stormcloud-gray shelf below.
“Tea?” he asked without glancing around.
Without waiting for a response, Siuvai popped the top off the kettle he hadn’t used in some time and held it absently out to the closest hurricane column, similar to how he’d always held it to Verravia’s gentle rain. The expected roar and subsequent dousing he received from Procella filled the kettle as well as drenching his clothing.
Behind him, Naiysu made an amused noise.
Siuvai pushed the top of the kettle back into place, strung it on the bar above his hearth and then stared at the fizzled ashes forlornly. In a show of kindness, Procella’s power sloughed away, though she could not light what she had drenched.
“The Hurricane,” mused Naiysu. “A storm denizen. Water, wind, fury. None of which seem to be a reflection of you.”
“I live in Gale Heights,” started Siuvai as he turned away from the cold kettle and colder hearth.
“Which seems to be a mistake on your part.”
Naiysu wandered Siuvai’s home, browsing the wet bookshelves, perusing the colorful globes hanging from the turbulent ceiling. The globes were filled with cloud-types of all sorts Siuvai had collected over the years. It was good that he’d strung them so far apart though, otherwise the glass would have been in unsalvageable pieces and the clouds within them free-floating to join the rest of Gale Heights.
Siuvai thought about responding, then decided he didn’t truly care about Naiysu’s opinion or perspective. Instead, he picked through his wood for the driest pieces and sifted for his flint. “You wouldn’t happen to have a fire denizen at your disposal?” he asked.
“Baywater,” repeated Naiysu with a sardonic tone.
Siuvai paused, reconsidering whether he’d actually found Naiysu’s eyes as strikingly attractive as he’d first thought since that gaze seemed to lack a true gentleness. With a quiet sigh, he set to work lighting the fire, his fingers quickly covered with soot, his knees smeared with it. The quiet clinging of his lighter against his flint became a steady beat under the raging filling his house.
“You’re not going to ask me what I want?” asked Naiysu, sounding surprised.
“You’ll tell me. Or else you’ll leave,” said Siuvai, unconcerned as he watched the oil and wax catch and hold a flame. He settled the flame beneath the wood and stood before it fully caught fire. Then, already becoming accustomed to Procella, he dipped his fingers into the wall to wash them clean. After, he pulled down a wooden jar filled with crushed, dried leaves and began to spoon some into an old infuser stained from use.
“You’re not at all what I imagined.”
Siuvai slowly turned around, the infuser only half-filled, left abandoned on the shelf.
Naiysu blinked rapidly, though that could have been from the spray of the hurricane columns he stood beside. A mist formed against his dark shirt. “Yet you’re exactly what I should have expected.” He gave an aborted shake of his head and stepped closer, paying no attention to the standing water upon the ground. “You’re amazing at finding denizens, but absolutely terrible at keeping them. Siuvai the Leafdancer. Siuvai the Sandstorm. Siuvai the Springrain. Siuvai the Cloudchaser, the Flightful, the Seaspray, the Mirage, the—”
“Enough.” Siuvai hadn’t spoken loudly, but his voice cut out nonetheless. He swallowed against the hard lump in his throat. “I am more aware than you of my inability. But the search has its own appeal and I serve the Primes in a capacity that most could never do. Someone in this city, maybe someone here in Gale Heights or below us within Watertown, or even living along the Falls Crags, will find power and contentment within Procella. Someone else will take the name Hurricane and wield it with a pride I do not have. I will have made someone happy. And that, while not being everything I want, has to be enough for now.”
Slowly, Naiysu smiled. “My job isn’t as glamorous as yours, but I’ve held each of those totems. Mirrimati and Nim. I’ve walked past this house when Saburranae had turned the walls to sand and when it smelled almost the same as my own when you housed Verravia.”
“Aestuari? The Baywater.”
Naiysu inclined his head in a respectful show of impressed agreement. “That is one of my denizens.”
Siuvai nodded, suddenly intrigued by Naiysu’s casual, but pointed reference to another denizen he owned. Not of fire, that much he had already answered. Likely not of ice, but—
“Where do you live?” asked Siuvai.
“Watertown. Of course. Where exactly?”
Confusion flickered across Naiysu’s face. “Near the Stepping Stones.”
“Beside the lakes? Or on them?”
Naiysu smiled slightly. “Both.”
“Ah. A long house then, that stretches under the water. You do look like you swim.”
Siuvai examined him closer, noting the tantalizing curve of Naiysu’s ass that led into the slope of his back and the thick upper shoulders that stretched out his shirt and spoke of long, firm strokes, repetitive motions. He had no ranginess, nor slimness, but that compactness held muscle and those bright eyes a potential. With a mental shake Siuvai altered his train of thought, trying to remember what he’d been curious about. Right. Naiysu’s other denizen.
Naiysu shook his head. “As I said, my job,” he started, with a wide gesture that narrowly missed splashing through the swirling column passing by his side, “isn’t quite as glamorous as yours.”
“Cosmos then. You work for the Primes.”
Naiysu sighed explosively and stepped closer. “Yes and yes.”
“I wasn’t asking.”
Naiysu paused then and pursed his lips. For a moment he looked as if he might be considering an angry response, then he shrugged and stepped around Siuvai and picked up the half-filled infuser and began to finish the job Siuvai had abandoned.
“Tea would be good. I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with a man or woman quite like you, Siuvai…the Hurricane.” He lifted an eyebrow, his brilliant eyes shining from the light pouring in off the veranda.
An amusement had crept into Naiysu’s attitude, making Siuvai wonder yet again whether there might have been something to his original attraction to the man. He definitely made Siuvai feel desire in every limb, every sinew of his body, though part of that could have been the fact he hadn’t lain with a man in…too long.
Curiosity still piqued, he racked his mind for what denizen Naiysu might own other than Aestuari. Certainly not one of the forbiddens and he didn’t seem the type to lay claim to anything too far a field from reality which meant dreams were likely off the table.
“One of the psyches?”
Naiysu cracked a smile, snapped the infuser closed and then laughed quietly under his breath. “You are more curious over my denizen than about why I’m here.”
Siuvai shrugged, conceding the truth of the statement. “I would work in the Inner Sanctum’s library if it weren’t for my desire to travel.” Then he added, as he watched Naiysu carefully remove the kettle and drop the infuser, “I admit I’m more curious about you than your goal here. Given that you have extensive knowledge about which denizens I’ve found and reintroduced to our people, you’re obviously aware of the under-workings of the Primes’ less public actions. Either that or you’re simply obsessed with me.”
Naiysu straightened, his mouth falling open. “Obsessed…”
“I doubt you have an astral denizen, your attention seems firmly on your present location and the people around you.” Siuvai leaned against the mantel, letting his gaze linger on Procella‘s totem as she twisted and spun within the air like the hurricane she was. “And you do not have the power behind you that would signify a starstorm or a cosmic upheaval. There’s always the possibility of—”
“Vigorri,” interrupted Naiysu, his expression intrigued.
“Well that’s a disappointment.”
Naiysu’s gaze darkened. “She’s a powerful denizen in her own right, if you understand her.”
“That’s not what I meant. I wanted to solve that mystery myself.” Siuvai turned away and began to pick up the sopping clothes off the floor.
“My apologies. I…guess I should have known that.”
Siuvai, holding three shirts of differing dampness, straightened and stared hard at Naiysu. “If Vigorri is truly your denizen, then you are absolutely correct. You should have known that. Vigorri is inner vitality, the source of a person, what makes them who they are. You’re not paying enough attention.” Then he moved out onto the veranda and began to hang his clothes off the railing as far from Procella’s whirring, wet winds as possible.
He worked quickly and efficiently and nodded his appreciation when Naiysu joined in, strong hands laying pairs of Siuvai’s pants over the stone. They made a few short trips, gathering the rest of Siuvai’s scattered clothing and then paused in a comfortable, yet charged, silence out on the veranda. Above their heads the gale winds spun into thin tornadoes that swirled into being and then out again just as quickly. The denizens of the houses on the swaying islands gave Gale Heights character, some of them soft breezes, others almost as storm-strong as Procella and still others a mix of fire and wind or earth and sky and dotted between could be seen the nebula winds of cosmic storms.
Naiysu pushed aside some of the clothes, far enough he could lean against the railing himself. “I’ve never lived in Gale Heights.”
“You like to keep your feet firmly on the known,” said Siuvai. He stood at Naiysu’s side, but far enough way to observe the man’s subtle expressions.
“I like to understand, that is true,” agreed Naiysu. “I also enjoy the complexity of character, how each person is a mix of different thought processes and beliefs.”
“Like the river and sea churning at an estuary,” murmured Siuvai.
Naiysu chuckled and straightened, opting instead to lean his hip against the veranda’s railing so he could face Siuvai. “When I came here today, I didn’t think I’d like you.” His features had softened, less of the patient standoffishness he’d arrived with lingering in his stance. “I thought you’d be more…” He cast about for the word he was looking for, then zeroed in on Siuvai again. “Fickle. A man hard to please, who doesn’t know how to stay still. I assumed you chose Gale Heights because of the ever-changing islands, always sailing with the winds to assuage your wanderlust. But I was wrong. You don’t exactly have a wanderlust. You chose Gale Heights because you enjoy the peace and serenity of being able to drift where the winds take you. A subtle difference, to be sure, but there.”
Siuvai nodded to show he’d heard, but didn’t respond.
“You are actually a pleasant man,” continued Naiysu. “And I’m happy to have been able to meet you finally.”
Siuvai inclined his head again, still confused.
Naiysu took a breath and glanced at the whirling walls of the house. “I’m here to take Procella off your hands. I’m sure your things, or what’s left them, will benefit from the peace.”
That brought Siuvai’s wandering thoughts to an instant stop. “You have credentials? That I am to believe you’re actually here on Prime business to take Procella?”
Siuvai anticipated a note, a letter from one of the Primes, but it was a package Naiysu slowly pulled from inside the inner pocket of his jacket. Even without touching it Siuvai knew it contained a totem. Naiysu set the cloth-wrapped denizen against the veranda railing and then released it, the gusts of the Heights rocking it slightly.
“It’s a trade. Not a steal.”
Siuvai stared at the little brown package. He’d been so wrapped up in Procella’s turmoil he hadn’t noticed the presence of another denizen. The reason he scarcely ever carried a denizen with him when he went on search, for they often contained much of his attention, his focus, so that he had little left to give a denizen who had spent years, sometimes centuries without a shaman to support.
“I…” Siuvai shook his head and looked up, staunching the burgeoning hope sighing to life inside of him. “You think—”
“I know,” said Naiysu with a hard set of his jaw, though his eyes twinkled. “As I’ve said, I’ve held a great many of the denizens you’ve found. You’re the one who brings them home and I’m the one who matches them to a person most suitable.” He placed a hand against the totem on the balcony and pushed it closer. Only by a few finger-widths, just enough to show the depth of his intent.
With a pounding heart, Siuvai swayed forward, almost scooping up the package and the totem within. A totem housing some denizen he couldn’t begin to guess. Then logic reasserted itself.
“You’ve told me multiple times since you’ve arrived that I’m not what you anticipated. So how do you know that”—he jerked his chin toward the wrapped totem—“is a denizen compatible with me?”
Naiysu shrugged. “Because Vigorri senses it is and I tend to trust her on things of this nature. What have you got to lose?” The corners of his mouth turned up. “Other than a hurricane ripping through your house?”
Siuvai hesitated for a few moments longer, his heart continuing its furious pace, louder to his ears than the strengthening gusts whipping around the island. The package, that soft, brown fabric shivering, a tail-end of cloth slapping and twisting against the railing, seemed to call to him. A rushing, an echo, a rising power that remained in control even as it built and built steadily.
With a tentative hand, telling himself he expected as much disaster as he’d found with Procella and Saburranae before her, Siuvai touched the edge of the cloth. He was conscious of Naiysu shifting away, giving space Siuvai hadn’t realized he needed. The cloth shuddered in the breeze, lifting scents of the Steppes and the deep Clay Canyons below them. Yet underneath the earthy smell of the cloth came another. One of air and sea. A smell that had no name, no label, but that seemed to carry the wildness of the storm and the gentleness of the dusk at its center.
Grooves ran along the sides of the totem. Deep ones, shallow ones. Pale and dark lines of gray and blue and green and black had been painted once across the wood, but now, with so much of it flaked off, the totem was left with an ancient aura. This totem had not been carved recently. Could possibly have centuries etched within its memory.
Ever so carefully, Siuvai picked up the totem. The denizen within murmured to life, just enough to caress Siuvai’s internal senses. As his veins flooded with a fresh power, Siuvai murmured a hello beneath his breath, though he knew the denizen cared little for words. No, it was intent the denizen searched for, but its search did not stagger obtrusively, it swept over Siuvai like a fresh breeze, calm waters, yet still with that incredible strength he always desired.
Siuvai turned with the totem, keeping his doubts at bay as he cradled it carefully within his palm, and headed back indoors toward his hearth. There he gently plucked Procella from her twirling, ever-spinning position.
The whirling hurricane that was his home abruptly ceased. The columns of wet wind sank back within the walls and ceiling. A single last shudder ricocheted through the walls. And then there was silence. An eerie, empty silence.
For the next few moments Siuvai stood there with two totems in hand. He glanced at Naiysu as the man stepped from the veranda. Naiysu gave an encouraging wink, his expression self-satisfied as if the outcome were already decided. Then Siuvai reached out and strung the ancient totem in place upon the mantel.
Nothing happened for the first few moments. Then the wind that was his walls began to move, but softly, nothing more than a ripple. And then another. He heard a sigh, a deep, contented sigh and was surprised to discover his own lungs echoing that sentiment. For his walls, his home, held lightly rippling waters that reflected a glowing teal. The waters would drop away, in favor of a dying wind, and then return, but not in a rush nor a roar, merely a swaying, a rhythmic beat too low to hear.
But Siuvai did not need ears to hear. He could feel the denizen within his veins, a power connecting with him, belonging to him, settling within his body with a surety, a calmness, a distinct and very welcome lack of turmoil.
He stood there, reveling in the moment, scarcely aware of Naiysu slipping Procella’s totem free from Siuvai’s fingers. To have his home feel, for the first time, like a true home. This feeling…did it even have a name? He swayed with the walls, with that denizen’s ancient power. His vision tunneled and he gasped for breath, a flurry of emotions riding through him. Then, just as quickly as that powerful surge erupted, it drained away—Siuvai’s shoulders sank, his muscles relaxed, his eyelids drooped, all in thankfulness for the peace.
Without turning around, Siuvai choked out a single word. “Who?”
“Octempla, the eye of the storm.” Naiysu’s voice came from just behind Siuvai, his breath against Siuvai’s neck. A frail breeze incomparable to all of Gale Heights and yet that frailness gave Naiysu’s breath the ability, nay, the power to send a shudder down Siuvai’s spine.
“I didn’t know what I was searching for.”
“I bet you did. But it’s hard to see the peace when you can only see the storm from the outside.”
A dawning realization descended over Siuvai and without a word he swept past Naiysu back out to the veranda and spun around. Sure enough, the outer walls of his home whirled dangerously, a contained rush of power, controlled in a way Procella had not been, but a violent warning just the same. Naiysu slowly followed and moved to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Siuvai.
“You are a strong man. But a man at peace, with or without a denizen to support you. Siuvai…the Centered.”
Siuvai licked dry lips and whispered, “I take back what I said about Vigorri. You are very good at your job.”
“No, you shouldn’t take it back. You’re right. I’m the one who needs to apologize. I’ve known where Octempla was for a quite a long while. Sitting in a cache of a thief in the dregs of Watertown’s Sewer Alleys. I just never came close enough to you to see you for who you really are.”
Siuvai tore his eyes off Octempla’s stirring power to stare at Naiysu quizzically. “When did you…?”
Naiysu coughed self-consciously. “When you reported your success to the Primes. When you introduced yourself as Siuvai the Hurricane. Guess it took a storm with an eye to make me realize the connection to what you’ve been looking for.”
“I thank you, no matter how long that took.”
Naiysu ducked his head in an uncharacteristic moment of humility and turned to wrap Procella up in the discarded cloth from Octempla. “You’re welcome.” He placed Procella’s new totem into his jacket pocket and faced Siuvai once more.
That comfortable silence descended over them, this time with a sense of calm satisfaction from them both rather than the expectation from earlier. A tornado with a cosmic glint roared to life behind Naiysu. Its power ripped between two islands with startling alacrity, sending high-soaring flames from Ashburg’s Flickering Towers dancing colorfully as they burned blue, then orange, then red again in the space of seconds. Then just as quickly, the booming roar of the tornado disappeared and with it the dark winds of the tornado itself. Gale Heights returned to a quiet breeze, the islands drifting into the space the tornado had vacated.
It felt like a sign. An echo of the turmoil gone smooth within Siuvai’s own heart and soul. He smiled slightly. “Would you like to stay for tea? It’s probably been steeping too long and likely tastes a little of brine, but maybe Octempla can water it down and remove some of the salt.”
Naiysu stepped closer, gorgeous blue, knowing eyes, sparkling in the sudden light as the clouds split and revealed the sun. “I don’t mind a little salt.” He lifted a hand and made the smallest space between two fingers. “As long as it’s just a little.” Then he turned his palm down and dragged his fingers along Siuvai’s cheek in blatant offer. “And I don’t have anywhere else I’d rather be.”
I wrote about shamans once before a few years ago (The Cascade and The Firebrand) and wow, did not realize it’s been three years since I returned to their city. This was from another question prompt–“What are you terrible at?” And it was about the time I started thinking in terms of settings I’d already created. Thus Siuvai was born: the man who was terrible at connecting with the denizens he procured.
The names for the ancient denizens are bastardized Latin, same as last time.
Octempla – the eye of the storm, from oculus (eye) and, of course, tempestas (storm)
Procella – the hurricane, from procella (hurricane/storm)
Vigorri – inner vitality, from, vigor (force/vitality)
Aestuari – the baywater, from aestuarium (estuary)
Verravia – the spring rain, from ver (spring) and pluvia (rain)
Saburranae – the sand storm, from saburra (sand) and then I threw a version of an ending on from other translations of sand.
Nim – nimbus cloud, from nimbus (cloud)
Mirrimati – the mirage, from impatiens (mirage)
Ever since I wrote this story, I keep having a dream about a badass shaman with six or seven denizens and a huge quarterstaff with totems swinging. And I keep telling the guy to leave me alone because I have a kitty full of novels already that need to be written. He’s pretty laid back, thankfully, and just smiles and sighs.