Author’s Note:  This is part of a new challenge brought to us by TheEditingGirl and her friend Elisichi called WordsToWonder. The idea is that every month they will give us a word and we’re to use it in a story or poem without looking up its meaning. The word for July is “limerance” and I chose to define it as a prayer to protect the soul of an animal.  I have no idea why that came to mind, but I’m sure it’s not even close to the real definition, which is what makes this fun.  If you’d like to join in, check out their blog and when  you post, tag your post “WordsToWonder challenge.” They’ll post your story on their blogs and you’ll increase your blog traffic and readership and make new friends in the process. What could be better?

Knowing I could go no further, I stopped at the lodge. Blood had been dripping from the gash in my forearm for the past half hour, and when I realized I couldn’t feel my fingers, I had to stop. It was the middle of the night, and my presence was probably unwelcome at any hour, but I had no choice. My horse knew that something was amiss and whickered nervously as I dismounted.

“It’s okay, girl,” I whispered, “I won’t be long. If the shaman can’t help me, I’m counting on you to get me home.” I hooked the reins around a tree limb and approached the lodge, wondering how to best make my presence known.  Should I knock? Should I call for help?  I decided to knock before I lost my nerve and I was greeted by an angry young man who yanked the door open.

“What do you want?” he snarled.

“I’m hurt, I need help.”

“Go somewhere else!” He started to slam the door when an old man stepped from the shadows and stopped him.

“Son, where is your compassion?” he admonished.

“Father, she’s the enemy. Why should we help her?”

“No son, her people are our enemy. She’s a defenseless girl who needs our help. Come, child.” He took my hand and led me to a fire pit in the center of the room. As my eyes grew accustomed to the light, I saw ancient symbols painted on the walls and bundles of dried herbs that hung from the rafters.  This man and his son were kiratu,  members of a tribe known for their agricultural and healing arts. My people were their enemies because we didn’t understand their magic and persecuted them as witch doctors. No wonder the young man hated me. I hated myself, my shame over my people’s actions giving way to embarrassment and self-loathing.

“How did this happen?” he asked as he cleansed my wound. I could tell he was trying to divert my attention from the pain of his work and I was grateful for the diversion.

“My stupid horse threw me and I gashed my arm on a rock.”

“Why is the horse the stupid one?” the son sniffed. “You’re the one who fell.”

“You have a point,” I conceded after a moment’s chastisement. “I think she got spooked, but I was on the ground before I noticed anything that could have scared her.”

The shaman ignored his son as he applied a mixture of herbs and oils to my wound. He then bandaged it with a leaf that had a pleasant spicy smell; it might have been my imagination, but when I inhaled its scent, I felt myself relax.  “It should heal in a few days. Leave the dressing on until it comes off on its own and it will not scar. Before you go, I would like to say a limerance for your horse.”

“A what?”

“A limerance,” the son repeated. “ A prayer of healing for the soul of an animal.” The reverence with which he spoke was in stark contrast to the way he treated me and it was so touching, it brought tears to my eyes.

“That would be very kind.” The words sounded weak but I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

I followed them out of the lodge and the old man approached my horse, placing his hand on her  nose. Her nostrils flared in fear and then he began speaking in hushed tones; I didn’t understand his language, but it sounded like a flowing river, and his voice calmed her almost immediately. When the limerance was over, the shaman rested his forehead against hers.

“She is no longer frightened, “  the old man announced.

My horse was no longer spooked and I was no longer ashamed of myself.

Our healing had begun.