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Seeing Double

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Tanda pulled one last weed before sitting back on his heels and wiping the back of one hand across his forehead. He looked up at the sky. One of the full moons was already visible. The other would rise in about two hours, shortly after sunset.

He considered what to do next. Summer brought an endless round of tasks to be done-- herbs to gather, medicines to make, preparations for the winter. What he ought to do was lie down for a little bit so that he'd be fresh after night fell and could venture out by moonlight to gather herbs whose virtues were enhanced by being harvested under the double moons. For medicinal applications, it generally didn't matter, but there were herbs magic weavers used that required more care.

Madam Torogai will return soon, and she will expect me to have her supplies. Tanda closed his eyes. Of course, she may have some explanation for what's going on, some solution. When he opened his eyes, his garden was still there, spread out before him. Not a given when the moons are full.

He stood up and stretched. His back and legs had stiffened from the crouching and kneeling he'd been doing. He bent to one side and then the other. He lunged forward and to the side, giving each leg a chance to stretch.

"Looks like you've been watching Balsa."

Tanda just kept himself from spinning around. Instead, he turned slowly. "Madam Torogai!" You would arrive when I'm looking ridiculous. "I've been hoping you'd come." He rubbed the back of his head. "I don't have all the herbs you wanted." Picking the right herbs was hard when he couldn't be sure what he was seeing was what was really there. More than once, he spotted a plant new to him and reached for it only to find that it was purely in Nayug.

"I'm more interested in dinner." She started toward his hut.

He followed. "There's stew left. I was planning to eat it after tonight's herb gathering." He had some vegetables that were edible raw. He could eat some of those in the middle of the night.

As he spooned stew into a bowl for her, she said, "The rains did come."

"Too late for the rice crop." He scraped the bottom of the pot, getting as much out as he could. "I hear other crops are doing better."

"The Star Readers did some good when they ordered farmers to plant other crops this year." Torogai accepted the bowl and began to eat. "Not all crops need early rains, and the Nyunga Ro Im needed time to mature." She ate without haste and without further words.

Tanda sat back on his heels and waited.

Torogai put down her bowl at last. "Now, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?"

Tanda hesitated. He'd avoided speaking about the problem, as if that made it less real. "I haven't been able to gather the herbs you asked for."

"You mentioned that."

He half expected her to rap him on the head as she'd done when he was small and being-- in her opinion-- especially stupid. "Ever since the Day of Feasting, ever since I drank the nectar of the shiguu salua flower, I've been seeing Nayug when the moons are full. Just seeing without crossing over. I can still see Sagu, too. Both worlds at the same time."

Her attention sharpened. "Unintentionally? You're not doing anything?"

"Just opening my eyes." He spread his hands to show himself empty of intent. To be a magic weaver, he had to learn to look into Nayug, but those interactions required deliberate action. What was happening now was nothing like speaking to the water dwellers or sending his spirit out from his body or anything else Torogai had taught him. "I keep hoping it will fade. It's disorienting." It was deeply disorienting. In Nayug, his house was inside a hill. Deliberately walking into the earth the first time it happened had taken all of his courage, even though he could still see the building.

"I'm afraid," he went on, "that it might be happening to Chagum and Balsa as well." He wasn't going to worry about the King's warriors who'd also drunk the nectar. Even if we fought together in the end, they still nearly killed Balsa. Tanda didn't feel particularly forgiving.

"Hmm." Torogai closed her eyes. "If the boy were having trouble, I'd expect Shuga to seek me out. I haven't been that hard to find." She opened her eyes again. "Next spring, I have to go to Aoike again. Some property of the flowers on that particular night seems to give the sight."

Tanda nodded. On their way back, Torogai had sent him wading into the pond to retrieve a flower for her, but drinking the nectar had had no apparent effect on her. "It might not be that specific night but just a night when the moons are full and the flowers in bloom."

Torogai frowned. "I'll have to try both. The egg made use of the flowers. It didn't grant them special potency."

"That's for next spring." Tanda suspected that he'd be dragged along to do the actual wading. Torogai wasn't above getting wet and dirty when it was necessary, but she said that, at her age, she'd earned the right to have her apprentice perform the unpleasant tasks. At least those within my ability. "For now, how do I stop seeing Nayug?"

"Very likely, you don't." Torogai nodded for emphasis. "Fully entering Nayug, however temporarily, probably shifted your balance. If you weren't a magic weaver, it probably wouldn't matter, but the barriers between you and Nayug were thinner to begin with. Performing magic, particularly a shifting magic, right after returning to Sagu, probably set the changes."

"That's a lot of probablies," Tanda said mildly.

Torogai reached over and cuffed him on the side of his head.

Tanda blinked, more startled than hurt. I'm not being stupid! It really is guesswork.

"You think I've run into another case like yours?" Torogai demanded. "I'm guessing. I've never heard a story about anything quite like this. There's only the story of Hago the Mad-- He always saw Nayug. He couldn't tell what was Nayug and what was Sagu. The story says he did a great weaving, something never attempted before, and it broke his mind. I don't think the cases are similar."

Tanda shuddered. He remembered the story. He had very carefully avoided connecting it to his current situation. It's been months, and nothing disastrous has happened, just a little... difficulty when the moons are full. "I can tell the difference." Most of the time. "At least, when I'm in places I know well, I can tell the difference. I haven't dared range too far on these nights." The first night of full moons, the second moon rising had caught him far from home, seeking to gather yinsu flowers. He'd gotten the flowers, but getting home again had proven challenging. He'd needed to test the ground with a stick to know where to put his feet.

"It's a great advantage for a magic weaver." Torogai didn't sound entirely convinced.

"It's a disadvantage for an herbalist who supplies magic weavers," Tanda retorted. "I have to gather nisum tonight, or you won't have any." He stood up. "I should get to where they're growing. If I do it before the second moon rises, I'll be fine." He took hold of the stick he'd chosen to help him get home.

Torogai rose and followed him out of the hut. "I'll come with you and make sure you don't fall into any ravines." She muttered something else that Tanda couldn't quite catch.

"You're welcome, of course, but aren't you tired? I assume you've been on the road all day."

She snorted. "The day I can't manage a day's travel and a night's--" She waved a hand to indicate everything around them. "--whatever is the day I retire. Probably move in with you. That's what apprentices are for, after all, to look after the master in her last days."

Tanda gave her a little bow and started walking. The nisum grew in rocky crevices in the hills near his home. He and Torogai could reach a good place to start looking in no more than fifteen minutes' walk.

"That's your answer," Torogai said a few minutes later as they walked along. "Take an apprentice. An apprentice herbalist. You're scarcely skilled enough with magic weaving to be left alone while I travel, but your skill with herbs is more than enough to teach."

Tanda thought about having someone with him, someone who saw only Sagu. He gave an uncomfortable shrug. "I might get someone who's frightened by what I see. Or someone who's more interested in magic weaving than in herbs." His protests sounded weak to his own ears. What I really want to say is that I ought to be married before I take an apprentice, and I don't want to marry anyone but Balsa, and she... I don't think she's ready to marry at all. Maybe she never will be.

Torogai waved all of that away. "We'll find you the right child. I suppose I can teach, too, when I'm around, and I want you traveling with me more now. We'll simply be careful of the full moons. Yes, an apprentice is what you need."

Tanda sighed. He recognized signs of the inevitable. If Torogai wanted him to have an apprentice, what he wanted wouldn't matter in the least. "At least let me choose my own apprentice." He hoped it didn't sound like begging.

"Of course. I'll just help you by suggesting candidates."

Tanda could hear the smile in Torogai's voice. She knows perfectly well that she's pushing me into this. "How about one of my nieces or nephews? I'm sure one of them would be suitable."

"We'll go visiting your family tomorrow." Torogai sounded determined, and Tanda knew no amount of stalling or reluctance was going to get him out of it. "If not one of them, maybe a cousin's child or a friend of the family. We want to be quick, so we might as well start with what's close at hand."

"You really do intend to take me traveling then?"

"I do." Torogai fell silent for a minute as they crossed rough ground. "Your weaving with Chagum," she said at last, "showed that you've been paying attention. If you can pull that off, you're obviously ready for more complicated things, and I'm not going to stay in one place to teach you."

No, she wouldn't. Tanda felt a little homesickness for his hut even though he hadn't really left it yet. Still, if Madam Torogai wants me to travel, I'll travel. It will be good to learn more. I sometimes forget that I'm a magic weaver. As long as I'm home when Balsa comes back from Kanbal.