Rainforest Shaman: The Eagle and Condor Series

A Zak Bates Eco-Adventure Young Adult Spinoff

If you know you’re going to want to read Rainforest Shaman, you can save 50% off the cover price by pre-ordering it now.

Or start with a few excerpts from the second draft of the story below.

Shortly after returning from my research and personal healing journey from the rainforest of Ecuador, I began my next novel, book 5 of the Zak Bates Eco-adventure series with the working title of Rainforest Shaman. Here are multiple scenes showcasing one of the main new characters, Iya. (If you’ve already read the first scene, just scroll down to the next one, and remember, they are all rough drafts. Still, I would enjoy your feedback on them.

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Pronouncement (February 2023 Revised Version)

Iya lifted her gaze from the wooden bowl of cassava roots that would become the chicha beverage of her Achuar people, her dark eyes ablaze with defiance, until she noticed her grandmother’s unrelenting stare. She looked away. “Do I really have to go?” she protested, her voice barely audible in the still morning air. “There’s so much work to be done here, and I’m sure Grandfather doesn’t need me there to make his announcement.”

But Maria was unwavering. “Your grandfather was clear, Iya. He wants everyone in the village to be present, without exception.” She hobbled over to Iya, her wrinkled hands reaching out to stroke her raven hair with a loving touch, avoiding the sensitive areas of her granddaughter’s scalp. “I know it’s not easy for you, Little Mouse. You’ve always been shy and withdrawn, uncomfortable in large crowds. But I’ve given your grandfather my word, and he’s counting on you.”

Iya leaned into the caress and gazed up at her grandmother, hoping she would reconsider, but no such luck.

She sighed, her thin frame trembling with frustration. She’d always struggled with her reputation as the village’s shy and timid mouse, and now even her grandmother was using their name for her. Grandfather Ompa was not only the healer and spiritual guide for their Achuar people, but one of the most respected shamans in the region, his words carrying the weight of the rainforest.

With a heavy heart, Iya dropped the cassava root back into the bowl, wiping her hands on the front of her shirt as she followed her grandmother towards the meeting house. The other villagers were already gathering, a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors and sounds as they made their way toward the heart of the village.

Iya paused, taking in the breathtaking view before her. The lush greenery of the Amazon rainforest, its hundreds of trees and shrubs stretching towards the sky like emerald sentinels surrounded her. She knew most of them by name, their secrets, and uses were passed down to her by her grandfather and grandmother. They’d taught her about the three most powerful spirits of the jungle: Amasanga, the spirit of the rainforest, Sungui, the spirit of the water, and Nungwi, the spirit of clay and soil.

With a deep breath, Iya steeled herself for the upcoming announcement, ready to face the crowd and stand by her grandfather’s side. She was, after all, a part of this vibrant and thriving community, connected to the land and its spirits by the blood that flowed through her veins.

Iya felt a sense of awe as she gazed upon the gathering of her village. The sun was slowly rising over the lush canopy of the rainforest, casting a warm, golden glow over the scene before her. The vibrant colors of the clothing and decorations worn by the villagers added to the already lively atmosphere, making the morning seem even more alive with energy.

Ompa, sitting regally in his ceremonial turtle-shaped chair, was the focal point of the gathering. It filled Iya with pride to be his granddaughter, and she beamed with joy as he acknowledged her with a smile and a nod. His attire confirmed the special nature of the occasion – the bright blue shirt, adorned with strands of seeds and nuts, was a striking contrast to the lush greens and browns of the surrounding jungle. The skirt, with its stripes of blue, white, and gray, added to the regal appearance, as did the ceremonial necklace and hat of red and gold feathers.

As the room filled with familiar faces, Iya noticed Matita making his way towards Ompa, a determined look in his eye. She had heard whispers he might be the next shaman, and she felt a flutter of excitement at the thought. With his chiseled jawline and muscular physique, Matita was certainly popular with all the young girls, but it was the way he carried himself that truly set him apart. Dressed in similar blue attire to Ompa, it seemed like no coincidence that their clothing matched.

With all the signs pointing towards a special occasion, Iya wondered what the outcome of the meeting would be. Was this the moment her grandfather would finally announce his successor? The anticipation was almost palpable, and Iya held her breath in anticipation. It had been a long time since she had seen her grandfather in all his finery, and felt sure today was going to be a momentous day, one that would be remembered for generations to come.

The murmurs of the crowd hushed as Ompa’s eyes fluttered open, and Ompa greeted the gathered people with a warm smile. With outstretched arms, he welcomed them to the start of a beautiful morning.

He spoke in the melodic tongue of the Shiwiar people. “Greetings, dear friends and family of the forest,”  “The spirits have blessed us, and it is with great joy I invite you to join me in a moment of tranquil celebration.” He raised his arms higher, directing the villagers towards the sky, the river, and the surrounding woodland, in a show of reverence to the forces of nature that sustained their lives.

“I know we all have our daily duties to attend to, so I’ll get right to what I have to say.” As the whispers of the crowd grew louder, Ompa waited until everyone became quiet. “For weeks, my spirit animal, the mighty jaguar, has visited me in my dreams with a persistent message. It is time for me to pass on my knowledge and train the next shaman of our people.” The villagers turned their heads to look at Matita, who smiled and nodded at the prospect.

“I must admit, I was reluctant to heed the dreams,” Ompa continued. “But the jaguar’s message has been unwavering, and I have learned through the years to trust my spirit animal’s guidance.” Ompa rose from his chair, his movements slow and deliberate, and walked over to Matita, placing his hands on the young man’s shoulders. A sadness etched on the old shaman’s face as he spoke. “Matita, you have been a faithful companion, and I hold you in high regard. But the jaguar has guided me in a different direction.” Ompa dropped his hands and scanned the crowd of villagers. “These are trying times. We have all felt the darkness creeping in from the north. If we are to be the condors that save our home, we must be open to new and unconventional ways.”

Ompa made his way through the throng of villagers until he stood just a few feet away from Iya. He raised his arms towards the sky, as if to salute the sun. “Iya, my granddaughter, whose name means sky, space, and universe,” he said, “the jaguar has guided me to select you as our next shaman, our first with the same energy as Pachamama herself.”

The villagers gasped in unison, their surprise evident on their faces. Iya felt the world spin around her as she struggled to grasp the enormity of the announcement. How could this be? She had always dreamed of one day leaving her village, traveling to Quito, or another city, to further her education. In her dreams, she would return one day to help her people navigate the challenging times they faced. But now, her grandfather’s dream had derailed her plans, and she could not ignore his wishes. Not only was he the shaman of her people, but he was also the elder who had raised her since the death of her parents.

Had she misread her own dreams? Had Chumap, her teacher, been wrong to encourage her? Perhaps it was time for her to surrender to the far more powerful forces that dictated her life.

Iya stood frozen, watching as the villagers returned to their daily routines, but for her, she knew her life would never be the same. She started to follow her grandmother, but then stopped. Instead, she turned towards the forest, the one place where she felt truly at home and accepted. The forest, with its dense canopy and rustling leaves, would be her refuge, her solace, as she grappled with the new reality of her life.

Argument (February 2023 Revised Version)

Iya strolled along the path, feeling her way through the murky darkness of dawn. As she made her way deeper into the woods, she took a moment to listen for any sounds of pursuit before veering off the path and making her way through the dense underbrush. She felt like she was returning to the comfort of her mother’s womb, to the teeming rainforest that was her true home. But as she pressed further, the vegetation became impenetrable without a machete to clear the way, so she stopped and sat down, her thoughts swirling.

What am I to do now? she wondered, but even as she asked, she knew there was only one answer. She would follow her grandfather’s orders as she had always done to be a good granddaughter and not do anything that would have them regret taking her into their home. Besides, what did her dreams matter? She hadn’t even believed they were possible. More of a wish than anything.

As she sat, she felt a familiar tingling sensation on her scalp. She looked around to be sure no one was around. The sensation increased as she reached up to stroke the sensitive raised areas. The tingling felt stronger than ever, like a jolt of static electricity.

That’s odd, she thought. She couldn’t recall ever feeling the sensation so strongly. Iya took a deep breath and sighed before getting up and brushing off her skirt. She gazed up at the sky, where she could make out just a few remaining stars peeking through the treetops. She tried to pray, but didn’t know what to say or who would listen to her pathetic pleas, anyway.

Iya returned home undetected, her journey uneventful. Over the years, she had become a master at blending in, at being virtually invisible to her fellow villagers, but for how much longer? she wondered as she approached her grandparents’ home. But as she was about to enter, something felt off. The air felt charged, and she could hear her grandmother’s voice raised in anger.

She snuck closer to the doorway and peeked inside, where she saw her grandfather, Ompa, standing with a calm expression, while her grandmother, Maria shouted. “How could you do this without at least talking to me first?”

There was a long pause. Iya snuck closer and glanced through the doorway to see Ompa standing with a placid look on his face. He shrugged, but remained quiet.

“Have you forgotten about Iya’s—” Maria stopped, waving one hand around her head, but she couldn’t finish the sentence.

“What? Can’t you say it?” Ompa finally replied. “Our granddaughter’s deformity, her malformation, her curse? I believe you’ve referred to it these ways and more. Yes, I remember. How could I forget? You’ve had us all walking on eggshells for what, these last ten years, since you discovered them.”

“Only because I love her, and fear for her safety,” Maria replied, her voice trembling with distress. The sound of her grandmother’s voice brought back a vivid memory from Iya’s childhood—a memory she had buried deep within her.

Days after her parents had disappeared, her grandparents had taken her in. It would be much later before she learned that marauding warriors from another village had killed her father, and her mother had gone missing during the attack.

One day, Maria had taken her three-year-old granddaughter to the river to wash off the dust and grime leftover from hiding in the woods for several days. Her mother had ordered her to go, “and don’t come out until you hear me call you.” But her mother had never called, so it was fortunate for Iya that someone had stumbled upon her hiding place.

Grandmother Maria gently lowered Iya’s head back to wet her hair in prep for washing it with the Puscopanga plant that was their natural form of soap when she paused. She brought Iya back to a standing position as she felt along the young girl’s scalp.

“What is this?” she asked quietly to herself. “Stand still, girl. Let me see.”

Iya did as she was told and waited patiently as Maria felt along her head and scalp. “Oh no, this cannot be!” the old woman said with a note of desperation. “Oh, my poor girl, my poor, poor girl.” She clutched Iya to her chest, rocking her back and forth.

What is it? What’s wrong? Iya wondered. What had her grandmother found that would cause her so much anguish? A wave of fear coursed through her tiny frame.

They stood there in the shallows of the river for several minutes until Maria finally finished washing her hair, then wrapped it in a length of cloth to dry. Still standing in the water, Maria bent down to her, looking her straight in the eyes. “Listen to me and listen carefully. This will be our little secret, do you hear? No one is to know about—”she pointed to the top of Iya’s head—“that,” she finally finished. “No one,” she repeated. “Bad things will happen if anyone else ever finds out. Promise me you’ll tell no one.”

Iya nodded, confused and more frightened than she’d ever been, even more than when her village had been raided just a few days before. “I promise, Grandmama,” she whispered.

“Good girl,” Maria replied. She looked around and smiled, though it looked to Iya as though the smile was about to fall from her grandmother’s face. “Let’s go home and get something to eat.”

“Iya, Iya!” her grandmother called. “What are you doing out there? Where have you been? Come in and get something to eat. It appears you have a much different day ahead of you,” Maria said as she glared at Ompa.

Iya shook herself, surprised to find herself back at her grandparent’s hut. She nodded to Maria and entered the hut to sit down next to Ompa. She wanted to ask him if he was sure of his decision, if perhaps he hadn’t misinterpreted the message from his spirit animal, but not knowing how to broach the subject, she said instead, “What will I be doing today, Grandfather?”

Ompa smiled at her and patted her knee closest to him. “Today, your training begins.”

===== More to Come =====

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A Few Other Characters You’ll Meet in Rainforest Shaman