A Drifting Soul

The story of Daithi, a young shaman of the Nioneska prior to the events of A House Of Photographs.


8. A Deal

After a few days alone, Daithi decided to move in with Ronan and Callum. It was a difficult transition at first, but the house was large enough for even ten more people if need be. Daithi spent most of his time wandering around, reintroducing himself to people he had once known. And he realized that he'd grown quite the patch of facial hair when Romona tugged at the hairs on his chin and explained it to him that it wasn't any wonder his old acquaintances didn't recognize him. Daithi borrowed her mirror and looked at the beard that began to grow. So on the first afternoon of the week long Spring Festival he shaved it down.

Daithi, when he didn't wander, helped set things up and did his best to cook. But he ended up eating whatever he helped make and slipping Ronan some on the sly. So eventually Siiri forced him out. So Daithi entertained himself by asking questions and sitting in on council meetings. It was even agreed that he would become a valued shaman of the council. Daithi was surprised, being home only for a few days, but Sampsa and a few others believed he had worldly knowledge that most of them didn't possess.

"I don't think that-"

"Nonsense! Daileksa intended for you to be among her private council or at least mine. Believe in yourself like I do," Sampsa assured him with a hand on the shoulder and a pat on the back. After that exchange Daithi felt a tremendous weight on his shoulders. He pursed his lips and chewed his cheeks as it a special symbol, the mark of a high shaman, was carved at the top of his medallion. Out of fear of him being impaled, he removed his wampum necklace and held it out for them. It was done in seconds and they all left. Ronan was waiting when they left.

"Come on you three!" He called after them all: Daithi, Callum, and Sampsa. "Why not a trip to the sauna?" Seeing no reason to object to a little refreshing before the big feast at midday, Sampsa and Callum readily agreed. But Daithi was confused for a minute and asked what they meant.

"Do you remember the sweat lodges?" Callum asked almost snootily. Daithi nodded slowly in response with a look of annoyance at being talked down to. "We have a permanent standing sauna."

So they all went and Daithi noticed the special door, guarded by two trees and a stained glass window set in the wood of the door. He marveled at it and remembered his days at Notre Dame Cathedral. Running his fingers on the glass, he felt the warmth that radiated off of it and felt a wave of hot air hit his face when the door opened. Inside was a wrap around bench with shelves set into it and above it, empty or with cloth to cover one's self. They all stripped and laid their clothes in the little cubbyholes and poured water on the hot coals. Sampsa smoothed back his hair so it was out of his face and and voiced everyone's satisfaction.

"Ahhhh. Wonderful recommendation eh?"

The others nodded in agreement. Ronan tied up his hair in a ponytail to keep it off of his neck and Daithi followed suit. Callum snorted, grateful he didn't have the same problem with his neatly trimmed hair and a single braid that went down to his jaw.

They all stripped themselves bare and wrapped cloth around their waists. Ronan and Sampsa sported tattoos, Sampsa being far more elaborate. Mostly on his forearms he bore constellations and fish. While they soaked in the heat and sweat rolled of their bodies, Ronan began to tell stories and tease Callum while Sampsa and Daithi watched lazily. The first bout of questions came, however, when Daithi rolled over and inadvertently displayed his scars and his stabs for everyone to see.

"Tachkah! Daitih, what happened?!" Sampsa asked, sitting up and reaching out to inspect.

Daithi's already rosy cheeks flushed red and he stuttered. But the intense blue gaze of Sampsa goaded him into divulging his past. He felt sick at first and he wanted to hide. It was one thing to tell his comrade of war, Ronan, but another to tell what sacrifices he'd made and what he'd gone through for Sampsa's sake. Then, before he realized it, he began to tell story after story. Sampsa and Callum listened, mortified with all that happened to Daithi after the Uprising that he and Ronan were sent to fight in. Sampsa seemed especially ashamed with himself that he allowed them to take his place and such a thing happened. But Daithi didn't notice. He hadn't comprehended how much was waiting in his head, ready to be sifted through. And he didn't stop for anything. He wasn't able to stop the flow of words and memories. After a time, other people began to come into the sauna and heard him speak. They watched in awe as he weaved magic light into shapes and figures without knowing it; he was in the moment. It wasn't like when he regaled Ronan with his endeavors, it was more. Every intense memory burst with pinks and yellows, every joy exploded with oranges and golds, fading in and out with how fully he relived each memory and story and told stories he'd heard from others. Men and women all tried to crowd into the sauna. After maybe twenty people had crammed themselves in while more still went to tell others of the storyteller, Daithi fully saw the crowd that had amassed and how squished his brothers were against him. His mind was forcibly torn from the past and thrust into the present. Then he saw what he'd done, the pictures he'd created as they faded and disappeared. Evaporated with the steam. And it scared him that he didn't realize he was doing it.  He furrowed his brows and looked to his brothers for some confirmation that it actually happened, but Sampsa only smiled as if confirming something in his head that he'd predicted and Ronan and Callum's mouths made matching o's.

Daithi pressed himself against the wall nervously. He began to sweat a little more with anxiety. His intention was to tell his brothers, his family, but he told nearly a quarter of his neighbors. And he had done something he'd never done before with knowing he'd done it. There were whispers and murmurs that went through the people. The twinkling of their eyes were like children at the feet of their elders. But when they realized how afraid Daithi was they became a little disappointed. One by one they began to leave, leaving him in peace. When they were gone Ronan jumped from his place, his cloth nearly dropping to the floor if he hadn't caught it. 

"How did you do that?! You couldn't do that before!" Ronan hollered. His expression and demeanor was like that of a little boy who was screaming about all the amazing things he'd gotten for his birthday.

Callum was on the opposite side of the spectrum. He had been so wrapped up in the story he thought he'd seen with his own eyes. "Why didn't you ever come home?!" He demanded at the same time Ronan made his exclamation. But Daithi wouldn't have been able to answer either question. His heart pounded in his chest and his hands were tingling. He shook and the muscle in his jaw feathered. Then his eyes rolled back in his head and fell against the bench.

Everyone was frozen, then they all clamored to help him up and drag him out of the sauna, leaving their reminiscent family time behind. Sampsa grabbed Daithi under the arms and Ronan got his legs. Callum grabbed their clothes and followed them out. "Up the hill! Lay him on the grass!" Sampsa instructed them. They struggled up the hill and laid Daithi down. Those that remained from the crowd watched in curiosity as Sampsa began to root through his pockets. When he found a bottle he uncorked it and held up Daithi's head. The clear liquid  was poured into his mouth, droplets escaping out of the corners of his mouth and rolling down his jaw onto his neck. Callum caught on and examined everything, paying particularly close attention to the stabs that Ronan had treated.

"You idiot! You don't put this much in a wound!" Callum howled as he pulled out the remnants of a green paste that Daithi had failed to remove. "No wonder this happened!"

"Callum!" Sampsa barked. His voice cut through the argument like a knife. His thick brows were knit together in a menacing scowl. "Ronan saved his life! That's it! It's up to us to do our part!" Sampsa continued his examination, wiping the sweat from his forehead and cleaned the wounds on his side of Daithi.

Callum opened his mouth to protest but immediately backed down. Sampsa wasn't the type to fight, but when he did it was terrifying. Callum ran and got cold compresses, all while in a towel. Ronan did what he did best, and guarded them while waiting for help. He kept the crowds back as they all tried to see what was happening. The Nioneska were a familial people and worried for each other.

Callum had to fight his way through the people to bring back dripping cloths to lay on Daithi.

Daithi's breathing was ragged and Sampsa administered more of his strange elixir. When the compress was placed on his forehead his eyes began to flutter open. He grabbed Callum's wrist in a mere moment and squeezed. His chest was burning and his skin was like a burning fire. But when his eyes opened and he moaned, relief spread through the crowd. He was in and out for nearly two hours before he was fully awake. And when he managed to keep his eyes open he found he was in a small hut. The air was cool and clear there and no one was in sight.

Daithi's head ached and his heart beat a little funny in his ears. His muscles were like jelly as he crawled out and looked around. He saw a creek and a ceiling of trees that drenched the ground with green sunlight. But his attention was brought to the splashing. There, doing her washing, was what appeared to be a child. She turned and gave a sly smile. Her auburn hair was cut short and her skin had a strange greenish tinge to it. She approached him with a quirked brow and an air of superiority that made Daithi grit his teeth.

"You seem to be doing better now that you're out of that stuffy house. Honestly, you're people are smart, but that was just dumb," she murmured. She crouched in front of Daithi and cocked her head to one side. "Y'know, you're funny." Daithi scrunched up his face in confusion and sat up. She sat down in front of him and went on. "That was impressive what you did, but it was dangerous too. Trying out magic in such a hot place while still recovering from all that. That's going to put a lot of mental and physical strain if you're not careful. But lucky for you, I like you and I'll help you out," she explain in a singsong voice, melodic as a bird. "But I'd also like to go to that party you all put together. I haven't been but I don't want to be fussed over like your dead are." She spoke with her hands and bobbed her head as she spoke. 

Daithi, fed up with being silent, tried to speak. "Wh...at....'re....y...oo?" He grumbled in a hoarse whisper. At that her eyes went wide, revealing the violet hue they possessed. His heart jumped into his throat when he fully realized she was a spirit.

"Me? Never you mind. But if I make you better so you can move around alright and not bedridden for weeks, let me control your body tonight," she offered. "And maybe I'll do more for you if you're nice." As if to show how sick he'd be if he refused, Daithi his stomach flip and twist and his legs burn. He couldn't nod fast enough. The spirit smiled wide and nodded. She snapped her fingers and Daithi found himself in his house, Ronan and Callum leaned against each other asleep. But not a trace of illness of pain and he felt invigorated. The energy that built in his body took him over. He threw the door open and ran out into the daylight, smiling and laughing like a child. Then he realized the party had begun.

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