A Drifting Soul

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

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9. A New Friend, A New Enemy

It was a strange sensation. Daithi felt weightless, like he had no form at all. In his head he felt as shapeless as smoke, as free as water. But he experienced everything.

The spirit had done as she said she would and his body was intact and well and she possessed it. So as night began to fall there was feasting and dancing and drinking, the likes of which no one had seen before. The spirit grabbed a mug of dandelion wine and danced out on the floor with an energy that rivaled everyone there. The spirit even manipulated her own magic to allow her showing off to be more noticeable. And although Daithi wasn't in control of his body or even what he said with his mouth, he enjoyed it. He'd never met anyone there but their smiling faces were a welcome sight, all aglow with light from the lanterns.

The music was loud and merry and there were flowers cast around the floor of this Andruisk, a mile or two away from Daithi's.

"By Skye and Nature! Do you have to think about everything?!" The spirit scolded. "I can hear everything you're thinking. Just enjoy this!" She added. They communicated through thought; a form of telepathy one might say. So Daithi let himself live in the now. He could taste the wine, knew it's flavor though he had no use of his tongue. The spirit ooed and awed throughout. She threw Daithi's head about, flinging his fiery hair this way and that, then jumped into a line of dancers. As the dance ended they ran to the food and ate sweet breads drizzled with honey, salty jerky, a fine cranberry juice that must have taken ages to make for lack of cranberries anywhere near there, and a collection of fruits and vegetables. Daithi knew he would be full for days with neither the desire nor need for food.

"I can't believe what I've been missing out on!" The spirit cried. Then she spoke with Daithi's mouth and asked someone how to make a particular pastry that was topped with berries.

Daithi couldn't help but laugh to himself. Then they were up and moving again, darting this way and that under the warm glow of the lanterns. They picked one up and threw it in the air where it hung like a newly born star.

"What did you used to do at these parties?! I want to do everything!" The spirit exclaimed excitedly and out loud by mistake. 

Daithi didn't need to consciously think a word. He recalled the games that they'd play and all the tricks he'd do as a performer to entertain everyone else and the songs he'd sing. There was a strong fondness for those memories and the spirit set out to reenact them. Eventually they came across a familiar spectacle. A small corral of sorts had been made with old wood, as tall as to Daithi's chest and surprisingly stable. In it stood a number of people, young and old, men and women, all waiting anxiously with one foot on the wall.

"Let me show you how it's done!" Daithi demanded joyously. The spirit didn't object and let Daithi have control once more. So he pumped his fist and jumped in. A ball was thrown in the air and it bounced three times. Then complete and utter chaos broke out. The goal was to hit each other in the legs with the ball and if you yourself got hit in the legs, you were out and had to watch the rest play. Daithi was a master of the more evasive way of playing. He jumped off the walls, bounced off the ground and narrowly avoided the projectile by sidestepping and throwing all of his weight in the opposite direction. One particular fellow stood dumbly and somehow managed to be one of the last three, Daithi included. Daithi was behind him, then leapt up the wall and grabbed the fellow by the shoulders and pushed off. A show of some hidden acrobatic skill he didn't know he possessed. But he heard the faintest sound of the spirit laughing from somewhere in his head or in the air. The ball bounced off the wall and into the air. Daithi reached out and swatted it down on the last woman's foot with a boink!

Hoots and hollers echoed through the mountains as the festivities went on. The spirit regained control once more and rushed them both to a flutist and offered to give them a rest, excitedly and not at all in the Nioneskan manner of politeness. But the rosy hue in the flutist's cheeks was evidence she was tipsy and didn't care much. Wiping off the flute, they played for the dancers and led everyone else who played anything in a merry and energetic tune, perfectly mirroring the emotions of the spirit. She had the skill of a master, and Daithi's hands had the faintest memory of how to play.

"Get I violin, I know how to play that a lot better," Daithi pointed out, harkening back to when Dominique showed him how to play. The spirit did so, returning the flute to the person and trading places with a violinist. People who were taking a rest and watched murmured and gossiped about Daithi, of his light footedness and his insane amount of energy. The spirit even made him dance while he played. But they inadvertently bumped into somebody.

That somebody whirled around and turned a pair of venomously blue eyes on them. He was as drunk as the spirit and Daithi were, but he was the kind of drunk no one wanted to mess with.

"Watch it," he hissed. His broad shoulders were pulled back as if to point out how well built he was. His jaw was square and his hair was dark and curly. The air that hung over him was that of a bear that had been woken up too soon.

"Pishkӧ! I'm enjoying myssself! The spirit hissed back in a slur. They stood straight and revealed the difference between Daithi's body and the man's; Daithi was tall and lean, and this man was just a hair taller and beefy. "Morrre than I can say for you, sourpusssss."

That seemed to piss off this man, who scowled and shoved them back. Daithi's temper flared up like a newly fueled flame. The spirit felt the same. She manipulated her magic and forced the man to turn around and march away. She released him when he was a fair distance away and huffed. But Daithi got a sense of worry. The sound of heavy footsteps marching back was nearly as jarring as the drummers.

"Try that again! I don't care if you're a shaman," he growled. "No one disrespects me!"

"Well I just did," Daithi exclaimed. But instead of being only thoughts that the spirit heard, he said them aloud. Then he realized he could feel his body again. He lifted the violin in his hand and rolled his wrists, marveling at them. Then he caught sight of the spirit, nearly invisible to all but him, sneaking behind the troll of a man. But any plans she had were cut short when a large and bony fist collided with Daithi's face. Daithi dropped the violin to the ground and kicked his foot out like a mule. It came in contact with the foe's shin and brought him to his knees.

Before anyone could intervene, the two were locked in a brawl. The dust flew and the curses were exclaimed. Dathi grabbed a fistful of his opponent's hair, teeth bared and seething. The man in retaliation, brought a meaty fist down on Daithi's chest. Then the spirit intervened. She threw her hands up and shouted something in some unknown language that no one in the Nioneska tribe knew. Daithi was cast to one side, the man to another, and only Daithi knew it was the work of the spirit. Her cheeks were rosy and had clearly been affected by the alcohol. But the man was up and charging again before Daithi could even blink.

Out of nowhere, Ronan appeared and slammed into the man, knocking him to the ground. In the split second they had, Ronan grabbed Daithi by the arm and forced him to his feet. They ran away from the Andruisk and into the dead of night. Daithi felt the wine take affect and gave a triumphant whoop.

"Shut up!" Ronan demanded between laughing pants. "What were you even doing out there?!"

Daithi hadn't the ability to speak clearly enough. Ronan let go and ran ahead, expecting Daithi to follow. But instead, Daithi stumbled for a few steps then meandered to a fallen log and draped himself over it, giggling like an idiot. The spirit was giggling beside him and fell to the grassy earth while she attempted to hum one of the songs they played.

"Who's there?" Asked a gentle and velvety voice. The voice of a woman. The spirit disappeared in the trees and shadows before the woman appeared in full view. This woman had a shawl on her shoulders that she draped over Daithi as she stooped down to look at his face. She gave out a laugh. "I saw what you did to Darius. That was quite brave of you. Hardly anyone is willing to do that to him," she explained with a grin. Daithi looked at her from his upside down view and he nearly swallowed his own tongue with shock.

"W-hat's your name?" He asked quickly, the words nearly crashing into one another. It took her a minute to decipher what he said. Then she crouched down to his level and responded.

"I'm Laurel." The name was like sweet music on his ears. He became tongue tied and unsure of what to say. "I don't think I've seen you around here. How about we continue this right-side up, hmm?" Daithi nodded slowly and struggled to sit up. Then she pressed her hands against his back and helped him up. Her touch sent electricity through his skin. Then the thoughts raced through his head: this couldn't possibly be his Laurel. It wasn't possible. But then again, there was no reason to propose that it wasn't. Daithi fumbled with the numbers in his head, trying to remember how long he'd been gone and how old that would make her. But when he opened his eyes again there she was, bathed in moonlight.

"I-I-I know you..." He stammered, roughly combing back the hair out of his face and fidgeting with his shirt. Something twinkling caught his eyes. Goosbumps exploded on his arms when he saw it. A pendant, a round bubble like glass that encased two flowers. He pointed at it with a shaking hand and tears pricked his eyes. Laurel looked his way and was about to ask for his name. She didn't recognize him. And she seemed perfectly happy. Two hot tears streaked down his face and pooled in the dip of his collarbone. He shook his head, furrowing his brows and staring at the ground. He slid himself off the log and back away. "I need to go."

Daithi backed up a step, two. He shook his head in confusion and tripped on a stick.

"Oh you don't need to leave," Laurel said, nearly pleaded.

Daithi shook his head more furiously and turned to escape in the trees.

"Daithi?!" Ronan called out. The name echoed off the forest and the mountains. Daithi bolted, not daring to look back. But Laurel heard the name and sat in utter confusion on the moonlit log. Daithi ran and ran until he saw the lights of his own Andruisk. He didn't stop until he was at his door. It swung open and Callum sat asleep by the fire.  Daithi sat on the floor and stared into the fire. He felt sick as a dog. His head pounded and his chest hurt and his knuckles were sore.

"Heehee you like her don't you?" The spirit appeared in front of him, swaying to and fro and hiccupping from time to time.

"No! Yes! I don't know!" Daithi howled. He hadn't even thought about her since he'd returned home. But when she touched him he felt butterflies flitting in his stomach and when he saw the necklace he'd given her sitting peacefully beneath her family rune stone he felt happier than he'd ever been. "We were...." He trailed off in thought.

The spirit nodded jerkily. "Hmmm yup!  Well thank *hic* youuu for a fun time. We'll have to do this again sometime." Then she was gone. And Daithi in his drunken stupor drifted off to a dreamless sleep.

 

Daithi dipped his face in the cold creek like many others who had exercised their right to drink a little too much. It felt nice. His head still ached but he felt refreshed and made an executive decision to jump in. He splashed others, getting on their nerves and receiving curses from them. But he thanked the Skye above and Nature around him that it was peaceful by that creek. And though he looked around for the spirit's hut, it wasn't anywhere to be found. Callum followed Daithi's lead and soaked in the creek.

"Have fun last night? Ronan told me all about how you went to another Andruisk and got into a fight and Ronan had to break it up," Callum explained. Daithi gave a wry smile and dry chuckle.

"Haha yeah. Was great."

"You were very drunk. You were talking to yourself last night," Callum commented casually.

"Y'know I heard you were pretty frisky last night yourself," Daithi retorted. He raised a brow as if to imply he knew something incriminating. Callum's eyes nearly popped out of his skull. His ears turned pink before he refuted Daithi's claim.

"I was not. I was just...."

"T's nothing to be ashamed of. Even the greatest men are fools under the drink's influence," Daithi said as he scrubbed under his arms as if quoting some grand and philosophical proverb. Callum looked offended, then shrugged it off and laughed. "Oh he can laugh," Daithi teased. He received a splash in the face. Before long, it was all out war. Daithi forgot about his headache and became wrapped up in the water fight. Callum shoved him down under the surface and held him there until Daithi managed to throw him off. The two roughhoused like children. Daithi grabbed Callum by the arms and shoved him onto the opposite bank where he landed with a splat in the mud. Callum was laughing hardily, enjoying being loose and free for once then looked up into a pair of brown eyes.

"Heehee ahhh. Hello Laurel," he wheezed. He waved weakly and wiped the mud off of his face. "How are you today?"

"Oh just fine. Where's Romona? I was going to give her some left over jam that I made."

Daithi saw Laurel standing there carrying on a conversation with Callum as if they were old friends. He dropped his knees and submerged himself to hide. He felt like a child but knew no other way to get out of the situation.

"OH! Have you met Daithi? He's our little brother, the one that's been away," Callum began, gesturing to where Daithi once stood. But no one was there. Daithi had grabbed his shirt off the bank and crept along the bottom and onto shore a short ways down. He sputtered and blew away the water that clung to his lips and made his way downstream. But when he heard footsteps behind him he began to quicken his pace. The sensation of a warm and soft hand on his arm stopped him, though he knew he could have wrenched his arm free. He refused to look at who had him. He pursed his lips and prayed for a miracle that would allow him to escape.

"Daithi?"

"Laurel?" He asked in a near mute whisper. The grip on his arm tightened and he heard a muffled sob. Finally breaking his promise to himself, he turned and saw Laurel's eyes, glistening with tears. She was just the way he'd left her; the same eyes, the ashy hair that fell in gentle waves like a breeze on a field, the same ivory skin. She opened her mouth as if to say more but she wrapped her arms around his neck instead, not caring that the dampness of his skin soaked her clothes. That was one change: when Daithi had left she was only an inch of two shorter than him. Now he was a head taller.

"I've missed you so much," she wailed. "How long have you been back?"

"...a month," he finally said as he caressed her hair. He didn't know how to feel. He gritted his teeth and rested his cheek on her head. Callum approached, confused with what was going on. But, knowing his p's and q's, he backed away quietly and left them be. "So what kind of trouble have you gotten yourself into?" He asked, trying to lighten the mood.

"By the spirits and gods above, you always do that!" She cried with a sniffle and wiping her eyes. "Heh it's the only thing you know how to do."

"Never needed to learn anything else," he replied. "But truly, what's life been like for you without me. Surely you have a pack of children running around the place." Laurel shook her head and began to say something but a familiar set of thumping steps approached them.

"Laurel? What are you doing with that coward?" A voice growled.

"Darius? Nothing! He's just an old friend!" Daithi turned and saw Darius in all of his bruised and battered glory. He couldn't help but feel proud of himself for leaving such a nasty black eye and fat lip on the troll. Daithi cracked his classic half smirk. Darius glowered at Daithi before leading Laurel away. Laurel apologized as she was dragged along before submissively following behind Darius.

Daithi huffed with his hands on his hips. Then Callum appeared from behind a tree, having heard the entire exchange. Then he explained rather meekly "That's Darius. He's Laurel's husband. I...I married them myself." The disbelief in Daithi's face was enough to tell Callum that something was up. Then Daithi was gone. He stormed out into the woods until he couldn't even hear the babble of the creek or the faintest sound of people talking. He let himself get lost in the green hues of nature. When he did stop it was on a large moss covered boulder. Or at least what he thought was a boulder. When he sat down he saw the spirit he'd seen and struck a deal with the night before. She was scowling and pacing until her feet were stained an even deeper green than the skin on her soles.

"I hate him," she screeched. "Also, you're sitting on a troll." As the word 'troll' rolled off her lips the boulder began to move and the sound of stone rubbing stone drilled into their ears. Daithi grabbed an edge that jutted out of the supposed stone and held on as the troll stood up, revealing the part Daithi held onto to be the troll's shoulders. The troll stood twice as tall as a man and was clad in nearly entire rolls of fabric and a chain belt that rattled and squeaked. Unaware of its passenger, the troll began to walk away from its resting place. Daithi let go and found himself in a patch of soft an damp earth completely defeating the purpose of his bath.

"What would we do about any of it? What is there to gain?" Daithi asked accusingly and a bit angry. He pounded a fist in the dirt before lying on his back and staring into the blue sky that poked through the branches.

The spirit thought for a moment, trying to appeal to her companion. Then it occurred to her what would strike just the right chord with him. "I can get my revenge on him for disrespecting the fey folk, and you can have your precious Laurel. From what I gather, she doesn't want anything to do with him." The mischief in her eyes was almost wicked in nature and unnerving to see set in the face of a girl no older than a young teenager. But Daithi shook his head.

"No, I'm not doing anything. It's not my place. Besides if I'm supposed to be on the high council for Sampsa I can't go runnin' around stirrin' pots that don't need stirrin'."

The spirit threw the hands up in the air and groaned. "Humans are so difficult. Magic ones especially, " she bemoaned. "Fine, but I'll mess with him, or my name isn't-" Daithi stalked off once again, ignoring his new 'friend' and opting to go home. He trudged through the creek, finding no one around, and marched back to the Andruisk. Eager for the privacy, he stowed away in the empty house he lived in before moving in with Callum and Ronan. When he laid on the skins he'd left by mistake he found his gypsy earring stashed between the folds. He fiddled with them and fiddled with them until his fingers ached and he was called by Callum to get ready for the Presentings, an age old tradition. Every new baby is officially apart of the tribe and their family and given a wooden medallion until their proper one is made and they come of age at which point they return and are given a permanent place among the tribe. Weddings take place and new shamans are initiated all in one ceremony. Daithi helped paint Callum's face and vice versa with cobalt blue and green. Then he changed into his best spring clothes: a crisp blue shirt with white flowers stitched in and beige pants that went to the knees. His shirt brought out the blue dots below his right eye and lines on his opposite cheek.

Daithi helped conduct the marriages and initiations of new shamans. The music place softly and he found that it calmed him down while he did his best not to fumble over the words. When it was over Daithi sat with the other shamans and surveyed the less rowdy partying than last night. Before the night was even over, Daithi found himself shambling back to his empty house and washing his face off. His shook his head with annoyance when he realized the paint wouldn't come off and had stained his skin for at least a few days. This was how he spent the next few days: celebrating during the day, drinking and trading stories with the people, even going as far as to practice his newfound skill with magic and telling the stories with figures of light, and then coming back to the empty house for peace and quiet. The second night he saw the spirit again, begging him for some wine. He thought nothing of it and gave it to her and continued his routine. Even after the Festival was over, the celebrating was replaced with helping clean up. That is, until one quiet evening after a visit with Siiri and Romona, there was a knock on the door.

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