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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5. A New Home

Asleep in an alley, Daithi snored away. But even the slightest sound made him stir from his sleep. He'd open his eyes and blink himself awake to scan his surroundings, however dark it may have been, then when he was satisfied he would close his eyes and sleep again. Though he'd been in France for a few years, he never dared stay in one place and avoided the fancy and stately homes and hangouts of the upper class for fear of Roberts miraculously finding him.

Come daybreak, the morning light chased away the nightmares and awoke Daithi with the sound of the market place coming alive with chatter and people as it did every day. Daithi stretched and shook himself awake as he began his rounds. Without any money to his name, he couldn't feed himself by normal means. He passed by the baker and managed to grab a loaf of bread while the baker was haggling over a few bread rolls with a lady. Daithi's stomach rumbled as soon as he touched it and only silenced itself when he took a bite out of it.

He passed by a pair of dancers, gypsies, and nodded with a weak smile. He'd seen them around. And he felt a kinship with them. They fought and scrounged for every scrap they had like he had to. His attention was stolen when he heard the baker shout and begin to make chase. Daithi panicked and forced the loaf of bread under his arm and ran. The two dancers watched with amusement as Daithi ran about the square then disappeared down a back ally. Recalling every race with Ronan and Callum, he ducked and dodged through the people and the various obstacles like the sleeping bum or stray dog. He recalled every turn and back alley he had ever explored and used his mental map to avoid capture. The shred of guilt he might have felt was replaced with a determination not to go to jail over bread.

Daithi saw a beat up caravan parked off to the side of the street and took the opportunity. Not caring who it belonged to, he threw the door open and slammed it shut. He peered through the window's curtains to see if the baker had followed, sighing with relief when he saw the baker look around and give up.

"Excusez-moi," a voice said with a yawn. Daithi turned with a start and saw a man half asleep in a hammock, rubbing his eyes and moving a hat from his face. He smiled warmly, his brown eyes twinkling at Daithi like a string of beads in his wavy hair, the color of wet sand and down to his cheeks.

Daithi apologized in French and struggled with opening the door before any further incident could occur.

"No, no worries. Not a bad escape. Mind sharing that bread with me?" The man asked, clearly impressed with not only Daithi's daring heist, but his linguistic ability. "You're not from here, are you?" The man asked as Daithi handed him a chunk of the bread.

"No...I'm from very far away. You?"

"Born and raised in France. Of course we've never been very well liked much here. But we get by," the man replied with a sly smile. His eyes brown twinkled with a mischief Daithi had only seen in himself and in children. He reminded Daithi of Sampsa, the oldest brother in Daithi's family.

"I am Dominique Henri Gray. You are?"

"It's too long," Daithi stated a little embarrassed. He hadn't been called by his full name since he was a child and it sounded weird to him. But the warmth from the caravan's interior, the collection of trinkets and instruments, and the patience of Dominique eventually got Daithi to opened up. "Daithi Jason..." He swallowed a chunk of bread and tried to remember the last name his family went by out in the world. "Ruari Desmond McClaine." Dominique looked surprised for a moment at the sheer length, then laughed and asked why Daithi's parents would give him such a long name. He explained that all of his siblings had an extra first or middle name, and there was another little boy named Daithi so his parents wanted to make sure they knew which as which. Before Daithi knew it, he spent the day with him, talking and such. They traded stories of growing up, Daithi taking care not to divulge any critical information about his home and the Nioneksa.

Then, around sundown, there was a knock on the door and Dominique opened the door for two lovely young women. The dancers, Daithi realized.

"Bijou! Corinna! Meet my new acquaintance, Daithi Jason Rauri Desmond McClaine! I think he can help us make money!" Dominique informed them. Corinna, with long black burls and piercing blue eyes, produced a hat full of coins and smiled triumphantly. Bijou, who wore a shawl over her head and braided her hair to the side, hummed contently.

"So....can you dance? Sing?" Corinna asked quickly. Her brow was raised and her half smirk was teasing as if she were testing Daithi.

He pressed himself against the wall of the caravan and laughed nervously. "E'eryone where I'm from had to learn to dance. Almost religious really." Daithi replied.

Corinna looked him up and down, then nodded to Dominque and Bijou as they spoke in what Daithi assumed to be the language of the Roma. Then they turned to him with big grins that made Daithi uncomfortable with not knowing what they had planned. "What would you say to staying with us? You haven't stolen from us yet, nor us from you. Besides, if you can steal like that, we'll be eating like kings," Dominique stated hopefully.

Daithi looked at their faces and saw an excitement. But something in him hesitated. He shook his head slowly and stuttered "I-I couldn't. I mean it's just...."

"You need to learn to live again. Who better than with us? If Dominique likes you then you've got something worth keeping around," Corinna barked, getting nose to nose with Daithi and giving him a comforting but taunting smile.

"Corinna! What makes you think that?" Bijou asked scoldingly.

"His eyes. Look at them. They have no life to them. So it's settled, you're staying with us. Dominique, where's that hammock? It can go under yours," Corinna began, already clearing a small table and stool from under Dominique's hammock to make room. Before Daithi could object further, a hammock was made for him and he was laying in it, listening to them chatter through the night until daybreak. Only then did he get a moment of silence to think of it. Though he was afraid of what would happen, there was a thirst for this new adventure deep in his heart. This was why he set out with Ronan, to explore and learn and meet new people. This was why he left his home and family...and Laurel. These thoughts twirled and floated around in his head until he heard Dominique and the girls awoke and begin the journey to somewhere new. The caravan shook and rattled and bounced on the street and the horses, an old mare, went along leisurely. Daithi was rocked to sleep for a spell while Bijou and Dominique sat just outside of the doorway to steer the caravan, chatting and gabbing the whole way.

 

"So this is how you move your feet after that," Bijou instructed, demonstrating a dance step for Daithi, which he mimicked almost flawlessly. "Perfect, now put it together with the music. Dominique! Play, please."

Dominique nodded and began to play on his violin, a fast paced tune and tapped his foot on the cobblestone street. Daithi found the tempo while bobbing his head and began the dance At some point he ost himself and smiled wide, even laughing to himself with the joy that swelled in his chest. Bijou watched with a sort of pride in her ability to teach and was especially proud of herself when Daithi completed the dance as Dominique finished playing. The sound of hands clapping and coins falling to the ground were enough to prove it was done well.

"Well well, it seems we have a little gypsy boy in the making. He can dance like one, but he doesn't look like one," Corinna teased, circling Daithi and looking him up and down from his bare feet to the old a dirty rags he wore. Daithi felt a little embarrassed as he remembered how he had stolen the clothes off someone's clothesline, naked as a baby and wild-eyed like a rabbit.  

Corinna grabbed Daithi and Dominique by the collar and dragged them behind the caravan so she could set to work. "Dominique, give him a shave. I'll get him some of your old clothes," Corinna explained when she went back into the caravan, her bracelets jingling as she rooted through their things.

Dominique pulled a straight razor out of his pocket and sized up Daithi's short beard. Then he spied the spot of blonde just below Daithi's lower lip and laughed. "Is that a ginger's version of graying? Must be. Now hold still," Dominique demanded. He fell upon him quickly, brandishing his razor and spreading a sort of cream on Daithi's beard. Then he set to work shaving it off. Daithi had seen how Dominique behaved: boisterous and energetic. And it didn't comfort him when Dominique began to dance a little while listening to Bijou singing out front for coins. Daithi did his best not to move. When Corinna returned, Daithi was shaved and Dominique even took the time to cut Daithi's hair so it was shoulder length. Orange curls of hair and shreds of beard littered the ground and the wind blew them away.

"Oh! He's practically a child!" Corinna cried. Daithi spotted a puddle and got up to look at his muddy reflection. And she was right. He did look like a child. Daithi was amazed to see he was practically the same as when he left, just a bit more skinny. The only change was his eyes, just as Corinna had said from day one; if eyes are the windows to the soul, Daithi's had the curtains pulled and the shutters closed. 

"On the bright side, he's handsome enough to bring in the coin," Corinna added as he threw a bundle of clothes at Daithi. He caught them after fumbling for a moment or two and nearly dropping them in his mirror puddle. Daithi couldn't help but smirk. Then it was washed away with a sudden pain and twitch in his back.

He got into the caravan and changed so no one would see the scars carved into his flesh. He hoped they'd faded a bit. When he emerged, he had a dark green shirt and a ruddy brown vest and loose brown trousers to match. His clothes matched Dominique and Bijou and Corina perfectly. It was his hair and his necklace that made him stick out again. But in the oncoming weeks and months, it made him more valueable it seemed.

 

"Behold! Come one, come all to see Madame Xandra!" Dominique announced. He led in a handful of people inside the caravan to see Corinna, decked out in large earrings and a silk scarf wrapped around her neck as she shuffled a deck of tarot cards. Daithi played the role of her servant, providing her various trinkets and tools to pretend the show was real. Bijou was the translator, to make it seem even more real to the dimwitted patrons. Corinna made jokes in Roma, trying to see what it would take to get Bijou to laugh. Daithi found he was even able to begin to understand it a bit and had to fight giggles himself. The afternoons passed this way for nearly a week in Paris. It only came to an end when soldiers and accusers began to whisper about them and forced them to move. In the process of moving the caravan they were spat on by the accusers as if to make it more evident that they wanted the gypsies gone.

Daithi, curious about this city that he'd heard so much about from his companions, decided to wander for a spell between their little shows. He dared to think back on the days before he was found and felt better. He didn't have many nightmares. But occasionally during their shows and acts, when he danced or Bijou sang with him, he'd get a flashback or the a stinging pain would shock his systems.

Eventually, he found himself in a collection of street performers outside of a massive cathedral. Daithi unwittingly found himself in a circle of dancers, staring at the rose window set in the cathedral's face. Somehow, he was hypnotized by it. He tried to get closer and see inside, but someone grabbed him by the arm. The sudden touch and strong grip made Daithi panic. He  pulled away and struggled until he saw Dominique's warm face.

"I've found you. And just in time. There's going to be a party out in a field. Lots of dancing and food tonight. We can get our caravan there if we hurry."

Daithi steadied himself and sighed. "Sounds fun. But what is this place?" Daithi asked, pointing at the cathedral.

"That? Ah, she is Notre-Dame de Paris. A fine mistress, no?" Dominique informed him with the same look of wonder and admiration as Daithi. "But as I was saying, shall we go?"

Unable to say no, Daithi agreed and helped secure everything for the short trip. They reached it by sundown and found Corinna and Bijou already there. A few bonfires were lit up and cast a warm glow and threw shadows out into the field. Daithi looked around and had to rub his eyes and pinch himself to be sure it was real. He saw people dancing and playing music and eating and it all felt like a celebration put on by the Nioneska. He was sat down between to older people and was fed before even being asked. Dominique took Bijou's hand and danced with her for a spell. Corinna was lively and vivacious as ever. At some point she spied Daithi and sat beside him. She was tired and leaned against him without a second thought. Daithi blushed and averted his gaze.

"What's the matter?" Corinna asked casually.

"N-nothing," Daithi blurted hastily. Corinna saw the lie in this and  took his hand in hers to comfort him.

"If that's the case, then dance with me," Corinna offered. Without a yes or a no, she dragged Daithi out and danced with him. He was bewildered and unable to understand what he felt in that moment. He didn't know if it was the drink or the atmosphere or just Corinna herself. But he found himself captivated by her eyes, like pristine pools of water. And her dress wrapped around his legs and made him fumble a bit while he was preoccupied. She laughed and steadied him again. Finally, Daithi thought of things to talk about. Questions burned into his mind from the moment he became apart of this band of vagabonds.

"Why did you want me to come with you anyway?"

Corinna looked surprised that he asked, then quirked a brow and a smirk and replied "You seemed interesting. Just as you saw me and Bijou everyday, we saw you." Then she thought for a moment, as if contemplating something. Her eyes were over Daithi's shoulder as if some fragmented thought were sitting there. "So why did you stay?"

Even Daithi had to think on that for a moment or two. "I honestly don't know. I should be home now...." Daithi found himself lost in the dance. He was lighter than air itself and his senses were filled with perfume and flowers. He was in a dream that felt like home but had the thrill of something new. His heart beat against his ribs and his palms grew sweaty, though he didn't fully know why. But something in him was stirred with the excitement and he was eager to see what awaited.

 

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