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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11. An Affair Comes to Light

From then on, Laurel always visited Daithi while Darius was on hunting trips. No one truly knew of it, and they kept up the appearance that Laurel's illness acted up and reared its ugly head from time to time, even going as far as to have visits while Darius was home. Though it would have been a scandal if they were caught, Daithi paid it no mind. His status among the Nioneska would have plummeted but he didn't care. Status wasn't anything to him. But Laurel didn't want to cause a stir and ensured that he was as careful as she was.

One particular morning, early and barely a kiss from the sun trying to break through the clouds, they laid amongst blankets and warm skins. Daithi was half asleep and had rolled over. But despite the fogginess that invaded his mind, he could feel fingertips tracing his scars. At first the touch almost stung even though the scars were long healed, but then it felt nice and soothing. After a time he rolled over to face Laurel and couldn't help but crack a smile; a cheeky, toothy grin. To him she was the most beautiful thing he could have ever imagined, from her slender nose and sleek jaw to her almost coppery brown eyes and delicate frame.

Before he could further observe and take the moment to memory, she got a wicked twinkle in her eye. With a claw-like hand she grabbed for his stomach and started to tickle him. Daithi let out a yelp of surprise and struggled to slide away from her reach, laughing uncontrollably all the way.

"No! HAHAHAAHA AHHH! LAUREL!" He cried with desperation. He arched his back and pushed off of her with his feet to get away. Laurel stopped, a look of utter satisfaction in her face. Daithi sighed and wiped the sweat from his brow before sliding back over and holding her wrists down on either side of her. "Heheh, don't do that again," he forbade. Then he stole a kiss from her, his lips falling against hers as softly and quickly as a thief escaping in the night. Daithi let her go and began to dress himself for the lessons that he'd have to teach soon. He had to dig through the blankets to find his pants and shook his legs into them. Laurel did the same, only much quicker. Daithi was rifling through his chest of belongings while Laurel was combing out her hair with her fingers. He gave a "humph" of defeat and started to braid his hair.

Daithi watched Laurel as she began to throw together a quick breakfast for them both before she had to sneak off before anyone was awake.

"I think I'll drop by Romona and Siiri's and see what they're up to," Laurel blurted, breaking the peaceful silence.

Daithi slid across the dirt floor so he was behind her and placed his hands on her sides. Resting his chin on her shoulder he asked "Do you really need to leave?"

"Augh, you troll." Laurel kissed him on the cheek and shoved him away as she placed a kettle on a little grate made of thin rocks and a glue like cement.

Daithi pretended to be hurt but it didn't work. He shrugged, knowing there was no changing her mind. When Laurel finished boiling the tea and began to open jar after jar of jerky and bread Daithi felt content. More than content. He was ecstatic in the most plain way; when everything seems too perfect for a normal day.

Laurel took his arm and sat next to him while he drank his tea. Then she uttered the most beautiful words. "I love you." They sent Daithi into a frenzy in his mind. It felt as if his lungs had shriveled up and he couldn't breath. Truly, he couldn't have been happier if he'd been crowned the richest king to ever live. He feared the moment that it would end. But they remained that way, eating their humble breakfast and basking in the warm glow of the fire. Laurel was the first of the two to turn her eyes to the sunrise, turning her eyes into explosions of gold and copper. The sunlight had just begun to pour into their valley nestled between the mountains.

Hesitant to destroy this pure bliss they shared, Daithi finally found a shirt and seized his opportunity to bathe in the creek. He bade her farewell, knowing that she would be gone when he returned as if she'd never been there at all. So he ventured into the woods, passing the telltale stone marked with old symbols and runes and drawings from countless authors and artists. The sunrise spilled light between the trees and gave the forest a warm and comforting air about it. Even as Daithi bathed he was lost in the floaty feeling he had. He didn't realize that he forgot to shake out his hair or how much time he spent there until he heard the andruisk begin to come alive.

"Hmm. Seems you finally got your girl back," a voice pointed out plainly, almost teasingly. Daithi turned with a start and spied the spirit again. Her skin wasn't as green as it was and her hair wasn't as red, more sandy brown. Daithi shook his head, but he still smirked. When he looked back, she was gone again. He shrugged and began to wring his hair out and redress himself. Then the spirit returned. But this time her face was flushed and her eyes were like miniature moons. Followed by her reappearance was loud and intense shouting.

"Where is she?!"

The roars already made Daithi panic. The voice sounded familiar in a haunting and worrying way. He looked back from the direction of the shouting and saw the spirit's mouth move. He felt like he'd gone deaf with how long it took for the words to register. "He knows."

With a bound and a splash Daithi was darting through the trees like a deer. Though he didn't know it, the spirit turned herself into a smoke and used her magic to make him run faster than even his fear induced adrenaline could make him go. When he reached the andruisk and the trees fell away he saw a crowd amassed near his home and Darius in the middle. He shouted and stomped madly like a bull.

Daithi leapt down into the depression and ran into the clearing of people. He feigned ignorance as best as he could, hoping Darius would see him as the concerned authority that was a shaman. Between pants he asked "What's going on Darius? You're disturbing the peace here."

"Oh I'm disturbing the peace?! What about my peace of mind that my wife is safe at home when I'm gone!" Darius' gaze was cold and steely. They morphed from blue to a silver-gray that gave Daithi flashbacks of the sounds of clanging swords and the sound of guns. Daithi had to chew his cheek to keep from saying something stupid or worse, give away that Laurel was probably still inside his home.

"Darius, go home. I'm sure she's just busy." Daithi couldn't hold back his irritation. He knew that Darius was supposed to be on a hunting trip and be gone for at least two more days.

"NO! I KNOW she's here!" Darius snarled with bared teeth and a growl in his throat. It made Daithi rumble too.

Daithi took a breath and raised his hands in a show of peace. Then he took a hold of his rune stone and tried to swear on it. "Darius, she isn't h-!" His words were cut off and shattered by a swift and bony pound to the jaw. Daithi staggered backwards, dazed and stoked like the flames of a fire. Darius tried to continue with his onslaught with animal-like ferocity, but Daithi used his lean frame to his advantage and avoided every meaty fist. Then he slammed into Darius and wrestled him to the ground.

Daithi stared directly into Darius' eyes for a moment, nose to nose, before getting up hoping that would have spooked Darius enough to prevent further attacks. But as he backed up Darius jumped to his feet and leaped for him. Daithi kicked like a mule and it jabbed Darius' stomach. From then on, Daithi was uncontrolled and angry. What was once a warm golden ray of sunlight was now a fiery spotlight on the brutality and carnage.

Punches were thrown, flesh was bruised, kicks were cast. Daithi didn't even comprehend the feeling of hands trying to rip him and Darius apart or the voices of Siiri and Ronan screaming to get his attention. None of them had the strength to pull them away. Darius was naturally built like an ox, broad shoulders and brute strength ingrained in his every fiber. Daithi had fury that built and built and built until it threatened to replace everything he knew. He felt Darius' pulse with his hands wrapped around his foe's neck, ready to squeeze the last breath of life out of his lungs. Then another set of hands ripped him off and kept him bound. His hands trembled with rage and his breathing was ragged. As Daithi was dragged away he began to feel the throbbing in his leg. But still, he was in a dark state of mind that he didn't want to stop until Darius was no more. Darius felt the same as he struggled against his restrainers.

With a mighty roar, Darius shook off those who tried to pull him away and wrenched Daithi from the grasp of his family. Like feral beasts, they circled each other. Daithi couldn't help but feel proud when he saw how Darius favored his left shoulder. But he knew Darius felt the same as Daithi limped along.

Before Darius could strike first, Daithi leapt on top of him. The suddenness and the speed was enough to surprise Darius and for Daithi to force him to go crashing down to the ground. Daithi gritted his teeth so much they hurt as he whaled on Darius with all of his strength. But he didn't realize that Darius was able to get a leg up and pushed him back. Daithi hit the ground and the air was knocked out of his lungs as Darius grabbed a hold of his throat. The grip was so tight it made Daithi necklace did into his flesh and made him struggle even more for air. But he wasn't focused on the fact that he might die then and there; his focus was on winning at all costs. Darius' blood dripped on Daithi face, further fueling the flames in Daithi's soul.

Daithi sucked in a lung-full of air when Darius was pulled away by four others. Just as Daithi steeled himself a woman's voice cut through the murmurs and screams of horror like a knife.

"Stop!"

Everyone turned to look and saw Laurel, tears streaming down her face, running out of Daithi's house. Daith's hackles rose and he saw Darius' eyes narrow. Darius swore in the mother tongue and lunged for Laurel. But hurried hands grabbed his clothes and his limbs and kept him from moving an inch.

"Laurel! Get behind me!" Daithi commanded. Laurel did so and held onto the back of his shirt.

"TRUASTKAS! TRAITORS!" Darius screamed, the veins in his neck bulging as his face turned almost the same shade of red as the blood that gushed from his nose and a cut on his cheek. "YOU WHORE!" Darius howled. 

"ENOUGH! What's going on?!" Sampsa flicked his wrist at Darius and a pair of glowing shackles wrapped around his ankles. Daithi would have wept at the sight of his brother if Sampsa didn't have a scowl and the air of a massive bear forced to run two foolish drunks from his cave. Sampsa, despite the early hour of the morning, was dressed, combed, and pissed. 

It was Siiri who spoke up and provided answers. "Darius stormed through here, shouting and screaming like a banshee-"

"SHUT UP, YOU-!"

"I said ENOUGH, Darius. Please continue," Sampsa said with the command of a prince. Though with a scowl, Darius shut his mouth. Sampsa pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath as Siiri went on. 

"He was looking for Laurel and thought she was here. Daithi tried to calm him down and make him go home but Darius hit Daithi and...." Siiri looked away nervously as if the cause of the fight was her. 

"I see...firstly...Darius? You were meant to be on a hunting trip to bring food back to your andruisk. You agreed with your council that you would go, but you remained and now there won't be any meat brought back." Sampsa prepared to doll out a sentence. "For this, you will be tied to the post without meat, just as you have starved your fellow man. For three days you will starve. Daithi?"

"What?! YOU CAN'T DO THIS! THEY'RE PLOTTING AGAINST ME! THEY'VE BEEN SLEEPING TOGETHER BEHIND MY BACK!"

Daithi cowered at the sound of his name. Suddenly every joint, every bruise ached and throbbed. He looked up meekly, blood running from his nose and tremors that ran through his whole body. But Laurel took his hand to steady his nerve. "Yes, Sampsa?"

"What do you have to say?" Though Sampsa's face was stoic and stern, his eyes shimmered with shock.

Daithi looked to Laurel who nodded slowly. Then he wiped away the blood from his nose and said loudly "Yes. What he said is true: Laurel and I have been meeting in my home when Darius goes on hunting trips. But I want it known that Darius has been cruel and abusive! I wouldn't undo my actions save for one thing: I would have killed him long ago!" Daithi stood defiant before the condescending crowd. It was he, a shaman and a pillar of the community, who had been apart of an affair. But he didn't care that all eyes were on him. Why should he? He defended himself and sought to protect his love.

"Hmm....Daithi I must ask that you relinquish your place on the council until it is seen as fit for you to return. Furthermore, I am forcing you to move back in with Ronan and Callum to ensure something like this doesn't happen again." Sampsa eyed the twins warily and went on. "Laurel, it has been claimed that you have had an affair. What do you have to say?"

Laurel began to cough, her anxiety from the fight only building more. When she got herself under control she declared "I did. And what Daithi said....was true. I ask that Darius and I be separated and cut ties." Laurel stole a sideways glance at Darius who was dumbstruck. Then it was replaced with a deep scowl, radiating disdain. But Sampsa nodded in respect to her wishes.

"It shall be done. Once his sentence has been carried out, you can see your council and have it arranged. Now if this is all over, return to your business. Daithi...pack your things." Then Sampsa turned and left. But as the crowd closed around him Daithi saw him hold his face in his hand. The lovers shared one last glance before Callum led Daithi by the arm to grab his things. Laurel was afraid, and she was worried for Daithi. He'd been stripped of his status and reverted back to the moment he was given a place in the tribe. She had nowhere to go. Laurel threw herself into his arms, burying her face in his shoulder before pulling away.

For Daithi, it was all a blur. He gathered his things, each little jar and splatter of paint dripping with Laurel's presence. And as he emptied his chest and rolled up his clothes he couldn't help but feel disappointed. Not in the sense that he expected to be allowed to remain with Laurel and perhaps even ask for her hand. But he thought there would be more. A worse punishment, a bigger fight over what was decided. With each movement his body throbbed and ached as if he were slowly being crushed by a boulder. As for the separation, he felt it was appropriate though it was still infuriating that he fought so hard and risked so much only for there to be no such happy ending.

When he collected the last of his belongings he looked in his home one more time. The rounded dirt walls and the overly cluttered shelves, all of it. Even then it felt cozy and safe and welcoming. But he knew it wouldn't welcome him home for a long time. The door closed behind him, but he didn't dare look at the paint that seeped in between the grooves of the wood. It took so much effort not to think about all that happened that it would only break his concentration.

Not a thought came to mind when he reached his new-old home with Callum as an escort. Though they were silent and Daithi assumed it was out of respect for the trying start to a long day, Callum began to rant and rave as soon as the door was shut behind them. Ronan was startled with how suddenly Callum began reprimanding Daithi. Daithi didn't listen to a word of it. Ronan was in slight awe as Daithi laid down on soft skins and rolled over. Daithi was more exhausted than he could say, body and soul. His body was painted in freckles and bruises and every breath left a sharp pain in his ribs. His head ached and his stomach kept doing flips. Finally the words "Callum, shut up," fell from his lips. Callum was dumbstruck that his little brother would say such a thing. He opened his mouth to begin again, but Ronan cut him off.

"Callum, he gets it. Leave him be."

"Don't get into this! It's one thing you have your...whatever she is across the sea and you make me make a portal for you, but this is outrageous! Daithi shouldn't have done this!"

"I don't care what you say! I said everything I wanted to say when I was talking with Sampsa! I don't regret a single word!" Daithi hissed. "I would have done everything exactly the same as I did if I had the chance. I've lost the only thing that I couldn't bare to lose when she wasn't even mine, so just shut up." The venom in his voice was enough, almost too much, to get Callum to back off. So he huffed and shook his head before rolling back over. With whatever time they would allow, he thought back on all of his actions; any slip up that may have given Darius an idea of what Laurel was doing. But these analytical thoughts and conclusions all ran back to Laurel and every precious moment.

 

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