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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14. Broken, Lost, & Found

Daithi peered inside and saw bloody rags strewn about as if someone had had a run in with a wild boar. Daithi recalled an instance when his uncle had that sort of accident in Scotland. But a tiny and weak voice shattered that theory.

"Ramona...?"

Daithi's heart jumped into his throat. He shook his head and slipped inside. Even though there was a fire it was far from warm in the little room. Daithi's jaw dropped when he saw Laurel in blankets, surrounded by bloody rags. She was sweating and her breaths were shallow and shaky. Her brows were knit together in pain as she groped the air for something. Daithi looked for whatever it was she wanted and rested his eyes on a jug of water. He knelt down and gave it to her, all the while feeling utterly helpless. Finally when she had drunk her fill, he put the jug down and tentatively took her hand in his. Daithi kissed her knuckles and said "Laurel, it's me. I'm here."

Laurel shook her head in denial and replied "No, Daithi, it can't be you." Her eyes opened and they lit up. They were like fireflies coming to life again.

"But it is...Laurel what happened?" Daithi asked, not noticing that he was on the brink of tears or how his voice caught in his throat. She tried to smile but it was pained. Laurel cast a sideways glance at the evidence of her condition. Then she gasped and her mouth opened as if to scream.

"Where...where is he? Daithi, where is he?"

Daithi, confused and afraid frantically asked "Who? Who's 'he'?"

In Laurel's delirium she shook and flailed weakly to try and look for whoever 'he' was, muttering things like "Sevri" or "Demetrius". Daithi grabbed her wrists and gasped when he held her steady, noting how frail and thin she was. It terrified him as the truth sank in; all that blood was Laurel's and she was too weak. That's why Ramona had been crying and searching for the right herbs in such a rush. A tear burned down Daithi's cheek. The light of the fire caught it just right as it fell onto the blankets and got Laurel's attention. She stopped her struggling and had a moment of clarity as she slipped out of his grasp and held his face in her hands. For a moment they sat in their silence. Daithi thought he could even see the life draining from her eyes. Felt it in how her hands grew weaker until they drifted down to her sides.

Then with a voice like warm breeze she said "Daithi, lay beside me...just one more...time." The finality in her words are what made him want to tear himself to pieces just to prove her wrong and, at the same time made his heart ache too much to argue. Laurel rested her head against his chest and closed her eyes. She was so cold. Daithi wrapped his arms around her, holding her as tight as he could without hurting her; as if by holding her tight enough he could keep death away. "Promise....that.... you will take care of......" She wheezed, trailing off into silence.

After a time, Ramona finally came back, eyes red rimmed, hair askew, and panting. She had her basket of herbs with her and a glimmer of hope in her eyes. But the spark was choked out when she saw Laurel and Daithi. At first, Daithi's senses had been so dulled from his disbelief that he didn't comprehend why. But when he stole a glance away from the crackling flames and to Laurel instead he realized he didn't hold her tight enough. When he pulled his hands away he noticed something round and smooth resting in his palm. It was the necklace he had made for Laurel. The rose and the carnation hadn't wilted or lost their colors after all those years, all that time.

A hideous wail erupted from him. Daithi jolted upright and pounded the floor with his fist until it was purple. Ramona sank to her knees, not uttering a single word. Daithi gritted his teeth and moaned. He pulled at his hair, grabbed his arms and squeezed. He left his handprints through the coat and shirt he wore. He didn't hold back. There wasn't anyway for him to hold back. But he refused to look at her. He couldn't bring himself to do it lest his last memory of her be when she was gone. Daithi kept his eyes firmly shut when he took Laurel in his arms again and rocked on his haunches as one would when soothing a baby. But he only sought to soothe himself. The tears didn't stop. They burned his skin where they fell while he sobbed until he had no voice to cry anymore. When his thoughts cleared, he tried to calm himself. He laid Laurel back down and he thought she looked like she was just asleep. After all, that's what it is, right? An eternal sleep.

"W-what.....w-what h-appened?" He stammered, his head hanging low with his knuckles brushing the floor. Ramona didn't have a voice to speak with. Sudden horror flashed over her features and she flew into a wild panic, searching for something. Her panic made her more mute, as she tried to communicate but only managed warbling moans. Daithi didn't have the heart to ask or wonder what she sought after. He didn't have the heart to do anything.

As the sunlight began to bleed through the morning Daithi knew he'd have to tell the shamans of that Andruisk. He buried his face in his hands and steeled his nerve. Then his fingertips grazed Laurel's. He hoped that she would react to the touch, something to contradict the truth. But he knew she wouldn't.

"R-Ramona? Sta-ay here." Daithi stuttered. He didn't wait to see if Ramona heard him or if she would stay.  He was out the door into the chilled air. Just as suddenly as the sun had begun to rise, clouds blocked it like curtains being drawn. There wasn't any bright color anymore, not to Daithi's eyes.

 

~~Faces passed by him, unaware of what had occurred in the little home on the outskirts of the Andruisk. When they saw the anguish that creased Daithi's face they stopped and watched him walk. Daithi's feet were heavy. Nearly too heavy for him to drag along with him. All the while as he staggered along he couldn't get over the ache in his chest or the sound of his own howling out of his head. Through his veil of red hair he caught sight of a medicine man who seemed to be headed for Laurel and Ramona. Daithi tried to say something but only whimpered when the man was already gone.


Taking in a shuddery breath of the frosty morning air, Daithi stopped near the Great Tree and sank to his knees. He was bathed in the orange and red light that bled through the leaves. Just as he feared his eyes would be blurred by his own weeping, he saw someone skulk off between the shadows of the trees and clotheslines. Something in his head told him it was Sampsa; the sort of swagger in his gait and the broadness of shoulder. But rather than call out, Daithi fell forward onto his hands and knees and stumbled to his feet. Onlookers merely saw him as drunk with how he swayed and staggered up the slope of the Andruisk and into the belt of trees that separated the clusters of homes from one another.

Daithi's knuckles ached as he gripped the necklace that Laurel had returned to him. It was the only thing that kept him focused. But even then, he was clumsy and tripped over exposed roots and stones in pursuit of Sampsa.

When they came upon the river, Daithi, a good distance behind, tried to approach. But he found himself unable to move when he saw the person throw something into the water. As it sailed through the air there was an earsplitting shriek. At first Daithi thought it was his mind that continued to replay his wailing back to himself. And yet it wasn't. The person left as quickly and silently as they had come and Daithi found himself drawn to the water's edge. Water lapping at his feet, he searched the rushing and choppy waves for what was thrown. Then a hand pushed him in. He swallowed water and his head collided with a rock on the bottom. Daithi couldn't see anything under the rushing water. Though dizzy, he pushed off the bottom and bobbed to the surface. But something bobbed with him. He saw a basket get thrown amongst the waves. A bright flash made him look to shore and for a second he thought he saw the spirit. The current pushed him further downstream, bashing him against rocks and flinging the basket into the air only to splash land again. A scream emanated from the basket when it soared through the air. Daithi didn't need to think twice of what it was. He pushed himself off rocks to get closer until he was able to grab it.


There was some relief that came with having that basket in his possession. But it was short lived when Daithi saw a more violent stretch of the river. His heart went cold and his scars ached. He pressed the basket to his chest and did his best to shelter it from the waves. In the split second before he was sucked into the rapids he cast a spell on the basket. Not a drop of water touched it. Knowing it was safe, whatever was inside, made him relax. He didn't even care if he didn't survive. In that moment, he remembered every regret he ever had, every mistake he'd made. Daithi felt the force of the water pulling him under. He didn't fight against the current, he let it drag him down. Darkness surrounded him. Then nothing.

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