A Drifting Soul

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


13. Hate and Favors

Daithi scented the air and crouched in the mud. His smell was stronger as a wolf and his hearing was sharper. He followed the trails with Ronan and a few others close behind him. They already has a successful hunting trip with a large moose back at camp and baskets to be filled with fish. But they would need a few more big game animals to be able to share among everyone back home.

Every sound made Daithi's ear twitch. He watched a large bull moose, knowing that unless Ronan would show up soon, Daithi would never bring it down by himself. Daithi's heart pounded in his chest and his muscles burned from crouching so long when every instinct demanded that he attempt to bring that animal down. The whistle of an arrow cutting through the forest air shook Daithi's concentration. As if the arrow that flew was permission for Daithi to let go, he lunged forward and snapped at the bull's ankles, leaving deep gashes in the flesh. Daithi's instincts mixed with his memories and emotions and he was taken back. The bull moose was Darius. Daithi's fur rose as he clawed and bit between stomping feet.

Ronan continued to turn the moose into a pincushion but heard the savage snarling coming from his brother. Ronan's brow knit in concentration, focused on being able to avoid a charge from their prey and being able to warn his companions.

The moose stamped and kicked, desperately trying to do away with the wolf at its feet. Then it's legs gave out from under it. Daithi only just barely managed to escape. All was still and silent for a moment as if all sound had been swallowed up. But when Daithi looked back at Ronan he realized just exactly how foolish he'd been. Ronan's thick bows knit together in a scowl and how his slender nose scrunched up in anger. Panting, Daithi surveyed the animal and slowly stalked back to camp.


"Daithi, what were you thinking? I though you'd gotten control of yourself as a wolf decades ago!" Ronan growled. Daithi didn't say a word. What could he say? He turned his face away from the campfire and stared at the trees behind him. He didn't want to look at everyone sitting on logs and dirt ground, talking and laughing around the fire.

"Answer me! Let me help you!"

"You can't! Ronan, there is nothing you can do!" Daithi's outburst silenced the chatter of all the other hunters that were gathered around the fire. Daithi's cheeks flushed red and he felt a prickly feeling shoot across the scars on his back. He shook his head and turned to leave for awhile. Ronan tried to grab Daithi's sleeve but it slipped out of his hand.

"Daithi! Let me help you!" Ronan roared, teeth bared and clenched fists. But Daithi kept going. He wanted to be alone. Since his fight with Darius to protect Laurel he was never left alone. When he wasn't on a hunting trip he was at home with Ronan and Callum. When he wasn't home he was with Sampsa. There was no peace! Not for months! Daithi's eyebrows hurt from his face being so contorted in frustration and anger. All the while as he stomped through the trees, avoiding bushes and twigs he heard a humming. A glowing began to distract him from staring at the ground. He looked up and saw the spirit he'd befriended. Her skin wasn't green hued anymore, but fading into an orange-y tone, like leaves changing in the fall. Eyes half closed and brows raised to indicate concern, she didn't say anything until Daithi asked "What do you want?"

"I don't want anything from you, Daithi. But I'm going to do you a favor. It's important. And hating isn't going to help anybody," she chided. Her voice had an edge and it broke on the word 'anybody'. Daithi turned a hard stare on her.

"I don't hate anyone," Daithi tried to say. But he thought about it for a moment. That wasn't true; he did. Darius, Roberts the statesmen who captured him, himself. And though there was no justifying it and he knew it wasn't their fault, he realized he hated his family and Laurel. Daithi stopped in his tracks, eyes darting along the ground as if reading a detailed description of how he felt. He never noticed how sick of everything he was and how nothing could change it. Daithi couldn't even remember the last time he'd laughed. He felt a growl in his throat and prepared to tell the spirit to go away. But she had said something in a soft whisper before she turned into streaks of light that weaved through the trees and were gone. Daithi tried to make sense of what she'd said, but couldn't. He pulled at his hair and continued marching on.

Then things seemed to change and morph. Trees moved and the stars swirled overhead. A distant rush of water invaded Daithi's ears. He didn't notice his feet spinning him around too. The world spun like a top until Daithi couldn't stand on his own two feet. He forgot his turmoil for a moment as he looked around in bewilderment at the forest that surrounded him. His heart went cold as ice and Daithi tried to call out but found his throat was so dry and hoarse that he couldn't utter a single word. His scars burned and sweat rolled down his back as if to quench the flames.

When everything did settle the spirit, having become a few glowing wisps on a night breeze circled around Daithi. The harsh light hurt his eyes but it helped him see into the darkness. He saw a trail that was marked by a carpet of dead leaves stomped down.

"What kind of favor is this?" Daithi asked with a hiss. But though he tried to hold onto his anger he found it swallowed up by a curiosity and confusion that couldn't be tamed. Daithi struggled to his feet and pulled his coat tighter around him, the fur tickling his nose as he went. All the while the spirit stayed with him, forming a ring that circled him endlessly and gave off a blinding white light that cast itself eerily on the trees and rocks that lined the path. "Ronan?!" Daithi called, hoping maybe he was dreaming and he was still where he ought to be.

The spirit whispered in his ear. "You aren't down in the lowlands anymore."

"Then where am I?"

The spirit did not answer. But instead she created the illusion of sound. Daithi thought he heard crunching leaves behind him and he turned back slightly to see only darkness and the nighttime silhouettes of trees. The spirit continued her illusions until Daithi's imagination conjured its own foe. "Run," the spirit beckoned. So Daithi began to widen his gait until he was running. Daithi searched the woods as he ran, hoping to catch a glimpse of something to confirm or debunk the belief that he was being chased. Nothing settled his fears until he saw light. Firelight. At first he thought it to be the campfire he'd left behind. But as he got closer he saw they were the lanterns that were strung up on the Great Tree of an Andruisk. Daithi stopped and nearly fell from his momentum. His disbelief made his mouth dry and he backed up a few paces. He forgot his fear of the nonexistent pursuer and felt sick for some reason.

"Why did you...?" He began to ask, but was stopped when he heard a familiar voice. Ramona's. She was saying something fast and frantically as she circled a home and onto the grass covered roof, looking for something. The spirit shot over Daithi's shoulder and circled Ramona. Startled, she jumped up and dropped a basket she was holding. Then she looked to where Daithi was and yelped. In unison they sprinted towards each other and embraced.

"Daithi! I don't know how or why you're here! But I'm glad you are!" Ramona cried. Her tears left streaks on Daithi's coat.

"W-why? What is it?" Daithi's words hung on the air in puffs of mists from the cold night air. Daithi searched for the spirit to get answers but couldn't track her down to do so. Ramona spoke so fast between sobs that Daithi couldn't get pick a word out of it. Especially when it was broken up in the mother-tongue and a spattering of Gaelic. Daithi grabbed Ramona by the shoulders to look her in the eyes. He saw someone leave the house out of the corner of his eye just as Ramona began to calm down and explain.

"Laurel-l, she-she's too weak. I-I need to g-get..." Ramona trailed off and dashed back up to the herb garden on the roof of the house before another word could be said by either. Daithi was left standing on the edge of the Andruisk. He got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach as his gaze slowly drifted onto the house and the light that poured out of the window in the door. He didn't even realize that he'd crept to the front door until he had his hand on the handle and pulled it open.

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