A Drifting Soul

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


2. Laurel

A few days after the decisions and arrangements were made. Daithi had his bag packed and was dressed in some old clothes his grandpa, an old Scotsman, had: a kilt and white shirt. He'd worn it a few times upon his grandpa's request and for the fun of it. He and Ronan were supposed to leave the next morning. But Daithi wanted to wander out and pack a few berries and he knew the perfect place by the creek. When he reached it, he dipped his hands in the freezing water and splashed his face. Without warning, he was hit with a small wave of water, soaking his head and shoulders without issue. He looked up quickly, startled and curious at the same time. Standing there, smiling and laughing, was the young Laurel, finer than all others to Daithi's eye. Her flaxen waves cascaded down her back in a long braid with flowers woven in.
"What are you doing here? I thought your father said you were having a sick spell?" Daithi asked worriedly. He looked her up and down to make sure she wasn't hurt.

"I wanted to see you," she replied. "Mother told me what happened the day before yesterday, and you never thought to tell me!" she scolded. Her nut brown eyes burned with frustration.

"That wasn't my fault! My family spent all day trying to talk us out of it! But....I can't pass this up. I'm not old enough yet to go on my Wander without an aid, and Sampsa is the only who can take me and he's the reason I'm doing this in the first place! I just wanna get out there! I wanna be able to tell my stories, tell them to you and take you there without you....y'know" Daithi stated defensively. He tried to reach for her hand from his side of the narrow creek, but his foot slipped on the bank and he fell in with a splash. He floundered and struggled to get his balance again, reaching out for Laurel to help him out. She grabbed his hand and pulled him close enough for them to feel each other's breath. Daithi could make out the little honey golden flecks in Laurel's eyes, and Laurel could have counted the freckles on his face if she really wanted to. But instead of pulling him out, she pushed him back in and burst into a fit of laughter.

When Daithi managed to struggle onto the bank, he started after her. She ran from him and screeched with laughter, darting this way and that to avoid him. Whenever he got close he tried to flick water on her as she went tearing through the creek and soaking her skirt.

"You'll tire out eventually!" Daithi shouted between pants and laughs. Although he refocused himself on chasing her, he remembered all the times when they were younger and they would play games and he would tease her and vice versa.

Before they knew it they had zigzagged through the forest to a hill that the creek ran down, turning into little waterfalls and filling up a pond. Laurel tripped on a rock and took a tumble. She just barely managed to grab Daithi by the ankle and pull him with were. Laurel and Daithi rolled, collecting flower petals as they went and getting little thistles stuck on their clothes.

They both rolled into the pond, laughing and sputtering, kicking and splashing. Daithi, being the child at heart that he was, swam out to the deepest part of the pond and enjoyed the cool water. He darted back and forth and splashed around. When Laurel surfaced she struggled to catch her breath, coughing and sputtering. At first, Daithi didn't think much of it. But as it grew more intense and violent, he dropped and pushed himself off the bottom and stood knee-deep in water. Dripping wet, he pulled his hair out of his face and tied it in a ponytail to keep it off. He took her hand and sat beside her on the grass, in the warm sunshine that covered the little meadow. "Hey! Haché! Are you okay? Easy now, easy," he crooned, hoping she could get her fit under control. It was then that he felt a twinge of guilt for leaving her. She was born sickly, a rare thing among the Nioneska, and he always said he would be there for her.

Her weak smile was enough to calm him for a moment. "You worry too much."

"Of course I worry. I....I...y'know I.....I'm your friend and...." Daithi struggled to find words.

"Quiet your stuttering you little troll and tell me," Laurel teased hoarsely as she leaned in close enough for her to feel the cold that radiated off him from his little dip in the pond.

He looked hurt for a moment at the troll comment and thought if she was alright and able to joke then she was fine but a pair of soft lips, tender brought his internal babel to a halt. His eyes were big and round as saucers, but the butterflies that flitted in his stomach embodying the pure delight he felt in that moment made them close and made his hands wrap around Laurel's waist. The electricity that crackled in his fingers and the way his head spun made him unsure what to do. When Laurel pulled away he was dumbstruck and a bit sad that something so sweet and wonderful could end so soon. She smiled rather shyly then, fully realizing what she did, and she blushed a deep red that wildly contrasted her pale complexion. Daithi let out a nervous giggle and looked away from her to hide it. They sat in the silence, bashful and beaming.

They were young in the eyes of the Nioneskani despite the years under their belts, and Daithi acted and looked like a teenager despite being a couple of decades shy of one hundred. Laurel was more mature and knew when things were serious. Her smile disappeared as she thought more of Daithi and Ronan's journey. The anxiety radiated off of her.

Daithi noticed and tried to look her in the eyes. "Laurel, wha's wrong? I'll be back, I promise." Daithi was practically begging for reconciliation. He spied a spot of soft earth and dug in his pockets for seeds he'd been given as a present to start a garden. He found two and made a hole with his thumb and dropped them. Then he put his hands over it and a green and gold glow licked his hands and slipped between the gaps between his fingers. Laurel watched out of the corner of her eye.

When Daithi moved his hands, there sat a tall pair of flowers: a carnation and a small rose. They were entwined with each other as they reached for the sun. A pink carnation for Laurel, red at the edge of each petal, and a fire and ice rose for Daithi.

Laurel furrowed her brows and clucked her tongue in an exasperated fashion. She watched him struggle with weaving the two into a necklace, muttering a cast here, a spell there, a charm here. When he finished it looked mighty fine, the stems expertly woven and the blooms sitting side by side. Laurel tried to take it, but he pulled away quickly and did one last thing: he cupped his free hand and filled it with pond water and dipped the flowers into it so they were submerged. Daithi made the water glow and turned it into something like jelly. It made a bubble around the flowers and Daithi blew on it. The force of his breath was like a strong gale. It hardened the bubble so it was like glass. He held it up to the light of the sun and, satisfied, tentatively offered it to Laurel.

He wasn't much for apologies, even when he wasn't truly sorry, but Laurel knew he meant well with this peace offering. She moved her hair to one side and let him put it on her, and he smiled wide when he saw it resting on her collarbone. Laurel, after taking a moment to ensure she was safe to move after her fit, crawled forward to look at her reflection in the pond water. She admired the necklace, and let Daithi pulled her back into his arms and look her in the eyes. Daithi rested his forehead against hers.

"I promise I'll come back. Even if you all move, Champas Daileska told me she wants us to live in Norway. I'll find you." Daithi even made the promise flicker in his eyes and made Laurel's heart thump. His palms got sweaty where they held her hands. He prepared for another gentle kiss that he was ready for. Laurel leaned in and brushed her finger tips along his cheek, putting a stray lock of hair behind his ear.

"Daithi Jason Rauri Desmond!" A voice shouted.

"There he is!" Another pointed out.

The shouts of recognition made Daithi jump and forced Laurel to bounce on his knees. Wide-eyed and startled, Daithi whirled his head around and saw two of his sisters. Sirri, the ornery one, and Ramona, the sweet one.

Laurel chuckled to herself out how frightened Daithi was. She rolled off him and waved. Daithi and Laurel time spent together was Romona and Siiri's little secret.

Daithi pulled himself from the bank and greeted his sisters with a hug, albeit stiff and annoyed. "To what do I owe the pleasure?" he asked sarcastically.

"Grumpy," Laurel comment under her breath.

"Sampsa and father wanted to have a big meal before you and Ronan leave. It's starting," Siiri stated flatly.

Daithi glanced nervously back at Laurel, who gave him a little nod to tell him "Go have fun." So together, all four of them meandered back to the forest and to camp. Laurel broke away when they passed her parents' home and the remaining three siblings continued on to the hut at the farthest end of camp. They were welcomed warmly by their grandparents on their father's side, their aunts and uncles, their parents, the rest of the siblings, and Sampsa's family. The smell of food was mouthwatering and chatter was deafening. But it was home. Daithi sat down, forgetting how sopping wet he was and took a cup of dandelion wine. Ronan was already giggling like an idiot with one of the aunts and their grandpa was beginning an old Gaelic tune. A few of them joined in, Ronan and Daithi included and the merrymaking went on. And when everyone left and it was time for sleep, Daithi thought of that afternoon, and the guilt he felt by leaving but also the excitement of the adventure ahead.


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