The Loneliest Traid

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  • Rating:
  • Published: 2 Apr 2017
  • Updated: 13 May 2017
  • Status: Complete
Love and death and war and Gods and blood and magic and dancing and rest and revenge and kings and fate.
Don't worry, within these three stories you'll know yourself,
And I will put you back together again.

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5. To Tend to a Scut

“Grab that demon boy, get him back here!” he shouted after Jinmi, but there was no turning back now.  Before an arrow could land, he was bouncing over tent hoods and jumping down into the streets, crawling over carriages and bumping off of shoulders.

    “Sorry, sorry!” he said, running by, his belt weighed down to one side with stolen spells books, his shoulder hutched from his attempt at keeping his hood up as he spun through disgruntled shoppers and stealers, wind spells at his feet and enchanted eyes rounding his head like birds.  They called him back, a pursuiter pulling out his bow and arrow.

    “Gits.  Never give up, do they?”  he said to the eyes, and he pulled a thin bottle from his top pocket.  He yanked a hair from his head, and dropped it in the glass.  It fizzed red, poured like gas down his sleeve, and out into the street.  Before the first arrow even had the chance to be aimed, twenty more of him appeared, all laughing and running like cowards.

    “Which is he?”

    “How would I know?  Grab those boys, men!”

    Several of his clones were kidnapped, puffing into clouds of slick blood and mucus, binding the hands of their captures together.  He laughed so hard he nearly had to stop, but he was so close, nearly at the safe house.  He kept going, kept pushing, ignored the burn in his legs, the gnawing at his empty stomach.  He had his spells, only a while longer now.

    But all too sudden he felt a gloved hand at his collar, and was ripped right from the air, and hit the ground so hard he swore he heard the cracks of stone and perhaps his own bone.  

    He wasn’t sure for a moment even where he was, or whether it was a finger at his lips or maybe the tip of a hot poker.  He looked up, but all he could see was feet passing each side of his head, the only sound a painful ringing in his ears, broken by a soft, “You’re dead, Jinmi.”

    “Hello, Daphne.”

    She pulled him up by the shoulders, the men hunting him down already past, distracted by his multiple illusions.  He felt pride stir at his gut, but it sank like a stone.  Daphne could smell that sort of thing off of him, and he knew how she hated it.  

She rolled her eyes, and pulled him once more to his feet.  He grabbed her to find his grip, the eyes spinning anticlockwise now, bashing into each other and turning back into piles of soot and bone meal.

“You scutting boy, you absolute fool.”

“What did I do?”

She pulled a spell book from his belt and clipped his ear with it, “Foolish child!”

Daphne was not from Mavros, but instead from a kingdom a very far way away, she had once explained.  Her accent was groggy with misunderstanding, as if she hadn’t quiet got a handle on her tongue yet.  When they met, she said she had come out of a laurel tree, and he knew she was mad.  They had been together ever since.

They ducked inside the safe house, her pulling the cloak from her head, him doing the same.  Her hair was as white as a hot iron, her hands gloved to the elbow.  Beneath her concealed weapons and layers of thin black robes, her skin bulged and cracked with growing vines and ivy.  She pulled a bright blue dahlia from her shoulder, wincing despite herself.  She was a naiad child, one ashamed of a past that lived deep where secret fermented.

Jinmi walked to each torch, flicking a thumb and setting the sewer chamber alight.  There was a layer of water on the ground so that Daphne could breathe clear, his bed was a hammock more mildew than cloth, and their food had been sold in bags and cooked over hot wands for the last how many years, but when she smiled, it felt like a home that he was lucky to know.

“You’re bleeding,” she said, not turning from the cabinet where she kept each herb and root known to man.

He looked down at his forearm, where the axe had grazed, “I’m sorry, I forgot that you hated the smell of it.”

“No, it is alright,” she said, but her smile was laced tight, her throat bobbing visibly, “Pull off your jacket,”

“You don’t need to, Daphne.”

She glanced at him over her shoulder, and he shimmed out of both sleeves.  He hissed loudly, the noise bouncing off of the walls like gunshots.  She didn’t blame him for getting injured, or for leaving early in the morning to sneak into a carriage and grab spellbooks.  When he cried and swore and bled through her water, she didn’t complain.  When he made her flowers wilt, she sat in the sun with what light broke the clouds painting her olive toned face, until she was strong again.  And for that, he would always be in her debt, and always bring her fresh water, and always tend to her body and it’s thorns.

She clipped the seaweed, securing it with thread so tight he was sure that the blood would be cut off from his hand for a week.

“Thank you,” he said, and she nodded once, quickly; before scurrying off and away to her box of medicine and maps and all that she could carry on her back from wherever she was once from.

“What’s wrong?” he said, sitting on his hammock, flicking in a gust of wind to knock open the shutters.  He watched the shiver from the sun climb through her back and into her neck, relaxation spreading with blossoming leaves, if only the smallest bit.  She leaned back on her heels and looked at him for a moment.  He wished he could have caught her eye, but it wandered across him, from each ear, to his lips, to his neck, to his hands, to his nose.  Finally, she smiled, so soft it could have broken with a push.

“You left so sudden, I was afraid.”

“Afraid for me?”

A blush rose to her ears, but her look never faltered, “You are an idiot, Jinmi.  One day it will take more than seaweed to heal you.”
    “But today is not that day.”

“And tell me tomorrow is neither.”

He chuckled, and looked away.  He did not lie, so he did not speak.  She rose from the ground and sat on his bed, swinging them both gently.  Still, he couldn’t bring himself to speak again, afraid that she would say more truths, or worse still, persuade him finally, persuade him to lay down his arms and go with her to the other side of Mavros, where the darkness met the sea, and though there were no stars at the best of times, there was an expanse of green so wide and deep it made the stormy skies seem like puddles.  At least, that was what she told him.

“Jinmi?”

He hummed, and took her hand in his.  He pulled off one of her gloves, her skin finally warm again.  Though she gave him splinters, her touch was as soft as petals, and as familiar to him as anything he had ever known before.  She did not pull away, as she was no longer afraid to hurt him when she knew she could fix him up in that case.

“What did you go to find today?”

“A spellbook.”

“Yes?  And what of?”

He pulled the books from his waist and handed each to her.  They were bound by leather, each worth more than the last.  Three in total, the collection of healing spells.

“For…”

“You? Yes.”

She looked up at him, a quirk in her lips that he knew too well to see.  She clipped his ear again, this time with all three books.  He yelped, but despite himself he knew he had deserved it.

“You’re a fool, Jinmi.  You are legend and hero, but a fool all the same.”

“I knew you were missing these.  They even have that lavender oil lesson you were looking for.  Oh, and a key for desert herbs, I know a place that sells them, I can bring you whatever you need, just-”

“Jinmi?”

He looked up, mouth gaping, “Y-Yes?”

“The book I took from you earlier.”

“Yes?”

“It was a book on God’s legends, wasn’t it?”

He looked down at her books, at their clean corners, yellowed pages, and for a moment they looked dirty to him, no matter their worth, “Yes.”

She rested a hand under his chin, her kiss soft on his cheek, “Thank you for these, I do love them.  But please, no more legends, no more deities.”

He knew who he was, although maybe not what.  The grandson of a war hero that now had no name to him, his blood that of wicca folk, his history one with a God that he would never now meet.  But despite all that, he felt a stirring in his veins, the desire to find his roots, to go home to where God’s rest and know why his grandparents had left their children behind, and why they had been burned alive in their homes, their bones sold as luck charms.  She did not blame him for needing to know, she wouldn’t do that.  Even if he had a past that remained shielded from her light.  But she too held a secret, one he would never know, perhaps until it was too late to stop it.  She looked at the book from across the room.  He never got to see the eyes that reflected his own, never seeing the power that had wielded what time was about to become for those two refugee children, and that night she left the book on the streets and by morning it was trampled and ruined beyond recognition.  Her secret lost again.

She rested her tired eyes in the crook of his neck, her body draping back over his as they rested in the early afternoon sun and the sound of calls and bells and cackling evil that would never harm them as long as they lived.

“Daphne?” he said.

She hummed, her voice far and needing rest.

In her face, he could never see a town or an island or a castle.  She was the first person to come from nowhere, he imagined, and he wondered if it was selfish of him to wonder what came in the line before him.  She rustled in her sleep, hand flat on his chest, flowers clambering onto his skin and spreading wildly.  He imagined that she was the brightest thing in all of Mavros.

“Never mind.  Sleep well, dear,” he kissed the top of her hair, the flowers tossing their heads and seeping across his heart like saplings.

He imagined that she was the last of her kind.

He was right.

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