Fyskar: Ch 13

Fyskar: Legend of the Bai book 1 by Chapel Orahamm, antler and crow on pile of skulls with ember and storm

“Seonaid! She’s beautiful!” Fearchar strolled in through the door with pride. His wife raised a sceptical eyebrow. Eoin snorted at the man’s enthrallment.

“Have you finally taken up with Anna down the way?” she teased.

“No one will ever replace you.” Fearchar reached for her, spinning her in the tight space until her skirts ballooned out, and she was left giggling. “Other than maybe Vanora, if I can convince her to like me.”

“Was she alive?” Seonaid asked Eoin over her husband’s shoulder.


“You must come see her next time. You’ll love her.” Fearchar grabbed himself a tankard of warmed ale and collapsed on the rug next to the fire. Eoin eyed the fabric. He had been telling them about his life. Seonaid followed his fixation. She pushed a tankard into his fingers and sank to the woven textile to wait.

“Will she be okay up there in this weather?” she said,  watching Eoin’s stiff movements as he peeled himself out of all his layers.

“He’s got her pretty content. Jist need to make sure of her feed and water. Got some lambskins and rugs nailed up to keep the wind out. I’ll go up with him tomorrow.” Fearchar downed his drink.

She will need to be fed again tomorrow.

“What will you do with her?” Seonaid pulled her sewing basket close to her and fished out a bit of mending while they talked.

Take her home with me when I leave here, now that I know she’s alive. She was eight when I last saw her. She’s growing into an old bird.

“Where is home, Eoin? Where you got those bracers?” Her needle stuck in a thick spot in the fabric.

I guess I should finish my tale, shouldn’t I? Eoin put away his gear and sank to the rug with Fearchar and Seonaid. He waited for her to finish her line of stitches as he tried to calm the racing in his heart. Memories he would rather leave lie were boiling at the surface. Seonaid tucked her mending into her basket and pushed it out of the way.

“I’m glad your little angel is doing fine.” She turned to him, holding out her hand.

Me too. You won’t like this story, though. He took her hand and Fearchar’s.

Smell was the first assault on their senses. Manure, ammonia, blood, a sickly hard spice from the bodies milling about. A cacophonic din pierced their ears. Slap of bare feet on earth. Metal clinked against itself. Cloth snapped in a sudden breeze that died as quickly as it came. The languages thrown around their confusion were diverse and harried. They suffocated as their throats constricted in the unrelenting dry heat. Sand tried to climb in their throats and wiggle into their lungs. Weight settled about their necks. The sun burned their skin through the cloth.

Light and shadow played harshly against each other. Buildings made of dried clay and limestone soared above them. Heat radiated from the yellow walls, rasping against the skin on their hands. Sweat trickled down their backs and under their manacles. They blinked, taking in the horror they found themselves in. Eoin walked beside them, shrouded in dirty fabric; two smaller figures behind them were similarly clothed.

Seonaid and Fearchar looked back. A line of people twelve deep shambled behind them. They were linked together by a single large, heavy chain at their throats. Fearchar followed the line of the glinting metal to where it was pinned to a wagon pulled by a set of horses.

Seonaid flinched, rubbing at her face. Fearchar glanced at her, his heart beating out of his chest. Someone had spat on her. A rock flew by and nicked him in the shoulder. Eoin’s shroud dropped from his head, his white hair and pale skin blinding in the market. The old shrew-like man, bundled in brown leggings and a brown cloak, slapped him on the back of his head before pulling the shroud back over his hair. Eoin ducked away from the man and tripped, fighting the chain to right himself. That one second of revelation had quieted the atmosphere. Eoin’s heart, racing and squeezing, threatening to squash his back, cut circulation from his fingers.

Their throats parched, and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths. They licked cracked, bleeding lips. “Eoin. What is this?” Fearchar hissed.

Eoin’s focus was elsewhere. The convoy stopped at a large, low, rectangular building turning into dark shadow as the sun settled into clear dusk. The windows were dried around large thick metal grates. Howling and crying crawled across the sky, emanating from this portal of doom. The door spread wide, waiting for its victims.

The shrew-like man and several others unlinked each struggling person in the line one at a time and ushered them into the building with no dignity to be spared. Eoin’s turn came as his boys were led away. He fought, his shroud falling, his hair spinning out in the rising moonlight. He pulled back, the chain at his collar and manacles falling away from it. That left his hands, though manacled, with more movement than he had hoped. He rushed past grasping hands and into the maw of the building, looking for his sons.

A large man, hidden in the shadows of the hall, dragged them by the hair, their cries piercing Eoin’s core. Fearchar and Seonaid suffocated under the harsh rasp of his breath, pushing air in and out of exhausted lungs. A twisting angry chill burst through their chests. Tentacles crawled across their skin as Eoin launched himself at the man, a hand splayed wide, reaching for the eyes.

With unexpected clarity, like the snap of a crab shell, the cold anger spun out of them, and an uncontrollable chill spilt from their bodies as their hearts slowed and their eyesight sharpened. The hand clasped over the man’s mouth, and he fell to the ground. Eoin followed him down, pushing all of his will and anger into the brute.

His boys scrambled back from the bulk of the man and their father, crying in each other’s arms. The man bucked and shook with tremors as his eyes rolled up into his head and glazed over. Eoin drew in shaky breaths, trying to think, to move beyond the outburst of fear and anger he had driven inside the man hard enough to rupture his heart. The father skittered back, tripping on the man’s legs, sprawling with his back against the cramped corridor’s wall. His boys ran to him, begging to be held. He wrapped his arms around them, trying to comfort them as best he could.

The crocodile he had slain out of sudden fear for himself and the child in the river. He had never killed a man before, though. He backed his sons and himself away from the body. Hands struck out from the cells, begging, yelling, cheering. The riotous uproar deafened as it rang through the building.

The shrewish man and another descended upon him. Eoin pushed his sons behind him, gritting his teeth. He wasn’t sure he could do what he did again in such quick succession. The Fyskar were not violent people. They did not teach their children how to do what he had done.

He caught the malice and fear in the tall man’s eyes and grasped for that cold anger spreading across his skin willingly. Not waiting to find out if his faith would hold, he barrelled toward the taller of the two men. The short shrew was the leader of this band of brigands. He needed a word with him.

Eoin caught the taller man’s thrown fist in his hand, his tendons straining against the force. With every remaining ounce of fear in his system, he brought the man down to his knees, crumpling into a muttering shell. That left the short shrew.

The man threw up his hands in defence, terrified for his life. Eoin approached him purposefully. He could no longer feel fear or anger in his system. The Fyskar prince was spent and warm; his hands trembled with numbness. His sons clung to his legs, scared. Eoin grasped the man’s hand and yanked him into the void.

Eoin turned back to Seonaid and Fearchar in the void. “It’s amazing how well the human mind can understand will and request, even when the language isn’t shared.” He settled into his low stool near his fire. Fearchar and Seonaid stood back, uncertain if they wanted to sit down or not. They had experienced every level of emotion and were strung thin.

“Wha’id ye do?” Fearchar whispered in the silent, inky blackness. Eoin looked up at him, leaning back slightly. Sweat beaded on the handyman’s brow. “Why the bracers? Ye ga’ away, aye?” He lowered himself into one of the stools at Eoin’s fire.

The flames snapped at his presence. Logs shifted, tumbling to scatter ember and ash.

Eoin stared at his arms as ghostly images of the bracers blew across his skin. He half smiled and snorted. “No, I didn’t get away from Masud. I was done running. You see, as I said already, he collected in the odd and the unusual. Made a grand profit on people due to that uncanny passion. He knew the best buyers, had his fingers in many pies. He sold off many of the Egret Nest at an outrageous price because of that, because of the people of my village’s skin. I pushed my will on him. I needed to protect my sons, and hiding in the forests of Ethiopia had not done that. My circumstances were too many to leave me to find my way through wherever I had been brought. A foreign city called Cairo.

“So, I plied the man with a request or a threat, a plan of sorts. I wanted for him to find the best buyer he could, someone who was known to care for his people well, that had the resources to keep me and mine safe. I would play docile as long as he did what I wanted, or else he and anyone who would get close enough to touch me would be dead men. The deal: Amina, Tau, Callum, Albin and I had to all be sold in the same package. I wasn’t losing my family again. He had sold off my village, trading for other strangers I never learned the names of. So many friends disappeared into the villages on our way. I had hoped in returning to Egret Nest I would find some who had escaped.” Eoin shrugged dejectedly with a shake of his head.

He looked up at Fearchar, fire in his eyes. “If I could keep them safe, I’d sell myself to the highest bidder. I told him about my position in Egret Nest as the doctor. He still had our jewellery and clothing from the raid. He initially hoped to sell it in the markets, but I convinced him to keep them to up his selling price. I revealed to him my apothecary knowledge from across the sea. He knew what I was capable of by taking down the two other men in the hallway, one dead, one out of his mind. I was not eager to join the military if that was at all possible, but if it meant my family was alive and cared for, I’d become a field medic or a prince’s plaything. I didn’t care anymore. I just didn’t want to see them die again.” Eoin sighed. He watched Seonaid sit down with a sour expression next to her husband.

“Ye’re right pile of shite, ye’re. Sold yerself and yer children into slavery,” she spat.

He tasted her rage. “What would you have had me do? Where would I have gone? I found my Woods in Egret Nest and yet death followed behind. Stripped me of my family once more. There is no where for me to hide in this world where I would know my children would not be persecuted for the gifts I gave them. I will never risk losing family again.”

He released her from the void, leaving Fearchar and himself in the space. Fearchar looked around, startled that his wife would go missing so quickly. “Damn ye bassa! Where is she!” he demanded. The handyman was as much a rattle of nerves as his wife.

“I think it would be best for you two to rest,” Eoin warned the man as he pushed him out of the void.

Seonaid was up and about the house, pacing off her emotions. Fearchar stared at Eoin, angry and confused. Eoin met the man’s gaze, daring him to explode.

“Fecken shiter. Sold yer own barras.” Fearchar rose, snatched up his waxed cloak, and stormed out the door.

Eoin scrambled off his rug under Seonaid’s contemptuous gaze. He pulled together his clothes and his packs. With care, he pulled on his blue suit, his breeches, stockings and spatterdashes. He buttoned himself into his vest and coat.

“Feck ye da’in, Eoin?” Seonaid grumbled.

Eoin turned to her angry stare. He pulled on his mask and buckled it.

“Ye’ll freeze ta death if’n ye leave here.” She sounded worried for him for a moment.

He ground his teeth, pulled on his leather cloak, and buckled his brooch. With quick work, he had his apothecary packed back into its box. He turned to his duffel.

Seonaid rushed to the door and called out to Fearchar. “Fear! He’s packing. Come back in and talk some sense into him.”

Fearchar had his arms full of peat flats as he came around the corner.”What d’ya mean he’s pack’n?” He hurried through the thick snow. “Nae sane eejit ‘ld stay in this mingin weather!” Heavy flakes descended in swaths.

I need a shovel, then I’ll leave you to your own. Eoin stood at the door, waiting for Fearchar to move.

“What’a hell d’ya bloody well need a shovel for, ye bastart?” Fearchar dropped the wood inside the door, still blocking the entrance.

Faster than Fearchar expected, Eoin gripped him about the back of his neck and yanked him into the house. “Get tae feck, arsepiece. Fur me lads’ birthright, ye dafty dunderhead! It were ‘n ta’ blasted contract!” he bellowed into Fearchar’s mind in the isle’s tongue, breaking his brogue, before sending the man hurtling toward the other end of the room. Fearchar backed into the house, glancing between Eoin and Seonaid, confused.

“What did he say?” Seonaid crept back to her husband. No one had ever manhandled Fearchar like that in front of her.

” ‘is bairns’ birthright. ‘e needs a shovel for a birthright,” Fearchar tested the words uncertainly. He rubbed at his neck, staring the white-haired man down. He had not expected Eoin’s reflexes, or deep brogue either. The man could hold his own speaking like the rest of the isle.

“What does he need a birthright for if his bairns are sold and gone?” Seonaid sneered.

“Tha’s nae the impression Ah got from ‘im.” Uncertainly, Fearchar approached Eoin once more. The doctor pulled on his gloves while he stared the couple down. He picked up his duffel and the apothecary cabinet. Emerging into a world blanketed in wet cold, he took in a deep breath and waited for his head to stop pounding. Better to get away quickly before the couple had the village up in arms against him. He should never have shown them his memories. Pulling his cloak tightly around his shoulders, he slogged his way down the slick road from the house.

He barely made it to the couple’s post marking the path from the road to the house when Fearchar caught up with him, bearing a shovel. Eoin paused, wary. “Hen says ye can ‘ave the shovel if ye explain why ye need it.” Fearchar proffered the tool to him. Eoin looked at it, his insides smouldering. They stood there in the quiet of the snowfall, waiting for one or the other to give. Eoin hunched in on himself and walked back to Fearchar. He grabbed the shovel and tramped over his footsteps back to the house.

Once inside, he dropped the shovel on his duffel and more carefully set the apothecary cabinet down on the floor. Fearchar came in behind him and made his way back over to his wife. Before the husband and wife could baulk, Eoin approached them, a menacing shadow of death with his red leather cloak and hawk mask on.

He yanked his gloves from his hands, threw them to the bed frame and gained on the couple. He grabbed them about their foreheads and dropped them into the void with a sickening spin.

“If’n ye’d ‘ave feck’n listened ta me!” he shouted at them, dropping all three of them to the void’s floor, his hair crackling and rising with angry energy. “Aye, ye wanna ken where me bairns are? Ye ask so many questions. Why Ah ‘ave ta get ‘eir birthright? Why Ah ‘ave these blasted bracers on? Why Ah’m back ta the Dalerochs? Really? Di’ya bloody feck’n wanna actually ken wha’ ‘appen’ ta me?” His tenor dropped an octave.

They stared up at him in horrified silence, riding the tide of angry heat that swept through them from Eoin.

“Listen ya bam awa an’ stop bletherin’ keech then. Listen ta the story in it’ entirety, e’se it’a make nae sense ta ye dense tolla-thon!”

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