Fyskar: Ch 15

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

Eoin released Seonaid and Fearchar. His head throbbed behind his temples, and his stomach made to greet the back of his mouth. His hearing turned fuzzy, his vision tunnelling. He collapsed face-first onto the floor between the two. They looked down at him then to each other. Eoin ground his teeth with frustration and horror. That had been a terror he had not meant to revisit.

“Food?” Fearchar asked Seonaid. Eoin motioned with his hand in agreement. She nodded solemnly, extracting her skirts from beneath the leather figure. Standing up, she went about preparing a simple porridge. Something heavy on the stomach.

Fearchar sighed. It would not do to let Eoin lay about the floor. There was little enough walking room as it was. He dragged the physician up and deposited him on the bed. Eoin leaned against the wall, drawing in deep breaths. “Cummoen, Eoin, off with tha mask. Ye’re nae goin’ anywhere t’night.” Fearchar unbuckled the straps. He peeled the leather off of sweating skin and tossed it onto the table, followed shortly by the discarded gloves. He fought with the brooch on the cape. It eventually came unpinned, the leather drooping lazily on Eoin’s shoulders.

Seonaid shoved a bowl of porridge and a rough spoon in Eoin’s hands, imploring him to eat. He brought the weak-smelling mush to his mouth and ate it without tasting. His mind wandered the hills of his memories numbly. He could barely fathom continuing the story through the night.

Eoin glanced to the door when Fearchar let himself out once more that day to retrieve peat turfs. The sun hung a scant inch past midafternoon. Wet grey-black clouds stood guard against the skyline. He washed down the porridge with a thin ale from the pitcher by the fire.

Setting aside the dishware, he motioned to Seonaid. She sat down on the bed frame next to him. I’m sorry for that. I don’t like forcing my memories on people, forcing my will on you and your husband.

Seonaid stilled his hand at the bracers. “Whit’s fur ye’ll nae go past ye.” She picked up the plates and took them back to the little tub she kept cleaning sands in.

“Feeling more alive, Eoin?” Fearchar asked as he gulped down his porridge. Eoin nodded slowly. Sleep would do him much good. Sharing too deep on exhaustion often led to fractured, uncontrolled memories and emotions, but he wanted to finish his story. The heavy snowfall would be the perfect cover for retrieving his sons’ birthright, but he’d need to explain more to the husband and wife before Fearchar would help him.

“G’an, get yerself out’ta those fribbeties. Ye looked more comfortable in whatever the ‘ell ye’re wearin’ earlier. Ah am nae pickin’ ye carcass off’a floor again. Weigh as much as a seal.” Fearchar motioned Eoin to his bags. Eoin thought for a moment on it. Fearchar’s brogue thickened again. The doctor was losing focus. The handyman’s accent always thickened the more exhausted Eoin was mentally, which made understanding his hired hand worse. He would feel better in the less confining garments, yes, but that meant having to get up.

Eoin pushed himself from the cot to find the floor with slow feet, the cloak falling into a soft heap on the bed. He made his way back to his pack and rummaged through it to pull out his trousers and shirt.

Eoin shucked himself out of his suit and jumped with the drag of a cool finger across his skin. “What are ye doin’?” He turned to Seonaid as she traced the long lines of his tattoos from his left hip up to his right shoulder. The doctor pulled his shirt in front of him as a shield. Fearchar watched the two, eyes half-lidded.

“What are these for?” She broke the touch with his clothes protectively in the way.

Eoin skittered away from her and quickly pulled on his pants and his shirt, carefully keeping out of touching distance from her. He looked back at Fearchar. I…um…I, he swallowed. Fearchar shrugged, approached his wife and pulled her into his embrace. She turned to him and kissed him on the cheek.

“Better?” Seonaid asked Eoin as she sat down on the bed, drawing the leather cloak across her lap like a blanket.

I’m not sure how much more I’ll be able to tell you this afternoon. I’m tired. He stated plainly. Fearchar pulled Eoin down to sit between him and Seonaid. “Sounds like ye’ll need’a start talkin’ faster then.” He placed his hand in Eoin’s, as did Seonaid.

“Ah am goin’ to give ye the worst headache a’ yer lives if ye keep this up,” quipped Eoin.

“Ye’re fault fur takin’ so much time ta blether,” Fearchar goaded.

“Ah thought Ah was bein’ rather succinct,” Eoin grumbled, dragging them through the void and dropping them into a lavishly decorated room filled with pillows and rugs.

The guard opened the door, and Eoin and the boys stumbled into the room after being released from their manacles and chains. The door closed with a slam, and a bolt clacked.

The children rushed to the pillows while Eoin stood in the centre of the room, uncertain of what was happening. He noted a second door off to the side near a large flat-topped chest. The father peaked in to find a privy of sorts, bucket and basin.

He removed a small brass oil lamp from the chest and peeked inside to find a few pairs of neatly folded clothes. Smaller pants and shirts the boys might fit with some imagination. He found a short leather shirt of a strange design and a long buttonless vest. Anything felt better than walking around with all of his upper skin exposed in this weird place where people could touch him too easily.

The village doctor pulled off his adornments and clothing from Egret’s Nest and traded for the palace standard. He tugged the short leather shirt on, fighting with the buttons at the back. At least it would keep his shoulders from being touched by the giant.

Soon tiring of the pillows, the boys turned to him, asking for food and water. The basin had been filled with clean-looking water. He helped them drink from it. Sated for the time, Callum and Albin sat down on the floor to count tiles.

The sun descended through the latticework window. The wind pressed through the gaps, keeping the room cool, forcing in the musky smell of stink lily that populated the mountainsides in massive swaths of orange and yellow. Soon the boys, tired of the day, were well on their way to a deep sleep in a hill of silk pillows. Eoin eased next to them, thrilled to shut his eyes on something more comfortable than splintered wood.

It was dark when a thud of metal woke Eoin from his sleep. A guard held a lamp at the door. The young giant took up the frame, blocking out much of the light from the hallway.

Eoin scrambled to his feet, putting himself between the giant and his boys. The dark-haired man motioned him from the room. The father looked back at his sons, unsure if he was supposed to wake them. The guard snapped an order at him. Eoin flinched as one son rolled over, returning to his soft snoring. He looked back at the prince. The man waved away the children and motioned for him to follow once more. Eoin approached quietly, lest he wake his sons. He desperately wanted to know what was happening.

The guard clipped the chains back to his cuffs and motioned him down the hall. Eoin followed the guard and the prince through the dark hallways, out of the building and through a courtyard to another row of buildings, these lower than the main palace. Livestock, fire, and metal rolled over him with nostalgic familiarity, wiping away the smell of white jasmine. A gentle, rhythmic ping told him he was heading into a smithy.

The guard pointed toward a man in a long red leather gown and a squat little hat. The smith smiled widely when the prince issued him several direct commands and handed him a large scroll. The guard ushered Eoin to a stool next to the robed man’s desk. He looked at it uncertainly but eventually approached it at another command from the guard. One of his manacles was removed while the chain was hitched to a deeply buried post.

The robed man pulled on a pair of fine leather gloves and took measurements of Eoin’s right arm. The man chattered insistently, smiling and laughing at whatever he had said. He turned from his measurements and sketched out a few images on the sheet Mirza had provided him with. The giant left the guard, the smithy, and Eoin to their work.

The smithy took from his stores a few lumps of gold and set them to melt while he prepared his workspace. The man chattered, though he had to be aware Eoin could not understand him. The guard leaned against the strut of the workshop, keeping a keen eye on his bound charge. Tiredness soon dragged him into the depths with the ping of a hammer on an anvil.

A heavy hand settled on his shoulder, yanking him from his dreams into his nightmare of a reality. He jerked, the chain rattling, reminding him of his position.

The smithy motioned to a pair of long coils of patterned gold and then to Eoin’s feet. The man in the leather robe warmed the metal to pliable and bent it into shape. Cooling the c-shaped rings, the smithy proceeded to twist the gold onto Eoin’s ankles and cold weld the ends through pressure. The metal was warm to the touch but did not burn his skin. The jeweller knelt to his task of stamping the remaining pattern over the weld marks of the ring.

Eoin fell asleep once more, resting his head against the post, his left arm pinned up against his chest at an uncomfortable angle. Sometime close to morning, he was coaxed into handing over his other arm. The weight of the massive gold manacle, the bracer, on his right hand fell heavily in his lap. He laid his head on the table and continued sleeping. The guard didn’t bother tying him to the post. Eoin figured that the bracers proclaimed to the whole city that he was the prince’s property. Running and hiding would be of no benefit here.

His stomach growled and pinched, waking him at the smith’s bench at dawn. The smithy had cajoled him into a position to slowly work on engraving intricate patterns around a set of large gems installed into the top of the bracers. Mirza’s acquisition blinked at the gleaming metal, trying to focus on it. Eoin’s eyes adjusted in the glaring sun. Head pounding and mouth dry, his stomach growled again.

The smithy glanced up at him, all smiles and laughs. He rambled on and called out to a boy pumping the bellows of the forge to the man’s side. Eoin watched the child scuttle off to shortly return with a basket of flat-breads and a flask.

The boy approached the bench warily and offered the smithy the basket. The man pointed to Eoin and told the boy another command. The boy ducked and approached Eoin, offering him the basket. Eoin looked between the smithy and the basket. The smithy nodded encouragingly.

Eoin took the basket from the boy with an uncertain nod of his head and set it in his lap. The boy smiled and ran back to his little furnace. The man babbled on, happy to have an audience.

The first solid food Eoin had seen in three days. It was heaven. He had to fight himself to not eat the entire basket clean. It would serve to give him a stomach ache if he did.

It had to be around noon when the smithy sent the boy for the guard. The right bracer was finished, and the left had a few more strokes of the chisel to finish the decorations. The guard, having found a cot to rest his head upon on the other side of a dividing wall in the stable near the smithy, hurried back with the excited boy.

A memory of the boy, five years older, a young teen in an apprentice gown, flickered momentarily. Eoin’s mask and cape tripped through light brown fingers, thick needle and leather thimbles protecting pads from gouges.

Finished with his last strokes, the man in the red hat produced a length of gold chain the span of Eoin’s outstretched arms. He had the cuffed man roll his arms, for the underside of the bracers held long loops that reached from the top to the bottom. The chains were locked into place with small gold padlocks, though Eoin was as aware as the guard and the smith that gold was not strong enough to hold if he truly wanted them off. It was a status symbol for Mirza, a way to flaunt his possessions. The meaning wasn’t lost on Eoin.

The guard pocketed his key and motioned for Eoin to follow him. Eoin wound the length of chain about his right bracer, for the chain hung too low with its length. He snorted at the loops, at having to shorten it himself. The gems were large and of brilliant clarity that sparkled, throwing dashes of colour across the marble facade of the building as they crossed a particularly sunny spot.

The compound was massive. That was the overpowering impression Eoin got as he navigated the labyrinth of stairs and hallways that eventually delivered him and the guard to a pair of intricately carved wooden doors. The guard knocked.

Gardens skipped through the memory in unfocused pools. Different seasons slipped through the leaves and left flowers blooming out of sync. The disorienting memories scrambled to order themselves, and Eoin fought with his exhaustion.

The door opened to a room of shifting furniture. The young prince appeared and disappeared from various seats. His clothing shifted regal to casual as morning and night flickered through the lattice windows. Eoin pushed for the memories to stay still, trembling at the effort.

A flash of an image burst through the memory, a different memory interfering in the line of thought he was barely holding onto. Eoin’s hands bound, his bracers blinking in flickering dim light. A smaller, more private room came and went in the darkness. Heat of a different nature pushed through his system into Fearchar and Seonaid as shock waves burst across his back and up through his chest.

Large hands unbuttoned the short leather shirt. The warmth of a body pressed against his back. His hands protested the twist of rope and metal. Searing heat wrapped across his lower back and hips. A moan barely echoed in his head.

Eoin dropped Fearchar and Seonaid out of his memory and back to their little house. He tried to catch his breath, but his heart raced too hard for his lungs to expand.

“Wha’ the feck was that?” Fearchar demanded, turning on the Fyskar.

Eoin crossed his arms and shoved his shaking hands under them. He bit down on his lip to stall it from trembling. Heat at the back of his eyes threatened rain. The Fyskar swallowed, wishing to be left alone. He rose and stumbled into Fearchar and Seonaid’s bedroom, closing the door on the terrifying situation.

The white-haired man was too exhausted to keep his thoughts coherent. Eoin spread himself on the ground and allowed the throbbing in his head to subside. He needed sleep. That was all he needed. He …

Fearchar eased the door open gently, the hinge creaking a protest. Eoin had curled into a ball, his hands tightly hidden. He shifted at the noise of the door, putting more of his back to it protectively. Tears dripped steadily onto the rug. Fearchar closed the door behind him and walked back to Seonaid. “He fell asleep on the rug,” he told his wife quietly. She nodded, pushing herself back on their bed frames to lean against the wall.

“Can’nae ‘magine it. Ah thought they’s some kinda status symbol, like ‘e ‘as made a’ money.” Fearchar rubbed a hand across his face and beard.

“They’re manacles,” Seonaid breathed out, wrapping her head around the scene. The heat, the shock waves still rippled through her body. Fearchar nodded mutely and leaned his head onto his wife’s lap. He curled his feet up onto the frames as he fought with his realizations about the man in the other room.

“Winter’s kip?” she smoothed his braids out of his face. Fearchar yawned in agreement. Neither were ready to understand, though they already knew. “A’right, scootch o’er lad.” She wiggled her hips down the bed until they were both curled around each other under the covers. They drifted off to the quiet sizzle of peat and the slashing of ice at the door.

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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