Monday, November 1, 2021

The Wandering (Part 9)


“What happened to you?” I gasp, as Ignose shuffles into camp. She is covered in bruises and bleeding. Her eyes are blackened and some of her hair has been pulled out. 

Ignose does not speak. She goes to Roan, and picks him up, marching to the fire. She is holding him by his leg. He swings his arms widely, chortling, but every hair on my body is standing at attention.

Her arm reaches out until he is danging over the flames. He begins to scream as smoke billows into his eyes, arching his back and shrieking in pain.

“Stop!” I yell, trying to grab him, but Ignose just hoists him higher, dancing away from me. I fling my arms around her waist and force her to the ground. Roan lays discarded on her legs, hollering his discomfort. I pick him up, ignoring Ignose who is sobbing, her breath coming in short hysterical bursts. He's okay. The smoke and the heat had only frightened him. 

I fold him into my lap and scoot away from Ignose, who is now laying prone on the ground, rocking herself and moaning.

“What happened,” I ask again. Roan hiccups, finds his thumb, and starts to doze.

“Cinna,” Ignose says. Her voice is thick.

“I only wanted to see her, I swear. I just wanted to see her a little bit. And hold her. I miss her so much, I miss her so much, I just wanted to see her. She's so perfect and little and she looks just like Roan, I swear I just wanted to hold her a little,” Ignose babbles. Her legs come up until she's cradling them like a baby, rocking her body back and forth.

Silence.

We sit. Roan falls asleep, the tears on his dark skin finally dry, even it the smell of the smoke on his skirt and soft moccasins lingers.

“If I can't have her, no one should,” Ignose says. Shes sitting now, and her tears as gone. She's looking at me but she doesn't see me. She's looking inward, where I can't go.

I turn, lift a log, toss it on our fire. 

“I can't live without her,” Ignose says, making me jump. I hadn't expected her to speak, not when she was like this. 

I move Roan to his basket and bring Ignose a honey-square. Tomorrow we walk, and there is still much to be done. Tomorrow we head to the caves. Tomorrow she will forget, she must forget. Because I can't live without Ignose; and if she can't live I am as good as dead. 

Guilt gnaws at my stomach. If I had not...if she had been born on this mat...

But no. They would have killed her. One blighted maiden is acceptable. Two, a strange and frightening thing. Three, and the balance would be upset; bad luck would prevail. The village would not have accepted such an abnormality. 

I had done the right thing.

But why did my chest ache so? My vision blurred. I brushed away the drops and they shone in the firelight like stars in the night sky.

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