Authors: Bre Faucheux
“Vaguely. I only sensed your presence here this morning.”
“Well, you were busy,” she said.
He wanted to lash out at her for the slight jab, but she didn’t give him a chance.
Guards appeared here and there just outside the tree line, keeping a watchful eye on the tribe as the others slept. The young man who had approached her appeared to have left. She hoped that their entrance would be as easy as her exit.
She reached again for Jayden’s arm, not giving him time to reconsider any other option but to come in tow with her. They went promptly and didn’t stop until they quietly reached the healer’s tent. As Madison reached for the flap to allow Jayden in, she heard someone gasp behind her. Jayden stepped backward and turned suddenly. The young man who watched her leave hid from her view. He opened his mouth to yell.
Madison rapidly sped toward him and gripped around his mouth, wrapping her arm around his waist and arms so he couldn’t move. His muffled cries tried to reach from beyond her hand, but her grip remained solid.
“Quiet now,” she whispered. “He means no harm.” The young man’s hair ripped from his scalp as he tried in vain to get away from her.
“Give him here,” Jayden said just loud enough for her to hear.
“Don’t hurt him. These people are our friends,” she said.
He nodded and gave his hand forth.
Madison hesitated, but then quickly threw the young man’s weight to Jayden. His sentiments told her of his sincerity. He wouldn’t harm him.
Jayden took the very same actions she had, muffling his mouth with one hand. Yet he took his other and roped it around the young native’s neck. He squeezed it just so he was short of breath. Within seconds, he began to lose his stamina and his weight fell to the ground. Jayden let him fall softly and looked to Madison.
“He will awaken soon. Lead onward, mistress,” he said expectantly.
“How did you know to do that? What was that?” she whispered.
“Can you not feel where their life resides? You let few people to your neck for a reason. It is as fragile as you and I once were.”
“You already speak of them as though we’re so different,” she scoffed.
“That we are. We are of a different entity now. Can you not sense that?”
She didn’t answer. She only glowered in his general direction. The veneer of his indifference once again strewed across his face. She felt that she was the only one who would ever be able to see through it.
Madison walked forth and took the flap quietly, stepping inside the tall triangular tent. Almost instantly, her healer sat up. She tried her best to remain calm. Jayden knelt down and entered the tent behind her. The healer observed her before looking at Jayden. He knew of her intent without having to speak. His wife stirred and uttered words to him. But his tone replied softly. Madison wanted nothing from him but help. And she hoped he would give it as freely to Jayden as he had her.
“Pray pardon me sir, but he needs your aid,” she spoke gently, trying to assure him of her intent. “I know not of your words or their meaning, but you have shown me such kindness. Will you not show this man the same if I wish it?”
She could hear Jayden breathing heavily behind her. She sensed that he was already thirsty in their presence. He hadn’t been among the living without attacking them in days. Standing about them without violent means was the most control he had exhibited since before he abandoned her.
She didn’t break eye contact with her benefactor, and nor did he with her. He lifted the cloth from his bedding and stood, his long hair falling behind him. Walking up to her, he shifted his eyes to Jayden. Taking his hand forth, the healer touched Jayden’s chest, just in front of his heart and closed his eyes. Madison knew he was searching for something. Perhaps he searched for whatever it was that Madison saw as worth saving. He stood there for moment and simply breathed deeply before Jayden as Madison watched. Within seconds Jayden’s breathing matched the healer’s. He held his steady pace of breathing and soothed whatever lay within Jayden’s restlessness. Madison could feel the surprise levitating from Jayden’s body. It rose from within him, and settled back in a state of calm. Jayden felt himself begin to fade, yet he stood motionless.
The healer spoke more words Madison couldn’t understand. But she knew their meaning from his expression. He would help Jayden. He would relieve him of the pain and the torrid thirst. He kept his eyes on Jayden and led him to the bedding Madison had slept on. Jayden willingly took the bedding and laid himself down upon it. The healer spoke words to his wife and she rose to gather the tools he would need from their baskets. She then took Madison’s shoulder and led her from the tent. She knew the healer needed privacy for Jayden to completely relax as she did in his presence.
The wife saw the young man Jayden put under lying upon the ground and took him to the tent to lay him upward. She didn’t judge Madison or even look her way to gain knowledge of what had happened. Madison felt that she understood and was only grateful that they hadn’t done the boy harm. The young man was a protector of his tribe, but it wasn’t his place to oversee what the healer did or who he helped. Nor was it his place to object. The young man was respected for his courage and duties, but the healer’s responsibilities were of the utmost importance.
The wife took a seat just outside the tent on the ground where skins lay for seating. Madison thought that perhaps others had been there waiting to hear of their loved ones the healer tended to. She joined her and sat next to her. The wife took Madison’s hand and placed it in hers, again speaking words Madison couldn’t discern. But she sensed their meaning. It was right of her to bring Jayden there. He was a threat as much to himself as he was to others. And he needed to be freed of the thirst.
Madison looked to the expanse of other lodgings surrounding her and closed her eyes. She took to listening to the sounds of nature over what was happening inside the tent. The mystery of what the man had done to help her would remain such, a mystery. And if Jayden and she were the only survivors of these past months, they would be the only ones served by the healer’s kindness. Even if she wanted to know of how he had healed her, she felt she could never understand. There was a sort of spirituality to these people she knew was beyond her depth. Yet she longed to know it in time. She wanted to learn of it and how they lived from the lands as they did. If they could cure such evil within a person, she knew they could guide them further.
The sound of the wife’s breath coming through the area where Jayden claimed “life resided,” gave Madison a sense of repose. She wondered if before the healer took away her thirst if the woman’s breathing would have encouraged a much more savage response. She hadn’t yet tried listening closer to another being beside her. The wife, as Madison had grown to refer to her, lay still beside her. She rested on Madison’s shoulder, clearly not fearing her as others did. Once Madison focused hard enough, she could hear more than her breath and beating heart. The rush of blood crashed against her thick veins. The woman’s stomach churned as it prepared for an oncoming meal to begin the day. Her eyes moved from behind her lids back and forth, desperate to see something other than the dream that occupied her mind. Even her lashes created a sound as they moved. But it was her heart and her neck that had the most activity. They remained the loudest sounds Madison could hear. Her throat just above eagerly expanded to take air within her lungs. Never knowing what lay within her own body or how it was composed, Madison listened even closer. She felt as though she knew of every detail within the woman’s limbs without ever having seen inside it.
It occurred to Madison suddenly, that Jayden felt that this separated him from others. He was different. Their hearts still beat, and their lungs still took in air, but they healed instantly. A sudden assault to their hearts or their throat wouldn’t do them harm as it would have before. But Madison felt more akin to the woman beside her for that very reason. She knew more of her own embodiment by knowing how this woman was composed than she had ever before. She was eager to know if Jayden discovered more of their new abilities, but she was satisfied knowing that she took the time to appreciate them. She hoped Jayden would as well once he was recovered.
The sun slowly rose and the men protecting the tribe through the night took the remaining food of the previous evening from baskets near the ringed fire pit. They sat and ate quietly, attempting to not make their notice of her obvious. They were clearly been told to not mind her presence, but Madison still felt their apprehension and a combined force penetrating the air surrounding them.
As the morning began to surface light on the land, more people emerged from their tents. They paid little attention to Madison and the woman still sleeping beside her. It wasn’t until the healer within the tent started to chant a familiar aria that they began staring in her general direction. Every element to his voice seemed haunting to her even now. She recalled the tranquility she had felt when the man drifted the smoke about her body and chanted with the same spiritual element over her small figure. She hoped that Jayden felt the same sensation, and that it provided a kind of solace.
Minutes after the wife awoke and began to tend to a morning meal by the fire ring, the healer emerged from the tent. Madison caught a hint of the aroma from the herbs and smoke inside. They were familiar to her and pleased her disposition. She rose to meet the man’s eyes. He appeared composed in every sense. Madison discerned from him that Jayden was well, more than well in fact. He was sleeping.
The healer gave her a slight smile and went to sit with his wife as she ate. Madison didn’t feel an appetite arise, but took what food her body would hold and ate it in silence. She felt a slight thirst arise more than anything else, and knew her body would soon be in need of human blood. She didn’t feel an unearthly craving as she assumed Jayden had these past days, but she knew her body desired it as it once did water for nourishment. She dared not ask for it, given now she knew who the provider was. He stood up earlier that morning and walked away in frustration. Madison hadn’t bothered to greet him or make amends for what happened.
Madison remained seated near the fire for most of the morning. Her thoughts drifted over everything that had happened. She felt all she could do was to wait for Jayden to awaken. She wondered if patience and an acceptance of sorts was another trait to come with this new metamorphosis of her body. She didn’t feel a great aptitude of pain for the loss of her brother. She expected the grief to soon overwhelm her. But it never came. She felt only recognition of what had taken place and how her life was now changed. She had known for so long that she would lose her brother in one form or another once the waters took her new home away. Whether it was to her own death, or his death by hunger or illness, she had already suffered the loss of his life. She only felt longing to have him near. She wanted Jamison’s company more than that of the man who challenged her and berated her at every opportunity. Yet now Jayden’s company was all she could expect.
When Jayden emerged from the tent, the sun had begun to set. And he wasn’t like before. He wasn’t anxious or bewildered. He didn’t even seem lordly as he did in his usual manner. He was sedate, temperate, and perhaps even a bit curious.
The others glanced up to greet him with suspicious eyes. He was still a stranger to them. Madison stood from where she sat and walked up to him. She didn’t utter a word but simply looked at him, reaching to make contact with his eyes. For a brief moment she thought him altered. He lived with the thirst for longer than she had. More people met harm at his hands than from hers.
She peered into the emotions emitting from his body. There was shame, but that same pride. There was honor, and acceptance. He appeared more at ease with his mind and relieved of any pain he may have carried for their previous loss.
“It’s gone from you now, sir. You’re completely free of its bind,” she said.
He nodded and gazed at her. She sensed the shock he experienced at the realization of his now complacent instincts.
“We will still need to take blood. Our need to harm others will endure this,” he said.
She knew he was right. “But we need not kill or devour to feed our impulses. We can survive,” she said.
He lowered his head solemnly and gripped her hand. “We will still cause pain, mistress. The need for blood will always be there.”
Madison recalled how the healer saw into her emotions as she had his. He was in tune with her wants and needs as she lay within his small realm of protection. He saw everything that happened to her and how she fought for survival. Perhaps he had seen inside Jayden as well.
“Perchance the healer can grant one last request to our distress,” she said.
“On what matter? It’s obvious he cannot alleviate our requirements.”
“But he took away our internal torment. Perhaps he can take that from others.”
“Speak sense, mistress.”
She took in a long breath as she tried explaining. “Do not attempt to tell me that you did not feel that man’s quality. His touch eased my inner most affliction, as it did yours,” she said, not breaking eye contact. “If we can learn of this skill he has acquired, and feel the connectedness he brewed, we can keep others from fearing us when we require more blood.”
He looked at her blankly, but understood her meaning.
“Go rest now. I will bring you food,” she said.