Summary: Daulis and Gatie mourn the loss of his Daulis’ family and village and Gatie does Daulis a great kindness.
The Fires of Home
Daulis strode through the sands with great authority, at least until he was out of sight of the Belurian. Then he stopped and rested, eating and drinking. He was weaker than he thought he should be. Oh well, he had the strength to get home, and once he got there, he would be welcomed: not only did he survive the Wastelands, but he also got the information he was sent out for. He had proven that he was the One.
He journeyed easily, not having any trouble, and reached Pedar at noon on the third day. The same forbidden corridor he had stood on to bid his home farewell was just ahead of him. There would be many questions when he entered the village. He had rehearsed all the answers to all the questions he could imagine, chanting them to himself so he would not forget the wittier parts.
He turned and studied the sand behind him, out of habit now. Ten days in the Wastelands had changed his manner completely. He did not believe what he saw. Gatie was walking gently across the sand as if trying not to be noticed. She had followed him and he had not sensed her. So much for his growing sensitivity to the world around him.
He walked to her, angered more by his inattentiveness than her determination. “Gatie, why have you come with me? I do not wish to have to explain you to my village. I do not want to spend any more time in your presence, or that of any Belurian.”
“I only made sure that you returned home safely. I don’t wish to go into your village or get anything else from you.” Her words were as soft as her footsteps had been. She looked expectantly at him and when he did not move, she said, “Well, go. I will remain until I am sure you are safe, and then I will go.”
Daulis shook his head, making her words fall back out of his ears. He began walking up the ridge, having completely forgotten all of his clever responses to the inevitable questions. The wind whipped over the sand and into his face. He smelled the cooking fires of home. They were stronger than when he left, there must have been a very successful hunt.
He could not wait for the feast, which must surely be named in his honor, he could not wait to see his family again, he could not wait to see his home again. He would not get to. The village lay in ruins, smoldering and bloody. The wail which came from Daulis’ mouth told Gatie the whole story. The Black Shells had come to Pedar.
Daulis wandered through the remains of his home, shocked and mumbling. He went first to his father’s house. There was nothing standing but stones. No traces of anyone or anything could be found. He was not sure if he was thankful for the lack of bodies, but Gatie was.
Gatie knew Daulis needed something, anything that had had significance to his family. As he stood in anguished silence waiting for the pain to strike him down, Gatie concentrated and waited for resonance. Any item invested with love of the recent residents of the house would still hold echoes of their lives. She emptied her consciousness of her senses and waited. After an eternal moment, a shiver slipped into her awareness. Letting the life lead her she stepped, blindly and began moving rubble she did not see. When she found nothing but the dirt floor, she was again suddenly aware of the physical world. Daulis stood next to her watching in amazement.
“Gatie, it is no use, even I can feel that this place holds nothing but death. I can smell it and taste it when I breathe, see it, feel it radiating up from the ground, desecrated and disgraced. I hear it in the silence.” Life was draining out of him from the sheer horror of this place where he had once known happiness.
Her senses had brought her to this spot in the house, above all others. It had to be here. She did not even know what it was but finding it was all she could do. She started digging with her bare hands, ripping at the hardened soil futilely.
“Stop it, stop it!”
He was trying to pull her up into his arms, but she resisted, saying, “This is where it is. This is where it should be. Help me find it. Please!” Like a fever, she needed the source of the tiny life tremor more than she had needed anything she had ever needed. Daulis gave in and found a scoop shaped piece of stone and began digging the hole she had started. Not far down, he struck a small box. Gatie was calmed by the sight of it. Daulis pried it open with his knife and extracted a small book. On its cover was an inscription Gatie could not read, but the image below the words was familiar to her. It was her ancestor Priniti and his Alurian friend Wellat. A book with the same image had been buried in her father’s house as well.
Daulis stared in wonder at the book. “How did you know it was there?” he asked in amazement.
“Someone close to you loved it, treasured it,” she answered without noticing, her attention on the book. She reached out and took it from him, opening its cover and flipping through the leaves, recognizing many names. “Is this a translation of the Book of All Things?”
Daulis looked at it over her shoulder, squatting behind her as she knelt in the dirt. “Yes, that is the Book of All Things, but not a copy I have ever seen before. How do you know about the Book of All Things? It is an accumulation of Alurian knowledge and prophesies. Most Alurians have never seen it let alone showed it to any Belurians?”
“You still don’t believe me about Vvadana and our peoples being one? Look here.” She flipped back to the first page, which had an inscription in both of their languages. Reading aloud she spoke, “This copy of the Book of All Things returned to the family of Saloot ip Vvadana by Notan ip Vvadana from whence it was taken by the false prophet, Catarian. The book having originally been given to Wellat, ancestor of Bepante Daulis ip Vvadana ip Saloot ip Setena ip Vvadana by Priniti, ancestor of Apante Gatie ip Zar ip Notan ip Kapria ip Vvadana, who wished to bring the peoples together again under the peaceful ways of Vvadana. This section seems not to be part of the formal statement, ‘For my friend and destined brother Saloot. May these prophesies bring our families, peoples, and planet together. May they heal the rejection of our Mother Vvadana and bring the destruction of our true enemies. Notan.'”
As she read, all that they had lost came to the front of their hearts and his arms had folded around her. He knelt behind her, reading along in the language so recently revealed to him. When she finished his forehead rested lightly against her left shoulder. Renewed tears were threatening. The book forgotten, in the dirt, she pulled those arms tighter around her. They rocked slowly back and forth.
The dusk winds that whipped through the corridors of the village were rising. Gatie left Daulis there in his father’s house, still rocking in silent, kinetic grief. She gathered what little provisions she could from the village: roots, seeds and squinkies, a new spear for Daulis and some extra cloaks. Then she set them aside and felt around with her spirit for any remaining ritual items. They needed any and all ways to help focus life. Daulis’ father had not done anything to prepare him for his mission, even though Saloot had full knowledge of what Daulis would face. Perhaps he never really believed his son to be the One or maybe he thought they had more time.
She felt a strong pull down to a little cavern set in the exact center of the village. The doors reared up in front of her. She felt the cold stone slab beneath her hands. It seemed impossible for her to move them in her present, depleted state. Depleted. She slid down to a sitting position. She slept.
Daulis barely noticed her leaving. His world was numb. It was pitch when he finally thought to rise and look for her, his makeshift torch having burned out. He wandered through the village, stumbling on ruins, and found his way to the meeting place of the council. Gatie lay sleeping before its great doors. He bent to waken her, but pulled back as he reached for her face. The Sckrimmel Blades were in there, if the plunderers had not taken them. The prophecy said the One needed them for his journey. He rose again and slipped around the hall to the crack near the roof where he had slipped in those few days ago when he was a boy. He disturbed the blades from their resting places for the second time in a hundred generations.
When Gatie awoke, they were on the ridge of sand outside the entrance to the village. Daulis was laying, half buried in the sand, arms propping his head up, with his families copy of the Book of All Things open before him. The gentle morning winds were blowing over him and pulling at the pages of the sacred text. Hearing her stir, he looked up and asked, “What now, Apante?”
“I don’t know. We are the only ones left, I can’t see how we can fulfill the prophecies when we have no one and nothing left.” The death she had seen and her own grief held her down as surely as the Black Shell shackles had. Somehow, Daulis did not hear her despair.
“I was reading the prophecies about us and I came upon a passage that I cannot understand. I think it might be in another language, not related to any we know. Do you know where I’m referring to?” In a few short hours Daulis had come to accept not only that all the prophecies were true, but that they were the Apante and Bepante who were to fulfill them. To him reading the prophecies was like remembering a dream he had once had, long ago and far away. He knew their truth in his very depths. He was now going about the business of preparing to be a hero for two peoples dead and gone. He did not know where he had found the strength to stop crying, let alone to prepare himself for this journey, but somehow he had.