Blood dripped from the tubes. Nothing looked healthy. But he wasn’t dead and that was more then he had expected.
“Will he live?” Kamaitachi asked.
Heather shrugged and took a couple puffs off her he pipe.
“It really depends on if the infection gets in.”
She gestured about the room in a vague way with the end of the pipe.
“It’s not sterile here,” she said.
Jacob came between them and sat a large steaming mug on the small table next to the chair that Kamaitachi was sitting in. Then he put his small hand on Kamaitachi’s arm.
“Don’t worry, Kam. Horse will be alright. He’s strong. But even if he dies, he’s always reborn.”
The boy smiled up at him. His certainty was a radiance that spoke of he faith of children. But the he turned and was hurrying about the stove again.
“Kam. I like that!”Kyoka declared.
Kam sighed. He knew there was no undoing this. He fucking hated it, but there was no point is fighting about it.
“Kam is easier to say,” Heather pointed out.
Humans are so lazy. But he said nothing. She smiled and softly laughed.
“Where did you learn medicine?” Kam asked.
“Did you think that my husband kept his war from home?” she asked.
It surprised him, because he had actually thought just that. Did the Lodi really risk them selves and their families by bringing their rebellion to their homes?
“Where else did you think that farmers and villagers fought from? Did you think that we had secret hide outs that we snuck to at night?”
Her laugh was a bark and ended in a cough. Puffing on her pipe seemed her solution for soothing the coughing fit. It didn’t seem the best treatment option to Kam, but he didn’t think that saying anything would be helpful or advisable.
Jacob returned again with another large steaming mug. This one was for his mother. Recalling his own mug, Kam picking it up and took a careful sip. It was good. Figured he’d call it tea since it was some kind of mix of herbs. Kyoka stuck her nose down in and also had a drink. Draping herself over his hands; she appreciated the warmth more the the flavor.
“Thank you, it’s good,” Kam said.
“Welcome,” Jacob said before scurrying away.
“He’s responsible for his age,” Kam said.
“Odd you mean, ” she corrected, looking directly at him.
There was an oddness about her as well. He had known the boy’s father and he had been a powerful mage, but he had been a simple, straight forward man.
It was the mother that was complex. Her appearance was plain at first glance, but the longer her stared at her, the more he realized that she wasn’t plain at all. The hair he had first thought was blond was in fact a burnished gold that was secured up behind a grey veil. Her ivory skin was dulled by the dirt (and now the blood) that she allowed to indurate through her pores. But there was nothing to tame the flashing of her eyes. They were a vibrant blue that cut to your core; challenging you and denying you. Yes, defiance was the word that described her.
“Is being responsible that unusual in young human males?” Kam asked. He really didn’t know.
Tipping her head slightly to one side she paused, then shrugged before returning to her pipe.
Jacob returned with a small shallow bowl of milk and a little pillow. Both of which he put on the floor next to the fire. He offered his hands to Kyoka and she took the ride down to her own refreshment which she enjoyed more then the tea.
When he came in the room the next time Kam expected him to have something for himself, but instead he stood at the doorway with a vague look of anxiety.
“What’s the matter?” Heather asked, extending one arm out to him.
He went to her and leaned his body against her. She folded her arm around him and tucked his head under her chin.
“I don’t know what leaves eat,” he said.
“Leaves?” She laughed as she lifted his chin so that she could see his face.
Kam smiled. Stretching out his arm and uncoiling his fingers, he silently asked the little spirits to come from hiding. Heather’s eyes went wide at the leaves drifted about him. Gold, red and yellow; the colors of Autumn flitted about him. It made her think of her son, sitting in the yard earlier in the day.
“I’ve never known them to eat anything,” Kam said.
Jacob reached a hand out to them and they shyly danced away.
“They don’t eat?” he asked.
“I don’t think so.”
It was then that Amaterasu came lumbering into the room. Kam couldn’t help thinking of a blind slug that had been fished up from beneath a rock. Jacob returned to the stove while Heather rose with the pipe clenched in her teeth to drag another chair to the fire. Apparently there wasn’t another table to be had because she pulled over a box instead. While she was up, she threw a few more logs into the fireplace. About the same time that Heather sat, Jacob was putting a mug in Amaterasu’s hands.
“Did you see anything, Ama?” the boy asked.
She shook her head.
Gytha spent the day, always widening her circle. There was no sign that anyone had been in the forest. Hanging from a branch and swinging gently she tried to consider the implications of this; but she could still smell Dipak’s blood on her hands and it was distracting.
Angerona chittered. Gytha lifted her hand so that the flat of her palm was up in front of Angerona’s face. The spider bit her, injecting her sedating venom. Gytha’s body was long accustomed to its exposure and it no longer put her to sleep. But it quickly slowed her heart rate and the fog of adrenaline lifted from her vision.
“They were never in the forest,” Gytha whispered.
She lifted herself up onto the branch and slowly moved her way back to the farm house.
Abiding by Dipak’s request that she respect human custom, she stood on the porch, let her haze drop and knocked on the door. When the door opened, the smell of sick hit her in the face. She paid no attention to what ever it was the woman had said, it didn’t matter. Looking down at the woman standing in the door, Gytha breathed deeply. Yes, it was her. She leaned down and caught the woman by the arm when she attempted to back away. She cried out and pushed at her. Gytha used her other hand to pull the woman’s head back by her hair. Pressing her face against the woman’s neck she smelled her where the blood was close to the surface and fresh from the heart.
“Gytha!” Kam yelled. “Let her go.”
She released the woman and she stumbled back.
“She has Ettercap venom in her blood,” Gytha hissed.
Kam help Heather keep her feet. They both now looked at Gytha. Heather pushed from Kam, scooped her pipe up from the floor and waved her hand at Gytha dismissively.
“I don’t know who you are, but there has been an Ettercap here to bite me,” Heather said as she sat back in her chair.
“Are you sure?” Kam asked.
“Heather, do you have anything to treat the venom?” Kam asked.
She stuffed tobacco into her pipe and looked up at them.
“You’re serious?” she asked.
“If there is Ettercap venom in my blood then I’m going to have a bad night,” she stated.
She put the pipe into her mouth and sucked on it in short bursts to get it going again.
“There is no anti venom for it. Most die from it. About a quarter pull through on their own, but there is nothing medicine can do for them. Their bodies can either handle it or they can’t.”
Taking another long draw on her pipe she met Kam’s eyes and then she flicked her gaze to Jacob for only a moment before returning to Kam. He nodded.
“But there have been no Ettercap around here,” she said.
Gytha started to say something, but Kam cut her off with “No, I suppose not. This isn’t their territory.”
Heather helped Jacob finish cleaning the kitchen. They went about this chore like it were any other day. The dishes were washed and put any. The abandoned meal scraped into a bucket for the pigs. The blood was mopped from the floor. The laundry was piled up and left for the morning. Apparently the laundry was always washed in the morning so that it had the full day to hang in the sun.
Kam watched to two of them move through their domestic rhythm. It was a glimpse into the life that their coming here had shattered. Jacob’s powers had awakened, but the shooter had not come for Jacob. They could have had a while longer with days like these. And maybe they could have gone unnoticed altogether. No, he knew that would never happen with magic as strong as Jacob’s. But it was nice to imagine the two of them living in this town in a normal life until their short lives came to an end.
“Alright, off to bed,” Heather said after giving the boy a hug and kiss.
Jacob ran into the other room and up the stairs. Heather made more tea.
Ama went into the living room, her light had faded with the setting of the sun. She looked weak and tired. She slumped down onto the couch and was quickly asleep.
Gytha paced in front of the windows occasionally breaking the pattern to stand briefly at Dipak’s side. She would touch his cheek, arm or hand and then turn to resume her pacing. The claws of her feet clicked on the floor and left small scratches in the wood. Angerona clung to her back and bobbed her body with the rhythm of Gytha’s movements.
Heather had watched them for only a moment before shuddering and returning to making the tea.
“Gytha, do you like tea?” Heather asked.
Heather poured out to mugs and carried them to the small tables at the fire. She forgot the little companion until it rose up on its hind legs with a hopeful lift of its head. Heather laughed and then brought it some milk.
“I never thought I would be having a ferret for company at my fire,” Heather said.
“I’m a weasel,” Kyoka corrected.
“Pardon,” Heather said and sat down. She rubbed her hip and the fished a small plastic bag from a pocket of her apron.
“There wasn’t a bullet in his wound,” she stated.
She lifted the bag up. In it there was a small round object that had a green cast to it.
“What is that?” Kam asked as he rose and took the bag from her. He looked at it as best he could in the unreliable fire light.
“I think it is made of bone,” she said.
Kam didn’t know what to make of it.
Gytha plucked it from his hands. She opened the bag and pulled it out.
“Don’t, it’s poisoned!” Heather reached out her hand.
“I know,” Gytha said.
Her long tongue wrapped around it and drew it into her mouth. Rolling it around she tasted it the way a rich man would taste a piece of expensive cheese.
“There isn’t much of the Ettercap here, but there is something else,” she said.
She pulled it out of her mouth. Thick strings of saliva clung to it and stretched from her mouth. She stuffed it back into the bag, letting the saliva coat the outside in a thick sheet. She handed it back to Kam and it was careful to take it by the corner that was not coated. A trail still connected itself to Gytha’s mouth as she started to speak.
“I’m not familiar with the other flavor and it doesn’t have a scent,” Gytha said.
Kam was glad when the string of spit finally broke, but wasn’t happy that it was now swinging from the bag in front of him. Heather watched the end of it moving along its arch. Suddenly, she stood up, got a bowl from the kitchen and scooped the whole mess up. Kam mouthed a thank you to her.
“You know that’s really fucking gross?” Heather asked as she turned to towards the kitchen.
Gytha said nothing.
Kam pointed to Gytha’s face and whispered “You still have some-“
Gytha twitched her head to one side and made an odd clicking noise. Angerona reached from behind with a fluff of silk and wiped Gytha’s face. Angerona clicked and chittered rapidly. Gytha responded in the same manner. Gytha gestured her claws towards Heather and then to Kam, making guttural noises and a grunt. More clicking from Angerona.
Gytha looked at Heather a moment and then said “I’m sorry my spit is fucking gross.”
Angerona clicked rapidly and then stroked her leg across Gytha’s cheek.
Heather covered her smile with her hand, but Gytha saw it.
“I just… Well, having a giant spider as a life coach is kind of funny,” Heather said.
“Life coach?” Gytha asked.
Heather opened her mouth to explain, waved her mouth and then said “Never mind.”
Kam said “And don’t worry about the spit. We appreciate the help.”
After a pause, Gytha snatched Heather’s hand and lifted it up to the light, revealing the green that stained her finger tips.
“Why wait until now to tell us about the bone?” Gytha asked.
“I wanted my boy in bed,” Heather said.
Gytha ran her claws along her hip line but said nothing. She growled softly, unsure what the boy being in bed had to do with the matter.
“Was I supposed to tell my boy that his mother and his friend are likely to die tonight?” she stood and took a step forward so that she was standing close to Gytha. She stared up at her with tears clinging to the corners of her eyes.
“Was I supposed to bring him nightmares and fear when there is nothing to be done but to wait?” she asked quietly.
Gytha watched the tears fall down the sides of Heather’s face, the trembling of her shoulders and the clutching of her fists. What would it be like to feel that? She raised her hand and with the blunt side of her claw, she carefully wiped the tears away.
“No mother,” Gytha whispered.
Heather crumpled against Gytha’s strength and sobbed. Gytha pulled her into her arms and cradled her like a child. Humming and rocking, she offered the only comfort that she could. Dipak once told her that when he was suffering it was nice to have the presence of a friend. Was the presence of a stranger better then being alone?