Posted December 7, 1997

Living in the Darkness

Chapter Four - Free Spirits

He visited once every moon cycle. She knew that one time he would not come, nor ever again. They talked about the outside world, what they might do once they parted company -- Damek was, obviously, planning to escape as well -- and where they might go; Samira avoided mentioning Paris, for she was beginning to think it might all be a plot for her to lead Them to Clopin. She did say she would either find a job as a seamstress or join another tribe, if the latter was even possible; secretly, she vowed to return to her father's farm if she could not find Clopin in France.
The cycles continued. A winter passed, then another, and another. Samira was ready to forget everything by Shiriluna's thirteenth winter.

Samira sat next to the tent's entrance, holding one curtain aside, her hand tightly pinching the fabric. She gazed at the sky blindly; there were no stars, but seemingly no trace of clouds, either.
Shiriluna watched her from her makeshift bed. "What are you waiting for, Mama?" Samira did not turn or answer. "Mama?" Again no response. "Mama!"
Shiriluna was getting up when Samira finally turned. Her eyes were unfocused. "Mama!" Shiriluna gasped, "What is wrong with you?"
Samira stared at her blindly a moment more before she shook her head, blinking repeatedly until she saw her daughter again. "N-nothing," she mumbled, putting her hand to her head. "I--I...I am sorry."
Shiriluna bit her lip worriedly. "Mama, something is wrong. Tell me, please."
Samira sighed, drawing her knees up to her chest. Shiriluna suddenly noticed how old her mother looked. Samira was still young at thirty-and-four, but the darkness had worn her down. "I am tired, Shiriluna, very tired..." she said weakly. Shiriluna was going to suggest that she go to bed, but then she noticed something in her mother's voice.
Samira began to mumble, "Time...running out of time..."
Shiriluna regarded her with concern. She had seen her mother's spirit retreating for a while. Time. Time was taking its toll. But who said time would leave them? There would always be time.
"What do you mean, Mama?"
"No time to find him..."
"No time to find...who?" Suddenly it dawned on her. "To find Papa?"
Samira fell silent, biting her lip. She rocked back and forth. Shiriluna felt panicked. Her mother had never acted like this before. A tear slid down Samira's cheek. She slumped forward. "Too late to find him..."
"Mama...tell me. Tell me something. You have never told me about my papa."
Samira, becoming aware of her surroundings again, looked right at Shiriluna. "It wasn't his fault," she bawled, "He did not want to leave us to this!"
Shiriluna half-hugged her mama, half-dragged her toward her bed. Something was triggering this outburst...Shiri remembered all those times she had seen her mama watching the night sky, and once she had asked about it when Samira's eyes had become frighteningly distant. Her mama had immediately snapped out of the trance, smiling, and she explained her skill of stargazing. An uneasy feeling had formed in the pit of Shiriluna's stomach when Mama mentioned that she might have the talent, too.
Now she understood that feeling. It was fear. She would be afraid to look up and see the future laid out before her. It would be horrible to know something bad would happen and not be able to do anything about it.
Samira cried herself to sleep. Shiriluna remained awake, thinking, pondering her fear. Perhaps...perhaps she could tolerate the fear just long enough to find out what had broken her mama so. would she ask and get the exact answer she wanted? Mama had said the stars tell what they want to. They could prove her fear unfallible. She thrust the idea aside.
Her eyes were drooping closed when she heard the music. Such sweetness was rare in the Camp of Darkness. She usually heard it in her dreams, and only then; before now. A pipe, exuding a sweet, high sound...It made her drowsy...the sweet, seductive sound...Sleep...
As in the dream the music stopped, and a soft voice called her name. In the dream she never found who was calling her; there was usually nothing but pitch black and the sounds. However, this time she was awake. The voice called again. She rose, forgetting all about Samira, and walked out of the tent, as rag doll-ish as a sleepwalker.
She meandered through the dark, following the sounds as the pipe-music began again. Ahead of her a hazy firelight appeared as if she had crested a hill. Everything was a blur until she came near the fire. Then all became suddenly sharp and clear: the dancing flames, the trees encircling the clearing, the man sitting in front of the fire, playing the sweet music. She looked toward him, curiously, warily. The music made her want to dance, though.
The last note trailed off. The man licked his lips, and said, "Good evening, Shiriluna."
She took a step back. That was the voice of the man Mama so hated. She wished she had recognized it sooner. Then her eyes went wide as she realized something else -- he was playing the pipe, but how could he play with a hook for one hand!
He chuckled, as if he had heard her thoughts. "Come, sit here." He patted the ground beside him. "You need not fear me." Again he chuckled.
She hesitated. Mama had told her not to trust him...But he seemed harmless enough now...She lowered herself to the ground without thinking.
"Please forgive me," he said softly. "For everything over the years. I am afraid I have given your mama great pain. You see..." He paused, as if arguing with himself over revealing a secret. "Well...despite that your mama loved your papa very much, actually in love with me."
He watched her reaction -- or lack of one. He gave a tight smile. He had her in his spell. "And...Oh, I cannot say...but you must know, child, you must." He took her hand in his and stroked it with his hook. "She...killed him...It was...Oh, child, I am sorry, but it is the truth. She killed him so she could be with me...but that was before she knew she was with his child. And when I found out what she had done, I...Well...Child, she has gone mad."
"Mad..?" Shiriluna mumbled. The fire blurred. She pulled her hand from his grasp. "Yes...She was acting that way tonight..." She blinked at the glare from the fire.
He took her hand again. "I am sorry, child. I tried to stop her, but she was mad even then."
There was a rustle of wings in a tree above. Then a raven's voice called out, sounding like, "Lie! Lie! Lie!"
Shiriluna abruptly shook her head, the haze from the fire clearing again, and all that Robuert had told her flew from her memory. She turned to stare at him.
Robuert cursed under his breath. He looked up at the trees. "Damn you, black siren!" he shouted at the bird that plagued his every move to catch Samira and her daughter. Shiriluna edged away from him. What am I doing here? she asked herself uncomfortably. The urge to stay by the fire nibbled at her wish to return to her tent.
Robuert sighed, trying to calm himself. He could deal with the evil bird later. He glanced at the girl, trying to manage a kind smile. "My apologies, sweet one. Birds are so noisy, and they ruin my sleep and my peace of mind."
Shiriluna gazed back blankly. His smile widened slightly. He had not lost all control over her. But it was annoying to repeat all that nonsense. "Dear one," he began, reaching to take her hand.
He heard something like a bird clicking its beak. Shiriluna drew back sharply, her expression horrified. "No! Keep away from me!"
Robuert lost his pretense of gentleness. He grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him roughly. "You are mine! The darkness already exists in Samira, and it will spread to you! There is nothing either of you can do! You belong to me!"
Shiriluna shrieked and struggled to escape his grasp. He squeezed her arm, pulling her closer. She wondered if screaming was worth the breath. Who would come help her? He was mad, oh, he was mad...
She looked up as her keen ears picked up a misplaced step. She cried out as a shadow swooped down upon them. She shut her eyes tight...
She heard a muffled thump and a groan. Then someone grabbed her hand and tugged her to her feet. Then she was running, the firelight fading behind her, and she could not see who had rescued her.

* * * * * *

Samira listened to the fuzziness of the blankets. Even silence makes noise...It sort of crackles softly in one's ears...She groaned and tried to find consciousness. Something had upset her, she recalled, and she had fallen asleep listening to her sobs. But what had it been?
Everything trembled. She tried to steady herself before the quaking ground made her fall...Then she realized someone was shaking her to get her to wake. She struggled out of the darkness, getting the thing to let go of her mind and let her think clearly.
"Sa-mi-ra! Sa-mi-ra!" a voice said brokenly. "Wake! Wake! Tis time!"
She bolted upright. There was only one person in the camp who called her by her name. She blinked. No, it wasn't him, but Damek.
He had an anxious look on his face. "Hurry! We must leave now!"
She stared in surprise, but immediately threw the blanket aside. He backed up a few steps as she stood. She cast a glance around the tent in a bitter farewell to her home, then gave a start. "Where is Shiriluna?!"
"Outside, waiting, waiting!" he answered, frantic. He grabbed her hand. "Hurry! Hurry! Not much time before the Dark One comes for you!"
She knew he meant Robuert She let him lead her to the tent's entrance. Then she stopped short. "Wait, I must get something!"
"Quickly, quickly!" he urged, glancing out into the night while she retrieved something from under the pile of blankets, nervously wetting his lips. In another moment Samira rushed past him, something yellow poking out of the top of her dress. He followed her path, snagging a tent flap on the way, laughing out loud as he yanked on the cloth, causing the tent to collapse.
Samira headed toward the ghostly figure in the woods. I know that is only Shiriluna, but there seems to be something more here... The wind made the leaves rustle. She knew the footsteps behind her were Damek's.
"Run, run with all your strength -- go that way!" he cried when he had caught up to them. He pointed in the direction opposite the camp, and Samira was struck with the memory that it was a way she had been headed, long ago...
There was a shout from the camp. "They're coming! Run!" Damek yelled.
Samira, holding tightly to Shiriluna's hand, dodged between the trees. She wondered, How far will we have to run before we are safe?
There was a cry behind her. Damek might have fallen. But she did not look back, and Shiriluna was trying not to stumble and did not look back either.
Angry shouts and strange howls followed in their wake. An insistent voice that managed to catch up to them hissed, "Catch them! Don't let them get away! Do not allow it again!"
Again? Samira wondered, but at that moment she tripped, sprawling to the ground. Shiriluna stumbled over her, crying out as she fell.
"Keep running! Keep running!" Samira gasped as she dragged herself up. She helped Shiriluna to stand, then shoved her ahead of her. "Run! We will make it!"
The shouts came closer. They ran.
Faster, faster! I will not let them catch her! Samira cried to herself.
"Catch them! Kill them!" the strange voice hissed.
Nooo--!! "Ooohhh!" Samira's mental cry became outward when she saw what was ahead of them. Robuert awaited them, leaning casually against a tree, holding up in his one hand, from the collar of a ragged tunic, an unconscious Damek. An arrowhead protruded from Damek's heart.
Shiriluna gagged, mostly from the sight of Robuert's pleased smile. Samira grabbed her daughter's shoulders and shoved her off to the woods on her left. "Run!" she whispered. "It is more dangerous if we stay together!" She gasped away a sob, crying out, "I hate being away from you! But this is how it must be!" All this in a mere second.
Then they were running again. Shiriluna tried to catch a glimpse of her mama through the trees, but besides the greenry the most she saw was a flash of metal...Robuert's hook. Mama...Where is she?! She wanted to stop and start weeping, whining for her mama. But there was no time...
The brush broke behind her. She dared to look back. To her relief, it was Samira. Shiri dodged a tree then looked back again. No time to warn Mama as the silvery light streaked down and snagged Samira's sleeve. Samira's eyes widened. She screamed to Shiriluna, "Go!" Then she was yanked backward, right into Robuert's arms.
Shiriluna wanted to help Samira as her mama struggled to free herself. But the command to run echoed through her bones. Already more of Robuert's men were coming upon them. She would soon be caught. Horrified, with a last look at her mother, she turned and fled. No, no, no! I should have helped her! Oh, Mama, please forgive me! I am a coward!
She wept as she ran. The wind blew hard and chilling. The clouds that patched the sky allowed little light through. Shiriluna was afraid of the dark. She was afraid that at any moment a silvery hook would come flashing out of the shadows and grab her. She ducked under a tree branch and in a frantic burst of energy, ran faster until everything was a blur. She did not see the tree root which reached up to trip her. But she saw the black void ahead of her as she was flung forward. Then she shut her eyes at the dull crick as she landed at an odd angle on her neck. Then she began to tumble down the hill, becoming less and less aware of the bumps and jolts from the sharp rocks and stones that marked the hillside. By the time she came to rest half-in the shallow stream at the base of the hill, she was unconscious.
She was not aware of the soft patter of raindrops as a storm made its way through the trees.

Coming Next: The Fifth Chapter of Living in the Darkness: Dream Moon

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(c) 1997-2004 Autumn Loweck. This work may not be copied, distributed, or reprinted without the author's permission. All characters not owned by Disney are property of Autumn Loweck (aka Shiri) and may not be "borrowed" or mentioned in other works without notifying the author first