"Wars of Light and Darkness"
By: Jade Lightning, a.k.a. ReverseTheEclipse
"The First Interlude"
Verse Twenty-Eight: “Grievous Injury”
“Remember…I was, supposed to remember something. But what? Who was that person I spoke to, with those eyes? And…who is…
The darkness faded away, it blinded him. He was used to that darkness. He used to have someone with him, with rusty red fur and golden hair, but they had left him. He was alone to face this new evil. If it wasn’t darkness, what was it? His mind struggled to remember. He struggled to remember anything, even his own name.
“Where am I? Where am I going?”
Deannalee sat in her usual chair, having pulled it closer to the bed so she could gently rub Kashkie’s feet. Her serving a male like this, even if it were her own husband, was unheard of in this culture, but both she and her mother had provided all of the care that Kashkie needed over the past year, feeding him, keeping him clean, and simply keeping a constant watch over him. It had bonded the mother and daughter closer than ever. Even without Renaldo there for them, Casselina had not fallen sway to the darkness, the headaches as she interpreted the spells, for the past year.
Better still, Teikaru rarely came by anymore, leaving Deannalee alone, although his interest in his son had not waned, though Baralai was afraid of him.
Little interested Deannalee anymore. Her entire life was absorbed with either thoughts of her missing father, simple joys shared with her mother and son, or concerns for her dear friend Kashkie, wondering if she’d ever see his eyes again.
She looked up. It was one of those times where both Deannalee and Casselina sat together. Casselina was sitting on the floor with Baralai; both of them held a stick and used it to draw in the dirt. The grandmother tilted her head shaking it. “He keeps drawing a creature with ears on his head…like a bat’s, only not as large.”
Deannalee glanced at the ground. She could see her son sketching a cartoon version of Shadow on the ground. This caused Deannalee to blink. She looked around the room; she remembered that hedgehog from years ago, and knew that he was Kashkie’s friend. Maybe he was here after all. She heard Baralai giggle, waking her from her wondering. She smiled. “He’s just creative is all,” she paused, tilting her head seeing another figure on the ground, one of a male with thick spiky hair, long bangs over his eye, and a strange mark on his chest, “Who is that Baralai?”
“My friend,” he looked up, nodding, “He glows with light and visits me sometimes.” He looked at the other doodle. “This guy I see standing by your chair staring at Uncle Kashkie…only, he never smiles. He always looks sad.”
Casselina smiled. “What a creative imagination,” she patted his head. “I’m going to get you some juice,” she added, getting up.
Deannalee knew it wasn’t just his imagination. Who the first one was, the one Baralai claimed to play with, she didn’t know him, though the reference to him sent an inexplicably happy feeling through her. The second one however she knew was Kashkie’s friend. Hearing that he was here and watching sadly troubled her. If he was alive, and not just a spirit like the other one, why wasn’t he showing himself?
“Mother, bring some pomegranates for Kashkie, he could use some; he hasn’t had any in awhile,” Deannalee said, looking up, “I’m going to wash his hair again tonight.”
Casselina nodded. “Of course…I’ll check and make sure they’ve got a fresh change of clothes for him,” she looked, smiling, “You be a good boy Baralai.” She walked out of the hut then.
Baralai giggled; “Yes Grandma!” The little echidna looked up at his mother, seeing her eyes locked on Kashkie’s face again. Tilting his head he pushed himself up to his feet, toddling over to her. “Mama? How come Uncle Kashkie isn’t my father?”
This question woke Shadow from his slumbering, if one could call it that, a struggle to shut his brain down to keep himself from fainting from exhaustion. Deannalee looked at Baralai, smiling. “Why would you ask that honey?”
With a blush Baralai giggled, “Because he’s nice to us. He’s nicer than that mean man I look like. Why can’t Kashkie be my daddy?”
Deannalee frowned some. “Because baby…Kashkie loves you but, he’s just your uncle,” she said, looking back, “One day he’s going to find a woman he really loves, and you’ll have a playmate. …as for that mean man he…mmm, you don’t have to think of him as your father if you don’t want to.”
Shadow blinked, and then exhaled slowly. Deannalee really had gotten around her past, seeing the error of her ways. She was willing to raise Baralai alone for the most part, rather than drag Kashkie back into something uncomfortable. Shadow wondered if it would be wise to tell Kashkie about Teikaru’s absence over that past year; if Kashkie knew that Deannalee was suffering he might be persuaded to try and help her anyway, help her raise Baralai and give her even more emotional support than normal.
That was the kind of person he was, after all.
Baralai nodded. “It’s okay Mama,” he looked at the drawing of the unknown figure then giggled; “He would be a great daddy too. I think he really likes us.”
Deannalee wiped a tear from her eye then glanced. “Baralai…you’ve really seen this person, haven’t you? …what is he like?”
“He’s fun,” Baralai giggled, “When I was little and Daddy made you cry, he’d come and sing to me, and rub your head gently so you’d go to sleep.” Looking up he added, “He’d look so sad, but since Daddy’s been gone he’ll visit and he looks happier. Still, I think he’s down that you can’t see him, that’s why I tried to draw him.”
She looked back at the picture in the dirt. It had minimal detail, but somehow her mind filled in the blanks. He stood tall; he had longish, soft hair, white and dark gray. He could have been an echidna, since he had no ears standing on his head, but somehow she knew he wasn’t. For some reason thinking of him made her also think of music. She thought back to all the times when she felt unexplainable comfort despite how horrific things had gotten, even over this past year with Teikaru largely absent; someone had comforted her while she cried over Kashkie.
Only…who was he?
“When are you gonna bury that miserable bastard?”
Deannalee looked up, immediately sneering when she saw Teikaru standing in the doorway. Baralai frowned. This was usually the time he would hide, but for whatever reason he stood his ground in front of his mother. Shadow went on alert, ready to protect the mother and son, as well as Kashkie, no matter what; if Teikaru died the Master of the Elements would just have to come from another man.
“Get out of here,” Deannalee sneered, “Go back to your whores, and don’t act like I don’t know you’ve lured women from the village to satisfy your needs. What the hell do you want?”
“I want him,” Teikaru glared at her dangerously; “Baralai is my son. I’ll be dammed if he’s calling some random ghost, let alone that bastard Kashkie his father. It’s over. I’m not having you fill his head with your bullshit.”
Deannalee stood up. “I told him Kashkie wasn’t his father you idiot! Why should he call you his father? You’re never here and when you are you frighten him! He just said himself that he remembered you making me scream!”
Teikaru narrowed his eyes. “I think it’s about time I taught you a lesson. How about I give you that baby girl bitch that you want, and in exchange I take back my son.”
This caused her to frown. “I don’t want one right now Teikaru. Baralai’s still young, and Kashkie needs me.”
“Kashkie, Kashkie, always this limp dick! I’m surprised you haven’t tried to bang him while he’s like this and can’t fight back! Oh that’s right, it’s because I told you I’d take Baralai away. You dare call me out for sleeping with other women. You’re no different from me,” Teikaru hissed.
“I’m not doing it because I promised him I wouldn’t; it’s not fair to him. He forgave me, unlike you…you’re just using it to your advantage! I’m only trying to keep it together for Baralai, while you’re trying to tear it apart!” she shouted.
Casselina pushed past Teikaru then shoved him out. “You’re lucky I was able to cover that up,” she sneered, “You get away from them.”
Teikaru blinked, then grinned at her. “You know, sometimes I miss having you on my side. Think about it, we could kill Deannalee and rule together instead…throw the dead weight off the island.”
“You’re insane,” Casselina hissed. “I said get away from them. Get away before I tell the entire village of your infidelity and declare they stone you to death.”
Teikaru sneered at her, watching as Deannalee picked up Baralai. The little echidna glanced at Teikaru with large eyes, frowning. Baralai looked so much like his father; he merely had slightly darker fur, with black fringe streaked with blue and his mother’s brown eyes. Something continually snapped inside him, and Shadow could sense it. There was a small shred of Teikaru that wanted his son’s attention, but at the same time hated him for siding with Deannalee and Casselina and preferring the male role models that were Kashkie and an invisible spirit to his own father. That hatred would win out. He’d try to shape Baralai in his own image and would use whatever lengths he could to get it.
In the end, he’d torture his own son just to have things go his way.
“Bitches,” Teikaru muttered, “That golden fur ball is never waking up. Good riddance, he’s a son of a…bitch…” Teikaru trailed off, wincing before letting out a hiss. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” He ran off, disappearing into the jungle.
Both women, and even Shadow blinked, confused by the sudden switch. Shadow caught on faster, his attention turning to where Kashkie rested on the bed. For Teikaru to run off that quickly meant only one thing. Whatever darkness had corrupted him sensed the return of the one thing it truly could not stand.
Kashkie’s and Arandor’s lights.
“Maybe I should have him stoned…you could always have a daughter with someone else or…really,” Casselina looked at Deannalee, smiling some, “Baralai could be the Guardian, just like Prince Jayden was, you know.”
Deannalee looked at her. “Mmm, I don’t know Mother. I just…I can’t think about having another right now, much less what to do about Teikaru. …why couldn’t he have been the one to disappear, or become sick like this,” Deannalee sighed, wiping her eyes with her free arm. “We’d all be better off.”
“Oh darling,” Casselina murmured, hugging her, “Everything’s going to be just fine, I promise you.”
Locked in the embrace neither woman noticed it. Shadow still stared, moving closer to Kashkie’s bed side. Baralai, calming down now that the shouting was done and his father was gone, took notice of Shadow. Baralai was one person Shadow could never seem to hide himself from, even when other children could not see him. It didn’t bother him, since the adults thought he dreamed him up, just like this unseen spirit. As long as this was the case, there was no problem. Baralai saw him now, and perhaps in his own way, he too could sense something changing.
“Kashkie?” Baralai whispered, rubbing his eye.
Shadow glanced up at him, then looked back, murmuring, “He senses it too.”
This also caught the attention of Deannalee and Casselina. They pulled back from their hug looking at Kashkie, then at Baralai. “What is it Baralai?” Casselina asked.
Baralai looked at her. “I think…he’s gonna wake up now,” he said plainly, with a nod, “Maybe that’s why Daddy ran away.”
Deannalee frowned. “Why he…ran away?” She closed her eyes. She remembered Kashkie wielding light, and how precious it was. Maybe if Teikaru was being consumed by darkness, it had gotten so bad that Kashkie’s light bothered him. She thought about it; Teikaru had been avoiding Kashkie in the weeks before Kashkie’s mysterious sleep took over.
Opening her eyes she looked; she would hinge her hopes on anything at that moment. She sat down in her chair putting Baralai in her lap, taking Kashkie’s hand rubbing it gently. Taking a deep breath she spoke to him gently, “Kashkie?”
Casselina tilted her head. She knew the chances of him waking up at all were slim, but she too would hinge her hopes. She sat at the foot of the bed watching his face. In a prolonged vigil, the four souls sat, waiting, for anything.
“Dee dear, it’s been awhile…maybe he’s not…”
“He will Grandma! I know it!”
“…Kashkie…I feel…you returning to me. Oh thank heavens…”
Who were these people? Why did they sound familiar and yet have no identities? They were strangers, in a strange place, this place that was the opposite of the darkness that was his home. And…something else.
Who was this…Kashkie? He had to know.
For the first time in over a year, Kashkie’s face began to wrinkle. He drew in a much deeper breath than normal, his breathing getting stronger with each second. The mood in the room rocketed up into the sky just at this simple change alone. Shadow wondered if Kashkie would be slow to wake up, and if this was just the first step in a process that was as long as his sleep.
He was surprised then to see Kashkie’s fingers begin to flex, including the ones wrapped around Deannalee’s hand. She let out a soft gasp, covering her open mouth with her free hand. “Mother…Mother look…!”
Casselina was equally as stunned. “I’ll be damned…,” she murmured, looking back, “Kashkie sweetheart?”
Baralai giggled slightly, but then tilted his head, frowning some. Shadow looked at him again. Somehow the boy knew something wasn’t right, and as the connection with Kashkie was slowly restored, Shadow began to feel it too. Kashkie’s aura felt scrambled, sick still; he waited on baited breath to find his bond with Arandor again.
When he did, he was immediately hit with the first words he had heard Kashoku speak since that afternoon in their backyard.
“Shadow, I’m saying all of this now, before I forget. That Guardian of Pestilence Father spoke to us about, he’s damaged both Kashkie and me. We’ll survive, of that I am sure, but Kashkie won’t be the same for awhile. Please, do not be afraid. We’ll find our way home again. The Darkness is where he thinks home is, but he won’t forever. You’ll have to be his light now. Be his light, the same way you were mine.”
“Be his…Light? When was I ever…your Light?” Shadow whispered. He heard Deannalee gasp, drawing his eyes to Kashkie’s face.
For the first time in over a year, Kashkie’s eyes fluttered open, only able to since Deannalee and Casselina made a point to clear them of the sediment created from his constant sleep. There were those beautiful blue eyes they had all longed to see. Yes. Kashkie was finally awake again.
“Kashkie…,” Deannalee whispered, sniffing as she wiped her eyes. “You’re…you’re finally awake.”
Casselina smiled. It was good to see him again, so good to have at least one of them back where they belonged. She dotted her eyes with her dress sleeve.
Shadow frowned. He knew Kashkie could see him, but was afraid to speak. If in this state of mind Kashkie didn’t know any better, he might blurt out his name, or react to him badly, blowing his cover. He couldn’t risk it. He got up and was ready to leave, but Kashoku’s words stuck in his head.
“He thinks the Darkness is his home. Be his light, like you were mine.”
“The…Darkness is my home Kashkie…not yours,” Shadow whispered.
Kashkie immediately glanced up at Shadow. His eyebrows bent in heavy confusion. He looked at the women, even Baralai who stared at him sadly. The only thing calming him down was how sad they looked. Sad. He knew what that feeling was, being down or hurt by something. He saw them smile and say how glad they were. Apparently, him being stuck in that dark place wasn’t the way things were meant to be.
But…if that were the case, was this how they were meant to be? He couldn’t remember…he remembered nothing…only that he had to remember something.
It began to make him feel pain again.
Hissing he pulled his hand back from Deannalee covering his face. “None of this…makes any sense…!” he groaned in a raspy voice, the sound almost completely gone from lack of use. Baralai covered his face; Shadow shook his head sadly.
Deannalee gasped. “M-Mother go get the doctor, now!”
Casselina’s eyes widened. She nodded, and raced out of the hut. By now, a crowd gathered outside of it, all of them clamoring to see if Kashkie was truly awake or not. The added noise just caused Kashkie to curl up into a ball in an attempt to block it all out.
“All of you be quiet!” Deannalee hissed softly, heading for the door to explain the problem. Baralai slowly lowered his hands frowning. He knew something wasn’t right. Glancing at Shadow he could tell he didn’t have to explain this to him. He saw it too.
Bending down Shadow put a hand on his head. “Kashkie,” he whispered, “That darkness isn’t your home. It’s simply where your spirit rested while your body was too damaged to move. These people here care for you a great deal. You don’t remember now but, somewhere inside you do. We just have to light the way for you again. You’ll be alright, but you’re going to have to trust them, and me.”
Kashkie opened his eyes glancing up. He frowned. He felt like he knew this person. He associated those eyes with someone bearing great pain, someone who was very wise, a house with a large tree in the front yard, and the closest thing to family he had left. It was like seeing bits and pieces of a picture with the core of it missing, like an incomplete puzzle.
Every time he tried to fill in the blank spaces, it hurt him, and he wanted to go back into the darkness, the only place he felt safe.
“No…I’m only safe…in the darkness,” Kashkie whispered, wincing. “Didn’t you…feel the same?”
Shadow frowned. He had felt the same once, sometimes he still did. He remembered being terrified of the darkness as a child, even as a teenager. He felt safe when Arandor was around, but after Arandor died he learned to accept the darkness, and found his only comfort in it for many years. When you’re that badly damaged, not being able to see or feel anything at all is your only way to cope.
But Kashoku told Shadow that Kashkie needed a light. He needed Shadow to be his guiding light, in the same way Arandor was Shadow’s, only…Kashoku had called Shadow his as well. This confused him. Shadow never saw himself as particularly helpful, much less life saving or changing in a way that extreme.
Maybe he meant more to people than he realized, or would accept. Still, whether he meant that much to Kashoku and Arandor or not, if he had to be Kashkie’s light, the one that would guide him home, then he would do whatever he had to.
Right now he had to think of a good enough plan.
“I did once, Kashkie, long ago,” Shadow looked at him, “But…you helped me realize I didn’t have to hide anymore, and now, I’m going to do the same for you.”
Kashkie stared up at him, almost blankly. He wanted to believe it. He knew Shadow felt safer in the darkness, but now, he felt safe in this place of light. If Shadow could, then surely he could…Shadow may have been gruff and withdrawn, but he didn’t live in fear certainly. Kashkie knew Shadow better than that. He looked up to him, like a brother…
“Shadow…?” Kashkie whispered, blinking still.
This caused Shadow to smile, however faintly. “Yes, Kashkie, I’m here. You’re safe, I promise. You know this place, you know all of us.”
The yellow echidna frowned. “Uncle Kashkie?” Kashkie looked seeing Baralai sitting by him on the bed, staring at him with those big eyes. “Are you okay?”
Both Shadow and Kashkie looked at Baralai. Once again Kashkie’s eyebrows bent in confusion. Shadow put a hand on his shoulder which caused the echidna to jump, but immediately relax when he realized what it was. Shadow shook his head. “Don’t try to remember names. Do like you did with me. Remember what you associate with the person. The memories hold the answers.”
Kashkie nodded slowly. His head still felt fuzzy. He became aware of his body feeling heavy and sluggish, his movements slow and robotic whenever he wasn’t being caught by surprise like he was just moments before. He felt sick to his stomach, and all around cruddy, but he was starting to feel a little less afraid. He realized he did know these people, and the one thing he knew above all, was he didn’t associate pain with them, or fear. They weren’t out to cause him harm.
Maybe this world was safe after all. It certainly wasn’t as lonely.
Looking at Baralai Kashkie tried to zone out, letting feelings float back to him naturally instead of trying to pick them out on his own, just like what had happened with Shadow. His pupils dilated and contracted rapidly while he looked at the boy. He winced. Maybe this one wasn’t old enough to have any memories.
His eyes closed, on their own as he didn’t feel it was something he chose to do. He saw a newborn resting in his mother’s arms, still damp from being born into the world. He remembered a strong feeling of comfort, even a sense of trying to be protective, guarding this child from some danger. He didn’t recall being the father, but somehow being called uncle felt right, although he had never heard this child speak before now. He had obviously grown quite a bit while he was living in the darkness. That bond was still the same; he remembered rocking this child and tapping his nose gently to get him to laugh.
Baralai. It was little Baralai, the Guardian Prince.
Opening his eyes he nodded; “Hey there…little man,” Kashkie said slowly.
The echidna prince’s eyes immediately lit up; Kashkie didn’t recall it at this point, but little man was his nickname for Baralai. Hearing it immediately assured the child his uncle was going to be alright; things would eventually be okay again.
Shadow shook his head; if only everyone could have that kind of optimism, Kashkie most of all, right now.
“Uncle Kashkie!” he lunged forward locking his little arms around Kashkie’s neck in a tight hug, “I knew you’d wake up I just knew it!”
This caused Kashkie to panic a little bit. Before he found the safety in the heart of darkness, demons and other nightmares tried to grab at him and tear at him, causing him injury and harm. The natural inclination, especially in this world of light where there was no safety, was to grab the threat and crush it. Shadow’s muscles tightened; he sensed Kashkie’s fear and had to be ready to save Baralai if the reaction was bad.
But he waited. Kashkie didn’t move, save for his pupils enlarging and shrinking rapidly again, as though trying to focus and continually refocus to make sure he had fully assessed the situation. Something calmed him down; in the darkness he could rarely see what was hurting him, and by the time he could it was already too late to prevent the attack. Here, he could clearly see it was just a little child giving him a hug. He wasn’t trying to strangle him, or asphyxiate him, or hurt him in any way.
It was just that little baby boy; someone that pure and innocent, the complete antithesis of the demons he had fought that past year, would never try to hurt him. As he slowly allowed his arms to rise, he realized this harmless embrace was giving him feelings opposite of what he was accustomed to. The closest equation he could make was the short time he spent with that figure with the rusty red fur and golden hair.
Solace, comfort, peace…it could exist here too?
“I’m…I’m here,” Kashkie whispered at last, his voice still raspy, “It’s…okay.” He wasn’t sure why he felt the need to comfort this child; he was more than comfortable in this world of light. It seemed the only thing that troubled him was being without his beloved uncle.
Everything was so strange.
The yellow echidna looked up. It was that girl from before, yet another person he was certain he knew, but wasn’t sure how, as he could barely remember living in this world of light at all, and obviously he couldn’t have met her elsewhere. Baralai looked up. “Mama, Mama! He remembered my name!” He pulled back sitting on the bed beside Kashkie awash with giggles.
Deannalee smiled; this was the happiest Baralai had been in a long time, and after that encounter with Teikaru seeing this joy was much better than the alternative. Still, this only made more room for concern over Kashkie, and she could tell something was terribly wrong with him. He had suffered some grievous injury, something that struck so deeply that not even the sleep of a complete year could cure it.
Or perhaps, it was that sleep that had caused it to begin with. Maybe if you sleep for that long and survive your brain just isn’t able to remember everything it used to. She wasn’t aware of what had really happened; Shadow made sure the jungle was healed from the rotted state the dark Guardian had inflicted upon it, and nobody had taken notice. Kashkie’s sleep was mysterious and unexplainable, and yet without knowing any of that, Deannalee had drawn a pretty safe conclusion.
Even if she hadn’t pinned down the exact reason, nor exactly what was wrong, she knew one thing was true. He was still there, and as long as he was alive, he could heal and go back to his old self. All he needed was a little more care.
Anything was better than having to put him in the ground.
“Of course he remembered your name honey; he’ll just need a little time that’s all. He was asleep for a long time after all,” Deannalee said slowly, walking over to her chair. She kept her eyes on Kashkie’s the entire time, as though to let him know she meant him no harm.
Kashkie swallowed, feeling like he needed to get sick but not quite yet, and not quite comfortable making himself so vulnerable without first figuring out if he could trust this girl. He glanced at Shadow, the one person besides the child he knew he could trust so far. Shadow nodded; on the inside he was worried about how Kashkie would react to certain memories of Deannalee, but he kept this hidden from his eyes. He’d have to hope for the best…Kashkie would have to face it eventually after all.
Continuing to try and swallow down the vomit, Kashkie looked up, breathing deeply still. His pupils grew and shrank again, sweat starting to form in earnest on his brow. He looked into her brown eyes, and waited for memories to come back. They hit him rather hard; he had memories of a saucy teenager and her boyfriend. She was a great beauty, but her attitude was much less so. She made him uncomfortable, and all but blackmailed him into an affair with her after she had married her husband.
He couldn’t remember what the blackmail was centered around, but he knew it was a very cruel thing to do. He winced; he hated these memories. Once again, the natural inclination was to go back down into the heart of darkness to hide from them.
She frowned. Maybe she could sense what was happening. She knew not all of his memories of her were going to be friendly after all. However, she wasn’t going to lose him, not to those mistakes. She knew he had forgiven her. She would be dammed if she lost him all over again. Grabbing his hand was a risky thing to do, but she did so out of impulse. He hissed loudly causing Baralai to yelp, scooting back fast. He started to squeeze her hand hard to the point where she winced; he was using excessive, crushing force.
“Kashkie…please!” she pleaded, trying to stay as calm as she could and keep from raising her voice. She felt the joints in her hand being shoved into positions that weren’t normal. She might have been an echidna, but Kashkie was always considerably strong, and the adrenaline pumping through him that this terror caused only added to that strength. “Kashkie!” she cried, a little louder that time. She thought of trying to sit on his stomach and get in a dominant position, but she realized that was only going to make it worse, as this was something she did far too many times when she tortured him at night with her foolishness.
She sighed inside. This was only fair. Kashkie had never punished her for what she did to him, only Teikaru had, and Kashkie was the one she hurt the worst. He never wanted to participate in the first place. Maybe it was time that he get the payback he was more than allowed for what she had done.
She just didn’t want Baralai to see it. If she made him leave maybe she could convince him Teikaru had been the one that hurt her.
Getting down on her knees beside the bed Deannalee winced harder, putting her head down. “B-Baralai…go find your grandmother, please baby.”
Baralai frowned. “But Mama…”
“No buts, go find her now, we’ll be fine,” Deannalee repeated, looking up, trying to look as peaceful as she could as pain shot up her arm.
Shadow didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t just pull Kashkie away without revealing himself. He could hear Deannalee’s thoughts, thinking she deserved the retribution. Shadow was never a fan of what Deannalee had done, but he could tell she carried a weight of guilt on her heart daily, and that Kashkie was never a fan of revenge. If he were in his right mind, he’d be disgusted by Teikaru’s behavior. Shadow knew Kashkie would only ever be forgiving.
That’s when he realized it. Kashkie was only doing this because he was too frightened of the pain to remember the rest. Looking at him he whispered. “Kashkie, Kashkie please, I know you’re frightened, but try and remember the rest. Look at her. She’s spent the last year looking after you, keeping you healthy and alive, and protecting your body while you laid here in this world of light. You’ve forgiven her.”
By this point Baralai had made his way to the door but looked back when he heard his mother stifle a wail; this masked the sound of bones cracking and shifting in her hand. Still, she held her ground. Kashkie opened his eyes when he heard it, staring at her again but not releasing his grip just yet. Her eyes were closed, her teeth gritted tightly. He had forgiven her for those vile memories?
His breathing was rapid by now, the sweating becoming increasingly profuse. Still he forced himself to calm. He shoved down his fears to make room for more memories. They were faint and hazy. Daffodils and orange juice on his table every morning. Lunch of pomegranates and grapes by the Master Jewel; being unable to stave off a large grin when she received her first pair of sandals for her unborn child, so tiny and small sitting in the palm of her hand.
More panic, panic that he was the father, but then acceptance. It wouldn’t be so horrible. He wasn’t the father, but he would still be there for her. This was even more important when the day came that this baby was born, that same little boy that was just hugging him; he remembered disgust hearing that the child’s own father did absolutely nothing to comfort her, and seemed hell bent on destroying her for what she had done.
But he remembered…he remembered feeling she just needed love, and a second chance. She was a better person that that. He kissed her brow and she apologized to him. She let him go. She wanted him to be happy, even at her own cost.
He had forgiven her. She was the one…
“She would never want to hurt you again Kashkie. You don’t need to be afraid to be her friend. You have to keep her safe Kashkie. If you can, then you must.”
Kashkie opened his eyes the pupils shrinking to normal size. This second, louder crack was almost enough to cause Shadow to reveal himself and separate them, but upon opening his eyes Kashkie released his grip, staring at her almost blankly, but his face bent in confusion and regret. He had hurt someone he was supposed to keep safe, and who likely already hurt enough.
Even worse, she was the one who had kept him safe this entire time.
Deannalee took a deep breath and looked at her hand. It wasn’t bleeding, but she couldn’t hold it normally in a relaxed position, nor could she move or curl her fingers. Forcing it to stay in that same position still hurt, but far less than anything else. Still, she looked up at Kashkie seeing his eyes watery. He looked more broken than anyone else she had ever known. Knowing Kashkie normally, when he’s happy and full of hope and faith and joy, and then seeing him reduced to complete and utter despair was just heartbreaking to see.
“I…I…” he staggered between breaths. He had just hurt this girl, causing her pain of the kind he had spent all that time trying to escape. She didn’t run away to hide. She sat there and frowned sadly. The difference between the darkness and this place, was that she wasn’t afraid. She could see what she was facing, and knew that he wasn’t someone she needed to fear. Now, he realized he need not fear her either.
Shadow relaxed. Kashkie had remembered the forgiveness. Still, Shadow looked away; seeing him this devastated was more than the dark elemental could bear.
“It okay,” Deannalee whispered. She placed her good hand on Kashkie’s cheek gently. He tensed up, but didn’t lash out this time. Instead, he simply closed his eyes. He felt that same feeling he did when Baralai hugged him; comfort. It overwhelmed his senses briefly, causing his breathing to relax. “I know you’re afraid, but you don’t need to be Kashkie. You’ve looked after me, and I’ll keep looking after you. It’s all I can do, to make up for how kind you’ve been, even when I didn’t deserve it.”
Baralai frowned, calmer now that the incident had relaxed, but still worried. The limit of his understanding was now reached; he saw Kashkie hurt his mother, and was just hoping that this wasn’t the start of him turning in to the monster his father was. He took a step out of the door, but noticed Shadow had retreated to the window beside it, looking outside at the people, who apparently hadn’t heard the altercation.
“It’s alright Baralai,” Shadow whispered, “Your uncle isn’t turning into a monster, I promise. He was just afraid.” Glancing down he added, “He’s still sick inside, you could sense it when he was waking up. You have to be brave now, and have courage. You see, being brave doesn’t mean you’re not afraid, it just means you don’t let it keep you from doing what you must.” He looked back outside. “Kashkie will find his courage again, but until then, you must be strong too. He won’t turn into someone like your father… …I promise.”
Baralai tilted his head. Looking back he frowned some, rubbing his eye. He saw how his mother couldn’t hold her hurt hand straight, and yet she kept the undamaged one on Kashkie’s cheek, trying to comfort him. She knew he’d be alright, and so she was being brave. The little prince nodded; he would have to be strong now too.
Shadow was relieved; it was far easier explaining something to a child to allay their fears. They aren’t victims of chronic pessimism inflicted over a lifetime.
“D-Deannalee…,” Kashkie coughed, opening his eyes looking at her sadly, “I’m…I…sorry…” he was cut off; the vomit he tried to hold back forced itself up now, causing him to turn his head away violently to keep from retching on her lap.
She gasped, frowning, “Oh Kashkie no…you’re still sick.” She sighed gently, rubbing his back with her good hand. “I’m just so sorry.”
“What’s happened?” Casselina asked, stepping in to the room. Almost like a bolt of lightning hit it, she immediately noticed Deannalee’s broken hand. “Deannalee?”
“It’s alright Mother,” Deannalee said, before looking up, “It was an accident, it’s alright now. Kashkie just…needs to be seen.”
Shadow glanced at the Guardian Queen. The memories of her might be kinder; Casselina was tolerable after Baralai was born, and right before his encounter with the Guardian of Pestilence, he had resolved to look after both women. Casselina walked over to the bed moving Deannalee back gently. “We’ll have the doctor look at your hand too,” she said, before starting to rub Kashkie’s back while he regurgitated. “Kashkie honey it’s going to be alright.”
Cutting his eyes back at Casselina Kashkie stared at her, trying to catch his breath. More memories. He knew she wasn’t the nicest woman, but something about her eyes was comforting; they weren’t clouded. Her eyebrows weren’t bent like they would be whenever one of her headaches came, and with those headaches came hostility. He saw her sitting beside a dark brown echidna with black hair, smiling at her baby grandson.
She was concerned for Deannalee, and non-hostile. Deannalee called her Mother. It was Queen Casselina. He could trust her.
Still retching, all he could manage was a nod of understanding, before he returned to puking the rest of his breakfast on the floor, finishing with filthy, stinging bile. Shadow frowned. It wasn’t the vomiting that scared him, nor Kashkie’s horrible switch in personality and memory lost.
“Just how badly did this Guardian hurt you?”
“In the heart of darkness,
I found safety and home.
Away from all the pain,
And suffering I had known.
In this new world now,
I just cannot escape.
Grievous injury and loss,
Are what I now must face.”