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Date Posted: 12:18:36 01/26/11 Wed
Subject: Yesterday's song >>>
In reply to:
's message, "Finished at last." on 11:59:39 01/26/11 Wed
Small summary, even though I’ll probably confuse things even more. *G*
Anyway. Tyee means Little Chief, and Karma has taken the liberty of calling her unborn baby that - it was Grey Wolf’s name as a child.
She calls the man in this Shadow, because she does not know his name. Ironically, he’s Grey Wolf/Gareth’s twin brother, (they were separated at birth, each living with the enemy) and she resents living with a memory. She also detests him as he is the one who was responsible/prevented her from going back to her other children after Grey’s sacrifice so she could do so. Ultimately, he cost her everything, and yet, in this time, she recognizes that he is the only hope that she could survive to deliver her child. She hates herself for what she believes is betraying Grey Wolf even though if she wanted Tyee to live she couldn’t see any other options.
Excerpt from working title “Pander”
by E.M. Sawatzky © 2011 All rights reserved.
Posted for critiquing purposes only and does not constitute publication.
Angry chatter of a squirrel brought me back to the present. Choices made and consequences yet to be paid. Would Tyee pay the price for my choice to live with the enemy? A man whose name I didn’t even know after being alone with him for months. A man I knew nothing about, yet, it wasn’t ill-placed to fear what he was capable of. He was a man whose fate writhed in the winds of change, fighting a warrior’s battle in a never-ending struggle, applying pressure to the silky threads possessing the strength of the Great Spirit. Strands that would bend but never break. And now the life of my son was woven into the web.
An odd understanding developed between Shadow and I in spite of my attitude towards him, and it continued to grow after we vanished into an ever-changing territory; our directionless journey an unwavering path to where my life with Gareth started. To the cabin my late husband built because of a vision. It wasn’t a coincidence.
Neither was the fact I was in labour. I couldn’t deny it any longer. Reality was a necessity I traded for my home and children when Shadow took me from the clearing.
My baby would be born in a place filled with his father’s presence and should have provided a small comfort, but grief, my constant companion, allowed me to feel nothing but sorrow at the thought of reaching the crest of the hill. “Not yet Tyee,” I whispered in vain. “We are almost there.” My stomach felt heavier, tight with the agonizing cramps coming closer together and growing in strength.
Sounds of the horses carried down in the wind, signifying Shadow had once again circled around me and was waiting ahead. A harsh and demanding man, he did not tolerate weakness in any form. I vowed he wouldn’t see how difficult this was for me. I could picture him sitting on his horse, his face impassive, judging me against his own.
I wiped at the sweat on my brow with my forearm and then forced myself to continue. I ignored my quivering legs and concentrated on placing one foot in front of the other. Contractions halted my progress; it was all I could do to hang on and wait them out before struggling upward.
I saw him in the shadows, his presence enough of a distraction I stumbled. My knee glanced off a sharp rock. Warmth flooded down my legs. My water had broken.
He surveyed the situation with a casual glance.
Humiliation is a tough thing to swallow. This man had seen me at my worst, in the worst possible circumstance, but this was different. My own body betrayed me and left me helpless. I had to admit I needed his help, whether I accepted him or not.
I removed my woollen shawl and wiped the wetness off my legs. I can’t do this,” I whispered. “Do you understand? I can’t.” I searched deep in his eyes for the comprehension I prayed was there. I lifted my hand to him in a silent gesture of helplessness.
Calm, he ignored my plea. His face held the same lack of concern. He removed the animal skin from his shoulders and threw it on the ground in front of me.
Stunned, I stared at the offending offer until I heard him murmur to the animal in his strange language. “Damn you for your indifference!” I grabbed the pelt and hurled it towards him, even angrier when it landed a few feet away. “Damn you! Is this your idea of helping? What the hell am I going to do with a flea-infested skin? The baby’s coming!”
On cue, another contraction seized hold of me; rippling pain twisted and clenched at my stomach, wringing it into tight knots. The pain went on and on, endless suffering left me weak and sweaty. I was powerless to stop it.
An agony buried deep in my memory came alive. I had endured it before. The night Grey Wolf died. I fooled myself into believing it a hallucination. Yet, after all this time, I could still feel the tiny fist clenched around my finger.
“It was you wasn’t it?” I asked between clenched teeth, the contraction easing to a point where it was manageable. “You knew I was pregnant and brought me back.”
Shadow met my gaze, his face stoic. Nothing affected him. Not pain. Not death. Not living. He felt no compassion, no sympathy. He had no emotions. He couldn’t have. Why did I think he would show concern for me now? Why did it matter?
Because he came for me. He sacrificed himself and offered both his blood and his life to get to me and haul me back. Weak from battle, he still kept me alive. But because most of all, he was Uncle Shadow, and would provide for Tyee as his own. Shaky fingers wiped away tears.
With one last pat on his horse’s neck, he swung a leg over the horse’s neck and jumped to the ground, landing without sound. He closed the distance between us and scooped up the discarded skin.
Another wave assaulted me. Shredding, ripping pain tore at my insides, giving no room for retreat. I bit my lip to prevent the scream wanting to escape, but couldn’t stifle the grunt of pain. The taste of blood mingled with tears.
After the worst had passed, I wiped the hair from my eyes and arms trembling, pushed myself to an upright position. Shadow knelt beside me. In his hand was a worn piece of wood. His touch gentle, he placed it in mine, curling my fingers around it.
I opened my fist as he stood. Covered with teeth marks, there was no doubt as to its purpose. Some of the indentations were those of a child, while others marked the deep suffering of a youth. I looked up and met his gaze, gesturing at him with the wood. “Why?” My voice was hoarse; my throat raw and tender as if I were the child screaming for help I knew would not come.
He never acknowledged my question. Instead, I witnessed his eyes harden with resolve. Reaching down, he bodily bade me continue. He wanted me to walk so I would walk. He had known no mercy and showed me even less, returning to the horses and leading them up the slope.
The pain in his eyes stayed with me. Became my own. Old wounds ripped open under the savageness of the onslaught.
Grey! Where are you?
Nothing. He didn’t respond.
Of course, he didn’t respond. He was dead.
Instead of the man I loved, it was his shadow, scooping me up as if I were a discarded animal skin, and carrying me towards Gareth’s abandoned cabin.
Another contraction consumed me. GREY!
Images blurred past as I listened for the voice I’d never hear again. My world was nothing but agony, consumed with the pain of labour and the mental anguish of Grey’s absence. I would hide my physical distress the best I could, but the emotional suffering left me sobbing in harsh pants and cries of grief. The sight of the front door, hanging open, the autumn leaves finding sanctuary in the passageway left me heartbroken. I turned my face into Shadow’s chest in denial of all that was, using the healthy scent of his sweat to mask the smell of decay and neglect Gareth and my leaving had caused.
Then I realized Shadow wasn’t stopping; he was carrying me towards the cabin Gareth had built and where we had lived for so brief a time. As much a comfort Shadow’s scent had provided, now it was a reminder he was an intrusion in my life. He was not the man I needed, and I wanted nothing more than to be out of his arms.
A mute struggle, and Shadow stopped, setting my feet on the ground. With an inelegant sniff, I swiped at the tears on my face with the back of my hand. I could feel him watching me.
Hand on my stomach, I turned away, took a few halting steps, and then allowed myself to crumple to the ground. What was the point of continuing on?
Shadow’s hand on my upper arm pulled me to my feet and he forced me to either walk beside him or be dragged. I snatched my arm back, and with the tangible animosity I had, stepped in front of him. This was my place. I belonged here. He didn’t. I would enter first.
Again, I was mistaken. He once more took a hold of my arm, and guided me to the side of the house where the supply of wood had been stacked. Just as we had done every time we had stopped for the night, he expected me to do my share. Fine. I reached for a small piece. He stopped me and turned me around to face the encroaching forest. He motioned to the tree line, towards the debris of birch branches broken off in the wind.
“Are you kidding?”
His resolve didn’t waver; his unblinking gaze was answer enough.
“Why of course, my lord and master.” With what little dignity I still had, I handed him the stupid piece of wood with all the teeth marks. “I’ll procure some little twigs for you, and while I’m at it, I’ll deliver my child in the rot of the forest.” I knew I was hallucinating when I thought I caught a fleeting glimpse of a smile. “Asshole.”
Stooping over to grab the small branches off the forest floor was impossible. I had to squat down. I worried I wouldn’t be able to get back up, but then another contraction made me forget everything except the pain. Why would I want to?
I relinquished my weight to the earth, my intention to lay down, to curl around the agony and endure what happened until the end came and I could be with Grey Wolf once more. Shadow thwarted my plan, hauling me up to my feet before him. How many times would he do that before he gave up? Again, he motioned I was to pick up the sticks I could carry. Biting my bottom lip to block out the pain so I could function, I did.
Satisfied I would follow his dictate, Shadow retreated to the cabin. Another contraction later, I had discovered, in my anger, I could stay upright and ride out the pain. Yet another contraction later, I emerged to the scent of burning. Wisps of smoke escaped from the chimney. The bastard had started the fire without the sticks he had sent me to gather.
Incensed, I tossed the useless bundle and stormed towards the cabin.
I made it half way.
Lost in a contraction when he came back, I fought against him, just wanting him to leave me alone. Whimpers escaped despite my effort to suffer in silence.
As if I was an idiot, he took the teeth scarred piece of wood, put it in his mouth and bit down, demonstrating its use. He forced my mouth open with pressure on my chin, and taking the wood from his, placed it against my bottom lip.
Even in this I’d have no control. When the next wave of pain hit, I did as instructed and bit down.
The wood provided a solid comfort between my teeth.
I bit down, harder, moaning in agony.
Unable to escape the viciousness of the attack, slicing pain cleaved its way through all my defences, hacking and chopping until my world consisted of naught but misery.
Taunting laughter carried on the wind, a haunting cold froze the tears on my face.
I forced myself to move, to crawl.
The agony never ceased; the pain never stopped. My strength faded.
Shadows consumed the light. Darkness beckoned. Acceptance was mine.
I took one last breath and let the torrent of pain flow away. It no longer mattered. I soared with the hawks, their call sending me on a chase to find a wolf.
Shadow ruined the fantasy of flying. At his sharp command, I plummeted back to earth. My eyes opened. I was in his arms and he was carrying me to the cabin.
He kicked the door further open and carried me through the opening, and back into my past, a past bearing witness to these four outside walls becoming a home to those whom dwelled within them. As if my ponderous weight was nothing, he showed me the cabin, moving with his usual quick efficiency amongst the few rooms to get to the bedroom in the back. It was all there in front of me. The accusations. The regrets. The sorrow. Grey was gone.
Setting me down on the bed, he straightened and left. I let my eyes close in relief. My suffering was almost over. I shivered in the iciness; it was much colder inside than out.
Lost in my imaginings of what could have been, I was startled back to reality when he again pitched me the animal skin. Here I was, about to give birth, and the one who meant to help kept tossing me the skin of a dead animal.
“What am I to do with this thing?” I held it out in front of me.
He gestured. I ignored him. I was past caring if I felt cold, and welcomed the numbness.
Shadow, never his will to denied, took it from my hands and wrapped it around my shoulders.
When I would have flung it off, he stilled my movement, and with a grunt-like word, told me to do so would be futile. He wanted me to be warm.
If unconcerned about it providing warmth, at least the skin gave me something to clutch in despair. The hurt left me breathless; I leaned against the headboard and closed my eyes, this time listening to his retreating footsteps. The sizzle of sap indicated he had added wood to the fire. He rummaged through his saddlebags.
A shift in the bed indicated he sat beside me. I refused to acknowledge him, or his offer; the scent invoked my gag reflex. The last thing I wanted to do was eat. I wanted to sleep.
He shook me, motioning for me to take the dried meat when I glared at him.
“I’m not hungry.”
Shadow ripped off a piece with his teeth and started to chew. A suspicion formed; we had gone this route when he had first captured me. It had not been pleasant.
I grabbed it out of his hands and ripped off a small piece myself, forcing myself to chew. “I’m not an old crone. I can chew my own food.” Managing to swallow a few small bites, I gave up. “You can force it down my throat if you want, but I guarantee it’s not going to stay there.” I handed it back, amazed when he accepted it and left.
The pain from the contractions was increasing; I used the wood as intended, grateful for the outlet it provided. When next I opened my eyes, Shadow offered me a glass of water.
Fresh from the stream, it soothed my parched throat with its iciness. After a couple swallows, I handed it back to him.
Uncomfortable, I couldn’t sit without pain, in fact, I couldn’t find any position to gave me relief. I was restless, edgy. Using the post of the bed for support, I stood. What I could do was walk. And I could ignore Shadow as I did so.
Sweat dampened my hair. The combined heat from my exertions and the now established fire warmed the room. I relinquished the animal skin to Shadow, noticing he had striped off his shirt. Living outdoors for the last few months had conditioned us to cooler temperatures, making the heat in the cabin suffocating. When it was too hot, when the feel of my clothes became intolerable and stuck to my skin with damp, he ignored my protests and helped me change into something cooler.
What seemed like hours passed as I shuffled from one side of the room to the other, sometimes staying upright with the use of the footboard on the bed or the support of the wall. When I could no longer manage on my own, Shadow helped me, putting aside his carving and staying by my side throughout the pacing. A few times I found myself leaning against him as I endured the contraction, his hands pressing hard into my lower back, my fingers digging into his shoulders. Coming closer together, I had little relief to gather my strength.
Instincts were screaming; soon it would be time. Shadow seemed to sense the new urgency in me as well. He didn’t hesitate, and with his calm acceptance, I was able to follow my body’s guidance and push.
Shadow spoke to me more while I was in the throes of labour then he had the entire eight months we’d been together. His tone of voice expressed more of what he was saying then his words could. His hand squeezing mine encouraged me. The stroke of his fingers wiping the sweat from my brow somehow conveyed the sense that everything would be all right, despite the fact he wasn’t the man I would have be the father to my child.
Father or not, Shadow was the one to cut the umbilical cord, and place my son in my arms. He was the one to clean up after the bloody ordeal and wash the scent of birth from me while I gazed at the little life, an existence representing the bond between Grey Wolf and myself. The link between mother and child severed in birth reclaimed in the fist clutching my little finger.
I smiled at my baby, soft laughter emerging at the sound of indignation, the jerk of limbs, when I dared to stroke his chubby cheek with my fingers. The smile died on my face when I looked to share my joy with Shadow.
It wasn’t the scene I envisioned for a proud father; there was no change in his mask of indifference. Not once did I see him look upon the sleeping newborn in my arms with awe or even wonder. No smiles. No sense of happiness. The birth of my son was just another thing he had to do to keep me safe from harm, just another thing to tolerate. A responsibility he had assumed when it had not been my choice and because of the old grievance against him, I refused to relinquish the sleeping bundle in my arms when Shadow would have taken him from me. Shadow could not have what by rights belonged to Grey Wolf.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.” I whispered the words to myself, in an odd contemplative mood. With my twisted fate tangled with another’s, the saying no longer applied to me. Time held a different meaning. What was the end was instead the promise of a new beginning. Yesterday shaped the future, tomorrow created history, and today represented a memory, and that’s why Grey Wolf would live on through his son. Tyee was his gift to me. The life we had created together was my present. Never would I go back to my own time.
Drowsy, I let my eyes close, let the tears seep out from beneath my eyelashes. How different I wished things could be. What would it do to my son, being raised not in love, but indifference, by the man, no the warrior, who would shape him into an image of himself? I didn’t want him to end up as cold and unfeeling as the man whom had claimed us for his own.
My son, my beautiful Tyee, was perfect. That’s what mattered. I would ensure he would grow into the man his father, his real father, would be proud of.
In my dreams, I felt lips brush against my brow, felt the gentle insistence and the lifting of the small weight I held. I heard Grey Wolf’s soft voice murmur it was okay, to go back to sleep, he’d take care of Tyee. How wonderful to hear words I could understand, to trust in what I heard. To know we were safe, protected, and most of all, cared for and loved.
My lashes fluttered open enough to register the man I loved cradling our baby in the crook of his arm. Grey Wolf cooed, he made faces, and he smiled at the look of shock on our newborn’s face when the damp cloth wiped a path over his skin.
Exhaustion plunged me further into sleep, my eyes closing. It was a nice image to hold to; forever I would dream of the first meeting of father and child, witnessing the tie that would hold our family together against the web of fate. In dreams, everything was possible.
Dreams revealed the truth for the lie it was. Grey Wolf was dead. It wasn’t him holding his son. I struggled to emerge from the nightmare. My arms were empty and the impostor who held my child…
I shook my head in confusion, blinking to remove the sleepiness from my eyes.
Bewildered, I stared in disbelief. I didn’t know what surprised me more. The fact that Shadow was capable of feelings…or the fact that the lying, deceitful bastard, was singing to my baby…
Sure, his voice was hushed, soft, as if he didn’t want to wake me, but I understood the words with all too much clarity.
All these months together we could have talked. All these months when I felt so alone…
All the frustrations of a one-sided conversation… That prick! He could understand everything I had said to him when I poured my heart out to him thinking I was safe because he didn’t know my language. It dawned on me, perhaps, just perhaps, Shadow was justified in his silent indifference. He might have been quiet, but I had been verbal enough for the both of us. Everyday I cursed him. Everyday I blamed him. Everyday I had…wished him dead.
I had given him every reason to lash out. Instead, everyday he had fed me. Sheltered me. Protected me. He had ensured my son’s survival. Without him, Tyee wouldn’t exist. In return, what did I do?
I had shown him nothing but contempt.
Ashamed, I lay back down, pretending to be asleep as I cried my silent tears of regret, at last sliding back into the welcoming oblivion, listening to the emotional cadence of his voice.
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Long delayed response>>> -- Fi, 12:57:19 02/04/11 Fri
Powerful stuff. The emotional and physical struggle is well rendered, and I get a sense of two strong characters who both need and resent each other. Some good details, like the piece of wood and the glass of icy water.
Not having any context, I assumed that Shadow was mute and was confused when she heard him singing. I also wondered why she had a change of attitude when she found out he could understand English. Wouldn't that have made her more angry?
I also wondered how she knew that she was delivering a son.
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LOL Fi! Better delayed than not at all! And my long-winded response is this way >>> -- Esther, 12:29:25 02/07/11 Mon
>Powerful stuff. The emotional and physical struggle is
>well rendered, and I get a sense of two strong
>characters who both need and resent each other. Some
>good details, like the piece of wood and the glass of
Thanks! Karma was kind of all over the place here so its good to hear that it made sense. I am also thrilled the need and resentment of each other is evident.
>Not having any context, I assumed that Shadow was mute
>and was confused when she heard him singing. I also
>wondered why she had a change of attitude when she
>found out he could understand English. Wouldn't that
>have made her more angry?
Shadow is not mute, he’s just very quiet. And since Karma has made no effort at all to communicate with him or learn his native tongue, he doesn’t bother all that much, unless it’s to get her attention or something. Plus it’s been years and years since he spoke English, or heard it, so while initially he might not have spoken to her because he had forgotten lots of it, over the months by allowing her to speak freely he relearned. And it was obvious that Karma would not welcome any conversation with him. As time passed the deception became the norm. Not to mention that it was a long-ingrained habit to keep his knowledge hidden from everyone, especially his people and his father in particular.
As for the change of attitude, negative emotions are draining. Also, Shadow has been pushing her body to its limit, forcing her to travel well beyond her endurance, using her hatred of him to keep her going. Karma is mentally and physically beat, she just delivered a baby, and she doesn’t have the energy to be angrier than she has been for the last eight months. Nor can she hold onto it, witnessing Shadow’s care of her son. She saw a side of him that she didn’t suspect existed, and while he’s still not her favourite person in the world and will never forgive him for taking everything from her, she recognizes that his choices have always been made with her welfare in mind, even as she treated him horribly.
>I also wondered how she knew that she was delivering a
Ah. Yeah. Well…visions come in handy in this tale. *G*
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! Much appreciated!
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Catching up -- Debi, 11:36:31 02/05/11 Sat
Poor Karma has so much baggage... and now she's tortured by this look-alike who won't even talk to her. I do like how he accepts her contempt with silence and still helps, even if she can't it that way most of the time. Maybe the baby will help them come to an understanding at the least.
Very sweet and emotional and I enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing, Esther!
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Me too...sort of...maybe...*G* >>> -- Esther, 12:42:30 02/07/11 Mon
>Poor Karma has so much baggage... and now she's
>tortured by this look-alike who won't even talk to
>her. I do like how he accepts her contempt with
>silence and still helps, even if she can't it that way
>most of the time. Maybe the baby will help them come
>to an understanding at the least.
>Very sweet and emotional and I enjoyed it. Thanks for
Baggage? Karma doesn't have baggage. She went back to the past with nothing. Not even the clothes off her back. *G* I love how you sum it up though! Tortured by this-alike who won't even talk to her. Priceless! And while I can envision an understanding between them, I don't foresee an easy road for them.
Thanks for the comments and taking the time to read my extra long homework.
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