Chapter 21 = Haunted by the past
Disclaimer: Although all characters here are of my own invention, the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
About two hours after the attack, Shiala was pacing around inside the tent in which the three surviving travellers were staying… or, more accurately, had been carried off to while they were unconscious. Laid out on one mattress was the grievously injured and unconscious Manny, with two ferals - a blue one and a yellow one - tending his wounds and trying to heal his injuries with slow but steady success. Next to him was the sleeping Marcus, who had a bandage over a broken rib but appeared to be healing well, thanks to the efforts of the few ferals who knew a few things about medicine. Stretched out on a couple of cushions next to Marcus was the healed-but-resting Xenly, who had a large cast around her left wrist and was also sleeping silently.
Shiala stepped forward and sat down next to Marcus. He was sleeping on his side, facing her, and she gently reached out to stroke the fins on the back of his head affectionately. His frown turned into a gentle smile, and he mumbled something Shiala couldn’t hear, so she bent forward and put her head next to his as she continued to softy stroke his fins.
“Mmm… Alziana…” she heard him mumble, “you always liked doing that to me…”
Shiala stopped and took her hand away, looking at Marcus for a moment as he fell silent again. Who was this ‘Alziana’? A relative? His sister, perhaps? Maybe his girlfriend? She made a mental note to ask him once he woke up as the two ferals next to Manny called her over.
“We think he’s fine now…” one of them said as he tore the end off a roll of bandage and plastered it over an incision. “He shattered his ribs, broke his leg, and dislocated his shoulder… we had to do some minor surgery for his ribs… thank the gods he didn’t regain consciousness. It’ll take the rest of today for him just to be able to walk around again, but he’ll be okay after a couple of days.”
Shiala nodded. “Thank you so much for all your help…”
“By the way,” the second feral piped up, “Now that Andreas is dead… are you going to stay here and take over from him?”
Shiala sighed and shook her head in response. “I don’t think so… he never told me what to do if something like this happened, and I’m not very experienced… maybe I should leave it to somebody else.”
Both medics nodded solemnly in agreement, before getting up and leaving with a bow towards Shiala. She watched them go before turning back to Marcus and sitting down next to him, and gently placing a hand on the side of his head. He smiled again as she did so, but a few moments later he woke up and slowly opened his eyes, looking up towards Shiala, retaining his smile.
“Hey…” he said, but she put a finger to his lips again. “Quiet… Manny and Xenly are asleep… or unconscious.”
Marcus looked around to confirm it, then turned back to her with a worried look on his face. “What about Laen? Where is she?” he asked.
“Laen didn’t make it… she died after you collapsed and we’ve already buried her along with my father and the other dead ferals…”
Marcus’s eyes dipped, and he muttered, “I see… did she say anything? Was she even alive when you got to her?”
“She was alive… just. She could barely speak, and I can only guess what she meant by her actions. She took off that necklace of hers and said your name… I think she wanted me to give it to you.”
Shiala took the necklace off of her wrist where she had been keeping it, and handed it to Marcus. He hesitantly took it and sat up, before undoing the clasp and placing it around his own neck, fastening it firmly once he had done so, before looking back towards Shiala.
“She… also made it fairly clear that I was to take her bow… I also took her arrows and her poison pouches, but I’m not sure why she wanted me to take them…”
Marcus shrugged. “I’m not sure either… but I’m not sure of much any more.”
He gently put a hand on the bandage on his chest and drew a sharp breath as he felt a stab of pain. Shiala pulled his hand away and said, “You broke your rib… you’ll be okay by tomorrow but you should take it easy.”
Marcus nodded, and Shiala snapped her fingers as she thought of something. “Oh, by the way,” She inquired, “Who is ‘Alziana’? You were muttering her name in your sleep…”
Marcus dipped his eyes and looked away from her, and spoke softly as he did so. “She… she was my girlfriend before I had to leave on this journey… I loved her… that is, we loved each other dearly… and I never thought what I’d do if I lost her…”
“Why? What happened?”
“She died… in my arms… the last thing the said was, ‘Never forget, Marcus… never forget’…”
Shiala put a hand on his shoulder. “Oh my goodness… I’m so sorry… I didn’t realise that, or I wouldn’t have asked to sleep with you…”
“I should’ve told you, I suppose… mind you, it wasn’t anything serious, so I let it go… but, you know… thanks.”
“Huh? Thanks? What for?”
A tiny smile crept onto Marcus’s face. “You comforted me a little with your presence… I hadn’t slept that well for a long time, so… thanks.”
She smiled and replied, “You’re welcome.”
They remained silent for a moment, before Shiala stood up and beckoned to Marcus from where he was sitting. “Come on, let’s go outside… it’s cramped in here.”
Marcus got to his feet, albeit a little unsteadily, and followed her out of the tent, walking slowly to avoid straining himself, and he found her pointing to the area cleared by the dragon. There were mounds of overturned dirt there, and Shiala said, “That one with the red flowers is Laen’s, and the one with the pile of different flowers… is my father’s…”
She turned around, looking away from the painful sight, and Marcus opened up his arms to her as she sniffled a little. “Come here…” he said, and she hesitated for a moment before flinging herself into his arms and burying her head in his chest, careful not to put any weight on his injury. He put an arm around her and rested his other hand on the back of her head, hoping to console her a little with the gesture and make her feel a little better. Looking over to the clearing, he could see ferals scrambling over the dead dragon like ants; many had knives and were cutting chunks of flesh away with quite some difficulty, others were removing portions of skin, and a few were pulling out fangs, carrying them off to somewhere Marcus couldn’t see.
Shiala let go and stood toe to toe with him for a moment, before she took his hands as he let them fall to his sides, and returned his gaze to her. They looked each other in the eyes for a moment, but she then surprised Marcus by leaning forward and kissing him passionately, wrapping her lips around his and trying to tongue him a little.
Marcus gave a muffled command, before putting his hands on her chest and gently but firmly pushing her away from him. Still keeping her at arms’ length, he sighed and said, “It’s too soon… I don’t want to just yet, you know?”
“I understand…” Shiala replied, somewhat disappointed, “but when Alziana said ‘never forget’, I don’t think she meant ‘never forget me or move on’… she maybe meant ‘whatever you do, just don’t forget what we did together’.”
“I… I… I know…” Marcus stammered, “but still… I just… just give me some time, okay? I want to make new memories, sure, but… I want to keep the old ones too…”
* * *
“Um… Alziana… I don’t exactly know how to say this…” Marcus started. He pulled himself together and tried not to stammer. This is it… he thought, this is the point of no return. It’s do or die time. He looked deep into her eyes, and continued. “I… really enjoy your company… and… I… find you… quite attractive…” He felt blood flow through his cheeks, but tried to ignore it as he pressed on. “And… I… I…well… Alziana, I… I think I’m in love with you… no, I am in love with you.”
There. He’d said it. He’d done what he had intended to do, and fairly well at that, so now he just had to wait and see what happened.
She drew away from him with a gasp, and she closed her eyes and was clearly thinking hard, and after a few moments she opened her eyes, and he could see them travel up and down, looking at him. She seemed uneasy, and Marcus was sure he’d done it wrong; maybe he’d said it too soon, or too late, or maybe she was matching Manny’s description of excessive innocence…
Marcus was sure his heart was going to burst right out of his chest; he dreaded the response. What would happen now if it all fell apart on him? He’d probably leave and try to keep a straight face until he got home, where he’d undoubtedly drown his sorrows in any wine he had… then, Marcus saw her start to say something.
She spoke slowly, clearly, and slightly seductively, but in a low tone. Her soft voice had been making Marcus more agitated by the minute.
“Marcus… I…” She began, and Marcus held his breath. He was sure this wasn’t good; her eyes were half-closed, and he couldn’t quite tell how she felt, but the tone in her voice filled him with dread. She paused for a moment before continuing, but instead of crushing his dreams, she uttered the words he had always wanted to hear…
“…I… Love you, too.”
Allowing only for a moments hesitation, she then leaned forward and kissed him. It was like nothing Marcus had ever experienced before; as they first began to embrace Marcus was filled with anticipation, then, when they started to kiss, he was wary but almost instantly tightly took her in his arms and rocked back and forth. Her lips were soft and warm, and Marcus happily kept taking his away to kiss her again, enjoying the moment more than anything he had ever experienced before. Then, as she pulled him close to her he kept a continuous kiss, and a surprised Marcus felt her tongue in his mouth, gently touching his own and planting a sweet taste on it. He worked his own tongue around hers and into her mouth; their tongues slid over and past each other like intertwining serpents, and before he knew it, Marcus’s heart was racing, and he was breathing extremely heavily through his nose, as he experienced the greatest pleasure he had ever felt in his life so far. He closed his eyes and pulled her as close to him as he could manage, continuing the kiss as he ran his hands up and down her back, and didn’t ever want to stop. He put his weight on her and pushed her down onto the sands, still caressing her back and tonguing her as much as he could. He laid on top of her, enjoying the feeling of the contact of their skin, and continued the kiss for as long as he could possibly manage. Eventually, he broke off and gasped for breath, with the sweet taste of her lingering on his tongue, feeling happier than he had ever been before…
* * *
Marcus snapped out of his daydream. “Huh?”
“You went into a trance or something for a moment… are you sure you’re okay? I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings or anything…”
Marcus shook his head. “It’s alright… I’ll be okay…”
“I… uh… Marcus, I was wondering… can I come with you?”
“You heard me… I want to get out of here and see the world… to travel the lands of Chyrus and see the cities, the civilisation… as much as I like it here, I want to see what else there is, and to perhaps stay there if I like it enough…”
“I don’t think it would be a good idea. I think me and Manny are being hunted down… maybe that dragon was related to that, maybe not, but still, it’s not safe…”
“I don’t care! Why do you think Laen gave her bow to me? She wanted me to go with you!” Shiala said, raising her voice a little.
Marcus paused for a moment, with his mouth slightly open as though he was about to say something. He closed it and nodded slowly, before saying, “I suppose you’re right… but I’ll have to see what Manny and Xenly say first.”
Shiala smiled and headed into the tent with Marcus following her. To their surprise, Xenly and Manny were already up, though the latter was lying on his back and looking quite pale, his eyes looking around the room as he lay there otherwise motionless.
“Hey Manny,” Marcus asked, “You okay down there?”
“Yeah… I’m fine…” Manny said quietly. He seemed to be having trouble speaking. “What… happened…? Did we… win…?”
“Sort of. Laen’s dead, but Xenly, you, me and Shiala are okay.”
“Impaled. She entrusted Shiala with her bow and that necklace of hers to me.”
“Am I… gonna be… okay?”
“Yes… but you’ll have to stay there for the rest of today, and take it easy afterwards.”
Manny nodded weakly. “Okay… thanks, Marcus…”
He closed his eyes and his head sagged, and Marcus shook him. “Manny? Manny, are you okay?”
“He’s just asleep.” He heard Xenly say. “I’m sorry to hear about Laen…”
Marcus nodded. “Wherever she is now… well, we’ll just have to avenge her, as well. I don’t know, but I just have this feeling that the dragon didn’t arrive here by chance or bad luck…”
To be continued…