Several months passed uneventfully. The four of us- Dun, Ithon, Zika and myself- began to work on building a new life, a life in which we could accomplish the tasks at hand.Zika and I both missed the small wooden houses that our mothers had raised us in, and Dun and Ithon had agreed to help us rebuild the buildings that the humans had burned.
During the day we worked on that project, but at night we returned to the caves of our giants. Ithon and Zika were happy together, and became nearly insepperable , but Dun and I had reached an agreement- we would live together and when an appropriate time came we would attempt to have children, but until such a time presented itself we would remain sepperate. On the few, rare occasions that we would work together on the building he attmepted to begin a conversation, but I wasn’t interested.
After that first night that I had been awake, Dun knew to keep his hands, and any other part of his body, off of me. I felt a little guilty as I remembered something my mother had told me, and it layed heavily on my mind. AS it was, I never felt completely right, with-holding myself from my husband, who was my husband like it or not.
"You must give him authority with everything to do with your marriage," my mother had told me. "While the Goddess rules all of creation and life the God ruled their marriage, just as he is ruling the Otherworld now, and we are to follow their example."
"But how?" I had asked. "And everything?" I remember wrapping my arms around myself and trying to wrap my mind around this idea.
"Everything," my mother had said, very seriously. "Even yourself."
"But that’s not fair!" I had stamped my foot at that point, and mother gave me a look that I knew had meant to behave, or else.
"You are to control your children, though," she said. "You control your household." I nodded and that particular memory ended.
I was standing in the hot afternoon sun, holding a plank steady for Dun, who was putting stone pins into it to connect it to the skeleton of the building. He wiped away a bit of sweat and then drove the last pin in the rest of the way. Then he straightened and looked at me.
"Are you alright?" he asked me, not moving on with his work.
"Yes," I said sharply. "I’m fine." I turned to walk away, but he caught my upper arm.
"Wait," he said, releasing me when he had managed to get me turned back in his direction. "I wanted to talk to you for a little bit."
"Not right now," I said. "It’s getting late, and we need to finish working on this." He nodded and back up.
"Tonight, then," he said. This time I nodded, and then walked off, knowing that I’d have to fell another tree soon with my magic. The pile of planks was alarmingly small I noted, when i leaned against it tiredly. My thoughts were heavy and I wondered if there was any way to ease them.
I was distracted from my guilt when I saw movement coming from the trees. Since that fateful night the human. our defenses, lest they atch us unawares again. our defenses, lest they atch us unawares again.
My probe penetrated the mind, and I saw that it was a human. Cautiously I dug deeper as I straightened up and approached the woods. none of this man’s, for it was male, thoughts were fully formed, and pain drowned out most of the remaining thoughts.
I carefully moved towards him, moving foliage out of my way. I saw him with my physical eyes before he saw me, and pity ripped through my heart. The entire right side of his body was torn and shredded and horribly bloodied.
He had collapsed on the forest floor and seemed to be unconcious. However, when I stepped into the opening between the young trees his eyes snapped open and he fought to move, staggering like a drunk man as he got to his feet. He let out an animal like scream and moved to attack me, but his legs couldn’t support his weight, and he collapsed.
"I’m not going to hurt you," I said spreading my empty hands. He watched through beady eyes, seeming to be very unsure. "I can help you if you’ll let me." i took a step foreward, and he still didn’t move, so I chanced another. Then I was at his side and I knelt. He turned his head as far as he could to watch me, fear and suspicion written on his mangled face.
"I’m going to cleanse the wound," I told him, moving his filthy rags away from the torn flesh."It wont hurt you any." I put a hand about an inch away from his body and spoke the words, drawing my hand back as I did. The dirt that had gotten into the wound came out and formed a small ball in the palm of my hand. His worried expression didn’t change much as I lowered my hand, dropping the ball of dirt. "Now I’ll close the wound," I said, trying to keep him feeling reassured, without scaring him with my knowledge of the jinn’s magic. He didn’t exactly nod, but he attempted something similar to a nod, closing his eyes.
I returned my hand to just above his mangled flesh, and carefully began to close the tears in the muscles and blood vessles. By the time a thin baby fine layer of skin had formed over it I was feeling dizzy from the consentration and a slight headache was forming. I lowered my hand and took a deep breath, trying to see straight.
"Are you alright?" I asked, carefully propping him up against a nearby tree. He nodded and a new question presented itself to me. "Can you talk?"
"Yes," he answered, his voice faint. I sighed slightly, relieved and stood.
"I’ll be right back," I promised. "I need to get my husband, or someone, to help me move you to a safe place. You’re not strong enough to move on your own, yet." He watched me as I hurried away, only allowing myslef to break out into a full on run once I was out of his sight.
I found Ithon and Dun pretty quickly, as they were both by the stack of planks. They looked surprised as I came running out of the woods, and I can’t say that I blame them for thinking that something was wrong.
"Is Zika hurt?" Ithon asked me anxiously, straightening up. I shook my head, and Dun asked me another question.
"Are there humans in the woods?"
"Just one. He was hurt, but I healed him," I said, speaking quickly. They exchanged glances, surprised. "I need you to help me move him back to the caves." I looked pleadingly at Dun, who nodded.
"Show me the way," he said, setting down his tools.
"Just don’t let Zika see," Ithon added, and I didn’t think to question him. I led the two of them to the spot where I had left him. When we got there, I knelt beside him, checking his temperature and then speaking quickly and quietly to the boys.He seemed to have passed out, and his head was hot.
"WE need to get him somewhere safe," I said, carefully checkingto see if he was dehydrated. "He’s burning up." Dun and Ithon each took a side, and carefully picked the man up, almost like he was a limp plank.
"We’ll take him to our cave," Dun said to me, and I smiled at him, grateful. They carried him off, and I followed them as far as the edge of the woods., where Zika was standing.
Zika’s reaction surprised Dun and I. Upon spotting the human, she shrieked and lunged at him, almost as if she was possessed by some raging spirit. I threw up a sheild around the boys and ran through it, grabbing Zika and holding her tightly.
"Go!" I ordered them as the sheild flickered away, and they took off. "What’s your problem?"I asked Zika, struggeling to keep her still.
"Humans were the ones who killed my mother, and I’ll kill every last one of them!" she screamed, tears begining to run down her face. She stopped fighting me, and I stopped trying to hold her down and started hugging her.
"I miss my mother too," I said, trying to comfort her. "But she, my mother, gave me a job to do, and I intend to do it, despite the fact that the people I’m supposed to help are the same race that killed her."
"I don’t trust them," she said, calming down, but a steely and scary anger behind her eyes. "How can creatures so vile be good? I wouldn’t let that human stay in my home, if I was you."
"But you aren’t, and he needs to be cared for," I said firmly. "Zika, don’t worry. Dun’s strong enough, he can protect me if need be." I took a step away from her, glad that she had calmed down so easily.
"Fine," she said, a tiny bit colder than she could ahve been. She glanced around the area and sighed. "We need to get back to work. Let’s both prepare the wood for the boys, when they get back. Besides, we lost a fair amount of work with that interuption." I nodded my agreement, and followed her back into the woods.
The rest of the day passed slowly, and I was thankful when the sun finally set, so I could check on the human. I had spent a brief period of time with him while the others ate, feeding him and trying to find a way to take away his fever. I didn’t like leaving him, and I wanted to help him.
He was still unconcious I came into the cave, and I set to work. I had found a way, after a long last, to lower his fever,and I made a mental note that it had worked. As I knelt by his side, Dun came in.
"Shinia, we must talk." I glanced up at this statement, slightly irritated and distracted.
"Is now the best time?" I asked sarcastically, going back to my work. "I’m busy."
"This can’t wait," he said, kneeling beside me.
"Fine," I said, working wihtout looking at him.
"I’ve been thinking, and i don’t see why we can’t be friends at the very least."
"Friends," I looked at him in stunned disbelief. "Friends. You want to be- but that’s…" he gave me a look, and I shut up.
"It’s not that odd," he said, resting a hand on my shoulder, the first time he’d touched me purposefully since that night. I made no move to shake him off, and my mind went blank.
"But I-" I started to argue, then stopped. I looked at him full in his face, caught by his dark eyes. Raw emotion overcame me, and I began to cry.
All the hurt, loneliness, stree- everything- came pouring out in the form of tears. I was ashamed that I was crying, but I couldn’t stop. Then he put his arm around me and I let him.
Despite everything, I felt safe with Dun. I still cared for him, just as I had when we were little, and I knew that if anything happened to him I’d be heartbroken. The plain and simple truth- I needed Dun.
"What’s wrong, Shinia?" he whispered, stroking my hair. Briefly I remembered how my mother used to do that and I cried harder, unable to answer him.
It took a while, but I finally got myself under control. But that didn’t mean that Dun let go of me, or that I moved away from him. There was something soothing about his caring for me, and i half wondered what had happened to me. I hated him, didn’t I?
‘No, you don’t hate him,’ I reprimanded myself. ‘You have to love him. The Goddess commanded it.’ We sat there in silence for a while, and I began to feel awkward.
"Your hair smells nice," Dun whispered, finally breaking the silence.
"It probably smells like sweat," I said, confused. I hadn’t washed it too recently. He laughed and shrugged. "Dun, i have something I wanted to tell you."
"Yes," I said, my heart and throat both tightening. "I- we- I’ll-"
"If it’s too hard for you to say, thendon’t say it," he said, loosening his grip on me so that he couldlook at me.
"But I need to say it," I whispered, then changed tracks. "Dun, i’ve wronged you, and-" I paused, noticing that his eyebrows had shot up.
"How have you wronged me?" he asked, rubbing my back.
"I’ve- I’m-" I blushed a strawberry red, grasping for words frantically. "I’ve kept myself from you. I’m supposed to be submissive in everyway to you, and-"
"Just because you haven’t wanted me, who you barely know, to touch you doesn’t mean that you’ve wronged me."
"Yes, it does," I argued back, my embaressment making my temper even sharper than normal. "According to the Goddess, it’s wrong to not submit, and I haven’t been submissive."
"But that’s just you," he argued, and although I disagreed, I had to respect him for it.
"Maybe, but I’m wrong."
"That doesn’t make any sense!"
"It does," I said, pulling away slightly, looking at him sadly. He let his hand drop to his side, and tears began to form in my eyes again. I blionked furiously, trying hard not to cry. He looked down,embaressed as he realized that I was getting emotional again.
"I’m never going to understand you, am I?" he asked, and I looked at my hands, which were resting on my lap. "You don’t want me to touch you, then you want me to, but because the Goddess says so! Have you even stopped to think that maybe I might want you to come just because you want it?"
"Shinia, you’ve submitted to me. I’m telling you that until you’re ready to come, don’t come at all." With that he left the cave, and I looked down at the human.
"Oh, Goddess," I whispered and began to cry. Loneliness washed over me and I cried my heart out, sobs wracking my body. "Goddess, please… I asked you to… help me… to heal him…. Oh, Goddess…" I was struggeling to speak. For all the times I had rebuffed him, Dun had come to mean more to me than any other living being.
‘Go after him,’ the Goddess’s voice filled me. "You do love him. Go to him in your own right, daughter.’ I dried my face and got to my feet, doing as she told me and following him.
I looked around as I stepped out into the fresh air and almost didn’t see Dun, who was leaning against a tree. Taking a deep breath I approached, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"Dun?" I said quietly and hesitantly. He looked down on me, his jet black hair hanging down around his face.
"What more do you want from me?" he asked abruptly, his voice harsh.
"I need you, Dun," I said, deeply hurt by his words, but determined to not let him know.
"Oh? And why would that be?" he said, staring at me coldly. "The Goddess told you that you do?"
"No. It’s because I- I love you," I managed, my heart sinking to my feet.
"And I believe you why?" my hand was still on his shoulder, but he shrugged it off. I opened my mouth the argue, but he cut me off. "Don’t bother."
"Please, just listen to me!" I pleaded, every part of me screaming that this was unfair. "I do love you, Dun! I love you in my own right! Please, Dun, please…"
"Don’t lie to me," he snapped, looking away. Outrage and hurt mingled, and before I knew it I had slapp-ed him across the face, hard. Tears began to well in my eyes for a third time, and I looked him hard in the eye.
"Don’t you care? Don’t you know me at all?" I was hysterical. For him, who I cared for finally, to be saying this hurt me.
"I cared, but you pushed me away," he said, his tone still snappish. "I can’t know you when you won’t let me anywhere near you." He raised a hand and touched his cheek where I had slapped him, leaving a mark. A wave of shame washed over me, and I took a deep breath, trying to calm down.
"Why do you do what you do?"
"I don’t know, Dun, but I want to make this work, too, somehow."
"Sure," he said sarcastically. "Let’s just go back to how things were before and not talk, not touch, and everything will be wonderful."
"Dun, please," I pleaded. I didn’t know that he had felt like this, and I was shocked and hurt as I realized that I had done this to him. "I’ll do anything to fix this. Anything."
"Will you really?" he asked, eyeing me shrewdly.
"Yes," I said, dead serious, not desperate anymore, more calm and reserved than anything.
"I’ll hold you to that," he said, straightening up and walking back into the cave. I followed him, wondering exactly what I had just agreed to.