The dreams were waking me up every few minutes, yet I was too tired to stand up and take a walk. And as soon as I closed my eyes again, the dreams came. Terrors. Something you cannot run away from.
In my dream, I was walking through an unknown deserted or burnt forest. All that could be seen were skeletons of trees, all dead, dead grass, dead land. Then, after a while I started seeing shadows "hanging" from trees further away. Just an idea what it could be, but I couldn't really see them. It became scary when they started swinging from one to another side when the wind started. Lazy, as if they were heavy shadows, almost like...
I forced my self to jump up as I was conscious again and first I couldn't remember where I was. But I saw dawn in front of me, so powerful and clean. New day, still not stained by the pain and screams.. Then I heard a scream, and a second, and rushed into, what once was, village center.
The boy was sitting there, his wrists and legs well tied to heavy boulders and century old trees. His mother, pulled by the leaving members of the village, screaming and reaching toward her son. From where I stood I could still see the traces of soon to rise sun. The dawn was stained, and dirty and spoiled.
Aiona brought some powder, made out of herbs, pressed into small balls, thanks to the honey we added to the powder. She pressed two of those between woman's lips, and I was afraid she would spit them out or bite Aiona, but she obeyed. Then, after a short while, she almost passed out. The people around her were ready to catch her and "load" her on the slide we used to pull injured people.
I smiled toward Aiona and she sent back a sad smile. We watched them leave, my brother among them. All of them were looking down, too tired and too scared. Warriors were the only who looked back and who kept looking around.
I caught leaders glance toward us. He raised his fist to show he was with us in his prayers. Then they disappeared out of our sight. And then the sun came out.
Merek, one of the healers who were directed to stay, joined us, and soon all of them did. I could count eight souls. Merek was the oldest and he had the idea, that we should split up. Since there were two men, each group should get one. My group was made of Aiona, Tinah, Iann and me. Each of us had some inherited knowledge and we chose to search the north and east side of our tribes camp. While Mereks group went toward west and south, the direction of the dark forest.
What my group knew, should cover the area we had to search. Some herbs were growing just in certain parts of forest, and decades ago, the tribe was much bigger and people were living in the wider area. So my mates came from the parents, who were mostly in the north, while Ianns parents were living in the eastern plains.
There was no plan. We had to find what we knew and what we weren't sure about, and feed it to the boy. Finding was one thing feeding, another.
So we set off without too much of equipment and with additional leather bags.
I couldn't help but think how quiet the camp was behind us. The hearth at the center was dead at the time of the year when there was most life in our tribe. Most babies were born by the end of the spring, most animals too. Our mountain sheep had the young last week, yet, in order to move faster, just the very first were left alive.
As we reached the pine forest Iann proposed to us to split further, by the end of the day we should meet here and head into safety of the camp. Safety... Tinah and I went to the north, toward the rainbow forest.
The day was mostly quiet, maybe too quiet. We haven't met any of the northern tribes hunters, which was unusual. But we managed to gather different hebs from the deeper forest as well as from bald patches in it. Then we headed home.
We all met and reached the camp as the sun was already behind the mountain.
The sight of the boy was disturbing. He was a ball of flesh, sitting with his arms between his knees and tummy. His teeth standing out full of blood and some greasy substance, but otherwise still tied.
What did he eat!
We thought that maybe an unlucky rabbit was passing here, but we did not see any clues to that.
Aiona came closer to feed him some herbs she found and then she turned around and threw up.
The boy screamed out and pulled out his hands, but there were no hands there, just bare bones, chewed up to the wrists. Iann almost passed out and I was terrified.
We decided to leash him better, each arm and leg pulled apart, so he cannot eat himself. Then we started feeding him different things. Some that we liked to eat, some that we never liked to eat, due to stench or taste. But he just swallowed them, with huge hunger. We were done sooner then we thought. Then, we had to wait till the morning to see if any of them worked. If they did, we would hear him scream over the pain from his missing flesh.
But, we could not go to sleep, Merek and his people still did not show up, and I could see concern in all the eyes around me.
Maybe they will come with deeper night, maybe they will.