The next part of the chapter one of Ath and Thysa. Enjoy.
The servant called Emmer appeared again, below one of the arches that leaded to the courtyard.
- Sorry about the interruption, my Lord, but where would you have lunch?
- Where do you prefer?- asked Ruar, looking at his guests.- Here? Or maybe inside...?
- Here it’s fine.- answered Ath, after a quick glance to Thysa.- If it isn’t an inconvenience, of course.
- Of course not.
Emmer nodded and vanished again. Duna closed her book, that she had kept opened over her knees all that time, and sat up. She smoothed the creases of her dress’ skirt.
- Darling, I’m gonna see the twins.
- Good idea.
More servantes came to join the tables and put a white tablecloth. The cultlery was made of silver and the glasses of crystal. The ceramic plates were filled with delicious food: fried fish, squids, salads, boiled and seasoned potatos and fruit. Thysa’s belly roared softly due to the irresistible smell of the meal.
Duna came back with two young men not much older than Thysa and completely identical. They had sandy hair, tanned skin and they were tall and brawny, more looking like their mother than like their father. The two brothers took a seat and observed the strangers, curiously. Ruar made them a gesture, encouraging them to help themselves. Thysa took a tray with lemon gilt-head.
- They’re my sons.- the Governor said.- Ifher and Ellem, they’re Ath, the spirit hunter and his friend, Thysa.
- A really beautiful woman, without any doubt.- commented Ellem, appreciating her with evident admiration.
- I don’t think she will feel flattered by that, brother.- Ifher replied, severely.
- Why not?
- It’s not correct to look at a married woman in that way.
Thysa raised her eyes from her plate abruptly to look at Ifher, aware of being blushing. As opposed as her, Ath was calmed and smiling. He was smiling stupidly. Ruar and his wife had surprised expressions in their faces. Ifher was amazed because of his word’s effect.
- I’m not wrong, am I? Both of you wear a silver halfmoon earring. That’s the marriage symbol for the shaman tribe of Dumyat. You wouldn’t wear it if you weren’t together, unless you are married with another...
- No, no.- Thysa said.- You’re right.
Ellem frowned and Thysa cursed to herself. She didn’t like that people knew the nature of the compromise that tied her to Ath, because she tried to avoid that union as much as she could. But desafortunately, sometimes she found someone well versed about her tribe’s customs.
After that declaration an uncomfortable silence went on, while everyone ate keeping silence. It was Ath who, passed a few minutes, took up again the conversation changing the topic.
- Can I ask you some more specific questions, sir?
- Sure, sure. Go ahead.
- Have anything else happened since you sent the messenger?
- Some days after that, three more deaths. But since then, nothing. However, things are not all right. Like the calm before the storm. - - It’s like...
- Like something worse it’s still to come.- Thysa whispered.
- Yeah, exactly.
- About those deaths... have you found some similar to the first one, naked and burned?
- No, that was the only one.
- There is a common factor... among the victims?
- No... it seems an indiscriminate massacre. Although we’ve noticed that after our exorcist’s death, all the suicide victims were men. That seemed weird to us.
- Interesting... have you seen the specter personally?
- I haven’t, but...
- I have.- Ellem said.- But I wouldn’t call it a specter. Maybe it was one at the beginning, I don’t know... but I think he’s stronger now.
- Is it corporeal?- Ath asked, trying to supress the concern in his voice.
- Yeah. It has the skin slightly green, dirty grey eyes without iris nor pupil. It tries to keep hidden, but I saw its face when it killed one of my father’s soldiers, before disappearing.
- Does it have some... visible and distinctive wound or mark?
- If it has one, I didn’t see it.
- Had you seen that face before?
Ellem shook his head negatively. Ath nodded and talked to Ruar again.
- Now I need you to make an effort to remember. Before the ghost stories started to circulate... did it happen... something tragic in the city? Like a significant death, perhaps.
- I need to think about it, I couldn’t answer right now.
- It's fine. But please, give it priority. It might be very helpful.
After Ath’s questions, conversation topics changed to less horrifying ones. The Governor’s family was very interested about Ath’s unusual gift but he, as he always did, played it down. Thysa ground her teeth and tried to hide her disdain: she’d rather wanted Ath to admit that his gift was an authentic prodigy instead of convincing everybody that to see and listen to the spirits as he did was possible to anyone else. That placed her in a very low position.
Iher asked her about the Dumyat tribe; he had studied it conscientiously. He confessed he would like to visit the place when it was possible to leave Dhara.
- Do you know the Totem of the tribe? I know that he, or she, is elected because of his talent in the shamanic arts, and that every two years there is a challenge, to keep this position or to leave it to someone more qualified.
- Our current Totem is my uncle.- she answered, proud.- The majority of our tribe’s Totems belong to my family clan.
- That’s impressive!- he exclaimed.- I need to meet him, it would be an honour. When are the selection rituals? I think they will take place soon...
- Yes, they will take place in five days, after the summer solstice. If I could be there, maybe I would participate.
- What can you do with the shamanic power?- Duna asked, shyly.
- We have a perfect understading with nature and the most powerful shamans are able to control it. We hear and communicate with elements and animals’ spirits, also with human souls, though less easily.
- You should work well together.- Ellem commented, staring at them.
- Part of my success’ secret is due to her.- Ath smiled.
Thysa didn’t smile back, but she couldn’t help to feel flattered by his words.
When they finished lunch, the servants removed the empty plates, the cutlery and the tablecloth. Thysa began feeling slightly drowsy. During the journey she couldn’t eat and rest enough, and that banquet and the peace feeling floating over them threatened to close her eyes. She had to make an effort to supress a yawn. The fountain’s song and the pleasant breeze were making her feel sleepy... She noticed that Ath was looking at her, but she ignored him as she always did.
- Sir...- he said.- Could we retire to get some rest? I would like to revise the information you gave me and draw some conclusions. And although is still early, sleep for a while. I want to be awake and alert this night.
- Of course.
He clapped three times again. In a matter of seconds Emmer and Silia appeared under the arch.
- Silia, please, lead our guests to one of the free rooms. The bedchamber in the east wing near the garden would be fine.
- Inmediately, my Lord.
They left the courtyard following the Governor’s old maid, to the upper floor. The bedroom mentioned by Ruar was in a corridor whose left side was transformed in a wood balcony that faced the lush garden of the house, with fruit trees, hedges and narrow cobbled paths, fountains and benches. Silia opened the bedchamber.
- You have at your disposal a place to take a bath. I’ll send someone with hot water in a minute.
- Thank you.- they both said at the same time.
The room was large and well illuminated. The paving stones were brown and the white walls were decorated by a mosaic frieze. There was just a double bed, with pale blue sheets, a wardrobe, one desk and two comfortable chairs, and a big and solid wood bathtub. Ath undid his belt and lay down over the bed, sighing.
- This seems harder that I thought.
- Yeah, it doesn’t look good.
Thysa sat at the foot of the bed, without looking at him. Ath raised his body to see her better. The sun made her dark hair, messy over her shoulders, shine with coppery sparkles.
- I’m sorry... well. I’m sorry about being in the same room as you.- he said in a low voice.
- It doesn’t matter, it’s not the first time.- she replied. And without giving him time to answer, asked.- Which are your conclusions so far?
He sat up and rested his back against the wall, near one of the windows. He stroked his unruly hair, which had the golden wheat colour, with an absent gesture.
- I have a few ones.- he said.- To start with, I suspect that the spirit is strongly tied to the city and because of that nobody else can leave it. Also, its corporeal state is an obvious signal that it’s obtaining strength. However, now it’s aware of its vulnerability and it’s hidden.
- It can be tied to the city or to someone that is still here and is alive.- Thysa pointed out.
- Yeah, you’re right. Even they can be both reasons. If we follow that direction... the idea of a summoner’s existence makes sense.
- The widow’s death has to be relevant.
- True. The burns suggest that the specter tried to establish a physical contact with her, and her nudity... specify what type of contact.
- But she was the only victim with those characteristics.
- So we can conclude that the specter knew the victim and they had a common story.
- Is it possible that the widow was the summoner? After her death and the exorcist’s there weren’t more victims for a time until they resumed again, more violently. Maybe the specter was her husband.
- It’s possible... but I doubt it. If the summoner had died so early, the specter had disappeared, too. It couldn’t had time to create a bond strong enough to stay here. It could have been a really powerful specter to do such a thing without a summoner and if that had been the case, its presence now would be stronger that it is. But we’ll check it. We’ll ask Ruar for more details about the widow. If his husband had died recently, we’ll consider it. If not, it wouldn’t be worthy.
She agreed. She felt comfortable talking to Ath about those topics, and sometimes during those conversations she forgot her aversion to him.
- The suicide deaths, and the fact that all the victims were men, suggest that it was trying to possess another body, without success. Perhaps it did it finally and because of that now is corporeal, or maybe it turned corporeal by itself... what is much more worrying.
- Because it had needed help.- she whispered.
They heard knuckles against the door and Thysa approached to open it. Four maids, about fifteen or sixteen years, came into the room carrying buckets of hot water and poured them into the bathtub without saying a word. The last one left a bar of soap and clean towels and then they came out holding back their giggles.
- You can... go first. I don’t mind if the water is colder later.- he said.
Thysa went by the bathtub and put her hand into the water to measure the temperature. It was pretty hoy, but she liked that way. A shiver climbed up her back.
- I can turn myself if you want...
- There’s nothing that you haven't seen already, Ath.
She undressed herself quickly, leaving her clothes over the chair’s back. She took the bar of soap and placed the towels near the bathtub before get into it, slowly. The heat wrapped her, soaking her through completely, burning her skin. She closed her eyes and a pleasure sigh escaped from her lips. She imagined herself in Dumyat, in the solstice celebration, by the big bonfires that surrounded the lake, painting the water with crimson glows. She saw her family and the faces of those she loved... her parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, the friends that had grown up by her side...
She froze when she felt an intrusion in that range of loved faces. Her subconscious should have cheated her, adding another well-known face, grave and naughty at the same time, of pale skin, dark blue eyes and wheat hair.
She shook her head to take out of her mind that image and opened her eyes. She felt relief when noticed that Ath wasn’t looking at her. The young man had lain down over the bed again and remained silent. Thysa didn’t linger there, she washed herself quickly, barely noticing the nice smell of the soap. When she was clean she got out of the bathtub and wrapped herself in one towel. She dried herself rapidly and sat down in the bed.
- Your turn.
Ath got up, undressed right there and went into the bathtub without saying anything. Thysa avoided look at him. She finished drying her body and put on a long and white linen shirt that used to sleep. After that she went into the bed, closed her eyes and tried to get asleep soon.
She couldn’t help listening to Ath while he washed himselh and noticed that he was doing it slower than she. She didn’t understand why, suddenly, she felt so confused and embarrased. She wanted to be asleep before he finished but it was impossible, so she pretended being sleeping.
Ath lay very close to her, without touching her. He breathed the fragance of her wet hair and observed the curves of her body in silence. He thougth her already asleep; Thysa sleeped easily and even more when she was tired. He had to make an effort for not to stretch his hand and caress her waist; he didn’t dare to awake her.
- Will you be able to... forgive me and stop hating me someday?- he whispered to himself.