Shrisaelte and Dani
by Christopher Edmund Nelson
Table of Contents|
parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
After a time, she grew quiet. He asked her how she had found her way there, and bit by bit she told her story. When she was done, the day had grown late. They enjoyed just a little more time together before a guard walked in again.
“Leave now,” he said. Shrisa would have argued, but Dani soothed her. “Don’t cause trouble. Come see me tomorrow.”
She walked out the door. The guards whispered to each other; she tried to catch what was said but didn’t dare stop.
She was back in the middle of the town when she realized she was being followed. One of the guards was watching where she went. She wanted to run at first, but she realized how futile that was if she wished to see Dani again.
She walked up to the guard and spoke to him. “What do you want?”
“I can help you set him free,” he said.
Her breath caught. “How?” she asked.
“You will need some money, as much as you can spare.”
“You must know I’m not wealthy.”
“Whatever you can spare; let us hope it is enough. After sundown, go to the building at the north end of the docks with the serpent painted over a blue door facing the water. The man inside sells potent medicines. Tell him you need to help a friend get a long night’s rest and that his shop was recommended by Corrick.”
“Aye,” the guard responded. “He will give you a wooden tube with a white powder. It is a potent sleeping potion. You will need a bottle of liquor. Place the powder in the liquor. When you are ready, try to enter the prison with the bottle. Make sure it is well hidden. It will be found, and the other guards will surely want to sample what they will believe you were smuggling to Dani. As soon as they are asleep, make your escape. Travel south of here. I cannot guarantee your safety after that.”
“Why are you helping us?” she asked.
“There are still some who would stand with him,” the guard said, and he walked away.
Shrisa was excited but panicked when she realized there was no way for her to get any money that night. She considered stealing it but pushed the thought out of her mind. She remembered the boat. That’s stolen, too, she thought, but she realized she didn’t feel a bit sorry for its former owner. She went to the docks and was relieved to see that the little boat was still there.
At first, her investigation of the hold turned up only extra rope, water, and cloth and some bottles of liquor. After feeling around a bit more, however, she found a loose board and, upon lifting it, several coins. She did not know their value but took them all. These would have to do.
* * *
After sundown she went to the north end of the docks; she found the serpent over the blue door as described and went in. It was a dimly lit shop. The apothecary inside was not at the front to greet her at first, but shortly he emerged, a gray old man with a mean face and a spark in his eyes. She was nervous but said exactly what the guard had told her. For a moment, as the old man grimaced at her coins, she was afraid she had not scrounged enough, but he did give her the potion, and she made a hasty escape from that dark den.
She slept fitfully on the boat that night. In the morning, she left to visit Dani. She hid the sleeping powder in the boat at first. She knew the escape would be dangerous and wanted to enjoy a few hours with Dani before making the attempt. Besides, their escape would be easier if they could do it at night.
She went back to Dani’s prison, let the guards humiliate her as before, and went in. Dani embraced her, and she whispered the plan to him. He told her he would rather she didn’t place her life in danger for him, and she told him that she could not live without him, and when he saw how much she loved him, he agreed they would escape that night.
They talked for a while and spent a while just holding each other. Shrisa saw the angle of the sun and realized hours must have passed.
“Dani,” she said.
“We could die tonight,” she said. “We could die this very night. And before I die...”
As she said this, she drew him closer.
“Before I die, Dani, I want to experience you. I want to give myself to you. Now, Dani. This may be the only chance.”
He began to speak, but she stopped him with a kiss.
They made love, then, slowly and carefully, then more passionately, and they bit their lips to stay quiet. When it was over, they dressed again and lay in each other’s arms.
“I love you,” said Dani.
“I love you,” Shrisa whispered back.
Close to evening, Shrisa went out and walked to the boat. She thanked the gods it was still there. In it were the powder and the liquor bottles. She poured the powder into a bottle, shook it until the potion was invisible, hid the bottle under her clothes, and walked back to the prison.
She tried to walk directly into the prison. The guards stopped her. She protested that they had already searched her, to which one responded that they could never be too careful.
They groped her as before, and this time they found a bottle. They told her to pull it out from under her clothes or else let them take the clothes off of her, so she pulled the bottle out. It was snatched away. She grabbed at it and was pushed back.
The guard sniffed its contents and exclaimed in delight. He took a deep swig, at which point the other guard took it and drank some himself. The noise attracted the guard on the other side of the building, who then came around and joined them. She did her best to look furious, which was easy, since she hated them all. They loved her anger and were sure to drink the whole bottle among the three of them.
One by one, they collapsed on the ground, deeply asleep. She wished the guard who had helped her were near so she could thank him, but time was short. She went in. “Now, Dani,” she said.
They left there together. As they drew near the docks, Dani thought he heard a noise.
Shrisa urged him on. They were at the docks. The boat was nearby. They saw torches on either side and the men and ran. Shouts went out. Arrows flew, missing them barely. They leapt into the boat, and Shrisa untied the line.
“Oars! Find them!” she shouted as she readied the sail. Dani looked frantically for any kind of paddle. The shore wind caught the sail and began to take them out, but there was nothing to assist it. As they watched the pier, several armed men crowded it.
“How?” Shrisa cried out. “How did they know?”
“I don’t know!” Dani shouted back, still frantically searching for anything to help them. “Maybe they caught the guard who helped you; maybe the apothecary tipped them off; it doesn’t matter! Keep your head down!”
They ducked as arrows flew. One with fire on its tip hit the boat. Dani was able to find a pail and poured seawater on the blaze; as he turned around, an arrow struck him in the chest.
“Dani!” Shrisa screamed. Arrows splashed into the water. She held him close. He was alive still, but barely.
They drifted away from the land, and she held him, crying, whispering, “I love you” every few minutes. He grew weaker. Near dawn he looked at her and mouthed those words. Then he was gone.
* * *
The sun rose. The breeze dropped. The sail fluttered down. Shrisa did nothing but cry. The sun drifted across the sky. She did not move. As the sun began to set again, she said goodbye. With much effort, she was able to lift him over the side, and the sea claimed him.
Until the sun rose again, she did nothing. She slept just a little, and all her dreams were of Dani. Four times she fell asleep. Four times she found him and went to him. Four times she awoke and remembered the truth, and it was like learning it all over again.
She hurled terrible curses at the gods, and the worst of it she spat at the Watcher, who had been silent in her moment of direst need. She thought of turning back and fighting the soldiers they had escaped. She shouted and threw things until she was too exhausted to continue. Then she was quiet again.
She had not drunk anything for over a day. She took a sip of water, no more. She felt her body grow tired and her mind cloud. Suddenly a fit of passion gripped her; a breeze was blowing; she trimmed the sail and pointed the boat northward.
The north. Her last hope. When she was a child, she had heard stories of the cold land of the north, the great land of Death. It was there she headed. It was just a children’s story, but she clung to it.
The boat drifted slowly. Thirst attacked her, but she barely drank. Her mind wandered, and she lost track of time. Soon she forgot the hour, and then the days were lost to her.
She felt a chill. She looked around as though coming out of a dream. All was dark, but she could see the ice around the boat. She stepped out. All was solid beneath her. Out into the darkness she walked. There was no wind; all was silent. She thought she saw human forms in the dark, but she discerned no clear figure. Those that watched her were as shadows and vanished as she drew near.
The sound was directly in front of her. She stopped. As she looked, she could hardly believe her eyes. Here was her Dani standing before her. She wanted to tell him again how much she loved him, but no words would come out.
Dani nodded. “I know. It’s enough. It was always enough. You have to live now.”
She shook her head. He smiled.
“Yes, Shrisa, yes. You don’t belong here. This is no place for you. I will wait for you until that time comes.”
Weakly she said, “Come back.”
He smiled still, a little sadly. “You know I cannot, Shrisa. But a part of me will go with you. Right now, Shrisa, new life grows within you. Here.”
He pointed at her belly. She felt warmth there all of a sudden. Yes, it was true. She now carried his child. A part of him was in her.
Suddenly Dani seemed farther away. She shouted, “I love you!”
“And I you,” he said. “Now return.”
She opened her eyes, though she could not remember closing them. The sun shone. She was very thirsty, so she drank. If she was careful, there would be enough water to make land.
But where was land? She adjusted the sail again so that the boat traveled westward. She waited.
She listened to the wind and the water. She settled into a deep calm as she did; she had a new purpose. As she listened, then, she thought she almost heard words, and for no reason she felt the need to change course ever so slightly. She took the boat to the southwest, and then she was sure she was headed in the right direction.
Days passed. She saw birds, and then she saw land. When the land drew near enough, she cried, for there was her old home near the shore. She brought the boat in and stepped out. Her legs gave out at first, but she stood at last and walked to the house.
Her father was there, repairing some nets. He looked up. At first they just stared at one another. At last he rose and embraced her.
“My daughter,” he said.
“I’m home, father,” she replied. She told him little of what had happened, and he asked nothing.
* * *
Nine months went by, and she gave birth to a son. She named him Dani. She never told little Dani about his father, but as he grew she saw her lost love in the boy’s face. Whenever she looked at him, she smiled and was happy.
The boy grew, and Shrisa learned not to interfere, to let him make his own decisions, good or ill. But even as he grew to adulthood, she was there to offer encouragement in times of crisis and, if he cared to listen, she would help him find the right path.
Copyright © 2014 by Christopher Edmund Nelson