‘Fight it... it is not you...'
She could only feel a faint answer, but there were no words– no real thoughts, just despair and one last thread of hope. Everything else was lost in the pain– or to the shaman's spell.
‘No– do not let it win....'
The creature's response drove her to her knees.
It was winning.
Tasunke smiled as the last pocket of resistance gave way. Many of them had chosen to die rather than surrender– dedicated, but wasteful. Their sense of conviction was admirable– too bad it was misplaced.
He wondered if they knew what would have happened to them if he and the others hadn't attacked– if Spiral had had his way. It was obvious they hadn't thought things through. If they had, more of them would have survived.
As it was only the injured survived. They would be dealt with, and no doubt need to be guarded from themselves. It was clear they viewed capture as something far worse than death.
He paused as he caught site of Geoff.
If they only knew...
He raised his head to the sky and offered up a prayer for the man. He had fought well, and kept Spiral from claiming another victim– but the price had been too high.
He started to move in– knowing it was time to keep his promise.
Davy knelt, frozen as he watched the terror in the creature's eyes. It was Geoff. He knew that look– he'd seen it so many times as a child, when his brother would wake up in the middle of the night...
It broke his heart then, as it did now.
His voice was soft, but it was enough for the creature to hear. It smiled at him, using Geoff's face to hide its malice– but the eyes, Geoff's eyes couldn't hide the rage and blood lust... or the terror.
Davy watched as the battle raged in his brother's eyes-- Geoff pleading for Davy to move, to get away... and the creature's desire to destroy the brothers. He could see the terror that the creature would win, and the malevolent savoring of that fact.
Davy stared into Geoff's eyes one last time and nodded. There was nothing either of them could do.
Davy tried to push himself up, and found someone holding his arms. He froze, ready to fight when he realized it was one of their rescuers.
The man helped him up, moving him out of the creature's range.
"My brother..." he objected.
The man nodded. "I know– but there is nothing you can do for him...save end it."
Davy froze. "No..."
The man's grip was gentle almost consoling. "I will do it... I owe him that much."
Davy shook his head and pulled himself free of the man's grasp. "No... he's my brother...I can't just give up on him."
The man shook his head– sorrow and understanding reflecting in his eyes. "The creature he killed– was once my best friend... my blood brother. Your brother spared me the pain– I would do the same for you."
Davy shook his head. "No– I haven't given up hope yet... if it comes to that... IF...I will.."
The man placed a hand on Davy's shoulder. "He would not want you to live with such a thing..."
Davy shook his head again. One look at Geoff and he knew the man was right, but he also knew that if it came down to ending his brother's life-- it was his duty, his responsibility.
"He's my brother," Davy repeated in a steady tone.
"Which is why, you should not have to do this..."
Davy shook his head. "My brother– my responsibility..."
"Think of the others," the man said softly as he put a hand on Davy's arm and began working on the hand cuffs. Davy suppressed a gasp as the tension in his shoulders finally abated and the circulation began returning to his arms.
He turned and began massaging his wrists. "I am thinking of them-- and you."
The man nodded. "I'm sorry we couldn't do more..."
Davy looked around and saw another man leading Tommy and Boomer to a stump where Tommy could sit down. Davy couldn't help by notice how heavily Tommy was leaning on Boomer for support as they moved.. Then he saw Kenny shrugging off any attempt to help him.
"Damn....Kenny...." Davy turned on his comm-unit. "Kenny, it's okay... it's over...it's over..."
Davy looked back at Geoff for a moment, then looked at the man. "Don't... do anything...unless..."
"Go– I will watch over him..."
"Thank you," Davy said, then headed over to where Kenny was kneeling on the ground.
"Easy Kenny– its me," Davy called over the comm-link as he gently placed a hand on his brother's shoulder.
Kenny froze and nodded. Davy moved in and reached for the hood.
"Wait," one of the men who'd been trying to help ordered. "How long has he been in that thing?"
Davy looked at his watch. "Its been a while...10 hours?"
The man let out a slight snarl and signaled his team-mate. "Stand-by with a tranq-patch, just in case."
Davy looked at him for a moment and then focused on Kenny again. He'd almost convinced himself that it wasn't that bad when he removed the hood, and saw the contraption beneath.
"God... Kenny..." Davy unbuckled the back of the mask beneath and gently worked the breathing tube out of his brother's throat.
Kenny gagged as the tube was removed.
"Easy Kenny, I got you...."
He waited until Kenny's breathing had returned to something approximating normal. "Ken... Tommy's been shot– and Geoff...."
Davy nodded grimly as he could hear the hoarseness in his brother's voice.
"... Are you going to be okay?"
Kenny started to look up when a sudden flash from the blinders that had been covering his eyes lit up the area. Kenny clamped his eyes closed and groaned.
Davy looked at the blinders and then at the two men who'd been watching. He could tell by their expression it wasn't a standard component of the hood.
"Keep me... from concentrating... from... tuning out the white noise... "
Davy looked away in disgust– hadn't they done enough?
"Be... fine," Kenny assured him. "Geoff..."
Kenny's shoulders sagged. "Tommy?"
"They shot him in the leg. Its pretty bad but not fatal..."
Kenny started to speak again, but his voice faded and he was left coughing. Davy patted his back until the fit ended.
"Here," one of the men said as he handed Davy a canteen.
Davy held the canteen for Kenny as one of the other men moved in and began cutting the duct tape away from Kenny's hands.
Davy watched his brother worriedly as he tried to figure out the order of things. When his hands were finally freed, Kenny supplied the plan.
"Let me... take a look at Geoff– see if I can do... anything..."
Davy looked at him, "you sure?"
"Davy– I don't think I can do anything– but I've got to see..."
Davy nodded. "Come on."
Tasunke looked down at Geoff as he lay there, exhausted from fighting Spiral's curse. His hand slipped to his gun. It would be a kindness to end this now, but he couldn't. He tried to tell himself it was his promise to the man's brother- but he knew it was more than that.
He looked at Geoff and he remembered the look in his sister's eyes when they parted. It wasn't fair, to find someone you could care about so much-- only to lose them...
Hadn't she lost enough to Spiral's madness already?
The land was dying because of him... everything he touched he tainted. ... Everything she loved, he destroyed... this was no different. And it made no sense.
She'd been Spiral's friend once, but that was before he turned on her. It was his first obvious act of destruction and it had been devastating They'd found her curled up in a small fetal ball in a grove of Pinion Pine- she was feverish, and confused but for the most part unharmed. She had never spoken since.
The doctor's said it was a reaction to trauma- that there was no harm to her vocal chords. The elders said it was a lot more than that. It was a struggle for balance. Spiral and Witashnah had both been born with the gift. They could see the land- feel it. Everyone thought they'd be together and then...
And then Spiral had turned away from his people- he decided that he preferred destruction and chaos. He became a destroyer- a poisoner instead of a healer. And Witashnah had been his first victim.
The elders ordered that her training be stepped up, but the shaman was shocked to find that she had already been initiated... Somehow, when Spiral had tried to make her his– Witashnah had joined with the forest. It protected her and she protected it. As the land suffered so did she...
Now she felt this man's suffering as well. It wasn't fair.
Tasunke's hand once again reached for his gun. Perhaps it was better this way. Before he could act, the man's brother returned, and with him another.
Davy guided Kenny towards Geoff. He knew that Geoff would kill him if he knew he was about to risk another brother to save him-- but it was Kenny's call.
He could tell that Kenny was fighting to keep it together. He could only imagine what it had been like for Kenny under that hood. Davy shuddered at the thought.
"I'll be okay Dave..." Kenny told him in a stiff voice.
Davy looked at him for a minute and nodded. "I know."
Kenny was about to say something when he caught his first sight of Geoff. "...no...."
Davy let his breath out slowly. "Yeah..."
Kenny reached out towards Geoff only to have him flinch away. The terror in Geoff's eyes was obvious.
"Don't... touch me..." he pleaded.
Davy moved closer, unable to stay away. "Geoff."
"Don't..... don't.... please... can't.... can't...."
Davy looked at Kenny and then at the other man. Geoff was in control again-- for now
"Geoff... Kenny's got to assense you... he won't touch you... " He looked to Kenny for verification.
Kenny nodded. "It's okay Geoff... I just need to see if I can help..."
Again Kenny reached towards Geoff and again he flinched away. His terror was almost palpable. "No... too close... don't come..any...any... "
"Geoff!" Davy pleaded. At the sound of his voice, Geoff backed away again, then froze.
Davy looked questioningly and realized there was a woman kneeling behind Geoff. In his frenzy to avoid contact, he'd moved right into her. Davy bit his lip as the look of utter defeat crossed his brother's face.
"...no..." Davy had never heard Geoff sound so lost.
Davy looked at her, and instead of fear-- her expression was one of peace and tenderness. She gently rolled Geoff over until his head rested in her lap. Geoff's thrashing had subsided, and Davy watched transfixed as she gently put a finger to Geoff's lips and quieted his fears.
For the first time since their ordeal had begun, Davy felt hope.
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