The La-Iin Series
“The Child Warlock–Part 5”
Things had not been the same for the Astineths ever since Maie-Jussa’s death.
Neither Sale-Dessu nor his Apeta had been targeted by any of his Apeta’s opponents since that day, though it was hard to tell if that was because they had given up, lost track or only because he and his Apeta were living under assumed identities. After his mother’s death, those working at the medical center had begged them to, telling them it would be better for their safety in the long run.
Sale-Dessu could hardly find it in him to care. From the little memories he had of when he and his mother had first started living with his Apeta, he recalled that she had done all she could to support the two no matter how much pain they were in. Whenever Maie-Jussa would cry, Apeta would calm her down. With the three of them together, anything that happened could easily be overcome. They all supported each other in their own ways, and that was the way Sale-Dessu would always remember and love his family.
But now that Maie-Jussa was gone, both he and his Apeta were gravely affected. All of it had seemed to age his Apeta, who started to move slower and lose some of her vitality. She hardly scolded Sale-Dessu anymore. She still tried to support the two of them, but they hardly practiced their powers any longer, and they almost never went outside–even when low on food, his Apeta would insist that she could simply change something into a meal.
And it was true, she could.
Sale-Dessu’s mind had been filled with thoughts ever since his mother’s death. He had barely been able to cry. No matter how sad he got, the shock had a stronger effect and the most that ever happened was that his vision would blur over. It seemed much the same for his Apeta, who if she cried, did it away from Sale-Dessu.
One of the things he wondered about was, whatever happened to the Witch who had infected and killed his mother? Did she ultimately end up a vegetable in their old house? Did the doctors have her sent to a torture chamber? Or was she living a happy life and smiling, keeping what she had done that night a secret? Sale-Dessu knew he should be angry at the last idea, but it only made him feel numb.
Also on his mind was their lack of connection with the other Astineths. Though he had only met them a long time ago he knew his mother had sisters. Maie-Jussa had been gone for almost two months. Did they know yet that their sister was dead?
But in the end, none of those thoughts mattered much to Sale-Dessu, because he was starting to feel that it might have been better if the Witch who killed his mother had killed all three of them. Then the three of them could be together as spirits. Maybe it wasn’t the most ideal situation, but it seemed much better than what he and Apeta had now.
Because though Maie-Jussa seemed to take solace in the idea of spirits watching over them, it provided Sale-Dessu no comfort. He was still a child. He would have to live out the rest of his life unable to talk to his mother, unable to see her again or show her his progress. Even if she was watching over him, it still felt lonely.
Now Sale-Dessu found that he spent most days in his bedroom. He felt apathetic about life. Apeta didn’t seem to care about his powers and neither did he. Powers were what had killed his mother, so he didn’t see the point in caring about them.
What would happen now? Would he continue on this way until the day his Apeta died? What would he do then?
Sale-Dessu had only just nodded off into a restless sleep when his bedroom door opened. His Apeta walked slowly in, a somber expression on her face. She sat on his bed and lifted his head.
“Sit up, Sale-Dessu,” she said, her tone soft as usual. It no longer held the same fire it had before.
“Do you need my help with something, Apeta?” Sale-Dessu asked. His Apeta’s expression relaxed slightly.
“I want to talk.”
“Ever since your mother died, things have been strange here. I know you likely don’t want to talk about it. Maybe it happened a while ago now, but it’s still painful for us both…I…I can’t stand that the girl I gave birth to and held in my arms when she was only a newborn is dead before me from a situation I should have been able to prevent. I imagine you feel much the same way, despite our different relations to her.”
Sale-Dessu remained silent.
“The days after she died were….difficult. And I admit, I thought that perhaps my powers could do something about it, reverse her death possibly…but not even I am that powerful. I started to despair. It…it was all I could do to make a meal for you and I. All I could do not to cry in front of you.”
Sale-Dessu covered his face with his hair.
“But as we haven’t been talking much lately, I have had time to think. Maie-Jussa protected us. Her death happened only because she protected us. Had she not done that, perhaps now all three of us would be dead.”
“…” Sale-Dessu was tempted to voice his thoughts, but no words would come.
“I knew Maie-Jussa incredibly well. She confided in me more often than her sisters would. And we lived together the longest, obviously….I don’t think she’d want her mother and her son to waste their lives upset because she’s no longer with them. But also putting that aside…there are other reasons we need to look towards the future. Face me, Sale-Dessu.”
He looked up at her. “Because if not, all those who despise me, they will win. They want me gone, to the point where I have lost my daughter to them. But my daughter went down fighting. While I was wallowing in despair over her death I forgot that. And you and I should fight back, as well. I am not saying seek them out to take revenge for her death. I am saying we should survive.”
“Sale-Dessu, remember this also. Someday we will see her again as spirits, that I am certain of. But until then we still have a life to live, you moreso than I. You cannot spend all your life stuck on her death. I would not be surprised if Maie-Jussa is watching us right this moment. I’m sure she’d agree with me when I say that would make both of us upset.”
“…Apeta…I don’t know where to go anymore.”
“You’ll be staying with me, that’s for certain. Together we will live. We won’t forget, but we will go on. …I have dealt with death before, Sale-Dessu. The only difference then is that it was never my child, never someone I had known since her birth. And I continued on living until this ripe old age. We will continue living life and I will continue to help you with your powers.”
“Sale-Dessu, right now I can read you like an open book,” she snapped. He flinched. “If you think you should halt your studies because of that magical infection, then stop it. I’ve told you times before, you can never control who will use their powers for good, and who will use them for evil. Powers are not inherently either. Tell me, Sale-Dessu, do you like your powers?”
Sale-Dessu was having a hard time forcing any words out, so he nodded instead.
“Would you like to continue honing them and studying them?”
“Then continue. You can use your powers for good. You could look for some way to protect against any form of magical infection, if you so desire. Or a way to talk with the spirits. Either way, you can continue. What do you want to do with your powers?”
“…I…I want to…I want to learn more,” he said. “As much as I can about powers. Because there’s so much to learn, it could take my whole lifetime…it could be something I could do, always…”
His Apeta smiled. “…with all that said, I’m certainly not saying we need to recover overnight. We can take our time to grieve. I knew Maie-Jussa all her life and you knew her all yours. Our pain will not repair that easily.”
She hugged him close. “But…I will continue to help you, Sale-Dessu. Maie-Jussa is still watching you, I am sure. And the day you join her as a spirit, she will be proud of you. So let’s keep moving.”
Sale-Dessu’s vision blurred and his chest tightened, but he still couldn’t cry. He thought of his mother and that she was no longer here, but also put into perspective his Apeta’s words.
Now was the time for grieving. But soon enough, he would have to return to his everyday routines. It would be hard, he was certain of that. But with his Apeta at his side, he would have at least one person supporting him, at least one person who kept him going despite how horrible he felt.
And for once, the idea of Maie-Jussa watching over him didn’t feel quite so lonely.
There were days, as an adult, that Sale-Dessu would think back on his mother. He always had to put Eul-Bok to sleep nowadays to get it out of his system. Still it was better than when he had lived all alone, forced to grieve with nobody around him, and even that was better than the days shortly after her death, but always he would end up crying regardless, as if all the tears that refused to shed from the shock were returning.
‘Mamun, Apeta….I kept going. And I will keep going from here too. I’ve made more progress than I thought I could. …thank you for what you gave me while you were alive.’
If living people couldn’t hear his thoughts, he didn’t think it was likely that spirits could either, but it brought him solace anyway.