Welcome to installment #18 of the Chasing Shadows – Making Amends series. For more information or to read the previous scene, head to this page.
Mujur clenched his fist around the branch and resisted the urge to throw it to the side. Everything about the situation was wrong.
Kecil stood before him, arms wrapped around her middle. Like a scolded cub, her eyes remained downcast, refusing to meet his.
Mujur wanted to shake the spirit back into her. Her small moments of boldness hinted at the fierce wehr-tigress she was meant to be, but just as quickly her spark dissolved into this—a creature as timid as a mouse. His injuries weren’t even her fault, yet here she stood, apologetic and shrinking under his perusal.
He yearned to confront the villagers who’d doused her flame, but only death waited for him if he ever encountered them again. “Kecil. Look at me.”
Her head lifted slowly, followed by her eyes. Her gaze flitted, not quite settling on him.
“Look at me.” His voice held a bit more sharpness than he’d intended.
She focused like a deer ready to bolt, but behind the fear was the cornered animal ready to attack.
“I’m not blaming you… for any of this. But I can use your help. Likewise, you can use mine. I will get you to where you need to go. Do you understand?”
She nodded though uncertainty played in her eyes.
Mujur rankled at his inability to fix her brokenness. What clan would knowingly do this to a wehr-tigress… make her feel so unworthy, refuse to teach her a skill as simple as healing?
Kecil was right to seek another village, considering the injustice hers had done to her. With no one to show her how to tap into her energy, she was no powerful than a male was—stuck with simple herbs to get the task done and hoping for the best.
“Follow.” Mujur brushed past. He couldn’t teach Kecil to use her powers, but he could teach her the little he knew about organic healing.
He headed toward their resting spot, collecting plants for a poultice along the way. Mujur shared his limited expertise about each herb. Kecil asked few questions, but her inquiries often exceeded his knowledge. The more he explained, the more inadequate he felt as a teacher. I’m giving her more than nothing became his constant reminder.
The pile of leaves and branches they’d piled to make a nest big enough for two remained untouched when they arrived. Mujur left Kecil behind and searched for an adequate stone to grind the herbs. He returned with a smooth rock and placed it in front of the kneeling Kecil and handed her a branch stripped of bark. “Pound the betel leaves into a pulp.”
“Why?” she asked.
“It helps stave off infection.”
“How do you know?”
Mujur laughed, tracing a few scars across his chest. “I’ve suffered enough injuries to learn a thing or two.”
Kecil frowned before one corner of her mouth lifted into a shy smile which tugged at the deepest part of his heart. She deserves better. She deserves a life of happiness, full of ready smiles.
Kecil worked on crushing the leaves, and the smoky aroma of betel filled the air. Mujur watched her dainty movements, admired the arch of her back as she pounded. If she were his, he’d ease behind her, kiss her shoulders, trace her navel.
Perhaps her trust toward him would grow during the journey. After he escorted her safely to Berani’s clan, he would offer her protection permanently as his mate… if she was accepting.
Mujur walked away and took the time to inspect his injured shoulder. Dislodging the stone and bringing it back had reopened the tears which again bled freely. Though the wounds of his flayed skin went deep, they weren’t his biggest concerns. They’d heal. It was the ever growing itchy patch that led him to mutilate himself in his sleep which plagued him.
The cat screeched in the distance, adding to his misery.