The sand beneath Kyran’s toes shuffled softly as she walked between the water’s edge and the cliff face. The beach was thin this far north of the Crystal City, home of the Soul Seers, the peaceful, healing people of the Islands of Insight. They had taken her in as an abandoned child, loved her as one of their own, and Kichi had been one of them.
She knew where she would find him. The sand disappeared under the water and Kyran picked her way slowly over the salt razed rocks. This was where the water still cut into the cliff side, and now the mists kissed the edge above her, clouding the jagged finger of stone where Kichi had jumped.
I loved him, Kyran’s tears whispered as they joined the drops that blew in from the Mists. The Mists should have been invisible from the Island side of the sea, but today they hung thick along the shore. The Islands weep because one of their children is dead.
Chuff, chuff. Kyran’s toes sucked in and out of the sand. One of their children is dead because I killed him.
Kichi’s body lay on the rocks like a smashed leaf. His head was an unrecognizable spattering of red gore, arms and legs strung limply across the uneven terrain. The tide swept in and out, stirring his blood into the ocean. Kyran closed her eyes and lingered on the sand, willing her stomach to settle and her heart to go numb.
Not yet. I can’t do this yet. The guilt colored her soul black. She knew the other Soul Seers saw it as she had searched the caves of the Crystal City for Kichi. She could see the colors of their emotions, too, because when the darkness within her had whipped out and shattered the crystal that lived in Kichi’s soul, her darkness had stolen his crystal, too. Now Kyran could see as the Soul Seers saw.
And she hated it. She had always hated feeling exposed to them while she had been unable to see their emotions, but even more she hated knowing what they felt when she walked by. Icy purple fear of her. Dark red grief for Kichi. The light blue of the crystal that fed their souls and their eyes.
What she had hated most, though, was seeing the emptiness left behind in Kichi. For five days he had waited below the Soul Tree for the gift of Iyashino Haha, the Healing Mother, to return to him. He had sat in the grass, an empty soulless shell begging in his heart for the mother to restore what the darkness in Kyran had destroyed.
For five days, Kyran had mourned silently for the hollow shell that had once been her patient friend, her lover. And now, on the sixth day, she stood on the sands where the water licked at Kichi’s broken body.
She had killed him. It was her duty and her punishment to bring his body home.
He never said goodbye. Kyran’s heart shouted at the Mists.
There was nothing left of him to say farewell. He was already gone, the Mists whispered back to her.
Kyran opened her eyes and looked up, searching for the blue of the sky beyond the clinging Mists. For a moment it was there, like the crystal in the Soul Seers’ eyes, and then the Mists closed up again. She forced herself to look down at the blood and the brokenness and chuffed the final few steps through the sand.
She wanted to tell him she was sorry, that she never meant to be whatever she was, she never meant to have darkness in her, but her throat tightened and tears stung and the rocks cut into her bare feet as she gathered Kichi’s limp form in her arms. He weighed little more than the cat that one of the Seers kept as a pet, as if the crystal had been the only thing to give him substance and now his bones were hollow.
The blood from Kichi’s head that had been swimming in the tide ran down her arm as she picked her way back to the sand. One side of his face was still intact, his sightless eye black without the crystal. Like mine, Kyran realized, his eye is now black like mine.
She carried him to the Soul Tree. She parted the waterfall subconsciously, absorbed in her grief and in a new acceptance of her fate. The souls of the Seers around her glowed purple and red as she followed the paths to the gardens and laid Kichi’s remains on the grass. Plucking a leaf from the tree, Kyran laid it gently across the grisly sight of Kichi’s face.
When she looked up, she saw the shaman. He did not speak, for it was not his gift. His gift was to make others feel the silence.
Kyran met his eyes. “I must leave.”