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Samhain's Child: Part Seven

Over the next several days, Hamish spent as much time away from the others as he could manage. He needed time to think. He had not expected that he was ever going to make it back home to his mother, but the lie that had been told to him about the white stag . . . it had been too big of a thing for him to wrap his mind around, and he needed time to come to terms with it.

All the hopes he had had of finding the stag and finding out why it had chosen him seemed foolish now. He had thought that if he had found it, he could have gotten some sort of explanation as to why he had been chosen, but the only choosing that had been done had been by the Romani. They had chosen him, and they had probably done so exactly for this purpose; they had probably needed him to help them get the stag for them.

There must have been something about them that would have kept the beast away from them otherwise. That was the only thing he could have think of as to why they might have needed him to help them catch it.

But he was assuming that was what had happened. He had no proof that they had taken him for that reason. The queer look that Fern had given him when he had first come upon them, and what the men had said when they talked about eating the stag was not proof, even if it made him suspicious of them.

But in the story that Fern had told when he had first seen the stag, she had said that every time that it died, it was reborn again later on. If that was true, and that might be a big if, he might still be able to find it somewhere. It might be that all of the searching he had been doing had not been completely foolish.

He bounced on the balls of his feet, determined again to try and find the stag, so that he might be able to go back home someday.

Seasons rolled and Hamish grew tall, the red of his hair becoming darker, and his beard becoming bushy. Whitie’s fur started to change and become white. It was obvious that it hurt him to walk, and he no longer went out roaming and hunting with Hamish. He would spend much of his time near the fire, and when Hamish would roam and hunt for the stag, Whitie was left in the camp, where the others would take care of and feed him.

For a time, Hamish had thought that the others might have tried to stop him from continuing to look for the stag, but after a while, he came to the conclusion that they were hoping that he would find it again. If he did, they could kill it once more and get even more good luck by eating it again.

He wouldn’t let that happen. He would warn it about them and ask for it to help him get free of them, but maybe it didn’t need his warnings; he hadn’t seen it again but the one time when it had bowed to him.

Elanor had made her desires known to him, and before he realized what was happening, the two of them were engaged. He tried to speak to her and back out of the engagement, but she must have sensed his intentions, because she would never let him get a word in whenever he screwed himself up to break it off with her.

Sitting on a log on one of his hunting trips, he began thinking of home, and he realized with a bit of surprise that he could no longer remember what his real name was. He had been called Hamish for so long that it had overridden his actual name in his mind.

He tried to remember what it was, and this led to other thoughts of home. He thought about his mother and realized that he couldn’t remember what she looked like anymore. This surprised him. He had been so sure that he could still remember her. And when he realized this, he thought about how she would not recognize him if he did make it back to her. He would be a stranger to her now, he had been gone for so long.

Putting head face in his hands, he began to cry, wishing that his whole life had been different, and he had never come upon these people. He wished now that he had listened, and he had not gone for a look when he heard about their encampment. If he hadn’t, he would still be at home, with his family, and maybe about to start a family of his own.

He was startled out of his tears by the sound of breathing and a wet nose touching his head.

Jerking his face upward, he saw the white stag standing in front of him. It took a couple of steps away from him and tossed its head.

He wiped his eyes with his shirt sleeve and got to his feet. Then, he reached out a hand and took a slow, cautious step forward. Instead of moving away, the stag came closer to him, and he was able to put hand on its neck.

All of the questions he had meant to ask it ran from his mind, and all he could think of was how majestic it looked, and how warm its neck was. But then, it jerked its head around, becoming alert. Its ears moved turning to hear something better that was behind it.

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As Hamish looked in that direction, he thought he saw a shadow move, and the stag lept away, running as fast as its legs would carry it.

A second later, an arrow thunked into a tree, and if the stag hadn’t began to run when it had, it would have gone directly into it.

He took a couple of steps to the side and raised his hands, trying to be in the way enough to give the stag some time to get away.

He had not heard the bowstring, and he didn’t realize there was anything wrong until it was already too late; there were two arrows sticking out of his chest.

He stood for a moment longer, looking town at the arrows in confusion. He put his hand on one of them, thinking that he would just pull it out, and he would be find, but the pain was too much, and he stopped, falling to the ground.

As the world dimmed around him, he saw the three men who he had heard speaking standing over him. They all looked solemn.

“Sorry about that, boy,” one of them said as he knelt down. “We were aiming for the stag. We didn’t mean to hit you. But you likey knew exactly what was going on, and that’s why you got in our way.”

Hamish tried to speak, but it was hard to breathe.

“We’ll make sure you get back to your mother,” the man said as everything went dark.

Likely story, he thought. You’ve been saying that for years.

“And then what happened?” the small boy said eagerly.

“Well,” the man said, “I ended up here in this graveyard.” He looked around. “It’s not anywhere near where my home was, not at least how I remember it. I don’t know if they took my body back to my mother, or if they just picked a spot and buried me. This is my grave here.” He patted the headstone he had been sitting on. “They must not have taken me home, because the stone says ‘Hamish,’ and that’s not my name.”

“What was your real name?” the boy asked.

“You know,” the man said, stroking his beard, “even after all this time in here, and I still can’t remember what it was. I wish I could. it would be nice.”

The boy looked at him skeptically, sure that this man was pulling his leg, that this whole story had been nothing more than a scary story he had been waiting for Samhain to tell someone. So, he scoffed and folded his arms.

“Oh, you don’t believe my story?” the man said, and the boy shook his head.

From somewhere in the distance, a bell started to toll midnight. As it did, the man smiled ad gave the boy a salute, and when it was done, the man disappeared in a puff of mist.

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