A Heartbeat Lost Part 3
Shona and his brothers were already stationed outside of the East Gate that lead to the eastern expanse of glaciers and tundra. Amana and I were both on buffaloyak and carrying lanterns. Chulyin, Shona's elder brother had pair of polar bear dogs on leads sniffing the snow for any scent of my nephew. I had a grim feeling, this wasn't a simple search but a man-hunt. The group was split into teams of four. I, Amana and two of Shona's brothers, were heading northwest around the edge of the fortress to see if Tikaani was hiding around the border. The other four were going east to see if Tikaani got stuck in ice crack some place around the easterly glaciers. I gulped down a lot of air and followed Amana, while I prayed to some ancestor to please watch over Tikaani.
The sun was starting to rise slowly, her pale face peaking along the edge of the horizon as we road away from it. Chulyin who was with our group shouted his name across the empty tundra. We had one of the dogs who was leading us more and more north. Itiaq was another of Shona numerous brothers who had a grim kind of expression on his face. He was often the prankster of the six but he was more serious today as the dawn revealed our search party. He was riding beside me and shook his head. "Maka. I know you're a very earth-bound kinda guy, you're very real and straight forward. So. You'll understand that I don't have much hope that your nephew will be alive when we find him." I opened my mouth to say something but I quickly closed it as Amana shouted his name again swinging the light around. The dog kept rooting the snow hunting for any scent. I wanted to say No, Tikaani will be alive. He's a smart kid he will keep close to the fortress I know he will but that would be another pretty little lie.
Itaiq was right. Tikaani was more than likely dead. I didn't want to think about it but it was true. He could be eaten or mauled by tigerwolf packs. Suffocated in a ice-hole. Busted his head open on something or worse. It would be too altruistic of me to assume Tikaani would be alive and safe, and with that dark thought led unto another one. One of which we find Tikaani mangled and destroyed body out in the middle of tundra half-eaten. I couldn't stop that though I let it blossom inside my head. Nor did I stop the reaction of said thought. I stopped my buffaloyak and vomited off the side.
Pops, a lot of things go through your head when you find out your kid may be dead. I don't know what ran through my mind first, but I do know that little seed of fear and guilt grew into a massive forest of regret. I should have been more kind to when he first adopted him. I should have listen to Hanai more. I should have been more fair with him, I should have been a better teacher. 'Shouldhaves', were I heard, echoing inside. Nothing but 'what-ifs' and 'Should-haves.' I stopped calling Tikaani's name and started to prepare myself for the worst. It wasn't fair at all. Tikaani was young, and had...so much potential. Yes pops, Tikaani had potential. He had more problems than marrying a Fire Nation soldier, but he was smart, and sweet and curious. He had to touch everything. That's how he spoke. I remembered wryly that if he wanted to wrestle he would smack my back and pull on my arm. I had a feeling I would never feel those tiny brown hands ever again.
I was ready to turn around and give up as the sun was rising high only to set quickly. Tikaani was dead. Was thing in my head at that moment. Amana promised me he would be alive but it was just...impossible it's been almost 24 hours. There was just no way. I was drowning in my own fear, guilt and self pity that I didn't hear Shona's shouts at first. It was when Amana water-whipped my shoulder than I lifted my head.
"Maka! You won't believe this! Shona found him! He's alive!!"
He's...alive? My heart stopped again. I turned my mount around and slapped her flanks hard. I didn't waste another second. Tikaani...out of all things was live. It was a freaking miracle. That stubborn, whip-smart sonofabitch was alive. I couldn't be anymore joyous or relieved. Tikaani was alive.
I followed Shona to where Akta and Arlukk and Kesuk were. They were by an ice cave. I stopped my mount and got off. Shona joined me and showed me to where Tikaani was hiding. "He got stuck in this cave. He must of gotten lost and wandered over here. I don't know how he got in but he can't get out. He's alive Maka but he's pretty damn cold and probably starved. He keeps backing himself deeper into that little hole he is in when we get close." Yeah that's Tikaani. Doesn't understand when people try to help him. I walked up to the ice cave which was really a hole in a glacier and knelt in front of him.
He was wide eye and shivering. He was in that damn hole for nearly 24 hours. He was probably freezing and weak, but when he saw me he reached out his hand and gave out a tiny little whimper. I got down and tried to reasure him. I stuck my hand in and let him grab and pull on it. Just to show him that I was real and that everything was going to work out. I hope.
Arlukk and Kesuk were also benders. They told me to get back so they can try to bend him out but Tikaani just pressed himself back into the hole. I stopped them for a moment. "Don't just up and bent him out without him knowing. He won't understand. Tell him what you're doing reassure him or he will just try to hide again." Arlukk and Kesuk looked at each other for a moment before Kesuk said calmly.
"Tikaani. It's ok. We're here to get you out of the whole. Stay. Still. Ok? We're going to bend you you. Ok?" I looked at Tikaani and gave him the hand gesture for 'wait' in hopes he would stay still. He did and Arlukk and Kesuk open the hole wide and I reached in to pull him out. Around that time pops, Amana and the other came back, Shona told him to go back to the fortress and to tell Hanai that we found him. Amana face split into a grin as I was holding him, Tikaani's big blue eyes looked up at Amana for a second before they were hidden away in my parka.
As soon as they left and I looked down at Tikaani and I just broke down, pops. I was exhausted and still nauseated from worry. I wasted all my energy thinking that would find a corpse not a child, that I didn't have the strength to be manly and strong. So I cried. I cried in relief that he was alive and at the fear of almost loosing something so precious. I didn't know how much I loved that kid until that morning after Solstice. I was sobbing as I held him. Tikaani didn't seem to be too fearful, just curious as he was shivering and looking around when we carried him back to the fortress. I couldn't help but wonder what was he thinking? Was he scared? How did he even survive? I didn't know but I looked up at the sky again and I thanked the spirits. The goddesses and gods of my people were watching him.
Hanai shrieked as I carried him back inside the house. Rahmet out from the sleeping quarters his mouth running how he was the man of the house and how he kept everything together. I gave Tikaani to Hanai who had some healers with her. Now Tikaani need medicine, food and rest and probably in that order and I need to rest too, but as I headed to my own room Tikaani reached out from Hanai's arms. He made a little noise and wiggled weakly. Hanai jostled him a bit and headed for the opposite room, but he still reached out for me. Normally, Tikaani always wanted Hanai when he was sick or hurt, but. Today he wanted me too. I was included for once pops. You have no idea how rare that is. So I followed Hanai with the healers and was with him as the treated him. I even held his hand.
Three days I was at his side. I never left him. He was healthy and recovered from his ordeal in no time and was up to his old mischief again. But ever since that day pops. I realized something. I realize why it's scary when you loose a child. But even more scary when that child isn't like the others. Tikaani couldn't talk or understood consequences. He was in more danger because of his condition than the circumstance, I finally saw that. I now saw how much Tikaani enriched my life, he was truly important to me. Did Tikaani's disappearance changed me? Well I still shout at him when throws his fits, scream at him when he tries to climb onto the roof. Things haven't changed too much, but I have taken the time to realized how much of impact he made in my life. He had value and I didn't recognize it until he was gone. You don't know what until it's gone is very true when you have 'special needs' children and for some parents like Tigtuk. They never realize what they are missing.
I won't forget pops.
Maka and Tikaani too.