Vid Balsich – also known as the One-eyed Prophet, the Hyperactive Trouble-maker, the Occultist, the Klutz, the creepy-always-knows-what-you're-up-to-and-uses-it-against-you Bastard. Those were the things other people called him, mind you. Vid was much more generous in his own version of the truth. He was smart, witty, good with his hands, charming and a freaking psychic.
Seriously, he was freaking awesome.
Above all else, however, Vid was a son. A good one, at that. He trekked seven miles down the mountain-side to catch the bus to school – which he never misses, surprise, surprise – and got straight As and had next week’s homework already finished. He watered, pruned and generally took care of his family's vineyard on his own. Despite it being a small business, it was rather successful. His mother always said that it was because their motto was „quality, not quantity“. It was enough to live off, anyway, and something Vid took pride in.
His father had been a great wine-sales man, had dreamed of making a big business and the most quality wine in all of Europe – just like his father, and his father's father and so on 'till Ancient Greece.
However, despite being so high up in the mountains Rijeka Crnojevich was still a place that attracted many a tourist. Vid, like everyone else, took care to snag a few euros off them. He did this by giving them boat-rides down the river and maybe across the Skadar Lake, if he convinced them the extra buck was completely worth it.
Which he usually did. No one could resist his charming smile – if they didn't look further up, anyway. There was a reason people called him „one-eyed“. He still had both his eyes, mind you – well, one wasn't actually his – but only the right was visible. Vibrant molten-brown and laughing – at what, many wondered – it captivated one's gaze enough to not allow it to stray to the left side of Vid's face.
That sunny afternoon, motor running and boat cutting waves into still waters, Vid was faced with a person who seemed to suck out all of his charm, see right through him and the brown strands of hair covering half his face, through a bandage and an closed eyelid to his ugliest secret.
A Witch, surely. He did not need to use his abilities to deduce that. Most people ignored the unflattering part of his face, to polite or too disgusted to ask – but those who knew of his treasured curse couldn't help but look and want.
Good grief, this was going to be a long boat-ride. Why'd he put this damn bandage on, anyway? Oh, right, his left eye had started to twitch, sting and burn. It had even started bleeding not two days ago and the pressure from the bandage only seemed to aggravate it further, but he still wore it as a precaution. He wasn't really in the mood for another one of his episodes, even less than he was in the mood for nosy little Witches with rainclouds hovering over their heads. Figuratively, of course.
He wondered what her field of Magic was.
Vid, despite being a Prophet, wasn't too involved with actual Magic-users and didn't know much about them. He was unsure if he should even get involved in that world – actively, at least. Word had already gotten out about him – the unexpected fame brought with it a surge of pride – but it also meant work.
This girl meant work, too, and Vid dreaded the eventual confrontation. She stayed quiet, however, her pale, pale chestnuts hair flying in messy tangles around her and eyes the colour of forest-earth followed his every move attentively.
Her parents were too amazed by the landscape to pay them any attention. Beside the odd question directed towards their guide, they chatted among themselves.
They made it to the Kom Monastery, where Petar Petrovich Njegoš had been baptized and the whole valley opened up in olive trees, silver-glass water and lotus-leaves framed by mountains so high and far they ranged from crystal clear stone to indigo silhouettes under the sun.
It was beyond beautiful. The tranquility of the place enveloped it with a natural calm. The single priest occupying the Monastery wasn't there, currently, but both the cats and the chickens were more than happy to welcome them. Even a rabbit had snuck into the place, but stood just out of reach, behind the six bee-hives next to the back-building.
As her parents – who were actually Isidora and Constantine posing as her parents, since hers couldn’t make it but let her go on a “field trip with some friends” – explored this sacred place, Drina stuck near the would-be-Prophet and waited until she could put a bit of distance between the two of them and her “parents”.
When the opportunity arose, she said to him „How many bees are in the farthermost hive?“
Vid raised an eyebrow at her, amused. „Do you expect me to count them, or the stings they leave on me if I try to?“
„So much for all-seeing.“ she snorted and looked away, into the horizon with such a fiercely intent gaze Vid knew she saw none of the beauty before her.
Her answer told Vid three things. One, she doubted the ability of Prophets but for some reason pursued them anyway. Two, she was earnest and disappointed far more than she would like to admit. Lastly, she'd gone to others before.
Her devil-may-care attitude reeked of desperation.
Just what did she want to know so desperately?
„For such trivial things? Not worth the effort.“
...if she was another love-sick idiot, he swore he'd jump down this cliff right here and now.
...she'd probably jump with him.
Wouldn't that be oh so romantic?
The brunette looked at him, eyes razor sharp and disbelieving. Then, she laughed. The sound was so abrupt, so harsh, Vid was caught completely off guard. This girl really did suck all the cheer from her surroundings.
Vid was wary, but recognized the trembling crescendo for what it is. Pain. Bitter, corroding, festering pain pulsating, burned and gauged by hope.
He swallowed, uncomfortable, and knew without knowing that he was going to regret this.
„What do you want to know?“
There was a momentary satisfaction in her expression – shocked, wary to the point of disbelief and thankful in a way that was adoring and unabashed in its excessiveness. The moment was shattered by a woman's excited shout.
„Drina! Come, look! There's a baby chick in here!“
The Witch-girl, Drina, looked away from him and shouted „Coming Isi– mom! Don't let the cat eat it!“
She was already gone by the time Vid, dumbfounded, laughed his socks off.
On the way back, they stopped on a small beach at the river-side and changed into their swim suits. Drina’s was a two piece, deep green and revealed almost all of her ribs under her small breast.
“Are you anorexic or something?” Vid joked, just because he could. Then, “Eat this.” he told her and pulled out a spiky-black thing out of the water. It was small enough to fit in the palm of his hand.
Drina stared at it. “What is that?”
“Kasoranje, we call it,” Vid answered with a grin. “People used to end it all the time, in the middle-ages, when there was nothing else. Tastes like chestnuts.”
Drina clearly didn’t know how to react to this random bout of information, thus she merely proclaimed “I’ll take your word for it.”
“You’ll get hungry later.” Vid joked, because the girl was rather annoying in her gloominess. Honestly, why was he helping her again?
Drina shrugged “I’m not hungry, most of the time.”
Vid raised an eyebrow “How so?”
“Have better things to do,” she answered, tersely “and we have better things to discuss than my eating habits.”
“Fine, fine,” Vid waved her off, as if she’d been the pestering one. “Then how about you tell me why you dragged your perfectly oblivious family all the way up here to meet a guy who may or may not be able to see the future.”
Drina was quiet. They swam across the chocolate-green water slowly and drifted into the lotus leaves almost without realizing it. The adults dared not venture after them, even after Vid reassured them it was perfectly safe.
Finally, Drina said, “You can see more than just the future.”, and it almost sounded accusing.
She didn’t look at him when she said this, and her hair was too thick for him to see her face through it.
“What makes you say that?” Vid answered slowly, warily, wondering for the thousandth time if he should back away while he still could.
“A little drunk womanizer told me.” Drina deadpanned, letting out a choked shriek when her feet touch the carpet floor of the river’s bottom. It was shallow enough to stand, here, in the sea of yellow lotuses, but most people didn’t expect the soft cushion the plants made under their feet.
Vid spread his toes and crackled hysterically. “I definitely need to visit your town soon.”
Drina's face hardened from embarrassment, promising thin-lipped seriousness. Vid doubled over so the fledglings of small fish, smaller than an eyelash, crowded around his chin.
“Yeah, sure, why not?” he spluttered between bouts of laughter “What do you want to know?”
The girl stopped her fidgeting. Her dark-green swim-suit blended well with the surrounding plant-life, the miniature fishes floated around her pale frame like adoring followers. She looked like a Lamia – Vid remembered, then, that the quasi Nymphs of their folklore were actually girls who had drowned. Somehow, it seemed fitting.
Drina opened her mouth, closed it, and took a deep breath as though someone was choking her. “My brother. Find him.”
Vid almost wished she’d kept quiet.
He frowned, for this wasn’t entirely as unusual as he’d expected. Still, it came as a surprise. Was this what caused the girl so much gloom? No wonder... “Find him?” he repeated, stupidly, for the girl in front of him acted like she'd throw a party if everyone in the world up and disappeared.
Drina nodded in quiet approval and said, equally quiet “That’s what I said.”
Vid swallowed. He hated working unless absolutely necessary, hated getting involved in other people's troubles – okay, so he enjoyed the thankfulness, but seriously not worth the effort – but... this was worth it, wasn’t it? This girl had been turned downed before, had hit dead ends and desperation many times. She... deserved better.
They all did.
Vid sighed. No backing out now.
“What does he look like?” he asked her.
Drina looked away and fidgeted, scaring a few miniature river-dwellers away. Her hair fell over her shoulder, and the fact that it was wet and matted only accented her cheek bones. She was all sharp edges and skin pulled tightly every-which-way. Her eyes were soft however, distantly watching the other side of the river without really seeing it.
“I have a picture of him in my bag.” she informed him, after some time had passed. Vid wondered what she’d been thinking about, but decided not to ask. He could easily find out, if he wanted to, but he valued having two eyes in his sockets more than the secrets of a suffering soul. He had a right to be selfish, after all he’d sacrificed.
People had to clean up their own messes. Period.
He would make an exception, just this once.
“Okay, that will work.” he hesitated only for a second before asking “What’s his name?”
Drina tensed so abruptly her hair visibly stood on end. The motion set small ripples around her. She gulped, like it had suddenly become too hard to breathe. Vid reaches out to her in the moment that she said it:
“I don’t know.”
It took a full three minutes, several fish nipping at his ankles, a frog jumping in front of him and a crane almost hitting him over the head for the words to register.
“YOU DON’T KNOW?!” he shrieked, spluttered, shook her “WHAT THE HELL?! HOW-“
Drina slapped her hand over his mouth, hard, and left it there. “Keep it down, would you?” she bit out icily. Her hand was still covering his mouth and the contact was restricting in more ways than one. It made it easier to think, grounding Vid in all his disbelief. Because what the fu– her sharp look sliced that thought in half.
A second passed, then a few more, before Drina was sure the other wouldn’t scream his head off like a Banshee.
“How the hell don’t you know the name of your own flesh and blood?” the boy hissed, venomously “Are you making this up?”
“I’m not crazy.” Drina shot back – almost before Vid finished his sentence, almost like she’d had to counter that accusation too many times. “I have his picture. I know him,” she claimed, fervently, starting to shake like a withering flower in a nasty storm. “I just... I just... don’t know his name.”
It was then that an odd idea, a whisper of a passage of an old book he’d considered more fiction than fact, echoed in Vid's mind. He froze on the spot, horrified in a way he’d never been before – not even after his father’s death.
His eye stung, the sharp pain like a needle in his skull. Desperate, broken, lonely, whispering “I’m not crazy, I’m not,Imnot,Imnot,Imnot–“
“I feel like I’m slowly going mad.”
This is worse than death, Vid thought, numb and trying to put as much emotional distance between him and Dri – the Witch-girl, as he can. This is Oblivion.
The mere thought scared him, knowing that it was real made him feel worthless and insignificant. The girl’s sharp eyes watched him – both earth-brown and world-shattering – and Vid almost wished she was the one with her eyes bandaged closed.
“What is it?” She’d gone whiter as well, he noticed, but her voice was as steady as a sword in a warrior’s hand. “Tell me.”
“The Grass of Oblivion.” It sounded funny, when he says it out-loud. It rung with so much horror in his mind, empty of all other thought.
Dri – the girl, the girl, she’s just another girl – “Grass of Oblivion?”
Vid tried not to get involved in this situation more than necessary, but knew it was futile. Why did he open his big mouth?
The words spilled out almost involuntarily, tumbling from his silver tongue in a jumbled mess “It’s a mystic plant – ancient, rare, has a chemical compound that alters people’s memories. Mix it the proper way, throw in a few trinkets – total amnesia.”
He knew he would regret this. He knew before he saw the devastated look on her face.
“But no one remembers him,” Drina despaired, denied, doubted the only answer she’d ever been given. She tried to summon back her mask, to laugh it off, but her words come out as aggressive and all too defensive “and I think I would have remembered eating grass of all things!”
Vid shook his head. “No, of course not. It works two ways. Either for the person who drinks, usually unwillingly. Wipes their memories clear. Or it makes everyone else forget the person who drank.” He wanted to say more – he didn’t, but the words kept tumbling out of his mouth until he choked on them. He stopped because a lump had grown in his throat. It felt like he’d swallowed a stone.
Drina looked like a combination of someone who’d eaten a much larger, much more jagged stone and a wet rat.
“How do I remember, then?” she whispered.
Vid froze. The thought hadn’t crossed his mind before and suddenly the calamity in his head had quieted down until only the sting of his left eye remained.
“I... I don’t know. I’ll find out, though.” he confessed his helplessness in the same breath as he assured his guaranteed success. He shouldn’t have been so arrogant, so blindingly devoted, so idiotically heroic, but– “You... deserve to know.”
Out of everything said that day, that was the thing that made his decision final.
A boat whizzed around the corner at break-neck speed, then, stopped right in the middle of the river in a way that spun it ‘round a full 180 degrees. It made waves upon waves crash into their lotus-enforced sanctuary.
One of the four men stood up, looking both left and right – to where a Witch and a Prophet conspired in the lotuses and to where two adults stood, befuddled, on the other bank. He smiled, as though the sight was humorous.
“Good day, ladies and gentlemen.” It was more of an announcement than a greeting, perhaps even a signal as the boat started to glide towards the fields of lotus in which Vid and Drina still lingered.
“What’s going on?” Vid shouted, backing further into the lotus leaves.
The leader smiled coldly from his perch above them all and declared “You’re under arrest, Mr. Prophet.”