His head hurts.
The grasses of the steppe part underfoot easily, brushing against Artemiy's thick canvas trousers; the bright sap of woegrass stains his pouch. He plucks a few more stems of thick-leaved swevery, just in case he has the chance to brew another tincture later. Provided he can ensure that there is a later after all. And yet he knows that he must. He has to.
"And these herbs of yours," Daniil says, waving his hand dismissively at the bundle of herbs by Artemiy's side, "this superstitious folk medicine... that cannot be enough to save the town. The Steppe folk must be brought to the age of science."
"It is not just the herbs, oynon," Artemiy replies, scanning the muted grasses for brown twyre, with its leaves like spread fingers."The body and the blood must be reunited." He thinks of the thick, hot blood of the auroch, pooled in his hands, a gift from Mother Boddho herself. "Harmony."
"Gibberish." Daniil watches him, arms crossed.
The grasses kneel, bent by the harsh wind current; theirs is also a line to follow. And if he could lift them out of Mother Boddho, would he not find the bull's blood beneath them? And he knows, deep within himself, that he would only gladly give his own blood and bone if that would restore the land. What the Bachelor does not see is that sacrifice is only part of the wheel, not the whip.
Lines to follow, lines to mark, lines to cut, and lines to leave.
"It's gibberish," Daniil repeats smugly, trying to get a rise out of him.
With one swift movement, he grabs that black-gloved hand of Daniil's, and regrets it when he sees that flash of fear in his eyes. Instead he cradles Daniil's hand in his own larger ones, faintly embarrassed by their ungainly size now, before guiding his hand to a white whip, lazily dozing in the shade of a railroad car. To rip out the herb and break the skin of Mother Boddho would be a wicked thing indeed, but Artemiy presses Daniil's fingers against the stem in such a way that the fat stem buckles and snaps off in an uneven break. Milky sap pools onto the soft leather of Daniil's gloves.
Holding the limp herb, Daniil surveys his face, and Artemiy relishes the bewilderment and that delicious almost-flush in his cheeks.
A small moth peeks between the blades of grass, perturbed, twitching its speckled wings.
"Why don't I show you what this gibberish can do?" Artemiy replies evenly. "But first we must find enough of it."
Daniil looks away, brightly vexed and embarrassed. The feathery head of the white whip falls against his upper arm, as he crosses his arms again. "I suppose someone has to make sure you don't accidentally kill yourself with all this superstitious nonsense."
Bending low to the steppe to break off a stem of brown twyre, Artemiy conceals his grin.