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~Wandering like the Winds~
A light breeze stirred the braids clustered around Kaetze's skull, newly bound and tightly cinched around her skull so as to stay out of her eyes. No real reason, she'd simply always done it as a matter of tradition, to keep herself cool back at home on the islands. Now in the strange new plane of the Outworld it was more often damp and cold, or dry and cold, making the braids barely necessary. Lest she be in Nagrand, of course, but it had been at least a week or two since she'd ventured there.
The moon was rising at the edge of the Zangarmarsh, and the creatures that were not-quite-frogs and not-really-insects had begun to pip and shrill in the waters below her. Even perched atop one of the gigantic spotted mushrooms the droning din reached her ears. She cocked her head to the side for a moment and closed her eyes, listening to the rise and fall of the cadence. Involuntarily she took a deep breath and released it slowly, in to the breeze and in to the night.
As she knelt, her fingers picked at the fabric folded neatly in her lap. Bright green worked with gold-flecked yellow threads in the shape of a living flame. The tabard of Demonsbane. It was threadbare at the edges and a few patches where she had sat with it beneath her or drawn a weapon and snagged the same patch over and over again. It was obviously used, faded, and despite trying to keep it clean there were stained patches here and there, mostly at the hem. This was a piece of fabric that held many stories and had seen many days wrapped around her person.
The wind picked up a snapped her braids forward so that they stung against her cheeks, pricking tears in to her eyes at the sharp pain. A storm had been brewing on the horizon and she'd seen the larger mushrooms swaying far away in the coming winds. Now those very same winds had their way with her tightly bound hair, making them sway wildly like a medusa.
Perhaps the sting on the cheeks gave her the excuse she needed, but the tears didn't stop when the pain passed. Instead it built in to fat drops that trembled a moment before crashing down on the tops of the hands clasping the tabard. She couldn't stop it, and so her shoulders drooped and she let them have their way, even allowing the sobs a voice that was quickly torn away by the building winds.
Her fingers traced the many repaired tears and rips and she recalled as she could where they'd come from. Some from her own practice with her very first blade. Some from enemies. It surprised her to note so few had actually made it to mar the cloth. A tribute to those she'd stood with, to be sure.
But that was no more. Those she had counted as friends had either passed on in their journeys to other lands and other adventures, unheard of for months or years now. Others died in encounters and couldn't be pulled back from the brink. But those she had known, those who had smiled and welcomed her orphaned-self with open arms to the group, were gone. The elders were there, yes, but theirs was a place of distance and observation for the good of the group. She understood this. But standing amidst a group of individuals who didn't know her, didn't know her past or her skills or her talents...she had no faith. And she had balked at fighting with them, unsure of how well they would work together and scared to cause another death among her clan-mates.
All things change, this was a lesson she knew well. Not a stitch of the Netherwind robes she had tried so long to earn remained on her. Instead she shifted uncomfortably in the new fabric of a robe gifted to her by the Aldor in return for the various deeds she'd done on her behalf. It was a beautiful gown, but the point was....she had earned it alone. No one had helped her. No one had needed to help her. And there was very little left she could do to help others. She had done what she could for them, and they for her. It was no longer home.
"So then, it's time..." she whispered. In response the wind whirled up around her and danced past, careening through the other large forest-mushrooms around her, causing them to sway to and fro.
She lifted one hand, tabard clasped in it, and in response the wind leapt upon it and rolled like an animal hunting. It cracked and fluttered violently, driven to dance by the storm. Then she let go. The tabard rolled over and over itself until it dropped out of sight.
If she wanted to she could go get it. Eventually it would land in the water and stay there, easy to see by the bright colors. She could find it.
Instead she turned to eye her windrider, who had begun to stir nervously while fighting wobble-legged to stay upright on the swaying cap where they stood. She gingerly made her way the distance back to it and ran her fingers through its tousled mane.
"Let us see where the wind travels when the storm is done, friend," she said with a small smile.
Mounting up, the windrider leapt in to the wildness above and Kaetze spread her arms wide to accept the pelting rain on her breast as the storm broke, relishing the thunder that rumbled in her ears.
~Better a cruel truth than a comfortable lie.~ (Edward Abbey)

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