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 Post subject: A Healer's Tale
 Post Posted: Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:19 pm 
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Watchful Dragon
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I wasn't planning to attempt NaNo this year, and I don't really expect to finish it. But as Healer started insisting on talking with the stallions interested in trysting with her for the draw I suddenly wanted to write about her. Which led to this. There will probably be several segments appear, bit by bit, as I get to good stopping points.

I know this rambles and probably isn't really a smooth read, it's not clean or polished, and it has no real plot so far. It's not really a novel. It's an exploration of a character. The second part...will bring in more to explore and further a story that's been only in my head so far related to some other Sams of mine. You might be able to guess which ones, especially from the very end of this first section. But since it is related to Sams and gives some background on some of them I thought I'd go ahead and post it for people to read if they'd like.

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 Post subject: Part 1: Desert Rambles
 Post Posted: Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:19 pm 
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The steady swooshing sound of hooves on sand seemed to fill the world. In the hours before sunset few sane creatures would venture out onto the sands of the deep desert, so far from any reliable source of water or shade. But one was out in the blazing heat of the baking sun; restlessly, relentlessly pacing, searching, seeking something she knew was there but couldn't quite find just yet. The feel of it gnawed on her senses, drawing her onward with a compulsion she couldn't resist. Somewhere out here was a spirit, trapped, likely tied to the long bleached skeleton that was all that remained of it's former body. Perhaps not even knowing it was dead. It wouldn't be the first she had found like that, trapped in a never ending nightmare shadow world, forever doomed to repeat the same despair, feel the same desperate thirst, the madness and hallucinations of heat stroke and dehydration. The suffering was so much that dying passed unnoticed, they simply faded into a tangled existence of memory and misery. And this she would not stand.

She had found the first of these long ago, scarcely more than a tottery foal, too young yet to have earned her name. Her mother's pride and joy, an elusive Healer, someone to pass a lifetime of learning and legacy down to, she had been allowed more freedom than most of the local Songs gave their fillies, or even their colts. At least when she wasn't in lessons. All in all it had averaged out. They had fewer lessons and more free time, but she had more freedom to explore and do as she wished when she did have free time. But that day she had been exploring the desert. Back then she had lived on the outskirts of it; more scrubland than desert. Oases were plentiful and even a few small streams existed, though they tended to dry up in the summer. But while she might not live in the desert itself, the filly had been well aware that her ancestors had, and was fiercely proud of that fact. And every chance she got she sought to explore as far in as she could.

This time she was in new territory. Her mother was never one to linger in any one place; no Healer ever was. And they had been here only a few short sun turns. This was the first chance she'd had to explore this stretch of desert. But this time was different from any other exploration she had been on. This time something was tugging at her, drawing her further and further in. She tried to stop and turn back at one point, knowing that if she went any further she wouldn't be back by the time her mother was expecting her. But only a few paces back towards home and she dropped to her knees as the feeling that she had been following surged to near painful levels. Without thought she was up and following it again, at a stumbling, sliding run this time.

When at last the call had stopped she had found herself staring in horror at the bleached bones of some giant beast. Much later she had found out that it had been an Enkeyn, but at the time it had simply seemed to cover the desert and fill her heart with pain and suffering. A figure had shimmered over it, almost lost in the heat of the air, indistinct with age. Features had melted into vague, fuzzy forms, like an earth figure melting in the rain. There was little thought left to the apparition, only feelings, but that was more than enough to hammer at her mind and threaten to tear her identity away. But as she stood swaying the thing gradually seemed to take note of her and draw itself together slightly. The main bulk of it grew more indistinct, but near the front a pair of eyes became clear, eyes filled with silent pleading. Suddenly, she knew what it wanted (which she often later thought this was probably more than could be said of most ghosts themselves), though she couldn't say how. She just felt it in the depths of her own soul.

A silent twist of her blossoming powers, a reaching out in ways she never could quite put a name to, and suddenly with a hollow sighing sensation the figure vanished and the little filly collapsed.

With a start the grown Healer shook off the old memories and turned her attention back to the desert around her. She'd been lucky back then; several Desert Songs had lived nearby and it had been one of them that had found her lying limp on the sands rather than one of the roaming predators. It wasn't likely that that would be the case today if she let herself be taken off guard. Not that this ghost had the feel of a fighter to it. And she had long since mastered her own powers so that never again would she be so drained by sending a ghost on to the world it belonged in. Skill cut a narrow path, unlike then when raw power and need had blasted through. Not that she expected it would take much today. Over the years she had grown adept and reading the emanations of the earth bound spirits from afar to judge what she was coming up against. And her reading of this one she was hunting for was that it would go readily once she had explained how.

Explained was really the wrong word most of the time...but she didn't really know the right word. Sometimes the ghost was fresh and recently dead, still able to converse with those who could see and hear it. But far more often what lingered was only a collection of memories and feelings, no more able to understand mere words than was a scorpion. Then it was her power that spoke with them, the gentle nudge to send them home, that twist to open the door they need to cross through, soothing magic to ease the pain and let them find the path. Or in some rare cases, the steel wall to force them through. For there were those wicked spirits who wanted to remain for the sake of bringing suffering to others. Most were focused on one single individual or small group, those they believed had harmed or killed them. Some simply hated all life or blamed the world for their death. Either way, she would not stand for the dead to harm the living. When she found that sort they received no choice, they could not stay.

And so it was with that fierce determination burning within that she finally found her ghost. No wonder she had been going in circles looking for it was her first thought when finally she stumbled, almost literally, upon the restless spirit. This was one where Healer sorely wished she had been drawn to this section of the desert earlier. The ghost was not tied to bones so much as a corpse, still fresh enough for scraps of fur and hide, now dried to something like leather, to be clinging to the bones, though scavengers had picked the flesh clean. Even from above she could see the break in the bones of one hind leg that had doomed the poor creature. It lay in what appeared to be an old creek bed, deep and narrow, easy to miss if you were running and hard to climb out of even without a broken leg. But not so deep that she couldn't have made her way down to mend that leg if only she'd come here sooner.

With a deep sigh of regret she turned her attention to the shimmering form hovering above the fresh bones and gently called to it with voice and power. Its head, which had been hanging low in a semblance of exhausted despair, snapped upwards and turned to face her. As she continued to call it hesitantly moved, appearing to walk as it drifted up and over to stand before her. A strong feeling of confusion came from it, and she knew that she likely stood out as the only sharp and clear image in a sea of fog to it. Few among the living could see these spirits, almost as few could be clearly seen by them. Once she had the spirit's full attention she gently encouraged it to move on. "Be at peace deayr one. This is no longeyr youyr home. It's time foyr you to move on now. Let me show you the way..."

As always, she saw nothing change as she extended her magic, but the spirit started, and turned away from her. The wispy outlines of ears lifted and perked forwards and the foggy head craned towards something unseen. A light seemed to glow for a moment in the dim eyes as it stepped forwards, fading as it did so. Just before vanishing it turned to look at her one last time, emanating feelings of thanks and gratitude. The mouth moved, shaping words it was too far gone to voice, and then it was gone. Healer relaxed. Though she was deeply sorry she had not been here to help before this kind of help was needed, this was the sort of spirit she preferred to deal with. It was always best when they went freely to what awaited them, without wailing of the fate of those left behind or bemoaning the loss of years they felt should have been theirs. There was nothing she could do to help them. No Healer ever born could bring the dead back to life. The mere thought of it made her shudder. Such a thing went against all nature and grated on her very being. No, the dead were dead and no hand could change that. No hand should ever try.

On rare occasions the spirit's longing had been strong enough to let it speak clearly, to press some desperate wish upon her. And when it did, she would do her best to find the family or friend to pass on a message or other last wish. But all too often all she got from the spirits were feelings. Those ones made her heart hurt inside, for she could not help, only send the spirit to rest. It was pleasant to see one go so readily and be so at peace as it left this world.

The spirit dealt with, Healer lifted her head and tried to regain her bearings. She knew she was fairly deep in the desert, though still not in the worst, innermost reaches were even the cacti were few and far between. A steady breeze blew through here, and by checking the position of the sun it was blowing from the west. Home lay west of here as well. With no particular place to go she decided that heading into the wind was as good of a direction as any. It gave a heading, kept you from going in circles in the near featureless sands. The wind might switch angles, but it was steady enough to keep her heading close to straight. And it helped keep you cool if you were fool enough to be out in the punishing heat. She'd stop when she found something to cast shade and rest there until things cooled off for the night. With any luck the shade caster would either be a cactus or have one nearby that she could get water from. An oasis would be even better, but she'd be quite content with a cactus.

Now the sound of wind whistling through her ears nearly drowned out the steady sound of hooves on sand as she trotted onwards. That brought with it it's own set of dangers, though at this time of day the odds that some predator would be hunting were slim. Anyways, most of them were good enough that you'd be hard pressed to hear them approach over the sands even without that howling deafening you to anything else. No, so long as the winds didn't change their pitch to a sandstorm building up she should be fine. It was the desert itself, the baking heat and lack of water, that was the biggest threat to a traveler our here at this time of day. The heat, well, she was as used to that as it was possible to be. She preferred to meet the ghosts by the light of the sun. Not that they were any more dangerous by night really. Just more unsettling to look at. The clear, sharp ones were fine, but those were rare. Most were fading into mist, bits of them growing more or less distinct from moment to moment, often in ways that made her stomach churn. And the price of dealing with ghosts by sunlight was that you then must face the desert by day.

Very few died in the desert conveniently near shade, far fewer near water. Or at least near easily findable water. Healer knew full well that there could be hidden pools or underground springs within a few body lengths of you that you'd never find if you didn't already know they were there. No few of them were carefully guarded secrets of the local Songs. No matter, she always made certain to carry some with her. Other Healers might keep all their pack space for healing herbs, seeds, bandaging material, things obviously needful. Out here, a few mouthfuls of water could be more precious than any amount of herbs. And on those rare few times that she found a hapless traveler before the desert had claimed them...the water was the only thing she carried that stood a chance of saving them. No amount of magic could replenish the lost water in a body and allow them to recover. Even what she could carry often wasn't enough to do more than hold them while she desperately made a run for more.

Yes, life as a desert Healer was rough. She lost far more than she could save; often the best she could do was ease their passage and see that their spirits didn't linger. Even with her water pouches, special ones she had been gifted by one she had saved, able to hold far more water than their size or weight would indicate, couldn't carry enough for one a breath away from dehydration's death. Even if she could find the water to fill them fully. There were few places she was comfortable filling the depths of those precious packs without fearing that some nomadic Song claimed the water she took. Even the few days worth of water she could carry would seriously drain some of the seeps where there might only be that much water pooling.

Lifting her head suddenly, musings broken by something she had noticed, Healer sniffed the steady breeze. Yes, green, damp, growing things somewhere ahead! With any luck there would be a good sized oasis to create this much lovely scent. She could use a few days of rest after roaming the desert sands for so long. It seemed like recently every time she drew near to a resting place she would sense another spirit and be drawn away as soon as she had filled her belly. Or in some cases be told of a rumored haunt by those who had heard of her talents. Sometimes those were real, sometimes they weren't. But they must be investigated to be sure. The idea of skipping one rumor only to later find it had been real and she had left the poor spirit to its torment longer...no, she couldn't risk it. But at least this time, even if she was to be drawn off again swiftly, she should be able to eat and drink her fill and rest in the cool shade for the rest of the day first.

In fact, the sinking sun was starting to paint the desert sands with a hundred shades of red and gold and purple by the time she reached the source of the green and watery aromas. It was indeed an oasis, and a fairly large one at that. And also empty of the Kin. As Healer drew into sight a few antelope raised their heads to look at her before settling down to doze again, and she thought she saw a hare leap for cover, but no Song or lone roamer rested here. Good. She could rest here, maybe even for a few days, before moving on. And from the looks of it, she should be able to completely refill her water carriers. Though barring word of another ghost, she was planning to head to the outskirts of the desert next. While she did love her desert home, it was nice to be around a bit more life from time to time. She had also found that she needed time around living, breathing Sams from time to time to help her maintain her inner balance. Still, it would never come amiss to have a full load of water. You never could tell when something might come up and you found yourself unable to find anything but what you carried with you.

The oasis did indeed prove to be a good place to rest, and Healer saw no one in the several days she lingered there. But it took little time, only those few days, before she was restless and needing to move on once again. It simply wasn't in her nature to linger in any one place for long, especially not when there was no one in need of her aid there. It was one thing to stay for a week or more when you were making sure a broken leg healed or a new mother was going to be alright after a difficult birth. It was completely a different story when you were staying for no reason other than because you weren't moving on. And now, after recovering from too long in the depths of the desert heat...it was time to move on.

Healer actually quite liked moving through the desert. At any time of day it had its charms, though it was rather harder to think of just what they were in the blazing heat of day. But late evening was her favorite time, those few hours after the sun had gone down but before the heat had quite left the sands. Then all the life that was hiding by day came out. By night the air was filled with the sounds of life; rustling sounds in the sand and scrubby plants, wings overhead, the chirping song of insects and birds... Sighing happily Healer moved on through the night, large ears swiveling to catch all the sounds. And occasionally, when they went quiet in one part of the desert or an alarm sounded, tense up cautiously and seek out the predator that had likely triggered the silence or sound. She was less worried than she might be, for the huge scythe claws on her hind legs were more than enough to give most beasts of prey pause, but she could still be caught unawares. And desperate hunters would try and take even so well armed of prey if the alternative was starvation.

This time, as usual, her journey to the edge of the desert was unhindered by the big hunters that roamed these lands. She rarely had a major run in with them, a fact for which she was quite glad. While she was capable of inflicting serious injury on one who came after her, and was willing to accept that such was the cost of keeping her own life, it still troubled her Healer's soul to inflict harm on anyone. But for the sake of her life or that of her patient she would do it, no matter how much her heart ached as a result. And sadly...even were she to then track down the one she had injured and attempt to heal them they would likely repay her efforts by resuming their attempt to eat her. Thus she sought to avoid such confrontations whenever possible. Towards this end her tiny size was both help and hindrance. Help because it made it easier to avoid detection; she was small enough to hide behind things that a normal sized Sam would never be able to. Hindrance because...well...once they spotted her far fewer predators considered her too threatening to go after. At least not until she'd made a few slashing leaps to demonstrate her claws and ability to use them. And that burned extra energy, something you needed to conserve.

But here in the scrublands that bordered the desert? Oh, here was a feast for starved eyes. And bellies come to that. As much a thing of beauty as a desert oasis or the gemlike flower of some of her favorite cacti, though in a different way. Yes, she knew that further from the sands the entire world was in shades of green and you could hardly find a place to rest your gaze that didn't have some plant growing. And that was beautiful too. The entire natural world had its own beauty, really. But after so long staring at sand she was delighted to be back among more growing things, more life. Even if it did come with rougher ground underfoot and more stones to avoid wedging in her hooves. But still, even that could be countered by the fact that it didn't slide underfoot and try to throw you to the ground as much as loose sand could.

With that thought she suddenly picked up her pace, shifting to a canter as she moved across the scrublands, still with no real destination in mind. Here you could afford to waste a bit of energy on running for the sake of running, for here plants and water were far easier to find. Whole patches of the rough ground were covered with coarse wiry grasses, cacti still dotted the area, even a few scrubby trees! For a time she traveled in short bursts of cantering, even gallops, interspersed with moments where she stopped to frisk; bucking and rearing like a silly foal again. She traveled all day, for here the sun was less punishing, more friendly, and the light was welcome, and began to seek a place to stop as the sun began to sink down to touch the horizon. Away from the desert she was so familiar with Healer was more cautious about traveling at night. These, more so than the desert, were the lands of hunters and scavengers, and she preferred to travel when she could better see.

By now she was in a land where the ground began to rise, forming the first foothills of distant mountains, so distant they were little more than grey smudges in the distance, easy to mistake for constant cloud cover. Small outcroppings of rock had long ago burst forth from the ground here, ranging from jutting pillars to huge plateaus, some of which had been worn by time and weather to where canyons formed. As she traveled Healer checked those, both for signs of predator dens and for water sources that she might camp beside. Deep shadows filled this region as the sun sank, each rock casting its long shadow, bringing an early night to the ground below. Healer was beginning to despair of finding a good place before complete darkness fell when she suddenly heard voices. It was nearly impossible to tell where they came from as the stony surroundings bounced the sound around, sending echoes chasing in all directions, but the sound brought Healer to a dead stop, tears pricking at her eyes.

But not for sorrow, not by a long shot. No, the tears were for joy, and she felt slightly embarrassed to be standing here listening. For the voices were raised in song. No, in Song. A love Song, a pair's Song, filled with joy and devotion the depths of which went beyond simple words. These two, whomever, wherever they were poured their hearts into this wordless Song as they reaffirmed their commitment to one another. While the Song went on Healer stood as though frozen, ears lifting to catch the last lingering echoes as it wound its way to a close. Long moments past after it ended before she shook off her hesitation and began moving once more. For underlying the joy in that Song was something that woke that tugging need deep inside and set her seeking the singers. Such joy as that should not be shadowed by sorrows and pain. Just what lurked below she couldn't tell. Only that there was need. And where there was need of her, she would help. She must. To do otherwise was...unthinkable. So she would find them. Once more she had a goal, a task, and she would not fail.

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 Post subject: Re: A Healer's Tale
 Post Posted: Mon Nov 05, 2012 5:15 am 
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Ooh Ori this was beautiful! <3 I really like your descriptive words throughout this...I'm a sucker for imagery.

I also like how you left it kind of open-ended- and it fits with the idea that in the future you might breed Healer with Searing in exchange for helping Hiss. You did awesome! ^^

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 Post subject: Re: A Healer's Tale
 Post Posted: Mon Nov 05, 2012 3:05 pm 
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Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. I hope to have another chunk done by the weekend, but we'll see how much writing time I have this week.

And open ended, yes indeed. This wasn't meant to be so much of an end as a convenient breaking point where it wrapped up enough to post. A good place to pause I suppose. The next section I intend to write if the characters cooperate...is indeed the setup for that breeding.

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 Post subject: Re: A Healer's Tale
 Post Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:53 pm 
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((So, I was reminded today that this was left hanging when I got sidetracked away from finishing. I do have another section that I hadn't posted since it ended midstream...but since I'm not sure when I'll get back into the swing of this and write more, I'm just going to go ahead and post it, even if it does cut off might in the middle of a conversation. So, enjoy another segment of story.))

Even though the desert air shouldn't have carried the Song any great distance, Healer had still not found the source when her energy ran out for the day. Reluctantly she concluded that she would have to stop and sleep and rest for the time being and hope that the singers were at least staying in the area for a few days. Perhaps even lived her. After all, while the desert itself almost required a nomadic way of life since few oases could support a permanent population, the scrubland was rich enough to allow a more stationary and stable living arrangement. Tomorrow she promised herself, tomorrow she would continue her search. But for now, she needed to find a safe place to sleep.

Turning her attention away from signs of life or inhabitation she looked anew at the various fissures and canyons, nooks and crannies that dotted the landscape. It had been so long since she had spent much time in this sort of a place, it took her some time to recall what she should look for. Small; small openings were good. Her petite frame would easily slip into smaller spaces than the more dangerous predators. Little things like lizards and even scorpions wouldn't bother her too much. Just as well since there was no place she could fit that they couldn't follow. But she was too large and uninteresting for them to bother for the most part, so long as she didn't step on one by mistake. Snakes...best avoided. Cooler, shadowy places were usually good, but not always. But so long as there were no slithery tracks indicating that a place was a snake's chosen lair for the hottest day she should be safe. Here...the snakes might not even want to hide from the sun at any point in the day actually. A source of water or some leafy greenery would be nice, but she could do without if need be.

It took looking in a half dozen or so places before she found one that she was content with. The opening was narrow, small enough that her lifted ears brushed against the roof of the entrance tunnel, and she could hear the faint sound of her beads and pouches hitting and occasionally scraping against the tunnel walls. This tunnel went on a good few body lengths before suddenly opening up into a tiny little pocket valley, almost a bubble in the stone with a narrow strip open to the sky above. There was water, and plants as well, though mostly moss. That was fine with her. Moss made a rare fine bed, it was nourishing, even if the taste was bland, and unless she missed her guess at least some of it was a variety she would happily tuck away in her packs. Wonderful stuff to pack into wounds and help keep them clean. Higher up on the wall, closer to the light she thought she saw the spiky shapes of aloe as well, but she couldn't be sure in the fading light. Clearly she was going to have to examine this little shelter a bit more closely in the morning before she left. But for now it would do nicely to curl up in.

A little hollow near the back of the cave-like canyon proved to be a very comfortable little bed. So comfortable, and sized so perfectly to cradle a normal sized Samanayr, that Healer vaguely suspected that this place might in fact have been formed. The wetlanders had hotsprings that they lived in; this close to the desert a nice cool little cave would be more comfortable. There was no sign of recent occupancy, and the entrance would be a very snug fit for any much larger than she was...but this just might have been someone's home once. The thought of being where generations past might once have lived was rather soothing. After all, no ghosts lingered here, so none of the long gone possible owners of this place should object to it being used once more. With that as her last thought for the day she snuggled down in the cool, soft, moss lined stone basin and slept.

It was decidedly strange, she thought the next morning, to wake up in the dark, in the cool, in the damp. To wake with no sand under you, no grit trying to wedge itself under scales or between hooves. To open your eyes and see stone all around instead of open space, or perhaps some concealing plants at most. Was this what the wetlanders felt like all the time? If so, she didn't think she would like it far from the desert. Oh, she didn't miss the sand working it's way into everything, but this dampness just wasn't comfortable. Combined with the chill of the stone before the sun made it down here and she was actually shivering slightly. Her bed for the night might have been a comfortable surface to lay on, but otherwise she felt that sand was preferable.

Healer stopped only long enough to drink and stretch before she squeezed her way back out into the open. Or as much open as this region of jutting rocks and twisting paths could be. First thing...find some sun to warm up in. Then find breakfast and resume her search for those she had heard singing earlier.

As she began her search, Healer slowly noticed something...unusual. At almost every oasis, seep, stream, pool, body of water in general that looked semi-permanent and large enough to support such a thing, someone seemed to have been recently planting young fruit trees. They were too small yet to tell just what they might be; nothing immediately familiar to her certainly. Not that she was any expert on trees, living in the desert as she did. But it certainly appeared that someone intended to be in the area for quite some time as these felt years away from being mature enough to actually produce fruit. And in a few places she could still see the marks in the sandy, rocky ground where the mysterious tree planter had first dug up the ground and then packed it back in around the trees. Curious... Well, perhaps if she found those she sought they would have the answer as to why these had been planted. From those marks...one of the Kin had been doing the planting...and she had never heard of desert dwellers doing that before.

She spent the next several days traveling through the area, twisting and turning, and she suspected occasionally backtracking over areas she had already covered. Everywhere she went she continued to see those little trees. At least she was in no hurry. She had never been in this area before, and while she searched for those she had heard, she also scanned the area for signs of ghosts to be helped on. Often times in areas new to her she would find quite a few of them, ranging from nearly faded out of the world up to almost intense enough for anyone to see. Here...not so much. Oh, she found one or two, all fairly peaceful as they stood in some favored place that they hadn't been able to bring themselves to leave. But nothing like the numbers she might find in a new stretch of desert. But then, this land wasn't nearly as harsh or deadly either. Perhaps it was to be expected that fewer would die in ways that left ghosts.

On her third day of roaming, as she emerged from a little pocket canyon after sending a dreamy ghost on, she spotted her first living creature, other than creepy crawlies, since coming to this region. At first she didn't notice the form moving in the distance, so caught up was she in pondering this most recent ghost. She almost felt that she should have left it there. But there was no kin, no living thing that this ghost protected. And the only ghosts she had ever left behind were those serving as guardian spirits, no few of which had living relatives who would have objected most strenuously to her attempting to aid them to the other side. This ghost...it had simply desired peace and quiet and a chance to rest from what had apparently been a rough life. And she couldn't say for sure that such existed on the other side. Oh, she hoped that good rewards awaited the spirits once they crossed over, but ultimately until she herself made the journey she wouldn't know. She sent them over because they belonged there, not here, because for most there was better than here, because whatever twist on a Healer's powers granted her the ability to see them also insisted that sending them on was needed. Her thoughts and questions were suddenly interrupted by the sudden distant trumpeting of a stallion.

Startled, Healer stopped dead in her tracks and scanned the area. Without hearing it raised in song it was hard to tell, but that voice sounded vaguely familiar. Could her luck be this good? It still took her a few moments to find the source of the sound. In fact, she noticed the rising cloud of dust before she saw the desert colored figure creating it. Even as she spotted it the runner slowed from a gallop to a trot, then paused some distance away, one forefoot raised and nose extended curiously. His eyes were alert, but friendly, his ears were up with interest, nothing about his pose suggested that he was a threat or that he considered her to be one. As he noticed that he had caught her attention he smiled and continued forwards at a walk.

"Gyreetings styranger. Beg payrdon, Healery. What byrings you to these payrts? We seldom see tyraveleyrs thyrough heyre. Not that you ayre less than welcome. Indeed we would be honouyred to host a Healeyr foyr a time if you wish to yrest a while. Would you cayre to come to ouyr canyon and yrest, peyrhaps shayre any news that you might h-"

The striped stallion stopped short abruptly, only a few paces from ramming right into Healer. He stared down at her, eyes wide with shock at finding her so unexpectedly close. She smiled slightly as she tilted her head back to look up at him. It wasn't the first time her tiny size had thrown off those meeting her for the first time. It didn't bother her at all; in fact she was rather amused by how often that little mistake happened. And no harm had been done. As he bowed, dropping to his knees and beginning to form an apology she tossed her head and cut him off.

"Yes, yes, I know I'm tiny. These cliffs don't mess with peyrception as badly as the deseyrt does, but you'yre hayrdly the fiyrst to be confused. I'm quite used to it and no hayrm is done. I would be quite happy to spend some time in youyr canyon, oyr neayr to it. I have no set goal foyr when oyr wheyre I need to be. In fact, I think I may have been looking foyr you. But...we?"

She looked pointedly around to draw attention to the fact that there was no other in sight. As she returned her attention to the stallion he scrambled back to his feet, broad hooves easily gaining purchase on the rough ground. Bobbing his head slightly as he recovered himself he slowly answered her, seeming a bit taken aback by the thought of her looking for him.

"I...eyr...I am soyrry still Healeyr. And we will welcome you gyreatly, foyr as long as you wish to stay."

He paused for a long moment, eyes showing worry as to just why she might have been seeking him out, before continuing.

"We...oh yes, my deayr Hiss seldom joins me on my moyring yrun. She lacks the wandeyring hoof and pyrefeyrs to stay at ouyr spyring while I check the tyrees. I only have a few moyre to check on foyr today. Would you cayre to accompany me to visit them befoyre I yreturn?"

She tilted her head and grinned, while thinking that there was one mystery at least partially solved. She knew now who was planting those trees. Just not...why. But she could ask. At her nod the stallion set off at a slow canter which she easily kept pace with despite the drastic difference in the lengths of their legs. As she followed along she took advantage of the opportunity to ask him questions. Nothing particularly personal yet, nor questions about his mare. Those could wait until the mare herself was present. No, she was curious about this land, and particularly about the trees.

"I did notice all the young fyruit tyrees in this ayrea. Those ayre all youyr doing? It seems like an odd thing to do...why?"

For long moments the stallion hesitated. When she looked over and up at him he seemed confused and thoughtful.

"The tyrees...they ayre mango tyrees. Something I discoveyred closeyr to the deseyrt's edge, neayr wheyre the woyrld tuyrns gyreen back when I was couyrting my deayr mayre. The fyruits ayre veyry good. Hiss adoyred them, I am veyry fond of them. We planted the seeds fyrom those fiyrst fyruits I byrought back in the canyon wheyre we settled. Then lateyr we thought to spyread them moyre so otheyrs could enjoy, and we would be able to find them moyre yreadily. Is it wyrong to do this? I did not see hayrm in planting them; theyre is wateyr enough to suppoyrt them heyre..."

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