Reign of Winter
Out Damn Spot
Baba Yaga’s chicken hut was surprisingly quiet. It seemed like a lifetime ago they had set off towards the temple during the Sunwrought Festival. In reality it was only little over a month. Now that they had a seemingly safe place to rest for a while, everyone was doing some reflecting.
Katarina had been keeping busy since she entered the hut, but there was now nothing more to do. She looked around for a distraction from her thoughts but saw her companions engaged with their own activities. Morgan was speaking animatedly with Greta and leading her through the things he had found in the hut. Katarina was sure he had found about a dozen things he could use as weapons by now.
She thought about seeking out Solveig. Surely the Cleric of Milani could help her with what happened after you have risen up against your oppressors. Solveig was speaking softly with Traiel. They looked happy. Katarina didn’t want to disturb that.
Saint Wyran, she thought. Of any of the group, he would understand what she was feeling, He had worked with the Heralds for a long time and would be able to reassure her that killing Nazhena and destroying the Pale tower was the right thing to do. He was meditating in one of the side rooms. He had a light shining around him. She figured he was communing with Iomedae. That was not something she wished to interrupt.
She briefly made a move towards where Raelthorne was brooding in the corner. Once upon a time she would have discussed this openly with him, once when he was Delithan. The night he had come to the Pale Tower he had reminded her that he was no longer her friend Delithan, neither was he friendly Marcus. She moved towards her pack and started to remove her Teachings of Milani. Surely she would find Solace at her actions within.
Katarina slowly turned the pages but her mind was unable to calm, unable to process the actions that had ended her master’s life. She kept seeing the blood spatters across the sleeve of her clothing. That was Nazhena’s blood, arterial spray from where Katarina had ended her life. She moved towards the washbasin and started to scrub, to remove the evidence of her actions. No matter how hard she scrubbed, the blood spatters would not come out. They would not come out of the sleeves of her dress, nor could she remove them from her hands. She scrubbed harder.
Algernon had spent his time in the hut annoying the Keeper. He had hopped everywhere that it was, moved the small things around in the hut, perched on the end of its broom and generally made a nuisance of himself. He was mostly oblivious to the pain and confusion radiating through this bond with Katarina, until the Keeper threatened to make Puffin Pie for dinner that evening. Algernon thought that it was about time he found something else to do. Once he was unoccupied, the feelings coming through the bond started to beat down on him.
When he was just a chick, before he really became a familiar, he remembered visiting Delithan in his cell with Katarina. He also remembered the fish that Marcus brought him. Somehow in Katarina’s mind she thought of Marcus and Delithan in the same way. Strangely to the small bird, it felt the same way she thought of the new man, Raelthorne. They were clearly not the same, Marcus had brought fish, an important distinction. Katarina thought some strange things sometimes. Still Algernon needed a human to help her and Raelthorne was here, Marcus and Delithan were not.
Algernon sought out the dark-haired elf and tried to get his attention.
Raelthorne had removed himself from the others in the house. He could feel the hatred radiating from the ones called Morgan and Traiel. He understood their hatred. It was nothing he didn’t feel for himself. His plan had failed and in a moment of weakness before death he had paid a terrible price. He was now a protector and herald of Baba Yaga, when once he had thought to kill her.
A small movement across his field of view distracted him. Katarina’s small puffin companion was dancing back and forth in front of him. In Raelthorne’s mind a confusing array of images flashed, he saw himself but not himself fishing and then bringing the fish to the bird. He saw the smile that that brought to Katarina’s face. Raelthorne did not know who the fishbringer was, nor when in his many lives it had been.
The little bird was certainly persistant. When Raelthorn did not acknowledge his presence he hopped onto his shoulder and started to pull his hair.
“What do you want little bird” Raelthorne said as he reached out to move Algernon off his shoulder.
The contact with the small bird caused a different run of confusing memories to run through his head. This time though they appeared to be from the little familiar’s point of view.
Raelthorne saw the man bringing fish, then a pale elf in a cell. This was followed by his own face. This pattern repeated itself broken only by vision of the elven witch. Raelthorne was not a patient man. He decided that he would try to speak with the little bird. He recalled words in a flash of memory that would allow him to do this. The messages from the bird became clear.
“You, help Katarina.” At this the communication became pictures again. He saw the witch desperately trying to scrub something from her hands and clothes.
His own confusing memories returned as the bird stopped its communication. He remembered that the young witch had been important to him. They had been friends he thought. It had certainly seemed to him that night he had approached her in the Pale Tower, that she thought well of him. She had been kind here also, healing him when her other companions thought to leave him.
He rose and followed the bird to where the witch was
Katarina continued scrubbing, ignoring the noises which now were audible behind her. She had to remove the blood from her hands, remove the murder she had committed. She felt strong hands take the cloth and soap from her hands. Those same hands then turned her from the sink.
She tried to pull away.
“I have to remove the blood, I murdered my master. She was right when she told me I would be nothing without her. Elves do not like witches, I would have been an outcast to my own people without her teachings”
An uncontrollable urge to gather the small elf in his arms overtook Raelthorne. The memories which floated around in his head in no particular order, urged him on and this time he did not fight them or try to make sense of them. He pulled her to him and embraced her.
“Nazhena was an evil woman. She treated you as a slave for 40 years, killed your friend, and only taught you the ways of the witch because you were a pretty little party favor. You made the world a much better place when you removed her from it. Never forget that” he stated emphatically. “No matter what actions you took, they were necessary. Remember do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful cycle of tyranny; rather, serve one another to repair what was once broken. A calm must always follow the storm. This is now the calm. Your actions went a long way to start to repair what was broken.”
Katarina had begun to calm and relaxed in his arms.
“You are right. Her words were designed to make me doubt my actions. She did deserve her fate. Most of what I learned was done on my own. Thankyou”
The swirl of memories in Raelthorne’s head pushing him to comfort the witch stopped. He released her and stepped back.
“You are most welcome. I look forward to continuing the fight alongside you”
Katarina withdrew from the room and threw the bloodstained dress into the roaring fire.