Estimated reading time: 21 minute(s)
Summary: Kitsune are a curious bunch. You do not find a Kitsune. It is they, decide when to hide and when to reveal. Or, three times Taran did not let Lann catch her, and one time she did.
Notes: To Oli. Taran is their OFC Commander. (Kitsune/Azata/Chaotic Good).
Life is an amazing thing. It not just gives exactly what you fear, but also has something waiting to ambush you around the corner when you least expect. Lann thought. First I lost my ship and half of the crew on the arctic sea, then we ended up in the northern tip of snow-covered Forest of Spirits. Isn’t that just perfect recipe for a winter wonderland vacation? Where is my extra thick winter fur coat? And my abundant supplies?
And all this trouble, for what?
There would be better time for whining. He thought. Right now I have my duty to the survived crew. He relieved the young sailor (was she really honest about her age when she signed up?) for the night watch.
Lann sometimes was amazed by the fact that he still managed to get people working on his ship. Apparently, he had acquired quite a reputation among Golarion sea captains. And not just because of his legendary archery and his good looks. They said that he was bad luck, because the ever faithful traveler’s star never shone when he was aboard. That mongrel would lead you astray. Without blessing from Desna, his fortune would disperse, his ship would sink, his crew would became fish’s food. Run away when you still have time, because, for a cursed traveler, even the spring of immortality could not deliver them from their suffering.
It had not been true, well, not until this point. Lann stoked the fire, thought absentmindedly. They sung in so many ballads that a honorable captain should go down with their ship. A true heroic death. Something he had wanted so bad long before.
Told you so. Life is an amazing thing. It ambushed, it snatched, it plundered, occasionally, it would truly give you something back, something you had wanted it so badly, but only when you did not care about it anymore.
If he was honest with himself, he had felt tempted for a brief moment. Just a brief moment. He knew that either hypothermia or drowning was not a nice way to die, but it also meant that he finally reached his journey’s end. Regret or anger, Pharasma’s judgement probably would purge all what made of him from him. If he could just let himself go …
The dark icy waves almost look like caresses if you were not in there. When his ship sunk, Lann casted a glance to that corner of the sky. Nothing was there except the ever shifting sea mist against velvety darkness.
So he snapped back, then dragged another struggling sailor onto the life boat. They managed to reach the rocky shore before they all froze to death on the life boat.
I would have given up if I saw you there. Lann shivered, not entirely out of cold. He stumped his feet, trying to shake out the biting numbness.
Those superstitious seamen were right about him on one thing. He was not entirely on good terms with Desna. Not in the sense that the goddess had cursed him, but she might as well do it. Lann remembered that shared dream shortly after the Worldwound was closed. In that dream, he watched Desna shedding her tears and putting that damaged soul into the night sky. Everyone who fought alongside with the Commander were there. That was also the last time he saw Anevia. She was standing in the shadow, avoiding everyone, but when Lann spotted her, she curtly nodded to him.
Now you understand what it felt like.
He had wanted to talk to her, for all these found and lost with Irabeth, but it must be different. Irabeth kept her oath till the end, but Taran … after what they had been through, he felt cheated. She had persuaded him out of the idea of a dead hero on the cave wall, and the next moment she just decided to throw herself in.
Life is such an amazing thing, isn’t it?
If it had been her intention all along, Taran hid it well. Kitsune were not exactly famous for their honesty, but Lann had trusted her, first as an ally, then more than that. Back in Drezen, Lady Konomi, once in one of her private conversations, subtly hinted that the Commander, despite being her distant kin, was “under-civilized and untamed at least.”
Lann almost laughed when Anevia recounted this, but Taran simply sniggered. “I grew up in a forest, not in a fucking palace, what else did she expect? Your wealthy sugar daddy may be powerful in this land, but there are places where his ditches cannot reach. Not that I mind ditches, though.” She meant Abadar. Typical mercenary foul mouth.
She was that type of adventurer walking out from his childhood stories. After they came out from Areelu’s laboratory, Taran grinned to him. “We’ll need to find you a better captain hat.”
“I would rather not talk about it, Commander.”
Lann could tell now that she had meant no malice but only spoke with fond and affection as one fellow adventurer to another, but back then he had not see it. He had believed that Areelu’s magic was simply meant to expose his weakness, to break him with something he had treasured then lost forever. Lann knew well from his experience that sentiment and hope could kill.
Taran did not stop there, Taran just kept dragging him into yet another mess. In the end, she had really got his hope high up. Lann thought bitterly. Before they stormed the Last Threshold, she made that little speech that after this was over, she would leave and travel. Her amber eyes were staring straight at him when she said this, with that up-to-no-good vulpine smile. Most people were cheering at her speech, at the foreseeable victory, but a few close ones shot him knowing smiles. He had learnt that never got your hope too high, so when the disappointment came, you might survive.
But Taran was different, he had persuaded himself, she was not trapped in underground caves most of her life. She grew up in a forest, traveled to the other side of Golarion, and was blessed by the gods. So, maybe, his stoic side finally relented, maybe this was the time for him to have hope and keep it.
And then they stood before Areelu. Lann saw the witch’s contorted, anguish face when she revealed the truth. The shared face of mothers who lost their children. He knew that face too well. The angst, the hatred, and deep down, a hollowed weariness. It ate Nia inside out, it fueled Areelu. A rotten gaping wound. But this was no excuse. He thought. What about others? Other parents who lost their children? Other children who had to watch their parents being slaughtered?
Taran was eerily quiet the whole time. Surely she felt the same, didn’t she?
Lann noticed that Taran’s face changed, pained and twisted at first, then became more solemn, finally, as if she made up her mind, softened and relaxed a little. Lann saw that she gave Aivu a few pets on the havoc dragon’s slender neck, and stepped forward.
“That was all very touching, Areelu Vorlesh. But, you see, by the end of the day, we all have to pay the price. If life can truly be measured by numbers, I am afraid that your life is far from enough to cover the bill.” The Kitsune shook her head. “However, suffering uses a different scale. Hell is other people, but abyss lies within us.”
“So, I’ll let you live. You promised.” As she spoke, her face gradually took on a peculiar aspect, as if it became a mere mask – there was something other than the Taran he knew speaking through it. It grinned.
“Keep your promise to me. And see you never, Mum.”
Before Lann could do anything, Taran stepped straight into the wound.
She did not look back.
Back in the Forest of Spirits, Lann looked up again to the velvety darkness. They camped near a clearing, so he could see stars. By now, he recognized most of them, but still no trace of the traveler’s star.
You really got me there. Lann blinked. You really got me.