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Unexpected Harmonics by a_mael
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Author's Notes:
This is a companion ficlet for "On Deaths and Blessings"

Tonight there is no rain to explain his melancholy.  It is not the past pressing inexorably upon his shoulders now, but rather the present.  He lights a cigarette, inhaling deeply as he allows his head to fall back.  The rough bark of the tree he leans against presses into his scalp, but it is not painful.  He exhales in a steady, practiced stream, peering out at the river before him from under lowered lashes.  It is quite beautiful, with the ripples in the water tipped with silver moonlight.


            Silver, a precious metal coveted and hoarded, that can hold no candle to the metal that rides behind him through the long days of travel.  His metal is stronger, softer, and far more precious.  Soft enough to bend, and strong enough to not break when it does, it remains ever untarnished by its contact with the world.  At the same moment that he had broken its shackles, he had forged his own.  Though he would deny it, he has learned once again to have a purpose and a home because of this one bright and shining thing.  


            He casts his gaze about as he smokes, taking in the lush little valley, carved out by the water over untold centuries.  The river's edge is a smooth slope on this side, but a wall of rock thrusts up steeply on the opposite bank.  The evidence of a million years' worth of patient and relentless erosion is clearly visible down its face.


            Patient, relentless devotion travels beside him now, delivering destruction with a smile.  It never hurries, never hurts, simply wearing away jagged edges over time.  It is as gentle and soothing as the water, as it reshapes all it touches, but he knows the truth.  It is as determined and inexorable as death.  It has made a better man of him, though he pretends that nothing has changed.


            A startlingly loud chattering above his head tears through the serenity of the night.  Two squirrels dart down the trunk of his tree, stopping in the grass to play; possibly, it is a mating ritual.  He cannot help but think of an entity that would choose to play, above all else.  It makes sport of all around it as it pursues pleasure at every opportunity.  It works and plays equally hard, and makes no apology for doing so.  It makes others laugh at its foibles and jests.  Annoying and loud, brash and hedonistic, it lightens his heart in unexpected ways, though he would gladly murder anyone who said so aloud.


            He looks again at the moon, which is full tonight, riding above the trees.  A shadow of a smile flits across his lips before he finishes his cigarette.  He crushes it out against the ground, but tucks the filter inside his robes.  He does not wish to despoil the harmony here with something that does not belong. 


     Feeling somehow lighter now, he rises and turns back toward the inn.  His footsteps are quiet in the still night; carrying him back to the people he will not admit he has grown to love.

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