Because he asked so nicely, this is for Josh. It’s unfinished. I’m still not sure where it fits into the whole picture (though from the character interaction we’re talking later on in the story) and I’m still not totally convinced I’ve separated the two world-views out enough, but enjoy…
p.s. – any comments on how art mirrors life, and I will take my revenge by eviscerating you in fiction. I know that I use my writing to work things through. I don’t need my nose rubbed in it :p
She sat there, watching quietly as Luk stirred the fire, making the coals collapse against one another and give out more heat in preference to light. She loved how the amber glinted off his bones, spare with decades of fighting, making them softer; the bones he would have had had fate not stepped in.
“What is it, mei sa?” Luke turned to look at her over his shoulder. “You’re quiet tonight, quiet even for you”.
“Just thinking, ma sona. Thinking what life would have been”.
“Deep thoughts, Je-Je, but why think them? Life is as it is. We have nothing to gain by pondering on how it might have been different”.
“Now who sounds like a Healer, hey?” Jariel grinned. “I know thinking this line won’t get the horses watered, but it intrigues me. How much of life comes because of our actions and responses to situations, and how much was predestined for us. Would I be here to today, the person I am, if a Healer two centuries ago had not fore-spoken my birth and my actions? Or of if the Shantarican had not ordered the death of the Kainapas because of prophecy — would I still be Saiauri? Jariel Janir?”
“You would be who you are”.
Luk got to his feet and walked over to where their saddle packs were slung on a high branch against night-crawlers. He rummaged for a pack of trail bread and split it as he came back to the blankets. He tossed half over to her and flopped back to the ground. “There is no point in wondering what this alternate Jariel would be like because you are here. Those things did happen. The result is the lady who sits beside me, chewing her thumbnail, worrying about things even she lacks the Power to change. You are Saiauri. There is no changing that. You are Fomori and Kainapas. You are respected. You are feared. You are loved. You just are”.
“I worry you miss my point, Rikart Lukam. I am not saying I want to change the me I am now. I am just wondering if an alternate route would still have brought us to this point in time. Fireside conjecture, but I am too much a guide not to wonder about shortcuts and the paths not taken”.
“Mei sa, I am a mercenary, a fighting man. I deal with the enemy and the life I see before me. More than that I cannot manage. I leave the deep thinking and route finding to those better trained for it. But I will say this – I am here with this Saiauri, with this Jariel Janir. I know that it is the she who sits beside me, and she alone who could have brought me over to the Tribes. Factor that into your thinking, dear Guide of my life. If you look at an alternate you, you need to look at alternates of everyone else, and personally? I like the version we are today”.
On that, Luke turned back to the fire, carefully adjusting the pot so it sat in the best cooking coals. Jariel sat and watched him for a long time. Could the mercenary be right with his Northern pragmatism? She was trained to look for the complexities in every argument. Could it really be as simple as making the decision to be the person you saw in the mirror each day and to ignore the “what if’s”?