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Balance
Author: Keith Haney

Dragonflies moved in darting motions against the milky blue sky. Silverhawk imagined them dodging invisible currents of air. Blades of grass cradled her naked body as she reclined in the afternoon heat. Though her cloak made an adequate blanket, she enjoyed the feel of the cool grass against her skin, mostly ignoring the fabric's finely woven texture in favor of the natural weave of the grass.

As welcome as the unexpected holiday was, she could not completely relax in this idyllic silvan glen. The nature of the pocket-world was all about misrepresenting reality to fool the visitor into believing they were relaxing in some private estate in some northern imperial province.

What is real? she mused. The sky overhead was crafted from celestial ether and the borrowed memories of artisans. The ground below had been summoned from some distant astral island. The water in the lake siphoned from winter's frozen summer home. All to please one wizard's image of perfection. Though this magical place offered numerous comforts, it was out of pace with her ideals. In her heart she felt the subtle missing elements common to her experience of the real world. No clicking beetles eating at the tree roots. larva did not reside on the cool undersurface of the rocks. At first the missing cast of characters was a pleasant surprise. But with each passing day in this pseudo-world she felt the missing members more acutely. She wanted to ignore the absence, but her keen senses would not allow it. Artificial harmony is discord, an aberration of life's balance. The creator of this sanctuary has only included creatures that were deemed beneficial or interesting in his tapestry. Butterflies and crickets had found a place in this fantasy for the benefit of their color and song.

For her to embrace this paradise too warmly would only serve to dull what she had spent a lifetime sharpening. Silverhawk felt the absence of the omitted creatures and fauna like a yawning chasm beneath a rope bridge. Balance was always necessary. Nature was the better judge of this than man. It showed no favor for one creature over another. It applied the rules equally. Nature was peerless in her objectivity. A view she shared and one that represented Silverhawk's inner compass in more ways than she would admit.

 

How could she want for what's real here. Here, where her dreams have become reality, and her suppressed desires quenched. What madness is this? Three days ago I was surrounded by darkness and death, when the bubble pops on this stolen holiday there I will return. It was hard to enjoy the kindnesses bestowed on her by the man she has secretly desired these past weeks. His attention was intoxicating, choking the sands of time with each touch and word of kindness. If she had wished for a time and a place to be with him it would have fallen short of the paradise they now shared.

An unsettling feeling was gnawing at her. Was death so near that he was offering her one last glimpse of happiness to quiet his conscience when he came to call on her? Her eyes welled with emotion. Drawing her arm across her cheek she cleared her eyes. Pushing herself up by her elbows she looked down the gentile rise.

At the waters edge stood her lover. Standing in a cloak and nothing more, he fetched water from the lake. The heat of their recent exchange of passion still tingled in her skin. He glanced up her direction, eyes meeting in a smile. Relax and enjoy. She told herself. There is not, but what is perceived. Her sisters words now her own. Calais was a good man. Honorable, compassionate, nurturing, and loyal. How could she be worthy of his attention. She beleived her flaws leaked from her like water from a sieve. Impulsive, selfish, reclusive, these were not the attributes of the woman he deserved.

Her sister, Taenglewood, had said of him that he was a man of nobility from the province of Astoria. The storied home of the Lighthorse was well known in the villages around Angel's Reach. He was someone of consequence. Born to the mantle of leadership. Who am I to presume to be a match for him. I cannot be what he needs me to be back in his homeland. I know nothing of court and custom.

She turned her focus back to the man she loved. Calais turned and started up the incline carrying a waterskin, dark and dripping with water. She studied his movements both as a woman and a hunter. He was a man like many others, it was his spirit that elevated him in her eyes. A spirit that would never be denied or dominated. He soon stood next to her. She averted her gaze momentarily, shielding her thoughts. Beyond the trees she could make out the roofline of the Leipzig Haus. A thin ribbon of smoke escaped one of the many stone chimnies. The sour-sweet smell of berries baking in a crust floated on the wind.