Vignette - A Lost Voice

Xanadu Weyr - Deep Forest
The wooded areas closer to Xanadu Weyr represent a compromise between man and mother nature, but to the west, no such arrangements have been made. The deep woods between the Weyr and the mountains are less traveled, the wider paths fit for man and beast less present. The noises of mankind are barely audible here, brief ghosts on the wind, and the quiet thrum of forest life presses in on all sides. The snapping of a twig, a bird's cry, the low cadence of insects; all of these things seem louder. Closer. The deeper you move into the trees, the more it becomes obvious that you are passing through nature only at her allowance.

The cover of trees is more severe in this area of the wood and only occasional shafts of sunlight lance down through the canopy, the sky visible in brief patches. A rough path has been blazed to the east, back towards the Weyr, and west, towards the mountains. It does not appear to be a heavily frequented path, but the few who have chosen to pass through this area appear to use it more than other avenues available. Only the very foolish or the very experienced would ever wander far from the path.

She didn’t seek out lunch on her break, but sought out solitude instead, heading deeper into the forest until she found a tree tall enough to lift her out of view and sturdy enough to bear her weight. It was just as well that she’d chosen a trouser and tunic combination that morning, so she thought, or had she been intending to escape for just a little while all along, from the moment she had woken?

Spending time questioning her own intentions and thoughts and mindset was not time well-spent, and so Marel set to climbing instead, slowly and methodically, testing each branch before she swung herself up, sending a steady flow of leaves fluttering down in her wake. Clambering as high as she dared, she pushed herself further, up over that branch and onto the next, where she settled down with her back to the tree’s trunk and stared down at her feet as they swung high above where anyone would look to find her. She tried to find a tune from somewhere to hum in time to her swinging feet, but the notes came out dull and she found that it didn’t matter how much she tried, she just couldn’t force herself to be as carefree as she wished to be.

She was trying to take her own advice and be happy, or the sacrifices that had been made wouldn’t mean anything, yet she found her thoughts would often stray to Tharen, trapped in that Hold with her awful grandfather, or to her father, whom she had too many words for and no way to say them without sounding like an ungrateful, spoiled child. The thought that she should be trying to help or fix him somehow warred with her desire to keep out of his way and remember the father she had known, not this new one that she didn’t want to recognise, which just made it all significantly worse and convinced her that she was a horrible person for not being able to bear it. She should be a good daughter, a good girl, and help him.

She couldn’t.

So, she was trying to do what she could and make her own way. Prove that it hadn’t all been for nothing and she hadn’t been released to a life of idleness, where she was of no use to anybody. It was easier to forget everything when she was at work, when people so often arrived looking for flowers as an answer to their problems or to surprise someone they cared about, and she could get lost in their lives and not dwell on her own troubles. Of course, there would be those who would look at her and assume that she would always get whatever she wanted, because she was her mother’s daughter, and whilst it had been nice to have been kept and to have all of the pretty things her grandmother had given her, she still felt a pang of guilt whenever she looked at them, because what had she done to deserve it all?

Should she have spoken up before she and Muir had been sent away? Would anyone have listened? Did she have a voice that counted for anything, young as she was? Should she have made a scene when Muir had told her what Tharen was doing? What could she have done, with all the decisions made before she’d been aware of them?

Resting her head back against the trunk, she lifted her gaze to what she could see of the sky through the tops of the trees. In a while, she would climb back down, put a smile back in place and be happy.

Yes, she would.

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