Kai staggered away from the building atop the chimera, he wasn’t even sure that dropping a building on the beast would stop it, but he was sure it was stopped for now, and he was sure that unless he got out of here, he had tasted his last sip of chai.
He made it a few feet away from the fight, he was exhausted after a 6 hour run. The element of Air had aided his travel, and had been his weapon in the battle, but Kai didn’t know that magic existed that could keep up this level of exertion this long. He fell forward a few feet, expecting not to get up again, but he never hit the ground. 2 pairs of eager arms caught his wiry form before it hit the dirt.
He was vaguely aware of being loaded onto the back of a wagon by a halfling woman, her young son, and Sister Greyla hauling him aboard. He could see through the slats of the wooden walls of the cart, house after house, villager after villager, running for their lives, on the one hand this filled him with sadness, that these people must leave their homes, on the other it filled him with gladness, the people were leaving the danger! They could ride south to Homlet where his friends would make ready the defenses…
Kai passed into unconsciousness almost as soon as the cart started rolling. In truth the Ropper in the cave had nearly been his undoing, but for the chunk it had bitten out of him he had finished it off with so much Ki fire. As he slept he dreamt of unnatural horrors coming out of dragon eggs, The West, his far East, and the Faewyld burning, and he dreamt of a former banshee elven sorcerer sitting next to the Spring Lady trying to assure her that Kai had tried his best, but in the end he had only been a child and a mortal human one, and what could they expect?
When Kai came too they had stopped by a river. He opened the flap in the canvas wall and looked out. Trying to sit up in the wagon was like trying to swim through mud. He made it to vertical, but it took all his strength. Kai spent a few moments breathing his Ki in and out and through himself, then called on the Spirit of Life to aid him. His wounds closed, but the ache was no less. His strength returned but only enough that he could now move limbs that protested at more activity.
Kai pulled himself into lotus position, quieted his mind… He was about to begin when a woman climbed into the wagon beside him. She asked him for water, so of course Kai put on hold his meditations and dug out his waterskin. He also disturbed his brush and ink, surprised to see the bristles splayed and bent, he remembered he had lent it to a westerner, clearly unschooled in the calligraphy brush. He paused for a moment looking at the ink: She’d painted on the hard dragon egg shells hadn’t she? oh dear, the vegetarian monastic order
that created it’s ink from boiled vegetable pigments had never intended them for use as poster paints, he hoped the Sorceress hadn’t had anything important to inscribe….
He offered the old lady his water but to his surprise realised he had misjudged her… Before him sat a beautiful young woman who instead wore the signs of age early; cross feat lined vibrant eyes, who’s brilliant blue seemed to dim and grey even as he looked on, grey hair framed her face in knots as she drank and passed him back the skin.
“mmm pure water, thank-you, it’s been awhile since I tasted it.” she said simply, Kai was about to protest, they had stopped by a wide clear river, but who was he to question his guest?
“if you are who I think you are child, I have something for you as well, may I?” she asked, indicating the fallen brush.
He waved and she began to paint.
“Who do you think I am?” Kai asked, his head still foggy with the exertions of before.
“first child, tell me who I am” she smiled, looking up from her work.
“I don’t know you, your…” but he stopped because although he didn’t not recognize the woman, his Ki connected with her. “…You’re a Spirit, a water spirit, the Spirit of the river there” kai turned and look out the wagons canvas flap as the villages refreshed their supplies even now.
“Yes,” the Spirit smiled “I am Alluvia,I have run through these lands for a very long time” She said, eyes unfocusing for a moment as if looking not at Kai but through him, into the past.
“and I should be offended! Of all the elements you call on to aid you or be your weapons, you have never drawn on water.” She chastised, but the smile on her face was playful.”
“I’m… I’ve never been very good with water” Kai admitted, blushing and looking down into his hands in shame.
“That’s why I am here, to help”
“Help? Help with what?” He asked meekly.“You and your friends are on a quest, I am here to help you so you can help others, protect them from The Hand…”
Kai was confused for a moment, guarded the next; “How… do you know of The Hand?” He asked cautiously.
“Because I am not only here with you child, my fingers, my tributaries, flow down from the far North, north up in the mountains, I know of their movements, because they have killed me…”
The young monk drew in a breath but clearly looked more confused because the spirit went on: “… even now they pollute and despoil my waters with their filth I will soon be a source not of life and refreshment, but only poison… That is not a change I want to make. So I give you this while I can”
Kai looked down at the scroll on the floor of the wagon, his breath caught in his throat, it was beautiful!
“I don’t understand how can you kn….” she cut him off with a finger to his lips
“Men were not the only people to invent systems of self defense child, nor were the peoples of the middling eastern lands the first to fight with the physical and the supernatural”
she rolled up the scroll and slid it inside one of the empty cases the monk kept for future study.
“I hope I have given you something you can use, as…” the spirit stopped now, and cocked her head, looking deep into Kai chest. “Just as she gave you something, the angry ghost”
Kai thought for a moment and produced the comb, it was cold to the touch.
“No Kai, that is only a comb, what she did was teach you…”
“I know… that my actions have consequences and repercussions”
The Spirit giggled, it sounded like a babbling brook “Well, yes, that, but more: She showed you a realm beyond, a world of souls and spirit-fire, where emptiness is physical reality, next time you meet the incorporeal, remember Agatha’s lesson to you as well… young man”
Kai would have said something, but he was asleep, a scroll tube, and a comb, clasped to his chest.