The forest was a riot of sound, and it and all of its creatures welcomed her.
A distant smile touched her full, lush lips, painted as violet as flower petals, and she reached out her long, bejeweled fingers to feel the viridian velvet of the plants.
Here, more than anywhere else, was home, and the rightness of it settled into her bones. The skull headdress upon her proud forehead gave her a look that was almost menacing, but her aura spoke of something else: peace, and magic; it hung like a rosy-pink veil around her body, casting her pale skin in warm light.
One by one, animals melted out of the trees and foliage, brushing the shaman’s fingers, hips, any part of her skin that they could reach, and she let out a quiet, musical laugh that seemed to stir the woods into full waking.
She lifted her head and spoke to the sky, to the world that had welcomed her as its own.
“Thank you, Mother Earth and Father Sky, for your endless bounty! I cannot express in mere words how pleased I am.”
Revered though she was in the village, she could not quiet the voice inside of her that simply demanded: more.
More of what, she did not know. When she was busy in the village, healing, midwifing, giving advice, overseeing marriages and separations, it was quiet, but not silenced.
And how could she run to chase phantom desires, when so many people actually needed her?
But that could not stop her dreams, the endless visions of running with her feet to the earth, feeling the wind stroke cool fingers through her long hair, the trees parting for her, freeing her from her duties…
The conflict was a storm inside of her heart, one she feared would build into something she could not suppress.
Part of her belonged to the village, and the other belonged to the great unknown, and she could not even begin to know what it was she really wanted.
She walked until she came to a clearing, a meadow full of bright flowers and a small, bright pool of water. She sat down at the edge of the pool, then sank into it, fully clothed, and she sighed, leaning her head back and closing her eyes.
Here, she could pretend that nothing awaited her; that she was an entity of the gods and the world they ruled.
She had no idea that in the trees, undetected, someone was watching her.