She comes to me in dreams, half-remembered hazy images of green and gold, the colors of forest, the cool breeze of morning rain. She walks in shaded boughs, her face a mystery. Of course it is. Of course she does. This is how she has lived, how she has survived, through stealth and guile, deception and misdirection. She is craft come alive, wisdom applied to reality, the sharp spear and steady shield.

I don’t know how I first came to know her. Some forgotten moment of some forgotten past. Somewhere. Perhaps I always knew her, but dared not acknowledge that someone like her could exist, could stalk those untamed places. Perhaps I was afraid. She is power, a hunter, swift and merciless and I have never been a fighter. I have hid behind rage and she is the cool of the forest floor, the calm kiss of the morning rain.

But I do know her. I know her gait, the way she studies her prey, no matter the form it takes. She is cautious but decisive in a way I could never be. There! There is the calculation, the thousand thoughts all acting in sync. The speed is breathtaking, more so because I can see it all happen. She allows this, she revels in my observation. She wants me to see her, and I delight in my own terror at being allowed thus.

For who am I to be shown this? Few have seen her, have been granted such visibility, and most of those that still draw breath have seen a vain and foolish young thing, a woman not yet fully formed, not fully come into her own abilities and powers. They have dismissed her immaturity as immaterial, and they are lesser for it, I think. But somehow, I have seen her for who she really is, though the seeing took many years. I am a bard, I am trained observer, a reader of people, and such is her craft that I mistook her for so long.

I am a bard, I say to you. I shall tell you what I have seen, what I have heard. What I dare.

For me, she was fantasy. A wild thing that would flitter at the edges of perception. Something more born of rumor than reality. A powerful woman at the edge of the forest. A refugee, a huntress, someone born of the bustle of normality and convention but defiant of it all. An outcast. Some would say aberration, though who takes much note of the hateful and ignorant?

Still, I cry to you, those voices are loud. Do not give them respite, but if you cannot shut them out, allow me to shut the way with song and word. I am a bard, I tell myself, though I fear it is now a past life. Still, I cry to you, I try, I try.

Allow me to continue.

Reality imposes itself, for better or worse, my friends. The unexplored spaces grow ever smaller, and so it was with my knowing of her. It rarely came in gasping discovery, but rather quiet recollections at the still moments. The last thought of her before my eyes closed. The smile at one of those half-remembered hazy images of green and gold. So it goes, ever on, ever smaller even as I knew her more and more. These are the ways of life, I tell you. The ways we get to know our world, each other, ourselves.

And, oh, yes, she has names. Fear not. Many names. She has been named a thousand times over, but I dare not utter any of them. Not yet, not here. To speak so feels profane, unequal. Her name is on the cool of the forest floor, in the final drops of the rain. She is the hunter in the forest, the priestess of all things forgotten, the woman of the power of defiance. She is the trailblazer, the explorer. The slayer of monstrous things, both material and ephemeral.

This is why I speak of her, why my heart bursts at my knowledge of her. She loves me but I am not hers. This is but the first cracks before the flood, the initial rays of light signaling my coming dawn. I am no more hers than than any of us are to the ocean or the sun. We share in this, revel in this, and though I am blessed to know more, I must share her with you, as I share the sun and the paths and the song.

But what can I say? She is the cool quiet of the forest floor, the last drop of morning rain. Look now, I cry! She begins to stir to shake the world around her with her steps!

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