The Hermitess

 There is an island at the center of a different universe. On it lives a hermitess — one of the old sort. She has seen many things, though she has never left the island, for in her hut sits a scrying bowl. And she has looked down into its surface often.

    It is a day that appears no more than any other when she casts ink over the placid surface of the bowl, shifts her gaze onto the ebony surface, and sees the thing that makes her weep. It is a child alone in an attic, hugging herself to her chest. It isn't the cheek pressed against knees that causes the hermitess' tears. It isn't the bruises or the dirty hair or the hollowed contours of the child's face. It is the too-quick tattoo of the heart and the haunted look that is only found in the face of the resigned. It speaks of horrors that lay below the attic.

    The hermitess does not choose what she sees. She cannot do so. That has never been the gift. From time to time, she helps those she can, summoning small amounts of power to offer ease, a breath of joy, a moment of quite, a hint of contemplation. She cannot help everyone, nor would she if she could. There is a time, a place, a moment to offer aid. But, for this little one, she summons all the power she can — it is little enough — and breathes it onto the child.

    The heartbeat does not slow.

    The haunted look does not fade.

    But a spark appears in the child's eye; it turns resignation to resilience.

    The hermitess feels her strength wane. Her scrying bowl splits in two. Her time of watching has come to an end. 

    She carries on, for she has nothing to regret and many other things to do on her island.

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