5665/To Be an Amazon

From Heroes Assemble MUSH
Jump to navigation Jump to search
To Be an Amazon
Date of Scene: 21 March 2021
Location: Enchanted Forest
Synopsis: It is time, at last. Diana and Donna accompany Caitlin to the edge of the Enchanted Forest of Themyscira, to see her off on a journey of self-discovery from which she will return a true Amazon.
Cast of Characters: Donna Troy, Caitlin Fairchild, Diana Prince

Donna Troy has posed:
    It is said that it was the despair of Dike that lead to the creation of the Amazon nation. The Golden Age was not, as some contend, the Age of Heroes - but the age that preceded it, an age of peace and equality. Then the Mycenaean kingdoms rose up in Hellas. Armed with hard bronze, the new generation of kings in their impregnable palaces became the rich and powerful few, while the many grew poorer in wealth, in freedom, and in spirit. The Goddess Dike looked upon what the world had become, and distraught at the injustices that had enveloped the world she fled forever, to take her place among the stars.

    Five of her sister goddesses conspired instead to return the world to an age of equality, by creating a newer power dedicated to compassion, but able to compete and best any in war. They chose from the souls of women they considered most worthy to form the Amazon nation, and they granted their new champions their boons. Artemis granted them skill at arms and the hunt; Demeter granted them bountiful harvests; Hestia the warmth of home and hearth; Athena the gift of great wisdom; Aphrodite granted them beauty within and without.

    For centuries they fought across the Mediterranean world, bringing wisdom, justice and peace with them. They were fiercely opposed, and over the years their numbers lessened. From time to time they sought to increase their numbers, but it was ever the practise of the Amazons to seek the approval of their original patrons for any new Amazon. Those who selected the first Amazons must select those to come after.

    In the days since the Amazons had been exiled to the island of Themyscira, there has been little need for new Amazons - and yet, from time to time, it has happened. On their island home, a tradition formed for how a potential new sister might prove herself worthy, and achieve the approval of the patrons. Deep in the Enchanted Forest stands a temple so ancient none know for sure who built it, and there, it is said, it is not mortals who speak to the gods, but the gods who speak to the mortals. Only those the gods wish to speak to can even find the place.

    Cassandra Sandsmark is the newest of the Amazons, but that Olympus approved of her had been shown before she ever trod on the soil of Themyscira. It is a very long time since anyone sought the Pantheion within the forest, except one - Troia, adopted by the Amazons, daughter to the queen, yet even she had to prove she was accepted. It is the path she trod, some four years previously, that Caitlin Fairchild now seeks to find.

    There has been no fanfare for Caitlin setting out on this journey. The Queen had granted her blessing; that was all that was needed. Even the other Titans, thinking this no more than a vacation, had not been formally told what was going to happen while they were here. When Caitlin returns, if she returns having recieved the approval of the goddesses, then there will be fanfares and celebrations, but for now there it is all low-key. She is traveling as a supplicant, not yet as a champion. This is the Amazon way.

Donna Troy has posed:
    Though there is no fanfare, Caitlin can't complain about the quality of her companions on the first leg of their journey. She is accompanied by the Queen's two daughters - but more to the point, she is accompanied by her friends. Those who have sponsored her for this, and those who believe, fervently, in her imminent success. Whatever awaits her on this journey, she will start it with those who love her and believe in her.

    The farmlands around the city fall behind the three riders, and stands of trees become more and more plentiful as they cross the grasslands. It is not the nearest point of the forest to the city, but some half-day's ride, into the heart of the island, to where the deepest parts of the forest start. Eventually Troia raises a hand, and the horses come to a halt in a wide clearing in a short way into the forest proper. "I think this is far enough," she says. "I would love to accompany you the whole way Cait, but that's not how this works." She jumps down from her horse, leading it over to a tree to tie his reins loose, and allow him to crop the grass. "We could stay here the night if you like, Cait. And you can start in the morning. It may be easier for you to have a full day of light to start with - though time passes strangely in the enchanted forest anyway, and perhaps you are eager to set out."

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
Caitlin's competency as a rider is more to do with the excellent character of her horse, rather than any innate skill. He's a massive Andravida gelding of even temperament and one of the few horses built on a scale sufficient to accommodate Caitlin. Even the brawniest Amazon in full kit would not tip the scales against the redhead.

"I'd love for you to come with me, too," Caitlin says with a wry tone. A little anxious edge underlies it. With a lot less grace than Diana or Donna, she dismounts and hitches her horse to another tree nearby. "You know how I feel about cold calls on strangers. Remember that time we did that door-to-door fundraiser?"

Cait shivers and rubs her bare arms, looking towards the forest. There is absolutely nothing visibly mystical about it, and yet a sense of un-reality seems to curl around it all the same. She's dressed in an ivory-colored tunic-turned-romper that leaves her arms and legs bare. The pleasant weather clearly has nothing to do with the momentary dread she feels. Her armor is lightweight and more notional than anything, just training greaves and braces with a thick pauldron over her left shoulder. Idyllic though Themyscira is, Amazons are warriors first and foremost, and a warrior is always armed.

"I know I'm not gonna sleep tonight. Lemme make us something to eat, and then I guess I'll get to it," Caitlin suggests. "Otherwise I'll just work myself into a lather waiting for sunup."

Diana Prince has posed:
Diana had never been allowed to explore that deeply in to the Enchanted Forest until she was older and she'd been granted training with the Amazons. It took a long time for her to get the chance to travel in to the forest with a detachment of Amazonian Rangers and when she'd finally had that first chance, it'd been utterly exciting for her. It had been a part of the island that felt foreign, new, uncharted for the Princess that yearned for adventure.

Sure, she'd been in the fringes of the woods, the smaller woodland areas near the farmlands, but never in to the heart of the true forest on the island... she'd been enthralled, especially with the life found within it.

All these years later, the mysteries still enchant her as the name would suggest, but she's seen so much beyond the borders of Themyscira now, let alone the boundaries of Earth itself...

Things feel so much smaller now to Princess Diana.

But, she stillr espects her homeland, and the mysteries and wonders of this forest.

Here and now, Diana is in her armor for the first time since coming back to the island. But she's wearing a dark blue hooded robe over it, her sword and shield are mounte don her horse, Arrow, and she's at the back of the line of their riding party. She pauses as she sees Donna dismounting and tilts her eyes to look past Arrow to her sister, then to the section of the woods they are in. Diana's eyes raise up to look at the canopy above...

After a few moments, Diana is off of her horse and leading him up to Donna and Cait with a small smile on her lips. "We are staying here then?" She asks as she ties Arrow's reigns off to a tree nearby. "It feels as though it will get a bit chilly in the forest tonight." She adds, giving another glance around the darkening environment.

Donna Troy has posed:
    "I was gone three days, when I did it," Donna says. "Though I am sure I remember the sun rising at least five times in those three days. The deep forest is..." She shrugs helplessly, and shakes her head. How to describe it? "It's strange. Perhaps it is not exactly within Themyscira itself. Certainly it can seem far bigger crossing it through the trees than crossing it in the air. It's... it's like the Tardis. Bigger on the inside."

    Oh Patriarch's World, what strange hybrid have you engendered in this Amazon?

    Donna puts an arm around Caitlin to give her a reassuring squeeze. "Then let's eat, and I'll check your arms and armor before you go. You'll sleep tonight sure enough, but once you've tired yourself with journeying, then. There's no point putting it off if it won't comfort you."

    Donna starts to search around the edge of the trees for fallen branches that are nicely dried out, suitable for starting a fire. As she picks up sticks, she continues to talk. "It would be unfair to drive the horses back to the city tonight Diana, but we could carry them and fly. Do you feel up to carrying Caitlin's horse as well as Arrow? Or I could fetch a boat big enough for the three horses and we can just carry them that way. That would probably be easier. Cait... I can't tell you a lot because the forest is so unpredictable. But if you have any last minute questions, now would be the time to ask."

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
"I don't mind the cold," Caitlin reminds Diana. She's already pulling her saddle and bags from her horse and setting them in a neat pile. The big horse almost sighs in relief when she removes the load of rations that counterbalance her warhammer.

Someone long past once built a little fire pit, a cairn of low stones in a circle. It looks like it'll do for the three tonight.

"It's the heat I can't stand. I can always jog to warm up, but it's really hard to cool down if I overheat." While Donna gathers firewood, Caitlin starts preparing some food. A small kitchen of collapsible, space-age materials pops up next to the firepit and she sets about preparing some meat and vegetables as well as some sweet plums common to the island.

She looks up from her task as Donna brings the sticks over. "I thought I wasn't allowed to ask questions," she frowns. "It's supposed to be a big secret mystical thing. Right?"

Diana Prince has posed:
Diana spends a few moments with arrow, giving him some food to eat out of the palm of her hand and brushing his mane along the right side of his head. She glances over at Donna and Cait and shows a grin to the both of them at what they're saying.

"I am in no hurry to return so fast as to need to fly the poor horses up in to the sky." Diana says back to her sister. "I can lead Cait's back if you'd like to fly yours though." She says as she turns to join them, approaching with light steps through the foliage between them, her armored boots showing in glimpses as her dark blue robe sways about her body whilst she moves.

When she approaches the site being prepared, she finds a felled tree to seat herself on and sorts her robe out over her lap as she does so.. "It is supposed to be personal, your journey, Caitlin. A --liiiittle-- bit of questioning is okay. But only just so." She says to the redhead showin gher a grin from beneath the hood still on her head as she places her forearms on her knees and leans forward a little with her hands dangling.

"Do you need any help?" She asks of the fire and food.

Donna Troy has posed:
    "You can ask what you like, Cait," Donna says with a smirk. "I just might not be able to answer." She crouches by the fire pit, assembling her sticks with care to ensure they take the fire well, and sets a blaze of dried leaves and twigs in the heart of them, using a small gas lighter that doesn't look like it's Themysciran manufacture.

    She nods her head in Diana's direction. "As Diana says, it's personal. Which is a kind of mystical thing, when it's truly personal. I cannot predict what will happen when you find the Pantheion, except that you will meet one of the goddesses, and she will speak with you, and that you will learn something about yourself from the meeting that will stay with you the rest of your life. When you come out of the forest, return to the palace and speak only to Hippolyta of what you have experienced. After that, you can talk about it to other people, if you wish. But it is so personal you might not wish to."

    She crouches low by the burgeoning fire, blowing on it with carefully measured breaths to get the twigs burning fiercely, and soon the second layer of larger sticks is beginning to take. She stacks a few larger sticks to be added when the blaze is going strong in a heap by the edge of the fire pit, and goes to join Diana on the log.

    "I can't even tell you what you'll face on your search in the forest, except that it will be strange, and unexpected, and dangerous. And that you are strong, and brave, and will be able to face it. Trust your instincts, and trust your heart, because your heart is good. Do not trust anything else you see in the forest. Even if it appears to be someone you know, because it probably won't really be that person.

    Donna leans gently against Diana as Caitlin prepares food, and reaches to take one of Diana's hands. Diana didn't need the gesture to know that Donna is more nervous than she is letting Caitlin see. "If you wish to ride back, then I will ride with you, sister," Donna says with a smile. "We can go easy on the horses and arrive late. Raven is appalled and horrified by my tendency to rise with the sun when I'm at home, and would probably consider me arriving back in the middle of the night to be a sign that I am starting to see sense."

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
"Ahh.... no, no, I got it," Caitlin tells Diana. It's a little hasty and she pastes an apologetic smile on her face a second later to spare Diana's feelings. "I've only got the one set of cooking utensils anyway, it's fine."

She listens carefully to Donna's advice and remarks. The praise produces a pink in her ears that's visible even in the low twilight. Heedless of the heat, Caitlin sticks her hand in the fire to move a couple of cherry-red logs under the simmering soupbowl so it heats more evenly. Medallions of rabbit meat are sizzling on a metal grill and the plum dish is carmelizing with an appetizing scent.

"I just--" she exhales and sits back, wrapping her arms under her thighs and hugging her legs close. "I don't know what they're gonna ask of me. Or what I have to do, or say. I don't like not knowing what the thing to do is, it makes me feel like I'm back in high school and I've forgotten how to talk like a person."

"That's the thing that-- I mean, I'm not worried about the forest. I've lived with Raven for too long to be weirded out by that kinda thing. But..." She rolls suddenly dry lips in, and bites down with an indent of teeth. "What if I get all the way to the grove and the goddesses are like, 'thanks but no thanks'? Or they don't even... y'know. Show up?"

A worried look flickers towards Donna and Diana. Old insecurities are raising their heads in Caitlin's mind.

Diana Prince has posed:
Diana had raised one of her hands up to rest her pointed chin upon the leather covered palm. The other hand is Donna's to take when she joins her on the log. Diana takes a moment to lay her head on her sister's shoulder affectionately while she listens to Donna talk of what's to come for their friend and companion.

"You will do wonderfully." Diana says then as she takes her head back up a moment later. She looks over to Donna then, before she glances to the way they'd come. "I'd like to check on something before we leave. A place not too far from here. I left something in the woodlands a long time ago, and I am curious if it is still here...

Caitlin's admissions draw Diana's eyes back over to her. She refocuses her stare upon the young woman and takes a second to let the words ettle before she replies.

"Caitlin." Diana says, her smoky voice using Cait's name to steel her following words. "You do know what to do. You only have to be yourself. Your training amongst us will cover the rest. Be yourself. Be nothing else but the kind, strong, smart, and fearsome woman that we all know you to be." She shows a smile to Cait, then a glance to Donna.

"Everything else will figure itself out." She adds then looking between them both with a calm happiness about her demeanor right now.

Donna Troy has posed:
    "It's not a test, Cait. It's a... a sign." Donna flashes a smile over to her old friend. "I don't think you'll have to answer any questions, she didn't ask me anything. It is more likely that you will be told something than asked something. The only thing you have to worry about is your doubts. The journey will not be easy, and the longer it takes to find the place, the easier it will be to covince yourself that you are not meant to find it, and should turn back."

    "But you will find it." Donna stares into the fire, and into memory. "It's not truly a test, Cait. It's a... it's making it official. You are already an Amazon. You have compassion and strength, and greater wisdom than you know. You share our values. You have already grown to love Themyscira. You have proven yourself a hundred times over already, in your time with the Titans. You have helped to save the world, at least three times, and there are few amongst our sisters who could say that. You will prove yourself once more as you travel through the forest, and then you arrive at the clearing and the Pantheion, and you will feel a peace like none you have ever known before, because even before they arrive to speak to you, the goddesses are already there."

    A peace like none you have ever known. A few months ago, when the four Titans trapped in the collapsing wormhole had made their strange transit to that pocket universe, Caitlin had a strange dream of a clearing in the woods, with a small, ancient temple within it. And a sense of peace like none she had ever known. In that dream she had been uncertain of stepping into the temple in that clearing, knowing that it would mean and end to that peace. Yet what peace is not worth turning your back on when the world is not at peace and it needs you? Even the peace of Themyscira could not hold Donna or Diana.

    Donna leans in a little on Diana, smiling as her sister rests her head on her shoulder, taking comfort in the closeness. "Speaking to a god... well, it's strange. But you have no problem speaking to Asgardians, do you Cait. Think of it like that. You will meet someone powerful and wise, and have a nice little chat with them. Though Diana knows more about it than I do. I have seen the gods from afar a few times, but only spoken to one face to face that one time."

    A thoughtful expression crosses her face. "Diana? When Cait and I were in the wormhole, and Cassie brought Kate to speak to the oracle... Kate told me that she thought one of the goddesses actually manifested to them. Did you guys actually see Artemis?"

    "Artemis is the goddess of the oracle here on Themyscira," she explains to Caitlin. "The power of the Oracle, which started with Gaia herself, was passed down to the twins - Apollo in Delphi, Artemis in Themyscira."

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
Caitlin pinks again at the praise and looks away with a sincere modesty. She's not one to brag or boast, and even the kind words from the two sisters seems to be more than she can process. The redhead pats at her hair, realizes the long red braid is still coiled atop her head from the ride, and starts taking it down. In truth she's simply stalling while trying to collect her thoughts-- a habit Donna's known in Caitlin for as long as they've been friends.

"Yeah, but-- that's Thor," she mutters, and moves to a kneeling position near the fire. Food is scooped up into silicone bowls and offered to Diana and Donna. Rabbit stew and plum pudding is nothing terribly fancy, but it's very filling and quite well-prepared. "He wears jeans and stuff. I've seen him do it."

Once the servings are set out Caitlin reaches for her own bowl and fills it up. The biggest inconvenience for the redhead on this trip will be feeding herself. Rations can only go so far in the wilderness.

There's no graceful reclining here. Caitlin sticks her legs out in front of her with a sigh of relief and rests her lower back against the other log. It's enough support to at least help her relax while she listens attentively to the conversation between the two sisters.

Diana Prince has posed:
Diana's eyes grace over the food that Caitlin has swiftly gotten cooking, admiring how Cait is as proficient at the campsite feasts as any Hobbits named Samwise could wish to be.

At Donna's question bout the goddess they witnessed while visiting the Oracle, Diana glances back to her sister and takes the question in before looking away again. "It was unclear." The Princess replies a bit grimly. "Possibly. But if so, she didn't wish us to easily know it. I believe the Queen knows what we saw, but I did not ask her for details. I could see it was a topic she'd prefer not to share in the moment."

The bowls of food being swept over to them has Diana sitting up and moving her hands now to take the bowl. She quietly says 'Thank you." to Caitlin with a big grin before she prepares to enjoy the meal, moving the sleeves of her robe back down her bracers some to free up her hands more.

After a sampling taste, Diana makes an appreciative noise before she looks up to the lounging Cait. "All of the gods and goddesses have different personalities and personas that they present to you when they see you. Some can be as... pedestrian as any version of Thor, others can be... quite unsettling. But, for you, I believe you will experience something that will be between Thor, and between what we saw at the Oracle. Again, it is nothing to worry about." She hopes anyway...

More food is consumed and the Princess motions to it with her spoon. "This is very good." She says, ever the compliments given to the chef who gives her food.

Donna Troy has posed:
    Donna pats Diana on the shoulder as she gets up to get some rabbit stew. "Smells great, Cait," She says with a grin, holding her bowl beneath her nose and enjoying the scent for a few moments before tucking in.

    "I guess the thing to remember about the gods is that they are people. Our gods are not like your God, Caitlin. They're not abstract, they're really quite... human. They have emotions. They get things wrong. They do dumb stuff sometimes. They are people, but they are very old, and very wise, and very powerful. They are like people, just... more. More wisdom, more compassion, more strength. More."

    The events at the oracle seem to be forgotten, fortunately. The queen not wanting to share details of weird mystical god-happenings is not particularly remarkable.

    "I'd be more concerned about the journey than what happens when you get there, honestly. The forest is dangerous. Keep your weapons to hand. Sleep in your armor, if you can bear to. I've packed you a set of belled strings - wind them around some trees and sleep within them, if anything brushes against the string it'll ring the bells. Wrap yourself well in your blankets and don't leave a fire burning at night. Be alert at all times. And have faith in yourself, Cait. I have faith in you."

    Donna smirks slightly, and puts her bowl down to fish something out of her pocket. "Oh... Chara asked me to see that you take this with you." She holds out a gold chain, with a plain gold ring hung from it. "It's too small for your hands, so she had it put on a chain for you. About... uh, five hundred years ago, Chara was very badly injured. She lay in the house of healing and was not expected to recover. Her closest friend placed this ring on her finger as she lay there. That same moon, her friend was on duty at the Doom Gate, and was killed, but Chara recovered from her injuries and lived. Chara believes her friend sacrificed her luck so that Chara could live, and she wanted you to borrow her luck when you're out there on your own. So you wouldn't be alone. Chara's kind of silly, but she's sweet. And she really likes you. It would mean a lot to her."

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
Caitlin's face falls in instant sympathy for Chara. "Oh gosh, that's terrible," she murmurs. The redhead reaches forward and accepts the ring from Donna. Of course she immediately tries to put it on her finger, to no avail. "My hands aren't /that/ big," she grumbles under her breath. The necklace is looped around her neck and tucked under her tunic collar, clinking once against the plain gold crucifex hidden out of view.

She reaches for the warhammer left near her pack and holds the head in her palm, examining it for any marks or scuffs. The Amazonian steel has a mythical quality as well as metallurgical ones, and so far it shows few signs of the heavy use Caitlin's put it to. "Chara /is/ nice," Caitlin agrees. "And I'll take all the luck I can get," she adds. "And the gear, too."

She smiles at Donna, though it's a little forced and wan all the same. Caitlin looks skywards at the first stars peeking out overhead. A few long moments of quiet pass.

"What do you think the boys are doing?" she asks, apropo of nothing. "Back at the Tower, with us on vacation. We've got a lot of new residents there now."

Donna Troy has posed:
    "Making a mess, probably," Donna says with a laugh. "We'd have heard if it was anything more dramatic than that. And don't think that having Dick back at the tower while we're gone will slow them down. Can you believe he helped Gar set up catnip bombs for Terry? He's as bad as the rest of them. Well except for Terry. Terry will probably be destroying all your pans again. Better not take forever, Cait. We need to go back and stop him."

    Suddenly Donna has her arms around Caitlin. She can move really fast when she wants to, but she did at least take the time to put down her bowl of rabbit stew. "Cait... it will be fine, I promise you. You are my oldest friend and I love you, and you are /already/ my sister. And I know you, maybe better than anyone. The goddesses will be proud to acknowledge the truth that you /are/ an Amazon. I promise you."

    Donna pulls away and looks up at Caitlin, smiling her usual big smile. "I believe in you. So does Diana..."

    "It's true," Diana says from her seat, smiling a fond smile at the two Titans.

    "...And so does mother. When I first approached her to ask her if you could do this, she required no persuasion. I told her that in you, Man's World has made a true Amazon. She agreed with my assessment. For three and a half thousand years she has lead the Amazons, and she would know."

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
Caitlin's laughing at Donna's postulation. The wry humor breaks up her flittering self-doubt, and leaves her open to ambush when Donna moves to hug her. The embrace is returned in kind, and Caitlin leans against Donna-- figuratively and literally-- as one of the few people who can support her when she's feeling weak.

"I love you too," she tells Donna with a warm and radiant smile. "And ... thanks. For the pep talk, but for--" she gestures a little fitfully at the totality of Themyscira, looking from Donna to Diana. "For this. I can't imagine my life without this place. Without the two of you."

Caitlin rubs her palms on her thighs, then sighs and gets to her feet. "Well, I guess there's no point in dawdling," she remarks, and starts packing up the mess kit into the nesting containers. It's amazing how well the whole thing compacts, and she adds it to the heavy rucksack near her log. The food's packed up as well, and she offers thirds to both her companions before putting up the leftovers. "I dunno what the rules are, but I'm planning on jogging most of the trip. I can get by without sleep, too. Maybe I can shave a day or two off. Just, uh, don't leave without me, okay?" she says with a forced smile, and shrugs into the pack. The warhammer's gripped close so the weight won't throw off her balance too much while she hustles. Nervous eyes dart to the forest, then back to the Amazons.

"Wish me luck, huh?"

Donna Troy has posed:
    Donna sets about checking through Caitlin's gear and pack. It's always good to have second set of eyes, and useful to have her expertise checking the bowstrings are sound and the shield straps are sturdy. While she's doing this, Diana takes her turn to give Caitlin a hug, before stepping back, a hand on each of Caitlin's shoulders, looking at her with a firm, encouraging smile. "I will wish you luck as you ask Caitlin," Diana says. "But you do not need me to. This is a trial where you must rely on yourself, and in this you are already most fortunate. You are a very reliable person."

    Donna hands Caitlin her pack, and checks the strappings of her armor for her. "A lack of sleep dulls the reactions and the wit. Do not push yourself too far, because you never know when you will need to be at your sharpest. Do not try to rush it, because your journey will take exactly as long as it needs to take. Trust yourself, Cait. Trust your instincts, and they will guide you true."

    Finally satisfied that Caitlin's gear is in order, Donna takes a step back to stand beside Diana, and look at Caitlin. The light of the fire glints in her eyes, betraying a little dampness, but the expression on her face reveals they are not tears of worry, but tears of pride. "We will be waiting in the city when you return, Cait," she says. "I know Mother plans some celebrations, I wouldn't miss them for the world."

    The two sisters stand arm in arm by the horses to watch Caitlin enter into the forest. "Artemis speed your hunt, Caitlin," Diana tells her.

    "And Athena guide your choices," Donna adds.

    "Return to us an Amazon," Diana says, smiling. "As one of the sisterhood of Themyscira, to share the bounty Demeter blesses us with, and share the warmth of Hestia's hearth as you truly call our island your second home."

    "And do not forget that it is not a gift to be granted to you by others, but a recognition the beauty of Aphrodite you carry with you already, outside and within," Donna says. "And God go with you."

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
Gear, food, last advice, and encouragement. It's enough to bring a tear to Caitlin's eye as well.

Last embraces are exchanged and she attends Donna's last words with profound gratitude. Her head bows forward to echo the prayer offered, and she crosses herself as her own thoughts fly skywards. Asking for strength, for wisdom-- and gratitude for having a friend so full of faith as Donna.

"Amen," Caitlin says, and crosses herself. One last heavy breath, a flashing smile, and Caitlin turns towards the forest. The redhead starts walking, then jogging along with a steady, ground-eating pace that she can keep up almost indefinitely.

Or as long as is necessary, at any rate. It doesn't take long for the forest to swallow her up and for Caitlin to be lost from view entirely.