Dawn was breaking. The sun was obscured by a thin white layer of clouds overcasting the sky from horizon to horizon. Many trees in this northern part of Falwood and this time of year were shed of their leaves, their branches naked and gnarled, like strange capillaries reaching for something unseen.
Hahnah had been following the priest and his adherents. The human priest and his human adherents. She had been following him for two days now. And she knew that he was a priest. On the first night when she had approached their camp she heard him talking to his followers. Her desire to slay them had been, strangely, stayed by her curiosity when she heard his words. She still had that desire now. But first she wanted to follow. Covertly follow him and see where he and his adherents were going on this "pilgrimage" of theirs, and what they would do once they got there.
She had been following the priest even this morning at first light.
But something caught her eye.
A cocoon. Hanging off the edge of a low-hanging branch of a tree she would have, if not for the faintest movement of the cocoon, passed right by. Hahnah saw the cocoon and she immediately knew what it was. Her elven caretakers had shown her this before, the emergence of a butterfly from its chrysalis. It fascinated Hahnah to no end: how one creature could enter into a cocoon, time would pass, and a different creature would emerge. This never failed to fixate her mind with a host of questions and wishful desires.
A tear opened in the milky white cocoon. Hahnah inhaled with wondrous anticipation. She bent over with her hands on her knees and peered more closely at the cocoon and the stirring butterfly within. The tear in the cocoon spread further. An orange, black, and white spotted wing emerged. Then with a quick jostle the insect came forth and clung upside-down to the empty shell of the cocoon. Hahnah gasped with a reverential awe. Orange eyes watched the first flaps of orange wings.
Hahnah, with care to try and not scare the butterfly away, lifted her right hand and extended her index finger and slowly...slowly...inched it forward toward the insect. She gently touched its wings. A small flutter of reaction, but the insect did not fly away. Hahnah touched them again.
Then the butterfly flew about briefly. And landed on Hahnah's finger.
Hahnah let out another gasp, this one shuddering with an exuberance she knew she had to restrain. Hahnah stood up straight, placed her other hand over her heart and held the finger with the perched butterfly close. She was blushing with joy, smiling without end, overcome with simple emotion and in that moment forgetting about the human priest and his followers.
"Welcome back to Arethil. You have very beautiful wings."
The butterfly's antennae bristled. It flexed and stretched its wings. It did not respond, and Hahnah knew that it would not--yet she said what she had said and meant it regardless.