A journey that starts in tears can end in laughter.
— Fox of the Gossamer Nights
Linsan couldn't help but smile as she walked along the dirt road. Everything felt right in that moment: the afternoon sunlight filtering through the canopy of trees, the crunch of dirt underneath her boots, and the love of her parents who had seen her off on her adventure. She had dreamed about heading out on her own so many times, she couldn't believe it had finally happened.
She caressed the violin case hanging on her shoulder. It was a modified case designed to be opened and the instrument pulled out with one hand. The inventor had a similar talent to her own, he could use his fiddle to create storms. He was a mercenary for many years before he retired but the side-loaded case was one of his legacies. It didn't matter to her, the opening was still exotic to her. She kept toying with the latch. The smooth metal flipped open and snapped close with her footsteps.
Reaching one of the many curves of the winding road, she flipped open the case and delved her hand into it. Her hand caressed against the smooth, warm wood of the Sterlig violin. Her fingertips tingled as she drew her hand along the body of the instrument.
A warm breeze blew past her. With it came the smell of wood smoke. With it came the memories of the bank burning around her.
The smile faltered on her face.
Linsan wasn't supposed to be enjoying herself. This wasn't an adventure to see the world. It wasn't a fantasy that she had been dreaming about for years. There was a reason she was on the road, a purpose for the supplies on her back and the violin underneath her fingers.
The breeze that tugged her hair no longer felt warm and comforting. It stunk of smoke.
Trembling, she looked at the road ahead of her. The league to the next village seemed like a thousand miles. A distance she could never make on horse or car, much less on her own two boots. The world was too big for her and she was doomed to fail.
Linsan shook her head and fought the urge to cry. She wasn't even a mile beyond her family's valley and she was already considering giving up. She shook her head again and closed her eyes tightly, fighting the fear that clawed at her heart.
Her hand caressed the violin. The warmth helped a little.
“It's for Duncan, right?” she whispered to herself.
The smell of burning rose around her. She glanced over the trees to see if she could see smoke but there was nothing but blue skies and white clouds. The day that was beautiful only moments ago remained in place, hidden behind her guilt.
“For Palisis?” Linsan wasn't sure why she was on the road anymore. Slowly, she looked back over her shoulder toward the way she had come. It was home back there, a valley she knew and a town she had grown up in. Her parents would understand if she came back. They would return the Sterlig and the pain of Duncan's death would eventually fade.
Turning back, she forced herself to take two steps and line up her feet toward the next village. She had to keep going. It didn't matter how long it would take, no matter her doubt or struggle. She had to keep going.
“For both,” she said and took a step.
The leaves above her rippled, sending motes of sun dancing along her skin. She carefully closed the violin case and snapped it shut.
Linsan took a deep breath and took another step. “For my parent, my family.”
The next step was easier.
She was on an adventure but also a mission. She had seen enough of her mother's plays and read her father's stories. There were going to be joys and tears ahead of her. As much as the dire hunt had to continue, she had to also give herself permission to laugh.
Breathing easier, she continued on her way.