Another groan came forth from the mouth of the elven girl as she writhed in bed, drenched in sweat. Her parents, weeping from a corner of the room, said she had been sick for weeks. They had tried to get help from the hospital of Aenallophos, but their city medicines had failed. They needed a Kaduai shaman.
Cloudstrider Balthustrol began his chant again, the a chant he had made for the past two hours. Dressed in the headdress, cloak, and bangles of his people, he applied more incense and herbs to the brazer before the child. [[Sky Mother! Heal your people, heal with the winds,]] he chanted and sung in Kaduai. [[Abandon not your people, people of the winds, the winds of the Six Directions! Send the spirit of healing, let your people live!]] At last, Cloudstrider felt a spark of life from within. His hands oustretched, he placed the fingers of one hand on the girl's forehead, the others into the hot ashes of the brazier. The couple behind him gasped, first at the sight of his hand in the fire, then at the sight of the girl as her eyes flashed open. A fit of coughing came over her, Cloudstrider's firm hand still holding her head to the pillow. She gave a sudden gasp, then fainted.
The chanting stopped. Cloudstrider gave a deep sigh, catching his breath, then stood, brushing the soot from his hands. "She will live," he said simply, quietly. "Let her rest and make sure she gets plenty of water." He reached into his medicine bag and placed a sachet of herbs on the nightstand next to the brazier. "Mix a pinch of that into tea and make sure she drinks it once a day."
The mother wept with joy and exhaustion, and the father gave a joyous and pained laugh. He kissed his wife and rushed to a cabinet in the corner of the room. He threw it open and pulled out a small pouch. "Please, take this," he said, voice still shaking, placing the bag in Cloudstrider's hand. "It is all we have."
The half-elf felt the weight of the bag and opened it with his fingers. He took the elf man's hands with one of his own and dumped all but a few of the coins into them. "Keep them well-fed and happy," he said, closing the pouch. "Kata Rangi will bless you." The man began to weep again.
Cheff was almost asleep in the tenament alley when the door finally opened and Cloudstrider stepped out, wearing ordinary traveller's clothes with a Kaduai jacket. He stood up quickly and followed the half-elf down the street. "She gonna be okay?"
The shaman nodded. "She'll be fine," he said calmly, breathing in the cooler outside air. "She's awful lucky though, Three-stars. A day later and she'd've been dead."
Cheff wrinkled his nose, itching at his elven ears beneath his toboggan. "It's Cheff now," he corrected. "We ain't in Kaduai Nation."
Cloudstrider snorted, looking the other over. "Y'know, they always say you can take the elf out of Kaduai, but you can't take the Kaduai out of the elf. Guesss that's wrong, huh?"
Cheff sighed. "Epoa's changing, Cloudstrider. Kaduai's got to change too, or she'll get left behind. Us here, we're the new settlers, just as much as the humans on the Outskirts. You oughta know that much as anyone."
"Yeah, I guess so," Cloudstrider said, stretching his arms above his head. They turned the corner of the street and approached the rental stables nearby. "I don't think it's a zero-sum game, though. The world's big enough for everyone, isn't it?"
Cheff shrugged. "We'll see about that, Balthustrol." He dropped a few coins onto the stable manager's counter. "Check under 'Cheff'," he ordered. The bearded man nodded and shouted an order to the younger men in the back. Cheff leaned against the side of the building. "What's your next job?"
Cloudstrider shrugged. "Beats me. Reckon I'll just follow the winds, see where Sky Mother takes me." A shrill cry came from the back of the stable, followed by a yelp. Cloudstrider grinned. "There's Moonwing."
The heavy stable door opened and a young man came out dragging a large hawk by its reigns. The hawk resisted, scratching its talons backwards and straining the cords that restrained its wings. When it caught sight of Cloudstrider, it gave another cry and hopped forward. Cloudstrider took the reigns from the boy who had a large scratch on his forearm. "That's some bird you got, mister," the boy muttered.
"That's a Kaduai sun hawk, kid," he said, smiling at the bird and ruffling the bright feathers on its head. "Best bird in the skies." In a single motion, the half-elf cleric swung his leg over the bird's saddle and mounted himself. Moonwing cheerfully hopped forward again.
Cheff stepped back. "'Preciate the help, Cloudstrider. You at least gonna stay in town?"
Cloudstrider nodded. "Yeah, we'll see if anything interesting happens around here." He reached for the knife in his belt and cut the cords tying the hawk's wings down. Moonwing happily flapped and fluttered, preening her freed limbs. The half-elf steered her into the street with the reigns and looked up just in time to see a huge insect flit across the sky, a small man seated on its back. "See? There's something interesting already."
Cheff grinned and shook his head. "We'll see you around, Balthustrol. Safe winds."
"Safe winds and Sky Mother's blessing to you, Three-stars," the shaman said with a wink. He gave a short whistle and Moonwing flapped her powerful wings. Within moments they were in the air, sailing toward the heart of the city.