The cooling, salty sea breeze rustles the foliage with a gentle susurration in this more open part of the forest. While the jungle still remains, tendrils extending out over the rocks and vines twining about the trees, it's less sheltered than the steamy hothouse atmosphere of the interior: hotter at noon, cooler at more temperate times. In short, it's perhaps the perfect place to sling a hammock and while away the day, watching the glitter of the ocean in the distance.
The trail continues from north to south, the shoreline curving to meet it.
It is a summer afternoon. Muggy heat oppresses the island in a thick velvet cloak.
Kezia is here.
This far from the weyr there are no prying eyes to spy on Lady Ista and the Headwoman, nor the antics of the three small children that accompany them, though only one can walk. All three are sprawled across a blanket in the shade of one enormous tree, lulled to sleep by the heat of the afternoon and the excitement of a day spent outside in fresh air. Quorra lays curled around Nora's limp form, watching her sleep with the contented fascination only another mother (or a lover of babies) could understand. "Isn't she perfect?"
"Of course." Kezia is easier here, in the jungle, with Quorra, one foot stretched out in front of her and the other tucked up with her toe pointed into the back of her knee. "She really is very good, too." Kezia says this to Quorra several times each time she visits. Her hands cannot stay idle; a piece of thread discovered in a pocket is looped around her palm, again and again. A long look, at the children, to make sure they are truly sleeping, and Kezia asks, "How are things, now, back at the Hold?"
"I'm so glad it's you, that has her. And not some stranger," Quorra says, with obvious regret that she herself can't keep her. Then she'll roll to mirror Kezia's position, though her hands are folded as a pillow behind her head while she stares up at glimpses of blue sky through the gaps between the leaves. "They're fine," she starts to say, faking easy confidence, but she pauses. "It's okay. I don't know quite what Sterling is thinking, but I keep catching him looking at me with this.. this /look/ on his face, like he's thinking about something, but I can't figure out what."
"One day," Kezia says, all quiet hopefulness, starting to unwind the length of thread again. The jungle is rarely quiet, and this close to the edge of the canopy the breeze off the sea provokes constant rustling, swishing, and sighing of the trees. "It could be anything," Kezia is reluctant, however, to assign any exact possibilities. "I suppose - he doesn't really know you so very well, either." She ties a knot in the thread, to make one large loop. "Maybe."
"No. Not very," Quorra agrees, with a touch of sourness. Her sigh sounds just like that breeze sighing through the trees. "I know he wishes I was Qil, instead of me. But I'm not, and I won't ever be, and he's going to have give up hoping sooner or later."
"Oh," Kezia looks up in sudden understanding. "If'n it's - he probably won't." She loops one end of the thread around the back of one hand, then the other, and pulls taut. She looks at her hands when she speaks. "Even if they get good at pretending, you know, really - they never stop wanting."
Quorra digests that in silence, a comfortable, friendly silence that lengthens until it seems the conversation is over altogether, then bursts out with: "Why do people always expect you to be something different? What if what you are is perfectly good! Even if you're happy, they're always saying - why can't you, why won't you, why don't you. It's never good enough, just to be." Except maybe out here, with the sea breeze in her hair and the tang of salty brine at the back of her throat, and the one person who lets her just -be-.
In the intervening silence, Kezia has started to make catch cradle with the string, fingers deftly weaving between shapes and patterns. She stops, though, after Quorra's outburst, letting her hands and the string fall into her lap. "It's hard," Kezia says slowly, "To be what people expect. Everyone wants so many different things, and - it's so hard to do. Even if you try," she looks up, through the thinning trees to the dazzling sea beyond, "It's hard to make it work."
"I wonder, sometimes," Quorra just sounds tired now, "if there'll ever come a time when I'm not weighed down by what other people want from me. Everything I've got is hanging by such a thin strand. I feel like I'm only just keeping my balance, and if I stumble at all... I'll fall right down. And there isn't anybody there to catch me."
Kezia shrugs the string off her fingers and starts to carefully pull the loops apart before they can become knots. "If other people -" she begins, then changes tack. "When - when you least think something can happen, then - sometimes it does." It's not terribly reassuring, but then Quorra is articulating something Kezia herself has never dared put into words.
"But you can't know if it'll be a good thing, or a bad thing, can you?" Quorra says, moodily. Despite the peaceful beauty this spot holds, she seems determined to stay in this gray mood -- and if Kezia isn't particularly comforting, at least she doesn't offer false reassurances, either. Quorra slides a sidelong glance at the other woman, studying her from under long lashes. "How are you holding up, with the three of them?"
"I think," Kezia is grasping at some semblance of reassurance, but comes up with only a fatalistic offering, "That it just happens. It's better just to - to not think too much, else -" The string is shaken out, and looped open around her fingers again. "It's wonderful. I wouldn't change a thing," she says, and if it doesn't answer the question, it does show that in this belief, at least, Kezia is secure.
Quorra isn't fooled, but neither will she push for answers Kezia doesn't want to give. It only encourages her intention of visiting as often as she can, to make Kezia take breaks that she wouldn't otherwise -- and to see Nora, at the same time. "Mm," she says, shutting her eyes as she shifts positions, moving an almost asleep foot from her knee to the ground. "Have you heard from Zdi?"
Kezia's fingers flash through basic shapes again - the boat to the star to the drying hide to the arrow - and pauses there, hands held taut. "She sent a note a few days ago. They're in Boll. Perhaps she'll be back here, end of the summer." The tone in her voice is just more dampened hope. "Perhaps to the Hold as well, after. They've been running to Southern." Free on the ocean.
"Not too worried about Thread, is she?" Quorra asks, smiling. "Are they going to come in, take shelter somewhere? I sent her a note asking when she was coming to visit, but all she replied was that she wasn't coming until my chest had shrunk again so she wouldn't be jealous. And not to get too fat in the meantime."
Kezia pushes and pulls fingers and thread to creates an intricate lattice pattern. It's stretched out across her knee. "I think," Kezia seems none too sure, "There's patterns, so - so they can avoid it. I can't see her coming ashore - she never could yet." This, at least, Kezia does not worry about, Thread is still too far beyond her immediate comprehension to faze her. "She just - comes when the wind's right," is Kezia's translation of her friend's note.
"She'll figure it out." Zdenka's got Quorra's vote of confidence, at least. "She's as hard to pin down as a tunnelsnake, but you always can trust her, can't you." Her eyes fall to the still-sleeping babe at her side, ruminating on the many things she has trusted Zdenka with. "At least there's the three of us."
"She," Kezia thinks about how best to phrase this, "She seems to know when you really need her there." Of course, she doesn't, but it's too tempting not to explain things that way. "Threes - three is a good number to have. So many things, all in threes." And not always good, but that, as so many things, is left alone. Her fingers are still working, making pictures with the string that Kezia barely even glances at. Just as empty is the next comment: "Perhaps one day we'll all come and visit you."
"Three babies," Quorra agrees, smiling at their children, "three quests, three presents, three secrets. Stories are full of threes, aren't they?" She stretches languidly, with pointed toes and arms above her head, then folds up again, commenting quietly, "I hope neither of us needs her anytime soon, though I can't get rid of this feeling that something's about to happen. It's been too calm," and she has learned always to expect that other shoe to drop.
"The wind won't change today," Kezia says. There's that little time they both have, hidden in the forest, half-sharing threads of thoughts that are woven into thin air and then pulled apart, before jobs and duties call them away again.