Chapter 6

The Warlock sits with hands in the water and hums to themself. Several of the local feral pouka come and go as time passes, bumping up against fingers or vaulting out of the water to become airborne and curious, spattering drops everywhere. The Warlock doesn't mind, really. It's impossible to feel alone when dozens of creatures are hanging on their every move.

Perhaps meditation is meant to be solitary, but this is comforting.

A year ago, they were running with a fireteam, a tight-knit group of six that had each other's backs. Till the stars died, the lot of them had thought. It would always be like this.

Now there is one Warlock sitting in a flock of pouka, in an impossible settlement on a miraculous planet. And they miss that sense of companionship desperately—

There's something besides water in their hands. Cautiously, wonderingly, they lift their hands out of the pool and find green. The same verdancy as Strand, the same parallel strings and helical shifts. Only this also seems to be something living?

It skitters over their hand, up their arm to their shoulder, leaving the sense of warmth in its wake. The Warlock stays very still as the little Strand-creature brushes against their cheek and then simply vanishes, a lingering hint of green and a sense of company the only concept that it was there in the first place.

The pouka congregate around shortly after, all chirps and flaps, and the Warlock can't help but laugh, even as they shoo some of the creatures away. They're supposed to be meditating.

But they didn't really come here to be alone. And it was foolish to think that they ever could be, when connected to the web that living creatures spin between them all. The Warlock breathes deep and dips their hands into the water again, and the pouka and the little green moments of connection swarm about them.

All might not be well, but it is better, like this. Not alone. Never truly alone, in this wide world where everything is bound together.