The wind batters the perch of my tree - my home - like driftwood across stormy surf. I'm long used to keep a firm hold, having chiselled in hand and feet grips long ago. The elder women would probably warn me to come down in such high winds, but I'm too enticed by the scene unfolding below me. Our hunters have, once again, lost track of a doe, the first one we've seen in a week. Rabbits might tide us by, but not for the Winter ahead. Once Fah'r's breath touches the ground, all we can do is wait and hope that we have enough. At the rate of the imbeciles of our tribe, I'm not sure we will. Not that I'm saying I could do a better job.

But my father could have.

He used to teach all of our hunters when they were just younglings, and now they disgrace him. I watch as they thunder through the foliage, rustling trees and allowing me to keep track of them like snakes slipping along a path through the undergrowth. Not a single one seems to think to stop and wait, thinking that a deer is just like a mountain lion, when I know from the late-night camping that I did with my father, that the animals are all part of the force of nature. Unless you can be at one with it, everything will sense you as a trespasser. Not that it should matter to me. That's not my job. I'm not a hunter, I could have been, don't mistake that, but I'm not.

I'm a warden and I take my job seriously. The males don't always, the warriors certainly not. Protection for them is possessing something long and pointy to stab with, but it is me who watches from the treetops and signals them. For years, I've been able to sense a winter storm before it comes. The simple truth is, if anybody doesn't believe me, they freeze to death and learn that way. I should care more for my clan, I know, after all, I'm the one keeping them alive. But if I'm honest, it's an excuse to hide away. A warden is hardly any good on ground level, especially when our clan lies within a copse of thick, sentinel trees, so I live in one where I can pretend not to hear anybody when they shout for me. I only need to listen if they start throwing chestnuts at me from below, then it gets annoying.

I'm the clan's pariah and I like it that way. My father was the same. That's how we'd spend our evenings, mocking and laughing at them and their campfire discussions. No stories of encounters with gods that I decided were hallucinations or marriage rituals. With Father, it had only been about us. He'd shrugged off all of the requests from males of the tribe and old ones that I begin courting rituals, and even when I'd be teased by the other women for it and had shaved off all my hair, my mother's hair, he'd helped me to neaten it up.

But I couldn't think of such times, it was pointless. Father was gone now, and Mother had been for so long that it seems like she was never here in the first place. I'm alone, it's fine, that's how I work best. I don't need anybody to help me, Father taught me well enough.

I'm fine, really.

The End

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