I looked up from the glasses I was wiping to check who had come in the door of the inn. The familiar face was pale an streaked with blood and grit, but she was here. I rose from my seat and slipped my arm around her shoulders. She smiled half way then grimaced as I sat her down near the fire.
"What have you been doing, Kara? I have not seen you for a while."
I leaned forward and brushed the grit off of her striking face and pointed faerie ears. She held out her hand without answering my questions and I shook my head before unwrapping the neat bandages. Underneath was a hole that would have put a saber tooth tiger to shame. I shook my head and pressed my fingers to the ragged flesh at the edge.
"Still going I see." I removed my fingers from the totally healed wound and rose to get her something to fill her after a fight. "I don't know how you do it, I could never stand it."
As I walked away she spoke in the voice that had haunted the battle fields for as long as I could remember. "Child, you would not understand what it is like to be one of us. You have not passed your test yet I see."
I smiled as I entered the sweet smelling kitchen to get what I knew she liked. I pulled two pieces of bread out of the oven and grabbed some of the ginger from my garden to satisfy her faerie tastes. I pulled off my apron to signal to the owner of the inn that I was going to take a break, revealing that I wore breeches out of an old habit.
When I returned to Kara, she had taken off her over shirt to reveal the distinctive tattoo of a powerful Wanderer, stretching from her shoulder around her neck and down to her hands. I handed her the unusual dinner and proceeded to ask her of her journeys.
The Ancient Kara had been my mentor since I had discovered my rare ability to heal all who I touched, and she had always been as good to me as my own mother. She was a demanding mentor, insisting that I learn to heal every kind of injury ever conceived but she had ensured that I did not fall behind in my studies with the local Wanderers. I desperately wanted my tattoo, the last thing that would mean I could join the Wanderers in their endless quest to have peace between the races.
"Well, enough about me. Have you submitted your request to be tested? This year is your first opportunity."
I sat up a little straighter, for I was proud of my accomplishment. "I did, and I passed both the first tests."
Kara rewarded me with one of her rare tight lipped smiles before she went on. "When do you go to the last stage of testing?"
"In two days I travel to the arena. I have chosen a weapon."
I reached into my boot and pulled out a small glass dart. Kara burst out laughing before patting me on the back. "You will be a wise mentor to a very great Wanderer one day, child."
I picked up the plate from the side table and stacked it with several others, crushing the remaining ginger and filling the room with the pungent smell. I slid the dart back into its slot among its fellows and went to sleep with the knowledge that I had impressed my stern mentor.