She had forgotten what loneliness was like.
It had been so hard before, to work with new people, new skills and ideas that weren't her own. It had taken her time to become adjusted to being around others, and somewhere along the way, in between all the battles and bloodshed and tears and screaming and looting and healing and night watches, she had become used to the company.
And now she was alone, save for the giant wolf that never left her side. She still wasn't sure what crossing between the worlds had done to them, but it had done something. Her wolf, once the perfect size for running through the wilds by her side, was now the size of a quarterhorse, and he moved through the planes of existence like a demon. He was still her wolf, but at the same time he was something else, something more, and it frightened her because she didn't know what to expect or what may come for them in the future-
Only that of the original seven, she was the only one alone.
Occasionally, she thought she saw evidence of the others, if she looked hard enough or felt compelled to track more than her next meal. While the ranger may have been as light-footed as the rest his kin, the paladin he traveled with was heavy-footed and could not hide his tracks nearly enough. She tried not to find them, though; her heart still ached from the paladin's words and actions, and she knew that her wolf would tear him apart if the chance presented itself.
The cleric, last she knew, had split away from the party after the demise of the necromancer. None of their party had particularly cared for the sorcerer, but the manner of his death and the injuries sustained in the battle had left him doubting the wisdom of continuing with the group.
She couldn't blame him- the cleric had taken the lizardman as a sort of charge, and she had had taken him under her wing. 'Big Sister', he had called her, superior to him in the ways of the wild, and she had called him 'Little Brother' in an attempt to make him welcome in their group. He had been, until he realized what the sorcerer's magics did, and then his cudgel was drawn and the necromancer crushed beneath it.
The ranger and the paladin assumed he lost his mind and attacked him in force. The lizard fell, and the remainder of their party fragmented, split into the night. The dwarf drowned in an attempt to cross the river, the stubborn fool that he was, and after the rites had been said and his ashes spread along the bank, the cleric offered for her to join him in his travels. She declined with a gentle smile and a nod towards the figure in plate- while the cleric was refreshing and a reprieve from mindless violence and death, her path did not lay with him and she knew it.
She traveled with the ranger and the paladin for a while- how could she not, when the ranger matched her mind and the paladin matched her heart? But then the paladin grew tired of her voice, of her opinions. Everything had to be good, lawful, right and just. She did not see the world in the colors of white and black, instead seeing shadows and light and greys blending and mixing and creating something that was more than just Good and Evil- and when she told him so, told him not to trust a commoner because she reeked of lies and deception, he left her. Left her crying, and the ranger went with him.
She had fled to the wilds then, and made her home amongst the trees and the ferns and the flowers. Her wolf stayed with her, loyal and loving and there when she needed him, and smart enough to know when she needed to be alone.
And right now, she sat in the hollow of an old oak tree, wrapped in her cloak and a winter blanket, bedroll spread out by the small fire she allowed herself for warmth. She wasn't sure where she was in this world, only that it was cold and dark and she was lucky to find shelter at all. She never used a map, learning early on that such a thing was useless unless you had been born to this world, and so wandered however she felt. There was nothing else for her to do- not alone, as she was, and not with the changes the crossing had made in her.
She had seen it once before, when the halfling had died and his wounds began to knit together and heal before their eyes. She attempted an experiment herself, later on when she was alone and the loneliness overwhelmed her. She drew a dagger and sliced deep, soaking the ground beneath her with bright-dark blood and leaving a wound so savage there was so way to survive. She felt the darkness close in, felt her wolf howl in anger and pain and despair, felt that it would finally, finally be right-
And when she woke in the morning with nothing more than a faint line on her wrist, she knew then that she had dreamed it, that she was not wrong. The ones that crossed over were not allowed to die- she had seen the proof of it on her own body. Later on, she discovered that they were not allowed to age either- she had stopped by a pool of water to refill her skin and stared, shocked at the unlined, youthful face that stared back. She had been in this world for years now, three if the seasons were any indication, and had lived hard for all of them- yet she looked and felt as young as she did when she first arrived here, lost and alone except for the wolf that she summoned to her side for aide.
She was not sure what other changes had been wrought in them, only that they had been made. She had seen the proof of that in her wolf, who grew and grew until he was the size and strength of a small hill, who hunted albatrosses in the midsts of the plains and could kill a buffalo in the middle of a forest. It made no sense, had no reason, but it was there and fact and she couldn't and wouldn't deny it.
She did wish, however, that she could find where the cleric had gone, because he had seen what she had not in her willful blindness. That her heart would not be enough for the paladin in the end, and that she would lose herself or lose him because there were no other options for the path she chose.
And so she found herself on the edge of the plains in winter, waiting for dawn and the return of her wolf so that she might once more find the City of the Dead. It made sense that the cleric would return there, to the site of his conversion to the worship of Life and all that it entails. It made no sense to her, however, why she felt such a sense of peace in the city's walls- a druid had no place in such an unnatural existence, a city made of the souls of the slain, but it was peaceful to her there, and she had begun to wonder if perhaps she should make herself a home there, away from the bustle of the dead and the still-living, a neat little farmstead for crops and cattle and all that she once laughed at, the daughter of farmers who sought adventure and found instead the end of her world.
A slight huffing noise alerted her to the return of her wolf, who poked his head through the opening of the hollow and glanced in disdain at her fire.
"I couldn't very well freeze to death while you were off hunting, now could I?" she shook her head at him. "Give me a minute to kill the embers and then you can come in. We'll be warm enough in here for the night and get an early start tomorrow morning."
The wolf chuffed in response but complied, golden eyes narrow and watchful as she poured water from her skin over the flames and stirred a small amount of dirt into the hissing remains. Eventually it was completely dead and covered with stones, and then the wolf forced the rest of his body into the hollow. Her indignant shout was cut off by a mouthful of fur, and she spat and sputtered as he comfortably arranged himself around her bedroll. Once he was comfortably settled into a shaggy mountain of dark grey and white and black, he gave her an innocent look as if to ask what he did wrong to make her so mad?
With a grunt of annoyance, she merely burrowed into the space he left for her bed, lightly covering his belly and most of herself in the folds of the blanket. "You know full well that you're a pest sometimes, furball," she muttered, punching her pillow into a more acceptable shape.
He whuffed at her in response, and she patted his leg in mild apology.
"Tomorrow, m'love," she muttered drowsily, "tomorrow, we'll start again. The road goes ever on, and we go with it. Such is our fate, from then to the end."
If the wolf made any noise in response, she didn't hear it, already falling into a deep sleep that was full of whispered memories and fallen friends. It was here that she was happiest, here that she wasn't so alone. It was here, in the dark between life and death, that she was able to smile and laugh and remember what it was like to be content.
A/N: Originally, this was meant to be a fun, infectious story about my first D&D game and all the characters of my friends and myself that we used. Then there was a bit of heartbreak between the DM (the paladin) and myself (the druid), so now it's a bit more lonely and sad and wistful for those happier times we once had.