Set 14, 13th year of Emperor Itomas II (PA 102)
While still inside the city I never realized just how much the walls slowed the wind and warmed everything up. As I walked away from those gates, the first thing that went through my mind was that I wanted to turn right around and head back in. My breath rose above me in misty clouds of white and was whipped away by the storm raging around me.
The road was relatively clear, or at least it wasn’t knee deep in snow. My boots were designed for walking the cobbled streets and not the high road. The snow poured over the tops and soon I was walked on wet, half frozen, stumps and not the feet that had carried me so far.
To say that my decision to leave the city immediately was ill conceived was an understatement, but if I’d remained within the city the likelihood that I’d be incarcerated for killing Fade was a probability approaching a certainty. I berated myself over the course of the next six hours as I trudged along the road until the sun began to peek through the blowing snow. At some point during the night the snowfall had stopped leaving just the new fallen powder to dance about the landscape at the whim of the fickle wind.
“Mother! A little help would be nice!” I screamed into the empty world.
“Calling me ‘Mother’ now are you?”
“Well, you are responsible for me,” I said turning to face my goddess.
“Responsible, am I. How so?”
“You brought me back?” While I’d been angry and sure of my rectitude when I’d begun, being face to face with my goddess for the second time in a day my certainty became mere conviction.
“Yes, my daughter, but you are an adult now and should be able to stand on your own two feet.”
Her gaze was quelling, but I knew that if I didn’t stand up now I would never be able to in the future. The cold and hunger permeating my being was so strong that I never once thought about what I should do, but merely about what I could do. “Mother…I am sorry for being impertinent, but if there was a reason for you bringing me back, then I need some way to remain alive.”
“You should have thought about that before walking out into the cold in nothing more than a parlour dress and pretty slippers. However, you are also right that I have need of you.” She walked forward and touched my forehead and I was struck by a near blinding headache. Crying out in pain I collapsed on the ground as images, feelings and knowledge flooded into me.
When I became aware of my surroundings Isis was again gone leaving this new knowledge in her wake. “Thank you, Mother,” I cried out to the world in a prayer of more than just thanks. The knife I always carried around with me would protect me from more than just cheapskates. It would protect my life in a more direct way.
It was hard, at first, to organize the thoughts that were flying through my head. Each idea flitted on butterfly wings after the next. Shelter, tools, traps, snares and a thousand other things that could ensure my survival were there in my mind, bright and clear as new blown glass but as slippery as eels and elusive as shadows. Gripping my knife in my hand made some of the thoughts stay for a moment.
“What I need is food and a fire,” I said more to myself than the surrounding wilderness. Still gripping my knife and looking at my dress I began to have an idea how to make the most of my situation. With a course of action chosen, and a plan on how to get there I began, first by cutting strips from my dress that I then braided into a number lengths of string.
String in hand I set out to make the tools I’d need to keep myself warm while the snares would, hopefully, get me something to eat before too long. The traps were nothing to look at. They were clumsy looking and barely concealed by the snow I hastily dropped upon them, but they worked in catching me a couple of hares and I was, after much trial and error, able to start a fire that kept away the worst of the chill.
My dress, the over large confection that it had been, was quickly converted into more simple traveling attire and a collection of ropes of varying lengths and sizes. As the day waned I went in search of a better place that the hollow I’d resided in for the duration of the lighted hours. Not too far from the road, behind a stand of pine I found a hollow in the lee of a hill. It wasn’t completely out of the weather, but it would act as a fire-trap and keep at least some of my meager fire from heating the surrounding wilderness.
I settled in for my first night in the world. My walk through the midnight world left me exhausted and my labour through the day left my hands cracked and bleeding. This wasn’t the life I’d wanted. I wanted to be taken care of, with every need met before I could think to ask for anything. The idea was to live in comfort, but that had ended when I was struck by a cart, when Fade attempted to kill me.
The fire was hypnotising in a way, watching the flames dance and the embers float off into the air. I fell asleep as I watched.
Set 20, 13th year of Emperor Itomas II (PA 102)
A week isn’t enough to make you hard, and it’s barely enough to cure hides. Using my still feeble sewing skills I’d fashion a pair of boots from the skins of the animals that I’d been eating. They weren’t pretty, but they did keep my feet from contact with the broken ground, and, to a certain degree, kept my feet warm.
When all you had was whatever you could collect while on the move you began to look like a hodge podge of mismatched bits and pieces. A little more than a week ago, I’d felt beautiful no matter what I was wearing, now I felt ugly all the time. I would constantly touch the dead side of my face, rubbing my fingers over the scar tissue, feeling the ridges and valleys and built it up into something much greater than it was.
Occasionally, at night while sitting in front of the fire, I would grab a handful of my hair in one hand and my knife in another and consider just hacking it all off. Then, in the morning, I would be thankful that my nerve had failed the night before and I would prepare some hot water to wash my hair so it could again become a matted mess under my rabbit skin hat. My attempts to carve a comb had been so far unsuccessful.
Before setting out on the twentieth I checked the progress of the skins on the small sledge I’d constructed. They were curing better than the hastily prepared hides I was currently wearing, and would be usable to make something more presentable. The mornings were when I made my plans. The ideas for making presentable clothing; clothing that would make me feel beautiful again.
This morning, as I trudged through snow almost to my waist, the wilderness around me didn’t even rise to the level of being noticed, let alone appreciated. My head was down and I was focused on the task at hand when I felt a presence in front of me. I looked up and was startled by the appearance of a reindeer in front of me. The ground seemed to fall away from under me and I stared up from the hole that I’d painstakingly plowed as I made my slow aimless progress through the forested hills.
He just stood there staring at me. I climbed to me feet and shook my head at him.
“Well, thank you for not killing me, Sir, while I was so distracted. Now if you’ll excuse me?” With that I stepped around him.
He turned and paced me as I began once more to wade through the snow. After a couple of minutes the beast stepped in front of me and began breaking the path for me. For the first time in days I was able to walk freely. The creature had a strength that I was lacking, and somehow he knew when I wanted to change direction even before I knew it myself. That night after I’d made my fire he settled down behind me, reflecting the heat, and radiating his own.
He was still with me the next morning. For three days we continued like this with the large animal only leaving my side to eat. He always came back. On the third day he allowed me to ride him for the first time.