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She lay in her bunk, her hair in rat-tails that hung limp around a swollen and tear-streaked face, her eyes puffy and red through the hours of crying instead of sleep. Sleep indeed, if only it would come to her. It was fickle and cruel, showing her through the sound of snoring from those around that it held them in its arms whilst it kept her cold and alone under her blanket that had become musty with sweat though she felt no heat.
The pain had at first ripped through her like a dull blade, leaving jagged tears in her chest that burned like embers. Every breath felt like the talon of a hunting bird, ripping and clawing away her heart until it lay in a broken mess deep inside. It was surrounded in grief so thick it rivalled the fog from an early morn; a morn such as this one.
The weak light filtered down from the house smoke-hole, causing the stray wisps of smoke to curl like lazy snakes in the air though her gaze could not focus on them, seeing nothing but the dark haze of pain that stained her view. Her breath remained jagged from her tears, the others who heard now keeping a respectful though worried distance from her. No one should grieve so much, after all, nothing was worth so much pain, they said.
Life was worth living, if one could live it. If the thing that caused the reason you woke up with a smile was taken from you, would it be worth waking up to face the emptiness any more? She rose from the bed like a ghost, folding back the blanket with hands that never stopped shaking, tucking neat the edges with the motions of one who had done so for years, but cared little about it.
She picked up the dish of food that had been left out for her, but why would she eat it? No food would fill the hole that yawned in her chest like the endless dark of a cave. Her quiet steps disturbed no one as she removed the evidence of the uneaten meal, returning it to the pot of stew. The meat rejoined the rest, the smell that would normally cause stomachs to rumble went unnoticed by her.
After wiping her dish she dried it, carefully setting it into the stack where it belonged, never shirking from her duties to make sure that the home ran smoothly, rich with community yet void of anything that could help her now. Silent steps and a silent heart, leading her outside to greet the morn that would hold no promise of respite, only bitter cold and air as sharp as the pain inside.
Slow hands donned boots, laced leggings, buttoned the coat. Hood pulled up with knotted hair hidden beneath, gloves tugged on with quiet endless patience and out into the cold before the call of the dark under her blanket became too much. Eyes unaccustomed to light watered at the weak sun, yet tears were no strangers and it added to the damp, calling the cold to her skin from afar.
A snowy snickered, a hoof stomped before all was silent. Others moved around the grounds like nameless people, doing duties to strive for better, to strive for life. She could not name those around her, nor could she see their faces, they became just figures donned in subdued colours that moved as if in a graceful dance of mourning, each one knowing their own steps and sharing their dance with no one.
Her own steps crunched under fresh snow, the sound that would bring joyous smiles to mischievous minds fell upon her deaf ears, joining the shrill of the early birds that sounded simply disjointed. Her slow steps left the camp, her lips parted to speak no words, her eyes blinked only to clear her vision from the fat drops of her tears.
Up and up she climbed, her breath misting before her face, still ragged, still wrong, but her body was stubborn and it carried her higher until trees thinned and the rich earth that lived beneath the snow became the lifelessness of stone. It suited her, she felt, this stone. Her hand reached out to climb a ledge, one used by rangers to view the lands below, enough so that a larger rock had been placed to sit upon. A ghost of a memory tried to surface through the black of hurt and it was torn away from her before it could settle. Not now, please not now. It was too fresh, too soon.
She stood upon the ledge, the beauty of what was spread before her went unseen, wasted upon those who were blind but to their own feelings. She was cold, she thought, though it could be colder. The sun would soon rise high enough to scare away the mists that clung to hair and fur and perhaps warm the world a little with its caress. The rock felt hard beneath her feet, the layers of leather and soft padding worked against her as the cold seeped in like a stubborn child, poking and prodding until a weakness was found and finally settling upon her skin.
A step forwards and she could almost feel the dizziness that wanted to consume her mind, the tumble of gravel from the ledge like hail as it skitter-scattered down to the waiting ground below. Tree tops swayed like waving hands, all dancing as one and sparkling with a fresh kiss of snow, sharing their joyous dance with one another as the tiny wings of a song bird darted in and out like a needle patching fur.
Another step and she could feel the edge beneath her feet, crumbling away like her grasp upon life, falling downwards upon a path where no one could catch it, rocks rolling along ground until they settled alone in the snow. Her tears had stopped now, perhaps no more could come, perhaps she had reached that state where her body could no longer continue.
Her head shook as she lifted her foot to take that last step, a step to end the pain that crippled her mind and body. It would be soon and such a relief, no longer a weakness, no longer a drain. Emotions that once ran high remained dead inside, locked up so tight that even the cold from the air could not touch.
Fingers curled around her own, the touch of another so familiar yet so foreign it caused a cry to break chapped lips and she turned to face that what dared to try and stop her taking the pain away. It was another nameless face, another mourning dancer that had danced its steps up to her upon the rocky path. A tug could not remove the hand, her fingers caught so well between the gloves.
The voice spoke, the words just a noise in the air that filtered through to her mind like the cold through her boots, finding cracks to slip inside and settle.