She eluded it somehow. It would be nipping at her heels, cold as the bite of winter, but she would slip out of its grasp. She had stared at the face of death many times. The last symptoms of plague, weeks of starvation, vicious attacks. But she would always emerge alive.
She would always survive, though broken and bedridden for weeks or months, but she never died. Though she wandered the streets, orphaned and alone with no one to watch over her, her body never seemed to cave into the suffering.
The people of her village saw her as a charm, thinking that she brought luck onto them. But, she saw herself as accursed.
The famine and prolonged winter proved that.
"The Gods are angered." They would murmur, then kneel at their respective shrines to pray. Nothing ever happened, the Gods did not answer. The winter grew worse. Food dwindled as did the people.
And she knew it was her fault. She knew that, as she watched a starving mother cry as she ate the frozen remnants of her only child, this was her doing.
Her fingers burned with intense cold. She had lost two toes to frostbite, black stumps lay in their place. And she really wondered if she would die.
But, that wasn’t possible. She would have laughed if her throat wasn’t a desert. Her tounge felt gritty, aching for water and food. But, she had finished the last of her stale bread and dried meat two days prior. Water would have been easy to come by. She need only melt the snow.
But the cold hindered even the slightest spark of flame. And the air was thin up here. She stopped, entering a small cave opening. While she wanted to move on, the soreness in her body and the sleep in her eyes would not allow her to. She had to rest. She hadn’t since she started her journey.
She wrapped herself in her cloak, shivering and wishing for death. She spent the better of hour, shaking and crying, but eventually the shores of sleep called to her.
She found herself engulfed in darkness. She could see nothing, feel nothing. Not even the ground under her. There was just emptiness. But, it was better than the cold. She stayed there, wherever she was. She floated, drifted, felt herself ease away as the snow did on her desperate tounge.
"Nahresi." Someone called.
Her eye twitched at the voice. It was smooth and sickly sweet, like honeywine. But, as she had learned in her few years, honeywine voices where not to be trusted. Honeywine voices were deceptive.
"Nahresi." The voice said again, this time closer.
It repeated her name, over and over. Each time getting closer.
She listened to it. It sounded like a woman and a man. One voice, but many. As if one hundred people where speaking in absolute unison.
She shivered when the voice sounded off again, right next to her ear.
"Nahresi." It hisses once more in a hushed tone.
That was the last thing she understood from the nameless voice. The rest was a flurry of words not in her native tounge. They sounded serpentine in nature. Masked and smooth. They grew intolerably loud, and she found herself shaking again, every part of her moving with the vibrations of the voices untill they shattered her.
Nahresi woke in a cold sweat, her heart throbbing, her breath shallow.
Collecting herself, she pushed the strange dream from her thoughts. Crawling out of the mouth of the cave, she tested the air. The sun was up, and while the wind cried and screamed and clawed, it was warmer than the prior day.
She stood, gaining her footing in the snowy mound. Her destination was the strait, ten more miles east. She’d pay for passage onto a cargo ship and work to keep her stead until she arrived in Lygos, the fabled land in the east. It was said the streets were paved in jems. That the poorest of men still lived like kings.
She’d go there and live. Actually live. Not suffer in a cruel waking death.
The sun shone uselessly down, doing nothing to warm her body.She tugged her cloak closer to her chest.
Her legs were still tired. Her feet still numb. But, she had to trek on.
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