#10 – A Cold Night

The hills used to be stagnant, though no one could tell how long it had been since they started moving. The clouds burdened with mist, made their ways into the lands and seas. It rained today, and it rained heavily. Pellets of water came first, but pellets of ice followed soon after. In a moment everyone was rushing to the nearest shelter. The Headmaster’s daughter rushed to a tree beside her. She staggered now and then, her strength not yet revived from the birth she gave a fortnight ago. Then everyone saw her guy come and pick her up and take her beneath the nearest oak, to shelter from the winds and the ice. Only a few days ago had he saved her life. They had always shared the same rugs after that, until now. A huge creak sounded and everyone looked up. It was falling, the heavy trunk was uprooted. In a flash it happened.

It took some time to pull out the bodies of the two from underneath the tree. Their eyes were open, blood tricking from the forehead towards their lips, yet frozen beside the ear. Ice and blood, the duo was lethal. They buried the bodies, and moved ahead. The road was covered with ice up to their knees. Tonight would be a cold night. They would have no choice but to light the fires. And when they did that, they knew the signal that they would send. Fire. They already had ice and blood that day, and now they would have a fire. Everybody knew what the three together meant, except the ones who were so young they still suckled at their mothers’. They had no choice. They kept walking.

The road was long, and for boys who were young, it was no easy task. Janas limped, even more than before, his leg aching, his hands frozen, the stump of his other leg turned into an icicle. But he never stopped. He knew he wouldn’t make it for long. But he would have the night’s dinner, he was hungry, he would eat and he would sleep, and then he knew he wouldn’t wake up. That was no reason to give up. He would walk. He prayed to the gods, to let him see another day, and wished fervently that they would listen to him.

Night approached them like a hungry wolf. It encumbered Janas even more. And then someone did him a mercy. The air whooshed around him and the next moment he looked down he saw an arrow through the place where they had learned the heart was. He fell to the ground, trying to look behind, to see who did it, to see who the gods had sent to mock him. His eyes had almost closed by the time he turned around. And then he saw. Through the quarter-opened slit in his eyes, he saw. He was carrying a bow, though he looked too old to use one. Could it be true what he was seeing? He came up to him, bent a little and said, “Remember me in your afterlife, boy, and remember I taught you about death, once today, and once more long ago. Do you remember?”

“Yes, when we were in school, Headmaster,” was the last thing Janas muttered.

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