ashes and snow

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four


Everything around her was peaceful.

Eira was walking through the garden, accompanied by the cold that embraced her skin like a second layer of clothing. How could humans hate this? Was she the only living thing on this earth that loved to be enfolded by this friend of hers?

She sighed in content.

There couldn’t be anything better than this.

In all her years on this earth, she had never loved anything more than times like these. The snow that would occasionally decrease from the sky, the ice that would cover the ground or freeze over the largest of lakes. There was nothing so utterly dangerous and blissful.

The snow crunched under her feet with every step she took. Odd how she was entirely able to focus on herself now that no one was with her. Every time humans were around her, the sound of their movements or their breathing would distract her. Hell, even the sound of them chewing was rattling her mind from time to time.

She couldn’t explain why they always had to be this loud.

Shaking her head, she silently continued her way.

She had this entire moment to herself. She could think and breathe alone without having someone looking over her shoulders all the time.

And she would make it last as long as she could.

She walked deeper into the garden, heading for some type of hideout in the small forest of oak trees she was nearing fastly. Maybe she could stay there for some hours, perhaps even unnoticed until the evening.

A small smile appeared on her face as she ducked under a thin tree branch to get to the other side.

Walking under the crowns of the trees, she noticed it was slightly darker than in the open. The withering leaves were only letting a few rays of sunlight through. Little pads of light adorned the brown, moss-covered ground.

Wind gushed around her as she walked further into the unknown. Tree after tree, she passed, but nothing changed. It was all the same.

Time passed like a flowing river, and she was unable to abandon its tide.

With a hiss, she leaned her body to the side and stroked away branches that had gotten tangled in her hair. A second later, she continued her way as if nothing had happened, but used her magic to prevent something like this from happening again.

She was a strong, mystical creature that wouldn’t let nature get the best of her.

Suddenly, she stopped in her tracks.

Hidden by the many oak trees, there was a small clearing, its ground covered in white. She walked forward.

A decrepit building stood in the middle of it, receiving her attention immediately. Eira halted in her steps and laid her hand on a tree that stood nearby.

The building’s yellowish color was exfoliating, the roof old, and covered in leaves and snow. Every window on its three floors was nailed shut with old wood, the front door in bad condition. No one could be living there, could there be?

She took a step forward when she suddenly heard something unusual. The sound of distressed sobs echoed around the clearing, haunting the silence. The owner seemed familiar, but she couldn’t quite figure out who it was.

Her head snapped to the side as she searched for the woman in danger. Something seemed terribly wrong.

A second later, she could make out a large male in a guard’s uniform that was dragging one of her maidens away from the building, a determined look onto his features. Eira snarled and made their way towards them. She wouldn’t let him touch her, not today.

She ripped the girl from the guard’s arm, pushing her behind her back. She gave him a warning smile, her first and last one.

“The girl stands under my care,” she stated.

The guard shook his head, his gaze fixed on the female behind her. It seemed like he didn’t know who she was. “Stand back,” she ordered firmly. She could’ve used her magic, but she wanted him to obey her without it.

As if he hadn’t heard her, he took a step forward. The girl behind her back whimpered quietly, the sound filling her with rage.

Eira had to hold back a growl. How dare he frighten her?

He had no right to disobey her or take advantage of any women, especially not the ones in her kingdom. She wouldn’t allow it. Not in this life.

He took another step forward but was stopped.

Panic showed on his face as he registered that he couldn’t move. His feet were stuck to the ground.

“You will stay here until sundown,” Eira ordered, her eyes glowing in her magic. “Maybe that will teach you how to react to the word no.”

Taking the girl’s hand, she moved past the male, ignoring his calls for her. Eira made her way back to the castle, pulling the girl along through the forest. Using her magic, she made sure that nothing hindered her steps.

She needed to get the girl away from this place.

Her steps were quick as the girl stumbled after her, trying to keep up with her pace. She was panting soon, her breaths coming in harsh. Eira knew she needed to stop and let the girl rest, but she required to get out of this forest first.

In the silence of the nature around them, they could still make out the male’s shouts for her. One second more of this, and she would turn around to tear the male that had dared to try to hurt her apart. How much she desired to.

But she shook her head- this wasn’t something she could do, not in the presence of the girl.

Eira noticed the total stillness of the girl behind her, the way the hand she held in hers shook. She was still afraid, scared of that fool she had trapped in her web of magic.

It was something she needed to take care of as soon as they got to pause. The girl needed to forget what had occurred. As soon as possible.

They neared the end of the forest, stopping right before its edge.

Eira held up the branches so that the girl could slip through beneath them. After she had also reached the other side, she grabbed the girl’s hand again and tugged her along anew.

They stopped before the castle walls. The girl was breathing heavily, her body leaning against the wall while her hand was placed on her chest.

Eira stood next to her. She didn’t even try to act as if the walk had taken something out of her. If it wasn’t for the humans around her, she wouldn’t even breathe, to begin with. All of this act was to hide her true heritage from them.

A few seconds passed before the girl had finally calmed. She was staring at the ground now, sadness lingering beneath her eyes. It didn’t belong to a girl her age.

“How were you able to stop him?” The girl asked quietly, looking up to her a second later.

Eira smiled down on her. “There’s magic in this world no one knows of,” she whispered, tilting her head to the side.

Her eyes lit up as she dove into her magic. The girl stared into them, captivated. “I am awfully sorry, but I’m afraid no one can know,” she whispered remorsefully. Knowing about her magic could cause this girl many hazards.

She raised her hand and laid it on the girl’s forehead, careful as she winced. Taking memories from someone caused misery to many people, so she used her magic to lessen her pain.

The girl’s eyes fell close.

Memories flashed before Eira’s eyes as she erased the ones the girl would need to forget. Most of them would haunt her in her sleep, she knew that.

The last time she had taken memories from someone, she had dreamed of the life the poor child had lived, all the misery and pain they had experienced.

She knew, with this girl, it would be the same. From what she could tell just now, she had lived through many ordeals, her life a burden all of itself.

A small, sad smile formed on her lips. The girl needed a friend, someone who would take care of her, more than anything else in her life.



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