(Set sometime before Consult the Oracle)
The frozen forest floor cracks crisply under her foot. Many believed that this forest felt the winter harshly, and so it came to be, each footfall providing crunching evidence of the fact.
“Hold on to my hand tightly now, Emily. The ground gets slippy here.”
Her foot betrays her, sliding across a small patch of ice and making a mockery of her balance. She wobbles, but catches herself on a branch before she can fall. She focuses on finding a less treacherous path. She presses forward
“Hazel, stay within sight dear. Your sister will miss you if you run too far ahead.”
Her breath does little to warm her hands. She briefly wonders if it’s because it’s hardly breath at all, just a motion she goes though out of habit. Her hands fall to her sides. She presses forward.
“Almost there, little one. We’ll be warm soon.”
She stops. The memory swims so clearly in her mind’s eye that she can feel her mother's hand around hers, hear the giggles of her older sister up ahead, feel the heat from the roaring fire place of their secret little cottage.
A memory 17 years old that was created 5 years ago.
She opens her eyes, unsure of precisely when they had closed. The high moon causes her to frown, its rays making her already pale dead skin look even paler. She had set off just as the sun had crested over the horizon. How could she have stumbled through the flux for so long and still not have found it?
Her fingers tighten around the hilt of her sword.
“It’s my finest work. Of course it is yours, my precious Emily.”
She presses forward.
In the back of her mind she knows the effort is fruitless. Even if she were to be able to remember the precise path to the cottage… Guilt creeps through her body. What if she had been there with them when the upheaval hit? What if she had convinced them to stay in Acryn just one more day? What if she wasn’t a wayfinder?
“Never apologize for who you are, Emily. You have to be strong. Don’t let anyone push you around or talk down to you. You are an Anara. You are just as important as anyone of them.”
The sound of a sob catches in her throat. Tear ducts, that have long since rotted, weep messily until she can hold focus long enough to fall into her sliver form. But still the choking sobs come. But still the memories come.
Was it here that her mother and sister met their end? If she believed hard enough, would she find their bodies, torn apart by clawfiends or other monsters of the flux? Did they even know her as the upheaval ripped reality from around them?
“Well, if you are set on staying in town then know that even while me and your sister are away, we are always in here.”
A bird swoops from over head, jostling Emily from her daze and forcing her back into the moment. The woman’s voice rings in her ear. Her mother’s voice rings in her ear. She pushes the memories aside and turns back the way she came.
She presses forward.