Chapter 40 - Home [ FINAL CHAPTER ]

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The fifth day after the Winter Festival, the snowstorm that kept the Outlanders and Valarians inside their homes was finally gone, leaving only snow and icicles on the branches of the barren trees.

For the Outlanders, snow is rarely a problem. Years of brutal winters have thickened their skin and strengthen their minds against it. Snowstorms are almost a tradition as the Winter Festival, though none of the years I lived have a snowstorm lasted five whole days without stopping. This was the first-- and I hope, the last.

The Outlanders are already walking on the snow-layered paths, going about to wherever they will go. But all of them have the same dead stare in their eyes. Those eyes that vary in every shade of color, but somehow that hollowness in it have made everyone look the same. Shoulders slumped, lips quivering.

Naerys had already told them what had happened-- most of their families and friends are dead.

Dead and dead and dead.

There's a twang of shame in my chest that I couldn't tell them myself, but at least now they know.

I sit next to the window of my bedroom on a wooden stool, the fire crackling in the fireplace. The glass is tinted with frost and they seem to make a pattern that only cold can do, but it's still thin enough for me to look through it-- where I can watch the Outlanders walk by.

I almost expected them to throw rocks, or at least animal carcasses at my house. I didn't understand why I thought of that. There's a pit in my stomach that's whispering to me that I shouldn't be alive, that I should've died with them.

It's a familiar voice, a voice that I try to silence.

Accept their deaths. I take in a sharp, cold breath and sighing out slowly. The simple act makes the soft burning in my temple cool down. It's all in the past now.

It looks almost beautiful outside with the white of snow everywhere-- it's not like the storm where everything was blinded but this-- this almost feels normal. With the cobblestone houses' roofs covered in snow and more gently falling and if I can distract myself enough-- I can almost act as if nothing had happened and the Outlanders are just going through the day.

It's as if the gods have descended from the sky and laid a layer of powder across the Outlands. Powdered sugar, I smile to myself. And the baker's voice rings in my head, "You can't have too many sugar!"

But as beauitful, as it seems, it's not the truth. The truth is terrible and ugly. I sigh audibly at the thought, trying to wash it away.

The lump underneath the covers of my bed shifts, mumbling for me to shush a little. She has been under it for two days, even though her bed is much, much softer than mine. Nala's red hair splayed from under the blankets, and the morning light hit it, making her look like an angel with her hair alone-- as if there's a halo on it.

Maybe not all the truth is ugly.

Nala moves again, tossing and turning until she finally pokes her head out from the blankets and the girl squints at the sudden light from the window. "Cathellyn?" Her voice is croaky.

I stand up and walk towards her. "How are you feeling?" I sit at the edge of the bed, brushing stray hairs from her forehead to the behind of her ears. "Do you need anything?"

My skin looks ghostly pale against her firehair and she yawns audibly before shimming back into the blanket until it covers everything under her eyes. "More sleep," she mumbles.

I smile, stroking her hair. "Alright." And I leave her to be under the safety of the blanket that I hope will shield her from the harsh world.

But she already knows, doesn't she? She knows how cold this world can be, how cruel and how merciless. Maybe not all of it yet, but she has as many scars as I did when Father died. The blanket, I decide, will not shield her but instead rest her, give her the energy and power to rise again. A fool's hope, a part of me says. Maybe, but it's still hope.

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