Chapter Two

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"Calestia," my mother whispered, her hands cupping either side of my face. There were tears in her eyes, that slowly began trailing down her cheeks. "I'm sorry."

I reached out and grabbed her delicate hand. I found it difficult to understand the blood seeping out of her chest. I didn't want to believe that her life was slowly draining out of her as I sat there. I could barely talk over the gagging feeling in my throat. I could barely feel the tears falling down my own cheeks and landing on her ruined shirt. "Mom, no," I mumbled, wanting only for her to survive - even just for one more day. "I can do something. I can help you. I can..."

My words began to fade away as her eyes started staring upwards, focused peacefully on something I was unable to see. "Calestia...."

I couldn't talk anymore, all I could do was watch.

"I remember...seventeen years ago, seeing you...my baby girl...for the first time...I'd realized that there was nothing more I wanted than for you to always be happy. Just remember...remember...I love you. If there is one thing.....about you that makes you different...it's your...love....Don't...don't...." She began to cough violently, blood leaking out of the corner of her mouth.

And then she turned to me one last time, all pain seeming to fall away from her expression. "Don't lose that..."

My eyes flew open.

Ice. Cold. Pain.

I was still lying under the tree.

It took me a moment to remember everything that had happened. To understand where I was and how I'd gotten there. The snow was still falling, and I was now covered in it. It was a couple centimeters high on my chest – it must have been a few hours. Somehow, I hadn't been killed or captured during those hours.

I could barely feel my hands, and could not feel my one shoeless foot at all - which worried me. But I couldn't fix my situation until I managed to get out of the snow. I almost felt the need to thank it for protecting me from being seen. That was the only explanation to how I wasn't already chained up and sold to a gang. Yet, at the same time, the snow had taken so much from me that I felt no remorse in not doing so.

I slowly stood up, wiping snow off me and then wincing as my foot pressed once again into the freezing ground. Now, my priority was getting my boot back. Otherwise I wasn't sure how long I'd last before getting frostbite. If I didn't already have it.

The only problem with going back now was that it was likely that the gang members would reunite there again. But I'd have to take the risk. Possible capture was better than permanent immobility.

I began limping away from the tree, careful to put my foot in the snow as little as possible. I avoided looking directly at my foot, since I was a bit afraid of my frostbite suspicion being confirmed. It was easy with me being constantly focused on my surroundings, watching the trees for any sign of life. Finally, I reached the spot where I'd been tranquilized, and found a brown lump sitting stuck in a snow pile.

I immediately pulled my shoe out of the snow, staring at the store not very far from where I now stood. I could make out a dark figure moving in the store's direction. It was too far away for whoever it was to see me. But if I didn't leave at that exact moment, they could get close enough to notice me.

My boot was damp and cold when I put it on. Gross. My knife that I'd left in the boot was still there, and I sighed in relief. Even though I'd never actually had the occasion to use it yet, and I probably would not be very good with it if I had to, it comforted me knowing that I'd have some way to defend myself.

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