16 - The Bitterness of Winter

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The tree had blessed Anna with a vision from her past, painted images in her mind and soul of what was once her life

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The tree had blessed Anna with a vision from her past, painted images in her mind and soul of what was once her life. Faces and embraces, smiles and hugs, dainty petals and autumn winds all swirled in her head like a vibrant bouquet of memories. But it were still only fleeting moments, broken flashbacks and as the minutes passed the images became static silhouettes deprived of their colour and sinking back behind the veil of oblivion and there was nothing that she could do to hold on to them.

It had given her a dream that filled her heart with joy and an equal amount of confusion. Why was the forest suddenly granting her insight into a life that had been taken from her, shut away from her eyes and her heart? Why now? She was lost in the midst of this forest and no step closer to finding Thranduil and then her past seemed to finally reach out for her, timidly still, but even the faintest knock had made her heart flutter in the most unusual way.

But could she trust what she saw?

Her mind told her not to be fooled, but her heart still wavered, clinging even to the slightest shred of her past life now that everything seemed to fall apart.

But what if it was just a dream, a cruel illusion to torture her already troubled soul? How could she even be sure that what she had seen were images of her life? What if this was just another one of those deceptive tricks the forest played on her? Leading her astray not only in her search of Thranduil but also sending her on a twisted pathway towards an alleged life she may have had in a hazy past. How could she tell apart lies from the truth? Neither did she possess the foresight of the elves nor the magical abilities of a wizard. The thought of Gandalf flashed through her head, he might be indeed the only one that could give her the answers she so desperately longed for. Of course he was as much out of reach as Thranduil, so no help would come from him.

It all boiled down to one fact: she was on her own, no one could come to her aid, nor would be able to bring light into the darkness that were her past and her future, the only certain thing being her present: she was lost and that was not good, she needed to get un-lost as soon as possible. The longer she lingered in these woods, the further she was from finding out who she was and who she wanted to be. Remaining under the tree and dwelling on her thoughts would not get her closer to any of her goals. If she did not want to die a lonesome death in the fangs of Mirkwood she needed to move on.

But that was easier said than done.

Her body was stiff, unwilling to move and she began her fourth day with a feeling of having been in the wild for weeks rather than days without proper shelter or food and the cold was affecting her more than what she had anticipated. Without being able to make a fire she had not had a chance to dry her clothes, so they were uncomfortably damp, sticking to her skin in heavy layers. The chill had slowly but steadily crept under her skin and into her bones, the blood crawling through her veins like a frozen river that spread into tiny icy brooks throughout her entire body, numbing her fingers and toes despite their protective layers of gloves and boots. Not even the elven cloak was able to shield her sufficiently from the freezing cold. Her body was not as resilient as the ones of the elves and she would soon reach the limit of what she could withstand. Her reflexes were beginning to slow down and her senses weakening, everything around her appearing slightly blurred and as if a thin veil had been cast around her.

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