Her homeland had changed, the summers were no longer the warm refuge from the relentless onslaught of winter they once had been. The very land itself was ruthless, as it always had been, and she knew all too well the slumbering darkness that permeated the cold. On bitter days one could hear it laughing in the wind. That kind of evil came in many forms and it had claimed her father some years passed. Thinking back, it was around the time of his funeral it had all begun. The southerners had come, finally pushed over the brink they had come to retaliate. Swords, shields, men in rows under crimson banners, and the drums of war, it changed nothing.
War had claimed her husband, and now she laid claim to the war ravaging her lands. With knuckles whitening around her husband’s sword, she waited. Nature, her home, was on her side and the presence of something primeval enveloped her. She wondered if perhaps it was the Sly One lending her his treacherous hand. The southerner’s would learn, she vowed, they would learn a lesson in brutality they would not soon forget.
Shedding tears was something her people had always done sparingly. While the funeral pyres burned, so did their sorrow. When emotions burned with such intensity, how could there be anything but ash left once the flames died down? Vengeance was a thing of the heart, the same kind of beast as hatred. Growling and struggling against their chains these two wolves strove to break free of the shackles that kept them in place. She had made the mistake of feeding them and just like the great wolf Fenris they would break free. The longer she housed them within her heart the more they consumed. Her heartbeat still hammered steady, but it no longer beat with love and the world had become cold and grey. Yet even so, her knuckles whitened around the hilt of her late husband’s sword and tears she refused to acknowledge trickled down her cheeks.
If you hate your enemy, her husband had once said. You will never understand him. Pour those emotions onto the pyre, my love, or they will not stop at clouding your mind but also darken your heart.
She wanted to do what he had asked of her, she wanted to slay the wolves that ravaged her heart, but that would mean severing the chain that kept them in check. Steeling herself she closed her eyes and willed it to shatter. Unleashed they travelled through her like tremors, a rising tide within her that had to be let out. Falling onto her knees, she screamed.
Be angry, her husband’s words came to her. Be furious, let the anger burn and tear asunder the pain and grief. Let it burn slow and steady once the inferno dies down, worry not about feeding the flames, you’ll have plenty of fuel. Let the fire burn steady and calm. Turn your rage into cold anger. Hatred will be your undoing, but anger will keep you alive…
When her voice broke and she could not scream anymore she grew still. Around her the grey world seemed unmoved by her outburst. A gust of wind brushed against her face, and she arose along with it. Her eyes no longer glowed. Winter’s bite glittered dangerously in them, as she found her refuge. She breathed in deeply, inhaled the chill brought down from the roof of the world by falling winds, and resumed her waiting. She inhaled, taking another steadying, calming breath.
Like ethereal wolves, her inner demons would stride beside her as a pack of guard dogs. For a moment she thought she could see them when she snuck a glance. Whether or not it was her imagination she did not know, neither did she know if she truly heard the laughter… that drifted on the southbound wind.