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Flowing white flakes drifted down from the sky, dancing in the frigid wind that billowed across the land. The moon was a sliver of silver-white in a sky painted velvet, and as the deep, glaring black of the forest was slowly overturned by the white dancers of the night sky graceful forms circled the full belly of the moon, singing softly to the dormant earth as it slumbered under their eyes, their song undulating with each slow beat of their wings.
Shadows whispered in the heart of the forest, lurking around the roots of gnarled trees and peeking out from underneath the tumbled sticks and logs that littered the forest floor. They whispered of cold. They whispered of pain. They whispered of time. Mostly, though the shadows that crept round the forest whispered of white.
There was a form beneath the shadowed trees, stumbling jerkily through the forest. Her clumsiness was a stark contrast to the smooth, slinking movements of those who followed after her, those who the forest had taught well.
The girl was shivering as the icy wind cut into her skin, hissing its displeasure. Clad in nothing but a sleeveless sheath made of white fabric, her paleness gleamed in the darkness of the wood. She shivered again as a tremor rocked through her, causing her hand to fly up to her chest and the bundle she carried there, its heat soaking through her skin even through the heavy cloth it was wrapped in.
A form moved out of the shadows, baring sharp fangs at her. She fell back with a gasp, tripping over her feet.
“You are not wanted here.”
The girl spun, clinging to the bundle pressed against her chest. Azure blue eyes, a color never yet seen in this world, widened as wisps of shadow solidified in front of her, forming a man.
“Why do you refuse me?” her voice was soft as she addressed the man, but he could smell her fear as his brother circled around her, close enough to brush midnight fur against her legs, baring his sharp fangs. “I have done nothing to you and yours. I have not yet taken.”
The man’s face was cold, his voice frigid as the wind that whipped around their forms. “You have taken nothing but you ask much. Be gone from this place, heat-keeper. What you bring is not welcome here.”
The girl’s voice was still soft. “You judge what you do not know. Do you not feel the cold, the wind biting at your skin? Do you not see the dark, hear the shadows whisper? Do you not wish for change?”
“This is the way it was. This is the way it will be.”
“Your future need not take the same path as your path, dark-keeper.”
Now the man’s face turned harder still. “Go, heat-keeper; run from this place. We do not wish your change.”
Now the girl’s voice turned lighter, musical, as she slowly let her hands fall from her bundle, raising eyes to the frigid sky. “You shall have change, whether you wish or no.”
His brother lunged for her throat and shadows cloaked the man in darkness as the bundle fell to the ground, the cloth flaps blowing open and light burst forth from the bundle in an eager frenzy, blinding the man and all who walked in the forest and the cold with a brilliant flash of color.
When it was over there were no shadows cloaking him, his brother lying by his side, the heat-keeper gone. He raised his eyes to the sky and saw azure blue stretching over him, a ball of fire burning in its center.
For the first time, since the dawn of the Cold World, there was color mingling with the black shadows. And no white trickled from the sky to cover the earth with its sorrow.