“I am- sorry I have no time to explain. Help. I am lost. Cold horrible darkness blankets me. Icy winds bit, hail clings to my clothes, a chill is in my spine. Snow whips across my face. Piles and mounds grow, it seems like the grass will never show. I’m caught in a blizzard, I need to be shown the way. I know I am but a lonely soul, yet may mercy come to me.” She gazes upward, her eyes following the light message, hoping that someone, somewhere, will hear her. Shivering, she bundles up tighter still. She falls to her knees, as images swarm her head, overwhelming her. Her sweet Mama, never appreciated, running from the Tiger, falling to her feet. She remembers pounding on the glass cage, smelling the guard’s foul breath, numb with grief. No one was willing to help her ma, a poor handmaiden. Now she sees Papa, waving goodbye as he set off to his work, mining near the Void, which was created by the bombs from the Great War. Scenes flash before her of him falling endlessly, her screaming for the guard to let her go, to let her help Pa. She remembers the smoke burning her throat as her house was burned. Running and running and not looking back as she raced through the forest. Now it isn’t just the cold she fights. Salty tears freeze as they fall. Kneeling, though she hates it, hates him, she prays to him, The Tiger for strength to survive. Then before, her- no. It must be a trick of the light. It can’t be. Yet clear as day now before her the Tigress walks. Crouching in the cold, though it stings, though she aches, she bows. A warm laugh cuts through the wind. “What tricks has brother played this time! Forcing humans to bow. Come, darling,” she now beckons the young girl forward. Shaking as she walks, she comes to the Tigress’ feet, tensing for the oncoming beating. “Stand up my young friend. What are you called, and what troubles you?” Automatically the girl responds “I am Servant 627 to the Tiger. I am lost, and cold. Please, help.” “Firstly,” says the Tigress, “You no longer are a servant to the Tiger. As the Tigress, I declare you a free woman. You are now known a Lara, lady friend to the Tigress.” Gasping, Lara clings her robes, tears of joy now falling hot and heavy. “Secondly,” the Tigress continues, “Stand up. Stand proud and tall. Look on the bright side. Choose to notice the good parts of life, ones that make you happy.” Lara smiles now. Spreading her arms, she looks at the sky and laughs. Not all is as it seems. Now grinning as wide as the moon, she whispers to the trees as she leaves, hand-in-hand with the Tigress. “I not afraid. Warm inviting darkness holds me. Snowy wind playfully dances, I don’t want to go inside, to even slightly. Ice bits dangle from my lashes. Flakes swirl, I twirl and laugh, entranced in this wonder that grows in me. I want this to never end, Winter has become my friend.” And as the future savior and Queen accompanied the Tigress, she swears to this day that she caught Death waving a happy goodbye from beyond, knowing they would meet again, to walk down that road as friends and equals.
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