Fandom: Shadow of the Colossus
Pairing and/or Character: Wander/Mono
Disclaimer: This lovely world does not belong to me.
Summary: Winter clutches the earth in a harsh fist.
Warnings: Brief mention of nudity. Spoilers for the ending.
regard me with dread
because i still love you
my love, though you're dead
and would still be your shelter
through wind and through storm
for with you in the cold earth
i cannot sleep warm
/the sky is a hazy shade/
the stone vaults echo somewhere below her with the high thin singing of the wind. she wakes shivering in the dark, curled up fetal on cold stone and dry grass, and for a moment she doesn't know why.
something nickers softly in the dark. gentle horse lips tug at her hair, and she remembers where she is and uncurls slightly, reaching up a hand to discourage the questing teeth. a dark room is no place for an animal, and its patience, its willingness to fold its great body onto the floor and let her press close to share its musky warmth, astounds her.
perhaps it knows, like her, that they have no choice. all the cramped, narrow chambers that honeycomb the temple's highest floors are cold and dark, but they have no windows and she has piled brush by the door to keep out the deathsong of the wind. this is their best chance.
a tiny hand stirs from the tattered bundle of gray cloth in her arms, and she hears the familiar mewling cry. it sounds like the wind, thin and miserable. she closes her eyes, no longer able to forget; this is the sound that awakened her, as it does every night, though every night it grows softer, thinner.
the baby. her baby. she doesn't know how she knows this, but it has his very eyes, blue as steel and too lonely for such a small face. she holds it close to her, as much for warmth as for comfort, and fumbles at the neck of her gown.
when it would not stop crying in the early days, loud frantic demands for something she could not forage, she gave the poor thing suck at her small, empty breasts and it would quiet for a time, before frustration and hunger made it weep again. she knew it took nothing good from her--it was such a bitter sight that she only bore it for the brief peace it gave them both--until the day, wonder of wonders, when the child lay quiet and contented in her arms, and she watched it for long bewildered moments, then gently nudged its little mouth loose and stared in shock at the welling drops of milk.
she is a virgin, and no true mother--she is sure of that. but if the gods grant that she shall feed this child, she can summon nothing but gratitude...
and now, fear, for what little milk she has is drying up, and she sat at her mother's feet and listened well enough to know why. the bones of her wrists are visible under the thin skin, and her face has lost its gentle softness, so that when she presses her hand to her cheek, the plane of the bone beneath is sharp against her palm.
winter stooped on the valley with terrible speed, dusting the high cliffsides with snow, and what stock she was able to gather before the frosts struck has dwindled to nothing. she knows little of the plants here, the roots and fruits she should have foraged, and she did not dare try this and that until she found what was good.
and now it is winter, and the wind sings high in the stone vaults below, and she is starving and the baby with her.
the baby. his baby. where is he, now? she cannot imagine that he is alive and has not come for her, but she cannot believe that he could be dead without her knowing, without an instinctual mourning in every pulse of her purified blood.
she has found clues, traces left behind on the landscape that she knows for his deeds without being told.
the burial shroud was caught on the exposed roots of a tree, flapping wildly in the wind. she saw it at a distance, the first day, and went to it with his horse limping at her heels; pulled it loose and tore a broad swath away with her teeth and the aid of a broken stone, to wrap the squalling infant. the rest she saved, knowing the value of good sturdy cloth, and left the thought of omens and ill luck to fend for itself.
wandering over the low hills with her skirts full of withered roots and dry bracken, she found arrows here and there, sunk deep among the grass or buried in trees. she knows the fletching--some of it is her own work, and she saved them all, running her thumb over the soft feathers damaged by rain and wind. she prays for flax and soapweed to come with the spring, and young green wood, and only wishes she had learned to pull a bow as well as craft it. the women of her people never set nock to string. there has never been a need. she will have to teach herself, if she lives so long.
when she found the jumbled footprints in the wet earth, running in and out of craters she was too afraid to interpret, she knelt down and wept until the baby began to whimper in her arms. she was unsure even then whether her tears sprang from relief or fear, but something went out of her with them and has not returned. she has found other footprints since then, scattered here and there with hoofprints following, but she has not wept again.
this is the only thing worth knowing: he has saved her once, but wherever he is, he cannot help her now.
the wind shrieks in the vaults, and settles. the baby has fallen asleep, sucking his fingers instead of a breast drawn dry. she touches his soft hair and the tiny nubs of his horns, and listens to the small plaintive noises he makes in his sleep. she clutches the solid warmth of him to her body and thinks of his wide inquisitive blue eyes, his lusty yell, his tiny fingers.
someday those hands might hold a bow, and draw it.
but if she does not get up, go out, and eat, they never will.
slowly, she puts out an arm, braces it against the smooth stone and raises herself to her knees. the baby whimpers once and is still. she pushes the loose grass into a mound, settles him into it and tucks him close against Agro's soft, warm flank. she takes the horse's nose in both hands and looks into its eyes, breathing its breath.
keep him safe, she thinks. if he could trust you, so can I.
then she stands, and pulls the torn gray cloth from the door where it flutters against the heaps of brush. she wraps up as best as she can in her own shroud and pushes the windbreak aside, replacing it when she's through.
there was shriveled fruit on the trees when she foraged across the hills. she remembers it, though she has never climbed a tree in her life and did not wish to learn.
the first step into the thin sunlight hurts her unaccustomed eyes and steals the frozen breath from her lips. even wrapped in makeshift strips of cloth, her feet are bitten by the cold ground. the sky is deathly gray and the wind pulls her hair and tries to strip her cloak away, but she walks until she finds a tree, stops beneath it and raises her gaze to its dizzying black heights and the dull spots of color tucked among them.
she will not let go of his final gift. no templar, no dead stone pillars, no screaming winter wind will tear it from her fingers. whatever may come of her refusal will have to see to itself without her help. she must learn to think of only the next branch, the next dried winter fruit, the next pigeon's egg. she will, it seems, be doing a lot of climbing.
the bark is rough under her soft fingers, tearing at her skin. she grips it hard anyway and pulls herself up, bracing one bare foot against the gnarled trunk, then the other, eyes narrowed and hair whipping around her face.
the baby--their baby--will not die.
she will learn to provide. she will do what she must.
her other foot braced, she stands, and reaches for the next branch, and the next, muscles straining, legs pushing and scrabbling, fingers slipping, scratched skin bleeding, until at last her hand fumbles and clutches at the wrinkled brown skin of the first fruit. the brittle stem snaps at her touch.
still clinging to the swaying branches, she crams the curve of it into her mouth, and breaks the leathery skin with her teeth. sweet juice floods over her tongue.
it tastes like next year's sunshine, with a papery hint of autumn leaves.
like life put on hold for a time.
she smiles, defying the wind that chills her lips, and reaches for another.
this is a beginning.
and will lie there forever
if your hands were in mine
then i know we'd not sever
my appletree, my brightness
tis time we were together
for i smell of the earth
and am worn by the weather...