She clutched the locket to her chest, amidst the sour howling winds. Her hair flew around her face, her brow knotted in worry, but her fingers held firmly around the metal heart. Everything within sight was a dark luminescent blue, punctured by stains of black shadow. Except, between the latticed tendrils of its casing, at the locket's center burned a light like the last coal in a fading fire. She rubbed her fingers against its surface, as though to warm them from the chill. It was not a good night to stand in these desolate wastelands alone. As if ever there was? "I will stay until the time appointed."
Her teeth chattered with cold, or perhaps the knowledge of what these winds could do under the wrong circumstances. Skin from bones.
A figure stumbled out from the murky mists. Wrapped in a ragged cloth, with long tangled strings of hair, and deep wrinkles cut into her face. Utterly worn down, yet the semblance of hope in her clouded eyes. As she came near, the woman grabbed at Emetine's arm, in a frenzied desperation. "Is it you, dearest?"
The woman's sight must not be well enough, or her delusions too overpowering, to deceive herself so cruelly.
"I am simply a messenger." Emie shook her head sadly. "She - your daughter - wanted me to tell you she treasures you. That you set a fine example, that you mean - you meant - so much to her and-" her voice softened further, "that you should not feel distressed that her time was destined to come before yours."
She could see the woman's face become crestfallen. "So this is, indeed, a final farewell she has sent me. What good does that do in the end, if she's already gone beyond the reach of my embrace?"
"I speak only from the shadow of her memory in this realm. Yet I can assure you, she has reached the place of peace, and is now enveloped by safety and living in delight."
Now the woman scoffed, her voice a dry husk. "How can you speak of delight? In these dark times?"
Words could not supply an answer. "Here, this is a gift from your dearest." Reaching within the folds of her cloak, Emie pulled an item that fit in the palm of her hand. Opening her fingers, she revealed a tiny potted plant. It was the only green thing either of them had seen in a long time. She held it out, and her companion took it with trembling hands, staring at its budding leaves in wonderment.
"I didn't think anything could grow like this, not anymore." Grateful tears welled up in her eyes. "This is what she was doing all this time, making life for us. That's what she left for, you know. Kept saying she would find a way to make it come true, and never give up trying. We couldn't quite bring ourselves to believe her. But here it is... the living proof." Continuing to steal glances at it, she tucked it away gently into the safety of her satchel. "I will bring it to the others too, and share this news with them."
Emetine smiled softly. "And a gift from me, to light your way." She opened the heart-shaped locket and pulled from its ember a wisp of flame, holding its kernel pinched between thumb and forefinger. Carefully pressing it against her companion's fingertips to ensure its treasured glow was not lost to the winds.
"I suggest you put it in there, before it goes out." She motioned to the matching locket chain around her companion's neck, hidden amongst the folds of her garments, whose heart casing had remained long empty. "May it keep you burning brightly."
As they parted ways, she tugged at Emetine's sleeve once more, and seemed to have a thought tugging at her mind. "If I may..." she opened her arms and stepped forward, and Emie took an answering step, finding herself wrapped in an unexpectedly affectionate hug. Whether she knew it or not, to Emie, it felt like a priceless gift.
Before disappearing into the gloom, her companion took one last look back at Emie, and nodded in respect. "Thank you for your kindness, messenger. Burn brightly."