A/N: In my opinion, "Babe Is Born/Enter the Stable Gently" by Liz Story (from A Winter Solstice Reunion) is the best mood music for this song. Tissue warning!! Stock up your Kleenex now! Not responsible for any damage to computers as a result of tears. Enjoy!

Light of the Stars

Elien's booted foot caught on a stray branch and it sent her sprawling into the winter snow. The cold snow burned her skin. She pushed herself up and brushed the snow off her leggings as best she could. As soon as she stood up again, the wind's fingers tried to lick any protruding skin that it could. All that it could reach was the skin around her eyes that was impossible to cover. Everything else was hidden underneath britches, socks, tunics, spare pieces of cloth, and her favourite cloak.

Elien checked her pack to make sure nothing had taken any damage from her fall. The loaf of meagre bread, the apple, the handful berries, a small flask of water, and her few simple hunting tools that she had stolen from her father lay in her pack. Her bow and arrows were fastened on the outside with some twine and clasps. She hadn't known what exactly to bring for one running away from home, but she brought what she thought she might need.

The young teen pressed on under the cloak of night. The stars were veiled by the clouded night. The moon glowed faintly from behind the heavens above. She had planned on using the stars as her guide, but she would just have to do her best to get to where she was going. She was headed towards the Twinni, the river that separated the kingdom that she was born and raised in, with the next. It should be frozen by now; it was the middle of the winter already.

She had run away from home because she was unhappy there. Her parents always belittled her, telling things that stabbed as a knife to the heart. She was worthless, she couldn't do anything right, and she didn't have any special talents at all. They never said that they loved her for what she was. They always wanted her to be someone that she was not. She could never be good enough for them to like her, or to be happy with her. She and her parents would always get into arguments together, especially with her mother. The fight before she took off was her newest mar.

Elien crept into the kitchen. Her mother had requested her presence. Anxiety of what she had, or hadn't done rang through her heart.

"You asked for me, mother?" She tried to sound defiant.

"Yes I did. This morn, when I was out with your father helping prepare the venison and mutton, you were supposed to be stocking the firewood. Piles of splinters and logs lay strewn across the snow behind the shed. What have you to say for yourself?" Her mother questioned.

Elien thought through her chores earlier. She had stacked all the wood that her father had chopped yester eve along the south wall of shed so as it would not be harmed by the wind.

She had been blamed for the messed up firewood. Wood was burned for heat and fuel, to keep warm and to cook. It was the source of life throughout the cold winter days. Her parents were displeased. She was punished to clean up the kindling, as well as wash all the dishes and clothes. Her parents had also yelled at how stupid and careless she was while she was restacking the firewood. Naturally, the entire community had heard her parent's putdowns about her. She had lasted about 10 time lengths until she had burst into tears at her parents' insults and made a fool of herself by slipping on a patch of black ice that sent her bundle of wood go flying. Her slip just earned her another round of verbal torture. Such instances happened routinely; it was a natural part of the life she had known. There was nothing at home for her. That is why she had decided to leave it.

Elien could not prove that she had originally stocked the wood as directed. Her parents could not prove that she had strewn the logs. It had probably been a wild animal looking for food or shelter amongst the fine oak pieces. She had always been sympathetic to the animals. They had been her family and friends, since she was treated like an animal herself by the rest of the community.

Elien stopped and opened her pack again. She researched through her food items and snatched out the smallest of the selections. The handful of berries turned out to be the smallest. She masticated on them hungrily. She had left yester eve, and had not eaten since the midday meal before that. The girl wanted to stop and make a fire for herself, but she deemed that impossible, for all the kindling would be too wet from the snow to catch flame. Not to mention she wanted to get as far away and as fast away as was humanly feasible. She planned to make it to the Twinni by first light of dawn next morn at least. But she did not know how far she was to the river, or how far she was from home.

She hurried along her way, chewing upon her paltry fruits. Elien wished that she had had a better plan. Her current one was to get away and head west. She wished that she would have taken a map, or at least got her bearings off of one in her father's study. But all that she had been able to manage was to get out and away without anyone noticing. It was in the middle of the night, on probably the coldest night of the year, but she made it undetected none the less.

The clouds parted slightly, only to pour down on the miserable girl. Legend had it that when the gods and goddesses up in the clouds were too full of their sweets and gourmet foods, they let their wine that they hadn't drunk down on the earth. The rain matted her long tresses of auburn hair. Elien pulled up the hood of her forest green cloak further on her head. She crossed her arms, trying to conserve as much of her body heat as possible.

She hadn't really had any friends back home, other then the local wild animals. That made leaving all that much easier. She would make new animal friends near her new home, wherever that was to be. She was left alone with her thoughts of a better life in a better place as she walked under the clouds with the rain.

She walked along for some time, and the rain pelting without respire. It made the ground wet and slick, and she had fallen on it more then once. It also made her colder then she already was, and her breath frosted in the air. Elien wasn't used to being out in the cold because she usually ended up staying inside and helping with the housework. But she had lived in the North all her life, so she was probably more adept to the climate and weather then a southerner would be.

Suddenly, Elien saw a change in the landscape. The white snow covered land dropped off, then started up again some metres later. She must have made a miscalculation in thinking she was further from the river. This had to be the Twinni, and there was still a great deal of hours to go until first light. No matter, she would just cross it now. Hopefully there was some dry firewood on the other side and a good place to make camp.

Elien approached the frozen river. She glanced downward looking for any cracks, breaks, or stress fractures that might send her to her death in the freezing waters. She didn't see any visible errs in the glass like surface. She put one foot out upon the water to test its might. It seemed sturdy enough. Elien put her other foot atop and jumped up and down slightly. The frozen waters held her.

Elien walked across the Twinni, being careful not to slip on the slick surface. She proceeded warily, not wanting to be injured. It would be great to live next to the mighty river during the warmer seasons when it was thawed and running swiftly. Perhaps she would make her new home somewhere downstream on the other side.

Suddenly Elien heard a crunching sound, and her leg dropped into freezing waters. She tried to stay calm. She looked around for something to grab onto and hoist herself up. Elien reached for a root frozen in the ice. Her leg just fell further into the burning cold. She tried for the root again. Then, unexpectedly, more crunching ensued, and she plunged into the potent river.

Cold water pierced her everywhere like thousands of needles of searing hot pain through every part of her body and conscious self. Elien struggled towards the direction that she thought was up. She caught herself floating in the other direction, which was up. She switched directions. Her head bashed up against the ice above her. Her teeth jammed into her lip, and she tasted blood.

Elien tried not to panic as she searched for the hole she had fallen through. Her heart hammered in her chest when she realized that the opening she fell through had frozen over already. She pounded her hands on the ice above her. She thrashed and struggled in the water, trying to find a way back out, a way to land, warmth, and air. The glacial water stung her eyes as she desperately tried to find a way out of her water prison. She needed to find a way to break the ice and get back through it.

What did it matter anyways, what did she have to live for? Elien relaxed in the water. There was no way she was going to make it back up through the thick ice. She would probably freeze to death out of the water all soaked like this anyways. Not to mention, could she ever live on her own out in that world?

A spot on the ice without snow allowed her a distorted view of the sky overhead. The clouds had disappeared, and the stars shone brightly on her. Elien smiled in spite of herself. It was good to see the stars, and to look upon them as a free person. With that last thought, she let out her last breath.

No one would ever know what had happened to the girl searching for her freedom. The snow covered her tracks, the river covered her body, and the stars had captured her heart and spirit. But Elien would always be free amongst her stars in the heavens.

La fin