Stay Alive. Your Job is to Stay Alive

Okay, so last night I wrote this: If I Die Young. It’s a seriously non-canon what-if, read the content warnings.

Then Cal wrote back, Don’t Just Survive,

So what could I do but write the next scene?

Still seriously non-canon. Lots of angst.

The first time she remembered the mink in her head, she was four years old and it was admonishing her to listen. Pay attention, it scolded her. To everything. Look, reincarnation isn’t a given and I don’t think you’re strong enough to do it again the way I did, so, for now, your only jobs are to learn everything and to survive.

She’d asked her father, later, when he wasn’t teaching her how to build a snare, “what’s reincarnation?”

Something in the back of her mind had gone oops at her father’s expression, a strange one, a little twisted, but he’d put her on his lap. “Well, my little pricker-bush, there are people that say that a soul can be reborn once it’s passed on, brought back to life. That’s why your given name is what it is – and not just because every second girl-child was named for her – and that’s why we don’t tell anyone what your name is, all right? You’re my Thistle, my prickly-pear. And don’t ask anyone else about reincarnation, all right?”

“All right,” she said, because she paid attention.

It was many more years before she identified the mink in her head as memories. Then she had another conversation with her father.

“If there are memories that come from before I was born…”

Again, the look, and this time she understood the oops. He knew, somehow – not somehow, probably from naming ceremony – what was that? – and it worried him. “Well, thorn-child, I think you know what it means, don’t you?”

“It means I was here before,” she whispered.

“It does. You were here before, and now you’re here again, my daughter, my baby girl. Until you are of age, you are my baby girl.”

Other children in the town had mothers. She’d learned early on not to ask why she didn’t.

“Until I’m of age,” she’d agreed. She’d been seven.

She’d been just a couple months short of ten when her father and the mink in her mind had pulled her out of bed in the middle of the night. “Raiders,” he’d hissed. “Go. You know where to go, we practiced this. Go now.”

Your jobs are to learn everything, and to survive.

Don’t just survive, live.

She took the escape route out of town and walked until she reached Cloverleaf.

“I’m looking for the blond warrior,” she told the guard. His image had been in her mind since she ran away from her home.

And there he was. Kneeling, oh, dead gods, his antlers touching the ground. He looked a wreck. He was still alive.

“My lady.” He sounded a wreck. She didn’t care. “You came back.”

“I came as soon as I could.” She put her hands on his shoulders and tried to sort through all the memories.

Don’t try to make sense of them. Just remember that he is your sword.

“My sword.” The words sounded perfect on her lips. “I’m sorry you had to wait so long.” She knew she was crying, and she only sort of understood why. “But I’m very glad that you waited.”

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