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It was beyond cold, and Lyla was happy that she and Gregor had managed to complete their temporary home before the sun went down. The fire was picking up in their tiny hut and both travelers were beginning to feel their extremities again.
Lyla knelt in front of the fire, warming her now-gloveless hands in the glow of the fire. “I’ve never been this far north before,” she said as best she could without her teeth chattering. “I’m beginning to think I underestimated the journey entirely.” Gregor nodded for a moment, not looking at his younger companion while placing the body of a rabbit they had caught earlier across the flames.
“It’s hard to prepare when you don’t understand what you are up against,” Gregor stated as the smell of cooked meat filled their temporary enclosure. “Have you ever spent a night outdoors?” he inquired, giving her the benefit of the doubt.
She shook her red head, the strands finally thawing and separating after a long day of hiking in the wet and cold. “Aside from this trip, I’ve rarely left my family’s estate. This is entirely new to me.” Lyla focused her eyes on the fire as Gregor got to his feet.
“Let me grab more wood. This fire won’t last long if I do not.” He left the enclosure swiftly, but Lyla heard the crunch of footfalls in dense snow stop not far from the unsecured flap to their housing. “Lyla,” Gregor called. “Lyla, come quick. You must see this!”
She scrambled gracelessly to her feet, stopping only to return her warmed toes to her boots before stumbling out into the cold night. Above their heads danced whites and greens in ways Lyla could never have imagined. “My grandmother told me tales of fairy lights when I was a child,” Gregor whispered, as if he was afraid to blow the lights off course if his voice was too loud. “Magnificent."
He turned to Lyla and was warmed by the shock and awe clearly laid out on her pale face. He took a moment to put an arm around her shoulder, sharing his cloak with the clearly shivering girl. It felt nice, this intimate gesture, but when his thoughts turned to his own children, Gregor forced his mind to lose itself again in the dancing lights instead of focusing on the loss and pain of his long life. There would be time enough for that in the future, and there was simply too much beauty around him to appreciate in the meantime.