Snow fell and the world was quiet. The woods, Faron's solace, offered comfort and a warm embrace. The forest was quiet, covered in a blanket of fresh snow, undisturbed and pristine. She felt guilty as she stepped underneath the tree branches arching overhead, looking down as her boot left footprints that ruined the perfect layer that coated the ground. And even still, Faron could not enjoy the comforts of her soul's home, she could not bring herself to feel comforted by the wind and the trees.
Maugrim and Akela were ahead, noses in the air. Faron had left Gelvira in the tent without waking her that morning. They had left the previous night, disappearing into the forest in search of any creature that Faron could sell to Bree. She was bitter, oh so bitter, and had let the trees hear it the moment that she was alone.
"I do so much for them," she had angrily said to the large oak she stopped by, a hand resting on its bark. "I spend all fall hunting, day and night, so that we may live comfortably during the winter. I keep nothing for myself, I give it all," she continued, circling the tree and staring up at the branches above her, imagining that she was staring into a canopy of green leaves. She was glad that she had left Gelvira in the tent. She did not want her to witness the impending breakdown that Faron could feel rising.
She continued walking through the trees, reaching out to touch every tree that she passed, as if she was searching for something. "And yet, I cannot do anything good enough," she said, feeling a sob rise in the back of her throat. "Every moment since we have been in this land, I have spent my time preparing our food stores. Making sure that no one would go hungry. I have done my best," Faron said to the wolves. She was pleading now, seeking some sort of comfort that they could not give her.
"And yes, my best is not good enough. Everyone is doing everything they can... except for me. I give and give and give and they simply... ask for more. I have given them everything that I can possibly give them, and still, I have to go out in the dead of winter to hunt because we need coins so terribly. And why? It is greed. We do not need these coins. We do not need sellswords." Faron angrily wiped her cheeks with her gloves, crouching down by the nearest tree and sitting in the snow, uncaring of her clothes getting wet.
"And her," she said with such malice and hate. "I have to risk my life for greed, and she dares to tell me what I may and may not do. She, who would as easily sell one of us out. She, who offers nothing to the clan and does nothing for us. We feed her, clothe her, put a roof over her head. She does nothing in return," Akela kneeled by Faron, her head in her lap. Her hands fell to the wolf's head, and she absently stroked the fur.
Such hatred was not even reserved for Heriwulf. Faron had never felt it course through her veins as it had done yesterday. She was angry. She hated them, all of them. "I hope she dies," she said viciously to Akela, who was unblinking. The wolf didn't answer, but Faron could immediately feel the guilt creeping into her heart, like shards of glass that were uncomfortably present and unrelenting.
She stood, wiping the snow from her cloak and drawing her bow. Faron fell silent and the world seemed to stand still except the snowflakes that fell and gently brushed her skin before melting. She lifted her bow, an arrow notched, and silently crept forward. A bear, lumbering and big and alone, with brown fur and black eyes. Faron hesitated, unwavering, with her arrow notched. The bear would sell for more silvers than any other animal Faron could bring in. She could return to the village without having to kill a single other animal. It was what she had come out here for, after all. And it would be so incredibly rare to find a bear that had not yet nested in a cave for the rest of the season yet.
And though Faron did not waver, she continued to hold the bow until the bear had wandered off, and until she could no longer see his fur between the snow-covered trees. Only then did she finally lower it, and turn in the opposite direction, and continue her silent walk through the trees, in search of something else.