It had come to me after the death of my mother. She had worn the bone around her neck, by looping a piece of leather string though a natural teardrop-shaped opening in the middle of the bone. At least, I think the hole is natural, but I suppose someone could have carved it. It’s just that there are no tool marks or scratches. The bone is flawless and smooth.

It was white, but my mother once told me it used to darker. I supposed it had faded over time and exposure. The bone was quite light and rounded on all the edges, which made it easy to wear. It was always slightly cold when it rested against my chest, as if it always tore a hole through the front of my tunic and let the breeze onto my bare skin.

I didn’t like the bone, but I wore it every day from the day she died. Over my heart.

I accepted the bone when the elders took it off my mother’s body and held it out for me. I wanted something of hers, something she believed was important. I couldn’t let them bury it. I continued to keep it, and wear it, for entirely different reasons. I wore it because it was the only thing in the world that I could say truly belonged to me. I still have my reasons for keeping it today, but those reasons have changed. I’ve since learned that the bone belongs to nobody; I’m just carrying it for a while.

I was banished from the village at fifteen years old. I had always been the maid’s boy, sleeping on the floor of her room in the High Elder’s house. I was not important enough to be trained as a smith or a mason, and the farms had enough mouths to feed. It was a simple matter to the Elders- I was an orphan and I needed to go. My mother had only been a servant, and as a boy I could not replace her as the elders’ maid. Without her, I had no place in their world.

It was winter, and I was very cold.

In the Northern Pass, the snow covered the ground completely. The jagged, rocky terrain was transformed into a flat white blanket, and when the wind howled, the bone sent chills through my flesh. I had been out there for almost three weeks, digging into the ground to tear apart shrubs for firewood, eating melted snow, and always hiking. The nights were longer there, and colder, than any I had known in the village. It might have been the harsh weather of the north, but looking back I think the bone was carrying the cold, like a torch carries the light.

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