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The two girls seem to be near the same age, their limbs long and their movements just clumsy enough that it’s clear this growth spurt was recent, though they are tall enough that this could be their last growth before adulthood. Their brown skin is darker and chapped at the cheeks, as though they have travelled in persistent cold and wind. The shapes of their faces suggest they aren’t related.

They are dressed in many dull, practical layers, with packs which may have bulged once but which are looking decidedly lean now. One girl, broad as a champion wrestler and with a shaved head, forges ahead of the other, grim determination in every stride. The other, just as stout as her companion but with a mane of rich black hair coiled up, seems almost to float, so light is she on her feet.

The stray ray of sunshine pierces the clouds and her hair glints. I see that she is wearing a hair comb, the shiny off-white of polished bone and ornately carved with the shape of a hound. When I see it, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of loss.

Before I can puzzle out why I feel this way, something startles the children. What is it? Anyone should answer.