“Real friendship or love is not manufactured or achieved by an act of Will or intention. Friendship is always an act of recognition.” – John O’Donohue, ‘Anam Cara: a Book of Celtic Wisdom’
Hsu Danmei was never a man to outwardly show any sort of discomfort in even the deepest and coldest snow. Indeed, my friend, my Anam Cara*, was one of the Hsiung-nu, and he would tease me of my intense dislike of cold and inclement weather. I kept my eyes on him as we rode through the mountain pass, I could see my breath and the breath of both of our mounts and the two pack animals cut through the bitter cold air and the snow that now flew almost completely horizontally. He turned in his saddle and glanced back at me as I struggled with my wraps and my tack uncomfortably, trying to keep myself warm. He dismounted and trudged through the drifts toward me. His expression was stern but there was no irritation on his face when he reached my side. Only his words were mildly chastising.
“By the Gods, Frances,” he scoffed, glancing up at me. He refastened the ice-caked stirrup that I had knocked askew, and then pulled free the end of my all-too thin woollen cloak and tucked it beneath the front of the saddle to secure it and to preserve my body’s warmth, “You were born in Scotland, and the weather there is miserable all of the time. I can’t remember when I was there and the sun ever shone at all. You should be used to the cold by now.”
“Even we Scots have the good enough sense not to sleep in the cold in the heather, wrapped in nothing but our plaids and our skins,” I snorted derisively at him, “besides, it never snows on the Fortunate Island!” My skirts were heavy with the snow that had melted against my body heat, and I was beginning to shiver. I hated snow with a passion and I felt like a wet animal weighted down by yards of cloth that were refreezing and becoming stiff and heavier by the moment from the snow and freezing air. There was no respite from it and that made me even more irritable.
Hsu shook his head and gave my calf a slight squeeze through the folds of fabric before turning to go remount his own horse. “Well, we aren’t on the Fortunate Island now, are we?” he said as he swung back into his saddle, and then shot back over his shoulder, “with any luck we won’t be sleeping in the cold tonight either. There’s a village just beyond this pass.” cut for length & sexual content (NSFW)