A single teardrop broke against the glass and slid down the length of the picture frame. Her mother's face stared up at Katla from within the confines of the portrait, eternally smiling, perpetually young, forever frozen in that moment. Immortal.
With trembling hands, Katla placed the portrait on the floor beside her and turned her attention to the iron poker she had managed to smuggle into her room. As her fingers closed around its cold surface, she shivered. It felt like a murder weapon. In a way, it would be.
She closed her eyes and steeled herself for what was to come, another tear tracing a path down her cheek. Then she held the poker before her.
Halkatla, what are you doing?
The words came like a whisper on the breeze, drifting through the castle walls as though the ancient stones weren't there.
Katla kept her eyes closed and tightened her grip on the poker. "Please." Anguish constricted the girl's windpipe, choking off her words. "This is the only way. You won't stop. Why won't you stop?"
You know why.
Katla fought to swallow past the lump in her throat. "Then please forgive me."
She brought the poker down with all her strength, slamming the metal rod into the smiling portrait of her mother. Again and again and again.
Breathing heavily, Katla opened her eyes. The portrait lay in ruin, the picture torn, the frame splintered, the glass shattered. Now nothing remained of her mother. She was immortal no longer.
Shaking, Katla climbed to her feet and looked about the room. All was still. Silent.
And then: Why?
For a moment, Katla felt as if she might faint. She staggered to her bed and clung to the post for support.
"You're not real," she murmured. "I destroyed the picture. You can't be here. You're not real!"
You can destroy everything I ever owned, my darling, and that would not be enough. I am still alive in your memory. You will never be rid of me.
Katla clutched her head, trying to force the words from her mind. "Go away! Please, just go. What will make you leave me alone?"
You know what.
Somewhere deep inside her, Katla felt something break. Destroying the picture had been her last hope and it had failed. Now there was nothing left for her to do; no other course of action to take-except one.
"But I…" She raised her head and looked out of the window. Outside, the deepest depths of night lay in wait. "But I'm scared."
I will protect you, my love. Just give in.
"What about my father?"
He sent you away; he did not believe you. He does not love you as I do. Come to me and I will protect you.
"I…" Katla tried to catch her breath. Her heart raced in her chest, beating like a caged bird trying to break free.
Come to me.
The girl pushed herself away from the bedpost and moved towards the window. The mountain on which the castle was built fell away in a sheer drop on the other side of the pane.
Come to me.
With trembling fingers, Katla opened the latch and swung the window open. She gathered her skirts and climbed onto the sill, her bare toes curling around the edge of the wood.
Come to me.
A black void gaped below, waiting to swallow her whole.
Come to me. I am yours.
Katla closed her eyes and stepped out over the endless abyss.
And you are mine.