She got up then, and left the inn, Which inn, she hardly remembered by now, and inn - the inn in Theramore, perhaps, yes, Theramore was the place for now. It didn't matter which inn - it didn't matter which city or which season or which country or even which bedamned alliance they were working for. It was all the same - find the traitor, kill the bandits, hunt the wildlife, carry this message, here's your silver, what a marvel you are. There wasn't enough doing to keep her from thinking any more.
And Snow had been thinking . About the past, about Darin and the Irregulars, about the witch, about Lordaeron. Especially about Lordaeron, and the girl she'd been. Arathi seemed to have drawn it out of her - walking the too-familiar highlands at her own pace, her eyes stopping too long on evocative alignments of hill and valley. It had taken her back to Lordaeron, and the girl she'd been, and thoughts like that led to what-if and what-if led to regrets, which led to chinks in the armor that had been built around her with resolve and agony, and when that broke down, she was Neige the girl once more, standing on the remains of shattered buildings in the holocaust that had once been Lordaeron. Neige the girl had been helpless and impotent there, powerless to defy the obscene proposal Darin had made in exchange for her life. Neige the girl had accepted it, and for that acceptance she'd died in the bedrolls of Lordaeron's Irregulars, but she had begun to die when Lordaeron died. And Neige the girl had tears and wishes and hopes and broken dreams, and Neige the girl had feelings that would take her nowhere but to a slow and suicidal oblivion. There would be none of that for Lady Snow; she would live if all the world conspired against her living, and she would go on.
It was rapidly dark, outside the inn, passing the torchlit streets of Theramore, the moon not penetrating far through the jungle of trees in the marsh. She brushed aside the guard's warning - A lady like me, she rebutted privately, belongs nowhere better than away from protection on such a dark and dangerous night - and ventured out into the swamp. A little slaughter, a little danger, a challenge to mind and body - those were the things that would drive her unruly thoughts into submission. A warlock was a warlock, after all, a student and master of darkness; not a simpering lap dog or bit of decorative fluff. She'd spent too much time listening to Bennethal's talk of the Light and not enough indulging the needs of her inner self.
It was time, she decided, to give her soul a proper cleansing.
They came as if called by her fury, out of the night, each one a visible emanation of rage. They swept in one by one and she faced them one by one, spiders and raptors and shambling things that snarled and clawed, guilt and desperation and hopelessness and doubt. She unleashed every spell, every hidden trick and wile she knew, called on her servants only when there was no other defense to be found, drained her intellect and her energy beyond dry, and still the night spewed back at her every form of madness she could imagine, concealing the tearless wasteland of her cheeks with a mockery of weeping, droplets of blood streaking the pale skin as if drawing tears from her deepest reserves.
And so it was that Lady Snow passed the night, as she had not passed a night since meeting Bennethal, as she had passed so many nights in the beginning - fighting her own private and unwinnable war against what foes she could not say. Without guardian, without confidant, without friend or companion she rent the night and bore it down under the force of her will, blood and heart and soul destroyed and regained a thousand times over, until at last the sky began to lighten. And so it was that a woman, once a girl, tattered and bleeding and nearly broken, passed through the gates of Theramore with the dawn. And so it was that Lady Snow found in herself - once more - the will to face the day.