My entry for the Creative Writing Ink Image Prompt Competition from w/c 6th October 2016, inspired by this picture:
The light was dying, and the fire had gone out. Without Brin’s firelighting skills she wouldn’t be able to relight it; she was too little and she didn’t have the skills. The valley looked idyllic now, with its alluring carpet of grass, but come morning it would all be frozen stiff. As would she, if her brother didn’t return. Rowena’s jaw set in determination. She couldn’t just give in. What would her Mama say? And her Papa? She was only five, but she was smart. Everyone said so. Before the flood took them away. She gulped her grief deep down inside and tried to focus. Her empty belly rumbled. In response, she did the only thing she could think of to do: sprang up from her haunches and ran, as far and as fast as her legs could carry her.
Some twenty minutes later, when she reached the towering valley walls, she found a thicket of small trees. Not thinking of the bears that might be lurking there, nor of the fate of her brother (who she knew should have been back hours ago with food for their dinner) Rowena strode purposefully into the thicket and began to gather wood.
When she returned to the camp it was almost dark, but the full moon helped her find her way. She hunkered down over the burnt out embers with the small bits of dry wood and kindling she had found, and set to work. She concentrated hard on setting the sticks at the right angle, carefully arranging the kindling in the crook of the bottom piece of wood she had partially hollowed and laid out, just as she had seen Brin and Papa do many times, but never tried herself. Until now. And now, she knew, failure would almost certainly mean death.
Brin walked slowly across the valley floor, dragging his badly wounded leg behind him. He had, he knew, been lucky in his stand-off with the bear. His wounds would heal – he would survive – but that didn’t make his return to camp any less painful. Or diminish his growing concern about his sister’s welfare. He’d had no choice to leave her, but what would his father have said? “Protect her, Brin, to your dying breath”, were his dying words. And Brin would protect Rowena, of course he would. But to protect her he must also bring her food. Otherwise they would both starve. As he walked he felt the weight of the dead rabbit over his shoulder. Hold on little one, he willed. Hold on.
The smoke reached his nostrils before the light from the flames. He stopped and rubbed his eyes, incredulous. As he grew nearer he could just make out the tiny figure lying beside the fire, wrapped in a small fur. He ran to his sister’s side, scooped her up onto his knee and held her close. She stirred from her slumber, opened her eyes and smiled. “Brin?”
“It’s me, little one,” Brin said, returning his sister’s trusting smile. “Was it really you who got the fire going?”
Rowena nodded. “All by myself,” she said proudly. “Like you and Papa used to do.”
Brin laid the rabbit on the ground and Rowena’s eyes widened. “Well you are cleverer than I even thought possible,” he said. “And, to celebrate, we will have rabbit for dinner tonight.”