It took a certain kind of strength, to rise each morning.
Some nights, the cold seeped so deep inside of her that her very bones felt frozen and brittle- like she might never be warm again. Her skin was so much parchment stretched over the hollow framework of her skeleton, and it would have been so much easier just to close her eyes and slip into the dark waters of death’s grasp than to rise again, to fight again to find food, to help the wretched.
It would have been easy, to give up, to succumb to the hunger that burned and twisted in her stomach like a living thing, to give in to the cold and exhaustion- to capitulate, at long last, and let go.
But for all that she had grown accustomed to the abusive words flung her way; Kharza had discovered something that surprised even herself-
She wasn’t weak.
Every day, the choice presented itself. And every day, she rose to meet the sun, to wash her face and braid her hair- to forage the craggy beach for things left in tidepools, to boil a thin stew of the ocean’s leavings. And it would have been easy to subsist off of scraps- but again, Kharza never did find happiness in walking the easy road.
Though she had little enough for herself, she spent the greater portion of her days sharing the most of her forage, with those who could not forage for themselves. The elderly, the senile, the addicts- her mother would have berated her as a fool. They were weak. Malacath abhorred weakness. In sharing, she weakened herself, willfully and knowingly- the very god she revered had surely turned from her in disgust.
Yet still she was compelled. It was her purpose.
Some of them thanked her. Most did not. She’d been beaten before, but Kharza knew how to take a beating- her siblings had made sure of it, after all. It never stopped her; bones might break, but Kharza was stubborn- and more importantly, she was skilled. Long had she studied the herbwoman that was her father’s eldest wife, long had she learned the intricacies of mending- and now she had reason to apply them. Not just to herself, but to others who had been beaten, or had simply fallen ill.
There came a day when she was threatened, and those she had helped rose up to defend her. It was small, at first- the drunken redguard whose liver was failing threw a punch at the much larger, much fitter Breton who took offense to Kharza’s misshapen face. Instead of Kharza bleeding on the ground, the redguard ended up at death’s door; she hadn’t been able to save him.
But others, too, rose to help her. After a time, Kharza began to find that she was safe, no matter how dark the alley or late the night. It was strange, to walk without fear- but like most things in her turbulent life, she adjusted to this. While there was very little outright kindness in the underbelly of Farrun’s poor district, she felt serenity in the simple lack of bodily harm.
For now, it was enough to rise each morning, to know that she was alive, that she had purpose.
There was strength in that, and it was enough.