"Kaleigh," His voice was hoarse and low.

"Hi," I spoke gently, as if a single syllable could push him over the edge and leave me here alone again. "I'm here."

"I need you to help me, Kaleigh."

"I don't know how, Jared. Tell me what to do," I pleaded with him, my whispering making me sound all the more desperate.

"I'm here to help; I was called on to save you." His eyelids fluttered as he tried to catch his weak breath.

I squinted my eyes at him, confused. "I. . . I don't understand."

"I was a shadow; protecting, watching." He paused. His every word was becoming painful for me to watch. "Now, you might call me a spirit of sorts. A spirit of the Earth, of the seasons. . . it doesn't matter what you call me."

I shushed him gently then, stood and turned away. "Jared, you should sleep. Save your energy." I placed a hand over my forehead and muttered to myself, "You're delirious."

"Kaleigh." The force he put into my name startled me and I looked over at him again. He seemed more lucid now than he had through this entire ordeal. His disconcerting blue eyes bore into my ordinary hazel ones, and a shiver ran down my spine. "I need to wake the other three."

"The other three?" I was just as confused as ever.

"The other shadows; I need to wake them. That is what the vial is for."

"Jared. . . " I didn't know what I should say. Was it better to play along?

"If I don't, the Earth, and its people, will not survive this endless winter."

Endless? Surely, he didn't think this weather would last forever? After all, spring was just a month away. . .

I sighed and asked the only question I could think of that would actually help the situation. "Jared, what happened to you?"

"I was stripped of my influence. But that is not important now." He coughed and spluttered before regaining his weak posture. "Once the others are awake, they can restore me."

"Influence? Jared, I don't know what to say." I refrained from voicing my real concern, that he probably wouldn't last much longer in his condition.

"Please trust me. Please." His pitiful pleading sent a wave of sadness through me.

"What can I do?"

"Take the vial. Find Reza, the shadow of Summer. Wake her and tell her Winter needs her. . . tell her I need her."

The End

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