The trip back went badly. As he crossed the arctic circle, Nik flew into a snowstorm that raged for the rest of the trip. The reindeer knew the way, though, and Nik let them lead completely. But the ride was rough, and by the time they landed in the middle of the compound, Nik felt badly shaken. Abbess met him, as always, but her face was still stern from their fight earlier. "Have you figured out what it is that's bothering you yet?" He asked her.
"Let's go inside," she said, the snow swirling around her habit.
"No," he replied. "The storm is passing, and I want to finish this before I go in and try and relax." The reindeer drove the sleigh into the stable.
"Well, I hate to think my bad mood would follow you the rest of the night," secretly, though she was glad to know for certain that her moods affected him, "but I'm cold, and I'd rather talk inside. I figured out what I want. I want to be warm. There's nothing warm here. Not the weather, not the snow, not the people, not even the fires. I'm cold all the time. Aren't you cold? You're alone most of the time."
"Well, if the people here are so cold, then why would it matter if I'm alone most of the time?"
"Aren't you lonely?" She asked.
"Yes, so what?"
She stepped back from him, shocked into silence. He continued, "I never asked for this life, and I don't always like it. But it is my calling, I have to do what God orders, and every morning I get orders. You didn't have to stay. You chose this life. Why are you complaining? At least you have a choice."
"What would you do if I wanted out?" She asked.
"You won't leave," he rolled his eyes and threw back his head in frustration. The wind picked up.
"Would you take me up in the sleigh again? Would you dump me wherever you go tomorrow night? She felt enraged, backed into a corner by his confession of loneliness, and overwhelmed by his decision to do nothing about it. She knew she was baiting him deliberately, but couldn't seem to stop herself. The heat of her own anger was the only comfort she had felt in several days, and she could not help but pull it close around herself. The storm intensified with her emotions, and dimly she realized how dangerous it was to still be outside.
"You don't really want that," he shouted over the wind. "You don't really want to leave."
"Watch me!" She spun around and took a step away from him, and was immediately swallowed by a strong gust and swirl of blowing snow. Nik tried to follow in the direction he thought she went, but as the wind whipped the snow into a total whiteout, he could only stretch out his arms and hope he was still following her. The cold was getting to him through his torn suit, and she was smaller and faster than him. He was all alone, and in minutes he had no idea where he was.
Abbess also was all alone and lost, and colder than she had ever been. The rush of anger had worn off, and now she just felt cold and sorry for herself. Why had she wandered away? Why hadn't she just asked him for what she wanted? Why hadn't she just asked him for the warmth and companionship she craved? She tried to keep walking, but she was tired and fighting the wind. She kept on determinedly for a while, thinking of all the things she deserved, trying to stay angry and righteous, but she started to feel more and more sleepy, and more and more sorry, and putting one foot in front of the other became a painful effort. The wind felt like being stabbed, and the knowledge of the huge mistake she made stabbed deeper, but eventually it stopped hurting as her face and arms and legs went numb. She fell over her own feet. She was too sleepy to get up. She curled into a ball on the ground. The snow was soft. As she fell asleep, she felt an illusion of warmth, and thought that every thing would be alright. She did not wake up.