Take a pretty young woman in tight, good condition, with sharp features, delicately almond eyes, and a burnished, flawless complextion.  Given her a rod-straight bearing, razor stare, a waterfall of slick black hair, and a grin brimming with wicked mirth.  Dress her in black silk edged in gold thread, with fanciful animals embroided on its high collar.

Now age that woman a score of years, putting her through sandstorms, through privation, through sun and cold, and yes, through not a few binges on the hardest, foulest liquor one can afford.

The face has sharpened even more, painfully so, while the eyes have dulled.  Her flawless, bronzed complexion has tarnished, and the rod holding her straight has bent - only slightly, mind - under the weight of years.  Grey ice threads through the obsidian waterfall of her hair.  The black silk is roughened and stained, the golden thread frayed and plucked away, the animals forlornly faded beneath her ragged, once-weatherproof cloak.

And a decade's pain has eaten nearly all the mirth in her smile, leaving only bitter sorrow.

And yet something still sparkles in the depths of her eyes, choked but fighting to shine.  And sometimes a feeling beyond irony flickers in her smile, like a distant light through a fog of cynicism.