The embers of a dying fire glowed faintly in the gray light of early dawn. Standing, the boy threw a few more handfuls of brush and a couple of sticks onto the brightest spot, then sat back down. A hesitant flame caught and grew, lighting the sticks.
That should last another few minutes, he decided. At some point he'd have to go find some real firewood, but he didn't want to leave the girl here by herself. He threw a glance at her, lying on her side with her face towards the warmth of the fire. A few strands of her hair fluttered gently on the light breeze.
The boy sighed and turned his gaze back to the small blaze. I should wake her, he thought. But he didn't move. She looked too peaceful, too innocent to be forced to return to the harsh reality of the real world. So he let her sleep as the red sun rose and climbed towards the treetops.
Since he couldn't actually talk to the girl at the moment, he thought back over some of their previous conversations. He smiled, remembering the day she had insisted that if only she could find one, she was sure she could hatch a lightningdrake egg.
His smile faded, though, as he remembered some very different conversations. It seemed that whenever the topics of home or family came up, the girl quickly changed the subject.
He shrugged, deciding not to let it bother him. Everyone had their secrets, and sometimes they weren't ready to tell them to anyone, even their closest friend.
Grass rustled as the girl began to stir. The boy turned to her as she opened her eyes and sat up. She looked towards the east and squinted. “Why didn't you wake me earlier?”
The boy hesitated a moment. “You looked so peaceful. I didn't want to be the one to drag you back into…” he lifted his gloved hand and gestured to the trees around them, “this.”
She frowned, but didn't say anything else as she stood. As she spun in a slow circle, taking in their surroundings, her frown deepened. Seeing this, the boy’s expression darkened as well. Before the attack, she’d had only smiles for him. Now….
“Hey,” he said, jumping up. “Why don't we do some hunting. We need food.” And I want to see that smile of yours again, he silently added. He wasn't completely disappointed. Her face lightened slightly and she hurried over to where her bow lay on the ground next to the supply pack.
The boy let a smile creep onto his lips as picked up his own bow. His mind wandered back to the first time they had hunted together. The girl had been so excited that she had nearly dumped his bow into a stream when he’d handed it to her.
They slowly walked the two hundred or so yards to the nearby stream, then sat down to wait. As they did, the boy couldn’t stop his gaze from straying to her face every minute or so. Finally, he asked the question that he had been asking himself over and over for the last two days, trying to tell himself that it was the only reason he kept looking at her. “How did you escape?”
The girl looked down at the ground and let go of her bowstring to pull at a tuft of grass. “I wasn’t at… home. I was on the outskirts of town when the screams started. I only watched long enough to see the first few buildings turn to ice. After that, I ran.” She stopped, and a tear fell onto the grass. The boy frowned, remembering that he'd been trying to cheer her up. It was too late now, though, so when she continued he didn't stop her. “I shouldn't have. If I’d gone back to help my family, maybe…”
“You couldn’t have done anything,” the boy said. “When I grabbed you in that field, they were only a few paces behind you.”
“I know,” she said quietly. “I know. But I could've at least tried. Like you did. You were going back when you found me.”
“I had a horse. And a sword,” the boy answered.
“It doesn't matter now.” The girl wiped a tear off her cheek. “They're dead. They're all dead.”
“And we’re not,” the boy added. After a few moments of silence, he said, “Maybe it's reversible. It was obviously done by some supernatural power. If we could get that power for ourselves, we could undo it.”
“And where do you suppose we would find this power?” the girl asked, glaring at the stream, more tears threatening to spill out of her eyes.
“I don't know.” The boy gently laid his hand on her cheek and pulled her gaze towards his. “But we can try.”
The girl looked up at him, and the beginning of a smile crept onto her lips.
At about noon, they climbed onto the horse and left the camp behind, not bothering to douse the glowing embers that were left from the fire. This whole forest will be ice before long anyway, the boy thought grimly.
“Where are we heading?” the girl asked as he turned the horse southeast.
“Stormport,” he answered, offering no further explanation.
“Why?” the girl asked. “Cliffhaven is much closer and has a larger army.”
“From a port city we can quickly get help from other port cities, as well as from the mainland if need be,” he answered.
“The mainland is eight week’s voyage away. The island will be an iceberg by the time help arrives from there. If it ever did at all. We're not exactly on good terms with—”
“I know, I know,” the boy cut in. His real reason for wanting to get to Stormport was more twofold. Of course he wanted to alert an army to the impending doom. But also, and perhaps even more importantly, in his mind, was to get the girl off the island as soon as possible. He couldn't tell her this, of course. She would never stand for it. But he was determined, nonetheless.
After a few minutes of tense silence, the girl pointed out an usually large fleetwing, and they fell into an extended conversation about wild birds. As the mood lightened, they both began to relax. This actually feels pretty normal, the boy thought. I can't even count the number of times we've ridden around in the forest together, looking at and discussing different plants and animals.
“You know,” the boy said, “this isn't so bad.”
“No?” The girl raised an eyebrow.
“All I've been thinking about is what I've lost, but I forgot to think about what I still have,” he answered.
“And what is that?” she asked, unsure whether she should be angry or try to join him in his positive thinking.
“You,” he said. “You're my best friend, and one of the most important things in the world to me. I have a feeling that as long as you're here, everything will be fine.”
The girl smiled and put a hand on his shoulder. “Thank you. The same goes for me, I guess.”
Just as the boy was starting to respond, the first arrow flew past them and embedded itself in a tree ten paces away.
Written by Elia Tyson
Edited by The Flabbits
Copyright © 2018 by The Flabbit Room