Disclaimer: All concepts relating to the world of Velgarth, and kingdom of Valdemar, are the sole property of the author Mecedes Lackey.
The sounds are growing less, now. The air is cool and calm and the only thing disturbing it is the quiet, measured harshness of my breath and the endless musical dripping of the water.
Chilly air streams into my lungs as I inhale and puffs of warmth flurry away from my nose in clouds of dancing, fragmented ice crystals as I allow my chest to relax. My insides ache— a dull shivering in my belly and a sharp and messy ball of iron pins in my chest.
You are silent, content to let the endless drip, drip, dripping echoes speak for you. I don’t understand what you are trying to tell me.
I blink slowly and try to focus my eyes. It takes time— they feel gritty and sandy. I eventually manage and I find myself faced with the same vertical wall of ice that I’ve been looking at for the past two days.
The glassy surface is furrowed and cracks spiral up and into it. Deep within the fractured depths I can see the indistinct blur of my reflection— like a pale fly in colourless amber.
Trickles of water trails across the ice and drip into the shallow pool at the bottom of this place.
The local trappers warned us about the crevasses in the pack ice at this time of year.
So very cold…
If I look up then I can see the edge of the wide ledge that you are on. If I close my eyes, breathe in deeply and imagine, then the trickles of ice water smell of you.
There is something wrong with the water, but I do not know what.
I never thought that we would end up here, like this… did you? I’m not entirely sure what I did expect, or even if I had an idea of what my life would be like. Not this, though…
We rarely expect what we end up with. You once said.
We rarely end up with what we expect. I rejoined. We both stared at each other for a moment, then burst into helpless laughter. The few arguments we had always ended like that; with the cause forgotten in a stream of giggles.
The ice and snow in front of and around me gleams from within with a rich yellow light that fades seamlessly into the soft blue of the deep ice. It’s daytime again and the sun must be almost at zenith, far above us.
The music of the water changes and grows; becoming underscored with a selection of burbles as several of the drips combine to form trickles and streams.
On the first day, from your vantage point on the ledge above me, you said that the extra water seemed to be coming from the surface— through the hole that we rather unfortunately found as you put it.
The sun must be melting the snow. I said, before dissolving into a bout of coughing.
I felt you wince in sympathy of the pains in my chest and the sharp taste in the back of my throat. Maybe, you said, when I’d caught my breath, enough water will get down here to float us out of this miserable hole.
I forced a choked laugh to matched your forced optimism.
We both fell silent for a long time and listened to the drips and the creaks of the ice.
It grew dark, after a while and the water slowed down to an intermittent dripping in the darkness. I don’t think we will float out of this one, Sati… I remember thinking that I sounded lost and scared.
You sighed. I know, Lem, quietly, I know… echoes of our voices hung on the chilly shadows. I can see the stars.
Can you? I blinked and rolled my eyes as far up as they would go and strained to see past your ledge.
I sensed your attention in the back of my mind. I have an advantage, you said, I am closer to them than you are—
—and you always did have better eyes. I finished for you.
Silence, then: Yes. Almost a whisper.
I slept, I don’t know for how long and when I woke up it was now—
—and you are quiet—
—and I am cold—
—and I can hear the water dripping down to us.
:Sati?: My Mindvoice sounds weak and worn down and is met only by silence. I concentrate on collecting myself and call again. :Sati?:
I manage to shift myself slightly and wearily raise my eyes up to your ledge, following the strange tracks of the water.
I can’t see anything of you.
I’m very cold.
I stare numbly up at the fractured crystalline wall and listen to the faint dripping of the red ice water.
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