Etta sank down into the white fluff, crushing it beneath her feet. She pulled her other foot up almost throwing it forward back into the snow, sinking and crushing again and repeated the process over and over as the small group made it’s way towards the edge of the forest. Some of the more experienced mages knew a spell that meant they could walk on the snow without half their legs disappearing into the cold drifts of white. She envied them, her boots went up to her knees, the thick leather water-proof but the snow went just over them soaking her trousers. She was using a good deal of her aura on a spell warming her body – she didn’t have enough physical energy to really keep herself dry as well as warm. The hike was hard work and she had to put everything she had into keeping up with some of the stronger mages as they hit the deeper snow.
The morning sun was filtered through the trees but made no difference, Etta’s warming spell was doing well enough, soon they would be out again and beyond that – who knew? Micah had an idea, this temple was close, he could feel the energy he kept saying and they all believed him.
All of them wanted to be in them, each of them had their own reasons, their own desperations.
She tried to move faster but as the were reaching the end of the trees the snow was getting deeper. She could feel it higher up on her legs, every step was getting hard she was getting slower. Even Ephraim was getting away from her now – the boy was barely taller than she, and spindly, but way ahead of her now. Etta was flagging.
She looked up from where her feet were stuck in a particularly deep drift to see Micah frowning at her.
There was a halo of light around him, and she blinked as it flashed in her eyes.
“Wow you’re pretty,” she muttered and he chuckled, he reached a hand out and she felt a tingle at the touch, coursing up through her veins, the spell spreading through her. She felt her body dry from the inside, slow but steady.
“Better?” he asked.
“It won’t last,” she said, trying to take a step forwards, wrapping her fingers around his. She felt his aura again, colder this time – sharper too, and Etta suddenly felt light, lighter and lighter, rising up and then she was on level with Micah and his smiling face, cheeks red from the cold and lips almost as blue as his eyes.
“There we go.”
She looked down at her feet on top of the snow now and smiled.
“Thank you, but you can’t keep both of these spells up,” she told him, “you can’t keep us both above the snow.”
“It’s fine,” he said, finally dropping letting go of her hand, and she unwrapped her fingers around his. “The temple is close, I promise.”
She nodded, and they started back towards the edge of the forest once more. Etta moved a little faster now she was gliding over the snow, not even leaving treads behind. Micah walked beside her now, the two of them catching up with the rest of the group.
“Why are you here?” he asked, words hisses on the cold air. “Why make this journey with me?”
“Why believe in you?” she asked.
“My friend is sick, I, I don’t know… no one knows how to heal her and so this is one of the few options I have left.”
“The fountain,” he said.
“If the temple is real then the fountain must be there too.”
“What if..” he hesitated.
“What if it doesn’t work?” she finished. “I don’t know.”
Micah took her hand in his, warm through their thick gloves and held it tight. She smiled at him again and tried to move a little faster through the snow with him.
“We’ll get there Etta,” he muttered, “we’ll get there.”
She nodded but pressed on harder, there was still a chance this wouldn’t work.