Photo credit: Shawn Nystrand
Aknar trudged atop the snow, his latticed hare-shoes barely sinking. After two days of the awkward bird-walk, his thighs screamed with each step. His cheeks burned from the wind. His eyes ached from squinting through the narrow slit of his goggles at the blinding white.
The weight on his back grew heavier every hour. Worse, it was still. He prayed silently, closed lips holding tight to what heat remained inside him.
The daylight was fading too fast. He cursed the time spent resetting the last marker, and feared again that he had lost the track.
Finally, the yellow glow appeared, farther to his right than he expected, but close enough to reach before full dark. New energy pumped through his exhausted muscles, propelling him forward.
At the threshold, Aknar steeled himself. Before him lay green grass, colorful wildflowers, trees swaying in a breeze. A perfect circle sliced through the snow like a glass knife, centered on a small wooden house, with red shutters wide open and smoke trickling from the chimney. Jumping from the snow bank to the soft ground below, he shivered as the familiar shock surged through him.
He rushed to unwrap his scarf and peel off the ice-stiffened furs, already melting. Unstrapping his harness, he laid its precious cargo on the ground, desperate for the answer, terrified to learn it. Manara’s skin was pale, almost gray. Her tiny arms flopped uselessly. Her chapped lips hung open, motionless. Leaning in to press his ear to her chest, Aknar saw movement behind her thin eyelids. He sobbed with relief. There was still time.
Read the rest of the story here, in the anthology “Winter Magic”.
A few days ago I posted a link to the Winter Magic anthology and this story, but I hoped to lure more people in with a teaser. All modesty aside, I think this is one of my best stories, so please do go check it out. And when you’re done, read the other wonderful stories and poems in the anthology!