Two nights later, Andrew lay awake watching the snow fall. It had started about noon and Korrig had said it was a sign they were getting close to his bracelet. Andrew knew that, anyway.
His sisters and Korrig were curled up in the cart trying to keep warm, but he found it too warm and had left to lie outside. He still couldnâ€™t sleep, despite his exhaustion. Heâ€™d complained to Kimi – who was also awake – about it, but sheâ€™d just shrugged and said it was his affinity; of course he couldnâ€™t sleep, before she padded off to go hunting.
So he lay there, watching the snowflakes drifting down around him in the green light of the moon.
There was a rustling from the cart. Lydia clambered out and disappeared among the pines. Andrew bit his lip and looked resolutely in the other direction – just in case – until he heard her return. She crunched back towards the cart and then stopped. There was a long pause.
â€œThis is all wrong,â€ she said.
Andrew looked around at her and saw her staring at the moon. â€œWhat is?â€ he asked.
â€œThereâ€™s not a cloud in the sky.â€
He looked up at the stars and moon. â€œSo?â€
â€œSo whereâ€™s the snow coming from?â€
â€œYouâ€™re right!â€ Andrew scrambled into a sitting position. â€œThat is weird. What are you doing?â€
Lydia had dropped to one knee and touched the ground with her hand. She pulled it back with a startled yelp. â€œItâ€™s bloody freezing, but the snow isnâ€™t sticking and the grass and trees are still growing. And these…â€ She trailed off and touched the petals of one of the exquisite white flowers which seemed to grow everywhere. As she caressed the bloom it gave off a bell-like note and the scent of fresh snow, woolly jumpers and coal fires filled the air. It smelled like winter. Lydia stared at it some more before plucking it and holding it out to him. â€œTheyâ€™re made of ice.â€
â€œIce?â€ He reached and took it. A breeze brushed it and the bell-like sound and winter scents floated past him again. He examined it and saw she was right. This flower lived and grew, but it was made of delicately spun ice. He looked up at Lydia with a smirk. â€œItâ€™s a magic flower.â€
â€œWell, itâ€™s certainly something,â€ she conceded. She picked up a pebble. â€œThis is ice as well, and the boulder you had your head on. I think all the â€˜stonesâ€™ around here are.â€ She scowled at the clearing with her hands on her hips. â€œWhat is with this place? Normal rules apply, except when they donâ€™t?â€ She sounded really irritable. He thought she might continue, but they were interrupted by the sound of Korrig mumbling in his sleep.
The dwarf sounded distressed and was tossing fitfully, but Andrew couldnâ€™t make out what he was saying. Lydia was closer and he looked at her, intending to ask if she could hear what he was saying.
She frowned and shook her head, as if she knew what he was going to ask. Their eyes met and suddenly he was certain she had known, but another moan from Korrig distracted him. Andrew walked over to the cart and reached out a hesitant hand towards the dwarfâ€™s shoulder. He was almost touching him when Lydia touched his wrist and shook her head.
â€œBut…â€ he trailed off.
â€œHe might not appreciate being woken, Drew,â€ Lydia said. â€œSo, unless he gets really upset, letâ€™s leave him.â€
There was a soft thump behind them and they turned to find Kimi returned from her hunt. The young deer lying by her feet was a testimony to her success. She cocked her head at them.
â€œWhatâ€™s wrong?â€ she asked.
â€œKorrig seems to be having a bad dream,â€ Andrew explained. â€œWe were discussing whether to wake him.â€
Even as he spoke Korrig gave a strangled cry, before mumbling something else. Then he turned over under his blanket and started snoring peacefully without waking at all.
â€œWell, it looks like it’s over,” Kimi said. â€œLet’s leave him be.”
When they got up the next morning, the sky was bright blue and the sun was shining. However it was still snowing. Korrig seemed jumpy at breakfast, but later that morning they drew up by a waterfall, just as he’d promised. It fell in a high cascade from the top of a high cliff of blue ice and formed a small lake at the base. The dwarf turned in his seat and pointed to it.
“The Ice Heart Bracelet lies in the cavern behind the cascade. I must wait outside, as should your heart friends. The cave has guardians who were ordered to admit only humans after the bracelet was hidden. Kimi might be okay as the bracelet is linked to her, but Bennu and I would certainly suffer if we went inside.”
“Really?” Lydia frowned. “But Kimi came into the Flame Palace.”
“After you gained your bracelet no doubt. That would make a difference, and the Flame Palace isnâ€™t the same at all.Â Itâ€™s up to you if you want to risk it, but Iâ€™m staying right here.”
“I donâ€™t want to go into that place,” Bennu said. “Even being this close makes me feel cold.”
“I suppose it would,” Kimi said. “But I feel fine. Iâ€™ll come with you if I can. Itâ€™s calling me.”
“Okay,” Lydia drew her sword and looked at it, “I hope I can use this thing. Bennu, stay here with Korrig. The rest of us will go and find Drew’s bracelet.”
“Okay,” Bennu said.
Lydia gave his feathers one last stroke, and then followed Karen, Andrew and Kimi towards the cave.