Chapter 13 – Beneath the Ice
Oak was getting more and more frustrated as the day passed. At first she felt okay with teaming up with Lotus and Dawn since she felt that they were obviously a couple, but when she saw how worried Dima was over their reactions to the cold she couldn’t help but feel jealous. To make matters worse for her, she got the feeling that she didn’t look cute when she used her weapons. Her innate cuteness was one of her proudest features and seeing her husband have a passing glint of fear in his eyes really hurt her.
Seeing how happy Dima looked while eating lunch also made her clench her swords harder. Did her think less of his wife just because she couldn’t cook? Finding out the answer could crush her, so she kept it to herself and let the curiosity eat at her. After they had eaten, Oak made a vague excuse for the two of them to separate; something to do with investigating a log sticking out of the surface of the lake. With that, she could have more time with just Dima to show off her good points.
As they approached the icy water they noticed that it wasn’t a stick or log but was instead a pale woman’s arm reaching out. Sweeping away the snow cover, they could see the appearance of a unnatural beauty beneath the ice. Thin, pale with deep black short cut hair and piecing green eyes; she looked like a queen. Her face seemed to be locked in a state of pure determinations, as if she was ice-locked while pushing herself forward to survive. While Oak admitted that she was defiantly pretty, she didn’t like how focused Dima was. If he had time to stare at a woman, he should just stare at her.
Annoyed at his lack of attention, Oak moved further out without watching her footing. A thunderous crack suddenly rang out and she could see the ice splitting. She turned to reach Dima, but before she could move from that spot the ground beneath her feet gave out. Trying to hold her breath, she looked around. The cold frosted over her sight. She couldn’t see. Panic rose as she sank further and further. Suddenly, through the blackness, she could feel something wrapping around her and pulling her. While she felt relieved that she was being pulled to the surface, she was panicked by the feeling of cold that invaded her body. Even in the snow, she had never felt the sensation of being cold, and the alien feeling cut into her like knives.
With the painful cold invading her body, she let out her breath and fainted beneath the water.
When she awoke next she was next to the fire. Her armour had been removed and she was placed between thick pelts. Looking around she could see that her vision was still slightly blurred from frost, but at least she felt warm again. Looking in the pelts she could see her husband was in them with her. She could see Dawn giving her a knowing look and Oak could only think ‘good job’ to herself. On the other side of the camp she could see Lotus was talking to the queen beneath the ice. She seemed to be entirely healthy, despite having been trapped underwater. She seemed to have dried herself off and her colour looked much healthier. If she were to introduce herself as an ancient Egyptian queen, with her appearance, there would be few that would disbelieve it.
Looking at the two, the strange woman and Lotus, they looked oddly similar. Oak thought that they might even be relatives. The woman looked like a slightly older version of Lotus, maybe an older sister or mother; if that were the case than it was a strange coincidence. Of cause, she didn’t really know that much about Lotus, so it was entirely possible that she came here deliberately to find a lost sister. The point that really sold her about them being related was their eyes. They both had such piercing green eyes, so fierce that they could be seen through frosted sight and across the fire.
Listening to their conversation it seemed that the woman’s name was Lucy and she was some kind of merchant. Lotus also seemed to be very close to her also, so her relative theory might still be true. The details were hard to make out but it seemed that Lucy wanted to make some kind of a discounted trade with Lotus as a way of saying thanks. From that, Oak was able to work out that it was Lotus that fished them out of the water. Noticing that, she could see that the fire wasn’t burning wood, but instead some kind of thick blue-white vine plant that had been sliced into sections. Oak recognised that plant. It was the Heat-Seeking Ice Hunter. Lotus had them search for an hour at the border between the desert and ice lake for its seed. It only grew in cold environments and attacked creatures, killing them by draining the heat from them. The border was one of the only places that seed could be safely gotten as the desert heat kept them docile.
When Lotus eventually found one seed she seemed like she had found the most valuable thing on earth. She rubbed it on her cheek and treated it like a child. Oak never would have expected Lotus to be willing to use such a valuable item to save them. Maybe she would write them a bill for it later. Maybe she would march them back to the border and have them look for another one. Either way, she had a new-found fear of that plant. Having never experienced cold, a plant that could fill her with that sensation was the scariest thing she had ever seen. It wasn’t just that it would kill her, plenty of things could do that, it was that cold itself that filled her with dread. Knowing that her husband felt that feeling while in that place maybe even to a greater extent, filled Oak with a sense of utter fear.
She pulled him closer in her arms. Having experienced cold, she could understand his earlier concern for Dawn and Lotus. The jealousy she had felt was replaced by a pride in her Dima’s kindness. Holding him in her arms she circulated her spirit throughout her body to make it warmer. She didn’t want him to have to feel cold ever again.
As Oaked was lost in her own thoughts, Lotus and Lucy exchanged parcels. Waving happily, Lucy left the camp and stated a trip down the glacier.