Chapter 12 – Cold
The warm feeling beneath their skin was something of a lie. Although their insides felt warm and the frost hadn’t bitten their skin, the outside of their skin felt overwhelmingly cold. If anything, the warmth under the skin made the cold on the skin feel far, far worse. There was little Lotus could do about it, save maybe going back and making warm clothes, but going back wasn’t an option they had, apparently. The talking polar bear insisted that going back would just make matters worse, somehow, and his tree wife didn’t seem to be able to feel cold. Dawn was also no help, as the cold seemed to have made her dizzy and she was leaning on Lotus just to walk straight.
As they climbed the hill mountain sized glacier, they found traces of creatures living there. Snow leopard like creatures attacked them on more than one occasion. They were about the height of a table each, and had a sleek cat shape, with long, curved and jagged, blade like horns protruding back out of their skulls, behind the ears. A purple-blue lightning arced between the horns of each beast and could travel through the creatures’ fur to coat their claws. Despite the individual strength of the creatures, they employed hit and run tactics, often attacking from behind.
When an attack came, Lotus pushed Dawn to the ground and brought her scythe up to defend. The creatures’ attacks sliced through where Dawn had been and were repelled by the weapon’s sturdy snath1. While they were pushed back Lotus brought the heavy blade down on one of the leopards. It didn’t die but it was held in place long enough for Dima to get a clear shot. The loud shot rang out and echoed across the icy mountain as the creature fell to the ground with a smooth metal chunk bored through the thin section of its skull, near its ears. The other Leopard that Lotus knocked back was sliced into several bloody pieces by Oak, who used two large swords as easily as if they weighed as much as kitchen knives.
The oddest part wasn’t Oak’s abundant and inexplicable strength, but that Oak didn’t have hands. Her arms were as cylindrical as her body and ended with a flat surface. Somehow, when she went to pick anything up they just stuck to the flatness. Furthermore, she could choose what stuck and what didn’t and even rotate attached objects. It was like she had a pair of invisible hands. And not just two hands either, so long as there was space to place it, she could hold as many objects as she could lift. Lotus had noticed that Oak would place both her massive swords on one arm when she wanted to have a free hand.
When they reached about half way up the glacier they found a flat section. It was a relatively smooth and flat area that was roughly circular with a twenty meter radius. Towards a shaded area was a space that seemed to have been frequently used as a camp site. There was the remains of a fire pit and a few cut logs around it, that were as close to being a seat as anyone could expect in the wilderness. One of the previous travellers that passed through there had apparently left a pile of firewood with a cover over it to keep the wood dry. Normally, that would mean that they were close by or intended to come back, but the snow over the cover was too thick for that to be true. Regardless, they were thankful for the convenient fire. With Dawn still too out of it to be useful, and neither Dima nor Oak being even slightly talented at cooking, it was up to Lotus to make the lunch.
As it turned out, not only were the Leopards a wealth of craft materials, they also tasted very nice when fried with a relish. It wasn’t a complicated dish, just meat cooked with sauce, but the flavour still deep and complicated. Once she had eaten and been next to a fire for a while, Dawn seemed to become more alert. In her newfound awakened state, she set to work making some thick coats from the Leopard skins.
While Dawn worked and Lotus started to clean the cooking utensils, Dima and Oak went to check out a nearby frozen lake. From the campfire, some stick like object could be seen jutting out of the ice. As they went over to investigate, Lotus wondered briefly how much Oak weighed and if the ice could support her, but dismissed the idea offhand. Despite her appearance and voice, Oak seemed to be quite cunning; Lotus often felt that she had to watch out for her. Knowing that, Lotus was sure that Oak knew her limits and wouldn’t be walking out if she didn’t think it would hold.
While they worked, Lotus had another stray though. How long had it been since she logged out? It she was used to playing for extremely long periods of time, as time in virtual reality games often passed slower than in the real world. The exact difference was usually listed in the manual, but Saviours of the Wild was technically an illegal game, and really didn’t come with one. To pass time, she looked through the forum to see if anyone knew.
Surprisingly there were very few results, as if only a few people cared or someone had deleted the threads. Normally thread deleting caused a much bigger stir about an issue and no one was complaining about that, so it was more likely that people weren’t noticing it.
Another odd thing was the inconsistency between the people that did post about it. It wasn’t a particularly hard thing to test; you set a timer in the real, log in, count to sixty and log out. The ratio between the time on the clock and the counted out minute was the time dilation factor. If you wanted to be more exact you’d have to subtract the time you spent logging in and out, but the test was close enough for a rough answer.
Given how simple the test was, that one person said a minute in life was an hour in game and another said it was a full day as a nearly impossible result. Furthermore, there were other people that said there was no time difference and others that said no time had passed. Neither of those results was likely as time not passing outside was actually impossible and since she had spent a month in game, her body would have died a long time ago.
As she thought about it, and became more worried by the second, she heard a thunderous crack followed by the sound of a heavy object hitting water. Turing to face the frozen lake she could see Dima and Oak sink rapidly into the water.
Without a moment to loose, she stopped what she was doing and ran to the water’s edge. Searching through her bag she brought out a small blue-white seed.
1. A snath is the shaft of a scythe, apparently. It doesn’t apply to other tools, like shovels for example, and seems to be unique to scythes.