Chapter I - Winter
January 3, 219AF
ONWARD SHE TRUDGED, snow sticking to the bottom of her white boots and refusing to let go. Onward she trudged, snowflakes falling on her frostbitten nose. Onward she trudged, her long white hair blowing in the foul winter wind. Onward she trudged, crossing her arms in an attempt to warm herself. Onward she trudged, her white winter coat blowing in the wind harshly. Onward she trudged, the snowcapped surroundings nearly matching this little woman’s attributes. White hair. White eyes. Pale complexion.
Winter Northheart. An orphan, and a quiet yet powerful girl. Her real name was still unknown to her, so her name is of her own choosing.
Her first name was derived from the season of winter of which she loved out of all the other seasons, and her surname has quite a fascinating meaning. A meaning only she knows. And one other.
North was because of her location - the Northern Slurries. Although she’d never share that information with anyone, the heart in Northheart has an even more secretive meaning she’d never share with a soul. Her heart is… Well… It’s--
“Winter, a-a-are you the-e-e-ere?” an adult male voice abruptly asked in Winter’s distorted radio. He had a Scottish accent. “Whe-e-e-re a-a-re you? Come back ‘ere ri-i-ight--” The line cut in and out, and abruptly stopped.
Winter exhaled with a shiver as puffs of air came from her mouth and released into the icy atmosphere. She uncrossed her arms and unclipped the black radio from her belt. The black color of the radio was the only thing in the entire scene that wasn’t white - Winter’s surroundings were white, her attributes were white, her coat was white, and her snow boots were white. With the contrasting colors, it could almost look like a movie in greyscale, but without the grey and only with black and white.
Winter fumbled with the radio, trying to press the talk button with frostbitten fingers even through white gloves. She finally hit the button. “Y-yes, I-I’m o-okay,” Winter stuttered with quivering lips. Her cheeks were red from the cold air and her eyelashes were speckled with small snowflakes. She blinked many times to clear them, but had no luck.
“Ha-a-ave you found any ga-a-ame?” the man with the Scottish accent asked on the other side of the distorted line.
Winter stopped walking and shook her head rapidly, even though she knew the man on the other line couldn’t see her actions. She pressed the talk button. “N-no, I… I h-have s-something to t-tell you w-when I get b-back.” She released the button as her breaths became heavier, and she was nearly gasping for air.
“Winter, come ba-a-ack ‘ere,” ordered the man. “Come ba-a-ack to the ba-a-ase.”
Winter nodded her head as rapidly as when she shook it only seconds ago. “Y-yes, sir.”
“How many times ha-a-ave I told you to just call me--” His line cut.
Winter mustered all the strength she had left and broke out into a run - er, sort of. It was more of a light jog, although she wanted to get back to the base as soon as possible.
Her hand trembled as she attempted to put a strand of hair behind her ear as she jogged, but it was trembling too much. She knew that.
She quickly dropped her hand down and started running as fast as she could.
“OH, WINTER, I was worryin’ that you wouldn’t make it back. It’s been way too long for such a small lass like you to be out.”
Winter cracked a small smile at the brown-haired man, glad she was safe and sound back home. This little cave was the only home she knew, and this strong man was the only trusted person she knew. Like a father.
The man had long brown hair pulled into a bun, and a beard that was the effect of not having a razor in his little cave. His blue eyes were filled with worry and relief at the same time.
“Y-you know I-I’m o-okay out th-there,” Winter stuttered, still cold despite the campfire crackling and blazing beside the two of them.
They were sitting on logs near a campfire. The orange fire set a warm glow on the deep blue icicles that the cave was made of. The cave itself had once belonged to a polar bear, but who knows what happened to that animal now? It must have been killed outside by something far greater of a predator.
“No, ye’re just a wee lass,” replied the man. “Did ya want me to make you some soup?” He was ready to rise from his log at any moment.
Winter’s eyes widened as she quickly stood up, putting her hand to her heart. “M-Mr. Vonheap! The campfire!”
The man sighed. “How many times have I told ya to call me Lochlan? And what’s wrong with the--” His eyes widened. “The campfire!”
He quickly stood up and dashed to a bucket of cold water. He dumped it all over the fire.
“I’m so sorry, Winter; I… I forgot.” The man, Lochlan, eyed Winter with an anxious expression.
Winter exhaled in relief after the fire was extinguished. Her once-frightened expression turned to one of sorrow. “It’s easy to forget that I’m not normal.”
Lochlan shook his head. “Dear lassie, no one’s ever normal.”
“That’s not true,” Winter muttered, loud enough for Lochlan to hear.
Lochlan grabbed Winter’s shoulders. “You listen to me, lassie. With this ‘Fog’ bunkum, I think everyone’s just about insane.”
Winter nodded, then bit her lip. “Mr. Vonheap, about that--”
“Lochlan,” Vonheap interrupted. “Just call me Lochlan.”
“Mr. Lochlan, I, um…” Winter fidgeted with her fingers, trying to find the right words. “I didn’t see any game today.”
“Why, there oughta be some animals out there,” Lochlan said with a small chortle. “I mean, there are always the rare ones, but there are always the common ones like the scorpions an’ the cobras an’ the crocodiles, an’ even the--”
“Mr. Lochlan, I didn’t see any today!” Winter persisted.
Lochlan’s expression turned into one of worry. “Are ya sure you didn’t see anything?”
Winter shook her head.
“Ya didn’t hear anything?”
Winter shook her head again.
“Not a peep?” Lochlan insisted.
“No,” she replied.
Lochlan gave a big sigh and rubbed his forehead. “Oh, crank mo chog.” He let out a deep sigh. “Chan eil seo math, chan eil idir.”
Winter grimaced at Lochlan’s last statement of worry, fearing that he might be right that “it wasn’t good, not at all.” When Lochlan would ever start to speak his original language of Scottish Gaelic, it was usually either when he was infuriated or extremely worried.
But since Winter had grown up learning that language as well as English, she easily switched to Scottish Gaelic. “Dè bu chòir dhuinn a dhèanamh?”
Lochlan shook his head. “What do we do, ye say? Well, ‘ow am I supposed t’know? Chann urrainn dhuinn a bhith beò mura h-urrainn dhuinn ithe!”
Winter nodded her head and responded, “I know we can’t live if we can’t eat. I’m worried too!”
Abruptly, a male voice in an English accent came through the speakers placed throughout the Northern Slurries. The cave - or, as Winter called it when she was six years old, “The Home Cave” - had a speaker very close to the opening. “At least we won’t miss any important Imperial announcements,” Lochlan had said sarcastically to Winter when he told her about the loudspeakers seven years ago.
Winter scurried to the opening of the cave to hear the English man’s words more clearly.
“This is Autofficer Adrian Claude,” he exclaimed brightly through the speakers, “and I have a very exciting announcement for all Aethasians living in the Snowmoors! All of the nasty, frightening animals that consume your food and invade your living spaces will now be replaced with new Automaton animals! Say goodbye to stinging scorpions, jaw-snapping crocodiles and biting cobras, and say hello to the Scorpistons, the Crocodials - spelled like a dial on a radio - and the Cogras! They will not invade your homes, and the only things they eat are cogs and oil! This is Autofficer Claude with the Empire of Lucky. Enjoy these new friendly animals that will inhabit the Snowmoors!”
Winter crumpled to the gravel ground. “Wha-what do we do?”
“I, I, I don’t know,” Lochlan stuttered. “I’m gonna… I’m gonna figure it out. You just… You just stay here.”
Lochlan stumbled across to another area of the massive cave and sat down on the gravel. There were no chairs in this cave, so the only place either Lochlan or Winter could sit was the ground.
Winter stood up slowly and grabbed her diary that was sitting on a makeshift wooden shelf she and Lochlan had made when she was eight years old. The wood was musty and old and still loose, but it was the best either of them could do, and they were both proud of their handiwork nonetheless.
Winter sat down again, diary in her hand. She opened the cover and read the first page, cringing at the many spelling mistakes she had made when she was four years old.
March 2, 210
I’m Winter Northheart, and Mr. Vonheep bot this new diery for me. He said to treat it with the “utmost care” because he traviled far to get it. He doesn’t travel much. He actually doesn’t travel at all. I don’t know what utmost means or why he doesn’t like us going outside of the Home Cave. He said something about this new “Fog” stuff and how the food and everything is infestid with it. What’s so harm full about just some green mist?
Winter shook her head sadly. There’s so much harm in “just some green mist,” little Winter. So much.
She flipped to an empty page in the middle, picked up the pen left inside, and began to write.
January 3, 219AF
This is Winter Northheart. The Empire is announcing new “Automaton animals” that are apparently going to replace real ones. What are we going to do? The animals here are our only chance at survival. The animals are our only source of food.
Mr. Lochlan still believes we aren’t safe buying food from the marketplaces in the Business District and No Man’s Landing, because the food “isn’t safe” and is “Fog-infested.” What if he’s Fog-infested? What if he’s just paranoid? What if all the lands outside the Snowmoors are wonderful places, filled with lush trees and warm, sunny beaches?
Oh. Right. I can’t go there anyway. Let’s just say it’s a… “Physical issue.”
Winter paused writing as a single tear slipped past her right eye. She quickly wiped it away and continued writing.
So, I guess Mr. Lochlan is right. I’m better off here in the icy Snowmoors.
With one last sigh, Winter wrote her next sentence.
Before she could keep writing, Lochlan stood up and yelped, “I got it!”
Winter’s heart filled with hope as she put the pen back in its resting place and closed the journal.
She stood up, almost afraid to ask her next question. Almost afraid to gain hope, only to be disappointed with a logical retort that could combat this new hopeful idea.
But she asked anyway.
“W-what is it?”
“Come over ‘ere, lassie,” Lochlan replied, spreading a map on the wooden table that was also put together from scratch by the two of them.
Winter slowly stumbled over to the table. It was a hand-drawn map of Aethasia that Lochlan must have made in his younger years before he took Winter in from the orphanage; Winter didn’t recognize him ever making a map. Maybe he did it while she was asleep once.
Lochlan pointed to an area with a question mark on it. The label read
Silver Stream Lake.
“We move,” he said simply, “to Silver Stream Lake.”
Winter’s jaw dropped. Lochlan was an inventor, and he always found a solution that involved staying in the Home Cave, and staying in the Snowmoors. It was unlike him to suggest moving to another area.
“Y-you’re kidding, right?” Winter stuttered.
“Lassie, this is the only way,” he replied, putting a hand on her shoulder. He pronounced way like wee.
Although this was Winter’s lifelong dream, she suddenly felt homesick already. She knew she would miss this place if they did move.
“M-Mr. Lochlan… I don’t understand. You said the food was Fog-infested--”
“Not in Silver Stream Lake,” Lochlan interrupted. “Lassie, I’ve been thinkin’ about this for longer of a time than you even know. Aye, I know it seems sudden, but trust me - I’ve been thinkin’ about this for a long time, and I just wish we would ‘ave started sooner.”
A million questions were zipping through Winter’s brain, but she only asked one. “What’s so special about Silver Stream Lake?”
Lochlan locked his eyes onto Winter’s. “Winter, lass, do you remember when I got ya that diary when you were four?”
Winter nodded rapidly. “Yeah, I can’t forget it. That was the only time you’ve ever been outside of this cave, much less bought me something.”
“Ye’re a smart lass,” Lochlan said with a proud smile. It faded as he added, “But that’s not all I did that day.” He paused, then continued. “Winter, I got that from the Business District. An urchin was askin’ me for help. The Grotto was direly in need o’ help, y’see. Anyway, I helped the urchins, and one o’ ‘em asked me where I lived. I just told ‘im we lived in a place far away from the Fog. Then ‘e immediately guessed that we lived in Silver Stream Lake. I asked ‘im why ‘e would guess tha’, and it turns out it’s one o’ the last places tha’s rid o’ the Fog without being overrun with Aether. Safe to say I never stopped thinkin’ about it. Every night, I’d think about Silver Stream Lake an’ what would ‘appen if we moved there. We’re gonna ‘ave to face the Fog if we’re gonna do this, Winter. And lassie, ye’re gonna ‘ave to promise me ye’re gonna stay strong for me, and not give in to the Fog. Promise me.”
Winter gulped with fear, bravery and worry all at the same time. “I-I promise.”
“An’ we’re gonna ‘ave to use different names,” Lochlan explained. “I’ll be Casper Lightspark. There’s a reason for it, but please don’t ask any questions ‘bout my past, or about that name, a’ight?”
“Uh… Y-yeah, o-okay.” Winter’s breaths became heavier as puffs of air were released into the atmosphere. “I’ll… I’ll be… Wait, I can still be Winter Northheart, right? Because it technically isn’t my real name?”
Lochlan shook his head. “No, lassie. Ye ‘ave to be safe an’ very, very careful when ye’re outside the Snowmoors.”
Tears slipped down Winter’s eyes. “M-Mr. Lochlan, this isn’t like you! It’s… I’m… I’m scared, Mr. Lochlan. I’m scared. I’ve… I’ve never been outside of the Snowmoors before. Are we going to be okay? Am... Am I going to be okay? I’m so scared, Mr. Lochlan.” She burst into a sob, hugging Lochlan and clutching him for dear life.
Lochlan closed his eyes, hugging Winter back. “It’s gonna be okay, lassie. Ye’re strong. You can ‘andle this.”
“I can’t! I can’t do this!” Winter sobbed.
“Yes, you can.” Lochlan pulled Winter out of the hug and locked onto her teary white eyes. “It’s gettin’ dark. We need to go. Pack yer things.”
Winter shook her head. “Please… I don’t want to go anymore. I don’t want to leave. This is my home! Please, Mr. Lochlan, please!”
“Winter, I don’t wanna leave either, but we don’t ‘ave much time. Please pack your things, Winter. It’ll make things easier for both o’ us.”
Winter nodded and sniffled, then hugged Lochlan one last time before going around the cave to pack her small belongings, like her diary, her two other sets of clothes, her other less warm jacket, and a hairband. She stuffed them all into her backpack. All of the above things except for the diary were things she’d taken with her from the orphanage - nothing had been bought for her but the diary.
As she slung the backpack over her shoulders, she asked Lochlan with a shaky voice, “What about my… Problem? How can I survive if it’s not cold over there?”
Lochlan shook his head. “We’ll figure it out. But I do know we’ll figure it out together.”
Winter nodded again, then braced herself for the icy, blizzardous winds of the Snowmoors as she and Lochlan stepped outside of the cave.
“What’s my code name?” yelled Winter over the howling winds.
“Camella, like the flower,” Lochlan yelled back. “‘Ow about Camella Cobblepinner?”
Winter shook her head. “Do you have anything else?”
“Camilia?” Lochlan tried.
“Anything else?” Winter asked.
“Nope,” Lochlan said as they kept walking through the snow. “You pick.”
And then they walked in silence, trudging through the snow. Onward they trudged, snowflakes breezing past them in a whir. Onward they trudged, arm in arm and eyes locked on the horizon. Onward they trudged, Winter’s white coat and Lochlan’s black coat flying in the wind. Onward they trudged, snow sticking to the bottom of their boots just the same as before. Onward they trudged, Winter’s hair flying in the wind just the same as before. Onward they trudged, snowflakes falling on their frostbitten noses just the same as before. But this time, they had their destination.
This time, they were ready.
“MR. LOCHLAN! I see something in the distance! I think it’s a sign.”
“Don’t be daft,” Lochlan replied quickly. “Not everythin’s entirely spiritual, Winter.”
“I mean a literal sign!” Winter yelled over the roar of the wind.
Lochlan’s face turned from near disgust to curiosity and hope. “A sign? Where? Where do you see it?"
“There!” Winter exclaimed, pointing to it in the distance with her free hand, since her other one was still bent around Lochlan’s.
“Let’s go!” Lochlan said, breaking into a run and dragging Winter behind.
They finally arrived at the sign and stopped to inspect it. It read:
Slurry Docks This Way --->
“Aye, we follow that sign!” Lochlan exclaimed, nodding. “We could only go on an airship or a regular ship to get to the Boom Lands.”
“The Boom Lands?” Winter repeated.
“Aye, the Boom Lands,” Lochlan answered. “We need to get there to get to the Aetherswell to get to Silver Stream Lake.”
“The… Aetherswell?” Winter asked. “That sounds good. Why don’t we move there?”
Lochlan shook his head. “It isn’t safe. It messes with the instruments of everyone’s ships an’ airships. In other words, whoever lives there, we should be just passin’ through and nothin’ more.”
Winter nodded as the two of them continued on their journey.
“WE'RE HERE. LOCHLAN stopped and turned to Winter; she stopped also. “Winter, ye’re gonna ‘ave to do me a favor. We can’t just steal a boat - there are people mannin’ the docks. I’m gonna bargain with ‘im and see if it does any good, but no matter what, keep that mouth o’ yours shut. It’s the best for both of us.” Winter opened her mouth to say something but Lochlan put a finger to it. “Shh.” Winter nodded and Lochlan took his hand away.
The two of them advanced toward the docks and saw a man looking down at a piece of paper and counting something.
Lochlan put his arm in front of Winter as if protecting her from something.
“‘Ello,” Lochlan called to the man. “We need to use a boat. Can ya lend us one?”
The man quickly glanced up from his papers and, when he saw Lochlan and Winter, put the papers on a crate.
“I’m Casper Lightspark, an’ this is my daughter,” Lochlan continued.
Winter smiled at the thought of how true it was. Although she wasn’t his real, biological daughter, she had always seen him as something of a father.
The man smiled at the two. “Oh, hello! I’m Jason. Jason Ironwalker.” He walked up to the two of them and extended his hand.
Lochland shook it, but when Jason extended his hand toward Winter, she didn’t shake it.
“What’s your name, little lady?” Jason asked, smiling.
Winter didn’t answer.
Jason chuckled, looking back at Lochlan. “Quite the cold daughter you’ve got there. How old is she?”
“Thirteen,” Lochlan answered reluctantly.
“Ah. Tweenage. I dread when my son gets to be a teenager.” He laughed. “At least that won’t come for a while.”
“How old is yer son?” Lochlan asked.
Jason smiled. “Oh, Lightscape? He’s only two years old. He’s so mature, though.” He cleared his throat. “Anyway, what can I do you two for?”
“We need a boat,” Lochlan stated. “Are ya still offerin’?”
Jason checked his watch. “It’s a bit late, but sure. A hundred cogs.”
“Erm, we’re… Uh… We don’t ‘ave that,” Lochlan replied.
Jason raised his right eyebrow high. “Then I’m sorry, but you can’t get a boat.”
“We’re urchins,” Lochlan lied, desperate. “We’ve been livin’ in Urchins’ Grotto--”
“Sir, as much as I’d love to help you, I really can’t just give people a boat to rent for free. I can try to discount, though.”
Winter examined Jason. He had a brown captain’s jacket with a tricorne that fit a captain also. His boots and his posture not only screamed sailor… It screamed pirate.
“I guess we’ll have to go another route,” Lochlan said, his voice dripping with disappointment. He turned around, and so did Winter. “There aren’t any other options,” Lochlan whispered in Winter’s ear.
Lochlan started walking away, but Winter didn’t. She turned around to face Jason.
“Can I help you? Got any extra cogs to spare?” Jason flashed a cheesy grin.
Lochlan whirled around. “Winter, what are ya doin’?”
Winter walked a few more steps until she was almost in Jason’s face. She stepped up on her tiptoes to get closer to Jason’s height.
“You’re going to give us that boat,” Winter threatened, clenching her fists.
Jason backed away a few steps and gripped his pistol that was clipped to his belt. “Young lady, you do not want to mess with me. You have no idea what I can do.”
Winter gritted her teeth, her white eyes ablaze and fists clenched so hard that she began to sweat. “No, you have no idea what I can do.”
She thrust her right arm right at Jason’s torso and ice instantly appeared, squeezing him tight.
“What… Who… Who are you…?” Jason asked through gasps for air.
“I’m Winter Northheart. You don’t want to mess with me. Now give us that boat.”
“Sorry, sweetheart, but you should have gotten my arms too.”
Winter’s eyes widened at the pistol that Jason was now pointing at her. She quickly dropped her arms and the ice around Jason’s torso melted away, leaving a large wet ring around most of his coat.
“Now back away,” Jason threatened, “or I’m gonna call the Empire.”
Winter’s breaths came in heavy, with puffs of air coming from her mouth.
“I don’t know what you did back there,” Jason continued, “but that was impressive. Now back away, and go home to the Grotto. Oh, and don’t worry - I knew you were lying from the moment I--”
Winter quickly stretched both of her arms out and Jason froze into an icy statue, gun still pointed and mouth still open.
“Let’s go! He’ll dethaw soon!” Winter exclaimed.
Lochlan stood there, amazed. Not at Winter’s power, for he knew it all along - but at Winter’s recklessness.
“What ‘ave you done?” he whispered. Louder, he repeated, “What have you done?”
“I just got us a free ride to the Boom Lands,” Winter replied. “Come on, Mr. Lochlan!”
“No. We are not stealin’ that boat. We were ‘ere to rent one, not to steal it.”
Winter bit her lip. She could already see parts of Jason’s outstretched hand melting away.
“Fine. Let’s do this, then.” She walked past Jason, toward the ocean and outstretched both of her hands over the water in front of them and around them and it turned to ice - thick ice, enveloping all the boats at the dock. “Come on.”
“Winter, I’ll ‘ave ye know tha’ what ye just did was a selfish, reckless act of disobedience,” Lochlan said sternly.
“Oh, come on,” Winter replied, turning around to face Lochlan. “We can talk about this later.”
Lochlan shook his head. “No. We’re gonna talk about it now. Winter, do you know how disrespectful tha’ was? And your threat was by no means was what I was goin’ for. An’ you told ‘im yer full name? Not acceptable, Winter.”
Now Winter was starting to fidget. Jason was melting away piece by piece. “Mr. Lochlan, please. We need to go. He’s going to melt away any minute now!”
“I don’t care!” Lochlan exclaimed. “Wha’ you did was wrong.”
“What I did was the plan,” Winter retorted.
“The plan was to rent a boat,” Lochlan riposted. “Not ice-statue the dealer and walk on coggin’ water!”
“We’re walking on ice,” Winter replied, “and besides, that’s not the point. Shouldn’t we be flexible if we have to be?”
“Winter, this isn’t like ya, not at all,” Lochlan said, lowering his voice and shaking his head.
“Oh, yeah?” Winter retorted. “What about moving all the way to Silver Stream Lake? That isn’t like you one bit!”
“We’re not comparin’ here,” Lochlan said, throwing his hands up into the air.
“Oh, we should be. How about all of the information you’re keeping from me? All of your past that you aren’t telling me?”
“Winter, ye’re thirteen years old,” Lochlan answered. “Some things ye just aren’t ready for yet.”
“Like I can’t take care of myself? I just iced that guy--”
“You can take care of yerself,” Lochlan said. “A little too much, actually.”
Jason’s legs and arms were already dethawed, and now the ice surrounding his chest was beginning to melt away rapidly. But of course, neither of them saw.
“What are you talking about?” Winter said, lowering her voice too. “I have these… These… Powers no one has. Doesn’t that make me more mature than most?”
“No. It just makes you more experienced than most.” Lochlan sighed. “Winter, ye’re like a daughter to me. It’s wrong when you disobey, much less say yer real name and completely change the plan.”
Winter sighed. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Lochlan forced a small smile. “It’s alright. Just let me do the plannin’ next time, a’ight?” He smirked. “I may not have ice powers, but I have experience in--”
Lochlan crumpled to the wooden docks, staring down at what hit him in the stomach. A bullet. From a gun.
He had successfully melted away, and his first action was to shoot Lochlan in pure self-defense. Winter had just threatened and attacked him, and he had a clear shot on Lochlan - so he took it.
Winter gasped, almost unaware that Jason was pointing the gun at her now. She shakily lifted her hands and freezed Jason again. Once he was an ice statue once more, she ran to Lochlan.
“Mr. Lochlan? Mr. Lochlan, a-a-are you o-o-okay? D-d-did he hurt you? I mean, did he… Did he…” She trailed off, searching all over Lochlan. “Oh my A-A-Aether… You’re gonna be okay… You… Just, uh, just stay with me… Um… Just stay here; I’m gonna call someone…”
“Winter,” Lachlan whispered, grabbing her arm. “I’ll live.”
She tried to hold back tears, but they came running down without her consent. “Wha-wha-how do-do you know that?”
“I’ll be fine,” Lachlan said. “See tha’ telephone?” He coughed, then looked over to his left.
Winter followed his gaze and nodded.
“Call Mabel Lightspark,” he said slowly, through coughs. “She’s a nurse. She’ll--” He coughed, “--know what to do.”
“Lightspark?” Winter asked, looking back at Lachlan with wide eyes. “Lightspark? Does that, does that have to do wi-wi-with your code name?”
Lachlan nodded. “Just call ‘er. The number’s 42831.”
Winter nodded and sprinted up to the open telephone booth. She picked up the phone with shaky hands and dialed the number.
A young woman with an English accent answered the call. “Lightspark.”
“Ma-Ma-Mabel Li-Lightspark?” Winter stuttered.
“Yes,” the woman answered in a worried tone. “Are you alright? Do you need to come to the clinic?”
“No… Well, yes… But no… His number’s… I mean, no… It’s Lochlan! Lochlan Vonheap! He, he… He’s injured! He was shot! We're here at the Slurry Docks!”
Mabel gasped. “Lochlan? He’s still alive? And he’s shot? I’m coming right now to pick him up!”
“Tha-tha-thank you,” Winter said through heavy breaths. As per usual with this icy girl, puffs of air came from her mouth.
She ran back to Lochlan, leaving the telephone dangling. “M-M-Mr. Lochlan, you’re gonna be okay.”
“I know I will,” he said with a smile.
“I, I’m coming with you. To the clinic.”
Lochlan shook his head. “No. You’ve gotta keep going. Get to Silver Stream Lake. I’ll only slow ya down. When I’m healed, I’ll meet’cha there. I’ve got some time to spend with Mabel, anyway.”
Winter wanted to ask who Mabel was, what she meant to Lochlan, why this is happening… She wanted to ask so much. But all she could say was, “I… I can’t do this without you!”
“Yes, you can,” he said. “It’s dark, and ya need to go.”
Winter burst into a sob. “No, I’m not leaving you!”
“I’m safe in Mabel’s hands,” Lochlan replied. “But you need to go. You need to go now. Get to Silver Stream Lake!”
Winter burst into a sob and wrapped Lochlan in the tightest hug she had ever hugged. “I love you, Dad,” she whispered.
“I love you too, lassie,” he whispered back.
And time stopped.
And then sped up.
Mabel was already there, driving toward the two of them in a siren-blaring vehicle. Winter quickly pulled away from the hug, and Mabel and a few other doctors carried him on a stretcher into the vehicle.
And then they drove away, and Winter was left there with the icy statue of Jason, with the ice only covering his face.
I should go.
Winter wiped away her tears as she ran across the icy waters with a million thoughts zooming through her mind, but only one dominating them all.
I will get to Silver Stream Lake for you, Mr. Lochlan. I will use my powers only when necessary.
I will be Camilia Cobblepinner.