Cold to the touch

The snow-covered plains would’ve eaten his feet, had Aaron not been wearing a pair of snowshoes. Dark clouds loomed overhead, signalling a furious blizzard to come at any second, perhaps with a cold that could challenge what mountain of a man his clothes and equipment made him. Ahead, mountains etched a line over the horizon, mountains he walked towards, but nothing else that’d amount to life existed elsewhere; what little plantlife existed amounted to merely dead trees, and so much snow covered the ground that if he were to prod it with a stick, he’d sooner run out of length.

Over the plains, he found a glacies lying on the ground. The chilling colds had left her overgrown, what humidity in the air assimilating into her body by act of freezing, and the snow that had piled over her for seemingly days left her trapped. As Aaron walked up to her, she followed with her eyes, but gave no word nor smile.

Even if he cleared the snow off her, the overgrown ice over her body would still leave her trapped. Nothing he could do without the proper equipment, and she seemed to get by just fine, and so Aaron left her, marching to the mountains once more.

Over a lake frozen into solid ice, Aaron came across a selkie, one stuck in the ice from her waist down, trying to get herself out as she pushed and pushed to no avail.

“Human, can you please help me?” She asked.

Aaron stepped up to her and, as the selkie extended her arms, he grabbed them and pulled, but nothing happened at all. Nothing he had in hand could help, and strength alone had already failed.

“I’ll just wait until it thaws.” Said the selkie. “I hope it thaws at all…”

Without other options available, Aaron left.

Over the plains, as monotonous as it looked with snow wherever one looked, he found a white horn stuck in the snow. The snow had eaten her legs, too thin to walk properly over the snow, and what little she could walk left a gigantic trench-like trail, for she could not manage to walk over the snow properly at all.

“Mister? Mister?” She called. “Can you aid me for a second?”

Aaron walked up to her, and as she extended her arms, he grabbed and tried the same as the selkie. He pulled, and the white horn soon climbed over the deep snow to the surface, but as soon as she set foot with her front legs, the snow swallowed them again. A second try gave the same result, till the two let go of each other.

“I’ll get by. Somehow.” Said the white horn. “Don’t worry about me, I’ve been here for years. This is just a normal day.”

The white horn kept trying to march on, and after looking for a second, Aaron left towards the mountains again.

The clouds got darker and darker, moving closer over the sky, gathering upon him. The blizzard would start soon.

He then found a pack of wendigos, all huddled together and forming a mini-circle. The closer he got, the clearer he saw how they tried to break a block of ice encasing a piece of meat. The wendigos soon took notice of his presence, and quickly rushed to him with the block of ice and presented it to him. Has their desperation gotten to a point where they’d hand it to a complete stranger for the chance of aid? The piece of meat didn’t look enough for all of them, either.

Aaron took out a flask from one of his bags and opened it, letting out a great cloud of steam from the soup within. However, as he tried pouring it over the ice to thaw it, he found that nothing fell. A quick look inside, and he saw how the soup had turned into solid ice. With no alternatives in mind, he gave it to the wendigos and marched off. The wendigos stood in place, staring silent, now with a flask of frozen soup apart from the frozen meat.

The blizzard had arrived. He could see nothing past fifty meters, and had to clean the snow off his goggles, hat, and scarve which covered his head whole with a swipe every passing moment, for the snow fell almost sideways and hard like hail.

Passing a cave as he marched up the mountain road, he noticed a light inside. Swiping off the snow from his goggles, he spotted a yeti huddled by a fire, shaking, hugging herself. Both Aaron and the yeti locked eyes, but not much happened after that. Aaron then marched off towards the heights.

Blizzard still raging on, he finally saw the palace in sight, with its doors open, and the ice queen waiting by them. The ice queen’s expression showed no emotion at all as she stood waiting with a stoic appearance, staring without a word. He walked closer and closer, and upon arriving to her, he stepped aside and walked past.

Now stupefaction filled her mind as she turned around and looked at Aaron, who marched in further into her throne room and looked around, as if looking for something. None had visited her in her life, her cold palace in the unreachable heights, and the only one to do so appeared to not have acknowledged her existance. She then walked back into her palace, and to his side.

“Why have you come here, human?”

“Have you seen my daki?” Asked Aaron.

But the queen had no answer. Her stoic expression remained unchanged, and Aaron’s face lied obscured beneath thick cloth and obscuring goggles.

Aaron then walked away, out of the palace, leaving the queen to wonder. As she looked at him leave, she couldn’t help but raise her hand to her mouth, and blush.

Aaron passed by the yeti’s cave, who still sat by an ever weaker fire which neared its death. The yeti glanced as she saw Aaron passing by, but soon saw the ice queen following him from a distance.

Before the yeti could ask herself questions without answer, she noticed the blizzard stopping. Cautious, she slowly stepped out of her cave, to find that the cold no longer was as brutal as before, letting her step out of her makeshift home. And so, she followed.

The wendigos still tried breaking the ice, now not only of the meat but of the flask too, too distracted to notice Aaron passing by in the distance, and the ice queen following him. Then, startling them all, the ice encasing the meat quickly began thawing, and the heat the soup had lost returned fully, with the smell of soup filling the air.

Some of the wendigos cheered out loud, while the others came to notice Aaron and the ice queen before alerting the others of their group. Unanimously, all decided to follow.

The white horn still tried on and on, telling herself that she had covered a considerable distance despite barely getting anywhere. Then, she caught movement, seeing Aaron walking the opposite way he went when she last saw him. Not long after, she saw the ice queen folloing after Aaron from a distance, a sight she thought she’d never see from she who never left her castle.

Before she knew it, the snow felt different. She tried once more to climb over to the surface of the ice, and with immense surprise, she succeeding, slowly getting herself out of the trench she had ended up digging; she grew a smile from ear to ear, feeling the freedom of movement that the snow had stolen from her.

Intrigued, she chose to follow Aaron and the ice queen.

The selkie had never given up, hoping to make progress yet achieving nothing but exhaustion in her attempt to break free. Deciding to take a quick rest, she glanced around lazily, to find Aaron walking back the way he came from far ahead. So too did the selkie find the ice queen following, blinking and rubbing her eyes in disbelief.

The ice lake began cracking. Little by little, cracks grew in length and number much to her surprise, until the ice surface weakened through for her weight to send her down with a scream, falling into the water. She resurfaced, grabbing onto a chunk of ice to keep her afloat, and stared on at the human and the queen still marching.

And so, she followed.

He passed by the overgrown glacies, and with the same issue he had when he first saw her, he couldn’t do much other than keep walking.

The glacies noticed his presence and followed with her eyes, staring silent and expressionless, until she caught movement from the corner of her eyes. The glacies recognized her immediately, the ice queen following the footsteps of the man; and just as the queen passed her, the glacies’ overgrown parts started cracking, soon shattering into a million pieces and freeing her from dead weight. The glacies then shook the snow off herself, standing up since days ago and feeling the freedom of her proper weight.

Curiosity befell her, and she followed the queen’s steps.

He kept on walking, and walking, and walking, getting one step closer to leaving the snow realm each second.

“Human!” Shouted the ice queen.

Aaron stopped and turned his head to see who had called. There she was, the ice queen, and so he turned fully to see her. Far beyond, however, he soon caught glimpse of the glacies, the selkie, the white horn, the wendigos, and the yeti, all having followed like the queen, who took quiet steps towards him till they were in front of each other.

In silence, both locked eyes, as much as Aaron’s goggles could count as eyes.

“Have you seen my daki?” Asked Aaron.

Though once stoic and expressionless, a conflicted look appeared on the queen’s face, blushing, bringing her hands together to her chest.

“Can I… Can I be your daki?”

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