"Ice wraiths? I thought those were just a tale!"
I shrieked against the tormenting air. My feet were frozen to the ground, yet the reason behind it was more so fear than actuality. I had heard about those viscous, soulless ice creatures that lurked within the icy breezes of the mountain, yet I had simply blown them off as a myth, a mere metaphor for the viscous weather of the mountains. I ransacked my brain trying to recollect the bits of facts that I knew about this creature.
It was when I forced myself to turn around that I became aware of how wrong I was. This creature was just as real as the rest of the magic in the land. It's body was nothing more than jagged wispy fragments that were held together by nothing but the essence of frozen death, the souls it had captured and devoured.
There was nothing I could do but stand there, staring at a creature who had less of a soul than I. At least I had a soul.
The woman beside me readied her arrow, but just as soon as it slipped from her fingers the wraith let out a startling shriek and the projectile instantly froze midair, dropping to the ground like a rock.
I heard her mutter something underneath her breath akin to a curse. I sneered and upon instinct my hand instantly jerked, conjuring up flames from my being yet nothing came. My body was still just as cold.
There was little time to think when the spirit began to circle us, several times per second, hurtling frozen bits of the earth and sky at us that was sharp enough to slice skin. I nearly fell, grabbing hold of Snow's arm in which she instantly reacted to. Her arms were drawing me close, but not before the wraith raced towards the brunette with a loud cry, my fingers slipping from contact as she was sent flying through the air and into a nearby tree, knocking her from this world.
There was my own deafening cry of Snow's name. Her body was idle and that's when my hand slid to the hilt of my sword. It was now my turn to save someones life. The sound of the blade sliding out of the hilt was louder than it should have been, probably just an effect of my warped senses. I wrapped both of my fingers around the hilt and charged at the wraith swinging with all the might I had in me. A harsh shatter echoed as the metal came in contact with the ice, the creature producing a hiss that caused my face to be litter with dusty ice.
I could hardly feel my own skin, my own limbs, as I stared at the now idle creature, it hovering there more silently than it had been in the last several minute, the only sound being that of the frozen wisps. It was as if the unfaced spirit was staring at me, examining my soul for its own pleasure. Then it did the last thing I ever expected.
It violently jolted towards me before screaming out to the spirit of the mountain and kept going straight past me, gliding through the air into the trees until it vanished from sight.
I took in a shaky breath, but was unable to let it out. Regardless of the shock I was in that my soul hadn't been devoured, my first thought was on Snow. I held my breath as if it were my last, unwilling to let it go until I knew she was safe.
Running over to her motionless body, I pressed my numb hand to her cheek, her exposed skin covered in a layer of frost. I tried to put my hand under her nose to see if she was breathing, but I couldn't feel a thing. Whether it was because there was nothing to feel or the fact that my hands had lost all senses wasn't known.
"Snow?" I choked out, now holding her face between my palms, "Snow, wake up." I waited, but was granted no response. "Damnit, Snow! Please. ...I-I need you."
That was the first admittance I had ever made out loud to needing someone. This was the first time that my life was dependent on someone. I tried to scoff, biting back tears that were now filling my eyes.
No I couldn't let this happen. This wasn't happening.
I was never one of brute strength, so carrying her wasn't an option. I wasn't about to leave her here either. Instead, I made camp on this exact spot, barely managing to get her body into the tent. Finally after lowering down from my hysteria, I was able to see the rise and fall of her chest as a small indication that she still had life.
"Wake up, please," she begged softly while drawing up the blankets around the woman. Her body temperature was still far under normal.
Before my brain was able to stop my motions, I was leaning down over her and pressing a gentle kiss to her forehead. Tears had found their way back to my eyes and were now slowly sliding down my cheeks and off of my chin. This wasn't me. When did the Evil Queen cry? Let alone save her sworn enemy?
I can't do it, I told myself.
Dread overtook me as I pressed my hands to her icy cheeks once more. I had gone over several scenarios of watching Snow die, mostly by my hands, but now that she was on the edge I was holding my breath. There wasn't so much a fear about how I was going to get off the mountain without her, but more so a fear of if she would make it. Even though I had learned several survival techniques over the last month, I couldn't finish this journey on my own. Not because I was incompetent, but because I didn't want to. I had never felt the sudden rush of being alone hit me so hard.
I stayed up the entire night simply watching her, every so often making sure the gods hadn't taken her away. But what if she never woke? What if I had to bury her body out here in the heights of the mountain? I should have been happy. In fact, I should have been ecstatic, but all I could do was hold onto her hand until I fell asleep wondering why it wasn't me who had taken the blow.
When I woke up, I had realized I had fallen asleep on the brunette's chest. I was relieved to find that her breath had evened out more, but still she lay there without a word. Would she ever wake up?
I urged myself to go out and start a fire. Regardless of how I felt, I needed to provide my body with energy if I wanted to make it through. After eating a small bit of meat that I heated up, I melted a bunch of snow until it was warm enough. Soaking a rag with the heated water, I went back inside the tent and pressed it against Snow's pale face.
I continued to do that for several minutes and when the rag turned cool I tossed it to the side and stared blankly ahead of me. Today was silent. No birds. No wind. It only aided in allowing my tormenting thoughts to race.
Why did the ice wraith run off? Was my soul too dark to devour? Did it know who I was? Had my own evil essence scared it away? Surely that wasn't the case, but what if it was? It could be possible that magical creatures could sense my aura regardless of the disguised cloak around me. But I still couldn't make sense of it.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when there was the sound of snow crunching. I listened carefully telling myself it was just an animal, but it sounded like footsteps of a-
I grabbed my sword and pushed out of the tent, ready for an ambush. Of course they had found us. How could they have not? The figure approaching halted as I held out the blade.
It was a female voice. I scrunched my brow together and took in the crimson hood that shrouded her face.
"Who are you?" I demanded.
"A friend," she inched closer with her hands held out, "at least I hope. Lower your weapon."
"Why? How can I trust you?"
"I suppose you have a point. Look," she slid down her hood revealing dark chestnut hair and green eyes, "I saw the smoke from your fire in the sky from my cabin. There aren't many people that pass through here...or at least by the time I get to them they're gone."
"...the ice wraith."
Her brows raised in surprise.
"So you know of it?"
"Yes, we had an encounter with it last night. Fortunately it decided to leave us."
"Well that is fortunate." I had lowered my weapon, but still kept it in my grasp as tightly as I could, ready to attack if needed. "You said we. Is there another?"
My gaze dropped down as I let out a sigh. If this woman was a threat she most likely would have attacked by now.
"Yes...she wasn't as lucky. The ice wraith knocked her unconscious and she hadn't woken up since."
"Let me see," said the woman.
I was wary about letting her see Snow. Nevertheless, I knew this might be the only way of seeing the daylight again.
As soon as the cloaked woman entered the small tent she let out an audible gasp, instantly leaning down towards the unconscious brunette.
"You know her?"
"I should have known better that she would be foolish enough to venture into here."
My face contorted with utter confusion and I pulled on her arm that was about to touch my companion's face.
"I asked you a question."
She looked at me, slightly aghast with my sudden authoritative voice.
"Yes, I do know her. She was a good friend of mine, but difficulties in my life caused us to split ways."
Her enunciated word came out as if she was fighting against something, but I disregarded that. The only thing I wanted was for that irritating...caring...woman to open her eyes.
"What are you doing?" I asked when the woman started to pick Snow up.
"Bringing you both back to my cabin. Who knows if the ice wraith will be back. Nevertheless, we need to get her to warmth before her body freezes."
I watched her as she was able to take on the princess's full weight without quarrel. It was rather impressive especially for a girl. Pulling over our hoods to shield them from the snow, I packed away everything and then followed the mysterious woman.
"I'm Red by the way."
"Wilma," I replied far too easily.
Red's cabin was small and cozy; definitely a huge contrast to what I had been living through recently. It was only one bedroom in which she brought Snow into and laid her down onto the bed. I never left her side as the woman tended to her scrapes, aiding far more than I could have. I shouldn't have felt the strange sense of protectiveness for the princess, yet it was undeniable.
Red left the room once she finished. I took this time to make sure the blankets around the dark brunette were tucked underneath her well, quickly pulling my hands away once I heard the other woman walking back in. She handed me a steamy cup of tea which I gratefully accepted.
"Let me guess," she said softly as she stood there in front of the bed while I perched on the edge, "Snow saved your life and then offered you to come along with her."
Bringing the cup up to my lips and relishing in the warmth, I looked at her with surprise.
"How did you—?"
"We had a similar encounter and I traveled with her for some time before splitting off on our separate ways."
Her green eyes drifting off towards Snow with a painful looked etched across her face. For a moment it looked like she was about to cry, yet she pushed it aside with a kind smile.
"What happened?" I found myself asking. If I had been myself I would have never given a second thought.
"Snow is an amazing woman. I owe her my life, but for reasons I won't say, she was better off without me," she shook her head, "It doesn't surprise me that she would choose to venture into these mountains. It was always like her to be drawn to the dangerous escapade."
I studied her for a few seconds more, trying to piece together this puzzle she was throwing at me. These two women definitely had a back story that I was not familiar with. As curious as I was to understand this all better and get to the bottom of that look in green eyes, I knew that it wasn't my place. However, there was at least one question I was willing to ask without thought.
"If these mountains are so dangerous, then why are you here?"
"I prefer the cold. Besides, regardless of what people may say about a girl like me, I know how to take care of myself," leaving me without answer a true answer, she walked towards the door. "I'll get you a pillow and some blankets."
When she left, the warmth of the indoors was finally making its presence. My cuts and bruises were no longer numb and they throbbed more than I was comfortable with. Sliding down onto the rug, I sat back against the bed and closed my eyes.
Perhaps the dawning of a new day would bring comfort.