Sara had dozed off for a few hours while sitting against the tree. When she woke up, it was so quiet that she thought she was at their home. But such silence wasn’t common even at their little house. Sara remembered what had happened. She immediately stood up and looked around, only to find Ice sleeping just like before. He hadn’t even changed his position.
Ice had told her that being defenseless in the forest isn’t less than sending an invitation to death, but Sara couldn’t help but carelessly sleep after reading her mother’s letter. She was emotionally tired.
It was almost dusk. She wanted to let him stay asleep, but knowing that it would be dark in a few hours and how they were so far from home, Sara thought it was better to wake him up.
“Ice! Ice!” Sara called out to him. She held his shoulders in both hands and shook him up. After a short while, Ice opened his eyes. Ice held Sara’s face in his hand and looked at her with compassionate eyes. From that closer, his silvery eyes appeared as if some glacier was entrapped in them, calm and deep. He opened his mouth and moved his lips, calling her name. But no voice came out.
Surprised, Ice tried to call her name again, but he couldn’t. It was like he had become mute. Ice hurriedly sat down. He tried to speak again and again, but no voice would come out. The most he could do was exhale loudly. He held onto his neck, as if he was trying to understand what was happening to him.
“What’s wrong?” Sara asked.
‘Could it be?’ Ice thought as he remembered how red lightning had disintegrated his soul’s voice box. He let go of his neck. Ice pushed away the dark blue robe and pulled up the sleeves of his shirt. He looked at the scars on his arms carefully. Though he couldn’t see it, he could feel that something in those scars was changing. It was like those scars were slowly burning up.
‘He sure is ruthless... Anyway, it’s not like I didn’t expect that.’ Ice let out a sigh, realizing what was about to come.
He looked around and found a small branch. He picked it up and after finding a relatively grassless patch of land on his left side, he started writing on the ground. Sara spoke the words he was writing.
“I’m... Okay... Cannot... Speak?”
Ice nodded when she correctly spoke it.
“You’re behaving so... weirdly. I don’t even know how to react to these things.” Sara was expecting answers after he woke up, but he became dumb instead. Ice then started writing on the ground again.
‘Bring me some first aid.’ He wrote. Remembering the last red lightning that fell upon him, Ice knew that the worst had yet to come. He didn’t want Sara to see the horrible thing that was going to happen to him soon. She was just a kid.
“First aid? Are you wounded somewhere?” Sara asked.
‘Just go! And don’t come back without bandages.’ Ice’s hand trembled as he carved words on the ground. Sara could tell that he was in a terrible condition. She didn’t want to leave him, but when she saw his determined gaze, she couldn’t help but follow his words.
Sara ran towards the north. Ice and Sara knew little about the places outside the forest. They were close to the city of Eudora, in the south. But as Ice had frozen the city, Sara didn’t know how many had survived. She couldn’t place her hopes on those people. She had sometimes seen travellers coming to Eudora from the north, and thus she went northwards, hoping she could find someone on the way to Eudora.
Sara ran as fast as she could at first, but remembering that she might need to run for a longer time, Sara lowered her speed to conserve her stamina. It took her about forty minutes to reach the path where the carriages travelled. She walked towards the north and soon she saw various horses carrying armoured men and behind them was a luxurious carriage...
* * * * *
Summers was a peaceful country established in the north. It encompassed more land than the other two neighboring countries, Crubia and Yalia. Most of its denizens were the farmers who grew crops on the vast lands outside the walled city. But even so, the other countries didn’t dare to start a war against them. They knew that once it came to their country, those farmers would readily pick up the sword and fight back without a care of their life.
There was a legend in the three countries about how one lone farmer single-handedly started a rebellion after being sick of the greedy king. The lone farmer rallied others, trained them and led them to usurp the indulgent king’s reign over the country within one year. That farmer accepted the throne for stability of the country and changed its name to Summers- based upon the season when farmers harvested their crops, the season everyone celebrated like a carnival. After the farmer sat on the throne, even the minor skirmishes with Crubia and Yalia stopped.
That farmer passed on his throne to his younger generation, not based on their age or support of other factions, but based on their qualifications, knowledge and leadership. The throne never became the birthright. In the current generation, Regina Summers beat her older brother in qualification and earned the throne. She became the first woman who sat on the throne in the three countries.
Regina was in the study room. The room was small, built using stone bricks but neat. The room had a few racks placed on the sides, a table and chair set, and behind them was the sole window. A red carpet connected the table with the door. The chair was titled halfway towards the window instead of the table. On the table, there was a pile of documents on the left side and an inkpot on the right side.
Regina’s was sitting comfortably on the chair. She held a document in her left hand and read it diligently while her right hand held the pen that she nibbled upon sometimes while thinking. She was wearing a dark red shirt with the sleeves folded, exposing her slender arm. Her legs covered by white trousers were crossed. Regina’s crimson long hair was falling down the chair, almost reaching the ground. Even though long hair was sometimes hard to manage, she liked it that way. The sunshine was gently touching her face, making her appear holy.
Suddenly, a woman covered in armour from top to bottom, except her head, pushed open the door and came running in. It was Rose, her personal knight. Rose would normally train her combat skills in the courtyard with others or guide the beginners. But it wasn’t that rare for Rose to come in Regina’s room to pile up some more documents or just chat with her.
“Your majesty, Eudora is frozen.” Rose spoke, and she rested her hands on her knees. She took deep breaths to stabilize her breathing.
“What?” Regina asked. She didn’t understand the meaning of those words. In her head, Regina just didn’t want Rose to give her any more papers. She already had too much work.
“Eudora is... frozen...”
“What absurd joke is this? How can a city freeze out of nowhere? It’s the season of summer!”
“It’s not a joke. And not just Eudora, most of the people living in Eudora had frozen too.”
“They too. Yalia has fallen.”
“When did this happen?”
“A few hours ago.” When Rose replied, Regina thought of the sudden change in weather a few hours ago. In the middle of the day, the grey clouds came out of nowhere and covered whole of the sky. The sun was nowhere to be seen. The temperature had dropped and winds went on a rampage. Regina couldn’t help but link the two phenomena.
“Show me the letter.” Regina asked.
Rose pulled out a few small pieces of paper from her pocket and put them down on Regina’s table. Regina unrolled them one by one and read the contents. The writing on the paper was small, but it was readable. Regina pieced together all the information, and the surprise and shock on her face increased with each passing second. She read how a bright light fell from the sky and froze the city. On one of the paper, there was the description of the appearance of a colossal sculpture of an elf in one of the cliff, and on the other, there was the warning about not messing with the elves.
“Was that the wrath of the gods?” Regina couldn’t help but mumble. Regina was aware that about a decade ago, some elven slaves appeared in Yalia. They were branded as the goods of the Yalia nobles. Slavery wasn’t banned in Yalia and as it involved a foreign species, Summers and Crubia didn’t meddle in that affair. Regina felt chills down her spine, thinking that her country might also experience the wrath of the gods for not helping those elves.
“Rose, prepare a carriage. We’re leaving to Eudora.” Regina stood up and commanded. She threw the pen on the table and started walking.
“But your majesty, it might not be a good idea to go there right now. We can send someone else.”
“No. We have to go there personally to understand the situation.”
Rose hesitated for a little, but when she saw the determined look on Regina’s face, she nodded. “As you command, your majesty.” Rose withdrew.
“Hurry.” Regina said as she too left for her room.
When Regina got out of the castle, she had worn a light armour herself and a sword was dangling around her waist. The royal carriage was in front of the castle gate. Eight heavily armoured knights on the horses were in front of the carriage and four were on the back. The carriage was covered in red. Its exterior cloth was embroidered with gold and silver. Dark red curtains covered the glass windows of the carriage.
“Couldn’t you choose something inconspicuous?”
“You wanted things prepared fast.” Regina sighed on that reply.
“Everyone, spread out.” Regina clapped and then spoke loudly, talking to the soldiers guarding her carriage. “Wander in the city for a while and make it appear a normal routine inspection. Meet outside the city within twenty minutes.”
“As you command, your majesty.” The mix of male and female voice soldiers came out, and they instantly spread out. Rose looked at Regina curiously, as if she didn’t understand why Regina did it.
“I don’t want unrest in my country. It’s better to keep it under wraps until we decide.”