- Author: Katerina Martinez
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The Coldest Fae
By Katerina Martinez
In the frigid woods at the edge of a storm, I’m going to find myself or die trying.
I’m a fugitive of the fae city of Windhelm, framed for a murder I didn’t commit. I only made it out of their dungeons by luck, and now I’m on the run—but so is the Prince.
Nobody knows where he is, but my instincts pull me toward the Veridian; a roaring tempest of dark magic that roams the land of the winter fae.
Our trip through the forest is cut short, though, by a group of fae that seize our carriage and bring us to their village as their prisoners. The mark on my hand, the mark of the white wolf, is the only thing that keeps them from killing us outright, but if I can’t prove my mark is real, I’m only prolonging the inevitable.
I don’t have time for these people. I need to find Cillian before he does something stupid, but I don’t have a lot of options.
“Anybody else freezing their tits off?” I asked.
We were all sitting in the carriage’s front seat, the three of us bunched together, encased in as much fur and wool as we had been able to bring with us. I didn’t find it fair that one of us had to drive the carriage while the other two got to sit inside. Plus, it was way warmer for the three of us to be sitting snuggly together anyway.
We had travelled through the woods for two days, but the Veridian seemed constantly out of reach. Our large, fluffy white elk, which we had endearingly named Ollie, kept a steady pace along the winding road through the trees, carefully negotiating the occasional cliff-edge and steep hill.
So far, we had seen no one and nothing save for the odd snowy rabbit. Mira was only happy to snipe them with her bow from the seat of the carriage, and Melina was more than capable of cooking them into something tasty.
In truth, we were all getting a little sick of rabbit, and sleeping in a cramped carriage, and of the cold in general. It was way colder out here than it had ever been in Windhelm, but there wasn’t much else to complain about. I, in any case, could complain about nothing considering just how useless I felt on this trip.
Mira, for all her prim and properness, had been brought up with the same level of basic skill as Melina. They were once commoners in this land, and despite being raised in a castle, they knew how to hunt, how to cook, and even how to repair their own clothes, among other things.
I knew how to sew, and I could also brew a great cup of tea… sometimes.
That was it.
“If I had tits,” Gullie said, her teeth chattering, “They’d be freezing too.”
“You have tits,” Melina put in, “They’re the size of peanuts, but you have tits. I’m also kind of jealous of your bright green hair.”
“Have you been examining my tits and my hair?”
“Okay, everybody needs to stop saying tits,” Mira said.
“Spoil sport,” Gullie grumbled.
“It’s my fault for saying… it,” I said.
Mira side-eyed me, an eyebrow cocked. “Just because we’ve been in the woods for two days doesn’t mean we can throw out all manner of decorum.”
“Yeah, what is it with that? Shouldn’t we have made it out of the forest by now?”
“This forest is old,” Melina said, “And deep. Also, we’re riding carefully on a carriage being pulled by an elk. We’re not exactly on horseback.”
“I don’t just mean that. I mean, doesn’t it look like it’s getting further away?”
“The storm is always on the move,” Mira said. “It is a storm without end, it doesn’t cease, it doesn’t fade. It only moves, and some say it moves intelligently.”
“As if it could direct itself, tell itself where to go.”
“You think that’s true?”
“I’m not sure. I would wager there is an intelligence behind the force of nature that is the Veridian, but I don’t think the storm itself is sentient. Then again, I could be completely wrong.”
“That’s big of you to admit,” Melina said. “I didn’t think you had it in you.”
“Ooh, burn!” Gullie put in.
Mira sighed. “When I started this journey, I was a bright-eyed custodian looking to elevate my own status and that of my family. Now I am a fugitive of the crown, fleeing Windhelm on a carriage through the southern woods. The most dangerous of the forests around the city, might I add.”
“Yeah, someone could’ve told me that back at the crossroads,” I said. “The choice back then was between going to a city where we’d likely get recognized or go through a forest to find the moon children. Nobody told me it was the most dangerous forest in the area.”
“Have we run afoul of nasty beasts?”
“Don’t jinx it. For all we know, they’re watching us from the dark right now.”
“Sizing us up,” Melina said, “That’s what I would be doing, if I wanted to eat us. I would be lurking in the shadows, following us, trying to get a measure of our strengths. Weaknesses. Blind spots.”
“For two days?”
“A convoy like ours? It could feed a family of Vrren for a week.”
“Horrid things,” Mira said, “Wild animals that look like hairless wolves, with stubby snouts, and longer limbs. It’s said they like eating their prey while they’re still alive, so they never go for the killing blow—they always aim to injure and cripple.”
“Didn’t I tell you Arcadia was a charming place?” Gullie asked.
“I don’t think we ever talked about Arcadia before I met the Prince,” I said. “Feels like a lifetime ago that happened.”
“It was,” Mira said. “You aren’t the same girl I picked up that day. I have to say, I’m somewhat