Sixth official story post, fifth official chapter! Enjoy. Also, in an effort to give the new people here a better chance at reading the story from the beginning: Prologue. As well as a link to the chapter page: Chapters. It’s not very visible- it’s in the black bar across the top of the blog. The chapter page has all of the chapters- including this one- from the beginning! Now, without further ado….
It takes a few seconds for Winter to get her bearings. When she is sure Seven-Spinner is gone….
I’m still here.
“Where do I go?”
It may be a good idea to… well, you know. Find out where you are first.
Winter thinks for a few seconds, then nods. “Okay. In order to do that I should probably find…” She searches her limited memory. “A city?”
A town, a city, a village. It doesn’t really matter which. Any of them have people, and you can ask people for directions.
Winter walks away from the Spider Queen’s domain. Gradually frost laden branches give way to the open area of the forest. Without so many trees blocking her sense, she can feel a strong concentration of life she didn’t notice before, far, far off to the north. It may just be that she’s getting hungry again, but that’s something she doesn’t really want to think about.
Keep moving or I really will fall asleep.
“Sorry. Wasn’t thinking.”
Winter turns east one last time, glancing towards the bowed and broken branches that lead into the nest. She tries to hold it in her mind so she can get back if she needs to. It seems to work, but without any way to test it, it’s hard to tell. She shakes her head, turns to the north, and begins to walk.
At first it seems easy enough. It’s pleasantly cold, and Winter enjoys herself- had she always liked brisk walks through cold forests? It’s difficult to say, but she does know that she likes the way her feet crunch on the cold snow, likes the way the wind whistles through frozen trees. She likes everything about it, even though Summer sleeps soundly in her head.
Actually, maybe she likes it because Summer is asleep in her head. Winter really doesn’t know what to make of her. All she really knows is that Summer is in her mind, talks as if they’ve been together forever, orders her around and takes charge during emergencies- to the dismay of anyone trying to hurt her. Some bits of Summer’s past seem to have leaked through as well. She remembers that Summer had a body, separate from hers but still the same, so that whenever Summer took over people could know which one was which.
She doesn’t know for sure how long Summer has been bound, really, or anything beyond her memory barrier. For all she knows, Summer could be the one who bound herself. It’s a disturbing thought.
And then there is that strange, dangerous entity who murdered Jane. What was His name? He-Whose-Name-Shakes-Mountains is kind of a mouthful. Even if His name shakes mountains she’d almost rather say it instead of have to deal with the alternative. And just what is He?
And her memory. When would she remember everything again? Bits and pieces sort of drift back to her, but beyond when she first came to- in that circle of briar and in the stone room- she can’t remember anything at all. Her earliest memory is of Summer laughing and killing those men. It’s not exactly the most pleasant of things to dwell on. Worse than a blur, most of the stuff before that is simply gone. She doesn’t know who she is- except that she has control of some kind of magic- or what she is, either.
Winter looks up at an out-of-place birdcall. There shouldn’t be any birds at all out in the cold. What she sees takes her breath away.
Without quite realizing it, Winter has walked right to the edge of the forest. And miraculously, here snow seems to stop. The ground in front of her, beyond the edge, is covered with grass which, rather than being stiff and frozen, waves as if in a warm breeze. Small insects hop over the blades of grass mere inches from ice and snow that would freeze them in an instant. As she watches, a butterfly flutters out over a small patch of wildflowers, alights on one, and begins to drink nectar.
She’s standing at the very brink of winter and… summer? No… No, the bloom of life reminds her more of spring… And memories stir as she stands there and stares.
She reaches out, pushes her hand beyond her snow horizon, and it’s as if she’s thrust her hand into the path of a blowtorch. The heat beyond her forest of frost is stifling, ridiculously powerful. She shudders as she draws her hand away. She expects it to be blistered, but her skin is unblemished. It’s a matter of perspective, then, if she wasn’t burned up.
It wakes Summer right up.
Whoa. Yeah, wait, I remember this place. Bringer-of-Spring lives in the town just over there.
Winter follows the thought and sees a collection of small buildings, nestled in the crook of a valley. It isn’t an expansive plain of heat, it’s a little spark in the midst of a cold, foreboding woodland.
Yeah. He’s… a relative of ours.
“That’s just spring? How am I going to get by?” Winter asks. She looks around to see if she can see something- like a path of snow up to the gates, or a break in the barrier of heat- but she can’t see heat, of course, she just feels a bit silly.
What, it’s not like a wall or anything. Toughen up-
“No way,” Winter growls, surprising herself. “You’re completely nuts if you think I’m setting one foot through.”
And you’re nuts if you think you can stop me from making you.
And just like that, Summer takes control. Winter doesn’t know where her power goes, whether being in the heat weakened her somehow, or whether she just dropped her guard without thinking. Suddenly, Summer is making her body slide through, step on into the sun and the heat. Trying to dig her heels in does no good- the heat wipes away mind and strength both too quickly, burning her resolve to ash. This is spring? It feels like she’s stepped into a fire.
Winter wants to scream, but she has no mouth. Her body won’t obey her. It’s not her mouth, it’s Summer’s mouth. Summer, who smiles as if it’s the most glorious thing in the world, Summer, who does a little twirl in the long grass, letting it tickle her legs. Winter can’t make her body respond, and the eyes she looks out from no longer feel hers.
“Oh, it’s good to be back!” Summer cries, the widest grin on her face. “So, so good!”
She looks herself all over, and despite Winter’s feeble protests, proceeds to take off all Winter’s conjured clothing. It’s just as well- it had begun to melt in the heat of the sun of this strange new domain. It’s almost sad, watching it hiss and bubble in the dirt as it changes quickly from frost magic to water and then sinks into the soil. Winter saves her sorrow for her predicament- it seems the situation has taken a complete turn- a full reversal from mere moments before. Summer has somehow taken control.
Winter struggles to hang on to her fading mind, as the warmth blasts through layers and layers of carefully structured- if slightly disarrayed- consciousness, a furnace vaporizing a snowflake. Over in an instant, but lasting forever.
When Summer looks down at her arms, Winter notices- dizzily, since the unbearable warmth is taking its toll very quickly- that they are golden brown skinned now instead of pale white, and that her hair has grown into long, flowing white locks instead of her short cut. Her bronzed body is still lithe, still thin, but taller, too, and much stronger. There’s a heaviness in her- well, Summer’s- belly that wasn’t there before. It’s a completely different body, but one that’s familiar to her. She can’t remember now from where it came to her.
Summer takes another few steps forward, then stops, apparently confused. She’d been muzzy before, when Winter had first decided where to go. It doesn’t explain why she’d suddenly forget where the town was, and that much disturbs Winter a little, insofar as it’s possible with her mind boiling away.
“Where was I going?”
North, Winter mumbles weakly, and then she whites out, losing consciousness.
Summer, unperturbed by the loss of her mind-mate, hums to herself as she strolls north, and thus towards the town, enjoying the feel of the grass on her legs and the smell and scent in the air. She’s sure this will be a lovely day, and it’ll be all the lovelier without that fussy fool of a sister behind the wheel.