Elsa no longer felt cold. Not that she would have ever admitted to her traveling companions that the icy winds bothered her in the first place. There were certain standards a Jadwiga had to live up to, no matter how long she had been banished. However, life in the warm southlands had weakened her resolve and had decayed some of the comfort in snow and ice that the witches of Irrisen were famed for. The last few days had taken their toll on her and several times she had feigned a cough or said a few words to Myrin to keep her teeth from chattering. But lying on her stomach here in the new snow, watching the flakes fall around her as her companions slept, the cold seemed to fade away. All that remained was the enveloping texture, a familiar caress that cushioned her recline.
It was the end of the second day of their travels together, having faced down many familiar threats of the north. Everything from wintertouched fey to ice elementals, to simply the bitter cold and deep snows of her homeland. And though they had not thrived, her companions had survived. It was more than she had expected, truth be told. She eyed the embers of the cooking fire a quarter mile down the path, surrounded by the circle of sleeping bags zipped up as tightly as possible to keep body heat in. She sighed and sat up in the drift, scanning the forest line for any movement. There was none.
“What are we doing here?” she asked aloud to Myrin, as he twitched his nose in response to the falling snow. She had spent years of her life trying to escape from the cold, yet here she was, trudging back into the eye of a storm. He stared up at her, as he always did, her mismatched eyes mirrored in his. He said nothing in return.
For some witches, their familiars were their constant companions, speaking to them telepathically, offering them advice, sharing their knowledge. Not Elsa’s though – the most information she could ever glean from Myrin was the echo of an emotion here or there. Almost always, it was determination or resolve. The tiny hare had stood paw-to-paw with foes that could snap him in half with a single swipe or bite, yet he never shied away or backed down. It was not a trait that Elsa thought highly of – the fool creature would have been dead a dozen times over had she not been there to intervene. Though she supposed the same could be said of her. It was only after meeting Myrin that she had understood how to command fire the same way she had learned over many years to command ice. While her people were comfortable in the cold, traveling the barren snow deserts of Irrisen without light or heat was still suicide, and she was much more effective fighting off an ice sprite or frost goblin with a gout of flame than a snowball.
And if ever there was a time for boldness, this would be it. Whether by intent, chance or fate, somehow she could not escape the North, no matter how far she traveled. She had fled halfway across the world, yet the same snows still rose up to meet her. Whether she ever returned north or lived out her remaining days on a tropical island, the only way she could know peace was to understand what had come to Taldor and why.
She looked up the path they were camped alongside, the twisting (and rapidly snow-covered) tracks leading to the Lodge where Elsa hoped to find some answers. She climbed to her feet, brushing the snow off her legs, unable to contain a smile as her feet rested on the top of the deep snow as if she was wearing snowshoes. She walked over the surface of the snow comfortably, her footfalls no longer leaving tracks behind. An overwhelming sense of comfort and belonging washed over her as she moved back to the camp and prepared to wake her companions before the rising sun.
For a moment, she couldn’t remember why she had left Irrisen. She was at home here.