The ice, the burn. The cold running hot. Fria couldn’t feel her fingers but she could feel the shape of them, a shape swept out in ice burning cold on her skin. They gripped the staff. The ordinary, wooden walking staff. Concentrate, girl, said the memory of Courcael. Her hand stung, her side ached, her chest was hot with ice. A soul gem, under her right hand. Occult symbols scratched into the dirt.
A thought. A glimpse of the flower carefully preserved and stitched into the strap of her bag.
Like a match finally catching. Like a cat leaping from stalk to spring. Frost flared, settled, spiralled over the end of the staff and seeped into the grain of the wood. Fria used it to raise herself from her knees. It felt so very comfortably cold, while the soul gem warmed at the touch of her palm. She tucked it alongside the charm of a tiny silver dog in her satchel, scuffed the dirt over the runes and set out on her way, leaving a lonely patch of snow and a surprisingly realistic sculpture of a bandit carved from ice behind her.