Frost felt the cool stream of water rush past his ankles as he walked barefoot over the river’s rocky bottom. The river was surrounded by pine trees and lined with small bushes. Where there was water, there were plants. The forest was thick alongside the river.
More importantly, however, the river was full of salmon. Frost had never seen such an abundance in his entire life. There were hundreds, thousands of fish that blanketed the river like a carpet. They swam together in unison in a mad rush to make it upstream.
“This is incredible,” Frolick said with wide eyes. “I’d never thought there was a place like this. So pristine.”
“It’s beautiful,” Frostilicus said. “We could live here.”
Molly trumpeted from the shore. She was hungrily munching on the thick green grass nearby.
“Well, Molly seems to like it here,” Frolick said. “That’s good enough for me.”
As Frost and Frolick walked over the riverbed, the fish curved around them, adjusting their trajectory to avoid the newcomers. As the two brothers waded deeper in, a hollow circle formed around them. It was as there was some sort of invisible force field that the fish wouldn’t touch.
“They’re smart little critters,” Frolick said. “Must know we want to eat them.”
“I wonder where they’re in a rush to get to,” Frost said.
“Eh, must be spawning season,” Frolick said. “They’re going to lay their eggs and such.”
Indeed. That made sense. Frost’s eyes were glued to the fish. They were huge. Some of them were almost as big as a small dog.
“We just need to figure out how we’re going to catch one,” Frolick said. “Afraid I didn’t bring any fishing line or nets.”
“Hmmm,” Frost said. “Me neither.”
“Maybe you could make one with your frost magic?” Frolick said, pleading. “It’s about time you did your part. Plenty of water here.”
Frost shook his head. “It doesn’t work that way,” he said. “Hard to form ice into string. Plus, I’m not very familiar with that form.”
“Excuses, excuses,” Frolick said. “You did a sword pretty well? Maybe we could use that.”
Frostilicus searched his memory. He had to be intimately familiar with an object in order to create a frost form of it. Working in his father’s blacksmithery had given him a fine-tuned understanding of armor and weaponry. But fishing materials? Not so much.
Suddenly, his eyes lit up. He had just the idea that might work.
“I know that look on your face,” Frolick said, smiling. “What do you have in mind big brother?”
Frostilicus reached out with his hand and pulled. In an instant, a band of water rose from the riverbed forming a long cylindrical shape in his hand. The water twisted into a lanced spiral and then extended into a perfectly straight line.
White mist emanated from the newly frost formed object as it hardened in Frost’s hand. Patterned stars formed along the spear. The natural artwork of frost magic—hexagonal stars that came in many shapes and sizes. Frost tossed the spear to Frolick while he repeated the pull, forming a second spear for himself.
Frolick’s smile widened, and his eyes lit up. “That’s brilliant, Frost,” he said. “We’ll go spearfishing.”
The two brothers lifted their spears overhead and took turns throwing them into the water like darts. Frost got the hang of it quickly. In order to form a weapon, he had to have an innate understanding of its properties. That made it easy to wield.
For Frolick, it took a little work to get used to handling the spear. He wasn’t much of a warrior though he could get by well enough. But after a few tries under his brother’s tutelage, he got the hang of it.
Frost was the first to spear a fish. It flailed at the end of the spear as Frost drew it in. Frolick managed to land a second not long after that.
Frolick licked his lips. “Yum,” he said.
The warm fire flickered in the setting sun as the two brothers heated their hands while cooking their newly caught fish. The delicious smell permeated their nostrils. Grilled salmon was a special treat they didn’t always get back home. Now they had plenty to go around.
Molly had fallen asleep shortly after Frolick milked her, retrieving a bucketful of warm liquid. She was slumped on her side nearby. With every breath, her snout curled in and out, letting out a rather loud snore. It didn’t bother the brothers too much as they’d long grown accustomed to the noise.
“You think Mom and Dad are okay?” Frolick said, his eyes reflecting the flickering light of the campfire. “And little Tommy?”
“Yes,” Frost said. “I do. Dad is very capable. He’ll take care of Mom and Tommy.”
“I mean, they could find him out at any point. He’s a Frostmarked too.”
“His powers are well-hidden,” Frost said. “I can’t remember the last time I saw him use his powers.”
“I know,” Frolick said. “I just worry sometimes. About them.”
“By not using his powers, they grow weaker and stay hidden,” Frost said. “It’s better that way.”
“It’s just that I miss them,” Frolick said, his lips forming a line.
Frost nodded. He missed them too. They’d been away from home on merchant trips before but never so permanently. Not like this.
The fact that they’d not only left their family, their village, and headed into the unknown was still hitting him. Well, the other fact that he’d almost died was also sinking in.
“You think we’ll find them?” Frolick said. “The frost mages.”
“You seemed pretty confident that we would yesterday,” Frost said. “Just need to go north. Follow the map.”
“I know,” Frolick said. “That’s just talk. I mean, I hope we find them. For your sake, anyway. But what if we don’t? Dad’s map looks very old.”
“We’ll find them,” Frostilicus said. “We’ve got to.”
“I mean, it’s not like we’ve ever been up here before.”
“We’ve got to try,” Frost said. “If we don’t find them, then we’ll live out in the wild like you always wanted.”
Frolick’s lips curled upward, and he tilted his head. “Yes, well, that wouldn’t be so bad. Two brothers, ruffians in the wilderness. I like that idea.”
“Win, win,” Frost said.
The truth was he wasn’t so keen to stay alone in the wilderness like this for too long. He was on a mission. He desperately wanted to join the fight against the Flintlock Empire. The things they were doing, the oppression, the executions. It had to stop.
His brother was different, though. Frolick cared about family and keeping them safe more than anything but wasn’t about to start a revolution on his own. He didn’t have the personality for it.
Yet that was why he was so good for Frost. Frost tended to get into trouble leading the charge while Frolick came up for back-up and was usually the only one around to get Frost out.
As recently evidenced by their latest skirmish.
“Think they’re ready?” Frolick said, peering at the salmon. The meat was turning pink as it sizzled in the hot fire.
“They look ready to me,” Frost said. He pulled his salmon out of the campfire. It was speared through by a small stick that had held it in place. Frost looked at the fish, taking in the aroma. He hadn’t eaten anything solid in days. Fresh salmon and milk? A delicious combo. He smacked his lips.
Frolick pulled out his salmon and looked it over. “Grace before meals?” he said.
Frost nodded. A small reminder of home.
The two bowed their heads and silently whispered a thanksgiving to the Almighty.
Then they chowed down.
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