A Cold Passage

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Cold air leeched the heat from Lucas's limps forcing him to curl into a shivering ball to keep warm. The thin atmosphere gave little oxygen in exchange for ragged pants marked by puffs of steam. He hadn't expected it to get colder as he moved South, but as he made his way higher over the mountains that divided the two provinces the temperature had dropped.

The late season certainly contributed to the weather. The last of the fall harvests would have been completed long ago, and snow fell with an unfortunate regularity. Snow, Lucas cracked an eye and looked up to see the white flakes again tumbling from the sky. Sighing he clutched himself closer and considered using magic, but he didn't have the energy to sustain anything for more than a few minutes. And if he warmed himself, surely he would just feel colder after.

Eventually Lucas decided that he should continue moving, if he stayed on the ground for much longer he wouldn't be able to stand. So he forced his shivering limbs into compliance and pulled himself to his feet. Silently he wondered what had happened, he used to live in this kind of weather. True it usually occurred much later in the season, but surely a few easy winters at the Academy wouldn't destroy his ability to function in the cold.

Gritting his teeth as the wind picked up Lucas began walking again. He had initially avoided all path, choosing instead to simply make his way south. But as he moved further from familier places he found the need for something to guide his way, so when he encountered the dirt road he followed it. It hadn't seemed to matter so far as he hadn't encountered any fellow travelers. A fact that Lucas didn't find surprising, with a war going on who was going to travel between the North and South on the main road?

Still he was cautious, jumping at every breaking limp and crackling leaf Lucas remained alert to his surroundings. It paid off occasionally as he was able to hunt small game for his meals, but now, as the wildlife diminished it started to use more energy then it was worth.

With the ever widening spaces around him Lucas doubted anything could sneek up on him anyway. Head down he trudged on through the snow intent on reaching his goal. As he walked thoughts swirled through his mind, as hard to grasp as the flakes of snow flying through the air around him.

How had he summoned Istrali, and what was it if not a simple creation. Lucas supposed it made sense that he had summoned the creature rather than created it. After all, how could he have created sentience?

His foot caught on a ledge under the snow and for a moment Lucas was falling forward, but he caught himself at the last moment and looked around him. He was standing a small plateau, the mountain rising high beside him. Wind roared past struggling to push him off his precarious stance. Hastily Lucas crouched, trying to minimize the surface area the wind pushed against. Then he looked over the forested land surrounding him, though it was far away Lucas could just see the break in the trees that marked the location of the Academy and main city. Smaller patches of grass broke the forest in various areas, though to the best of Lucas's knowledge they were nothing more than meadows.

He turned his gaze South and saw the massive plains stretching beyond the forest the extended past the base of the mountain range diving the two. The trees seemed different to the South, Lucas couldn't see a single coniferous tree mixed in the deciduous forest. He couldn't see any green either, everything was in shades of brown. Dead leaves clung to old branches and rattled in the valley breeze. As he started down Lucas couldn't help but wonder if anything lived in the land ahead.

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