Chapter 12

By the time Kendahl and Traci had marched down the valley and through the pass formed by two sloping hills, they could see the top of a tower in the distance. It wasn’t clear to either of them whether it was natural or man-made, but the latter seemed more likely the closer they came to it.

Kendahl had to help Traci as she stumbled several times, a condition brought on by the fever that now wracked her frame with chills in spite of the fur coats. She knew, as he did, that they had to keep moving and find a medical facility before she passed out from exhaustion.

At least the weather was cooperating somewhat. The gusty winds had died down to a gentle breeze, and the snowfall had subsided. Traci had insisted that they keep moving, in case another storm struck. The clouds were high and thin, but she couldn’t tell what that might mean on this planet.

As they marched, the hills gave way to a gradually rising canyon carved by countless years of the passage of water. Traci had begun to wonder if the water was a result of thawing glaciers when they noticed the tinkling sound of a brook.

“Water!” said Kendahl enthusiastically. “Look.” He pointed as they rounded a bend in the canyon.

“It looks fresh,” Traci said as Kendahl knelt beside the stream. He nodded between filling and drinking several handfuls. Traci found it difficult to kneel down to the water--her side was very painful now. She gulped down several mouthfuls, but it didn’t quench the terrible thirst she had developed.

Kendahl helped her remove her coat as the biting cold tore through her. As carefully as he could, he removed the bandages. His frozen fingers were painfully uncooperative as he worked the knots of cloth loose and rinsed the bandages in the cool, clean water.

Because of the angle, Traci could not see the full extent of the injury to her shoulder, but her side was an angry red, and she was sure an infection was setting in.

Kendahl warmed up the wet bandages as much as his frozen hands would allow, and then he retied them in place. It was a pathetic attempt at first aid, but it was all they had.

He insisted they take her boots off, and he checked her feet for frostbite. To make her feel better, they checked his hands and feet as well before struggling back into their footwear.

“Are you able to keep going?” he asked as she struggled to stand with his help.

“Yeah, I’m great,” she remarked through chattering teeth. “Let’s follow this back to its source. Civilizations usually build near a water source, so that’s our best bet.”

She tried to cheer herself up with that tidbit of survival training trivia as she noticed the sun beginning its descent in the sky. She did her best to increase her pace, but rocks hidden beneath the snow were treacherous and made progress slow. Kendahl tried to locate the best path, but he kept having to come back to help her navigate the worst of it. She found herself tiring quickly in spite of being in good physical shape, and she could see clouds of their breath warning them that the temperature was slowly falling.

Finally they moved out of the canyon and saw the tower in the distance. It was striking in its beauty. They could only see its peak, but it sparkled and reflected the dimming light like pure crystal.

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