Chapter Twenty: Aura

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Traveling had always been something Aura would dream about. She would close her eyes and pretend that she was anywhere but the filthy shack where she lived, imagining that she was somewhere in a large, quiet forest, cool breezes gently bringing the scent of flowers.

And snow.

Envisioning herself surrounded by snowflakes, each falling softly down, some nestling in her dark hair. It was the image she always brought to mind when she needed to calm herself. She had not pictured a howling storm, each flake like a miniature dagger, stinging her raw skin.

The Bluefrost Mountains seemed set on destroying her vision of what snow was like. Her fingers and toes were solid ice, dragging through the endless sea of white. Blanca was fairing far better than her, despite the fact that she was wearing a ridiculous, floor-length dress.

She was a strange girl. Aura didn't know what to make of her. There was something that seemed to be affecting her deeply. Like how she flinched at loud noises or would just zone out, unblinking.

She was the most secretive about her past, not even mentioning who Lyra and Rose were. Aura wondered if her father had died and that was the reason she was so quiet, that and the fact that her breath was poison.

"Isn't it so beautiful?" Blanca breathed, her eyes shining, "I've always loved snow, but this is breathtaking!" The wind was blowing so fiercely her poison was ripped away from them, spiraling away.

Aura glared at Blanca, wondering if the insane girl even realized they were stuck in a blizzard, their bodies almost frozen solid. Breathtaking was not the word she would have used, not even close.

"Blanca! Do you even see where we are? My feet are frozen, I feel like my nose is gone, and I'm starving! There is nothing beautiful about all of this." Sure, if she were to consider it, there was a certain wild and primitive beauty to the storm, but she was too frozen to remain fixed on the thought.

"Where I'm from, it snows often, so I'm used to blizzards such as this." Blanca watched as the green mist disappeared quickly, her eyes brightening. "You're from Oobay though, right? I've never visited it, but I've heard of the sweltering heat. This must be quite a change for you."

What was quite the change was hearing Blanca speak more than one sentence. It also surprised her that Blanca even remembered where she was from. Perhaps she had paid more attention than she had originally given her credit for.

"Yes, it is an adjustment. In Oobay, people do anything possible to avoid the heat. During the dry season--though, to be fair, all seasons are the dry season in Oobay--many people die from lack of hydration and sunstroke.

It's a nightmare, sweat pouring from everyone's bodies; children whimpering at the street corners." It was hard to even picture that terrible heat in such intense cold, though the memories were still vivid.

"I can't imagine such intense heat. It makes me shudder just to think about it." Blanca glanced back at her with almost pity in her eyes. The look quickly passed as she continued, "Do you know how to get back? I can't tell what time it is, and we haven't found anything yet. I think it would be best to go back to the cave."

Aura froze, this time with fear. Could they make it back? The storm had caught them unawares, causing them to lose all sense of direction. "What direction is towards the cave? I know we headed west, but I don't think we're still headed that way." She swallowed, fighting the panic that rose to overwhelm her. "I think we're lost."

They were going to die. Aura could no longer feel her toes and she imagined what it would be like for her whole body to become like that: numb and unresponsive. To drown beneath the snow, her body becoming like a solid rock . . .

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