Superversive Fiction: Hunting Fire

Latest Superversive Fiction from Abyss & Apex:

Hunting Fire

Hunting Fire illo

by Lindsey Duncan

 

Sarril picked her way down the cavern slope, claws digging into the ice for purchase. Her toes slid up to the joint into slush, and she grimaced in distaste. She hated not having a solid, icy footing.

She reached the cavern’s basin and scanned the shadows. The winds of the snowplains didn’t howl, didn’t even whimper, and the only sound was the nerve-jangling click of dripping water.

She halted by the puddle – a small pond, by now – and drew out the measuring stick. Like most of her kind, she was short, squat, covered in thick fur that was not white but translucent and layered over pale, tough skin. The Sages believed the glaciads were related to bears.

Sarril splashed into the water, frowning at the film of ice. No one had touched it in two days; it should have been frozen over. She found the red dot of paint that marked the deepest point in the puddle and inserted the stick.

Two inches deeper. Blast. She twisted her head to study the massive ice stalactite above her and thought she saw cracks in the surface. She shuddered. Summers before had caused sagging homes and even collapsed tunnels. This was worse – and it was only a few weeks into spring, by the rock calendar in the Sage’s Hall. An unseasonable hot spell? Or the herald of a more dangerous trend?

Sarril wiped the measuring stick on her tunic and put it away. She had left her cloak in her burrow. Now she wished she had worn it to ward off the water droplets. She wiped the back of her neck and muttered.

It was a swift journey back to the tunnels where the glaciads made their home. She continued to the lowest point, past the Market of Teeth, the Boneyard, and the Sage’s Hall. A guard in front of the Deep One’s cavern stopped her until she displayed the black insignia on her tunic, the mark of the leader’s personal scouts. He nodded her through.

The tunnel looped around thrice before plunging downwards in a series of ice steps, dusted every morning with snow. Did Sarril detect melted blotches in the pattern of blue and ivory? She needed to stop spooking herself.

It was refreshingly cold down here: she wished she had thought to reclaim her cloak, then decided to revel in the prickling that swept her fur.

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