Birka squeezed Anler's hand with one mitten, and Fala's with the other.
Spring was creeping in, faster than it seemed possible; the sun was finally strong enough to soften the top layer of snow and even make little rings around the trees. The further they walked from the village, the more obvious it was that winter was losing its hold on the land. There were no green sprouts yet, but the sun was high and even warm on lifted faces, and there were even little icicles where snow had warmed enough to melt and refreeze. The age-set knew it was their last chance for the winter tests. Tetefii had not had her first moon cycle yet, but if she were to do so that summer, they were not sure that any of them wanted to wait until the following winter for their chance to become adults.
The path narrowed, and Birka had to let go of her age-mates. Fala took point, at the heels of Reqem. Did it have to be Reqem? Birka had hoped fervently that gentle Ivara would be the one to issue the first of their winter tests, not gruff Reqem, who could freeze blood with a glare.
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I wish I'd been slinging my good camera when this shot presented itself. Alas, just an iphone snap:
She's "reading" to herself at my feet right now, which is adorable.
I finally figured out how to make my Patreon link something intuitive: http://www.patreon.com/ellenmillion (And look! Supporters! *shocked and delighted!*)