“This is the place,” said Sasja. Her grey hair hid inside the cavernous hood of the thick fur-lined coat hugging her body.
“Someone’s been here, alright,” said Aidan, scrunching his nose. He rubbed his hands together to fight the cold, then cupped his mouth and blew warm air into them. The cold air swatted away his efforts and he shoved his hands underarm, shivering. Ruarc wiggled his gloved hands at his younger brother, an unspoken tease on his lips, and reached to touch the glacier wall. The wall resembled a segment of frozen pond thrown upright, dwindling into the distance, both left and right, perfect and unbroken. Yet on the snow-packed ground, human footprints disappeared halfway through the wall’s edge.
Ruarc punched the ice with both fists. Two quick thumps; the ice was unperturbed. He faced his brothers and Sasja, his eyes briefly tracking their smoke signal breath rising.
“Ideas?” asked Ruarc.
“The tomtes said there was just the one man,” said Sasja. She pointed at the tracks. “One set. He must still be here.”
Aidan cleared his throat and raised his hand halfheartedly. “Do we need to point out the obvious?” he muttered. “Man cannot walk through walls.”
“You know better,” said Sasja. Aidan flicked a look her way, a thin-lipped smile.
“Granted,” admitted Aidan. “My frozen mind cannot catch up with my tongue. Man— or Woman, of course— cannot walk through walls without magic, that is.”
“A magician?” asked Ruarc.
“Possibly,” said Aidan. His shoulders reached for the heavens. “It’s also possible the ice itself has its own magic. Anything’s possible these days, really, brother—I’ve started to expect that just about anything might be alive and staring at us like we’re some strange caterpillars walking on two feet.”
His eyebrows bunched together and he pulled out his hands just long enough to jab the ice a few times with his index fingers. Sasja bopped the back of his head with a quick thrust of her palm and Aidan staggered a few steps with his arms all akimbo.
“Must you?” said Aidan, when the flailing stopped.
“Yes,” said Sasja. She approached the ice wall and pressed her hands into it, keeping a tight seal against the surface.
Then she pushed, leaning into the wall as if expecting to move a glacier single-handedly with troll strength.
“You don’t seriously think—” said Ruarc.