[Warning! The Goof is the goddess of parties and debauchery. While I avoid outright detail, there are implications. You have been warned!]
Alaia Hande Smith was the third child of a hard-working smith and the third daughter. All his father ever wanted was boys to help him around the forge and, of course, all he ever got were daughters.
“Alaia, you need to stop helping your father in the forge. If you want to attract men, you’ll need to be more womanly.” Mrs. Smith was cleaning dishes in the kitchen as Alaia ran by, wearing a smith’s apron.
Alaia paused and faced her mother. “If a boy is going to like me he’ll like me for who I am, not for how I look. Isn’t that what you always used to say?” In her head, she thought, maybe I’m not attracted to men. You don’t know.
– – –
“Hey, Alaia! Do you want to camp in the woods tonight? All the cool guys are going!” Elis, the baker’s son was not very bright, but he didn’t need to be to guess what the other guys were expecting to do. “It’ll be fun!”
Alaia sighed inside. “Well, I don’t have anything better to do so I guess so. Will Ana be there?”
Elis frowned slightly. “Oh, right. I keep forgetting about that. Yeah, she is.”
“I’m not only one way, I just like her.”
She w,asn’t sure if Elis had gotten what she meant or not.
– – –
The campsite wasn’t hard to find. If any of the townsfolk walked in the general direction, they would hear the noise.
“It’s a bit cold tonight.”
“It’s always cold. This is the Frozen Forest.”
“It’s colder than usual. It’s a summer night, it shouldn’t feel this cold.”
“Well, Alaia, there are ways to keep warm. You can hear it all around us.”
“Elis, I’ve told you before.”
“Okay, we’ll wait until Ana gets here.”
– – –
Concern showed on Alaia’s and Elis’s faces. “You did say she was coming, right?”
“Yeah, she told me she was. It’s almost morning though.” Elis looked around the camp. “It’s possible she got tied up elsewhere. Some people are still going at it.”
Alaia stood up and surveyed the camp. “Well, I guess that’s possible.” She sat back down next to Elis. “At this point, we might as well join in.”
Smiling slightly Elis responded, “it’s about time.”
– – –
In the morning, as people were packing up camp, there was a scream. Alaia jumped up, startling Elis who slept through the scream.
“Wha, what’s up Alaia?”
“There was a scream. I’m going to check it out.”
“Well, get your clothes on first. It’s cold, remember?” Elis started pulling his on.
Alaia blushed slightly. “Oh, right.”
– – –
“Is that Ana?”
“Oh, that’s not good.”
Alaia shouldered her way toward the front. “What, did you say Ana?”
A deep voice boomed over the scene. “Let me through, and Alaia as well!”
Turning to look Alaia saw her father, the smith pushing through the crowd. “Papa, what are you doing here?” The crowd parted in front of her, and she saw Ana, frozen in a spire of ice. She stopped moving forward. “Wha-wha-wha.” She paused for a moment, to halt the stammer. “What happened to her!?” She ran forward to the spire.
The smith pulled a chisel and hammer from his belt. “I’m here to transfer the ice inside. I can use your help since you’re here.” He gave her a knowing glance. “I won’t tell your mother you were here, but I’m sure somebody else will.”
Alaia took a hammer and chisel from her father, and they began working around the base of the spire until it was almost broke loose. “Hold. The wagon’s almost here.”
The squeaking of the wagon axels could be heard over the low murmur of the crowd. As it pulled up the crowd parted. Alaia and her father carefully lifted and set the spire onto the cart with the help of some members of the crowd.
The smith turned back to the crowd. “Now pack up your things and go home! Normally I would want to find out what happened here, but with this many people, there’s no way to tell. If anyone saw anything go to the governor’s house and tell him. I’ll report to him as soon as we get back to town.”
Alaia jumped onto the cart next to Ana and rode there all the way back to town.
– – –
“We’ve had her next to the forge for a month straight and nothing is happening. The ice isn’t melting at all. Word has reached the king and he has invited us to take her to the court. He will have Irfan and Taika look into what’s wrong. Her parents want to send Alaia with her. She’s been watching over her every day since the accident.”
The smith nodded. “Yes mayor. I’ll let Alaia know. Is there anything else?”
“No, go tell her.”
– – –
Alaia was allowed to ride with the king’s convoy up to the prince’s castle. At her request, there was a tarp over Ana. It hadn’t crossed anyone’s minds that it would turn her into a curiosity instead of a problem to be solved. The king paused in the town near the castle and gave some sort of speech. She also saw glimpses of an orange-skinned girl running on the ice barefoot, that was the most interesting part of the trip before they made it to the castle.
Having never seen a castle before Alaia was in awe. She was told to wait with Ana in a servant’s room until after the ceremony. She wasn’t sure what the ceremony was. As she was waiting, a loud explosion rocked the castle and she was knocked out.