It’s snowing in Nashville today! So I thought I’d get in the winter spirit and write a short snow scene between Daphne and her partner Hannah for this week’s Town Line Tuesday. This takes place a few years after Daphne’s exile from New Salem and long before the events of The Demon of New Salem. It’s canon-compliant but will probably never be brought up in canon. Also I’m posting this from my phone because my internet went out right as I went to post this so if anything is wonky with the formatting that’s why.
“Hurry up would you,” Hannah called over her shoulder, “the sooner we find the Winter Court the sooner we can go back to drinking hot chocolate by the fire.”
Daphne pulled her eyes away from the animal tracks she had been studying—canine if she remembered Adam’s tracking lessons correctly—and grinned at her friend. “What’s the matter? Cold?”
“No” she said, wrapping her arms around her middle to retain body warmth. “I’ll just be happier when we can get out of this damn snow.”
“How can you not like snow?”
“What’s to like? Its cold, its wet, it gets all over everything, its annoying to walk through.” Hannah kicked at the stuff to prove her point. It wasn’t actively snowing but there was still enough on the ground from the night before that their walk through the woods was more of a trudge. Hannah sighed and kept walking. “Let’s just get this over with okay?”
Daphne hurried to catch up. “It is pretty though. Magical even.”
“You sound like someone who never had snow growing up.” Daphne could practically hear the eye-roll in Hannah’s voice.
Daphne shrugged. “We had snow. Not this much, but we had it.” Her lip curled in a half-smile. “My brother and I had some epic snowball fights.”
Hannah was quiet.
“What about you? Don’t tell me you never—” Daphne cut off, eyebrows pinched together in a frown.
Hannah looked back at her, concerned.
Daphne shook her head and nodded for Hannah to keep walking. “Don’t tell me you never had any winter shenanigans.” She slipped her knife out of its sheath. “Snowball fights, sledding, snow angels…” Daphne brushed against a tree, using the tip of the knife to pull a chunk of bark off, “…you can’t tell me you never had any fun in the snow.” She slid the knife back into the sheath and the piece of bark into her pocket.
Hannah’s shoulders tensed up a little, she looked up toward the sky—though not much of it could be seen through the trees. “Of course I did. But I was the only kid in AEGIS so any fun I had I had alone. Most of my experiences with snow were training-related: fighting in snow, tracking, survival, that sort of thing.”
Hannah glanced back at her. “What?”
Daphne laughed. “Nothing. I just can’t believe I actually had a more normal childhood than someone.”
Hannah snorted. “It’s not a competition Pen,” she said, using the nickname for Daphne’s last name she had taken to calling her lately.
“No, I know I just—” Daphne stopped again. “Yeah we’re going in circles.”
Hannah stopped too, turning to face Daphne. “What’re you talking about?”
Daphne nodded at the small canine tracks heading off into the woods on their left. “We’ve passed those tracks before.”
“We’re in a forest full of animals Pen, there’re bound to be multiple sets of tracks.”
Daphne shook her head. “No those are the same tracks. Same direction, same animal, same size, even the same gait.”
“Okay, then maybe we’ve crossed the same animal’s path twice.”
“Yeah, I thought that too. Still, something didn’t feel right.” Daphne ran a gloved finger over a bark-less spot on the tree closest to her. “Which is why I marked this tree. Just in case.”
“Daphne, look around! We’re up to our ankles in snow, if we were walking in circles we would’ve crossed our own tracks again.” Hannah gestured toward the unblemished snow covering the forest floor in front of them.
Daphne ran a hand through her hair, knocking her hood off her head in the process. “Yeah and we’ve been walking in a straight line not following a path. I don’t know what to tell you, I just know we’ve passed this tree at least two times.”
Movement up in the tree behind Hannah caught Daphne’s eye. “Don’t look now but there’s a fox in the tree behind you.” The arctic fox’s intelligent golden eyes, locked unflinchingly with Daphne’s, seemed to be filled with laughter.
Hannah lifted a well-groomed eyebrow. “What?” she laughed. “Do foxes even climb trees?”
The fox stood from its perch on the lowest branch of the tree, snow-colored fur fluffing out and tail curling over its back as it stretched, a wide yawn revealing a wicked grin of sharp silver teeth.
“I don’t know. This one did. No, wait don’t look!”
Too late, Hannah was already turning. As soon as Hannah’s eye caught on the branch, the fox leapt up and away. The force of the jump shook the branch, dislodging the snow gathered there. Which fell straight down onto Hannah’s head.
Hannah let out a startled yell, her green eyes wide with shock.
Daphne snorted, biting her tongue to keep from laughing out loud.
“Don’t you dare.”
Daphne couldn’t help it. She cackled, shoulders shaking with uncontrollable laughter as she hunched over, holding her stomach.
Hannah huffed. “It’s not that funny!” She furiously swiped at her head and clothes to rid herself of the icy wet clumps.
“Y-your face!” Daphne could barely catch her breath enough to get the words out.
Hannah glared. “You think this is funny huh.”
Daphne struggled to breathe. “Hilarious.”
Hannah’s lip twitched. “I was pretty shocked.”
“Should’ve seen your face.”
“Oh yeah? Did it look something like this?”
Frigid wetness hit Daphne square in the face, sobering her instantly.
Hannah giggled. “You’re right. That is hilarious.”
Daphne smirked, bending to pick up a clump of snow, shaping it as she stood. “This means war.” She pulled her arm back to throw, only to be hit in the back of the head by a snowball, startling her into dropping her own.
She whirled around to find the fox sitting on a log, washing its face as if completely oblivious.
Hannah about choked on a laugh. “Did the fox—”
The fox lowered its paw and grinned a very un-foxlike grin.
“I don’t think that’s a fox,” Daphne said, taking a step backward, slowly moving her arms behind her back.
The not-fox’s gold eyes glinted. It jumped, quicker than the eye could follow, hit Daphne straight in the chest knocking her over backward into the snow, her arms instinctively going up to catch her attacker. For a second, Daphne found herself staring up into the grinning face of a young girl underneath the hood of a fox pelt. Then, in the wink of a golden eye, the girl was gone.
“You alright?” Hannah stood over her, holding out a hand.
Daphne clasped Hannah’s glove-covered hand with her own bare one, letting Hannah pull her to her feet. “I think we found the Winter Court,” she said.
“Too bad she got away.”
Daphne shrugged and bent over to pick up the glove she had dropped right before the fey jumped her. She could still feel the eternal cold, slippery playfulness and flickering shadows of trickery prickling under her skin, knew the way home like it actually was her home. “Did she?”
Hannah barked out a laugh. “You got a reading? You sly fox!”
Daphne snorted. “You’re terrible.”
Hannah shoved her. “Please, I’m hilarious.”
Daphne hummed. “You keep telling yourself that.” She pulled her glove back on. “Come on, sooner we find the Winter Court the sooner we’ll be drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire.”