by Ville Meriläinen
Snow sifted down as the last rays of red bled away from the treetops. Our guides had
insisted we walk without torches until night was upon us in full, and shivers of relief
overcame me when they struck flames to bring our small group out of shadows.
Having light with us felt warmer than all my furs and the thick gloves the vicar had
From the corner of her eye, the Pinedaughter observed me with an amused look. I
turned away from her, fixed my gaze on the elk-made path of trampled moss at my
feet. She made the strange sound I'd come to take as suppressed laughter, a kind of
low hum deep in her chest that made the guides shift with discomfort and the vicar
glower at her.
"Scared of the dark, fishwife?" the Pinedaughter asked. She'd given me the
nickname during our voyage from England, when I was the only one who didn't get
"Of the northern dark," I replied, without turning. "It's much too deep. Cold and
Her hum overflowed into laughter. "This wood, it is my home. You have no need
to fear it. You are my guest. The others, though . . ."
"Be quiet, demon," the vicar said. "And you too, Constance. If it won't stay silent
otherwise, gag it again."