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Frigidus: Frigidus¦1

by limniris

limniris A trio of Deerling go out to a lake to witness the winter frost.
The young Deerling woke slowly, sniffling from the sudden cold breeze. She blearily peered at the others around her, but it was still too early in the morning to see them very well. The stars were just beginning to fade. If she squinted she could see the faintest hint of a sunrise on the horizon, obscured as it was by the trees around her. A sneeze escaped her, jolting her, and she looked about to see if she had woken anyone. They all slumbered peacefully despite the chill, and she relaxed.

The Sawsbuck had shed their vibrant fall leaves a few weeks ago, and her own coat was already turning a dull brown. She had only experienced a few winters, but they were already her least favorite season. Most of the other Deerling seemed to agree with her. When they evolved, they'd get the thick winter fur the Sawsbuck had, and it wouldn't be so cold.

Evolution was a long ways away, she knew. And besides, she might not even reach that point. The herd was careful to keep the younger ones in the middle of the group when they traveled, but when the next snowstorm came she'd probably lose another of her siblings.

She put her head down. Normally she didn't think about that sort of thing, but the cold weather seemed to bring up bad thoughts. Nuzzling her head against one of the Sawsbuck's winter fur, she started drifting back into sleep, when a whisper cut through the winter silence.

"Cerys? You awake?"

"Alan?" she murmured back. "I'm awake. Are you awake?"

"Obviously!" he said, not very quietly, "Me and Rowe are gonna go down to the lake. Do you wanna come?"

She yawned, and thought about it. Alan was her age, and he wasn't very strong. Rowe was older but the fawn still hadn't grown in her antlers. Cerys replied slowly, "We should ask one of the Sawsbuck to come with us. Didn't you hear the Mightyena howling when we settled down for the night?"

"What?" he hissed, "The Sawsbuck wouldn't let us go if we told them about it! Come on, do you wanna see the frost or not?"

"The Sawsbuck have a perfectly good reason for not wanting us to go," she said, but she rose to her hooves anyways.

He laughed, giddy excitement in his voice, and turned to send hushed whispers at Rowe. They giggled to one another, and Cerys let herself space out. She felt the cold bite against her coat, and for a moment she regretted standing up, but Alan and Rowe couldn't go to the lake alone. In winter the predators were hungrier than ever, she knew from her mother's words. The two wouldn't stand a chance on their own.

Cerys herself probably wouldn't be much help, but it was better than no one else. Numbers made a big difference, of course. Life or death for a herd. She listened to the rustle of the last few dry leaves on trees, the distant whoosh of wind, and nearly fell asleep standing.

"Cerys! Are you gonna come or not? Me and Rowe are gonna leave without you!"

She stepped around the sleeping forms, careful to avoid anyone's hooves, and followed after the pair. "It's 'Rowe and I', not 'me and Rowe,'" she said quietly, catching up to walk alongside them. "Do you ever listen to anything the Sawsbuck say?"

Alan sighed in exasperation. "Not really. They're so boring! They never talk about anything cool, like the lake frost. Lucas just told me about that this morning!"

"Lucas is a Sawsbuck too," Cerys reminded him.

"But Lucas is a cool Sawsbuck!"

Rowe laughed. "I thought there weren't any cool Sawsbuck?"

"Lucas only evolved a week ago, so he's still cool. Ugh! Anyways, what do you guys think lake frost looks like?"

"Lucas said it looked like gemstones, right?" Rowe replied, "So it must be really pretty. I wonder what it tastes like?"

Cerys shrugged in response. She hadn't been listening during whatever conversation the two had had with Lucas, so she had no idea what they were talking about. Gemstones? Her father had brought those up once. She had been very young, but she recalled him saying they resembled stars, only in all sorts of colors.

... How could frost be colorful? It was white. She got the feeling Lucas had been exaggerating. He did that a lot.

The howl of a Mightyena cut through the air, startling them. Rowe took up an offensive stance, head pointed in the direction of the sound, but it was far away enough that she didn't really need to. Cerys sighed as Alan jumped behind her, trembling.

"Maybe we should go back," she coaxed, but despite his fear Alan was having none of it.

"Are y-you kidding me? We already came o-out this far. We should at least go to the l-lake." His legs shivered so hard she was worried he would fall over. Rowe frowned.

"Cerys is right. We can see the frost in the morning. Let's go back."

Cerys blinked. As Deerling got closer to evolution, they tended to become more mature. Only a week ago Rowe had been playing all sorts of reckless games with the other Deerling, but already she had mastered the stern tone of voice that the Sawsbuck had. Evolutionary change was drastic.

But it wasn't enough to convince Alan. "Come on, are you scared?" he taunted, managing to regain his balance enough to hop from side to side, encouraging Rowe. She huffed, and mimicked his hopping back at him.

"No way am I scared. Come on, let's go see that frost!"

Not drastic enough, it seemed.

Cerys followed them closely as they pranced along through the forest. As mature as Rowe was, she was still a Deerling, and she was still rash. When they were younger Rowe had been considered a problem child, and Cerys privately agreed with that. The older Deerling was not particularly responsible, or else they wouldn't be here.

Still, though, it was better than nothing. That howl hadn't been very close, but it was enough to concern her. A Mightyena on its own wouldn't normally bother trying to take a group of Deerling down, but with winter coming it might be hungry enough to try attacking one of them to drag back to its pack. Cerys shivered. And if there was another one close by, two Mightyena would definitely be interested in the three of them, even without it being winter.

Rowe wasn't yet evolved, but she was still more agile than either Alan or herself. Cerys was thankful for that.

Lost in her thoughts, Alan's whoop of joy made her stumble. "The lake! We're finally here! Look at it!"

"Hush, keep your voice down!" hissed Rowe, but when she saw the lake she went still.
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