Frost Springs

Frost Springs

Snow drifted down, swirling in the cold wind. A never-ending blanket of white coated the mountain town, but the residents were never bothered by its presence. Jnae moved steadily along the path, her feet sure. Even if she wasn’t confident of her ability to navigate the icy terrain, she wouldn’t fear injuring herself with a fall.

Jnae carried a basket of goods through the market, nestled against the cliffs in a mountain pass. Some of the shops were carved into the mountain itself and others leaned into the cliffs, weaving with the curves of the ridge. She passed by other shoppers, able to recognize them simply by their gait and the slit of eyes visible between their hat and scarf. They nodded in greeting, no one bothering to remove their hands from their coats to wave.

Inside the stores was a different story. Jnae pulled down her scarf upon entering the grocer. Villagers milled around, conversing as they warmed up before venturing back into the cold. They swapped recipes and shared how their children were faring. Some even sipped a cup of warm broth made from the grocer’s hardiest vegetables. Jnae chatted with a few of them as she picked out some cabbage and garlic for her mother’s rabbit stew. 

Completing the last of her errands, she wrapped her scarf tightly around her face and ventured forth. She was used to the biting cold and the stiffness of her joints, but that made the sight of the springs no less inviting. They flowed through the mountains, steam rising where the hot waters met the cold air. Jnae continued on for a time, wanting to get closer to home before indulging herself. 

She reached her usual spot, where a boulder sat near the springs for her to lean against. She placed her basket in the snow, and propped herself against the bolder before removing her boots. Rolling up her pants, she sunk her feet into the steaming springs, sighing in relief.

A tingle started in her feet, and spread up her body. The waters of the spring banished the cold and eased her aching joints and tense muscles. Every twinge of discomfort left her body. They were minor annoyances, but she was no less soothed by their removal. Feeling energized, Jnae moved to pull her feet from the water, but stopped as she saw a group of villagers hurrying in her direction. 

Three men carried a fourth between them, his leg twisted grotesquely. He gritted his teeth as he spit out, “Hurry up you bastards. Get me into the spring.” The other men laughed and lowered him into the springs next to Jnae. Instantly, the wounded man’s face slackened in relief. Jnae watched as his leg repaired itself, bones snapping back into place and skin knitting together. 

“That looked painful. You should be more careful,” Jnae told the young man.

“We live next to a healing spring. Why play it safe?” the man said.

His words rang in her head, Why play it safe? But isn’t that exactly what they were doing? Those who were healthy, who relied on the springs to protect them from the slightest pain during their daily lives. Unable to risk going out into the world and being wounded. 

Sure, there were those that needed the springs. They were a miracle to many of the townsfolk. But there were also those like her, who were born in Frost Springs, who had the possibility of surviving elsewhere, if they chose. Yet they stayed. 

Certainly, when she was younger, she didn’t have a choice. Her parents couldn’t leave, not with her father’s condition. As soon as he left the mountain, the magic would wear off. But she was a grown woman now. She could choose a different life.

The man took in her serious face. “You should have a little more fun, Jnae,” he said with a smirk.

Jnae removed her legs from the springs without a word. She pulled on her boots and headed for home.There was one major question though. If she left, what would await her once the magic of the springs wore off?

What do you think of the story so far? Would you want to live in Frost Springs? Do you think Jnae will leave? Let us know in the comments! You can read the conclusion to the story here.

Thanks so much for reading!

-Clever & WTF

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