Soft Sharp Crisp

Sierra adjusted the blanket wrapped around her shoulders as she felt another cold breeze blow past the porch of the cabin. She shuddered. The path running past the cabin lead towards the mountain pass. A ways down there was a fork that split the main road and the deer trails that hunters used, winding up the woods that clung to the valley.

Sierra’s eyes moved past the desire paths and up the mountain toward the little dent in the trees she was always told marked a drake’s den. She could never figure out if the shapes in the sky were vultures or drakes at this distance. She gripped the blanket tighter.

The door behind her creaked open and she felt a hand on her shoulder. Alex placed a plate with a warm grilled cheese sandwich on the armrest of Sierra’s well worn wooden chair. He then pulled another chair next to Sierra’s and sat down.

Sierra kept looking down towards the pass, away from town, away from the cabin, away from Alex. “Do you think he’ll come back this time?” She loosened the grip of the blanket, letting the cold seep in.

Alex tapped the plate with his knuckle twice before answering, “He always does. No reason to think this year will be different.” 

Sierra snaked an arm out from under the blanket and grabbed a triangular cut of the grilled cheese and slid it back under the covers before ducking her head down and nibbling a bite. Markus gave them some extra cheese a couple days ago, and Sierra knew what that meant. Alex did too, even if he wouldn’t say. Even if no one would say it.

Sierra opened up the blanket and gestured toward Alex. “Do you want to share?”

He took a look. The blanket could wrap her fairly well, but could not wrap around both of them very effectively, so he shook his head. “No thanks, don’t want you to catch cold.”

The breeze from the mountain pass swept the last leaf off the apple tree next to the cabin. The leaf slowly danced its way down onto the porch where it finally stopped. Sierra reached with her bare leg, and crunched it under her foot.

Alex broke the silence. “He’s going to come back, Sierra.”

“You said that.” She twisted her foot on the leaf, watching as the brittle leaf broke apart.

“But he’s going to be real mad with me if I let you catch ill.” Alex stood up.

“I’ll be fine.”

He sighed. “Could you, could you at least go inside before it gets dark? I just…”

She mumbled, “Daughter of a renowned monster hunter.”

“What?”

She spoke louder. “I’m the daughter of a renowned monster hunter and you think I can’t handle a little cold? Dad’s come back with drake’s frost clinging to his beard and half a heartbeat, but I can’t handle the autumn cold?”

“I don’t…” He ran his hand through his hair, which hadn’t been cut in months. “Sierra, you’re frail, okay?”

“I know my limits.”

“I know you do, but I don’t. Please just say you’ll come back in before it gets dark. The sun’s already setting.”

Sierra pulled herself deeper into her blanket, almost hiding her head. “You aren’t responsible for me, okay! Leave me alone.”

Alex yelled, “Do you think I want to be? I want him back just as much as you do, alright? It’s not exactly easy taking care of my older sister by myself. I don’t want to be…” His voice caught as he noticed what he was saying.

Sierra started to cry. “Then you can go inside and wait where it’s warm. I’ll be fine. Or hell, go out into town for all I care. Meet up with Markus’s boy or whoever you’re screwing these days.”

“I…I can’t…fine.” Alex stormed off and slammed the door behind him. 

Sierra blew on her hands and started to rub them together, her fingers already numb with the north wind. In a week’s time the first snow would hit. Maybe a week and a half, but unlikely. Once the snow hits the west ridge, the whole pass would become impassable, which was fine for the town. Still trade to the south for another month. Longer if you have a sled. But…

Sierra took another bite of her sandwich, which had already lost all of its warm comforts after the fight. Inside she could hear Alex stomping around, as if his anger wasn’t already clear. Then the sound of wood against stone, probably throwing logs into the hearth. Good. He should be warm, even if she was pissed off.

Their father was a giant of a man with a thick red beard, but Alex was growing into too much of a brute. Broke an ax chopping wood not even a week ago. Sierra wasn’t even sure who finished chopping the wood for him.

She couldn’t wait until father came home and calmed Alex down. His trophy would be enough to feed the family and a few houses more, ensuring generosity for next year if he was late again. The scales and horns themselves would sell for a small fortune. Almost all tithed away to the chapel, but he’d buy Sierra a nice apology for sure.

The fantasy stopped when the door creaked open again. Sierra didn’t look back. “I’m not going…”

Alex cut her off, “I’m not asking.” He wrapped a rope around her, the chair, the blanket, and began to drag her inside. She kicked and screamed but didn’t struggle, not really. 


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