Eventually, we decided winter wasn't going to end. It had lasted years already; it was going to last many more years to come. What was more, we were running out of wood. All the trees had died out. Even the evergreens couldn't handle the eternal winter. Sure, we still had stockpiles of timber, but how long would that last us when our survival depended upon burning large quantities of it daily?
And so we decided send someone out to see if there was a tree left on this world that was still growing; to see if the word summer still meant something to folks somewhere; and indeed, to see if there even were still folks out there. The only question was, who was going to go and find out?
There were only three horses left living in our settlement: one was a scrawny old thing that hauled stuff between the Ice Huts for their inhabitants; one was a tough mare that belonged to another hunter, but her leg had been injured by a snow bear a little bit ago. The last horse was of course Elrick, and as there was no question of me parting with him, it wasn't a difficult decision for the elders to make.
And so I struck out across the endless, glittering ice, into a world of cold, cold white in search of something green. Mrs. Parkins had suggested I try to find the ocean. She reckoned it wasn't yet cold enough for that to have frozen over, but it was difficult to know since she also reckoned its waters had probably lost their tides during the Great Change when the Earth had lost her moon. Once I reached the ocean, I would have a steady supply of fish to eat even if snow bears proved to be absent, and I was hoping that there might be lichen or sea grass or some manner of weed that Elrick might be able to chew on. Otherwise, he was going to have to learn to eat fish like me. After I found the ocean, I could travel down the coast, using it as a reference, and look for other settlements and warmer places.
That was the hope. But after all, hope was all we had left.