When dawn rose into a bright fresh morning we broke our camp for the second day. I fixed the snow so that it looked as if none had stayed at that spot for months. Taking hold of my horse's reins I walked beside him making every appearance that I was tracking Dmitry.
The snow yielded no sign of any life having passed over it in the three last months; as was normal for this time of year. Anyone who was not Dmitry or unfortunately paired with Lady Electron would avoid traveling in the depths of winter’s cold.
I moved faster than I normally did when tracking, for some stretches of time I would climb onto my horse and follow the invisible tracks at a light gallop before dismounting again.
Lady Electron believed my charade, watching me intently; I could see admiration growing in her softening eyes. I felt terrible for tricking her in this way, but I managed to persuaded myself not feel anything but suspicion for her until I knew who she was; for now all she was to me was an enemy.
"Tell me Hunter, how do you charm the snow into telling you who has traversed it?" Lady Electron asked, as I kneeled in the snow sinking my fingers into the cool white. This was not tracking. I found if you held your hand under the snow long enough it began to get warm.
"Everything wants to be desired, wants to be sought." I answered pulling my hand from the snow. "When you hunt you desire many things of the earth." I led my horse on. "You simply need to know how to ask and you’ll hear many."
Lady Electron looked thoughtfully ahead.
"Desired." she mused aloud, her tone suggesting a grudge against the word. "I'm tired of being desired."
I laughed I'd never expected to hear a woman say that. However, I had begun to learn that Lady Electron wasn't like most women.
We reached the outskirts of the Tambov forest with the sun only half way buried into the snow, the sky a soft mix of pink and purple.
I led Lady Electron behind the first line of trees; hidden from any, if they should pass by but not far enough into the forest to alarm its inhabitants.
I tied our horses rein's securely to a branch.
"I'm going to hunt for something to eat." I said picking up two rough rocks. "You start a fire and keep it going until I get back." I said.
Lady Electron halted in the setting up of her tent to receive her task.
I handed her the two rocks.
"What are these for?" she asked looking down at the rocks in her hand.
"To start the fire." I said walking deeper into the forest.
"I'm a princess not a peasant." she protested. "I don't know how to do that."
I smiled beneath my mask.
Exactly, princesses weren't taught to conjure up fires from stone, if she succeeded in this task it would prove she wasn't a princess.
I slipped further into the forest allowing the surrounding trees and the dark shadows they cast to sallow me. I watched Electron from the invisibility they provided.
Lady Electron busied herself with gathering twigs and fallen branches into a large pile, next to which she sat. Rather curiously she used her fist to compress a patch of snow in front of her as a base for the fire. She took half of the twigs and dry wood and placed it on the flattened patch of snow. Picking up the rocks she examined them for a moment looking utterly confused, when the rocks didn't immediately divulge their meaning to her she tossed them aside and held her hand over the small pile of firewood.
Blue energy crackled and danced through her splayed fingers. She lowered her hand on to the dry twigs, the wood began to crackle and smoke before catching on fire.
I gasped, forgetting that I was supposed to be a phantom. I'd also forgotten she had power over lightening; only remembering this halfway through crossing myself to protect against witchcraft.
I stood there for a moment feeling unexplainably stupid before trudging off further into the trees to take my frustration out on the first two hares I could scare out of hiding.
It was cruelly easy.
I collected the little bodies of the hares after they fell and pulled the arrows from their sides. Warm blood dampened their ivory coats.
Skinning the creatures distracted me from my frustration. By the time I reached the campgrounds the task had absorbed most of my anger.