Ice Hearths – an excerpt from LinkTales Volume Two

In the new world, legend has it that the native tribes of the north, the Inuu, have dozens of words for snow, describing every type of snow imaginable. Dane Carter knew this was crap. He had traveled through the snowy tundra on many occasions, and had only ever heard them use a total of four separate words directly relating to snow. Oh sure, they could ramble on endlessly about the quality of the snow, but as for individual words that described types of snow, on the whole, he wasn’t that impressed. He certainly thought his own collection of words for snow was more colourful, if not more illuminating.

One thing he hadn’t realized until this moment was that there ought to be more words for ice. Most people thought ice was pretty much just frozen water, which meant snow in its most compact form. But in fact, there were degrees of ice, densities and temperatures of ice that defied comprehension, and ice forms that couldn’t be replicated by science, such as the ice hearths.

When he had first heard the legend of the ice hearths, Carter thought it was more bunkum invented by trading post managers trying to sell maps and supplies to the unwary. It wasn’t until a friend, Col. Morgan, had told him in strictest confidence of having seen one of these marvels, that Carter had begun to take the matter seriously.

The idea of an ice hearth was that it was so cold, even fire couldn’t melt it. Oh, it melted, but it also froze from the outside so fast that the ice on the inside that began to drip and steam up was immediately condensed and refrozen, losing none of the hearth’s integrity. These hearths were said to be perpetually lit and fed, as they protected the inner flame from being extinguished or devouring fuel too quickly due to wind. The hearths were used to warm and feed entire tribes, hidden in their villages beneath the ice.

The problem with this whole premise was that Carter had met many Inuu, and always in villages above the snow. Sure, their igloos permitted them to dig down fairly deep once they had the snowy domes in place, but he had been in many igloos, and had never seen any entrances to the underworld. Either they were hiding something, or he hadn’t found the right Inuu igloo yet.

This particular igloo definitely wasn’t going to lead to a vast underworld village. This was the igloo of Keith Palmer. The poor hapless sonovabitch Dane had just placed inside the ice hearth that, even now, he was warming his hands by.

Dane was thankful there was no one to see him like this. If anyone walked in now, they’d probably assume the worst. If not, they’d at least think he was a heartless sonovabitch.

Maybe he was. It had been a long time since he had really thought about what his work might be doing to him. He wasn’t going to break down and start crying for the sweet, innocent child he had once been. That was bullshit. He didn’t miss being weak. Life before he grew up and faced facts had been unbearable.

That was the difference between him and Keith. Keith had been weak to the end.

Well, maybe not so weak as all that. He’d been a good man in his way. But good wasn’t a virtue the world rewarded. Good had its place, but good men often wound up in early graves, or like Keith, inside an ice hearth while the coffee was brewing on top.

© 2013 Lee Edward McIlmoyle

Don't be shy. Tell me what you really think, now.

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