Wind rocketed through the trees causing ice-laden branches to shudder and sway. Phi stood at the edge of the frozen pond with her black hair whipping about her face, bundled in an ivory coat and red scarf. She wore no hat; cold bit her ears like sharp teeth. Phi knew she might not come back from this, but she almost had it. She could feel it in her bones.

Waiting for spring would mean waiting forever; spring would never come. Phi had to fetch it now, even if she died in the attempt. Her city’s only hope of surviving this endless winter lay beneath the ice. Phi’s stomach twisted, but she ignored it.

She stepped onto the pond. Ice crackled under her boot, but Phi didn’t hesitate taking another step forward. Thinking of her opposing, desperate fates—face the frigid water and retrieve the Wand of Seasons or face death from the freezing temperatures just as her sister had—she would rather fight back.

“You must get it, sister,” Martinique had insisted.

“I will,” Phi promised.

Phi held Martinique’s frail hand as she died. Now the task was hers alone.

The sisters’ location spell brought her to Maldava Pond. When Phi reached the center of the pond, she halted. Setting down her bag, she withdrew a pouch of salt and made a large circle on the ice. Phi filled in the circle with a five-pointed star, making all points touch the circle. She set white candles at each point, then shed her outer layers, laying them on the ice. Next, Phi took off her inner layers until she stood naked.

The bitter air bore into her flesh, raising goose bumps on her skin, making her shiver. She stepped into the center of the circle. Phi went in a methodical manner to each candle, waving her hand to light each one, paying homage to the airts and their forces. Then she stood up.

“Descendit.”

The ice broke at her feet and Phi slipped into the arctic water. As soon as she vanished, the wind blew out her candles. Seconds passed. A minute went by. Suddenly, the wind ceased. The only sound that could be heard was a ripple in the water where Phi disappeared.

Then, the bud of a lotus flower emerged slowly from beneath the water. Its white petals blossomed revealing shining, warm light that enveloped the landscape.