It was slow going. I made my way across the frozen surface of the lake, one sliding step at a time. I feared falling in. That was a death sentence. The freezing water would shock flesh into numbness and swallow a body whole. My thighs ached from trying to keep my feet under me instead of sliding in different directions. Out in the middle of the darkness, away from the treeline and the snow, a tiny blue flame beckoned.
Minutes stretched like taffy. At my approach, a huddled mass of furs crouching over a bunsen burner stood up. Wrapped inside was Old Man Barrow, his face ghostly with frost. A small round hole had been cut into the ice next to the fire. “Well boy, it took you long enough. I been watching you for near an hour.”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
He waved my apology away. “Did you bring it?”
I nodded. Guilt flooded through me. I didn’t know why he wanted my mother’s locket. I was pretty sure she wouldn’t miss it any more. I pulled the thin chain out of my pocket and let it dangle in the air between us. “This?”