Far Horizons: Tales of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror. Issue #13 April 2015 - Page 14

track was still opening up when Northwind pulled out.” An idea thrilled Chloe. “Might it run on forever? A limitless north?” “We would run out of coal.” “Cut wood from the forests.” The stoker looked up at the two-handed axe in the cab and grinned. The driver touched his holstered firearm, ‘the forests are deep, possibly dangerous, definitely unknown. Even so, an intriguing thought.” “An adventurous thought,” Chloe said. “I just drive the train, miss,” the driver said. “And Red Ham here stokes the fuel.” Hamish looked down at Chloe and gave her a ponderous wink. # Poul returned to the carriage, weary from digging. “We’ll be under way soon.” “Thank you for working so hard.” The carriage jolted as Ice Maiden reversed to put slack in the couplings, then the train rolled smoothly forwards. He had more colour than usual. “I need to wash, then, shall we go to the dining car?” “With pleasure.” All afternoon the train rolled on. Snowdrifts still covered the track, but never too much for the plough. Snow-covered plains folded into valleys and hills. Patches of white-capped conifers merged into a dark forest of old pine and northern hemlock. As the train slowed on a bend the forest pulled back to form a concave clearing. PAGE 14 “Look,” Chloe exclaimed, “People.” A group of fur-clad figures stood in the shadows of the tree line. Some carried a short bow and quiver, others held long, light spears. As Chloe watched, one of them stepped forward, planted his foot, drew back his arm. The train pulled round the curve and the figures dropped out of sight. Poul stared intently back through the wind ow. “There were children.” # Time passed slowly, a drowsy and companionable afternoon gave way to evening. Gathering speed, the train broke free of the wintry forest. Outside, the sun set as a distant blood red ball behind tatters of freezing cloud. A bitter twilight faded to night and just then, for a fleeting moment, Chloe and Paul glimpsed the distant lights, the spires and domes of an unknown northern city. Chloe drew in her breath. “Shall we take supper in our compartment?” “My thoughts exactly,” Poul said. The trolley rattled as the young waiter guided it down the swaying corridor. “The driver says the wind has cleared the track ahead,” he said, as he removed the domed covers from the steaming food. “He intends to take Ice Maiden to top speed.” After they had eaten, Cloe and Poul sat with the last of the wine. The window was a black square, Poul reached up to lower the blind. “Please don’t,” Chloe said. His hand fell back. Chloe smiled and brushed back a lock of hair. Poul raised his glass: “To adventure.” Chloe’s eyes met his. “To adventure.”