Walkabout Chapter 7

”We have to cross that?

The tone of Relm’s voice was that half-disgusted, half-dismayed whining pitch she used for complaining about everything from the price of oil canvas to the prospect of having to climb Kefka’s Tower. Doma Channel was hardly an obstacle on the level of the latter, but Relm was cranky, and more than a little tired of things popping up again and again in her way. She was determined but not indefatigable, dammit.

It really wasn’t much of a channel at all. An able-bodied seaman would have called it a piss-stream and swum across several times just to prove his point, but Relm was no able-bodied seaman, as foul a tongue as she had. To her eyes the length of unbroken ice seemed to go on forever, a glittering gate they would have to vault before continuing onwards to Nikeah and the Kingdom of Figaro beyond. Things would’ve been easier if the water had been allowed to thaw – there was even a little rowboat on the shore, moored securely to a rotting plinth liberally covered in glittering icicles – but no, the terrible cold snap had locked the channel up in one gigantic sheet of ice. Stray had it in for her, Relm was almost sure of it by this point. Fucking cat. She was going to have words with Setzer about his choice of deity next time they met, strong ones.

There were two choices Relm could make, and neither sounded particularly enticing. Either she could strike out across the ice and simply walk to Doma – and what a slippery, ass-busting adventure that would surely turn out to be – or they could wait until the ice thawed and broke up, allowing boats to be piloted once again. Relm was not in the mood for busting her ass or waiting, but the latter sounded about ten times more unappetizing than the former after having already stalled the entire winter. Even the idea of an extra day of hanging around made Relm want to scream and hop around like a Magitek experiment gone awry, possibly re-arranging entire continents as she went. Fuck waiting. Waiting was a whore, a whore that needed to get fucked, and Relm told the world so in no uncertain terms, shouting it to the chilly blue sky and the ice sheet and the purple line of Doma far to the west. Ordinarily she might have been answered by the cry of seabirds and the lapping of waves, but not today. It was eerily quiet, and the only reply was her own voice echoing back in the crisp air, noticeably amplified by the ice and cold.

It made Relm mad somehow, this silence. It seemed like a challenge, like nature was giving her the finger in failing to acknowledge her existence. She was already irritable, and this was just the final straw in putting her teeth on edge.

”Fine!” she screamed, stomping a red-booted foot several times in the frozen sand to emphasize her words. “You want a fight, you chocobo-fucker? You got it!”

And with that declaration of intent Relm stepped out onto the ice, proud and warlike, golden curls glistening in the sun. There was a brief moment of uprightness - then the world slipped and slid away under her feet and she was staring up at the sky again, Interceptor looming over her with a worried and slightly puzzled expression on his face.

This was going to take some getting used to.

She hauled herself up with the help of Interceptor (he had no trouble, with his claws and four-footed balance) and tried again, this time managing to stay on her feet for more than four seconds before crashing back down to the ice again. Slowly but surely she began to get the hang of it, letting herself slide along the surface with a gliding motion not unlike that of a pair of ice-skaters she had seen in Narshe once while on a visit to see Celes and Locke. Relm remembered how they had moved, and while there was no way in Ifrit’s seven hells she was going to be able to attain that level of grace simply wearing boots, she did manage to make some headway, pushing off and letting momentum carry her forward as far as it could before she had to awkwardly kick herself into motion once again.

It almost became fun, once you got up a lot of speed. It was like flying, and Relm had always loved flying; Setzer had been forced to pry her off the balustrade an uncountable number of times when she got too close to the railing, saying Strago would kill him if she fell to her messy, splattery, entrail-spilling death. There was nothing stopping her today, and with a joy she hadn’t felt in ages she pushed on forward, pulling away from the shore faster and faster until the surrounding ice was nothing but a blur in her wake. She laughed and whooped, her anger dissipating as quickly as it had come.

Interceptor had been dutifully following along behind, uneasy but unflinchingly loyal to the girl as always. The ice had seemed safe at first (if a little uncomfortable under his pads), but the farther they moved outwards the more he sensed that something wasn’t quite right. Eventually the bad feeling became so strong he stopped in his tracks, whining softly to get the attention of the girl several feet ahead. She didn’t notice. He whuffed in his throat, louder this time, but the thrill of speed had all her attention.

Wolves don’t bark and Interceptor did so only on rare occasions, but this was stressful enough to call for more vocalization than just a whimper or a whuff. His bark rang out sharply in the still air, loud enough that Relm slowed and turned to look back. She grinned and motioned for him to come on, then disappeared beneath the ice without a sound.

Relm was not a cold weather person. She had grown up in conditions that, while they could get chilly, never dipped below a certain range of the thermometer, and she didn’t have the foggiest clue as to what rotten ice looked or felt like. If she had there would have been no luring her out on the middle of that sheet for love or gil. The thin ice buckled like wet tissue paper underneath her, so sodden and soaked through it didn’t even make a cracking sound as it gave way. One moment she was looking back at Interceptor; the next the water had taken her, black and voidlike under her feet in the fraction of a second before it enveloped her entirely.

It was cold, cold as a Narshe wind, and it soaked into her clothes and all the way down to her skin and weighed her down so that she couldn’t get back to the surface no matter how hard she tried. She was struggling back towards the hole, fighting the endless black current that wanted to pull her under the ice, but it was hard, and the sunbeams streaming down through the gap seemed to get farther and farther away with every second that passed. Relm could still see the sky, blurry and distorted through the waves, and with all her strength she reached up, up towards that blue expanse, and as she did a hand unexpectedly shot down to meet her own and dragged her, gasping and choking, back onto the firm ice in one smooth motion.

She found herself looking up into the face of Gau, worry and anger and relief battling for dominance across his features.


It took a lot to piss Gau off. Like the animals that had raised him, unless he was mistreated or maligned in some way anger simply did not affect him at all. His head was cool, his temperament sound – temper-wise he was the direct opposite of volatile Relm, laid-back as a Narshean cucumber.

A fumingly angry Gau was something Relm had never witnessed before. She almost liked it, weird as it sounded. He didn’t seem like such a doormat when he was pacing around with that look in his eye like a bull rhinox in rut.

Back and forth he went, jaw muscles clenched tightly beneath the tanned skin. Relm huddled closer to the fire the boy had somehow started up – it had all been a blur after he pulled her out, Interceptor howling and Gau straining to half-carry, half-drag her back to the shoreline across the slippery ice and her going numb from shoulders to toes – and watched him storm around with something like awe. If this was what it took to make Gau grow some cojones, she should go ice-swimming every day. The thought made her snigger; Gau caught the laugh and turned to face her, his teeth bared in a snarl.

”You think this is funny, Relm? You could’ve died! No-one would know where you gone!” He gesticulated wildly, trying to find the right words to convey how atrociously angry he was with her. She had put her own life at risk doing something foolish. Nothing else she could’ve done would have sent him into as blind a rage. “Don’t you know ice is weak right now? Didn’t you see the sun coming out? Don’t you ever think?”

Okay, it had gone beyond cute and right back into irritating now. Relm narrowed her eyes and gave him her infamous Glare of Death. Teachers had gotten it, Strago had been exposed to it so much he had built up an immunity, but this was the first time she had ever put it to use on Gau. She expected him to drop dead the moment their eyes met.

”This coming from you?” she sneered, turning the withering stare on him full force. “Yes, as a matter of fact I do. And what do you care, anyway? Were you following me or something? That is kinda hella-creepy, Gau.”

Gau’s face registered embarrassment for a brief second before hardening back into anger. “A good thing for you if I was,” he muttered, kicking at a new tuft of grass furiously. “Don’t you care if you die? There are other people who care about you beside Interceptor, you know. Don’t be so selfish.” His tone softened slightly.

Relm snorted in response. “Whatever.” She shivered, trying to get as close to the fire as possible without actually sitting inside the flames. “How exactly am I supposed to cross the channel if not by foot, exactly? You keep saying I didn’t think but I don’t know what the heck I could’ve done otherwise. Yeesh, Gau, chilly down.”

”Wait until ice melts. Then you can just use the boat to get across; it’s what you should have done in the first place.” He shook his head, incredulous. “Slow down. Don’t be so impatient next time. Practise while you’re waiting for the floe to break up.”

”Aww, come on, I can’t wait here another week! Do you know how long I’ve hung around already anyway? I—Gau?”

There was no-one there. Gau was gone again, silent as a passing thought.


I hate him, Relm told herself. He’s flighty and he laughs too much and he probably pees on the carpet and licks his own butt. I hate him and his smile and his perfect teeth (and how the HELL do you get teeth that nice when you grew up with monsters and live in the middle of nowhere?) and I would’ve rather been saved by an Allo Ver.

I’ll bet he can’t even spell contrition like I can: c-o-n-t-r-i-t-i-o-n. See? What a dummy.

But none of this explained why the hell she couldn’t stop thinking about him for the rest of the week, waiting for the ice to thaw, nor did it explain why she came to her feet every time a twig popped or the grass moved behind her little campsite.

It wasn’t guilt, of course. It wasn’t like she would have thanked him for what he’d done if he had re-appeared, and she certainly wouldn’t have apologized for being such a brat, because in her opinion there was nothing to apologize for. She could’ve gotten out of the water fine herself. It was just boredom making her want to talk to another human being, that was all.

Contrition. She tasted the letters on her tongue. How the hell did I remember that word?

Chapter 8

All That Glitters Is Cold 3 Fanfic Competition

This Page © Copyright 1997, Brian Work. All rights reserved. Thanks to Sax for his help with the layout. Do not take anything from this page without my consent. If you wish to contact an author, artist, reviewer, or any other contributor to the site, their email address can be found on their index page. This site is link-free, meaning you don't need to ask me if you'd like to link to it. Best viewed in 1024x768.