Bending down briefly, Fedir grabbed a handful of snow and packed it together in his hands. As he massaged the icy mass, he quietly crept towards Kirill. When Fedir had almost caught up, he shouted:
– Hey, Kirill, you dropped something!
Kirill turned around in time to catch a mound of snow in his face. Fedir erupted in laughter that reverberated throughout the raw frigid air.
Calmly brushing the snow from his eyes, Kirill smiled at his companion. Fedir continued laughing as Kirill lowered his shoulder and ran straight into him, knocking him over. They rolled around in the snow for a while grabbing each others’ coats and trading punches and shouts. Finally soaked and exhausted, they both lifted themselves up and renewed their trek towards the forest.
Fedir glanced at Kirill from time to time. At last he muttered:
– That wasn’t bad for such a short chubby guy. But I was going easy on you. A Cossack never takes advantage of the weak and defenseless.
Kirill shook his head and chuckled:
– Is that what you were trying to say when I had my arm on your throat?
Fedir impatiently fidgeted with his belt before starting to relate an encounter his grandfather had with a vicious man-slaying boar.
As they were walking, they noticed a girl sitting on the ground. She was deep in concentration, studying an intricate flower pattern in the snow. Using a stick, she carefully drew petal after petal in ever widening rings. Underneath she had sketched several large broad leaves connected by a long thin stalk.
Kirill stopped and watched her for a moment. Finally, he asked:
– What are you doing out here all by yourself?”
Startled, the girl dropped her stick and let out a muffled shriek. Kirill furrowed his brow.
– What’s wrong?
The girl remained silent.
– Sorry, I should have introduced myself. My name is Kirill and this is my friend Fedir.
Without moving her eyes from the ground, the girl bowed awkwardly and mumbled.
– I’m Alena Baek.
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– Carlos de la Gringa