Theodius was never a morning person, but if he were to choose, October mornings were to his liking the most. Frost-hardened leaves crunched beneath his soles. The air turned white with his every breath. The sky and the lake were the same silver glass, mirrorsmooth and still. There was thin, translucent ice clinging to the reeds, and his toes twinged when he dipped them in the water.
There was nothing pretentious about Octobers. No unnecessary promises. Everything was exactly as it appeared, and that pleased him. Theodius waded in the lake and kept going until the water reached to his chest, inhaled as deeply as he could and submerged himself entirely.
For a moment the world was that of silence. The water made sluggish, muted sounds as currents stirred in the bottom. Ice sung quietly as waves lapped against it.
The water felt like fire on his skin; it burned, but there was no heat in it. It left his skin feeling raw and constricting, as though it were two sizes too small for him.
When he surfaced, however, the air biting his face was much harsher than the water. He forced himself to move. He swam a few meters until blood rushed back into his limbs and dived again.
This time Theodius was ready for it. Blood pounded against his eardrums, louder than ever above surface. Every orifice and nerve were strained to the extreme so that it almost hurt. His heart pumped faster, steadier with each stroke and there was a hum inside his head, and when he at last surfaced and inhaled, the surrounding world came back in a crash. He kept his eyes closed and breathed deeply, until his breathing started to ease and he got on the shore to dry off.
He wrapped himself in the towel slowly, enjoying every moment of it. Swimming at this time of the year always left behind this light, almost drunken sensation, and he didn’t notice someone was marching down the path immediately.
He recognised Giendei even from afar. His autumn gold hair and long elven ears were noticeable in the colourless late autumn landscape. Theodius stood waiting for him, though he didn’t quite know why. He didn’t know Giendei particularly well, for they had ended up travelling together less than a month backwards and they hadn’t spoken much, but Theodius admitted to being curious. There were no elves in the north and Giendei looked like he had jumped straight out of a storybook – he was tall, pale and his hair flowed freely all the way to his shoulders. His eyes were startlingly green, like newborn spring.
If you were to look up the definition of an elven prince of the ancient world from a book, there could have just been a picture of someone who looked suspiciously like Giendei next to it, Theodius was sure of it.
Giendei was visibly startled when he noticed that he wasn’t alone.
“Morning. Surprising to see you up this early,” he said. He politely tried to turn his gaze away upon noticing that Theodius was only wearing a towel.
“You aren’t here for a morning swim by any chance?”
“I don’t think I have the constitution for it.” His eyes focused on the ice rafts floating by the shore. “Did you really go in the water? Aren’t you cold?”
Theodius smirked. “Not any more.”