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Niamara Bancanor, twelve and sometimes too helpful in Daja Kisubo’s opinion, gripped Daja’s left hand and elbow. They stood on one edge of a broad circle of ice where the Bancanors docked their household boats in the summer. Now, in the month of Snow Moon, eight weeks before the solstice holiday called Longnight, it was a place to skate, with benches and heaped banks of snow at the sides to protect those less able to stop than experts like Nia. For all her fourteen years, Daja was as much a beginner at this as any three-year-old. She wouldn’t have agreed to these lessons, wanting to protect her dignity, but after three weeks of watching the Namornese zip up and down the city’s frozen canals, she had realized it was time to learn how to skate, dignity or no.

“Are you ready?” asked Nia. The cold air made dark roses bloom on her creamy brown cheeks and lent extra sparkle to her brown eyes.

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