Yarrow had inherited the title from his father, who had inherited it from his father before him, and so on for far too many generations for Yarrow to count. It wasn't a bad title, it was almost respected in his village, but sometimes he wondered what he would be if no such title had been bestowed upon him. But Yarrow didn't make a habit of dreaming of what might have been.
"Yana, don't fall behind!" he called over shoulder, loudly to fight against the whipping winter winds. His little sister walked behind him in the path of the sled runners to avoid sinking into snowdrifts that were twice as tall as she was. Yarrow could struggle through them with his snowshoes, but even for him it was a difficult process. He had worried the snow might be too thick for a journey to the Dumping Grounds, but he worried more what would become of them if they missed another week of harvesting. He had already skipped last week to care for Yuli. He just couldn't afford to do that again. If they moved fast, they could be back before the moon rose.
"Quickly, Yana, we're almost there," he called again, and he heard her shout in reply, but he couldn't make out the words. He pulled the sled forward, bending against the wind, and started up a sloping hill. He struggled through the snow, working blindly with his head tucked under his hood, until he crested the hill and he could see the Dumping Grounds at the bottom, waiting for him with all of its hidden treasures. At least there's one good thing about missing last week, he thought to himself and he walked to the side of sled and leapt onto it, there is sure to be a good haul.
Yana struggled to climb onto the sled. It was taller than she was and she could barely get one leg over the side, so Yarrow picked her up by hood of her coat and set her beside him. He could barley see her tucked away in the warmth of her fur-lined hood, but what he could see of her was red with cold. She grinned up at him with wide eyes.
"Let's go!" she said, clutching to the lead rope with mitten-clad hands. Her brother smiled and pushed off from the hill with one leg. The sled sped easily down the hillside and came to rest just beyond the Dumping Ground. The Grounds were protected by the hill on one side and the stonewall of the Observatory by the other. The wind was calmer here, though the snow not any less deep. Yarrow removed his hood and jumped down. Yana tried to mimic him, but fell face first into a drift. He laughed and righted her and dusted the flakes from her black hair.
"Careful, little snowbird," he said. "What's the first rule of the Dumping Grounds?"
"Stay close," Yana said, but she was looking over his shoulder at the treasures waiting to be explored. "What are we looking for, Yarrow?"
"Mr. Manirok needs a new wall for his hut, and Siku said she'd give us one of her blankets for a new pot. Think you can find a pot, Yana?"
"Is the blanket for Yuli?" Yana said.
Yarrow tried to smile, but found it difficult. "Yes, it is."
"Then I'll look really hard!"
"Good girl. Let's go, and remember: stay close."
They left the sled and went into the maze together. Yarrow kept a tight hold to Yana's hand, for the Dumping Grounds could be a hazardous place for one who did not know their way. The Grounds were where the people of the Observatory left their trash: broken telescopes, unwanted furniture, rusted pans and cutlery. Anything that was unwanted was thrown outside of the walls to either be wasted away, or collected by Yarrow. He'd found many useful things amongst the junk: his entire sled was composed of mismatched pieces of metal or wood that he had encountered, and what he couldn't use he took back to trade with the villagers. They were grateful to him; no one else was brave enough to face the harsh journey to the Grounds, or the repercussions that came with being caught by an Observatory guard. But Yarrow was good at his trade, and he had been scavenging with his father since he was younger than Yana, and the grounds did not frighten him.
They weaved their way through the junk. They sorted through mismatched piles of old curtains and carpet cuttings, and Yana took a bundle of the fabrics under her arm to trade to the women who might make clothes out of them. She also found a box of broken dishes that Yarrow put into a bag across his back, because he knew the trappers like to skin their catch with sharpened porcelain. They were doing well, and Yarrow was sorting through a pile of discarded sheet metal that he supposed must have been used to build a telescope, when he looked up and noticed his sister was gone.
"Yana?" he called, letting the metal fall back into its pile with a crash. There was answer. "Yana? Where are you?" He stepped around a pile of discarded portrait frames, where he though she'd been searching, but there was nothing. He somehow felt colder even amongst the snowdrifts. "Yana?"
Her voice was dim and distant, and he threw down the bag of dishes and ran toward it. She had gone farther into the maze than he'd ever taken her, almost directly beneath the wall, and she was leaning over something he could not see.
"Yana! What did I say about staying close? Do you know what happens to people who get caught on the Grounds? We shouldn't be this close to the wall." He approached her, ready to take her by the scruff of her coat and carry her away, but he stopped short. Yana looked back at him with teary eyes.
"Is she dead?" she said.
Yana was leaning over a girl. She had to be dead, for she was wearing nothing more than a scrap of a shirt, loose pants, and a tool belt. She was covered almost from foot to neck in frosted blood, but when Yarrow knelt down beside her, he saw the soft rise and fall of her chest.
"I don't think so," he said carefully. He took her hand and recoiled. She was hot to the touch, as hot as Yuli when the Fever overcame him. He looked down, and he saw the source of the blood: a gash cut across her abdomen, right over her naval. It was not deep, but it was long. If she was not dead, she was surely dying.
"Can we help her?" said Yana. The tears were freezing on her cheeks. "We can't just leave her here to die."
The girl was beautiful, though not the kind of beauty the people of his village were familiar with. She was fair and thin, and her hair was as white as the snow. She clearly belonged in the Observatory, so why was she dying out here?
Yarrow looked to the sky. It was a tumbling grey, and growing greyer, and the sun was sneaking below the horizon. The snows would grow thicker, and the winds harsher, if they did not leave now. He looked at the dying girl, and he lifted her gently out of the snow. She was as light as a snowflake, and as hot as and ember. It was this heat, he was sure, that had saved her from freezing.
"Come on, Yana," he said. "We have to get back."
The girl followed behind her brother in unnatural silence. She tried hard not to cry, but her tears froze on her cheeks anyway as they walked back to their sled. Yarrow laid the girl across the back and lifted Yana in beside her.
"Press your cloth against her cut," he explained, lifting up the bundle of fabrics she had collected. "Keep pressure on it."
Yana nodded and did as her brother instructed. He went back to the front of the sled and took up the lead rope, and began the long journey back to the village. Yarrow wondered what kind of a brother he was to let his little sister watch a girl die, but he also wondered what kind of a person he would be if he had just let her die there in the snow. He shook his head, because it didn't matter. He'd made his decision. He had only one hope now: for the girl to live.