Part Seven: Crystal Wood
They had deer for lunch.
Berthond was gone for about an hour after he had finished eating. He was at the foot of the cliff, making a pile of white stones. He had heard that when a hero died, and you didn’t have the body, you made a pile of stones in their memory. He used his sword to scratch “Reynold Blightington” onto one of the rocks. He put that one at the top of the pile.
And even when the rain comes pouring over the stones, and even when moss grows on the surface, and even when the slow decay of time reduces them to sand, and the sand to dust, and the dust to nothingness, the name of Reynold Blightington shall be remembered here. Always.
Berthond wondered where the sudden burst of poetry had come from. He eventually noticed the singing. It was the faintest of sounds, right on the edge of hearing, but it was there, no less beautiful than when he had heard it two nights ago. He assumed that it was the cause of his sudden inspiration. He looked around. ‘Selebriar?’ The singing stopped, but there was no answer. He shrugged, and headed back to the camp.
They walked on, following the second map, for quite a while. Nobody said anything, except for when Harresta declared at one point that she was hungry. Berthond had left the map-reading duties to Telcrow. He was now trudging along behind the spell-caster, looking down at his feet, deep in thought. Mostly he was thinking about existential angst, and whether he was allowed to wallow in it.
He suddenly heard excited whispers around him, and looked up. All around him, the trees were a silvery-blue, with bark like ice, and leaves of snow. The grass was a bluish-green color, as if frost had come during the day. The clouds in the sky were of a similar silvery-blue color, and were swirling in the wind like oil paints on water. He could see his own breath, yet the air wasn’t any colder than before. In the distance, there was a grey stone tower, looming up above the treetops. He knew that the Lestine of Storm would be in that tower.
It was still several days’ walk away, and it would be guarded by some other fearsome force. Berthond knew, deep in his heart, that he would lose another companion at that terrible tower. He didn’t know which one, but he could almost hear Death sharpening his scythe already.
The three heroes and the Elf set up camp a dozen feet away from the path. Berthond could tell that the ice trees were making Selebriar nervous, since he kept glancing furtively over his shoulder, and actually let them cut one down for the fire.
It burned blue.
Since Selebriar obviously didn’t want to go hunting in a wood such as this one, the travelers ate bread and dry meat from the sack. There was considerably more for everyone, since they all got part of Reynolds’ share.
After the meal, Selebriar wandered away from the group. The other three sat in silence, staring at the ground. Suddenly, they all heard the singing. This time, it was a song of sadness, and lament. Berthond had heard the same voice singing twice before, but for the others it was their first time. After a while, Harresta burst into tears. Berthond felt like he too was going to cry. Telcrow simply sat there, wide eyed, muttering inaudibly to himself.
The song ended after what seemed like ages. Selebriar reappeared soon after. The heroes packed up their things.
They set off together towards the tower.