by thefourpartland

This is the next part of the story that began with The Last City.

The days that followed that first step through the portal were tiring, but not especially noteworthy. Ira led the small group as it trudged up the wild but sparse terrain of a hidden valley, and then up the saddle between mountains and into another. Around them, the landscape was much as it had been when they set out, although without the giant shadow of Yn Dref floating overhead. There were tall peaks, edged about by lower hills and sheathed in a coat of purple and green, as heather and bracken were all that really grew in the higher alpine. Down on the valley floor, there were copses of trees and small running streams, some forming pools or even lakes, but little else.

Of animals there were some, although most were birds wheeling high overhead, safely out of range of any hunter’s arrow. Of those who dwelt on the ground there was little sight, for they were both small and timid, flitting away into the brush at the sound of an approaching footstep. But at night, the howls of wolves and the shriek of other, less pleasant, creatures could be heard. It was enough to keep one of the three awake at all times, despite the ever present fire, and for Canere to wish he had learned how to lay magical wards about his encampment. But in the safe streets of Yn Dref, what need had he ever had of such a thing?

Most prominent of all was the collapsed structures that lay hither and yon about the valleys through which they passed. Most were comprised of little more than fallen stone and timber and looked to be farmsteads, pastures, and other structures of the sort one would find today in the villages beneath Yn Dref. No doubt they had served the same purpose, feeding whichever Hanian skycity had floated overhead. But with no more cities to serve, the people had drifted away, or been killed once the magical protections of their betters had departed. Either way, it was a dreary thing to pass through the lost villages of Hania.

Not that that stopped them from using the structures as places to rest at night, for the protection offered by stone walls, even collapsed ones, far outstripped that of a few tree boles and a lit fire. And it served better to both disguise their fire, should such a thing prove necessary, and to retain the heat that its flames gave off.

Presently, the three explorers were safely tucked into the old greatroom of a farmhouse, four valleys and two weeks to the north of where they had set out. Around them, the land had been to change into the utter emptiness of the northern tundra, still full of mountains but with plant and animal life growing scarcer by the day.

“I must admit, of all the things I thought would be dangerous on this trip, boredom wasn’t the one I had in mind.” Yaden tossed a stone at the fire, making the wood crackle and snap. “You’re my best friends, and yet if I have to see nothing but your faces for the next week, I’ll fly into a murderous rage.”

Canere chuckled, accepting the jest for what it was. “Perhaps we should have brought a mirror, so you could see the one person you loved.”

The next stone bounced off the packed earth flooring by the mage’s chest.


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