We walked carefully as night fell around us. The broad road through the plains was easy to follow in the light of the moons above. But my nerves jumped at every sound, worrying that someone would follow us and attack us again. We traveled through the next morning, only camping once the next night had fallen. Mhorik practically collapsed as soon as we stopped, and I quickly set up camp to make him comfortable.

I was exhausted, but I didn’t dare sleep. I lit the fire and kept one eye on Mhorik, the other scanning the distance for any that might approach. Although I’m certain I let my mind wander and dozed off, nothing happened that night.

“You look awful,” I said as Mhorik stirred the next morning.

A slight smile crept onto his wan face as he brushed his fingers through his tangled beard. “You certainly have a way with people, dear,” he replied, his voice small and brittle.

I pulled out some dried meat and tore off a chunk for him and another for myself. I chewed it slowly, letting the saltiness clean the morning taste from my mouth. I tried not to stare at Mhorik, but he did not have the appetite he should.

He sniffed at the air. A frown emphasized the deep wrinkles on his face.

“What is it?”

“Some… trouble is bubbling up around us. Someone is casting a potent spell, and I don’t think it’s good.”

“Is there anything we can do? Can we counter it?”

Mhork shook his head. “Even if I were not feeling ill, I don’t think I could counter power on this scale. We should move as fast as we dare today, away from this place.”

I hurriedly packed up the campsite and gathered our gear. I made sure to carry most of the weight, trying to give Mhorik the least strain I could even as we traveled.

My nerves finally calmed down after not seeing anyone or anything for a few days. I focused on the mountain rising before us, letting it guide me so that I did not have to put much thought into walking. Every night we set up camp, and I’d sleep only a bit while Mhorik slumbered fitfully. Every morning he’d awake, sniffing the air and worrying about some magic power building up around us. Eventually I started smelling something different, something I didn’t recognize on the morning’s breeze.

We got to the hills at the base of the mountain. I saw the path up, but didn’t really recognize it. Going up a mountain pass is different than coming down. The climb looked like it would be difficult for us, especially with Mhorik in his rough condition, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to tackle it immediately.

“Let’s rest here for a day or two. We should gather our strength before we climb back up the mountain.”

Mhork shook his head. “No, something bad is following us. Resting here will only ensure that it catches up with us. We must press on.”

“A compromise: Let us rest here tonight, then, and we can climb up after the sun has cleared the horizon.”

“No, we must…”

I put my hand on his shoulder, and pushed him down gently. “You are in no state to go climbing. We rest here.”

I wanted to protect him, I wanted to let him gain his strength. But, my heart broke as I saw my master, the one person I respected most in the world, sink the ground unable to fight against even my gentle push. I set up the camp as he sat there with a dark expression on his face. He fell asleep and then, only then, did I allow myself the quiet tears I held back. I was scared, afraid for him. Knowing that we had to push on, but fearing for his life.

I didn’t sleep at all that night. I didn’t even doze off. I just watched over the wisp of a man sleeping near the fire.

The next morning I upheld the compromise and packed our gear for the climb. Mhorik did seem to be in better spirits, eating the chunk of dried meat I offered him with some of his old vigor. I smiled, thinking that perhaps I had just been too tired to fight off worry.

The climb was difficult, but we made good progress. I would lead, finding paths and footholds that let us climb ever upward. I’d often turn around and pull Mhorik up behind me. I thought we would get over the pass in less time than we had before.

Then I saw my breath appear before me as the temperature dropped suddenly. Then ice started to fall from the sky. Small pebbles of ice appeared at first, bouncing against the ground. Then the larger chunks fell I had never seen this before, my mind not quite comprehending what was going on.

I tried to push on, but the ice got underfoot and caused me to slip and fall. The amount of ice falling from the sky was just too much.

Mhorik grabbed my shoulder and pointed toward a rock outcropping. I put my arm under him and we moved quickly to get out of this deadly weather.

“The spell has caught us. I do not think we can continue on,” he said, with an air of defeat.

“What can we do? Where can we go?” I tried to keep my voice calm; I think I succeeded. Mhorik didn’t answer.

We sat under the outcropping, huddling together for warmth. But I shivered from fear more than the cold.

Leave a Reply