Let us tell you a tale.
≈ VII ≈
xvi. The Saga of Frostwood
His were the first human eyes that had ever been laid upon the Ironwood forests of Frostwood.
The trees stretched so tall before him they appeared as cliffs carved from mountains, ravaged through the eons by ice-laden ocean waves.
But although water lay below him, feet or fathoms of glacier, none could tell here, it was ice and snow that held him before the majesty of the trees.
Their limbs creaked like frozen iron plate, their sounds of their nettles on the wind hard and soft like the metallic silken noises of finely woven chainmail moving over skin.
Once he had passed the Wall of Winds, the world had been blank. All the tales knew of Frostwood was that is lay due north. Well, there was a lot of north up here, and it all looked rather the same when you had but a stone’s throw of visibility in the blizzards that blanketed Jotunheim.
The winds screamed over the mountains and whistled through the valleys, but on their breath, every so often, he heard his name whispered on the howl of it. From the north, yes, but to the west, too. And he had followed it, all the way to Frostwood.
As he moved beyond the armor of ironwood trees edging the ancient forest, the world fell into shadow. The moon that had been so bright upon the white expanse of frozen plains now slivered between the trees, brilliant spots among the velvet darkness all around.
Except for one place. Deeper into the forest there was a small meadow bathed in moonlight. There the bare earth was not because trees had been cut, or had thinned toward the edges of the clearing, but had receded from the center, clinging tight to each other at the edge.
If they had been people, Mithrilon would have thought they were trying to get as far away from the shrine in the center as possible.
There was a small white altar, shaped like a blacksmith’s anvil, and cocooned on three sides by thick, roughened ice walls that curved up out of the snow before splitting and twisting into branches that interlaced overhead. And on that altar lay a stone swirling with violet light.
Mithrilon breathed, a sparkle of pure brilliance in the moonlight. “Well, if this is the one that kills me, I’ll be a gerbil’s asshole.”
He reached out and picked up the Eternity Stone. Nothing happened. “All that, eh?” He peered deeper into the stone. “I’ve wasted all the good years of my life for…”
The ground shook and the Ironwood trees cowered. The shrine shuddered and the rough layer of ice softened slightly into dense white fur.
The anvil-shaped shrine snorted, sharp eyes blinking open to either side of the horn. And the branches above cracked in the cool night air as the thing pulled itself up to its full height.