Hanna has experience with reading the land for the best direction and path in search of destination. While it appears we should head northwest, we head directly north. It feels strange after the journeys we undertook ever in a southerly vein.
“There are too many hills to the west. It will take more time than we have to negotiate them,” Hanna says.
I follow her lead.
By mid-morning we have made good time. Wherever possible, we push our mounts. By mid-afternoon the peaks we seek appear larger. We go on, stopping only to water the horses. By nightfall we have ascended a forested hill. There we debate whether to go down into the valley below or make camp where we are.
The advantages of height win out.
“How long?” I ask Hanna.
She peers into the darkness. “Six, seven days, I estimate.”
We still have time for the spire itself if her timing is correct. I am content with the pace. In the darkest hours I dream of Damin, Horin and Siri. I see them walking together across the plain. I see Horin throwing light into the atmosphere, green light … and sit up heaving. Horin? What is my brother doing?
The night is too silent, I notice. This kind of quiet usually heralds a predator. Goosebumps shiver and the hairs on my arms become as spikes of torture. I reach across to Hanna, shaking her gently … then firmly.
She bolts up, but sees the finger I have over my lips. The fire is embers, but it does throw the slightest glow. Hanna nods and tosses sand over the embers.
We sit in absolute darkness, listening.
The sound of cascading water suddenly fills the void. And then the brightest white light pierces the night, blinding us.
An ethereal woman descends into the clearing below.