We land on an ice field and it is beyond cold. Our uniforms, despite the sensors built in to guard the body in every condition, cannot long function for this and help us withstand such temperature.
Enris sends me a skew grin. “We will be quick, I promise.”
I have to take him at his word. Shrugging, I lead the way down the ramp. At the bottom, already sliding on the ice, Enris and I perforce find ourselves waiting for Coltern. Iniri has his ear, demanding answers. Why here, what are you to do, and why can I not come with you, and so forth. Coltern’s answers are monosyllabic, and eventually he tells her to stay put and descends the walkway in irritation to join us. The last I see is Commander Gennerin slapping the gadget that closes the shuttle.
The three of us head for the heights. By the sands, it is quite a walk and I doubt ‘walk’ is what we will be doing. More like a struggle for every step. How I wish for the warm sands of the west; cold has never been my friend. Coltern does not seem too bothered, but the man in previous times spent much of his soldier’s career in the badlands where it is ever cold. Lucky him.
Enris now leads and I follow my prince in silence. Curiosity is fine, but this is also stupidity. We can die out here.
Soon we are climbing, rock slick underfoot. Looking up, I see the peak swathed in dark vapour; this is beyond foolish and I say that, not caring for this situation in the least.
“Relax, Mirlin,” Enris throws over his shoulder, “there is a level area ahead. High enough for us, I believe.”
“Thank the stars,” Coltern mutters behind me. “This is crazy.”
Grinning to myself, I go on. Knowing Coltern is as affected helps me bear the cold. Brothers-in-ice, so to speak. I laugh out loud as that thought comes to me.
“What’s so funny?” Coltern asks in a surly tone.
“You!” I laugh again.
A few paces later our ‘path’ curls onto a level slab of rock. It is wet, but not as slick. Snowflakes swirl around us, although none find purchase on the stone we stand on. Thank the sands for small mercies. A swift gust, however, threatens to dislodge us. If a storm descends now, we will be lost.
“Hurry it up, will you?” Coltern snaps, and I can kiss him for saying so.
Shaking his head, Enris merely sends his focus outward. I understand that he is now gathering a sense of the spaces Massin’s souls inhabited before the orb removed them from the land of the living. Technically, they are not dead and will be reborn in the fullness of time, but most did not deserve to leave life as swiftly as they did either. Enris seeks now to restore, and I wonder how he will do it.
As Soul Keeper, I am able to set aside death for a time and I am able to find souls across mighty distances – amongst other nuances – but restoring a physical form to a soul is beyond me. Enris is more powerful than I had thought; he has Ilfinay Makar’s gift if he is able to do this.
I thus watch him closely. Coltern does as well, but the General is more concerned about the man’s physical wellbeing in this dangerously extreme position, while I desire to discover the how of this reversal.
Enris places a hand over his heart. “Call them, my sister,” he whispers.
What? Sister? My head jerks around, but there is no other with us. I am then cold inside as well as outside. This being is therefore inside Enris. Who, by stars and sands, shares his body? I glance at Coltern to see how grim that man is. Coltern knows; Coltern is scared.
Swallowing, I kneel. If a host is about to visit us here, I need to be ready. A Soul Keeper, after all, is able to gift form to an ethereal being, when the soul presents itself in its ghostly form, if the ethereal deserves it. While I cannot summon a soul and gift it a body, I am able to create from the ethereal presence a solid form. Gennerin possesses a similar gift, but his requires touch and his gift is for a single ethereal at a time. Mine is encompassing, although I have never put it to the test. I must root myself now or the consequences will toss us from this mountainside.
“Hold onto something, Coltern,” I mutter in warning.
He glances at me and immediately moves to tether himself to a jutting rock. Moving then to stand behind Enris, he loops the free end of his rope around the Makar’s waist.
Not a moment too soon, too.
As Enris throws his arms wide a host indeed appears around us, hovering, dancing, twisting, and shifting in and out of focus, layer upon layer. There must by many thousands and all plead for life.
The demands upon the current buffet us as if a mighty storm has unleashed.