Perhaps three heartbeats passed, and there was a brilliant green flash from the cart. I blinked against the sudden glare, and caught my breath. The column of water stood, frozen solid, ice riming the spout and edges of the tank.
The base of the column hissed and crackled. It was too clouded to see more than the shadow of the carriage’s bulk.
Beside me, Sara shivered. Our breath plumed.
Gilliam gave a low whistle, before his teeth started chattering.
“I was just getting to like the relative warmth of this place,” he said, rubbing his arms.
“How did she…” I began. Yes, I could do something similar with my magics, but it took hours. Days, for a quantity of water such as Aurora had frozen in a moment.
Steam and icy vapor flowed from the glimmering column, and Silva ushered us into the small cabin, away from the dangers of the Radiance-laced fumes.
“We will need—“ she began.
“A fire. Blankets,” Ana finished. “We have done this before.” She was already unlacing her bedroll from the bottom of her pack, and Varis was doing the same with his.
I turned my attention to the small hearth in the corner of the dirt-floored room. While the woodwork of the cabin’s walls was crude at best, the hearth — small as it was — was a masterpiece. Shaped to look as if it flowed up from the ground, it had the general shape of a large cave opening, complete with small stalactites and stalagmites. When I opened the metal box next to the hearth, I found it full of peat, rather than wood.
In moments, I had several clumps of the stuff alight. Sera raised her hand, gave a few twists of her fingers, and the fitful flames smoothed out.
“There is not much fuel,” she said, addressing my concern before I’d even voiced it. “A small threading of Energy, tied off, will make sure it lasts.”
Gilliam found a small cook pot amidst the cupboards, and filled it from his waterskin. He emptied one of the packets the halflings had given us into the pot, gave it a swirl, and hooked it from the notch in the carving above the peat fire.
“You didn’t think those just for decoration, did you?” he asked me with a wink.
The air within the small cabin was just tipping towards being comfortably warm, and smelled of mushrooms and onions when there came a sharp crack from outside, and the grating of ice upon ice. Silva gave a short cry, and dashed from where she’d been keeping watch in the doorway. Ana was close behind her, a blanket under one arm.
They returned moments later with a bedraggled and shivering Aurora bundled in the dark wool. Her hair was plastered about her face in lank, damp curls, her golden eyes sunken, her features grayish and drawn. She coughed, each one wet and wracking, and I saw that her arm was an angry, inflamed red beneath the golden bracer. Skin flaked and fell away as the shrike coughed, blackening and turning to ash before it could drift to the floor.
“Halav’s balls, it’s like at the temple!” Varis hissed. He backed away as Ana and Silva settled Aurora by the fire.
Silva either hadn’t heard the warrior, or chose to ignore him. She unfastened her cloak and fished out the clear stone that hung about her neck. She drew the chain over her head, wincing as it caught several strands of her hair in the process. She sang a note, and the golden veinwork began to glow within the gem. She placed the chain over Aurora’s head, closing the shrike’s hands over the stone. Those adorning the shrike’s bracers kindled to light. After several minutes, the light grew steadily brighter, and Aurora’s shaking eased.
Silva sat, supporting the shrike, coaxing her to take small sips of the broth Gilliam had made.
Some time later, there was quite some argument, between the golden-haired twins, though their tones were hushed, the words clipped, coming out harsh. At length, Silva sat up straighter.
“Please make use your binding magics, if she is…” Silva frowned. She looked from Ana over to me. “Tvam basahse kim? Like the she-goat? Or the bull?”
“Stubborn?” Gilliam offered.
Silva nodded, tapping her fingertip against the tip of her nose. “Yes! That is how I would make to speak it! She has stubborn and wishes to make on, but she must rest.”
The twins glared at each other at that last, and Aurora made a very goat-like noise before struggling to turn on her side, facing the small cabin’s wall, her back to her sister.
Bicker and argue though they did, Silva did not leave the shrike’s side for the remainder of our stay at the resupply station.