Chronicles of the Summerlanders
I knew when she opened the portals, it was madness … but it was madness that might help my cause. Here in Irrisen, the folk have been cowed by long centuries of rule by the Jadwiga, but out there, in the Summerlands, people still held true to convictions of courage, or curiosity, or care for their fellows.
I watched many die before I found the four I needed. These looked like luck, or came well-equipped, or showed ingenuity in survival. One even smelled just like HER, somehow. They needed help, true. Each nearly came to the fate as all the rest, and each I saved.
I guided them through the winter wall and to the only way out: through the guardian’s maze. They followed a dead girl through hedgerows of ice to the feet of her cursed, four-legged hut. There they met one another, and agreed to bind their common cause for the sake of survival.
The one who smelled like HER climbed the hut, and in he went, like a hero brave … then out he went, like a coward slave. Then in went the old magus, and the dead girl stabbed him, froze him where he stood — an odd bird, that one — and then the trees turned against the rest. I’d tried to show the skinwalker what the trees looked like, but he didn’t see. He took the furs instead … took them from one that died, but one that died hard. I think the one that died clings to his furs still.
The summerlanders triumphed with flame. And perseverance. And camel jerky.
And then they argued over what to do next. I couldn’t help them any more … I’d risked too much showing myself to them already. If Jadwiga-Nazhenna’s spies were about, black wings and beady eyes, I would inadvertently lead her back here. I could not afford that. And the trickster roamed about, too, the fey songstress. I did not wish to get too close to that one, for fear her songs would lure me in.
They lured in the summerlanders, eventually, but not before the brave and hardy four had decided to forge ahead in the only way that lay before them. She gave them their warmth and rest, she told them of me and my brothers, and then two of them, at least, gave them what she most wanted: stories from their homelands. Always hungry for stories, that one, to take back to her fair folk, frozen forever, passing time eternal with tales told and retold. But it seemed as she listened that she had more plans for those words than just to retell them. I do not know what.
One she took a fancy to. The one that smelled like HER. Was that why she admired him? So when the tatzlwyrm ambushed the smuggler and the elfkin, and the rest sped off to save them, she took her opportunity and snared him. The rest rushed off, sure that he followed, not knowing that her music had reached his hapless ears … and soon her hands reached even more of him. Not that he seemed to mind.