This is part three in our continuing tale of Ancient Winter. If you'd like to start at the beginning, click here.
You set off from the cozy lakeside village, a pack on your back filled with supplies, and the well wishes of your host bidding you a safe journey. According to Brynar, the Huntsman, the way to the mountain follows the stream that feeds the lake. All you must do is walk along its waters.
It is a bright day, the blue sky pristine, the sun glistening off the snow so that the whole world sparkles.
You follow the shores of the icy lake until you hear the rush of swiftly flowing water. A rollicking stream pours over ice encrusted rocks to meld with the still waters of the lake up ahead. Along its course, a path is clearly marked, clear of trees and underbrush though white with snow.
For a long while, you walk in silence, taking in the gentle babble of the water beside you and the calm of the snowy forest. After a time you grow hungry and spy a grove of trees by the wayside. Their branches are long and thick with needles, providing some shelter, and the snow beneath them is not as deep as that along the path. You slip under these to eat a quick meal.
You open your pack and find a wheel of rich, yellow cheese, a loaf of bread, and dried meat and fruit. You silently send your gratitude to your hosts from the night before for this generous fare before you tuck in, slicing into the cheese with a provided knife and enjoying its salty, rich flavor.
Hunger and weariness from the long walk seasons the food. There's more than you could ever eat, so you wrap the leftovers in cloth and put them back in your pack. You finish the meal with a long draft from a flask of cider then sit for a moment, just resting. The trees around you give off a fresh, green fragrance, wild yet comforting. You smile to yourself. So far this adventure has been a pleasant excursion rather than the grueling quest you feared.
As you shoulder your pack once more, you hear a fierce howling that chills your blood. It echoes through the trees, seeming to come from every direction at once.
Alone and defenseless, you pick up the pace. When you dare to glance back, a large, dark shape—far larger than any canine has a right to be—lurks behind you, its ears perked. You walk faster, and it matches your pace.
There's no way you can outrun a wolf! You need another plan. Thinking fast, you unshoulder your pack and pull out the cloth wrapped wheel of cheese. You only ate a small portion of this, and there is enough remaining to satisfy even the most ravenous beast.
As you hold the yellow wheel aloft, the wolf freezes, still as stone, and stares at it.
With all your might, you toss the cheese. It rolls down the path to stop right before the wolf's massive paws. The creature takes it within its jaws, and for a moment its tail wags. Then the wolf disappears into the trees, leaving you breathless but alone and unharmed.
You shake your head.
Just when you think your circumstances couldn't get any stranger, a dark winged bird swoops down from the tree and perches upon your shoulder. You and the bird stare into each others eyes before it gives out a "caw" and wings once more into the sky, gliding along before you, following the same path as you.
Hoping this is a fair omen, you hurry after, eager to get to your destination, whatever that may be.
Northern Woodlands is part of Mythologie Candles' limited-edition Ancient Winter collection.
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