“I’m not sure. The stone I recognize. Archagus Valus has mentioned it once before, and it is recorded in an old scroll. With any luck, Vilder will know it by heart. As for the gate of Vrell, I have never heard of it. What did he say? What did he want from you?” Egrid queried Collin.
After recounting the full extent of his adventure Collin paused, hoping Egrid would be able to shed some new light. Instead, all he would do was mumble from time to time as he stroked his red beard. “Shimmering light? Yes, that would be the season of Hox, wouldn’t it?” Collin looked around the room, clearly forgotten. His eyes glanced over a table upon which a map of AnteraSvell lay flat, covered in figurines of soldiers and similar objects.
He took a look back at Egrid, confirming that he was still buried in thought and walked over to the table, viewing the beautiful detail etched onto the yellowed parchment. His eyes glanced over familiar names as his hands carefully brushed the map. It felt rough and leathery, filled with cracks and crevasses only his fingers knew existed. He looked out past Ingrua, towards vast valleys and mountains, all covered by snow. He looked past the continent, to a fleet of ships that patrolled the coast, all made with wood imported from Cordin. This land hung in the balance. This people could die by one poor decision. He wouldn’t let that happen. He refused.
“Alright. Here is what I know.” The king cleared his throat as if preparing for a speech, reclaiming Collin from his thoughts. “The fourth moon is the celestial body Amaroth. She is the Maiden of Winter, and she appears blue until her fifth night dominating the sky. At that moment the sky will shimmer with ethereal light as she turns pink, the same color as the stones inlaid on my crown.” Egrid removed his crown and pointed to them before replacing it. “If memory serves, the stone of Amaroth is a great meteorite that fell to AnteraSvell long ago when she shed tears for the death of her lover, Aranax. Her tears landed upon AnteraSvell which froze the land in ice and snow forevermore. The stones that I have are but a precious few of the greater total.”
Collin shook his head, bewildered by the king’s mythology, but unwilling to upset him by voicing his doubts. The king smiled, sensing Collin’s thoughts, “You doubt me? Here, feel this.”
“What?” Collin’s eyes flared in surprise as the king took off his crown and popped out a pink stone, handing it to him. Collin extended his hand cautiously, as the king dropped it onto his open palm. Instantly, he felt a whirlwind of emotion. It was as if he could see all of AnteraSvell unfolding before him, a land of pure white, cold and forbidding but also enchanting. Suddenly, he felt his hand growing warmer as the stone began to glow. Collin looked up into the king’s eyes and saw that he was smiling. The stone was growing quite hot now. Searing pain ripped through his hand, then, as quickly as it had come, the stone dimmed, returning to a lifeless stage, and Collin’s hand felt like it had been plunged into an icebox.
The king wore a broad smile on his face, the kind of affection a father would show a son, “I had my suspicions, but until now, I hadn’t dared confirm them. Collin, you’re a Guardian.”
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