In the previous episode, Celia encounters Felix on the mountaintop meadow and they decide to travel together. Readers voted that they arrive first at a small mountain village.
The road was wound tightly around the jagged cliffs, and the path became narrower as Celia and Felix wearily climbed higher and higher. The clouds darkened ominously above the seemingly infinite road ahead. They’d decided to cross the mountains, since Felix wanted to leave his kingdom and all Celia knew of this strange territory was the dark, magical city she’d come to with the caravan. The mountains offered a seductive expanse of unknown territory, but as they looked at the roiling clouds, Felix and Celia began to wonder if there was too much uncharted expanse and not enough dry shelter. Just as the first few drops began to fall, however, they rounded a bend and saw, not too far in the distance, what appeared to be a small village. Trying not to look too relieved, the pair quickened their pace.
A crow flew overhead as they passed the first thatched hut on the village outskirts. Celia watched its shadow pass over her silk gown, the pale yellow now patched with dirty, dusty brown. Felix checked his compass and remarked that they had been traveling due east, and that he had no knowledge of this area whatsoever.
“My father hardly ever mentioned the groups that live in the mountains,” he said quietly as they walked toward the village center, “except to say that they keep to themselves.”
Felix looked around, and then continued in an even softer voice.
“But I met a man once who was traveling and stopped at the castle. I wasn’t supposed to speak to him, but I snuck outside and met him as he was leaving. He had a long beard and cracked skin as weathered as the mountain rock. He told me about his village – strange stories of people who shifted into animals after dark and old men who could see the future – really see it, not like the old woman who fools my mother with her false prophecies. He told me there were men and women who lived to be hundreds of years old and that they were protected by an ancient power, one that had been lost in the kingdoms and cities.”
Felix stopped, breathless, and Celia looked at the jagged rock formations of the steep mountainside around them. They did look as though they held an ancient power, waiting to be tapped into by those who held the key.
With a clap of thunder from overhead they descended into the outer village, passing stone houses that looked as if they had stood since the beginning of time. They came to one such house and saw a man sitting under a small shelter outside, smoking something out of a long thin pipe, eyes closed. The man was relatively young, younger still if you believed the legends about the village. He was wrapped in a long woolen hooded cloak and had a shaved head and no beard, giving his head the appearance of a small pea in a very large pod. He opened his eyes as they passed and raised a hand, beckoning them to stop.
“What brings you to these parts,” he asked in the common language. Celia and Felix exchanged a look.
“We’re traveling across the mountains,” Celia replied uncertainly. “We were hoping to find shelter from the storm here. That is, if you allow us -”
“Me,” the man repeated, smiling. “Entrance to the village is hardly my decision, but I can offer you shelter here for the night.” He glanced at the sky. “The storm will last until morning.”
With words of profuse gratitude Felix and Celia entered the little stone house just as the wind picked up, blowing the storm into the village. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.