Title: The North Wind (Ch. 4)
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: The Valley of Lights was a mythical place, home to Gods and magic. Arthur Pendragon vowed he'd find the glacier of the North Wind, and bring proof of its existence back to his village.
Prompt: #294: Fading
Author's Notes: Previous chapters here.
If he were home he'd be sitting in front of the fireplace, Morgana would be on the rug, reading tea leaves, perhaphs carving new divination staves from sacred trees or bones, determined to get the best readings. Instead...
Arthur pinched himself on the arm, twisting until the flesh turned red. He winced at the pain, it was real. Rubbing at the spot he looked around.
The ice cave stood, a physical and tangible testament. Arthur wasn't dreaming. An open-mouthed smile appeared on his face. He'd reached his objective.
Arthur's exhilaration vanished however— he'd become aware of the hardships he'd have to face. Despite of what the Guardian had said, he no longer had provisions and the journey back to the village was a long and arduous one. His strength wasn't the same as when he'd left his house that one morning, his body ached in several places and he was famished.
He thought of the rest of the village awake to wave him goodbye along with Morgana. Perhaps they thought that would be the last time they'd see him. They weren't as foolish as he was. As hopeful as his sister.
He balled his fists. No, he couldn't give up. Not now, not ever.
Wind slipped in trough the tunnels and reached his ears, whistling softly in his ear, as if it were trying to tell him something. Maybe a warning. A secret.
He looked up, the ice crystals shone above him, beneath him, the snow.
With decision Arthur left his bed of ice and snow, the pain he'd felt before had faded, his only weakness was the cloud of sleep hanging over him. Yet, he couldn't close his eyes and welcome it.
He put his undershirt back on and walked in the direction of where he could hear noise. A faint echo. It was strange to find he no longer was cold, despite the ice surrounding him the temperature was pleasant. He trailed a hand over the snow walls, his fingers painted the way.
Arthur found the Guardian in another chamber crouching in front of his fox— talking to him. The fox kept bumping his head against the Guardian's palm, seemingly at ease and content with the attention he was receiving. Arthur had never been a witness of such an extraordinary occurrence. The fox's vocalizations were high-pitched, the Guardian imitated them in answer,
"So you can speak with animals too?" Arthur asked awed. The Guardian rose turning around to face him. His eyes were pure gold, his expression hard to read. "Will you tell me your sacred name?" Arthur was curious.
When the Guardian spoke his voice was crisp, it reverberated all around Arthur. Arthur wrapped his arms around himself to stop his sudden shivering. "Why should I?"
"Because— because I want to thank the one who helped," Arthur said. "You probably saved my life."
The Guardian's eyes were impassive. "If I were to tell you, I'd need something in return. An offering."
Arthur nodded. "Yes, whatever you ask."
"I want to know why you've come here. Why you have risked everything to cross these lands." At that moment the Guardian looked imposing with his unearthly eyes on him, asking for a token, waiting for him to give it.
"It's a long story," Arthur answered, almost whispering, his head was hanging.
"We have the entire night. I can listen."
"If that is what you want..."
"It is. Tell me, Arthur Pendragon of Ealdor. Why have you come to the Valley?"