v) Out of the colours, an answer

Out of the colours, an answer.

A message, at least.

Gesturing eyes, the hint of hands.

There, the colours imply. That way.

The way Shyan has been leading them. She groans.

By the time of the pallid sunrise, they have reached a cavern.

They step inside, out of the wind. The cavern glows blue, reflecting its icy contents.

The cavern reaches into the depths of the earth.

Shyan, Fassn, Cang, and Abianarin rest.

iii) The sun is not up long

The sun is not up long.

The trek leaves furrows in the snow, swallowed in seconds by the endless snowfall.

For hours, the four teammates push through a brutal headwind.

“Ice gods hate us,” Abianarin shouts.

“‘Tis only the wind, Abianarin,” Cang says. At this, the wind picks up, more fierce yet than before.

“Not gonna make it,” Fassn mutters, but it’s lost in the wind. He falters, keeps going.

“We’re gonna make it,” Shyan says, with more confidence than she feels. She leads, wondering where.

The sun sinks.

ii) Fassn and Abianarin have never known snow

Fassn and Abianarin have never known snow. Its cold fangs bite their skin. Abia feels an intense understanding of the hirsute hides of many beasts. Fassn begs Old Ajralan to make him cold-blooded and at last end the torture.

The wind howls like a predator.

Dunes of snow grow and fade before their eyes under the gale. Shyan bristles against it and hauls her frigid companions to their feet. “We follow the sun,” she says, and leads a haggard march.

i) The void within the throne

The void within the throne is empty, formless, bright-black space — or the very absence of it, perhaps.

The darkness is blinding, the boundless silence excruciatingly loud.

Everything is as it is and as it is not, as it ever wasn’t and ever always was.

The people inside — tiny motes, vast as planets — float, fall, fly, for a thousand years, and an instant.

The nothing starts to feel cold. Swirling, shifting white dominates the vision of the tumbling few. Fierce wind bites at their flesh.

They awake on solid ground, deep in an endless expanse of snow.