This is the fourth and final part in our continuing tale of Ancient Winter. If you'd like to start at the beginning, click here.
As your strange but magical journey continues through this frozen land, your courage seems to grow. You no longer flinch at the cracking of twigs. When a woodland beast crosses your path, you stop and watch with respect and awe rather than cower in fear. Perhaps it is the companionship of the black-feathered bird that soars above you, leading your way … or perhaps you are simply growing stronger as your quest progresses.
The path grows steeper and narrower. The trees on either side thin, and the wind whips up, stinging your face. You pull your cloak closer about you as the snow begins to fall, thick, white flakes obscuring the path before you until all you can see is the outline of your avian companion.
You trudge forward, leaning into the wind. Then, just when you are convinced you've lost the path, your foot hits something hard beneath the drifting snow. You blink and the snow clears just enough so you can see a stone cliff with a stair case leading up to it, somehow clear of snow and ice in spite of the blizzard around you.
As you place your foot upon the first step, the wind dies down. At the top of the stairs, you find a stone archway carved into the face of the cliff. You step through this and are immediately dazzled.
Bright light, like a thousand crystals caught in the noon day sun, shimmers around you. You throw your arm in front of your eyes. When your vision clears and you dare to look again, you stand in a round chamber, open to the sky above. Instead of a slate gray winter's sky, however, what you see when you look up is a colorful field of deep, dark blue alive with the northern lights. They cast a gentle light upon the chamber, almost as if you are under water in a clear lagoon.
The bird who has followed you for so long, circles down to rest upon the only thing in the chamber: a berry bush, growing out of the stone floor. Bright red berries drip from its frost glazed branches. You remember your vision in Brynar's home. This is the exact same plant, the exact same fruit. You have found it.
You stride forward and pluck a single berry. A fragrance of bright juices, sweet spices, and even cool mint rises from it, the most intoxicating aroma you can imagine.
You raise the berry towards your lips, but the bird gives out a hopeful chirp, distracting you. For a moment you are confused, but then the winged creature begins to hop up and down, shaking the bush, and flapping its wings, fixated on the berry in your hand.
Stretching out your hand, you offer it the berry. It gobbles it down and throws back its head in a great cackle that turns swiftly into warm, merry laughter. The bird melts away, its feathers becoming draping robes, its beak transforming into a sharp nose beneath two keen but friendly gray eyes. A man with a black beard twined with silver smiles at you.
"You have freed me! An evil sorcerer cursed me to remain a bird until a brave stranger, knowing not my true form, gifted me a sacred Frostberry. I had feared I would never be freed, for the journey is hard and only those of true hearts may find this magical place."
You stammer that you didn't know but you are happy you could help.
He chuckles. "In return for your aid, take this." He passes you a box. Inside are three candles. The first carries with it the smoky comfort of Brynar's hearth and home. The second smells of balsam and vanilla, reminiscent of the woods you passed through to come to this place. Finally the third has the same sweet, spicy aroma of the Frostberries.
"I will now return you to your home," he says, and as he speaks the memories of your life, your home and loved ones, floods through you. "That said, if you ever desire to visit this land again, simply light one of these candles to be transported."
The world spins around you, and you find yourself in your home, safe and warm, the box of candles still in your hands. You smile, for your adventure has brought something out of you, something you were never sure existed but are glad to know you carry within you.
You set the box down, uncertain which candle to burn first, but knowing that whenever you wish to visit that magical land of snow and ice, it is only a candle-flame away.
Frostberry is part of Mythologie Candles' limited-edition Ancient Winter collection.