Chapter 1 Welcome to Martingis
High white clouds dominated the sky, turning it white, and an arctic wind blew out of the south on the first Saturday of winter. Along the narrow, snowy, and ice-encrusted east road Father Evan Pierce and his companions clomped in single file, five brown and black dots trudging against an otherwise colorless landscape. They moved toward the small village of Martingis, their first stop on the way to Wrightwood.
Evan wore a heavy brown cloak for warmth and padded his horse, Alvsinn, gently urging him forward. The steed brayed.
"We'll be out of the cold soon, Alvsinn. I promise."
Riding immediately behind Evan was a blonde-haired, human adolescent, named Daniel Salvatori. Daniel carried an Elf-gem, a jewel made before the world began and believed to be a powerful magic item in its own right. The lad wore no cloak, only the long white jacket and pants he had earned as a master of the elven martial art known as Qua'ril. Despite being underdressed for the weather, Daniel made no sign that he was cold. Evan did not understand why. Perhaps the Elf-gem that Daniel carried muted the effects of the weather, or perhaps Daniel's Qua'ril training made him stronger than the rest.
Next in the procession came James Claymont. His teeth chattered from the cold and he pulled his heavy woolen cloak around him tighter. His cheeks were bright red and his brown hair felt as if it were frozen in place. His gray trousers and the sleeves of his gray jacket also felt cold and stiff.
"Is Martingis much farther?" James called out to Evan.
"No," said Evan, shouted back. "We should be able to see it soon."
James turned around in his saddle to rely the news and saw Brashani following behind. The other man seemed to be staring at the snow, lost in thought. James waited a moment for the mage to look up. When he didn't, the bard shrugged, shivered a little more, and then faced forward again, tending to his horse, a brown mare named Sophie.
Brashani looked up as James turned back. "I've got a Warmth spell going for myself," he said to James. "I can extend it to you too."
James looked over his shoulder. "Thanks, but I'll wait for a fire."
The wizard scratched the back of his head and shrugged. "As you will." He returned to his musings, his brown eyes shifting from side to side and not seeing the snow-capped farmland they rode through.
The last rider came up along side Brashani. She was about Brashani's height and slender. Dark hair danced in the breeze and bright green eyes sparkled at him. Like James and Evan, she also wore a heavy cloak.
The sound of her horse approaching roused Brashani from his thoughts. He glanced at her as she rode up to him. "Iriel, are you warm enough?"
She inclined her head. "I am, but some hot tea would be good now."
"Tea?" said Brashani. "For warmth?"
"Yes," said Iriel, smirking.
"I would have thought whiskey would do the trick better."
"Elves don't drink much alcohol except for wine."
"A pity," Brashani commented.