Sophia maintained a modest distance. Curian had slipped into the shadows and disappeared entirely, a feat that proved even more impressive given how greatly the snow magnified the sun’s light. Every so often there would be a quick flash of silver–the signal they’d agreed upon–followed by nothing.
Sophia paced, rubbing her hands together for warmth. The gloves she’d brought for the journey were doing well enough, but the Rhimeghast Mountains were known for their supernaturally brutal chill, and she was learning that the stories were far from exaggerated.
“Where has she gotten to now?” Sophia muttered to herself.
The light of day gradually began to fade, and Sophia’s pacing had worn a small valley in the snow. “Gods damn it, where is she? She better not have gotten spotted.”
“Is that concern I heard?”
Sophia fell backwards into the snow, looking around wildly. Curian stood over her, smirking as she offered a hand. Sophia accepted, begrudgingly, and then pulled Curian into the snow.
“That was a rotten trick, you know,” Sophia said as she stood up.
Curian had leapt to her feet and dusted herself off, smiling and clearly pleased with herself. “I mean, you did sound concerned,” she said.
“Did you find anything?”
Curian’s smirk grew more mischievous, a twinkle present to her eye that Sophia had gotten to know over their somewhat short time together.
“There’s a window to one of the upper chambers,” Curian said. “It took a bit of looking around, but I spotted it. There’s a subtle glamor keeping it from sight, but I think it may be our ticket back inside.”
Sophia raised an eyebrow. “And what if it’s a trap? Or heavily guarded?” She paused. “Or it could drop us into the vast abyss inside of the palace.”
Curian blinked. “Ever the optimist, aren’t you? It’s our best option, and one I think that’s worth exploring. Come on, last thing we need to do is linger out here after dark.”
As if in response, something in the distance let out a guttural shriek that pierced the air.
“Yes, let’s keep moving,” Sophia said, switching to a brisk jog to keep up with Curian.
The prospect of sneaking in became less appealing once Sophia saw the section of wall the hidden opening occupied. The air shimmered ever so slightly around the space along a sheer outer wall above a gap in the walkways.
“I don’t suppose you know how to fly, perhaps, and that’s how we’ll get up there,” Sophia said.
Curian laughed in response, but her expression quickly grew serious. “Do you trust me?” she asked.
Sophia looked around, attempting to maintain a poker face in response. Another shriek in the distance shattered that illusion.
“Do I have a choice?”
Curian shrugged. “Sorry before the fact, I suppose,” she said. She grabbed Sophia’s hand and laced her fingers tightly between her compatriot’s, and reached into a pocket with her free hand. There was a soft popping sound.
“Hold on tight,” Curian said.
The ground beneath fell away rapidly, and by the time Sophia realized she was no longer standing on terra firma she was falling through the gap in the wall. Her face contorted as she tried to hold back a shocked scream.
The space beyond the hidden entrance, however, was as devoid of a landing place as the outside, and the two fell through the air downwards.
“Ah, shit,” Curian said. “At least I got to find out what that bottle of captured wind was good for, so not a total loss all things considered.”
Sophia’s eyes grew wide. “You didn’t know what it would do?”
“Isn’t learning new things the real spirit of exploration? Only true pursuit in life?” Curian said, grasping at straws as Sophia’s anger only became more apparent.
The world slowed to a stop around Sophia and Curian, and the duo found themselves suspended in air and unable to move.
“You know, it would’ve been far easier to have just demanded entry,” Lady Rhimeghast said. “But you’ve got my attention once again…Now to determine what to do with you.”