The Illusion of Comfort

The pass is black with shadows. A bitter wind eats at the exposed skin of the brother and sister as they push through. They trudge through ice-crusted snow that breaks with each step plunging their legs knee-deep into the powder. Their homespun breeches and leather ankle booties do nothing to ward off the cold.

Marine shoves her hands under her armpits but her exposed pinkies have long ago stopped moving.

Marvin thinks its a miracle he can even keep putting one foot in front of the other. If they survive he’s certain further questing will be physically impossible. The Witch-Queen will have won. Though they have come this far if the wizard turns them away they will have to die on his doorstep.

Then the shadows break. The light is blinding, like stepping directly into the sun. Tears spring free and roll down their frostbitten cheeks.

Black splotches play at the corners of their sight until the world comes into focus and the twins gasp at the beauty of thousands of trees full of white, pink and green blossoms and grass that could be emerald cuttings. Even the rocks seem pulled straight from cans of orange and red paint. Birds glide on a sapphire sky in tiny black Squiggles. In the center of all the natural beauty is a giant castle spirling up to the sky. Flags flapping happily in the wind welcoming the travelers.

“Marvin, we made it!” and though she wants to be happy all Marine feels is cold with death still haunting her back.

“No, we have only reached the peak.” and as if his words were a curse the illusion fades leaving them facing a field of ice dotted with a stone hut spitting black smoke into the air.