We were getting closer to the base of the mountain and Kilyn gasped in wonder. She held her hand out and watched as something small and white drifted onto her hand then disappeared.
"What is it?" I asked Sindri.
"Snow," he said with a smile. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
Shea walked by, also trying to catch snow.
"Very beautiful," I mumbled then cleared my throat. "Does it snow often?"
We continued walking. "By the mountain it does," he confirmed. "Only during winter in the other parts of the world does it snow."
"What causes it?" Folen asked eagerly.
"When the temperature gets cold enough, water freezes up in the clouds." He pointed at the light grey clouds above us. "When it falls, instead of water, you get snow. Sometimes it comes down as ice," he added with a shudder.
"That sounds awful," Rina breathed.
"It is," Sindri nodded. "It happens more during fall, though."
"How many seasons do you have?"
"Four. Spring, summer, fall, and winter. Fall and winter are the cold months; that when the snow and ice happen. Spring and summer are warmer. It rains more during spring, though. The goddesses created it that way so that the rain could renew all that died during the colder months. Summer is very warm and sometimes we don't get enough rain."
"What season are we in now?" Galan asked.
"Technically, we're in summer. Here at the mountains, though, the temperature is always colder."
"We're closer to the sky," Shea pitched in. "I know you haven't really been able to notice, but we've been steadily climbing."
I looked behind me. It was true: there was a slope behind us.
"How much longer until we reach the flower?" I asked.
"If we continue at this pace, we'll be to the mountain by tomorrow night," Shea answered. "We'll camp that night and then the hard part comes."
"The hard part?"
"Yes. I will explain when we-"
"Halt!" a voice yelled and Shea sighed wearily.
I stopped walking, my jaw hanging open. Surrounding us were half horse, half man creatures. They held bows and arrows and were currently pointing them at us. I watched as one approached Shea.
"We made it clear you were not to come here, fairy," it spat.
"Easy Bane," she snapped back. "We're just escorting these elves."
The creature stared at us. "What are elves doing all the way out here?"
"They seek the Moonglow Flower," Sindri answered.
The creature tossed his head back and laughed. The others joined in and the two fairies glared at them. Shea's hands began to glow but Sindri put his hand on her shoulder.
"Now is not the time," he murmured. "Just let us pass," he said to the creatures. "One of their mother's is ill."
"Only humans can be healed by the Moonglow Flower, fool," a creature to our right said.
"Then I guess it's a good thing that she's a human," Shea snapped.
He frowned. "One of them is a hybrid?" His eyes slid over us then fell on me. "It is you, isn't it?"
"Please just let us pass," I said. "My mother is deathly ill and we have gone on this journey to save her."
The creature in front of Shea, Bane, stared at us for a while. I shivered; it was getting colder. Kilyn made to get something out of the bag when an arrow went shooting through it. She screamed and, in one movement, I had an arrow docked and pointed at the creature who shot it.
"Keep your arrows away from my sister," I snarled.
The creature looked stunned at my speed but recovered and said, "She was reaching for a weapon!"
"I was reaching for a blanket for my brother!" she cried indignantly, holding up a thick woolen blanket. "He is cold!"
"Put it away, Terran," Bane snapped at the creature. "You have your orders!"
"Sorry," The creature snapped and put his bow on his back.
"You, too, Eroan," Sindri said.
"I don't trust them," I muttered but did as he said. As soon as my bow was on my back, Kilyn handed me the blanket. "Thank you."
"You may pass," Bane said finally. "But, after you leave, you are not to come this way again."
"Yes, yes, yes," Shea said with a roll of her eyes. "Trust me, there is no other reason for us to come this way."
The creatures reared on their hind legs then ran off into the distance.
"What were they?" I asked, looking at the arrow that had been sticking out of the bag.
"Centaurs," Sindri said with a disgusted tone. "They think they own this territory."
"In a way they do," Shea said fairly. "No one else will live out here."
We continued walking. The arrow was crudely made but it fascinated me. I passed it to Kilyn.
"Seriously?" she asked. "You want to keep it?"
"It's strange," I said and she bagged it.
"Much like you," she mumbled.
"They're not very good at crafting weapons," Shea said. "What they do manage to craft, though, is deadly."
The sun had gone down so we all gathered on a dry patch of grass. Kilyn let me put my head in her lap and I fell asleep.
"I can't believe he's keeping that arrow," Kilyn sighed, shaking her head.
I watched Eroan sleep. He was quick with that bow. I have no doubt that, if he had desired, he could have killed that centaur. The thought was intimidating. I had a feeling he had spent most of his life trying to prove something.
"It's not that he never had any friends," Kilyn said and I looked at her. She had been watching me and must have understood the look on my face. "It's just... when we were young elves, they would tease him." She pushed his hair aside and showed his normal ears. "They called him hybrid, just as you do. So he spent his younger years constantly training to be the best. He gained their respect."
"I'm sorry for insulting him," I said.
"Thank you," she said quietly, looking down at her older brother. "He's been through much. When we were given our jobs, though, he gained more friends and life got easier. I guess he's just never gotten used to the idea of having friends and people accepting him.
I knew that feeling. I looked up at the peak of the mountain. I felt a little guilty for keeping this from them but, if they were as determined as they claimed, it wouldn't make much of a difference anyway. The trek was dangerous and I had a very good idea who would be taking it.