I woke up, shivering.
"I'll get you another one," Kilyn said quickly when I sat up stiffly.
My teeth were chattering as she draped another heavy blanket on me and I wrapped it around me tightly. Folen passed me some fruit that I ate quickly. Shea said that, if we kept going, we'd be at the base of the mountain tonight and we can make the climb tomorrow. That meant we would be home with plenty of time to spare.
"It gets colder overnight," Sindri explained. "Are you up for walking?"
"Yes," I said immediately and got to my feet.
Shea led the way and Folen put a hand on my neck. I felt warmth spread to my aching joints and I thanked him.
"If only that warmth could stay all over my body permanently," I joked and saw Shea turn her head for a brief second.
It was getting darker and I frowned.
"Is the sun setting already?" I asked Sindri. "We've only been walking for two hours at the most."
"It's still in the sky," he promised. "It's the clouds. They're darker here and it snows more heavily."
That was an understatement. We spent most of the time trudging through four feet of snow. Kilyn gave me the last blanket and we wrapped them so that they wouldn't drag through the snow. My face was cold and, suddenly, Shea stopped.
"Don't move," she instructed, raising her hands.
"Um..." I said nervously.
"It's okay," Sindri said quickly, ignoring his sister's glare. "She won't hurt you."
Her hands began to glow and she held them side by side. A thick balaclava was in her hands although it was made from vines.
"It won't be comfortable," she said as she put it around my face and Kilyn tied it behind me. "It will keep your face warm, though."
"Thank you," I said, my voice muffled.
Our eyes met for a second then she nodded and continued on.
"Is that something all fairies can do?" Kilyn asked Sindri.
"We all have our own special power," he answered, "just like we can control different elements. Shea's is the ability to create vines and turn them into whatever she wants them to be. Mine is healing."
"So is mine," Folen said enthusiastically and the two began to talk about healing techniques.
We reached the mountain base at sundown, just as Shea said we would. There was one problem, though. I would have to sleep in the snow.
"Not true," Sindri said when I pointed that out.
He nodded to his sister. Shea was kneeling in the snow, her hands outstretched and facing down. A large rectangle glowed then stopped to reveal a bed made of vines. I climbed on it, afraid it would sink into the snow. It didn't, though, and I let out a sigh of relief, thanking her again.
"There's one other thing about the flower you need to know," Shea said and Sindri sighed, kicking at some snow. "There isn't a path."
"What?" we said in unison.
"Only one person can make the trip. It is too dangerous for more than one." She pointed to the mountain side. "You have to climb."
"I'll do it," I said immediately and she sighed.
"Somehow, I knew you'd be the one to volunteer," she said. "But it's too cold up there for you."
"So make me gloves," I argued.
"I'll do my best," she said doubtfully. "It'll help grip should you almost fall, though," she admitted.
I held my hands out and she placed hers on them, one at a time. Thick green vines covered my skin, shutting out the cold. The balaclava was still doing its job. She also created a layer of vines over my arms and legs.
"That's the best I can do," she sighed. "If you are the one making the trip, sleep now."
Kilyn sat on the bed and I put my head on her lap.
"Are you certain about this?" she whispered, running her fingers through my hair.
"It was I who decided to make this trip," I reminded her. "I will finish it no matter what."
"You'll need a guide," Sindri sighed.
"I'll guide him," Shea said. "That way, should the vines break, I can make more."
"Will you be able to lift him should he fall?" Kilyn asked as my eyes drifted shut.
"I don't think he'll fall," I said honestly. "I think his greatest struggle will be his pride."
Kilyn laughed. "He has always had trouble with his pride." She looked up at the peak sadly. "I just hope he won't freeze."
"He won't," I promised.
When he woke up, his friend Folen made him eat more food and gave me the rest of it.
"I'm not taking any chances," Folen said seriously as Eroan put a hand on the mountain, looking for a foothold. "Force it down his stubborn throat if you must."
"Shut up," Eroan snapped but I could hear him smiling.
I put the bag on my shoulder and stood beside Eroan, feeling around, too. I felt an indentation and flew up a little. There was another he could reach.
"This is your best start," I called down over the wind. "Let's go."
I saw him take a deep breath but, before he could climb, his sister ran to him.
"Please be safe," she sobbed as she hugged him.
"I will, Kilyn," he promised. "I'll bring you some snow so you can throw it at me."
She laughed and stepped away, wiping tears from her eyes. The other elves did a strange salute: they stood straight, put their hands together as if in prayer, and lifted it above their heads. Eroan returned the salute. I wanted to ask him about it but he'd need all the breath he could get.
"How far up?" he asked.
"Five miles," I answered. "Don't talk. I'll point out where you can grab. The further we get up, the harder it will be for you to see so you'll have to trust me."
His eyes stared into mine and he nodded once, hoisting himself onto the side of the mountain. The wind ripped at my wings and I had to flap them harder to keep myself from being blown away. I gripped the mountain side, keeping a sharp eye on him while also looking for footholds.
He was making good time. His determination to save his mother is probably what drove him. We were halfway up in just one hour. The wind blew harder and snow whipped in front of his eyes. I bit my lip, hoping he would be able to make it. I dropped to the fly beside him.
"You can do this!" I yelled into his ear over the wind. "This is where I will be your eyes!" I saw him nod once. I also saw his muscles straining against my vines. We had to hurry. "Left hand, up and to the right!" He took a steadying breath and did as I said, shaking from fear. "Right hand, up straight!"
His confidence in me got stronger the higher up we went. Unfortunately, the vines around his arms snapped and he yelled.
"I can't!" I yelled. "I'm sorry! I have to focus on this! As soon as we reach the peak, I swear I will make new ones!"
Then the gloves snapped. I was starting to panic and looked up. I bit my lip.
"You're almost there!" I lied. "Keep going!"
"I can't!" he yelled weakly and I could see his arms shaking.
"Think of your mother, Eroan!" I yelled. "Think of her!"
He was crying from the strain but that seemed to give him the boost he needed. I kept shouting that and saying he was almost there. Technically he was but, if he could see how far away he really was, he would give up.
"Ten feet!" I yelled, this time being truthful. "Left hand, straight up! Right hand, straight up as well! I'm going to fly up there and pull you up!"
"Don't leave me!" he yelled desperately.
I sighed and swung my body so I was flying upside down. I kept one hand on his wrist, assuring him I was still there, and gripped the mountainside with my other hand. When my legs over the peak, I put my knees down firmly. He cried out, thinking I left him. I grabbed his wrists with my hands and pulled as hard as I could. He was heavier than I anticipated and I flapped my wings desperately.
Finally, he went flying over me and landed with a thud in the snow. He sat up and looked around.