“Mind the edge, Steffil,” the caravan master, Polstin, cried out, struggling to be heard over the increasingly loud wind, “that there’s a straight drop to your right; Lord Ferran will have my head if this delivery doesn’t make it to Easthaven. Two other deliveries have failed him this year; I don’t intend for this to be the third!”
It’d been a tenday since they left Luskan and the winding trail through the Spine of the Mountain had become more perilous with every passing hour. The unseasonal weather had complicated caravans through the mountains as of late; more and more caravans have been headed into Icewind Dale earlier and earlier to avoid the dreadfully cold winters.
That’s not to say that they were successful; as it rocked and slid on the treacherous snow-covered trail, Steffil’s wagon trundled past the wrecked remains of caravans that didn’t quite make it. Broken axles, shattered wheels, dead horses—it didn’t take much to stop a wagon up here. In most cases, the cargo was eventually recovered, but the wagons—and in some cases, their drivers and crew—were left behind.
Some of them were still visible; they hadn’t yet been completely covered by the snow. Usually huddled against one another or tucked under rocky outcroppings or even their wagons; frozen in a final, futile efforts to avoid Auril’s wrath. Now, they served as trail markers—warnings to others to be wary. Some of them had names: Little Sister and Little Brother (a pair of Luskan children that looked so peaceful that they looked like they had just drifted off for their afternoon nap), Black-Feet (a man who had, for some reason, found fit to take off the thick leather boots he held clutched to his chest), and the Lovers—the latter so named for the embrace that the two would be locked into forever (that is unless Auril chose to release them).
As harrowing and terrible as these sorts of sights were, Steffil was still enraptured by the ribbons of light that streaked across the dark sky above; he’d never seen such beauty and the spectacle was enough to chase the images of the frozen dead from his mind. The wind and driving snow had broken and given him a view of the entirety of Icewind Dale below, curtained in green and blue light. His wagon rocked to a halt. He had to stop and take it all in.
He drew a small, leather-bound journal from the interior pocket of one of his coats and unfurled the leather thong that held it shut. His pencil fell into his hand from within and he began to draw a sketch of the wonderous sight before him.
He smelled and heard it before he saw it. The queer smell of copper carried on the wind, along with the tinkling of delicate crystals so fine it wouldn’t have been out of place in the palace of a pompous elf lordling. But when he saw their source, he screamed…
Three days later, the caravan happened upon Steffil, Polstin, and the ruined remnants of their carvan. Gore and destruction covered the bend in the trail. In the midst of it all was a large white feather.
Overhead, a falling star streaked across the ever-darkened sky—sending flickering yellow light across the snowy, sleepy valley below.