Runes of Evenight
status: 20% completed, shelveduntil the right time
length: 120,000 words
The boy’s earliest memory was of himself and an older man crunching up a snow-covered hillside. A handsaw hung from the man’s shoulder by a length of twine. He clenched a bundle of rope in his fist.
The man’s face was not clear in the memory, but through the years Anon had grown to recognize the voice of the Father.
The boy tucked his arms to his chest for the cold, wishing he had a third hand to shield his eyes from the sunlight that flared off the white landscape.
His memory told him that they hiked for hours, but even with the boy struggling to keep pace, it would have only taken the Father a handful of minutes to locate a healthy spruce. The snow was not deep for the Father. Each time Anon stepped into a footprint the man had left behind, he sank nearly waist deep in powder. After a while, Anon began using his hands to help him crawl through the shallow drifts. Every few steps, the Father would glance over his shoulder to check on him. To Anon, the Father seemed too far away. His small mind worried that if he were to miss a footprint he would plunge into a drift where the Father wouldn’t be able to find him.
The Father found the tree on the crest of the hill, taller and prouder than its family. A few cones still clung frozen to boughs at the top. He lifted the boy by the underarms and stood him beside a rock jutting out of the snow.
“Stay close to the rock,” he said. “It will keep you safe.”
Asmund waited for him to obey before setting the blade to the trunk and grinding it back and forth. It echoed against the forest wall until, finally, he was able to push the tree over with a thump. He slid the rope tightly around the trunk. Then raised the boy atop his shoulders.
“How’s that?” Asmund asked.
Everywhere Anon looked there was snow. Trees stretched out their heavy white branches. The hillside slept soundly under its new fleece blanket. Slight groanings could be heard, as the trees labored under the weight of the fresh snow.
Anon lifted one arm into the air and felt taller than the forest. A grin bolted across his face, and the Father smiled in return.
Then came the loud crack.
Followed by a thick whoosh.
It felt as though the world was falling on top of them. A tree branch can only hold so much snow. Anon was thrown from Asmund’s shoulders. Everything went white.
When Anon awoke, he was trapped in a gleaming prison of cold. The weight of the snow made it nearly impossible to breathe, but he tried to scream anyway. Snow trickled into his mouth. His arms were pinned.
He lay there immobile, his body wrapped in snow. It was so quiet. Until the scraping. So loud in his prison.
“Anon!” someone yelled. It was Asmund. “Say something, Anon.”
Anon’s moan came out softly.
Another frenzy of scraping. The digging came closer.
“I am coming. I am here,” Asmund said.
The first light blinded Anon. The Father’s hands burst through the powder and tugged at his hips and suddenly he was up in the air, clasped to the Father’s chest. Asmund’s hands brushed the ice crystals from the boy’s head and face. He rubbed Anon’s back and arms until the warmth coursed through his body.
“I am here,” he kept repeating, though by then he no longer needed to say it. Anon knew.
From there, he couldn’t remember how long it took them to return to Lindisby Monastery. Nor did he remember what the tree looked like set up in the hallway alcove. The only memory he kept was him up on Asmund’s shoulders, his arms hugged around the Father’s neck for dear life, the tree dragging behind them through the snow, the branches wiping away their footprints as they descended a hill that, on that day, felt like the biggest mountain in the world.