The slight shaking of Sigmir’s gait combined with the warmth and the feeling of security in her embrace must have lulled me to sleep, for I was woken after the sun had started to peek through the clouds in the next morning. Both, Sigmir and Adra told me that they had kept a good pace through the night but needed a rest for now. When I asked Adra why they did not use mounts or her travel-form, I was told that her spell was only able to erase the tracks of humanoids. I tried to get her to explain why that was but the only thing I got from her was the statement “That’s just how it is” - and on pressing further, a grumpy “I don’t know.”. Sensing that I would just have to accept that her expertise was in practical application, not theoretical knowledge, I let the matter rest and sent both of them to bed. There was a smile on my face, when Sigmir settled down, right next to me and, after a moment of contemplation, simply pulled me into a sitting position and used my legs as a pillow.

Sadly, I had to make her wait, there were a few things I wanted to deal with in the real world, now that I had time. After sending Lenore out her Hallow, to keep watch and play beacon in case they had to flee, I logged out. Outside the game, I felt strange, there was a curious absence, something was missing in my mind, something I was getting accustomed to but could not place a finger on.

After a few housekeeping-tasks, I went onto the official forums, a few days back, I had found a thread from the group hunting Sigmir and me ingame and had applied a little metagaming. If they did not know that the warning against pursuing us came from me, it could work. I had placed a little more thought into it, bringing concepts from different games into my case, making it an objectively good post, even if my agenda was a little different than the face-value. At the end of the day, I knew more about the situation, or rather, I had a different perspective. There was even a developer-post, congratulating me on my metagaming. Somehow, I wondered if the developer was aware that I was playing a misdirection-game, using the forum. It was good to know that their quest was gone and if we managed to take out Jongarn, it was unlikely that the rest of the tribe would issue a new quest to hunt for Sigmir. After all, he was the one obsessed with her.

Of course, that idea only remained true as long as they were not aware that she was in the area. As soon as they learned about her presence, they might get suspicious, but at that point, I was planning to be far, far away, so far that there was nothing they could do about her. I suspected that even quests to search for someone were limited in scope or in detection-capability, it felt wrong and unbalanced if there was no way to escape a quest to hunt you, a way other than dying or killing the quest-giver. If killing the quest-giver truly ended quests, it could also be that me bringing Sigmir back into the tribal village ended their quest because she had already returned. Killing the target of a kill-quest should end the kill-quest for everyone, even if you were not on the quest, as the target could no longer be killed, obviously. It was entirely possible that something similar applied here.

My real-world tasks took me about an hour, so two hours had passed ingame. When I got back in, the camp was still around me, with Ylva and Lenore waiting around, keeping watch on the surroundings

“Lenore, can you scout around a bit, before returning to your Hallow?” I asked, using our mental connection so that the two sleepers were not disturbed.

Lenore took off, and I carefully sat next to the sleeping form of Sigmir, close but not touching her, when she suddenly moved in her sleep, putting her head in my lap and an arm around me, all without signs of waking up. I had to suppress a giggle, seeing her peaceful and relaxed like that was wonderful, normally, there was always a slight tension in her, a vigilance, ready for whatever the world would throw at her next. But right here, right now, she was calm and relaxed, despite her vulnerability. Carefully and softly, I started stroking her hair and face, gently tracing the lines of her lips before placing an arm around her and I felt myself relax, enter a strange state of calm awareness, taking in the world around me in a way I had never before.

The frozen forest around us, frozen in stillness and silence, no wind to intrude, not even sun-rays from the sky, just enjoying the sombre silence around us. The sound of silence, maybe it was a feeling like this. A feeling that all I ever wanted, all I ever needed was here, in my arms, knowing that even if Sigmir was awake, neither of us would speak. Words would only shatter the calm silence around us, intrude into it with thoughts of reality. Maybe even thoughts of violence, or words of violence, crashing in, into our little world. No, the silence was better.

It was an intriguing feeling, sitting here, surrounded by an absence of sound, an absence of motion and simply stretching my senses out. In the perfect quiet, every pin-drop would be magnified, every slight disturbance would shatter it. In a way, it was a frozen moment, eternal but fleeting. In that moment, I understood something about reality, at least this reality. This silence, it was my moment. Frozen in time, frozen for eternity, the perfect stillness, the perfect representation of stillness. Stillness, one of the concepts in my Ice-Magic, the absence of motion, of sound, taken to the extreme, even the absence of time. It was all based on the sensation around me.

The moment, and the silence around me, was disturbed when movement intruded in the form of Lenore. Her wings beat the air, stirring it up, shattering the stillness all around us, carrying her down to us before landing on my shoulder.

“Nothing to see, I doubt that the Jonari started their pursuit before dawn.” she told me, before returning to her Hallow.

“You were back pretty fast. Is it that cold up there?” I teased her, now that she was back in the warmth.

“What do you mean? I scouted for about an hour.” she answered and I felt her confusion shimmer through our bond. Now, it was my turn to be both, confused and surprised. Had I really sat here, idly caressing Sigmir for an hour without realising it? My Mundus-body had no problem with limbs falling asleep so there was no indication, but I would have to believe Lenore when she said that she had been gone for an hour. So, that moment I would have bet did not last for longer than the blink of an eye had actually lasted for an hour? Interesting. Very, very interesting and just as scary.

But there was a message in my log, that gave me a small hint to the time I had spent there, ruminating on the concept of stillness and its relation to freezing and thus Ice-Magic.

Skill increased
You increased your skill: Ice Rune-Mastery [56/100]

The extra skill points were even fitting with my idea on the two types of magic, I had pondered a singular concept, represented by a single rune, Stillness. I even had an idea how that rune would look like, considering the patterns in the runes I already knew.

“I give you a few days to stop that.” Sigmir’s voice pulled me out of my thoughts and I saw that I was still caressing her, as I had the whole time, only now, she was awake to enjoy it. Part of me wanted to pull back and apologize for waking her up, but it seemed that she truly didn’t mind. She looked more like a happy cat, or maybe a lioness, lazily lounging in the sun and accepting the adoration of the world around her. Contend would be a good word to describe her, at that moment. Sadly, it did not last.

“We should move on. If we start now, and hurry, we can get to the cave where we left Rai shortly after dark.” she said, as she was starting to get up. “Why don’t you try to get another direction from the things we have taken from Jongarn’s room? I’d rather have him taken care of, permanently.”

I did just that, trying to remember what I had done during the night and reproducing it and there was a sensation of direction, sadly, it was utterly useless. I felt that he was somewhere in front of me, the feeling spanning an arc of almost ninety degrees, without any idea of distance. The only thing it told me was, that we were heading in roughly the right direction. Maybe, I’d have more luck during the night, when the darkness blanketed the land.


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