Chapter 17:

A Soft Glow in the Dark

ZAUBER: the thread that binds us

 Paltar filled his bag to the brim with the berries, as anything else was declared inedible by Nanna.

“Let’s find a good place to rest, then,” he said.

He wanted to stop right where he was, sure. His feet hurt from all the walking, and he was sure that Nanna and Eo felt the same. But as he checked the threads every few moments, he could see the dangers lurking in the forest. He wouldn’t take that chance.

He blinked, and almost ran into a set of strange stones, where he stopped. The formation was quite strange. These stones were three times as tall as he was, leaning against each other and forming a small shelter. It reminded him of the mouth of a stone giant, and he shuddered. Why did they encounter so many mouth-shaped things in this mountain?

“Can we finally rest here?” Nanna asked, exasperated.

There was a calm about the place. And when he looked at the threads around them, the beasts that stalked the shadows seemed to be staying behind, far away from the stones. That had to be a good sign, right?

“I think so,” he said.

“Finally,” Nanna grumbled.

Eo went ahead and sat down. Leaning against one of the stones, he played with his mouse. Paltar smiled at him and came closer.

“How do you feel?” he asked Eo.

The boy looked up and a small smile crossed his face. That was enough for Paltar, and he turned to Nanna.

“So tell me, Your Highness,” he said, “how do we eat these berries?”

His stomach rumbled. It was fortunate that they had found this place, as the sun had almost completely vanished. By now, he could mostly make out Nanna’s white figure, like a ghost in the dark. She waddled closer.

“I’m not a cook,” she huffed.

He rolled his eyes.

“But you should at least know if they’re safe to eat like this, right? Or do they need special preparation?”

Paltar took one of the berries out of the bag and rolled it between his fingers. Even in the dark, it gave off a faint glow.

“They should be safe,” she answered.

“Uh, that doesn’t sound very convincing.”

Nanna sat up and snatched the berry from his fingers before swallowing it quickly.

“See?” she said.

He looked at her, speechless. A moment later he sprang into action.

“Are you stupid? We’re not sure yet if they’re not poisonous! Spit it out-”

He shook her, but that only made her bite him.

“It’s okay! I’m fine,” she hissed. “See?”

There was nothing to see. Nanna really was fine, and even though he still thought it was a stupid idea, he nodded. This was too much, and he could feel his head throb. Oh, a good night’s sleep would do wonders for him…

Next to him, Eo crouched down.

“Fine,” the boy said.

Paltar opened his eyes.


“It’s fine,” Eo repeated.

Paltar blinked, before he understood. Eo was talking about the berries. He was from this forest, or somewhere close to it. He should know what was edible and what was not. Nevertheless, just to confirm, he took another berry and showed it to Eo.

“You mean this, right?”

Eo nodded.

“I really worry too much,” he said with a sigh.

For a moment, he closed his eyes, welcoming the darkness instead of the threads around them. He could hear Nanna searching his bag for more berries, and Eo was humming a melody next to him. It was peaceful.

He was almost drifting to sleep as Nanna nudged his side.

“Here. Eat.”

Paltar forced himself to open his eyes. Without another word, Nanna placed berry after berry into his hands.

“Don’t tell me you’re not hungry,” she hissed.

He shook his head. Was she still feeling guilty about eating his share?

“Thank you,” he replied.

She was really thoughtful, and he appreciated that. It was just difficult to find the right words for it. After all, he was sure she didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.

“You’re welcome,” she muttered, placing more berries in his hand. “Now, eat.”

“As you wish, Your Highness.”

He gave her a weak grin before popping the first berry into his mouth. It was sweet, with a hint of sourness that made the tip of his tongue tingle. This strange sensation only continued as he ate more of them, their sweet juice dripping from his lips. Nanna looked even more undignified than usual as she picked up the berries and destroyed them completely with her beak. Eo mostly ignored the berries next to him.

“Aren’t you hungry?” Paltar asked.

Eo shook his head and continued to play.

“I already ate,” he said finally.

“Really? When?”

“Before I met you.” Eo looked at him with big eyes.

“Are you sure, buddy?”

Paltar couldn’t quite believe him. But even when he offered him a dewberry, he just shook his head, without a hint of hunger in his eyes. Instead, he continued to play with his toy for a while before snuggling down in the grass, the toy clinging to him. He was a child, after all.

“We should probably keep an eye on him,” Nanna said.

Paltar looked at her. Even in the darkness she was as easy to see as snow.

“I think we’re safe here,” he replied. “We should rest.”

“The threads told you that, huh?”

He shrugged.

“I don’t know. But I can feel it.”


There was a moment of silence before Nanna waddled closer and snuggled up to him.

“It’s cold,” she complained.

For Paltar it felt a bit chilly but tolerable, but he wondered if the temperature would drop during the night. He looked at Eo, who was now sleeping in the grass. Would he be alright? Maybe they should make a fire – if he just knew how to do that. And he didn’t want to go too far away from the stones, where the creatures might be hiding. Instead, he took the dress out of his bag with a sigh.

“What are you doing? It’ll get dirty!”

“I know, and it pains me,” he replied to Nanna’s protests, “but you’ll be warm. Besides, you know you can wash your clothes, right?”

He started to wrap Nanna in the fabric.

“But… That’s not what I...”


He hugged Nanna, who now resembled an angry burrito more than anything else. He chuckled and took her on his lap.

“You’re warm now, right?”

“Mmmmyes,” she grumbled.

Obviously she was not satisfied, but this was the easiest way for both of them. Now she was warm and he could hug her without his heart racing. Still, it was hard to fall asleep when he could hear all the cute little sounds she made.

A true angel,’ he thought before sleep finally caught up with him.