He felt small and very alone in the quiet woods around him. He wasn’t very big yet anyway, newly born from his power only a few years before, and while he grew, it was at the rate of all the gods—whatever that power sustained.
So even when he’d been walking alongside his older sister, her mouth curling in a bright smile, warm fingers curled around his hand, he’d been a child at her waist and unnamed yet. But there it hadn’t mattered that he was small and she was not because he knew that she wouldn’t let anything happen to him.
The woods rustled gently, creaking branches, wind-blown leaves and underbrush. His sister was the god of finding. If he just waited, she would find him.
He crawled under the brush around one of the trees with low-hanging branches and let it cover him while he waited.
It was cold out. Winter had never been particularly friendly to the wayfarer in the wilds beyond reach of city or road, let alone to fugitives, fleeing their former masters. Snow had piled deep through every thicket and stretch of the wood, ice coated the river in all but the most rapid sections, and no path was visible in any direction.
In short, Ishalt was lost, which wasn’t a terrible thing in summer when there was food for forage and the only thing that mattered was suitable distance from one’s pursuers. In winter, it could mean life or death to find shelter.
You’re always on the lookout for magical items, especially unusual ones. They’re the lifeblood of your small shop at the edge of the living mall where regular humans only wander by fate or by accident and magic-users congregate on any given weekend. So when you hear that mermaids have returned to the lake in the deep woods, you’re wrapped up in your invisibility cloak that protects against all weather almost before the words are out of your aunt’s mouth.
This is what keeps you alive. You breathe in the stale, bloodstained air—the smell of iron and sweat—and you press down with even pressure on her wound as you listen to her shallow breaths. You can already see the fever in her glazed eyes and flushed face. It doesn’t matter if you can’t actually smell the infection yet.