Trenton caught the portly man by the collar, lifting him off the ground as the guide kicked. It did no good; Trenton was too cold to feel anything.
"You said you know the mountains!" Trenton snarled, looking to where the path ended abruptly in a dark abyss.
"No, not really," Gerland replied, his voice an annoying squeak. Trenton hadn't talked to him much on the journey because that voice drove him to near homicidal fits. "Said I know mountains, not the mountains. And I do. Know them like the back of my hand!" He held out his hand, palm up, waving it in front of Trenton's face. "Know all about how they been formed by the gods mud wrestling, and how all the plants came from fairy dust and all that important stuff the priests teach us. I know mountains like the back of my hand --"
Trenton dropped him, though not over the cliff. Gerland squealed in protest and nearly fell over anyway.
Trenton turned to his companion. Arenbow was tall, fair, fae -- and he had never seen any fae so annoyed. Power leaked out of his skin with little sparks of blue and green.
"What now?" Trenton asked.
Arenbow pointed a long, slim finger at Gerland. "Weasel," he said.
And that's what Gerland became: a rather portly weasel with a very annoying squeak.
Arenbow leaned down and looked into the weasel's face. "I suggest you get moving and do so quietly. There are big hungry animals in the mountains: wolves, big cats, eagles and snow trolls --"
The weasel shrieked and took off -- in the wrong direction, falling over the edge of the cliff. Trenton looked downward and saw the weasel skating along the ice and disappearing into the darkness, still shrieking.
Trenton looked back at Arenbow. "Well."
"He'll turn back in a couple days," Arenbow said, flicking a few spots of snow off his immaculate cloak. "And it's not as though he was any help. We've saved on supplies, if nothing else. What now?"
"We find cover," Trenton said, looking up at the sky. "It's going to snow soon."
Going to snow proved a pale description of what hit before they'd gone more than half a mile. White obscured everything; trail, trees and boulders. Trenton cursed quietly at first and then louder, letting the gods of weather know what he thought about this latest trick.
"Stupid damned --"
And he ran straight into a snow troll.
"Ow!" The snow troll leapt back on one foot and howled in pain. "I think you broke my toe!"
"Sorry, sorry!" Trenton backed up in haste from the ten foot tall white creature.
"What the hell are you people doing out here in this weather?" the troll demanded, gingerly putting his foot down. He winced. "Human and fae? Humans are dumber than a box of rocks, but you fae -- you should have known better with the weather changing."
Trenton didn't want to be between an angry fae and an enraged snow troll. Maybe he could crawl back to the cliff and follow the weasel. . . .
"I don't know any better. I lost it," Arenbow finally admitted.
"My fae sense. Caught a damned virus and now I basically think like a human. I can't tell when storms are coming except to look up at the clouds. I don't know when we're about to walk straight into a snow troll."
"That's pathetic. Why do you have the human?"
"Just because I feel like a human doesn't mean I know how to react like one would. I need the human so I can gauge what to do."
"Ah. Why the mountains?"
"Looking for a cave with some Eldermoss. We were told there was some up here. Our guide though, didn't know the way anymore than we did."
"Ah." The troll looked at them and sniffed, his black nose moving in a covering of white fur. "I could kill you both."
Arenbow lifted a hand. "Or you could be a big, fat white weasel. I'm in that kind of mood."
"Hardly seems worth it," the troll admitted. "Okay, come on. I'll show you the cave." He turned and disappeared into the snow. "Well, are you coming? Or do you want to freeze? You'll make a great snack come spring."
Arenbow sighed and followed. Trenton considered the cliff and the weasel, but he followed as well.
The troll led them to the cave. Unfortunately it was full of sleeping tree imps. Unfortunate for them, anyway. They were soon a herd of bad-tempered weasels charging out into the snow. Even the snow troll looked impressed.
Arenbow walked to the wall, scraped off a bit of purple moss and ate it. They waited in silence.
"Yes, that did it."
"How can you tell?" Trenton asked.
"Well, mostly because I can sense the sleeping ice dragon whom we just annoyed by sending his imp snacks off into the woods, and now he's about --
The ground shook.
Arenbow scraped more of the moss into a bag. "I am not going through this again."
The three made a hasty retreat out of the cave and down several paths into the tree line where they hid as the dragon sailed overhead several times before finally going back to his cave.
"Well, that was fun." The snow troll stood and shook snow off. "Best get home to the wife."
He limped away. Leaving them lost in the woods in a snow storm.
Before long a fat, nervous weasel joined them. Turned out he was a good guide in this form. They were out of the mountains in half the time it had taken them to climb up. When he turned back to human he was upset, so Arenbow gave him the ability to change at will.
But after they parted with the guide, the fae looked back at the mountain and frowned. "Were-weasels," he said and shuddered.
Trenton didn't ask.
But he had nightmares for years.