They rowed, the oars biting the frigid waves. The cold had burrowed through his layers of padding and mail and was now sitting in his chest. The island couldn't be far now. Surely.
The fisherman sat opposite him. For hours he'd rowed in utter silence, but now he stopped. There was panic in his eyes. "I don't want the coin anymore. We should turn back."
"This is folly. They'll find you."
The warrior took a sip from his flask. "That's what I'm hoping for."
He stared at him in disbelief. "You're a madman," the fisherman said. His saggy face shook as he spoke.
"I won't deny it. How far now?"
"I spied it here, just days ago. We should be close." His cheeks wobbled. "Alright, but I'm not taking you to shore. You'll have to walk."
The man's fears were starting to irritate him. That wasn't part of the deal. If he had to wade, he'd be close to hypothermia by the time he reached the beach. But he fought down his anger. He was already asking much of the man, he knew that. After all, no-one had ever returned from the island alive, if the legends were true.
He nodded. "Whatever. Hurry it up, then."
The boat rocked softly under the pull of the waves and they rowed on through the mist. Nothing else was said. The world grew lighter as day dawned, but the sun was nowhere to be seen.
And then a dark shadow appeared in the distance. It grew and darkened as they drew closer, until it loomed over them. A craggy cliff dotted with tufts of pale grass. The water changed colour too, until the warrior could see the sand beneath the rolling water.
Up came the oars. The fisherman folded his arms. "Go on. You have until noon."
"But they don't wake until dark," the warrior said.
"I'm not taking any chances. I don't want to be anywhere near here when they wake up and find what you've done."
Without another word, the warrior dropped into the icy water. His chest muscles tightened and he gasped for air. Pushing through the water, he dragged himself towards the shore. And suddenly it was easier, the water fell away and he was on the white sand. All around him was grey, a world drained of colour. Blue-green grass sloped away from the beach. An old trail sliced through the undergrowth, the only sign of the people who usually came here, those forsaken by other men.
The dirt of the trail was like ash beneath his feet. As he walked, he went higher and the mist fell away. He climbed a small hill.
There was the sun, peaking over the grey land in the distance. Pale blue in the icy air, a colour he'd never seen before. Casting the whole island in ethereal light.
This was the place.
He set off towards the stone ruin in the distance. There was work to do.