Erendar sat with his hands folded in his lap. The cloth of his long sleeves tucked them away.
He took a deep breath, glancing around his garden. He saw his blue iceflowers, their petals dripping like icicles. There was his bright orange honeyshrub, the leaves autumnal all year round. And there, at the end of the garden by the high stone wall, was the tree with white bark and turquoise leaves.
The frostleaf his son planted all those years ago. Back then it was just a sapling, barely taller than the boy himself. But the boy had grown and was now big and bearded and rugged, and the tree had grown with him.
As he watched, a grey bird hopped from behind the leaves and perched on the end of a branch, flicking its beak in all directions as it scanned for danger. He was never very good at identifying birds.
A moment later, two smaller grey birds joined it on the branch. Their wings were barely developed, their feathers still fluffy and bright.
The bigger bird swooped across the garden, landing on the stone wall the other side.
His son would have known what species they were.
He thought of the cold north, the plains of snow and frost and sharp mountain peaks. Going on campaign was never easy, but fighting in such a place would be hellish. He closed his eyes and thought of his son, so far away. He hoped he was okay.
As he opened his eyes, the two fledglings took off from the branch. They wobbled down through the blustery air, wings beating furiously. The wall looked too high for their trajectory.
The wind changed direction, lifting their tiny wings. They flopped down on top of the wall, right beside the bigger bird.