Lanterns save lives. Your duty is to make sure they stay lit, you hear me? Out there, right outside those walls, monsters live, and like it or not, people get stuck outside at night more often than you’d think. That’s why we establish way points, safe houses where folks can stay and wait the night through. And a lantern marks Each. One. Of them. They’re what keep the monsters at bay. I’ll say it again. Your jobs are to make sure they stay lit. The wards you learn are precisely for that reason. So don’t be pansies. You walk out there an hour before sundown and you don’t come back until you know each lantern on that road is flickering, you hear?
— Frederik Long at the initiation of new Seven Cities Wardsmen
“Finally! For the first time in my life! I’m getting my own room! Woohooo!”
“What are you, a kid? You don’t have to get so excited.”
“What do you know? You’ve never had to live with seventeen people in a three-bedroom house before. Look at all this space you have!” Nattiq gestures at the expanse beneath my tree.
“S-seventeen?” I sputter. “You have that many people in your family?”
“Ah, no. I have more. That’s just Mom and Dad and the younger kids. My three older brothers and my older sister are married already, so they’ve moved out. You’ll make me a cool room, right?”
“Make it yourself. I’ve got other things to do right now.”
“But you said you’d make me one.”
“Alright, alright already. Give me some space. I’ll make it. But there’s something else I want to do first, so just sit there and watch quietly.” I take a deep breath and shake out my shoulders. I can’t believe how much better I feel now that I have a body. I feel so much more confident about everything. I grin.
“Here I go,” I say under my breath. I grab as much ice I can with manipulation and drag it along in a semi-circle. Soon, I have a deep, wide ditch almost completely circling the tree and a small mountain of ice piled up where the circle would connect. It slumps against the base of the tree. Hm. I strengthen and shape the ice and then hollow out the underside so the ditch runs underneath, then create a series of ice handrails on either side. A bridge, granted, a steep one, but aesthetically pleasing nonetheless.
I begin to shape the hole that marks the entrance to my underground caves, or rather the ice around it. The hole itself is still pretty enough, with the garlands of vine-shaped ice, but lets continue the vibe I’m creating. I raise pillars in a semi-circle around the hole and decorate them with carved hydrangea flowers. A sloping octagon for the roof, peaked at the center and flaring at each corner, carved tiles that look like scales and a statue of Timp decorating the peak. A pagoda. I hang Chinese lanterns on the underside of the roof and light them with |aura of light| and |aura of warmth|.