The blanket of snow covered the countryside, a little picture from a play wrapped up in a bow. I could hear the bells from my home, as I worked on my arborvitaes, and looked up from the pruned branches that now lay strewn across my land.
The bells did not stop ringing.
Even as I made my way into town, the bells grew louder, and more frantic, as if to alert the whole prefecture, that there was something we needed to know.
I was only a few hundred feet away when the cries became apparent over the ringing of the bells. For too long, all we had known were the screams of sorrow, the weepings that come with pain and loss. These were the pained screams of great joy.
Rigel, who had perished the night before, lost to a bout of sepsis, was sat up, on the stoop of the temple door, naked as the day he was born, shaking and wide-eyed, held tightly by his wife.
He was Rigel, that much was certain. But I only knew because of a sharp memory. His wife cried into the sky, holding his head tight to her chest, her wrinkled skin and white hair protected from the cold by her hand-sewn coat. But Rigel was the spitting image of when he would leap from the barn to the bales below, when he would outpace the oxen during plowing season.
The town was gathering in front of the temple now, and everyone was quiet, save for Edna. We began to look at each other, not knowing how to proceed.
Well, we should wrap him up then. Myrt took off his own cloak, and wrapped both Edna and Rigel in its worn threads. Rigel moved his eyes for the first time since I had seen him alive again.
He opened his mouth, and he let out a vile and strong mix upon the steps. Wiping his mouth on the cloak, her looked at us.
"I’m alive," he said. "I feel better than I ever have. Who saved me?"
"No one," said Myrt. "You just woke up. Do you know how you got to the temple?"
Rigel said nothing, but simply turned around where he sat, and pointed to the annex. "In there", he said. "I came from there."
"From the temple? You came from the temple?"
Archibald, the cleric, demanded Rigel rid himself of such blaspheme, and renounce the lie he had bespoke. Others amongst the crowd found themselves overtaken with gratitude, and prostrated themselves in prayer. Some to the Guardians, others to Rigel himself. Edna was kissing his hands and feet, tears streaming from her eyes.
Myrt was the first to look inside. As he opened the door, a light began to shine through the portal, blinding us, even against the white of the snow.
"What is that!" he exclaimed, stepping back and falling into the snow behind him. "It’s - it’s beautiful!"
I looked inside, steeling myself into submission. It was a crystal.