The old woman smiled and tottered off into the forest, disappearing through the charred arch and leaving Imber alone with his thoughts. Though he loved his home and its location, he’d only ended his journey because going further would’ve been impossible. Imber was no sailor. Occasionally he’d lay awake at night, wondering if he should pick up and follow the coast north or south until it once again turned eastward. But what if he’d already found the point closest to the sun? Then he could walk forever and never find a better view, and he was sure that someone would take the spot on the cliff in his absence. If there truly was a point closer to the sunrise, it was a place he could never reach on his own—but somehow he knew this strange woman could get him there.
She returned a few moments later baring a small leather satchel. The warmth of her made Imber’s skin break out in a thick sweat, and he almost took a step back as she reached up to drape the satchel around his bare shoulder. “Bury the contents of this bag on the beach within reach of the tide at midnight during Nurom Misuer’s next full night,” she explained. “Light a fire atop the sand and cast three bluestars into the flames. Allow the tide to consume the fire. When you wake the next morning, your wish will be granted.”
Imber smiled at her, testing the bag’s weight. It was light enough that he wondered if perhaps it was empty, but he could see its contents bulging against the sides. “Th-thank you,” Imber replied. “How can I repay you?”
She winked mischievously. “Don’t worry about that, my dear. Kindness is its own reward.”
Imber didn’t get much sleep the next five nights as he waited for Nurom Misuer to wax full. He couldn’t remember ever being more excited. Those next few sunrises lost their luster a bit; they were beautiful enough, but Imber knew that his future sunrises would be even better. He left the satchel on his little table, unopened, afraid that examining its contents prior to burying them would somehow ruin the magic.
On that fateful night Imber ran down to the beach alone, smiling up at crimson Nurom Misuer watching him from among the stars. He dug a small hole in the sand with his bare hands and then carefully placed the contents of the satchel inside. Three small stones, black as the surrounding night. A tuft of feathers dipped in blood. The beating heart of some strange beast, warm and viscous in his hands. He replaced the sand carefully, as if burying a beloved family member, and then he arranged a small pile of driftwood atop it all and set the whole thing ablaze with a flint and a bit of moss that all the locals used as kindling. When the heat from the flames was enough to make Imber back away, he retrieved the three bluestar flowers from his pocket and tossed them into the fire. The flames flared suddenly upward and turned briefly purple, then returned to normal.
Imber wanted to stay and watch the magic, but the crone had insisted he get a good night’s sleep while it did its thing. His rest was surprisingly gentle, awash with pleasant dreams of bright sunrises bigger and brighter than any he’d ever seen. Sometimes he was alone, but more often than not his grandmother was right there by his side.
He woke slowly with morning’s first light, stretching and yawning and scratching himself as he made his way outside to the edge of the cliff to take in the sunrise. His mind was still clouded with sleep, and he’d almost forgotten the previous night’s events until the site before him jarred his memory back into place. There were two sunrises now, one seemingly in the ocean. The water was strangely still and flat. He’d never seen the ocean so calm. He leaned out over the edge of the cliff to look straight down and found another Imber staring back up at him.
Realization came slowly to Imber, but when it did his heart leapt up into his chest. The old woman’s spell had worked! She’d turned the sea solid!
He grabbed what little food and potable water he had, stashed it in the old woman’s satchel, and ran down to the beach. The tide had frozen in place on the beach just beyond where he’d lit his fire the night before. He bent down and knocked his knuckle against the sea. It was just as hard and sturdy as it looked. Imber took one tentative step onto the ocean, then another and another and another until he was gone from the distant horizon.
A few days later the sea was back to normal, lapping at the shore as it always had before. No one knows what happened to Imber, but many claim to have seen an old woman puttering about the charred remains of his house, often sitting at the edge of the cliff to watch the sunrise.