As I shook their hands, I deflated, falling to the plateau of malaise, contentedness, and displeasure. My emotions flattened and then slipped away. The loss, while still there, no longer ached. There was no pain, just a hollow emptiness in my chest.
They produced a mirror and beckoned me to look. Reluctantly, I peered into its depths. The mirror showed me my son dying, again and again and again. I was on my knees, begging them to stop, to just take the pain away or let me jump. I was nothing and no one to anyone.
“Oh. My mom set her on fire. She rose from literal smoke and ashes and then crawled to Skiron, who then gifted the charcoal lady his powers, and when they came out of the swirling snow tornado, she was all healed and had wings. I’m calling it phoenixing.”
Because I hadn’t learned to control my own powers back then, now I couldn’t control either of ours. I was still a failure. A disappointment. The wild child who played with tricksters and thieves instead of learning to lead.
I tried to rise but crumpled. The blisters burst where the flames had touched, the air stinging the open wounds. My charred, dry skin was taut, pulling against itself, flaking off. I pushed through the physical pain. It was something I had lived through for years, tormented by the monster I had been. I tried again. The tears were tiny ice pellets, cutting my skin as I rose.
She landed in front of him, her talons scratching the walls as she neared him, the keys dancing in front of her feathered chest. She reached for one and made the unlocking motion. Skiron’s face twisted in agony, and his hair greyed as she drained him.
I felt my rage wane as her eyes widened, and her lips formed an O. Snow swirled around us as I fell into my grief, holding my side, my cold aura pushing outwards to cover us both in a layer of frost. Her hand lowered, hanging limp at her side. I broke down, the sobs escaping even as I tried to hold them back.
I nearly stumbled over my feet. A yak? A yak’s smell was nauseating, and they were excruciatingly slow. I could blizzard my way up the mountain in mere minutes. I thought about protesting, but the light in Aspen’s eyes stopped me, and I swore I saw Artemis smirk.
“You’re going to be fine, Kia. You’re as strong as she is and just as powerful, even if you don’t believe it. Together, you’re going to find Skiron and set everything back to normal. Hopefully, he can fix these crazy weather patterns across the globe.”
Hey, don’t give me that look, Kia. If you need to find an object, I’m your guy. That’s what my powers are, finding and stealing treasure. If you need to trick something or someone, you’d have to ask Dolus. Tracking someone, well, you know who you’re going to need to ask.
Sybil tried to prove she was a good daughter, but she grew to hate Skiron for not accepting her, although he treated us all well. She decided she’d had enough of vying for his love and attention and said she was leaving to find her family. Her true family.
I looked up at the master of camp, catching his expression of bewilderment. The rest of the camp had stopped and was staring at the children, waiting to see what I would do. I couldn’t help but smile. They were so brave! The two kids I’d given the snowballs to earlier were hiding behind the nearby tent, whispering to each other.
“Point me toward the way out?” I asked, feeling the forced grin still plastered across my face. Charon obliged, silently pointing, before pushing off from the dock. I pulled my hood over my head and then made my way back to the surface.
I smiled back at him, and he changed to stalking towards me. The terrifying grin was unwavering on his frozen face. His long nails scraped the ground as he hunched forward, his eyes peering through his scraggly hair, focused intently on me.
I walked to the middle of the compound, slowly drawing the cold inward. There was something here. The deserted compound should have been a haven for the hibernating animals, but nothing was here. Even the birds had left, and the only other living thing around was the Qiqirn demon dog.