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.
I had come here out of obligation and a need to prove myself. Instead, I found myself supported by the people I had surrounded myself with. I was lucky to have people and pets who accepted me for who I was.
I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back, pulling my knees to my chest. The decision to come and make new friends was a good one. My vision was right. Visiting Hestia was a good choice, and now I had a group of friends that I felt connected to. Maybe I could expand my decision to trust others. There was going to be more to this evening, I was sure, but I was happy to settle in and have another drink.
“The little wind nymphs come and hide here. They are annoying and mischievous, but not harmful. They like to whistle loudly and make the leaves spin and dance. It scares the littlest creatures. I approached them, but they didn’t understand me, so I have been guiding the little creatures away from their chaotic tendencies.”
I saw a glimpse of a little girl with platinum blond hair tied into pigtails running down the alleyway. I chased her onto the main street and tried to see where she went. Her form was translucent, and she passed through the people on the street quickly, unnoticed except as a warm breeze.
On the inside of my forearm, there was a pink mark where my arm had thawed. My eyes widened with shock. There, perfectly formed in my reddened skin, was a child-size handprint. I glanced around, doing a full sweep, listening for what I then knew was a giggle. I wondered if I could follow the breeze, and set off in the direction she took.
I wrenched open the door and stepped outside. The cold air was a mild relief against the fire burning in my face. I tried to control the bound fury, but it fought back. My feverish blood coursed through me, making everything feel searing hot and excruciatingly painful.
I am strong! The words sang inside me as I struggled to contain my growing rage, the iciness at war with the red I saw. I can control this. This will not affect me. I took a deep breath as I finished reading, letting the words sink into my cold bones and quell my boiling anger. I ran my hand through my hair to ground myself, then rolled the letter up and sighed loudly.
“The snow does what I tell it to do. If I wanted to bury you in snow, I would have. If I wanted to grow a wall of ice and trap you in it for 100 years, I would have. I let you find me. Now take me to him before I change my mind and keep this staff,” I said, my tone icy and filled with warning.
While I bristled at his words, he had hit the nail on the head. This little secluded memorial was a far distance from anyone or anything. It allowed me to cry and grieve and lose control without fear of endangering mortals. The ice statue inside was in his image. The mortal man I had loved. Love. Still love. I stood my ground and looked back at my childhood friend, one who had grown so callous, so cunning, so sly.