After freezing the lights until they exploded, I left the station building and walked around the city, trying to sort out my thoughts. The city had modernized since I had been here last. Traffic lights, shiny neon open and closed signs lined the streets. Fancy coffee shops, tall office buildings, and large department stores sprawled across the once-vacant land. I wandered away from the downtown area, moving east, away from the God Complex.
I passed Clio’s Museum of History, debating whether to enter. Was there a piece of my life put on display for the modern world? I shook my head and continued past. Very little of me would be there, if there was anything at all. I was a footnote in books and stories. The Daughter of Boreas, they wrote. Not to be confused with the Daughter of Daedalion. The latter was a series of unfortunate events. Poor Chione. Lost in thoughts of my past and family, I heard the rustling of leaves as a breeze blew them around. I looked up, startled by the translucent figure that materialized before me.
She was a young girl, appearing about eight to ten years old. Long silvery-blond hair tied in pigtails danced in the wind. She looked at me with multi-coloured eyes, changing as often as her hair moved. I recognized her as one of my many cousins.
She was an aura, a breeze nymph. The aurae were mischievous and imp-like, appearing as a mortal pre-adolescent child. Found in cities where they can cause havoc unnoticed, they liked to run through people and animals to chill them and push them back at city corners. They lifted and played with the garbage that was strewn across the cities. Plastic bags were a fun toy for these child-like creatures.
This aura stared at me and the faded handprint on my forearm. She knew me and that I was a goddess.
“Hello, little one. I am sorry if I hurt you earlier. I mean you no harm. I’m Kia-uh-Khione. What is your name?” I asked the girl, hoping to initiate a conversation. Aurae usually just whispered or whistled and only things they wanted to pass along.
“Uhm. Hi.” She spoke with hesitation, her voice barely audible. I took a few steps towards her, and she backed up, flinching away.
“I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wanted to hear you better.” I lowered my voice, but she still flickered and returned to her breeze form. She bolted, zooming down the street and through the mortals. I gave chase, following the trail of warmer air she was leaving behind, much like I cooled the air as I walked past. I did not shift, as my cold and strong wind would overwhelm her small form and possibly destroy her.
I followed her through the streets and watched as she blew napkins off the tables of the cafe where I had met with Wendell. The mortals outside laughed and picked up the debris. I followed her down the street until she turned the corner and headed north towards the National park. As she raced through it, I stalled and debated whether to follow her or teleport and cut her off. I looked around before porting deeper into the trees. I stood in her path and waited.
I released some of my cold to cool down the area. I knew she would feel it and slow. She would probably turn back to the city, but it might shock her to stop.
I heard a yelp behind me as another translucent child appeared. I saw little but felt the warm air as she bolted out of the treeline and met up with her sister. Damn, I thought.
They took off together, heading west back towards the GC. I searched the area for any clues but found nothing until I heard a rustle from behind me.
In the trees stood a massive, all-white reindeer with majestic antlers. We stood transfixed, staring at each other. There was a snapping sound, and I felt something tug in my mind.
“Another one of those wind things. I hope they leave soon.”
“Did you just speak?” I asked the buck, feeling foolish. His mouth hung open mid-chew, and he looked at me.
“Can you understand me?” the deer asked me, but the sound was only in my head.
“I think I can.” I wracked my brain trying to figure out whether this was a trick, trying to feel for an intrusion in my head, but there was none.
“I am not sure. I have been the protector of this park for many, many years, but only one other has been able to communicate with me. She was just a mortal child who passed through this forest once, many eons ago.”
Something about the speech, the snapping feeling, and the white reindeer made me recall a long-forgotten memory.
I was six solstices old when my twin brothers were born with wings. My proud father brought them to Olympus to show off his demi-god sons. My sister and I had been born mortal, and as mortal children, we weren’t really allowed into Olympus. So my father set up a camp in the forest north of Olympus. The two of us were playing hide and seek when I became lost.
I was crying, sitting beside a large rock next to a stream, where this beautiful all-white reindeer was grazing beside it. There was a snapping sound as the deer and I locked eyes. Then a tugging sensation in my head as words rang inside my head.
“What is wrong, dear child? Why do you cry with water in your eyes?” he asked me. I hiccuped and wiped my tears before trying to reply to the mysterious, talking reindeer.
“I’m far away from home, and my daddy left me here with my sister, and we were playing a game, and now I’m lost.” I burst out into tears, and the birds took to the sky.
“I see,” said the buck. He paused for a while to look me over. “You are a very special child. You can understand the forest protector. Please come for a walk with me. I am very lonely and would like some company to speak to.” He turned and walked away, and I got up to follow. “What do you like, child?”
“I like snow! You look like a snowy animal,” I said, and my crying stopped as I tried to keep up with him.
“You don’t have to be alone,” I told him. “You can come stay with me, and my mommy, and my daddy, and my sister, and my new brothers.” I ran up to the buck and wrapped my little arms around his neck.
“Ah, thank you, little one. I would be honored to stay with you. But this forest here is mine, under my care. I must stay here. But I will help you get back to your sister. As long as you come back to talk to me one day.”
“I promise!” I squeezed the buck tightly. “You are such a pretty animal. You have the same color of snow. I like snow a lot. I hope I can come and talk to you soon.” The reindeer lowered his forward haunches for me to climb on, and I rode him for a few miles. He told me about the animals in the forest he protected. Soon I could hear my sister calling for me. The buck again lowered himself to allow me to dismount. I hugged him again.
“Thank you, Bylur.”
“Bylur?” He asked me, puzzled.
“You’re all white like the snowstorms on my daddy’s mountain.”
He nodded. “It is a fitting name. Thank you, wintery one. I hope to see you again. Take care of the forests and the animals in it.” Then my sister called again. I gave him a last squeeze and ran off, waving to him.
I told my sister and my daddy about the talking deer, but I was dismissed and told I was making things up because I was lost. “Deer just don’t talk, let alone talk to mortals,” they said.
I stared at the snowy white deer. His antlers were much larger and more intricate than I recalled. They were more ornate, a sign of many years of life. His coat was still white, but there were some signs of age in the greying spots sprinkled throughout his coat.
“Bylur?” I asked tentatively. The deer’s head lifted fully, and he walked towards me.
“My, my, wintery one, you have grown up. It has been a very long time. You never came back.”
“I’m so sorry! No one believed me about you.” I ran up and hugged him, slipping into a huge grin as I remembered how soft his fur felt. Tears stung my eyes as I stepped back and looked him in the eye. “I thought I dreamt you up. How are you still alive, Bylur?”
“I exist the same as this forest. I was born when the forest was, and I will no longer exist when the forest does not.”
“How come I can speak to you?” I asked as I fell in step with the reindeer.
“Hmm.” He thought about it, walking deeper into the forest. “Can you understand other animals?”
I shook my head. “I’ve never heard another animal speak like you do.”
“I wonder if you and I are bonded. It matters not the reasons why, just that we can.”
We reached the stream where he had found me crying in that first encounter, the large boulder much smaller than I remembered.
“How long have the aurae been plaguing you in this forest?”
“A few months. They have been looking for someone to help them, but the Olympians have been ignoring them.”
“They need help?” I asked. “They ran from me when I tried to talk to them.”
“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.”
“Bylur, can I leave you a message to show to the aurae?”
“How would you do this?” he asked.
“Show me where they usually hide, please.” He started walking back towards the tree line. “They usually stay close to the edge, so they can come and go, but stay hidden.”
With my fingers, I scribed on the trees, leaving a message in frost.
Find me at the OA.
I smiled and hugged my old friend goodbye.
“Something troubles you, wintery one. You should seek advice from those who would call themselves your friends.”
“Thank you, Bylur. I will be back more often. I promise you.” Another quick hug, then I popped back to the city’s edge and walked back to the complex. My mind was all over the place, pulled in so many directions. So many questions to be asked, but who did I call my friends?