It was assumed that I was dead. I really thought that they had forgotten about me, but I guess after a thousand years alone someone was bound to come looking. I had felt his presence on the mountain for a few weeks now, tracking me, getting closer. Initially, I dismissed the man as a mortal climbing this mountain to his foolish demise. I’d been residing in the Rhaipion Mountains, impassable to mortals, and immortals usually didn’t bother with them.
I opened up my senses to determine how close he was to finding me. He had gotten close a time or two, but I had shied away from confronting him, thinking he would give up. I heard the crackle of the snow shifting with his falling steps. I was hidden from view in a little icy cavern, the entrance covered by a sheet of ice. My frosty aura was projecting little swirling fractals and patterns onto the walls. The sculpted ice statue against the north wall shone within the filtered sunlight from a small hole high above my head. There was a bench made of ice along the east wall close to the sculpture where I often sat.
I drew a breath and closed my eyes, focusing. I could sense the footsteps getting nearer. He was close to the west wall. This tracker was persistent, and the energy he gave off was…familiar. I sucked in another deep breath and felt my chest tighten as the cold air prickled my lungs. I held it, listening and opening my senses to let me see within the snow. Being able to sense his every movement within the falling snow, I could almost discern his intentions. He was confidently walking toward me. Damn, he knew I was here. I let out a resigned breath and waited for him to find his way in.
He stepped up to the opening to the cavern, pausing at the sheet of ice separating me from the outside world. He lightly tapped the ice once with his fingers. I heard the distinct upswing of a large object followed by the wind whistling as the object swung down. As the sheet shattered, ice falling across the rocky floor, I winced and let out my cold breath. I clenched my fists and held back my tears as I stood up from the bench. I steeled myself for this intrusion into my safe place.
He strode in quickly and quietly, so as not to disturb the broken icicles strewn across the ground. He halted in the middle of the small alcove, the caduceus staff he carried hanging awkwardly in his right hand. His father’s staff, I noted. He’s here on his behalf. My thoughts quickly turned bitter as I turned my head to look at him. He was his father’s son alright, tall and lean, with a confident air about him. I looked up into his face. He looked a lot like him, same expressions of mischief, deception, and trickery. He opened his mouth, and I braced myself for his words.
“Hello, little firestorm, it’s been quite a long time. You should really get out of these snowy caves you like to call home.”
I held his gaze as I gathered my thoughts, staring into his deep brown eyes as this familiar man stood there smirking at me.
“Hello, little thiefling. You must have an important message on behalf of your father. Is that what made you spend weeks tracking me?” I asked coolly.
“Oh! You noticed this, did you?” He waved the staff around nonchalantly like it wasn’t an important magical item. “Dad wouldn’t let me have my knives back until I’d found you. Made me carry this until I spoke with you and gave you the message.” He rolled his eyes.
I, however, raised my eyebrows. “And how exactly did the King of Thieves get his knives taken from him?” I asked. I wanted him to talk more. I wanted to hear his voice, to listen to his words, but the ancient hurt, the abandonment and broken relationship with him left my voice empty, cold and vacant.
“Oh, you know, the usual. I lost a bet.” He smirked. “I figured I’d steal them back later, with the other valuables, but then dad found out and sent them with his messengers. Every time I get close, they vanish and end up with someone else. I was planning to take on his challenge and steal them back, but he insisted that I find you before he’d tell me who he had delivered my knives to.” He stopped and looked around my alcove. “And it kind of looks like this message is coming at the right time. This place looks like a mortal tribute tor death, Kee.”
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.
“And?” I asked. “Why doesn’t he come to deliver the message himself? Or does he not want to see the damaged goods?” I saw him twitch a little at my words. My hands found their way to the scar on my lower belly. The scar that reminded me of why I had disappeared for so long. Why I had stayed aloof and distant from the rest of my family.
“Oh, come on. You aren’t damaged goods, Kee. You’re just afraid to face them yourself.” His eyes twinkled then, and he lifted his eyebrow. “You know, I bet you can’t even be in the same building as my dad. I’d bet this staff,” he waved it, “that you won’t come with me back to see him and demand the message from his mouth yourself.” His smile grew wide, and his brown eyes sparkled with mischief. He grasped the staff, holding it out in front of me, teasing and taunting me with it.
“Why would I want that staff? I want nothing to do with him.” But even as I said it, I felt the lie that fell from my cold, pale lips. I wanted to take that staff and beat the fucker over his head with it when I saw him. I wanted to rain murderous rage down on that god. Having his staff would give me that power to wield over him, and I wanted that more than anything. I wanted to not be afraid of them.
“Sure, Kee. So I’ll keep the staff and just tell you the message?” he asked. “Or are you coming with me to the God Complex to, ahem, talk to him yourself?” He regarded me then, gauging my pause and stoic expression. He sighed and said, “Are you not The Goddess of Snow? Or are you just a pile of shattered glass? You’ve already survived so much. To be honest, most of them think you are dead. Come on, prove them wrong.” He paused before continuing, “I thought you taught me how to have nerves of steel because they sure didn’t come from him”.
He then plunked the staff down into my hands, winked, and slunk out of the cavern. I held the staff tentatively at first, feeling its weight in my palms. A sense of power that I never had before slid over me. A power over myself that I could be in control again. I was ready to face them. I grasped that caduceus staff close to the bottom and lifted it high above my head. I used my full body and swung it down, hitting it against the cold rock, and the echo reverberated throughout the cavern. This feels right, I thought, and smiled wide. The head of the staff rested unbroken against the fractured rock. I studied it for a long moment and decided I would go with him and win his bet. I was not made of glass. For now, I would say goodbye to my beloved, but I would be back. I always came back to him.
I reached for the icy statue and cupped his cheek, a perfect copy of him from when we’d met. I smiled warmly and let the hot tear roll down my face. When the teardrop hit the rocky floor below, I took a deep icy breath and pulled in all emotions, letting my cold aura wash over them. I was not dead and forgotten. I was not afraid of them. I would prove to myself that I was capable, that I was just as I was supposed to be: numb and cold.