I followed the mischievous man out of the cavern. He hadn’t gone far since the snow was still undisturbed. I turned and took a last glance at my comfortable place. Then I raised my hand, willed the water in the air to cool, and sealed it in with a boulder of ice. Nothing would chisel or smash through that.
We turned left and headed down a path through the pines that would lead to my little cottage in the woods. A warm, cozy cottage seemed at odds with the Goddess of Snow, but I still liked to be dry. I loved the mortal’s science, technology, and advanced amenities. The new world was not a mystery to me, despite my apparent seclusion. I had spent the last few years among the mortals, studying and researching.
Autolycus followed in silent footsteps behind me, stepping into my own to avoid disturbing any more snow. I had taught him how to be silent while moving in the elements. The pranking and thieving was his own talent, no doubt taught by his father. My cottage appeared out of the pine trees. It blended in, inauspicious, keeping me hidden. I had not had a single visitor in the many years I’d called it home.
A large snow lynx slept just outside the door, waiting on my return. My face stayed blank, but inwardly I smiled as she stretched and shook the snow off her coat before bounding toward me. Autolycus clicked his tongue, and the big furry beast stopped in her tracks and tilted her head.
“Got yourself a pet, Kee? You always did like to adopt strays.”
“This is Pittusiak. She comes around sometimes.” My words sounded empty of any attachment, even to my own ears. I enjoyed the lynx’s company when she visited. She would leave for days at a time to go hunting, her wide soft paws allowing her to walk on top of the snow, her furry ears capable of hearing the mice and other rodents burrowing through the snow. Pittusiak was a great huntress, taking down the migrating white-tailed deer and the odd owl or eagle who flew too close to the ground. She was a fine companion, often appearing to check in on me. She would sometimes even bring her small kills to my cottage to eat in front of my fireplace.
Pittusiak’s fur stood up, and she turned herself sideways, showing off her larger size. Back arched, she dipped her head low, and a small growl came from her throat. Autolycus laughed merrily.
“Go ahead and taunt her,” I said. “She could probably use a good chase. Though I’m not sure what she’d do when she caught you.” I tossed my long, dark hair over my shoulder, walked to the door, and went inside, leaving him out with Pittusiak. I put the staff on the little wooden table and looked at it. Damn the gods for making me so angry. I wanted to take this thing back and thump him in the head with it. Wanted to bash his pretty little face to a pulp. My fists clenched tightly as I reigned in the anger and exhaled a frosty breath of air.
As I looked around my cottage, I heard Autolycus outside, trying to get Pittusiak to calm down and play nice. It gave my heart a little tug, but I swallowed it down. No emotions. I’ve gotta be strong. I plucked my long, plain white cloak from a peg by the door and wrapped it around my shoulders before slipping my smartphone into my pocket. He didn’t need to know how much I’d adapted.
I glanced at my laptop and research that was strewn across the small room and decided I would leave them for now. As I picked the staff up off the table, I tensed and thought about snapping it in half before finally getting it to downsize to the size of a pen and putting it in the other pocket. I had no weapons as ice was readily shaped by my hand into spears and daggers. Would I need anything else from home? I didn’t think so. Once I went in and faced him, I would return to this world and resume my research. I wasn’t necessarily happy out here, but I enjoyed the peace that this solitary life gave me.
I came outside and looked at Pittusiak, who still guarded my cottage against Autolycus, and swallowed the pride I felt. Behind me, the door to my cottage closed as I sauntered up to Pittusiak, patted her on the head, and then continued toward the clearing to head down the mountain. He raised his eyebrow and his lips held the hint of a smirk.
“That’s all you’re bringing down the mountain? Your cloak? What have you got hidden in your sleeves?”
I lifted my eyebrows but hardened my face and said nothing. I turned away and shifted forms into a cold gale of wind and snow before fluidly making my way down the mountain. I love the feeling of being wind and snow, weaving in and out of pine trees, startling the birds to take flight, and the rabbits to hop toward the burrows to hide. It is both exciting and calming, the adrenaline coursing through me, urging me to go faster, but my mind becomes calm and clear.
I slowed as I reached the bottom, becoming just a calm flurry of large snowflakes falling slowly. Autolycus would be along soon. I could feel him disturbing the snow up above. He was moving fast, and I realized he was riding a motorized sled. He reached me as I returned to my human form and called out loudly above the roar of the engine.
“You could have waited! I’d have given you a ride instead of making a blizzard in your wake! Shit, Kee, you’re gonna cause an avalanche.”
I looked at him as my lip lifted into a half-smile. His face was still youthful, but the age showed in his eyes. He had worry lines around them. Worried about what, I was unsure. I didn’t know what he did with his life. I’d never asked, and he’d never said. And if he was worried about me, he was not the type to say it.
“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.
“Always cold as can be, Kee. Fine. I hope you’re ready for technology because I’m taking you home to the God Complex to see my dad.” His forehead furrowed, showing that worry again. He was worried about how I would handle the world, I realized. I laughed inside. Well, I’d show him. I’d show all of them.