I was seated near the fire, far enough that the warmth wasn’t reaching me but within view of the Gryph camp residents. The children were finished with their fight and had stood their snowy wet selves by the fire to dry off. I could feel the side-eye glances from the many adults and griffins working their jobs, but they had relaxed to just being wary of a stranger in their midst.
“Excuse me, miss? How do you make snow?” A small boy in a tan hooded sweater asked. His hair was still wet from their play. I patted the ground next to me, and he sat down cross-legged, the other children inching closer to listen.
“Well, little one, many, many years ago, I was fighting with my brothers. They were a little older than you are now but just as reckless. We were running around my dad’s house, and one of my brother’s wings knocked my snow globe off the mantle.”
“Wings? Like griffins?” one of the griffin youths asked, joining the child and kneeling in front of me.
“Mhm,” I nodded, “like griffin wings. My younger brothers had very big wings, much too big for their bodies at the time. You grow into your wings, you know?” The griffin nodded in understanding as the others joined him.
“Well, when my brother knocked my snow globe over, it broke. The glass shattered, and the water and glitter were spilled all over the floor. When something like that breaks, it can’t be fixed.”
“Like mama’s clay pots!” a little girl shouted out. I recognized Claire, the first one I gave the snowball to. I heard a couple of snickers and saw that a few others had gathered around to listen.
“That’s right, like when you break a pot, even if you fix it, it’s not the same. You see, this snow globe was special.” I emphasized the word, catching their interest.
“Was it magic?” one of the children asked.
“It felt very magical because it was given to me by a very special lady, my grandmother. And she told me that If I ever wanted it to snow, I could shake the snow globe, and Grandma and Daddy would make it snow.”
“Your grandma could make snow too?”
“Well, no, not exactly. But what feelings do you think I felt when I saw the broken pieces on the floor?” I asked them, letting them think about the emotions.
“Angry?” The children called out their answers.
“I felt all of those things. I was mad and sad and upset. And then I felt very cold.” I pushed some of my cold aura outward and smiled when the children shivered and the griffins pulled their wings tighter to their bodies.
“I felt so sad and mad at my brothers for breaking my special snow globe that instead of crying, the cold turned me into a snowball!” I made a snowball in my hand and tossed it lightly at the group seated around me.
“You turned into a snowball!?” the children cried out. Some of them laughed and others just stared at me with wide eyes.
“I did! And it took my dad almost a whole day to figure out how to turn me back. So, I don’t recommend it to anybody here.”
“But how come you can make snowballs without snow?” I heard from a small voice.
“Well, I think cold thoughts. Give it a try.” The kids all squeezed their eyes closed.
“Can you feel the cold?” I asked as I released another small burst of cool air.
“Yeah!” they called out enthusiastically, excitement lighting up their faces.
“Feel the cold rise up to your hands, and then think it into a ball of snow.” They cupped their hands as if they were forming balls. I conjured small balls of snow into everyone’s hands, then sat back to watch their reactions.
“Open your eyes!” I called out and saw their eyes widen in disbelief and awe. The littlest one toddled off shouting, “Mommy look, look, I made this!” Others turned their snowball in their hands, poking at the balls to confirm they were real.
“Just remember, don’t turn yourselves into snowballs!” I called out, laughing as the older children started throwing them once again. I heard a cough from behind, and a light brown griffin was waiting with beady eyes.
“While that was very cute, I’m sure they will be disappointed when they find they can’t actually conjure snowballs.” He looked down his curved beak at me.
“Oh, leave her alone.” A woman shoved the griffin aside. “She entertained the rascals while we finished dinner arrangements. Speaking of, Miss Khione, the Camp Master is waiting for you by his fire. “
The enormous griffin was half seated, half-kneeling when I was brought to his fire. A striking young girl was seated near him.
She was around sixteen and possessed a beauty that would rival any nymph, with full lips, dark black hair, and striking green eyes. But what stood out was her skin. It was dark, but with splotches of lighter, almost white splatters across her body. It highlighted the features on her face and her toned muscles.
“Miss Khione, I’d like you to meet Aspen, one of our lost ones. Aspen, this is Miss Khione, Goddess of Snow.” Greg introduced us as I was seated and given some food and drink. It smelled delicious, but the ice wine caught my attention first.
“Pleasure to meet you, Miss Khione.” Her voice was bubbly and energetic, almost excited, but laced with a quiver that suggested nervousness.
“As I was saying, I think we have some things to share with you that are related to Skiron and his wife. Aspen was a friend to their daughter.”
I nearly choked on the sip of ice wine.
“Did you say, daughter?” I asked hesitantly, placing the cup on the ground. Skiron didn’t have any children of his own. He always took in those who sought shelter, calling them his lost ones, but treating them as family.
“Well, his wife’s adoptive daughter,” Greg clarified. Acholoë used to visit the camp here often. As a harpy she felt a kind of kinship with the griffins. She and Skiron were our inspiration for taking in lost ones. Skiron had a thriving compound full of beings needing a home, and we were slowly going extinct. We were starving, having fewer hatchlings, and the endless war over the gold in the mountain was destroying us all. As we adopted humans into our camps, we found that they were useful in ways we were not, bringing us technology, advancing us to a point beyond just survival. Acholoë was always out helping find lost ones in the mountains. Actually, she found Aspen,” Greg said smiling at the girl.
“I was left alone in a forest when I was five. I was abandoned because my skin was changing colours. My parents didn’t want me.” Her face clouded over, and her eyes were sad, but her smile remained.
My heart paused for a moment, and I felt the cold inside that made me want to scream. “That’s awful,” I said, shaking my head. “You deserved better. And for what it’s worth, you are beautiful.”
“That’s what Acholoë said when she found me. She brought me here, to the Gryph camp, and they’ve given me a home.” She shot Greg an appreciative smile.
“Now a little while before Aspen arrived, Acholoë had brought us a frozen egg she had found. She was so excited about finding it. She decided she would hatch the egg herself at Skiron’s compound. Wouldn’t you know, it hatched into a little girl with scales? Acholoë gave her the name Sybil and claimed the hatchling as her daughter. Skiron, however, didn’t acknowledge the girl as his daughter. Instead, he continued to call her a lost one and treated her the same as any. Since she was considered a lost one, she was welcome to our camp.”
Greg paused and took a few chomps at his food, before dunking his beak into his goblet of wine.
Aspen took a quick bite and said, “When I arrived, Sybil and I were about the same age, and quickly became friends. We learned to read and write, and as we got older, to hunt, track, and cook. We were always together. Sybil didn’t care about my skin changing colours, and I didn’t care that her skin was scaly. We were just two lost girls looking for a place to call home.”
“But Sybil was not content here, growing angrier when her teenage cycle set in. She wanted to find her family and where she came from. She may have called a harpy her mother, but she wanted to know why she had scales, and why Skiron would not accept her. After Acholoë and Skiron had another fight, Sybil took refuge here permanently instead of the compound, growing more and more disgruntled that Skiron wouldn’t accept her,” Greg said.
“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.” Aspen looked down at her plate, but the tears in her eyes remained unshed.
“Acholoë followed her, and together they set out to search. We know where they went first, but we have not heard from them since. “
With all the information Greg and Aspen had shared, I think I’d pieced together what Sybil’s heritage might have been.
“If I’m right, this isn’t a serpent’s scale, but hers,” I said, pulling it out of my pocket, and showing it to Aspen.
“That’s one of Sybil’s scales,” Aspen said. With that confirmation, I sat back down and sighed.
What did a Harpy and a Naga want with a God? And Where was I going to find them?