Frostbitten and Frost-forged.
A lone carriage is traveling a seldom-walked road, the wheels leaving a lonely trail through the snow. A light snow is falling as in the Whitefrost Mountains.
Yuelei woke up to pitch darkness. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the dim confines of a chest. The interior seemed to be made of a soft velvet, but that had not stopped the cold air from permeating inside.
Where am I?
"Airen, are you there?" she croaked out, her throat abnormally dry. There was no response.
How long was I unconscious for?
She took a moment to assess her situation.
The last thing I remember was being attacked by two masked men. One wearing the face of an owl, the other an eagle. Did Jomin rescued us? No..., that can't be it.
She came to the sudden realization that she had likely been kidnapped.
I need to get out of here...
When she tried to push against the top of of the chest, a heavy weight seemed to push back. The chest did not seem to have a lock mechanism, so there must have been a large object resting on top of it. No matter how hard she struggled, it refused to budge. Deciding not to exhaust all her strength, she sat back down.
But now that I stopped moving about ... it really is cold. Yuelei rubbed her hands together in a feeble attempt to warm them up. She tried to blow over them only to witness her breath turning into fine mist and vanishing.
If the temperature is this cold, then I must be somewhere up north.... Yuelei reasoned. That means.... either the Holy Land of Ecclisa... or the Whitefrost Mountains... or even somewhere beyond the Holy Land's borders up north...
Yuelei was jolted from her thoughts as the box started to jolt around.
"What is happening?"
"Fuck!" the driver of the carriage cursed. The sudden quake had caused the horses to reel up and panic. He dragged onto the reins to attempt to seize control of the situation. After the ground ceased trembling, the carriage driver saw a white cloud approaching from his right. He stared at it unbelieving for a second before alarm bells started to go off. They were on the incoming path of an avalanche.
"By the Goddess..." the man sent a prayer out before spurring into action. He smacked the horses out of their panic and tried to get them to gallop out of the way. Quickly realizing that there was no way he would get away in time with the carriage attached, he took an ax and cut the horses' bindings. Mounting one of them, they quickly galloped away, leaving the carriage behind.
! What is happening?
Yuelei felt a force crash into the box, knocking her into the wall of the cage. She tumbled around as the box flipped over and over in the force of the avalanche. All of a sudden, gravity shifts and Yuelei felt like she was falling. She screamed as the box plummeted into a deep ravine.
As the box finally hit the bottom, Yuelei bounced from the impact hitting her head on the cushioned top of the box and passed out.
Yuelei woke up in darkness yet again, this time the bitter cold as her companion.
Did we fall off a cliff? Why is it so cold?
Yuelei fumbled around the dark, her hand fumbling around until she realized that the lid of the chest had propped open, and some snow had funneled in. She came to the sudden realization that she was buried under all the snow.
I don't know how long I've been knocked out but.... I need to get out of here.
Yuelei felt the temperature continue to drop, and she was starting to become light headed. Some of the snow that had come into contact with her while she was asleep and had started to ice over.
"It’s... so cold. Airen.... where are you?"
She tunneled in front of her, her hands raw from digging into the packed snow. Yuelei could hear her teeth chattering and her feet starting to go numb. Her knees bled as she crawled forward. She could not even open her mouth to scream for help anymore.
“Airen.... you're not here..... are you?” she mouthed, no sound coming out.
Yuelei bit back her tears.
Jomin... please.... give me advice like always.
Her thoughts went unheard. By now her lips had turned a light blue and even her hair was starting to freeze. Starting to lose her sense of feeling, she started to lose hope.
Sorry Airen.... I don't think I can keep our promise after all....
Yuelei stopped digging and looked at her hands. Her nails were cracked and blood oozed from various cuts and bruises. She could not even feel pain anymore...
It was at this moment Yuelei realized that she could somehow see in what should have been pitch darkness.
...Where is the light coming from?
She rotated her head to look around the small tunnel and noticed that the snow above her was lighter than the others. Reinvigorated, Yuelei continued to dig, following the faint blue light. After a minute of frigid digging, the snow above her gave way as she painfully climbed out of the hole.
What... is that?
She found herself in a small chamber, the walls encrusted with blue ice crystals. Yuelei's eyes were drawn to the center of the chamber, where a white round object sat in the snow. It was the source of light that had guided her here. Her breathing improved thanks to the new pocket of oxygen.
But it's... so cold.... how can it possibly be so cold?
Yuelei felt as if her very skin was burning. Everytime she moved, the stinging pain only worsened. Yet she felt drawn towards the strange object, and she slowly dragged her failing body towards it. Using her hands, she pulled herself towards it, and the light emanating from the object seemed to pulse as if encouraging her. Yuelei felt that she was starting to hallucinate, as she started hearing a voice calling her name.
Who is calling me?
When she finally approached the object, she realized it was an egg of sorts. Her dim eyes barely noticed that the shell was speckled with dancing snowflakes. As she weakly cradled it within her arms, she felt an unnatural warmth and chill flowing through her hands.
Yuelei felt something connected with her in the midst of her mind, before her body succumbed to the burning frost and everything blacked out.
Yuelei awoke to the sensation of something warm rubbing against her cheek. When she opened her eyes she saw a blue chick rubbing its head against her. Witnessing Yuelei opening her eyes, it gave a delighted peep and bounced away. Rubbing her eyes, Yuelei sat up to feel the fur skin covering her slipped off and she was hit with a wave of cold. She realized that she was unclothed underneath and quickly pulled the fur skin onto her shoulders.
A voice answered her question. So you've awoken, child. It has been three days. Yuelei jumped at the voice that seemed to speak straight into her mind. She turned around and made out a cerulean bird-like magical beast staring at her.
Did you think I would speak to you with my voice? An adult phoenix’s voice is a dangerous weapon child.
Yuelei opened her mouth as the frost phoenix sat down in front of her, it's child tucked under it's wings. "You can understand my language? Are you speaking through my mind?"
Indeed. This one's name is Gallienoir.
"My given name is Yuelei of the clan Casteya."
An awkward silence filled the air after the introductions. Perhaps it was from the unlikely encounter between two different beings as they observed the other.
"So... you didn't bring me here to... eat me, right?"
No child, my palate disregards humans. Gallienoir flicked her head in annoyance.
"Then why did you-"
This one. She pointed with her beak at the small baby frost phoenix nesting under her luminescent cerulean wings. Seemed to be attached to you.
Memories of the avalanche and finding the egg resurfaced in Yuelei's mind.
"Was there anyone else caught in the avalanche? Did you see a boy with brown hair? What about an old man wearing a leather robe?" Yuelei barraged.
You were the only one. Gallienoir responded, jade eyes staring into hers. Yuelei saw the font of centuries of knowledge swirling in their depths. A series of images flashed before her as Gallienoir spoke.
You were clutching the egg of my newborn when this one found you. Half of your body had already frozen, yet you were still barely alive. This one was going to be merciful and conjured a Frost Lance with the intent to ease your suffering, but the little one interfered.
Yuelei glanced at the small baby phoenix as Gallienoir lifted her wings. Annoyed at being thrusted into the cold air, it gave an annoyed chirp and jumped into Yuelei's lap. She picked it up and gave it a closer look. It was a chubby little thing, the cerulean spotted feathers were fuzzy and wasn't as refined as it's mothers, but the resemblance was uncanny.
"Why does this little one have five plumes atop of it's head whilst you have four?" Yuelei wondered aloud. She brushed it's head and it gave out a content twitter.
The little one is the fourth of our legacy. Gallienoir disclosed. Seeing the confused expression on Yuelei's face, she continued. Your kind seems to have the misconception about my brethren. Our kind can indeed live forever if we wish to as magical beasts, but for us to increase our ranks, we have to go through rebirth. The little one is my incarnation. Soon, this old one will be gone, and when the little one reaches the rank I was, rank nine, she would inherit my current abilities...
Yuelei contemplated on this information as Gallienoir spoke. Phoenixes were extremely rare creatures that usually kept to themselves, and only a few selected individuals were given the opportunity to come into contact with one, much less find out about their way of life. A scholar would have given an arm and a leg to find out this information, yet to Yuelei, something didn’t seem to add up.
“But if I was at death’s door… how did I not get frostbite or anything severe?” Yuelei looked at her hands, they were slightly pink and had numerous blisters and scars but she managed to move them without issue. The same applied to her feet. “And how did I even survive the cold?”
Gallienoir was angered at the interruption. Child, if you do not wait until this one has finished speaking, then this one may reconsider her actions. She flapped her wings and created a small gust.
The force knocked Yuelei back a bit and earned an annoyed twitter from the newborn phoenix. Yuelei quickly closed her mouth and suppressed herself from speaking out again.
As this one was saying, the little one would inherit my memories, as well as my mother’s and grandmothers’, to be used as she likes. It is our way that every second generation will make a pact with a human to further their knowledge. Whether it was by accident or fate, the little one had decided to make a pact with you.
“What?” Yuelei could not stop herself from crying out. Jomin had taught her about the dangers of making a pact with a magical beast. In return for the magical beast’s strength and knowledge in battle, the human would often have to pay a price.
Gallienoir echoed her sentiment. This one does not understand either, and this one would be long gone when the little one grows up and to explain it to her. Nevertheless, that pact, a pact with a frost phoenix, seemed to have awakened your inner frost affinity and saved your life.
“Frost?” Yuelei’s eyes widened. A mutant affinity? Was it caused by the pact?
Indeed, frost. But to think that you had water and wind affinity in the first place makes this one believe this chanced meeting wasn’t a coincidence. And thus this one took the little one and you to her home.
Gallienoir finished explaining the circumstances and stared intensely at Yuelei, gauging her reaction. After staring at Yuelei’s dumbstruck face for a few moments, she stood up and walked deeper into the cave.
In shock, Yuelei repeated what she just learned over and over in her mind. Frost Phoenix. Pact. Water and Wind Affinity. Mutant Frost Affinity.
As if viewing the confusion in Yuelei’s mind, the baby phoenix woke up and perched on her shoulder, rubbing it’s head through her hair.
Can this little one hear my thoughts? Yuelei wondered and the bird chirped in response.
Did it just… respond to me? As soon as the thought flashed through her mind, the bird gave a slightly louder chirp this time.
“I see...” Yuelei lightly plucked the bird off her shoulder and held it in front of her face.
Thank you little one, she spoke with her inner voice with as much gratitude as she could muster. The message seemed to get across as the bird rubbed her head against her cheeks again before curling back up in the fur skin and returning to sleep.
Whatever the price of the pact, I’d gladly pay it if it’s not unreasonable, Yuelei promised to herself. At this point, Gallienoir returned with a small bowl. Phoenixes know how to use bowls?
My mother’s memories includes her human partner’s antics in detail, Gallienoir clarified. Your kind makes some really interesting tools. She placed the bowl in front of Yuelei, in it were strips of dried meat. It seems we will have to expand our larder, now that we have two new additions, but having human hands would be very useful in that regard. Help yourself and we’ll go gathering tomorrow.
Yuelei felt her stomach rumbling at the sight. She tore into the bits of meat like a ravenous man consuming his last meal. In a matter of moments, the food was gone, and Yuelei looked up. Gallienoir’s cerulean feathers glowed for a moment, and the bowl filled with water. Nodding in thanks, Yuelei drank the crystal clear water. After placing the bowl back down, she asked the question she had not dared to ask before.
Tell me about yourself now, Yuelei.
And so, Yuelei started to explain the events that had transpired. Within half an hour, she was finished and they sat in silence, each contemplating on their own thoughts.
“What do we do from now on?” Yuelei questioned, breaking the silence.
If you might recall, this one only has a few more years left. This old one plans to guide both you and the little one until the end of her days so you can both survive here, and when you do return to from whence came, the both of you should be able to create a legend like my mother’s.
Yuelei nodded, but her thoughts turned to Airen and Jomin and she mumbled aloud.“What about Jomin and Airen..?”
This one will not stop you from leaving, provided you can do so with your own power. But judging from your story, your brother was also spared. If they had wished for you and your brother’s demise, they would have been thorough about it.
Yuelei nodded in acknowledgment.
Get some sleep now child, I shall go prepare things for the days ahead.
After eating, Yuelei felt drowsiness overcame her, she wrapped herself with the furskin and drifted off into a slumber. A few moments later, the baby phoenix snuggled itself by her neck and they both dozed peacefully, comforted by the other's presence.
Rise child, there is much to be done.
Gallienoir’s voice gently roused Yuelei from her sleep. She opened her eyes to see Gallienoir placed the chest, the very one that she was confined in, in front of her and propped open the lid.
This one returned to the avalanche site and gathered what things she could find. With that, Gallienoir walked off to check on the little one.
Yuelei walked over to the chest and fumbled inside. She found a small bundle that unraveled into a blanket, a few weathered cloaks, and finally the burlap sack given to her by Jomin.
“This… I wonder what Jomin actually packed for us so quickly...” Inside it Yuelei found several parcels of luxurious dried rations, a change of clothing, a small bag full of gold coins, and finally Airen’s birthday gift to her, the jewel encrusted hairpin.
Gallienoir peered over her shoulder as she gazed at the hairpin. That is a well-made piece of jewelry. May this one inspect it?
Gallienoir plucked the ornament from her hand and placed it on the ground. After walking around it a few times, she suddenly touched one of the gems with her wingtips and a soft light blue light came forth and illuminated the chamber. And with it, Yuelei got her first clear look at her savior. The plumage was a hue of light cerulean, but her breast feathers were a snow white. The crest feathers and beak was a light cyan. The pair of jade eyes stared at her.
You look better than this one expected. Gallienoir commented.
In the dim glow, Yuelei looked at her hands, the cuts and blisters were mostly healed. Her clothes were mostly ragged and had several rips near her knees.
Go change into your other clothes little one, and put this - she hands over an furskin with a few holes for arms -on. ‘Tis time for your first lesson surviving in the Whitefrost Mountains, child.
Yuelei quickly changed and poked her arms through the crudely made holes. As she pulled her head through the largest hole, she felt the heat starting to rise, despite the size of the apparel, it was as light as silk.
“This fur is… rather strange,” she commented.
The skin was taken from one a Mist Berac, one of the many magical beasts that reside in these mountains, Gallienoir explained. This one is not familiar with skinning creatures so this was merely ripped from the corpse.
As Yuelei finished up and stored her things in the chest, Gallienoir walked over to one of the glacial walls. Touching the wall with a wingtip, the ice shattered and revealed a large hole towards the outside. In an instant, the already chilled air in the cave turned frigid and ice started forming on the walls.
Come here child. Gallienoir’s voice beckoned her to come over in her mind.
Despite the protection of the clumsily made fur overcoat, Yuelei still felt her teeth clattering and her body warmth quickly dispersing as she made her way over. Standing next to her mentor, she realized that their ‘home’ was actually a hole bored into the side of a mountain. From its entrance, she had a spectacular view of the misty frosty peaks that gave the Whitefrost Mountains their allure. The light orange hues of dawn-break bounced a mirage of colors off the snow caps.
Gallienoir’s voice broke her trance, Close your eyes, child. She picked up Yuelei with her talons and dropped off the ledge. Yuelei was reminded again of lack of gravity as one plummets down.
“Whaa-” Yuelei opened her mouth only to feel the cold air rush in and give her mind freeze.
Keep your mouth shut, child. She was reprimanded. After adjusting to the weight, Gallienoir flapped her wings and they soared back to the entrance for her to seal it with ice. And they were off, Gallienoir gracefully soaring through the air while Yuelei hung limply between her talons. The snow-covered trees passed below in a blur.
Two hours later.
“Ow” Yuelei winced, quickly putting her bleeding thumb in her mouth. She was learning to forage for food on the patch of tundra Gallienoir had brought her to. Sharp berry thorns were clustered in a gnarled shield, protecting the edible fruits. It was warmer in the valley she was brought to thanks to the lack of wind, but it was still cold enough for her cut to quickly freeze over and seal shut. Gallienoir watched from the top of a perched rock.
Don’t use your bare hands child, you are not a beast. She reprimanded. Use a tool or cover your hands to protect yourself from the thorns.
Yuelei shivered in the howling cold, but felt a small warmness inside her chest. The feeling of warmth that Gallienoir gave off was not unlike Jomin’s when he was teaching. Using the overly large furskin she wore as a glove, she reached in and carefully ripped away the thorny vines, revealing a cluster of dark red berries within.
Yuelei carefully dug the cherry sized fruit out and brushed away the lining of silky white material. They looked extremely appetizing and she opened her mouth to try one out.
What are you doing you fool! A gust of cold air flew from Gallienoir’s direction and encased the berry she was holding in ice.
“Wha-” In front of her eyes, the berry changed color to a light blue.
That fruit is called ‘Taste of Winter’ in my tongue. Gallienoir explained. It’s a strange fruit that only ripens in the cold, and is poisonous unless it is ripe.
“Oh.” Yuelei responded. Gallienoir had saved her yet again. She was about to put the berries into her makeshift knapsack when Gallienoir stopped her with her wingtip.
Go ahead child, and try the berry which is prepared for you.
Yuelei hesitated for a second. What if the poison hasn’t dissipated yet? But under Gallienoir’s gaze and the conviction of her empty stomach, she removed the last bit of ice and chewed down. It tasted like condensed raspberries with a hint of cherries, and a dull warmth started to emanate throughout her body, warming her chilled hands and feet.
Good. In my grandmother’s time, your kind often used those berries to brew wine, but the art seemed to have been long forgotten. Gallienoir froze another one and swallowed it whole without chewing. If you chew it before swallowing, you’ll be granted a wave of warmth, but if you swallow it without doing so, you’ll be given warmth for a longer duration.
Yuelei nodded and they proceeded to gather a few more of the plants. As she worked, Gallienoir instructed her from atop a tall tree.
You’re still weak and unable to use magic, so always carry a few of those berries, ‘Taw Berries’ in your language, around to keep you from freezing. Gather as much as you can carry child, the Whitefrost is a month away and you will most definitely need them to have a chance of surviving the winter.
“The Whitefrost?” Yuelei asked.
Imagine a never-ending winter, always snowing, with everything covered with ice.
“That actually sounds really pretty.”
It is indeed a grand sight to behold, if there was actually more than three hours of daylight and it wasn’t an endless blizzard outside. Child, if you think it is cold now, then you need to gather even more berries for the Whitefrost.
That caused Yuelei to be alarmed. Is it possible for it to be even colder than this? Even with the fur, I can’t feel my feet or fingers…
Gallienoir noticed the expression on her face. Worry not child, this one will help you stock supplies to last through.
Yuelei nodded, her gratitude towards Gallienoir growing even more. She continued to move to gather berries with Gallienoir spotting the bushes for her. Some of the plants were picked clean and Yuelei could only shake her head and move to the next one.
“Gallienoir, does your name mean something?” Yuelei asked, breaking the silence.
In the old tongue, it means ‘one that waits for winter’.
“It’s pretty hard to pronounce, but that’s a really beautiful name.”
Gallienoir paused for a bit. ...Thank you. This one’s name was given to her by her mother.
Yuelei smiled. “What is the little one’s name. Have you named her yet?”
She shuffled on her branch for a moment in hesitation before starting. This one believes that you should be the one to name her.
Yuelei was speechless.
This one is not familiar with names in this era. She does not wish to bestow an ancient name to her child that would hinder her from fitting in, especially since you, Yuelei, have a pact with her. When you are ready child, give the little one a name.
“I…. are you sure.?” Yuelei stammered.
Without waiting for a reply, Gallienoir swooped down and seized Yuelei in her talons and placed her onto a branch.
Now child, this one shall demonstrate the art of the hunt. Watch closely. In a flurry of wingbeats, she soared off and hovered in the sky. After a few minutes where Yuelei watched her, she suddenly vanished and a loud impact was heard from far away. Straining her eyes, she noticed that Gallienoir had, with a single strike, pierced a large rabbit-like creature through the head with her talons, silencing it before it even had a chance to feel pain or cry out.
Yuelei had never seen a creature killed this way. It was done with an elegance and fury that couldn’t be done by humans. Gallienoir picked up the rabbit with one of her legs and flew towards Yuelei, picking her up with her other leg.
This should be good enough for tonight, she stated.
“But it’s still daytime…. shouldn’t we gather more Taw Berries?” Yuelei protested. Gallienoir shook her head.
This one and the little one can eat this Ghost Hare as is, but she doubts you would like to eat it raw. We shall return early so you can learn to build a fire.
Yuelei nodded in agreement. She looked forward to the idea of having a fire to warm herself with. While she thought about all the things she could do with fire, she missed Gallienoir’s words.
This one also would need to make trips to bring wood up to the nest, and that would be best done in daylight. Not even she dared to linger outside at night here despite living here, when all kinds of strange creatures dwell.
Yuelei paced back and forth in front of the nest entrance. Gallienoir had dropped her and the Ghost Hare corpse off and told her to wait before heading back out. Yuelei had passed the time playing with the little one, but now it was almost dusk with no sign of Gallienoir’s return.
“Little one, where do you think your mother is?” Yuelei asked.
The blue chick stopped poking the corpse and shrugged at Yuelei. Despite being a week old, it seemed to have a fundamental understanding of her words. It jumped onto her shoulder and affectionately rubbed against her cheek.
A cracking noise signaled Gallienoir’s return. After throwing the bundle of wood and a small sack into the shelter, she slipped in and sealed the chamber shut.
This one brought gifts. These are my gifts to you to commemorate your meeting with the little one. Gallienoir placed the well-worned parcel into her hands. Yuelei could barely make out a faded picture of a lotus in the front.
“Gallienoir, what is this symbol?”
That symbol belonged to the human who was my mother’s partner. Her merchant clan’s symbol was a blue wisteria.
Yuelei poured the contents onto the ground for all to see. A pair of silk gloves, a ring, an anklet, and finally a dagger fell onto the floor with a clang. Despite the centuries that had passed, they were still in good condition.
Yuelei inspected the ornate accessories. “These things are really well-crafted, it’s something that a princess would have worn”
In fact, they were worn by a princess. Gallienoir confirmed. Yuelei waited for more but Gallienoir changed the topic.
They are all enchanted. Child of twelve winters, you’re not yet ready for them, so treasure them dearly until the time comes.
Yuelei nodded, realizing that they were very important heirlooms from a different era. She carefully packed each item into her storage chest.
Keep the dagger child, you will be needing it.
“Alright.” when she returned, Gallienoir had dragged the Ghost Hare carcass over. The little one perched itself onto her head and they made a strange comparison.
Now child, take the knife and make a cut here. She pointed at the hare’s breast. Then slice downwards.
Yuelei was squeamish about being a butcher, too used to having finished dishes in front of her. But she bit down her stomach and did as instructed, blood soaking onto her hands.
Good, you’ve seen this done before, haven’t you? Gallienoir commented as she continued to direct her in removing the skin.
“I’ve seen Jomin do it a few times when he took us outside,” Yuelei replied.
Gallienoir made no comment and continued to instruct her in removing the organs and placing them into a pile. Just as she was about to toss away the liver…
Wait. Keep the liver and split it into three portions. Take one of those pieces and mince it.
Yuelei did as commanded. When she finished, Gallienoir signaled to the little one and they came forward. Gallienoir snapped up one piece and the little one slowly consumed the minced ones.
Eat the last piece child. Gallienoir’s jade eyes bore into hers.
“But… is it okay to eat it raw?”
Yuelei held back her protest and grudgingly pinched the dark red piece of raw liver between her fingers. It was slimy, covered in blood and did not seem appetizing at all. Under Gallienoir’s cold gaze, she unwillingly tossed it into her mouth. As she was about to swallow it whole just to get it over with,
Chew. Gallienoir commanded.
Figuring it was no use to argue, Yuelei bit down. The first bite tasted like coagulated blood, but after a few more bites, the taste turned sweet and tangy. Gallienoir seemed to smile knowingly at Yuelei’s change of expression.
“That was… really good.” Yuelei admitted. She also felt more awake and energized than before.
Livers from any fresh kills, especially magical beasts, are highly nutritious and they’re an important method of staying healthy here in the Whitefrost Mountains.
Yuelei nodded and decided she would listen to Gallienoir without question from then on.
Good, now this one shall teach you how to make fire.
“Can’t you teach me to use magic?” Yuelei asked. “Then I can just conjure fire.”
Gallienoir shuffled her wings. This one can indeed teach you how to use magic. But in the case where you shouldn’t or couldn’t use magic, how would you survive the cold?
“What do you mean couldn’t or shouldn’t use magic?” Yuelei questioned.
Gallienoir sighed. Child, you do realize that using magic uses your soul power, correct?
After you use magic, bits of it will linger in the area before diffusing away. That sort of situation would allow someone, or something, to track you. It may not be important back in the human lands, but do not forget we reside in a land of powerful magical beasts.
“So that’s how it is…..” Yuelei said no more as Gallienoir taught how to create a fire using friction. After several failed attempts and half an hour of frustration, a small flame grew to illuminate the chamber.
Yuelei roasted the hare whole while Gallienoir froze up the messy carcass bits and blew them out of the nest. Before long, a pleasant smell wafted throughout the chamber. The little phoenix started to skitter around the fire in anticipation.
“Be patient now, it’ll be ready soon,” Yuelei gulped. The meat had a large layer of fat that sizzled and gave the meat a rich brown sheen.
It should be ready now child, Gallienoir judged. Carefully take it off the fire now.
“Woah-” As soon as Yuelei took the skewer off the fire, the area was blanketed with steam. She placed the hare down and Gallienoir took over, who split the hare into three pieces. Gallienoir had half of the hare, Yuelei a third, and the rest went to the little one.
“I’ve never had hare this good before back home...” Yuelei mumbled as she took her first bite. The taste almost brought tears to her eyes. The little one twittered in appreciation as well as they shared the feeling of warm food while the bitter cold winds howled outside.
Gallienoir stared contently at the two young ones eating for a moment before joining them.
A few days quickly passed by as Gallienoir introduced the various types of plants and herbs fit for consumption to Yuelei, as well as the various ways to preserve food for the upcoming winter. One night after a meal of stewed boar meat, Yuelei finally asked the question.
“Gallienoir, when are you going to teach me how to hunt? I may not be able to catch large beasts like the Blue-bodied Tuskhog you caught today… but I should be able to catch a Ghost Hare or Crest Ferret.”
Gallienoir looked over at Yuelei from across the fire. Perhaps it is time then. Sit in front of me, child.
“Are you going to teach me to shoot a bow or set traps?” Yuelei eagerly asked.
Gallienoir laughed. In the Whitefrost Mountains where most creatures blend with the snow, how would you even manage to land a shot? Any traps set would eventually be covered, or if they do manage to trap a small animal, something else would just claim your prize. Do not underestimate magical creatures, child.
“So you’re going to teach me to use magic then?” Yuelei’s eyes were glinting.
Yes child. However, what this one is going to teach you is likely vastly different from what you would have been taught by someone of this era. The magic this one knows is…. primal and volatile when compared to what you have been taught.
“What do you mean?” Yuelei did not quite comprehend the differences.
Perhaps it would be simpler to demonstrate. This is a Primal Ice Bolt.
Gallienoir turned to face the entrance and opened her beak. The air seemed to grow colder as a shimmering ball of ice formed at her mouth. Yuelei turned around to witness the ice wall shrunk in size before it vanished and the cold air blew in and extinguished the fire. The orb shimmered and cackled as Gallienoir shot it out the door. As it flew past, for a moment Yuelei felt as cold as when she was buried under the snow. A few seconds later, a large crack was heard in the distance as the ice bolt hit something.
“What, what was that?”
From what you have told this one, human magic involves infusing elements with soul power to control them. Primal magic does not seek to shape the elements, instead it compresses it to shape it. One must maintain control over the spell until the very moment it is released. Gallienoir gestured towards the entrance. Go see the results for yourself.
Yuelei peered outside in the distance. She held a hand over her eyes and saw the results of Gallienoir’s magic. A large crater had been carved out in the side of the nearby peak. When he returned to Gallienoir, awestruck by it’s destructive power, the ice wall reformed behind her.
Primal magic is only limited by how well one can control the elements. If one attempts to control and compress more of an element than they can handle… it wouldn’t be surprising if the spell explodes.
Yuelei gulped. The prospect of a spell backfiring can easily kill the caster.
However, with this sort of magic, one can also imbue their spirit power into the elements for extended periods of time. That Ice Wall behind you will reform itself as many times as possible as long as this one has the power to do so.
“That sort of magic seems really strange,” Yuelei commented. It acted different compared to what Jomin had told her. “It makes the magic feel more…. alive?”
Magic in a sense, is a living thing child. It is the will of the caster made manifest. It appears that modern mages have made spells in a way that they would not be potentially dangerous to the caster, but this one does not agree.
Gallienoir shrugged. One day you will understand child. This one will guide you. First off, you must have a sense of your soul power, as well as others. This is the first step to knowing your limits with primal magic, as well as your first hunting lesson. Close your eyes.
Yuelei did as bid. “Now what?”
Concentrate your mind and will and gaze into yourself. Open your eyes when you can see the soul power with your mind’s eye.
Yuelei’s eyebrows crinkled as she concentrated. A minute passed, then two, and thirty minutes passed in silence. The little one looked as Yuelei sat in silence while Gallienoir circled round her.
Just as Yuelei was about to give up, she noticed a faint blue light on the edge of her vision. Concentrating on it, she saw a radiant blue orb, with wisp fire surrounding it slowly around her. She turned her head to follow it as it slowly lost color and escaped her vision. Opening her eyes, she stood into the eyes of Gallienoir’s.
This one did not think you would be able to see it on your first try. Gallienoir praised.
“What was that orb?” Yuelei asked.
We call it the Aeht, the source of soul power for a being. This one was constantly releasing soul power in the hopes that you would manage to at least catch a glimpse, but it seems you have some talent for this. At this Yuelei smiled, Airen was usually the one with talent while she had to practice all the time. Every night from now on, we shall repeat this exercise to train your ability to peer at the Aeht of individuals without them releasing their soul power, Gallienoir paused for a moment. And when you catch a glimpse of your own Aeht, then we can begin your magic lessons.
“Does everyone have an Aeht?” Yuelei asked.
No child, only mages and some magical beasts.
“What does my Aeht look like?”
You’ll see if you practice with diligence. Now go to bed child, tomorrow we head out early.
Yuelei wrapped herself up in the furskins torn from various animals. Seeing her actions, the little one also jumped in between the covers. The warmth gently lulled her to sleep.
“Gali?” she mumbled sleepily.
What is it?
“Can you also teach me how to use weapon arts?”
Child. Weapon arts are the same thing as using magic.
“Oh.” and she nodded off.
Gallienoir extinguished the fire and made herself comfortable.
Gali…. is it? Such impudence… she chuckled.
“Gali, how is it you can speak to my mind? Is it magic?” Yuelei asked. They were taking a break from foraging and were enjoying a light lunch of flower roots on the branches of some trees. The taste was gritty but had a natural sweetness to them.
Of some sort. This one does not know how to explain it to you, as it comes naturally.
“I see….. is it possible for me to learn it?”
Possibly. In time your bond with the little one would strengthen and she would be able to explain it to you better.
“Is she also going to speak using her mind?”
This one knows not. Mostly likely it is the case, but this one would not be surprised if you grow accustomed to a phoenix’s voice and not suffer the consequences.
“What does your voice even do?”
Perhaps you should experience it for yourself. Gallienoir sidestepped over to where Yuelei was. Before Yuelei could respond she had placed her beak next to her ear and let out a tiny chirp. Suddenly Yuelei’s mind blanked and she felt vertigo pulling at her. Before she lost her balance, Gallienoir steadied her with one of her wings.
“That… was strange. There was a loud ringing and.. I saw white nothingness for a moment”
That isn’t all. Use your mind’s eye to see if you can detect my Aeht.
Yuelei shut her eyes and focused, instead of seeing colors dancing beyond her vision, everything was a pitch black darkness.
“…. I can’t see it.”
A phoenix’s voice also disrupts an individual’s soul power. It affects each creature differently, but for humans… it usually stops them from casting spells for a few minutes.
“That sounds really… dangerous.”
It was only a drop in the pond, little Yuelei.
“How come the little one’s voice doesn’t have the same impact as yours? Is it something that grows in strength as one ages?”
No… it is also strange for this one to witness. By all means age does not matter, yet the little one’s voice doesn’t seem to affect you.
“Does it affect you?” Yuelei asked..
Gallienoir turned away and made no response. After a few minutes she took off to scout the next area. They had to avoid powerful magical beasts because of Yuelei, and she would sit alone on the trees waiting. She had thought she was a burden at first, but after seeing Gallienoir skillfully hunt alone, she realized that she had invested a majority of the day guiding and teaching Yuelei.
Come child. Gallienoir’s voice roused her from her thoughts. Something is off today, we will return early.
Yuelei opened her mouth to ask questions but one glance from Gallienoir was enough to silence her. She held out her arm and Gallienoir lifted her by the wrist and flew off. Upon returning to the nest, Gallienoir quickly head out to catch dinner and Yuelei was left alone with the little one. As she sorted through the day’s harvest of roots and the occasional berries, the little one perched itself on her shoulder.
“Here you go” Yuelei held out a small Taw Berry between her fingers. The little one delicately grasped it with her beak before swallowing it whole. After it finished, it started rubbing its head against her cheek again.
“You know… Gali wants me to name you.” Yuelei started. “But I’m not really confident in giving you a worthy name… I mean you are going to live for a few centuries right?”
The little one nodded.
“I’ve wondered this for a while, but you understand my words right?”
“Is there a name you wanted to be called by?”
The small phoenix nodded its head. It opened its beak and made a few chirps.
“I don’t get it...”
She means Liur. Yuelei turned around to see Gallienoir drag in a corpse of a panther magical beast. There was a claw gash on the side of her flank.
“You’re hurt!” Yuelei rushed over and inspected the wound, it seemed like it had been treated already as it was not bleeding and was scaring over.
There wasn’t any small game, it seems they had all went into hiding. Gallienoir explained. Watch out for the claws, they have a poison on them.
“You were poisoned?”
This one already froze the poison and removed it. There is no need for worry. Gallienoir sat down in front of Liur. What’s the second part child?
Liur shook her head and looked at Yuelei.
It seems that Liur wants you to decide.
“There’s a second part of the name?”
Gallienoir nods. Every phoenix has two parts to their name, this one’s is Galee, and Lenoir. Liur in our tongue means falling snow. Both birds looked at Yuelei expectantly.
Yuelei awkwardly fumbled around, trying to think of words, but nothing came to mind. She turned her gaze away and stared into the cavern walls. In the corner of her eye, a remote feather was gently falling, reminding her of the time she went to see blossoms blooming with Airen.
“Petals..” Yuelei mumbled.
Alia. Gallienoir mumbled. Liuralia. Falling Snow Petals. Not bad,
The little one, christened Liuralia, nodded and hopped around in glee.
Returning from the path of memories, Yuelei felt embarrassed at her words.
Perhaps taking down that Glimstalker was a good idea after all. Come Yuelei, this one shall teach you how to prepare a roast pit for a large beast.
They feasted in celebration that night.