Taelia's Pride: The Beginning - Part Five
Alzyia woke with a faint sense of dread, although she could not immediately understand why. As she sat in the kitchen and had a small breakfast of toast and beans, she looked out the window. The scene was much the same as last night, although Mika was shaking out a mat outside of her house and smoke was filtering out of Donny’s chimney. A few stragglers had already wandered by and read the sign posted by Taelia, announcing that quests would return in two days. Alzyia watched for a long moment before getting out a book to study.
Snow and ice were both frozen water, but what most people didn’t realize was that snow was actually the same thing as ice. The particles of water that froze together were much smaller than the ice people were used to seeing, like ice cubes or even larger, frozen ponds and lakes. If Taelia was the Snow Faerie, did that mean she was actually a Water Faerie who preferred colder temperatures? Alzyia had never thought to ask.
There was a lot more to magic than just practice, as she’d found out. Proper magical theory involved all sorts of complicated mathematical equations, and Allie had had to continue reading books about math as well as books about magic. She’d never known how much work it entailed.
Sometime in the afternoon, there was a loud bang and the door burst open. Alzyia jumped and looked up, startled, and then shrank down. Azar the Fire Faerie strode into the igloo, ignoring the open door behind her. “Taelia! I need you!”
Alzyia swallowed, plucked up her courage, and said in the most even tone of voice she could muster, “Taelia left for Faerie City and should be back tomorrow.”
Azar whirled around and glared at Alzyia. “You! You’re still here after all this time?”
Alzyia didn’t know what to say, so she shrugged.
“What are you doing here?” Azar demanded. Alzyia sensed that the Fire Faerie was angry, though she couldn’t understand why.
“I’m just watching over things,” Alzyia explained reluctantly. “While she’s gone.”
“That’s preposterous,” Azar scoffed.
Something nudged at the back of Allie’s brain, and she suddenly said, “Azar.”
“What? What do you want?” the Faerie snarled.
Alzyia swallowed once before continuing, “You told me when I first came here that I had to use my ears.”
Azar scowled at her. “Yes. I recall.”
Alzyia hesitated, but at a look from Azar, continued quickly. “Well, I heard my family. I still do, sometimes. And I was wondering... Why?”
Azar sighed and rolled her eyes. “You’re pretty stupid,” she said flatly. “When Taelia blessed you with her magic, a lot of changes happened to you.”
Alzyia was quiet for a moment. “So you mean, my ears were changed?”
“I mean, you are now able to hear things that you might not have been able to before,” Azar snapped.
Alzyia considered this. “But how can I hear my parents? They’re gone.” She looked at Azar, who stared back at her expressionlessly. “...Aren’t they?”
Azar didn’t answer. She walked into the kitchen and began opening cabinets, collecting ingredients. Alzyia stood and approached as she saw the Fire Faerie enter the adjoining room, where Taelia stored the items she got from quests.
“Azar, I have another question.”
“Stop bothering me,” came the Faerie’s aggravated reply.
“I can usually only hear my parents when I’m falling asleep or just waking up,” Alzyia said thoughtfully as she stood in the kitchen. “Not usually at any other time. Why?”
“Look, I’m not an expert on communicating with spirits,” Azar said shortly as she emerged from the room clutching a few items. Alzyia was able to make out a book and a frosted glass jar. “I have a few spells to do, so if you’ll excuse me—”
“What spells?” Alzyia asked suddenly. “Taelia didn’t tell me that any spells had to be done.”
“What would you know about it?” Azar glared sourly at Alzyia.
“Well, I know that the Faeries stationed in various places help protect the people there. And Taelia has to watch the weather here carefully, to make sure that the people here are safe.”
“Right. Did Taelia also tell you that I’m one of the faeries who was stationed here?” Azar asked sarcastically. At Allie’s shocked silence, she smiled tightly. “Tell Taelia I said thanks for letting me borrow these.” Then with a dramatic sweeping movement, Azar was gone. The door banged shut behind her.
Alzyia sat down on the couch in the sitting room, head spinning with all of the information from her encounter with Azar. Azar had always been an overwhelming individual but Alzyia didn’t even know where to start. She understood now why Azar had always been hanging around and dropping by without warning. She wondered for a moment what responsibilities Azar had here, before shaking her head.
Communicating with spirits was possibly the most unexpected of all the things Azar had said. Alzyia couldn’t immediately understand the concept, and she remained in shocked silence for a few long moments.
After a time, she stood. If she really had this ability, as Azar claimed, then she was hearing the spirits of her parents and brother. If she really had the ability... it was a huge concept for her to wrap her head around, especially after so many months of believing she was completely alone again.
But maybe there would be a book she could read about it. After all, Taelia had amassed a huge number of books, and Allie had been able to read about many other subjects. It was possible that there was a volume that could help her now.
Those that possess this ability may often find it easiest to practice when their awareness is at its lowest, but their consciousness is still active, like the last few moments before sleep, or the first few moments of waking. Allie traced the line of text with her finger, enraptured. Another way to encourage this ability to manifest itself is by entering a trance. Alzyia considered the possibility for a short moment before discarding it. She didn’t want to enter a trance, not when she was supposed to be watching the igloo. Besides which, a trance sounded scary. Anyway, she had already heard her parents’ and brother’s voices speaking to her without the help of a trance or anything like that.
Allie put the book down and thought for a long moment. If she had to let her guard down in order to hear her parents, maybe she should try to relax. A thrill of anticipation raced up her spine as she considered the possibility that she might be able to talk to her family again.
She settled back into the comfortable cushions of the couch. Allie had meditated before, and there were some specific exercises she had done when she was first beginning her studies. These were the ones she now thought of, clearing her mind and concentrating on her breathing. Slower, deeper breaths and a slower heart rate would help her relax. She closed her eyes and exhaled through her nose. She might have felt foolish if she didn’t have the sudden conviction that it was possible. Azar’s answers had made that clear in her mind.
She didn’t know how much time had passed, but her body felt heavy and languid. And then, almost enough to break her spell of relaxation, came her mother’s familiar voice.
Her brother answered her. “She was reading. Maybe she fell asleep.”
Allie laughed shakily, unwilling to open her eyes and break the spell. “Mom? Ryan?” She spoke softly, trying to maintain the feeling of torpor.
Ryan’s voice laughed. “Allie?”
A tingling began at the base of her neck. She tried to ignore it. “Ryan? Are you here?”
Her father’s voice answered this time, sounding faint and far-away. “We’re always here, Allie.”
“We’re always with you,” her mother added.
“Wait, don’t go,” Allie protested. The tingling at the base of her neck was growing stronger.
“Don’t give up,” Ryan said in a soft voice that echoed in her ears.
“Wait!” Alzyia opened her eyes. The entire room was dark, and silence pressed in from all sides.
Allie sighed morosely, gazing around for a long moment and trying to control the steep sense of disappointment she felt. The tingling at the back of her neck continued, and she finally reached back to scratch it. “What?” she asked angrily.
Immediately, a flood of unknown sensations assaulted her, and she had the impression of a thunderous cascade of snow approaching rapidly.
She was stunned into silence once more as the afterimages faded. Then, slowly, she stood and approached the front door. As she stepped outside, the scene seemed to be as picturesque as it was every day. The evening had fallen, and lights from the nearby lodges and houses spilled out of uncovered windows. The natural light of the moon and stars cast a waxy glow over everything.
The gentle snowfall from earlier had ceased altogether. A poignant silence gripped the air. Alzyia cast her sweeping gaze at the nearby buildings, but nothing seemed amiss.
Still, the persistent sense of foreboding gripped her mercilessly, and finally she closed her eyes, thinking hard. Azar had said she wanted to do a spell, but she hadn’t said which spell. If only she had a way of finding out what Azar was up to, or of knowing what was happening right now somewhere in the snow.
Why not? she thought to herself a few moments later. It is Taelia’s blessing, after all. She didn’t know exactly what to do, but if Taelia was able to know what happened while she wasn’t there, then maybe Alzyia would too.
She tried to concentrate, closing her eyes and breathing deeply. Instead of relaxing her mind this time, she focused her thoughts on one idea, seeking out Azar’s turbulent emotions among the snowdrifts of the mountain. She slowly became aware of the piles of snow upon the ground, the banks and drifts that had been shoveled aside throughout the day. Her consciousness identified the rough, jagged rocks beneath all the snow, and then flowed along the weathered granite until the smell of cinnamon filled her senses. Alzyia could not determine what was happening, but she could feel Azar’s light footsteps over the rocks and could sense her bending down to the small fire she’d constructed to burn some herbs. The effort of concentrating became too great then, and Allie’s consciousness was thrust back into her body.
She stumbled and fell, sitting in the snow for a moment while she tried to catch her breath. She didn’t know what exactly Azar was up to, but she felt with certainty that the lack of snowfall was due to her actions. She looked up at the sky as heavy clouds suddenly obscured the moon and stars. The entire night was suddenly overwhelmingly dark, even with the nearby lights of the neighbors.
Allie felt the very air grow rigid and stiff. She gazed at the clouds, dark and thick, and lifted a hand in the air. Ice crystals began to form on her fingers, clinging together in a thin layer along her skin.
A loud cracking distracted her, and she looked up suddenly. The clouds that had gathered were splitting in the center, and snow began falling heavily. This was not the idyllic, gentle snowfall from earlier. As Allie watched, the snowfall grew heavier. Every cloud that lay oppressively over the mountain began dropping its entire burden. The storm that they had all been waiting for finally had arrived.
Allie thought wildly for a moment that perhaps the snow would melt, that it could be transformed into rain. However, she knew it was too cold for that. She watched warily as the snowfall continued, hesitant to return to the igloo. Something still felt wrong.
As she sat in the darkness, she thought about everything she had learned so far. She didn’t know much, but she could do a few useful things. She’d unstopped frozen pipes before, in Donny’s workshop. She’d stopped the snow falling on Tarla’s roof from weighing it down, and she’d summoned water to help Mika clean off one of the rare attic finds. But she’d never done anything big, and she didn’t have enough of an understanding of mathematical theories to do anything really useful. Still, as she thought about it, she suddenly realized that Azar was dropping too much snow on the mountain, and it would be too heavy to stick.
As soon as she came to that conclusion, a great rumble filled the air. Alzyia watched with a sense of dawning horror as the snow loosened and began to slide down the hill. The clouds let up their snowfall, and Allie suspected that wherever Azar was, she hadn’t foreseen this consequence.
Allie took a few shaky steps in the direction of the ski lift as the low rumbling intensified. She felt the ground’s vibrations in the pads of her feet, up through her legs, and within her body. The heavy cover of clouds broke, and the moonlight cast an unearthly glow on the scene.
A huge wall of snow was tumbling down the mountain, picking up speed as it went. Allie only had to do one quick calculation to realize that it would bypass the Ice Caves entirely and fall right onto Happy Valley. She suspected it would not slow down at all.
She felt sick and her knees wobbled dangerously. Taelia would know what to do, and if she were still here she’d probably be able to fix it without a second thought. Allie’s mouth grew dry as she stood frozen for second after second, watching with abject terror.
Something hit her between her shoulder blades and she fell, landing in the snow. She turned to see who had pushed her, but nobody was standing there. Allie’s breathing became ragged as the ground began to shake more roughly. We’re always with you, her mother’s voice repeated softly in her memory.
Allie stood up and squared her shoulders, trying to ignore the nervous sweat on the palms of her hands. Taelia wasn’t here, and nobody else could do anything.
As she walked past the houses and approached the neglected path, heads began popping out of doors as residents finally felt the geological disturbances of the avalanche. Allie ignored them, concentrating all of her energy on the wall of snow that was approaching.
She found an open spot beyond the cabins and lodges and igloos, letting all of the agitation and bustle behind her fall away. She focused her energy on the approaching snow, willing herself with every breath to connect with the rough bedrock of the mountain and the thunderous roll of the approaching disaster.
We’re always here. We’re always with you. Don’t give up. Allie took a deep breath, thought of her family one last time, and closed her eyes.
Emotions bled into her mind as she concentrated, and instead of trying to separate herself from them, she embraced them. The cold, icy determination that accompanied snow. The inevitability of the snowfall. The energy imbuing each particle of frozen water, driven as though heated into agitation to fall from the sky. The force accelerating the avalanche. Alzyia opened herself up to the unique feeling of each crushed snowflake, the lost feeling of lying at rest and the new feeling of dropping out of the sky faster than had been intended.
In a matter of a few seconds it was over. Alzyia embraced the snow one final time, tasting the thoughts of each individual ice crystal, before concentrating on the edge of the mountain. The avalanche followed her consciousness to the gentle slope and slid down harmlessly, coating the side of the mountain with a thick layer of snow.
Allie came back to herself gradually, hardly aware of her body anymore and feeling as though she had left a part of herself behind in the snowbank. She took a few shaky steps back toward the igloo before she sunk into a deep, blissful oblivion.
* * *
The first thing Allie became aware of was not her mother’s voice, or her brother’s laughter, but of a cool touch at her cheek. She slowly opened her eyes and found herself lying on Taelia’s couch, under a soft blanket.
“Sorry,” she said automatically, closing her eyes as a wave of worry washed over her. “There was an avalanche, and Azar came to take some spell components and wanted me to tell you—oh—thanks for them, I think...” She trailed off as Taelia gently shushed her.
“I know. Tarla had you in her lodge until I returned.” Taelia looked away for a moment before smiling ruefully. “I should have told Azar I was leaving. She tried to bring the snowfall early, that’s all.”
Allie didn’t move, thinking slowly. “So is everyone fine?”
“Now they are,” Taelia said with a smile. “Azar couldn’t stop the avalanche. I’m proud of you, Allie. I knew you could take care of anything if I had to go.”
Allie flushed and shook her head. “I thought I couldn’t do it,” she confessed.
“Well, you were pretty worn out,” Taelia admitted. “But Tarla is very smart, and between her efforts and mine I think you’ll be fine.”
“Did you feed me a healing potion again?” Allie asked, unable to contain her curiosity.
“A little,” Taelia chuckled. “And also some noodle soup.”
“Oh.” Allie relaxed against Taelia. That’s why she felt better. Then a sudden thought occurred to her. “Taelia, about Azar,” Allie began.
“Azar is going to be relocated,” Taelia said softly. “Terror Mountain just wasn’t a good fit for her.”
“Oh.” Allie thought for a moment. “Well, it’s not about that. It’s just, she said I could communicate with spirits. And that’s why I’ve been hearing my family, ever since you enchanted me.” She hesitated again. “And I think she’s right, because I heard them again.”
Taelia smiled wistfully. “That’s something I don’t know much about,” she said with a nod.
Allie was quiet for a moment. “So what now?”
“Now I think you’ve earned a break,” Taelia said with a smile. “And then... I think it will be time to think about continuing your training.”
Allie smiled and nodded. After a few moments, the young Aisha had drifted off to sleep again.
Taelia stood to go, but hesitated for a moment. Before she went, she bent over the sleeping Aisha and pressed her hand against her forehead. As she left the room, the symbol of the Snow Faerie glowed gently in the dark of the room. Allie would proudly wear the symbol for years to come as an emblem of her loyalty.