At The Northern Fort / At the Northern Fort Chapter 20
As they walked through the forest at the base of the mountain, the storm grew stronger and stronger the closer they got towards the location of the altar. The wind also brought with it a white-out, leaving them only able to see a few feet ahead. If not for sticking close while on horseback, they would have lost sight of each other. The Knights could only hear the frenzied screams of the wind and their bodies growing cold due to the sheer amount of snow that plastered their coats. Even with them covered head to toe in fur, they could feel the piercing cold.
Their only blessing was that this forest had trees that grew densely together, weathering the full brunt of the storm’s fury. However, it was a double-sided sword. The trees were packed with snow, here and there branches would snap; the snow that was held up on it would come crashing down with such force, it could only be compared to dropping a large chunk of iron down. This had more than enough force to take one of the knights’ lives. This meant they had to proceed with even more caution, taxing their strained senses even more.
Grayle wondered how much farther until they reached the altar. He had visited it many times when he patrolled, but the white-out warped his sense of distance. The thought to “turn back” while the horses still had the strength to do so started to nag at his mind. He felt it was dangerous to keep proceeding at this pace. He felt that the scenery was different than he remembered, but with such limited visibility, it was hard to confirm or deny. It was almost certain that they may have taken the wrong way…
Gayle, who was at the front of the back, looked back and could see Knix just behind him while also barely making out the Chief who was behind Knix. He was about to try and speak with the Chief, but almost in an instant, the storm died down unnaturally. Almost all the knights were thrown off balance, as the wind that pushed against them disappeared; Causing them to almost fall off their horses.
“Why did the wind stop?”
“Keep your guards up!”
“We’re already here!”
Calm before the storm. This was the ominous thought that popped into Gayle’s head as the wind died down with a few of the knights shouting in surprise, but Knix’s comment brought his attention ahead of them. Before them, the forest opened up into a clearing with a lone altar sitting alone in the middle. Knix and I dismounted our horses before slowly approaching the altar step by step.
The altar of the Snow Spirit, with just three large pillars, as white as the snow. Ever since the first time he had came to this place, it had been like this. Each pillar reached into the sky with such grandeur, even the snow couldn’t cover them.
“Was the snowstorm really caused by the spirit…?”
Cromwell murmured as he too disembarked his horse. With the storm stopping the moment they reached the altar grounds, it was almost certain that it was the spirit’s power. It was an ominous feeling that welcomed them, their surroundings deathly quiet and the tension gripped all their heart.
“Knix! Come back, don’t go forward by yourself!
Knix, whose curiosity got the better of him, he tried to go towards the altar on his own, was called back by Gayle. He was cautious of the altar, his nervousness was heard as he gulped. Only other sound that could be the soft fall of snowflakes as they touched the ground.
” Will the spirit… Really appear?”
With the question being asked, Gayle was a little skeptical, never once had he met the Snow Spirit but among the villagers, there are only a few who have seen the spirit.
It’s said that the spirit of these mountains had protected this area from people who wished to do harm. Never has there been a conflict here even though it’s right on the border between two nations. There was no way one could send an army through this terrain and even if they tried, the storms would batter them. It would just waste all their energy and resources trying to protect itself from the elements, not leaving room to wage a war.
“Have you ever seen the snow spirit…?”
Cromwell asked Gayle as he gazed at the altar.
Gayle only shook his head towards his question.
“There’s a rumor that the snow spirit of this mountain cares a lot about this country and all though it’s frustrating to do, she would on occasions, give help to the royal family. I myself haven’t seen her in person, but people say that she’s an outrageous beauty, but this is when I was visiting the prince.
Gayle, this time, nodded with a thoughtful expression, thinking upon Cromwell’s words.
“Eh? Chief, You haven’t seen the Snow spirit who is suppose to be that beautiful?
Before Cromwell could answer Knix, who interrupted him, the snow started to stir. As if it was inhaling from the forest, then exhaling towards the altar where the snow on the ground began to rise like a vortex towards the sky and then… the snow fell towards the ground lifelessly and in the center where the vortex had once been, stood a beautiful woman.
Knix and the other knights let out awes of amazement, but Gayle only looked on at the beautiful. He seemed to take the sight of her in. The woman wore clothes that weren’t normally worn in this country and most definitely different from that of nobles.
Pure white with a slightly glossy shine to them with the bust area open, but covering modestly her large chest area with a belt just underneath to keep it together. These clothes she wore made her seem almost godly, however, Grayle was focused on the fur lining around her neck. It was like Mil, pure, fluffy and white. Moving his gaze a little higher, he saw a very feminine face that was small, but not unnatural looking in proportion with her body. Her demeanor was like she was something sculpted out of ice by the finest artisans.
Cromwell had seen the beautiful women in town, although they were annoying to him, he couldn’t help compare them to this woman that appeared out of the snow. This kind of beauty was in a different league. Comparing the girls in town to her seem almost an insult to her beauty, as if there needed a comparison. Their faces would ways be a little red at the nose when you passed them or when they saw someone they liked, their faces would turn a little red, but her…
Her face was white as the skin, but not sickly looking, almost too perfect. It didn’t even look like an ounce of red blood flowed under her skin. Her hair was a glossy whitish-silver color. with each strand of her hair simmered beautifully when it caught the light. Her eyes were a light blue, almost as if they were chiseled from the purest ice.
But that face was stained with rage, but even then, they couldn’t look away. Her beauty was a deadly weapon. She was obviously not human with the way she appeared, but that only meant one thing…
she was the Snow Spirit; Snowlea [*1]
Although Grayle was stunned for a moment, he noticed he forgot to breathe, but looking back, even the others did too from the sudden appearance of such a beautiful woman.
“Hey, breathe guys…”
Though, even with this heads up, everyone still was as unmoving as stone as if their souls were being sucked out.
“Look at her fur collar, do not look at her face!”
With his command, their gazes with much willpower slowly moved towards her neckline and suddenly they all took deep breaths, relief washing over all of them. Grayle looked at the fur neckline, keeping his thoughts on Mil and how she was waiting for them at the fort, trying to calm his heart.
“Are you… Snowlea, the snow spirt?”
Cromwell who was the calmest of all the nights asked her, tension could be heard in his voice.
“… My daughter…”
Snowlea muttered those words, but it was as clear as the sun on a clear day to them, It overpowered everything around them, trembling in their eardrums. Then suddenly, her hands reached out towards Chief Cromwell and before anyone could react, her hands gripped his throat. Her face twisted into an angry snarl.
“My child! What did you do to Milfria!? Where did you take my beloved child!?”
Her eyes wide with trembling rage, but Cromwell was mesmerized by her moving lips, with each move, her sharp fangs could be seen sometimes. The moment her frenzied screams came out, the pressure around all of them began to weigh down on them, making it hard for the knights to breathe, even one tried to step back but fell over. The horses even were startled, trying to flee. Grayle came out of shock and tried piecing together what Snowlea said to try and figure out what was happening. From what little was said, it seemed to him that she was searching for her missing child, He never knew she had one and apparently, neither did Cromwell
“Why did you people come here!? Did you son of a bitches take my Milfria!? What is your purpose!?”
A raged failed wail came from Snowlea who just moments ago, was like a goddess, was now similar to a beast. her teeth bared in a twisted snarl, just waiting to tear out Cromwell’s throat. Out of instinct, Gayle immediately put his hand on the hilt of his sword at his waist but didn’t draw it.
“Please wait, give us a chance to explain ourselves Ms. Snow Spirit! We have only come up the mountain to ask that you stop the blizzard! We are the knights from the fort below tasked with watching over this region! We did not take your child, in fact, we never even knew you had a child!”
“… The Knight’s from the fort…?”
It seemed the words Grayle threw said go through to her as her face seemed to slowly untwist as she calmed herself down, she looked over all the Knights present before decided to believe in Grayle’s statement, releasing Cromwell from her grasp
“It’s obvious you wouldn’t know that a spirit had a child since we fear that if people knew, they would try and take out children. If one were to raise a spirit, they would have access to such mighty powers..”
Snowlea began to talk to herself, but the more she spoke, the more her face began to twist in anger again. If a child of the snow spirit was really taken, this is a disaster in the making! What purpose would someone have in kidnapping her child? The only thoughts he could come up with is to overthrow the royal family or destroy this country. It was also possible that it was for a different reason. Regardless of why, what was important at the moment was that it happened, leaving them having to notify the kingdom immediately, but before anything was done, Grayle calmed his mind before anything. He thought some more and he needed to ask a question that came up.
“But during the storm, it’s been difficult for anyone to reach anywhere, not to mention going up the mountain. I know this may anger you, but… Is it possible your child wandered off from your home?”
Snowlea glared at Grayle after he asked her that question, it was full of anger. He didn’t want to enrage her, but as a rule, he had to ask. It was a possibility that’s why, because people wouldn’t be able to climb the mountain this winter, and even if they tried, they wouldn’t be sane people or alive. Snowlea’s eyes narrowed as she looked at him, but she understood the underlying tones
“Indeed, with the human’s fragile bodies, it would be difficult to climb to the summit where I live, but it isn’t impossible. Over the past several hundred years, there have been many people who climbed my mountain with the vile intent to try and conquer me. Many lost their lives, while others gave up halfway. Those who thought they could endear till the end, I took their lives.”
Snowlea’s words break the tension, but it only made their blood colder than it already was. Although she spoke of people who tried to reach her home with evil intentions, she still spoke of taking lives as if she was talking about the weather. It was a reminder to them that even though she was the most generous and passionate of them, she was still fundamentally different from humans. They all have killed others at one point or another in this line of work, regret was not a feeling they would have, but she was completely indifferent to taking a life.
“So then… It wouldn’t be possible still for a human to steal your child…”
Snowlea had a desperate expression while she chewed anxiously on her lip. It looked like she was almost about to cry…
“O my beloved child is just a baby! How can she go down the mountain with such small lovely paws! Milfria is a cowardly child, I don’t believe she’ll leave the safety of our home on her own! She must be trembling with fear somewhere unknown to her, o my poor child!”
Tears began to flow down both her cheeks, each tear held such beauty that they would not lose to any gem. It was a sorrow of a mother that lost their child and Grayle wanted to desperately help her.
“We will help you look for your child, whatever it takes! So please, stop the snow storm… In this weather, we won’t be able to see little alone search.”
The snow calmed down, for a moment they were even able to see out in the distance, but just as quickly it died down, it rose back up with even more ferocity. Grayle looked at Snowlea with a confused looked.
“I… Can’t… I can’t control my powers right now. When I think of someone possibly having kidnapped my child… My anger will not dissipate, I never intended to harm the villagers below..”
Suddenly, a strong gust of wind erupted around the altar as if responding to Snowlea anger. All of the Knights took a step back while covering their eyes. Grayle sensed that the crisis at hand was going to become much worst. How long would it take to find her child? What did her child even look like? Was the snow storm ever going to stop if they didn’t find the Spirit’s child? In the worst case… What if her child was dead? In that case, would the storm continue forever?
With all these questions running back to back in his head, it was a headache that she couldn’t at the least, calm the storm. They also had to send a messenger to the Capital to inform them of the crisis at hand and request the Kingdom’s army come to help them in searching for her child. On the other hand, they would have to request the aid of the other spirits to help restrain this snow spirit as humans stood no chance against her. Grayle wasn’t familiar with spirits, but he did know that the Fire Spirit resided to the south and was on relatively friendly terms with humans. Maybe he could assist with melting the snow? Grayle hoped that Cromwell would also have some plans going on in his head to help ease the situation, but his expression as just as dire as his.
“Chief, what do you want to do? It doesn’t look like the storm can be stopped anymore, it’s too dangerous to stay here as it is now.”
Knix shouted from behind them impatiently, but it didn’t help the situation at all by telling them something that they were already aware of. Snowlea was crying out her child’s name hysterically while crying, her hands covering her face. Grayle decided that it’d probably be best that they search while making their way back to the fort, but before that, he stepped towards Snowlea. The closer he got, the stronger the wind got. Even someone as heavy as Grayle could be blown away if he got too close.
Cromwell cried out trying to stop him, but his feet kept moving desperately until he was in front of Snowlea before trying to soothe her back to sanity.
“Listen to me Snowlea! Tell me what your child looks like, we can’t find someone who we don’t know what they look like! Are they a boy or a girl? Do they have the same hair as you? What clothes were they wearing, are they still a nursing child?”
Gayle words didn’t continue because Snowlea who was crying had suddenly become silent. Snowlea, who had been crying slowly looked up at Grayle, her eyes glancing from between her fingers. Her eyes had a deathly frost in them making Grayle’s heart stop for a moment from freight.
Her cold white hands stretched out and her thin fingers touched Grayle’s cheek, a sense of slowly being frozen down to the core overcame him. It had only been for a moment, but the part where her finger had touch had been deprived of heat already. Grayle’s mind had warning bells going off, but his body wouldn’t move from its spot.
“Why do you smell like my beloved child..?”
The beautiful snow spirit rose up, her murmuring voice slipped from a face that looked blankly at him before her eyes narrowed with rage and turned into a snarl, her fangs bared openly at him with intense rage.
“What have you done to my child?!”
With all the willpower in him, Grayle reached for his sword and tried to pull it out, his mind screaming to him that if he did not fight back, he would die today. Most humans would not be able to do anything in the face of an angered spirit, but wait for their pending death. Grayle was different though, with all his might, he put his strength into the sword…
All that rage and all that killing intent disappeared as if it was just a lone gust of wind, Snowlea’s eyes were focused on something by Grayle’s feet, only that name escaped her lips.