<continued from Part 1>
And yet, that night the man dreams of massive snow storms, created by clouds of tiny winged creatures full of icy fury. He wakes in the dead of night in a cold sweat. Sleep eludes him, and he rises, exhausted, well before sunrise. He dresses in his warmest clothes, and slips out of the house, careful not to wake his parents.
He heads straight for the land of ice, about a mile north of his house. The moon had set hours ago, and the darkness seems complete beyond his little sphere of light from the oil lantern the man carries.
He arrives at the border of the two lands, and contemplates the writhing wall of mist. His own breath puffs out and drifts to join the white blanket before him. To the east and west, the fog stretches as far as the eye can see. And from this distance, so too it seems does the fog stretch forever upward. As the man stares at the mist in front of him, again, the sensation of motion haunts him, and he rubs his tired eyes to look again. The motion is naught but the mist, driving before lazy air currents that have no rhyme or reason.
The man puts down his lantern, and walks to the very edge of the border. “Please,” he whispers. “I just want to talk to you.” He steps into the mist. Brutal cold assaults his every sense. He doesn’t even feel the hands on his chest at first.
“No!” A deep voice roars, filling his ears.
And suddenly the man is pitched backwards, out of the land of ice.
He struggles to blink the frozen tears from his eyes and see who, or what, pushed him. Though swimming eyes he sees an impossibly tall humanoid. It’s head is bent in contemplation and snow swirls slowly around the stubs of it’s arms, ending just below the elbow. In the infinite slowness of a held breath, the snow coalesces into forearms and hands, which the creature flexes gingerly.
“You. Will. Die.” The creatures voice seems to come from a kilometer away, even though a mere meter separates it from the man.
“Then from here.” The man persists. He finds a rock to rest his back against, and turns back to the mist.
The ice creature hisses in anger, and retreats into the mist. A gesture sends a strand of mist to wind around the oil lantern and evaporate in it’s warmth.
Sighing, the man puts the lantern on the far side of the rock, blocking most of it’s light. “Now will you talk to me?”
The creature on the other side imitates the man’s posture, creating a mound of snow to rest against with a gesture. It sits near enough to the border that the man can make out that the creature is approximately his size now. It speaks with a woman’s voice.
“What would you talk of, creature of the sun?”
“What are you?” the man asks, his curiosity driving his bluntness.
“A snowflake” the creature replies. “or, many of them for the moment.”
“Are you the same one that saved my ewe yesterday?”
“None of the others risk coming this close to the border.” The creature replies by way of answer. “Your pet is remarkably resilient to the cold.”
“The wool is very good for cold insulation.” The man explains. “You can change size, can’t you?” The man asks suddenly.
“Size and shape.” The creature agrees. “I can be the size of a single snowflake, naught but a dancing mote, or the size of a giant, every step an earthquake, and every breath a gale.”
“What’s it like,” the creature asks in turn, “to be warm?”
“Um…” the man stumbles over his explanation. How do you explain to a snowflake how it feels to be warm? “Well, it’s – nice.” He finishes lamely.
The two drift into silent contemplation of each other. “Will you come out of the mist so I can see you?” The man asks finally, his eyes straining not to lose the figure in the swirling whiteness in the pre-dawn light.
“I can’t.” the creature says, almost sadly. “it is too warm beyond the protective barrier of the mist.”
“But it is night time.” The man exclaims. “It’s so cold I can’t feel my fingers or toes.”
The creature shakes its head. “Without the protective barrier of the mist, the blazing heat from the stars would destroy me in a matter of minutes. When the moon is up, I cannot even be this close to the border without risking serious damage.”
“Then I will come to you,” the man begins, starting to stand up.
“You mustn’t,” The creature says quietly. “As your world would destroy me, so my world would destroy you. Besides, creature of the sun, the heat coming from your body would by proximity be as destructive to me as the stars.”
“So there is no way?” cries the man in despair.
“Why does it bother you so?” The creature counters.
“I- I… don’t know.” The man admits, sagging against the rock.
“If you must, journey south and find the magi who created my kind, and our opposites. They may be able to provide you some solution.”
“Wait, humans created you?”
“Go south.” There is urgency in the creature’s voice now. “If there are answers to be found, the magi will have them.” The creature fades back into the mist as the first rays of dawn emerge over the eastern horizon.