In the morning light Korr’s form created a dark void in the snow. He slept without need for covering, and in the morning the light dusting of freshly fallen snowflakes created an imprint in the snow where he had lain. Ulfridda was awake early, as she always was, and stoked the flame with a slow waving of her fingers. Koda’s Breath watched as she made slow rolling movements, deep in thought. He cleared his breath, and her motion stopped.
“Good morning Ulfridda”
“Good morning apprentice. Our ward has not awoken, but teenagers have a tendency to oversleep.”
“Did you get much sleep?”
Ulfridda smiled. “I rarely do. In my old age sleep has called for me less and less. It is a blessing, and a curse.”
“Because your mind is unquiet”
“My mind is always unquiet kodan. I have never mastered the peace your kind possesses. Old as I am, impatient I have always been”
“Shall we wake Korr?”
“Let him sleep. He is still upset with me for killing those rabbits yesterday. He was talking about it in his sleep too” Ulfridda turned her face to the slumbering giant. “He was crying”
Koda’s Breath also regarded the giant youth. “How could one like him survive amongst the jotun?”
Ulfridda shrugged and stared into the flame again. “I suspect his mother probably kept him largely hidden. The jotun are bullies, and despite their glorious past, their brutish nature has always made them so. Never expect the jotun to ask for something if he has the option to demand it. Giants are entirely the opposite. Pacifists, unless threatened. Aggressive giants are usually so due to mistreatment or enchantment. Korr could spend his life as a peaceful guardian of nature, or as a powerful force of destruction depending on who guides him.”
“And which do you intend for him?” Koda’s Breath asked. Ulfridda stayed quiet for many minutes.
“Neither, I think. The former is useless to us, and the latter tempting, but it would be the wrong thing to do. Let’s let him decide his own path. Blast!” She swore as the tree overhead rained snow down, its branches not able to take the weight, stifling the fire. She clicker her fingers, and the fire hissed to life.
They sat in silence for many minutes, before Ulfridda spoke.
“Go wake Korr, Koda’s Breath. We need to get moving.” She stood, and began unpitching her tent. Koda’s Breath walked over to the sleeping giant and called his name.
“Korr, get up, dawn calls.”
Korr stirred, and sat up. Rubbing his eye, he yawned loudly and dusted off the snow from his huge body.
“We have far to go today Korr. Can I get you anything?”
“How do you get up so early?” Korr asked, and Koda’s Breath smiled.
“With practice. We have some food ready if you’d like?”
“Thank you. No meat!” he called after Koda’s Breath.
“Yes, we got the message after the rabbits. Ulfridda steamed some cabbages” Koda’s Breath called back. He turned, as the giant began to stand. Suddenly, his enormous feet slipped out from underneath him, and he fell sideways onto the hard ground. The resounding thud echoed through the trees and rattled Koda’s Breath’s teeth together.
“Blast! What’s going on?” Ulfridda called from behind the tents.
“Are you alright Korr?” Koda’s Breath yelled, and Korr answered.
“I’m alright! I broke a tree though” he said sadly.
Koda’s Breath breathed a sigh of relief, but it was cut short when a rumble in the distance grew steadily louder. He looked towards the peak of the nearby mountain and a cascade of snow was rushing down at a terrifying speed.
“AVALANCHE!” he screamed.
Korr stood and hurled himself towards the tents, and Koda’s Breath reached for his hammer and pack. Suddenly the area grew hot, and Ulfridda appeared from inside her tent, weapons in hand, fire swirling around her wrists like angry snakes.
“Get behind me!” Korr and Koda’s Breath scrambled to get behind her as the snow had reached halfway down the mountainside. Ulfridda spoke with haste, never taking her eyes from the oncoming avalanche.
“This is how it’s going to work. Koda’s Breath, create a wall of ice in front of us when I say. Then, create a frozen shield after I’ve melted some of the avalanche together with your wall. Korr, stay put and if I say so, grab both of us and hold us above your head. Do we all undertsand?” the avalance had nearly reached them.
“Now apprentice!” Koda’s Breath raised Icebreaker high, and in fornt of them formed a wall of ice. Ulfridda called on flame, and the area around them exploded in a ring of lava-hot fire. The avalanche reached the wall of ice, and in a moment, Ulfridda created a cone of flame towards the area. The oncoming snow melted and solidified in one moment, and the oncoming snow shot over the ice ridge into the air above them. Koda’s Breath concentrated again, and a giant frozen shield appeared, and they were immediately engulfed by the now falling snow. Ulfridda directed her cone of flames around, melting the snow into ice. After a few moments, she was satisfied, and the frozen shield held. The area had grown dark, but the inside of this ice cave reminded Koda’s Breath of home. The twinkling ice was a reminder of the Spear, and once the rumbling stopped, he breathed a sigh of relief.
“We can’t stay in here long” he said to Ulfridda.
“I can cleanse the air periodically, but it won’t last very long. Are you alright Korr?”
“I’m fine.” The giant put on a brave face but his eyes bespoke the truth. “Are you angry at me?”
“It was an accident” Koda’s Breath answered, and Ulfridda smirked.
“Perhaps you can help him with his balance kodan” Koda’s Breath did not miss her sarcasm.
“Lets get out of here” Koda’s Breath said. “Korr, can you break through at the top?”
“I can try” Korr stood up. He crouched down, and slammed his fist into the ice shield. After a few beatings it cracked, and a small piece broke off.
“That’s enough” Ulfridda stopped him. In a moment, her body turned to mist, and she rose up and out of the hole in the roof.
“Stand near the edge!” She called down to them. Koda’s Breath walked over to the edge while Korr was trying to fit himself into the space. A larger chunk fell through, and then Ulfridda released a wave of air into the bubble, lifting them into the air and out onto the snow.
The cart and their supplies had been buried in the snow, and they walked in the cold for a while towards Toran Hollow. They hadn’t travelled far when Koda’s Breath realised that Korr had stopped walking.
“Korr, why have you stopped?” He called back to the giant.
“I can hear something” he answered simply.
Koda’s Breath walked back to where the giant was standing. They stood still a while, until Koda’s Breath heard a mewling noise. He dug into the snow, and pulled out a snow leopard cub.
“Why have you two stopped—oh” Ulfridda asked them when she reached them.
“I found this” Korr said.
“I think its parents may have been killed by the avalanche” Koda’s Breath said in a low voice.
“Did I do that?” Korr asked.
“Yes” Ulfridda answered softly. Korr began to cry, and Koda’s Breath patted his back.
Korr’s eyes hardened with resolve. “Then I will look after her.”
Ulfridda winced. “Korr, you can’t bear to kill a rabbit, how will you feed—“
“You kill them please” Korr replied. “And I will give them to her”
Koda’s Breath smiled. Ulfridda sighed and nodded her approval. The snow leopard cub curled up in Korr’s hand, and began purring because of Korr’s warmth.
“What is her name?” Koda’s Breath asked.
“She is so small. I’ll call her Ounce” Korr answered.
“Ounce, then” Ulfridda motioned towards the pass ahead. “Lornar’s Pass is through there. I need to stop at Bear’s Shrine before we go. Wait over there and we will go when I’m ready.”