The wind howled eerily from outside the cave Phos had bundled up and taken shelter in for night. Snow was blown so fiercely, that any person who stepped outside would instantly be disoriented— not only from the lack of vision, but the constant noises from the snowflakes, too. It was extremely dangerous to travel, and Phos only hoped Lilia and his Uncle had already arrived home.
Please don’t be out looking for me. I don’t know what I would do if someone got hurt on my behalf...
He muddled in his own dark thoughts. The gloomy atmosphere of the cave didn’t help his mood, but he knew from experience that feeling sorry for himself wouldn’t fill his belly, or feed his fire. And speaking of fire... He had taken the small branches of a cindersap tree out of his leather pack. They were hardy trees that grew throughout Terra. The thin branches held highly flammable sap within them, and as their name suggested, made perfect kindling.
Collecting some small sized stones, Phos made a small circle to place his precious kindling in. He deftly moved on to adding a palm-sized brick of coldcoal to it from a side compartment in his pack, as well. Phos hadn’t had the chance to scavenge for wood to burn before finding the cave, so coldcoal would have to do.
... It’s expensive, but my life is worth more. I’m sure Uncle would feel the same. He wouldn’t be happy if I came home missing my fingers and toes from frostbite. The snow might be happy, though.
He could hear it faintly giggling, he thought. Was it having fun, being blown around by the gale? Was it like a game to it?
He struck flint and steel to spark his cindersap, and it caught easily with crackling pops. The glow from the fire illuminated the dark confines of his shelter, giving him his first proper view of it. The walls were covered in mossy lichen and tendrils of roots, dirt floor covered with the lightest dusting of frost. The ceiling was higher than he expected, but overall, it was a small cave connected to no network of caverns that he could see.
Or perhaps this was a den... But he saw no signs that it had been inhabited by any creatures. He sighed, curling up into a ball next to his pathetic fire. His long and fluffy hair helped insulate him.
What would Lilia say if she were here?
She’d probably tell him to cheer up. Even in a situation like this, she would be smiling and optimistic, he imagined. The thought warmed him a little, and he started to relax. The firelight danced along the walls, in an almost hypnotic fashion. Phos found his eyes slowly dropping as he dozed off, his body temperature rising pleasantly.
He heard footsteps in the snow.
Phos froze, eyes shooting open, instantly on alert.
The steps crunched through the powered snow. He could tell whatever creature they belonged to was sizeable. And any Grounded that could potentially be skulking outside in this blizzard was not good news.
A werewolf, with their hauntingly intelligent, lupine eyes? But what would they want with a human like him? As far as Phos knew, they didn’t hunt humans. Or perhaps it was an iceborer tiger, with their long canines and serrated claws? His mind raced. He reached for his bow, quiet as a mouse, although he knew the light from his fire would give him away— if his scent already hadn’t. But nonetheless, if this creature meant him harm, then he wouldn’t go down without a fight.
The unknown creature was now closing in on Phos. He pulled his bowstring back, ready to release it at a moments notice if need be. His purple eyes flashed menacingly in the light of his refuge.
Huh? What’s this?
The noises had abruptly stopped, as whatever was moving crashed to the ground outside. Phos paused for a minute, counting his every breath, narrowed eyes and taut body still ready to explode into action in a moments notice.
But the beast did not stir.
He lowered his bow, finally allowing his breathing to return to normal.
Is it dead? No... What even is it?
Was it a goodbeast, a friend of man? It could have meant him no harm. But Phos found that unlikely. The Grounded beings allied with men wouldn’t be out in this damn storm. But still... There was a chance. His brain wanted to step outside and investigate, curiosity piqued. But his body was exhausted, and demanded sleep.
His eyebrows twitched.
I really, really want to... Ahhh, fine!
Phos made up his mind, dropping his bow to his side and clambering out the entrance. Ice and snow immediately assaulted him, whipping his hair along with the wind, leeching the heat from his body. He had no time to waste.
But he didn’t see anything.
“What in Terra... Did it leave? No...” Phos scanned the terrain. “I would’ve heard it. I definitely would have!”
Nothing was remotely out of place, at first glance. But...
Hmm...? I don’t remember that being there before.
There was a large mound of snow, a few meters east to where he sheltered. Phos stepped closer, squinting, his vision obscured. He could barely make it out, but it was there. He reached out, and touched the snow.
But it wasn’t snow. Snow wasn’t hard and scaly.
Phos’s eyes widened.
The “snow” suddenly stood up, flakes cascading off of it like a waterfall. Massive, white bat-like wings flared out, and above him, a pair of desperate, almost feline crimson eyes locked on to his own.
It was a dragon. A Flighted, the mightiest being of Aether. Lord of the Skies, Emperor of the Elements, their list of titles went on.
It shouldn’t be here. Not in Terra. And especially not in the middle of a blizzard.
Phos stepped back, light on his feet and ready to flee. But just as he was about to sprint off, it spoke.
“No, don’t... Help me... Please...”
The dragon wheezed, wobbling on its feet. It’s voice was distinctly feminine, clear and noble. And in pain. She slumped back to the ground.
Phos paused. He could see the white dragoness was covered with bruises and small wounds, and possibly others he couldn’t see.
She must be in a great deal of pain... I think it’s a she, at least. What happened? Why is she here?
He said nothing. But her eyes pleaded to him, and for some reason, Phos felt a foreign sensation in his mind, a twinkling little light.
The dragoness blinked back.
And once again, Phos made his decision.