Frost, Fire, and Feathers

What if all girls had fire powers and all boys had cold powers?

*  *  12  *  *

Vesta watched callously as the frost giant stumbled up the hill. She shook her head at him, snapping her beak in frustration. She was quite sure that the giant found the situation just as unpleasant as she did, but unlike her, he could not possibly remember a time before.

With a huff, Vesta spread her wings and floated gracefully out of the tree.

The frost giant collapsed in front of her and lay there for several minutes trying to catch his breath. “How the hell,” he panted, “did you get up here so quick?” The giant’s voice was deep and seemed to echo around his enormous throat a few times before leaving his mouth.

Vesta snapped her beak at him and raised a single wing.

“Right,” said the giant. “Boy I wish I could get me some of those.”

Vesta rolled her eyes, turned her back on the giant, and returned to the tree.

“What’d I say?”

She began to clean her feathers as though she was completely unaware that the giant was still there. She assumed that he was doing some kind of groveling gestures behind her, but she refused to reward his idiocy with any kind of attention. A sudden gust of cold wind, however, forced her to change her mind.

“Come on, Vesta,” said a male voice pitched significantly higher. “Just ignore that halfwit and come talk to me.”

With a sigh, Vesta turned her head to find a man standing in the frost giant’s place. He couldn’t have come up to the giant’s knee, but something about the way he carried himself made him a much more commanding presence. Something deep inside her tugged in his direction. Normally, she would have avoided such a feeling, but she couldn’t afford to today. She lifted out of the tree and landed next to the man.

The two stared at each other in silence for a long while before Vesta crossed her wings in front of herself and allowed flames to envelop her body. When they passed, she was no longer a graceful and powerful phoenix, but a mere human woman.

“That’s better,” said the man.

“I’m sorry,” said Vesta. “She’s so arrogant, it’s really hard to keep her focused on what I want.”

“Well thank Inanna for survival instincts.”

“Are you ready?” she asked.

The man smiled. “Whenever you are.”

Vesta took a deep breath and nodded.

“I love you,” the man whispered.

“I love you, too,” she replied.

Another cold burst of wind announced the return of the frost giant who, with an ice-encased fist, pounded the ground at the base of the tree until a small crack appeared. In a flash of flame, Vesta returned to her phoenix form and hopped over to the crack. She plucked a feather from her tail and placed it in the crack, looking briefly back at the frost giant to see human emotions leaking through. A single tear had formed at the corner of his eye.

Vesta’s human half begged her to return the sentiment, but the phoenix simply scoffed as she raised her head high, spread her wings, and burst into flames.

As Vesta’s ashes fell toward the crack in the ground, the giant let out a blast of icy breath that froze the very air into the form of two blocks of ice. In his hands, he willed an ice-pick into existence and slowly chiseled away at the two blocks until standing before him were ice sculptures of two children: a boy and a girl.

As the giant wiped his brow, the ashes inside the sculptures began to glow. The light spread until it filled the children completely and the giant had to look away. When he returned his gaze to his creations, the giant beamed at his handiwork, now flesh and blood standing before him.

The girl looked down at her hands in disgust before being enveloped in flames. A phoenix burst from the flames leaving nothing behind but the vague scent of brimstone.

“Goodbye, Vesta,” the giant sighed as the bird flew off into the sunset. Smiling, he reached down and picked up the boy, who still seemed to be getting his bearings. “Come on, son,” said the frost giant. “Let’s go home.”


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