Micael Chapter 4
The Fieg snowfields were located just far enough north and in a direct line from the Norn Mountains that they received a bitingly cold wind that perpetuated the formation of snow and ice. Few plants aside from the hearty evergreens lining the barely visible paths could thrive in the valley. As the Jumi trudged through the ankle-deep snow, they mutually decided not to mention the eyes they could swear were on them. Behind the line of trees along the path, a pack of Howlers followed them, too unaccustomed to visitors to know whether or not to approach, but too hungry not to ignore a potential meal. Occasionally, a poorly disguised yelp or whine pealed through the valley.
Micael had been leading the way through the valley, keeping an eye on the cloud cover above them and frequently beckoning his companion to catch up. Esmeralda followed, hugging herself against the almost constant wind.
Slow down, she called impatiently. I seriously doubt that shopkeeper will catch us. Micael stopped, tightening his mouth and waiting for her. If he even cares, she added sharply. I told you, picking a lock wont break it.
Are you sure?
Micael paused, aiming a look of concentration at her. Suddenly, his attention diverted, and he hastily unbuttoned his cloak, swung it around him, and wrapped it around Esmeraldas shoulders. She recoiled at first, but stopped as he clasped the left-hand button onto the right-hand one. He fidgeted with the hood, then decided to leave that up to her. Esmeralda furrowed her brow, tugged a little at the cloak, glanced at the ground, then forced a smile.
He smiled back. Darting his eyes around, he said, keeping his voice low, Maybe wed better stick a little closer together, since...
Yeah, she replied, and proceeded down the path as he ushered her on. The wind picked up a little, and Esmeralda tossed the hood over her head. They could not tell for sure how high the sun was in the sky, but they knew it could not be very late in the morning, for they had barely entered the valley, and had left well before the town of Lumina had awoken.
The snowfields were understandably quiet, as the few animals that populated the area knew that silence was an asset to catching food, or to surviving if something else made a living catching things that made noise. As it was, the wind provided the only reassurance that anything was moving in the area. Had it not been for the ominous presence of something just beyond the trees, the Jumi might have assumed that they were the only things in the valley moving under their own power.
Micael rubbed his hands together and braced his arms, expelling a long breath that quickly condensed before his face and wrapped around his head, exaggerating the cold bite in his ears. Esmeralda did not hear him through her hood and the faint wailing of the wind. The distance between them began to grow slightly, and Micael found that he was slowing down the more they navigated the snowy path. He contemplated running to catch up just as Esmeralda stopped. The path narrowed significantly all at once, and as she finally pushed between the trees closing in on her, the young Jumi spotted something on the edge of the clearing that spread before her.
Esmeralda trotted up to the thing, nearly falling into the deeper snow of the clearing. Micael soon saw what she had found, and joined her as she neared it. It was a statue, gold in color, of a small human. Copious waves of hair surrounded a small headdress that resembled diamond-shaped ears, and the little creature carried a jewel-encrusted staff. Its cloak wrapped around much of the figures body, but could not hide its large, rabbit-like feet. The two Jumi stared at the statue for a while.
What do you think it is? Micael asked.
I dont know, Esmeralda replied distantly, kneeling and carefully studying the detail in the object. Its not quite gold, is it?
I dont think so, he said. Who do you think made it?
Well, I heard that faeries are supposed to live around here, she answered. Maybe they worship this.
Micael folded his arms. Great. Do they hate us, too?
Esmeralda glared at him in rebuke, then stopped and stood up. She listened intently to her surroundings. Do you hear that?
Micael strained his ears. What?
Exactly. I think were finally alone.
He looked back to where they had entered the clearing. Only the wind howled, although it did so markedly more quietly. He looked up to the sky. The clouds slowed down, as if they meant to stop above the pair. Micael cautiously breathed in the atmosphere, noting each detail. Casting a look to the equally perplexed Esmeralda, he nodded towards the statue and proposed:
Do you think its... because of that?
A strong gust of wind punched the two of them head-on. Esmeralda fell onto her back, shielding her face from the sudden torrent of snow. Micael tried to keep his balance, but quickly found himself staggering backwards, flailing helpless arms around himself. Slipping on a patch of frozen turf, he pitched all the further backwards until his companion could no longer see him through the sheets of snow flying at them. All she could tell was that he was still struggling against the weather, grunting sharply as he tried to find stable footing.
In an instant, the ground shook nauseatingly underneath them. With a crunch muffled by the groaning wind, the spot where Micael stood gave way and threw him down the side of a cliff. He bounced limply down the chasm, trying his best to roll with the fall. A cloud of snow and debris followed him down, and it seemed as though every possible inch of him scraped against the hardened side of the cliff before he landed.
All he could tell at first was that he was facing upward. Brushing his face off with a sore right arm, he looked about himself, but found nothing distinguishable in his delirium. Slowly, he tested each one of his limbs. While his left arm was still in pain from yesterdays battle, none of his extremities seemed to be broken, although everything had been sapped a little due to the cold. Rolling onto his stomach, Micael braced his arms against the ground and pushed up, curling his knees underneath him. Although dizzy, he managed to draw one knee up and plant his foot in the snow. Clouds of his own breath wafted around his head; pausing, he looked himself over. He was scraped and bruised fairly well, but no one wound bled enough to worry him. His gaze ran to the area about himself, and he realized that he had landed in a cramped pit, not too deep but lined mostly with steep rock and ice.
And something alive.
It was fairly small, not much larger than his head, but whatever it was, it was floating in the air about three yards right in front of him. Micael froze, straining his eyes to distinguish features on the thing. It bobbed in the air slowly, eerily, and he soon detected a tail dangling underneath it and a pair of angular wings. He might not have seen it at all had it not been for the creatures purely black coloration.
The thing began to move closer to him, and the young Jumi tensed up, unsure of how to react to it. A malicious force would have taken advantage of his weakness after his fall and the shower of snow in the valley, and would have attacked him by now. On the other hand, it may be counting on him thinking just that. As it approached, he noticed a glowing point-- possibly a ball of light of some sort-- on the top of it where a head might be. The creature progressed nearer, and a large eye opened in the middle of its body; Micael jumped backwards. The eye blinked, and the creature stopped moving. Only the glowing orb atop its body moved, pulsating calmly through the shower of snow.
Do not fear me, a voice said. It did not emanate from the creature per se; rather, the very air around it seemed to be speaking. It sounded like a mans voice, but its airy, ethereal quality could not be mimicked by any living being. Micael swallowed, still wondering if he should draw his weapons. He tried to speak:
H... h... how...
Your plight is known, as is your integrity, Micael heard. The exploits of Man and Jumi alike do not escape us, and you, young Jumi, are not beneath our notice. You will not be forgotten by the Spirits.
Again Micael tried to speak. Before he could form a word in his mouth, the creature enveloped itself in a white aura and faded out of sight. Where it once floated, a pair of shining objects fell to the ground, settling in the snow near Micaels foot. Still shaking a little, he leaned forward and examined the trinkets, which were clearly visible even through the flurry about him. They looked like gold coins, but each boasted a large black shape in the middle. Cautiously, Micael picked up one of them and recognized the image of the same creature he had just seen. He retrieved the other coin; they felt warm in his hand, but only because they were less cold than the environment. They had an odd yet interesting air about them that made it hard not to take ones eyes off of them. Micael lethargically pulled himself to his feet; the very effort of shivering was becoming taxing, but he ignored it and commenced examining his surroundings. As he did so, he heard a voice calling his name as if it had already been called several times with no response.
Im down here! he yelled back up, just before realizing that it was probably clear to Esmeralda where he was. Im okay! he added.
The cliffside he had just descended coughed up another mist of freshly fallen snow as the Emerald Jumi slid down it to him. She trudged up to him, tripping and straining her eyes through the piercing weather. When she reached him, he had a bewildered sort of smile plastered across his face, and was staring at something in his hand; she looked him over to reassure herself that he was okay.
Your wrap came off, she said, tossing her hood back and indicating the wound on his left arm. He examined the injury as best as he could while she took his arm and searched about them, then led him to a small cave on the face of the cliff; it was the only visible spot that was not taking in the snowfall.
Sitting him down, she produced the sac of cloth from his belt-- soaked through by the snow-- and untied it as she knelt next to him. Finding the least moist cloth, she tied up his wound, saying nothing as she studied his face. He was still gazing at the objects in his hand, never flinching from his injury, and once she got a chance to look at them herself her throat tightened up and she fell back into a seating position.
Were did you get those? she asked, nearly in a whisper.
This thing found me at the bottom, and told me the Spirits wouldnt forget me. Then it gave me these and disappeared, Micael replied simply.
Esmeralda seized one of the coins and peered at it. Are you kidding me? she asked.
Micael shook his head, still bearing something of a perplexed grin. He looked as if he wanted to speak, but no words came out.
She scanned the trinket again, then looked straight at him. This is a Shade coin, she explained. The Spirits are supposed to give these only to people they favor. His expression was as good as a shrug. Esmeralda continued. Its rare enough to see one of them, let alone get one of these. She held the coin up to him, and her brow furrowed. He had nothing to say. Esmeralda frowned in thought, then snatched the other coin from his hand. You use these to... you can... here; give me your weapons, she ordered. Before he could protest, she brandished both coins and smirked at him. Let me show you what I can do.
Micael drew the sword at his left and handed it to her. She rested the handle in her lap and took the blade in her right hand. Placing one of the coins in her left palm, she pressed it against the sword and quietly began chanting under her breath. Micael could not tell what she was saying, but caught the syllable pu at the end as she raised the sword upright. Quickly, a bright flash erupted from under her left hand, and she reflexively let go of the blade as the both of them were momentarily blinded. Catching the sword by the handle, she cautiously examined it and handed it to Micael. He could see that the coin had been absorbed into the sword, as the engraved shape of the black creature protruded from the side of the blade Esmeralda had touched with the coin. Moreover, the entire blade itself had turned a deep black color, and seemed to repel any light around it.
How did you...
Its a little trick I picked up in a book, she answered sheepishly. I wasnt really sure it would work, but... she smiled a little. Well, maybe I have something to prove to the others, too.
Micael stopped examining his weapon and cocked an eyebrow at Esmeralda. So you dont want to go to Geo to meet the others, do you?
Her eyes wandered around the shallow cave. I do, its just that...
Are you even sure that theyre all going there?
They have to, she insisted. Its the only city--
Aside from Lumina--
But they werent there--
But they might not be there.
But look at the map we got--
You didnt have the map when we left.
Esmeralda twisted her face into a frustrated pout. Fine, she conceded, turning away from him and folding her arms, I do want to go to Geo and join the Academy. Theres nothing wrong with that.
Micael set his weapon on the ground next to him and flashed his palms. I didnt say there was.
Anyway, I do think theyd all go there. Its the only neutral city I can think of in this area. If you can think of a better place, then go there yourself.
I didnt say there was a better place, the male Jumi contested, then smiled a little in interest. Its just that it occurred to me now that you and I might not be so different.
She narrowed her eyes as she fixed a sideways glance at him. I dont need to prove that Im good enough; I know I am. They just never let me leave Etansel before.
Fair enough, Micael replied. He turned so that the two of them were facing the same direction. After remaining silent for a while, Esmeralda unfolded her arms and pondered the coin she still held in her hand. She turned it over a few times, pointing a couple of looks at her companion as she did so, then said:
Give me the other one.
Micael eyed the coin, then drew his right-hand sword. She took the weapon and repeated the ritual, holding the coin against it and chanting until it violently absorbed the trinket. She took a minute to look the sword over, the handed it to Micael triumphantly and explained:
You can summon Shades powers using these now.
He retrieved the pitch-black sword. Nice color, too, he mused.
A lot like your core, she suggested, facing him hopefully.
Micael glared at his chest. No, its more vivid than mine. Its more like Blackpearls core.
Esmeralda thought for a second. Maybe, but people get depressed by her core; it looks too empty. Yours is at least brighter.
He frowned. I always thought it was paler myself.
She grunted in mild irritation, folded her arms, and sent a cool glare out the cave. He dropped his shoulders and returned the weapon to its sheath. The wind grew louder, nearly screaming at them from outside. Esmeralda drew Micaels cloak around her, and Micael folded his arms and shivered; his left arm wound was the most prominent of his injuries, and ached almost in proportion to the strength of the wind. The storm had grown such that they could watch the snow accumulating around them; the Emerald Jumi aimed a concerned look to her companion, then produced the bag of dried fruit sold to them by the shopkeeper in Lumina.
We should probably leave before this gets any worse, she proposed, But lets eat first.
He agreed, and she opened the bag. Slowly drawing a piece of fruit, she handed it to him and craned her neck to make sure he could see her face. She flashed him an apologetic smile, and he returned it, thanking her for the food. The two of them ate their fill in silence; the fare was considerably tougher because of the cold, but was still edible. Micael picked up the first sword, examining the engraving and thinking about what his companion had told him. He showed it to Esmeralda, and asked through a mouthful of food:
She nodded, smiling in amusement at the sound of his muffled speech. She studied the weapon along with him, then began watching him. Looking into his almost bewildered expression, she cleared her throat and sheepishly asked, Where do you think we should go?
He flashed her a glance, looked back at the weapon, swallowed his mouthful, and said: Im taking you to Geo. To join the Magic Academy.
Esmeralda gave him an insistent look that preceded an objection, but he aimed a matter-of-fact stare that stifled what she was about to say. Micael quietly put his sword away and stood up, taking the bag of fruit and offering his companion another piece. Upon her refusal, he tied the bag up. He then offered his hand to her, helped her stand, and lead her back out of the cave. Before he could let go of her hand, she gripped it firmly, and soon took the lead as they climbed out of the ravine and headed back to the main road.
Legend of Mana Fanfic