Sora’s eyes snapped open and she was momentarily stunned to find the pain gone. She knew she was still experiencing pain beyond her comprehension, but at the same time, it was at the very edges of her awareness.
She sighed, noticing her fogged breath as she looked out at a mist clouded sea. “And I’m back on the mysterious rocky shore. I guess Inari was right, I just naturally dream-walked to escape the pain.” She puffed out another long breath of vaporous air before looking around then noticed her tail.
Frowning, she brought up a fierce looking fiery tail, remembering her tirade in the restaurant. I hope it doesn’t burn my clothes off…
It didn’t feel like her first tail, it felt less connected. “Hmm … Inari didn’t say anything about a fire tail. It could be just a phase, though, like my ears … how would that even have looked?”
Pursing her lips, she put the thought to the back of her mind. She was where she’d started on her second trip to the freezing shoreline. “All that walking for nothing,” she groaned. She didn’t even know how to get back to where she’d seen Eyia’s glowing spear.
Looking into the water, she shook her head, watching a glacier move across the dark horizon and her long copper hair swing in front of her vision.
Taking another deep breath, she pulled her hair back, dully tasting the sea breeze on her tongue. “I guess in Eyia’s dreams I’d only experience her senses and what she remembers, not my enhanced senses…”
Pausing in her thoughts, she studied the horizon, trying to penetrate the dark scenery to see the slow-moving masses of ice. “I always wanted to see a glacier in real life … if only the fog would leave and the stars were out.”
She gazed into the obscured heavens, another deep sigh leaving her lungs as she watched the vapor that left her lips. “What was my reason for not taking Astronomy? Why would I ever need it if I had my phone … I never realized how stupid that sounded until now.”
Placing her hands on her hips, she found it surprisingly difficult to find a break in the fog. Determining her position to what she could see of the mountains was north by moss growing on rocks, she studied the shore that led to the tundra.
At least it’s not snowing this time, she thought brightly. Despite the bad, I wouldn’t go back if I could. My life isn’t so terrible after all … now I know about my mom’s side of the family … is there a reason I never met my dad’s side of the family? I’ve heard about them … but I’ve never met them … I guess I’ll find out in time.
She shook her head, her smile broadening as her hair whipped around her face. It’ll all be fine! She took in the scenery. It’s like I’m on vacation!
“The mist is clearing up a bit and I can see a lot of the land now … though it is kind of bare. The mountains are beautiful! It’s cold, but whatever, not like it affects me, and I think I saw a glacier!”
Clapping her hands together, she clicked her heels together. “Right, nice trip, time to go home … is it not over?”
Her head sank as nothing happened. “Why is fiction never the same as real life fantasy … it’s always like this in novels and books…”
Puffing out her cheeks and lifting her head, she took a quick breath through her nose and let it out in a film of carbon dioxide, exhaling what was left in her cheeks in a huff. “No use in complaining Sora, you just have to be strong! The heroine always wins in the end … except in tragedies … I hate tragedies, please don’t be a tragedy!”
Getting her mind back on track, she looked for familiarities in the mountain face from her previous trips. It didn’t take her long to recognize a particular rock formation. I’m a little east from where I first showed up. Looking east, she realized that if she walked along the edge of the shore, she’d eventually find that cove.
Debating whether or not she should go, she sat down on some flat rocks. I haven’t been anywhere else in this winter wonderland and if I exit the dream then I’ll be in a world of pain. She sniffed the air. It’s like I have a plugged nose! Is it always like this on the Dream Plane? No, it’s just Eyia’s senses … I didn’t realize my senses were so much sharper…
She grimaced, finding no answer. Her hearing was extremely muffled, however, her eyes could see almost crystal clear with the aid of starlight as it began poking through the mist, her skin dully tingled with passing air currents, and she could no longer taste the pork she’d eaten.
She glared at the shoreline. “It’s not like I’ve met anyone else on this sullen beach! I’ve heard footsteps to the west and seen Eyia’s spear to the east. Obviously, it would be better to find Eyia than some dream monster … since this is Eyia’s dream, who knows what could be here.” Making up her mind, she began walking along the cliff edge, searching for the cove.
The journey didn’t seem so timeless this trip, yet the distance seemed endless. Turning to look at the mountains, Sora growled in frustration. “How long have I been walking? I can still see that jutting rock—I’m not going anywhere! It feels like I’ve been walking for hours.” she mumbled as she trudged onward.
It wasn’t like she was getting tired; so much as it was wearing on her nerves. She didn’t know if she’d find Eyia or if the spear’s holder was Eyia. She didn’t even know if this was really Eyia’s dream or some other dream entirely. She began watching the ocean, tracking the passage of glaciers as they slowly crept away from the coast.
Eventually, she found the cliffs rounding into a canyon. A raging river pumped out into the sea. She began hiking up the incline, moving up the uneven ground until she finally made it to the cove. Sighing with relief, she spotted the overhanging cliff and with a leaden heart, she discovered it empty.
Jaded, she walked up the extension and sat on a large rock that overlooked the cove. How does time work in this Dream Plane? The Spiritual Plane was like two seconds for five and a half hours.
The water below churned mildly and crashed against a rocky bank to her left as she tried to calculate the difference. Wait … that’s like ten thousand times the Physical Plane! One year is ten-thousand years! So … if my mom was in the Spiritual Plane during the nine days I was transforming … that’s like twenty-five years! That’s insane … if I went there to train…
Her eyes locked-on to movement. Standing up, she peered down, searching for what had caught her focus. Her vision fastened on two figures on the far left side of the cove, near a break that fed into the river.
Licking her lips, she quickly looked for a path down. I don’t know when I’ll leave this place, I need to hurry!
Her feet moved nimbly around the terrain as she rushed down the slope. She soon reached the waters and ran across the sand, feeling each oddly sharp rock under her bare feet. Her pain was still in the recesses of her mind. She knew her body was being reformed somehow and Inari’s magic was helping, but she also knew she couldn’t do anything about it. This she could do something about, and this dream made her curious.
Sora hesitated as she heard voices, slowing her approach. One was a young girl, a child; the other was a strong elderly voice. Cautiously continuing, she rounded an outcropping of rocks.
Eyia’s glowing spear came into view, but it was held by a very tall man that seemed to be in his early to late fifties. His hair was long and gray, as was his beard that hung past his chest. His body was clothed in a gray robe that left part of his upper body bare, his left shoulder covered. A frayed broad-brimmed blue hat hid most of his facial features.
He was talking to the small blonde haired girl next to him that couldn’t be more than five. The ornately designed golden ring that embraced the man’s middle finger glinted as he made hand gestures in instructing the girl, the long spear shifting with his movements. Sora swallowed apprehensively as she watched a gray wolf lay at the man’s feet, slumbering; Sora could hear its unnaturally soft breaths.
Licking her lips, Sora was shocked that she understood the conversation the man was having with the child, coming in part way through. “… My daughter, you have a divine right that some are jealous of, and my actions in creating you have caused much grief. Though my wife, Frigg, has seen it and knows it must be … she may know, but does not understand, which angers her; insomuch that if you were to stay in Asgard, you would have been slain before your destiny is fulfilled.”
Sora wasn’t entirely sure what he was talking about but knew that if this man’s wife was Frigg then he must be Odin, the father, and leader over the Norse Gods. Not having anything else to do, she listened.
“You may think that your fate unglorified, and insignificant in the eyes of your peers. Know that fate is powerful, as even I will fall to the whims of the Great Seamstress; however, as you know who you are, you know that fate can be woven in many fashions.”
A girl’s voice sounded next to her, making Sora almost jump out of her skin as she found Eyia standing next to her. “My father—explaining many things to me—for he knew we wouldn’t meet again.”
She wore the attire she’d first seen her in, the brown skin like material with her large diamond necklace.
Clearing her voice, Sora backed up a little to face her. “So—I’m in your memory?”
Confusion crossed Eyia’s features as she studied Sora. “No, you are in my dreams. Some Vulpes have that ability, to enter others dreams—nightmares…” she softly whispered as she gazed at her father.
Sitting and trying not to intrude further on her memories, Sora asked, “Is this a nightmare to you?”
Sitting on the rocky ground, Eyia tucked her knees under her chin. “At times.”
Frowning, Sora realized that her pain had faded. No longer did it tickle at the edges of her consciousness, instead quickly dismissed to gain further insight into her new friend’s past. “I heard a few things that your dad said—they aren’t things that a child would understand. I don’t really understand it?”
Eyia looked at the floor passively a few moments before answering. “No, because he knew I’d go over them in my dreams. I’ve been sleeping for a very long time. After this talk, my father froze my body to slow the effects of time.”
Sora swallowed, knowing what she meant. “How long have you been sleeping?”
Eyia shook her head. “I don’t have the knowledge to judge time’s passing; the island is a time distorted space.”
Puffing out a breath of air, Sora said, “I’ve been in your dreams two times before. Once I heard someone running along the beach, the next, I think I saw your father sitting on that overhanging cliff up there,” she said, pointing at the spot.
Tucking her lip under, Eyia took a shuddering breath. “There were no friends or family on this island to greet me when I awoke—meaning my father had died, and over the years his magic faded. My father left a multitude of instructions on how to train my body and spirit, while my mind was continually trained in sleep.”
A depression sank into Sora’s chest. She grew up completely alone, knowing no one but her father from distant memories. What a horrible way to live, and I thought my life was terrible.
“I explored every place this island holds. Trained in the ways of my father, having left a multitude of creatures for me to test my progress; surviving the constant threat of death while learning how to hone my natural talents. Rock Trolls, banished Ice Giants, murderous Dark Elves, savage Dwarfs, Lesser Demons from Múspellsheimr, and all manner of creatures from the Realms Below, and Dimensional Boundaries,” Eyia concluded.
Sora was baffled and felt somewhat sick. What kind of father leaves a five-year-old on such an island to grow up on? She had to fight to survive since the age of five without a single person to comfort her?
“You escaped them all and got off the island?”
Eyia shook her head. “I battled every obstacle, slew every foe, and mastered the use of every weapon—though, and it pains me to admit—some foes were strong and took many years of training for me to handle. I was forced to keep my distance, in the beginning, survive off their scraps, hiding in the shadows, setting traps. It was Jin that helped me off the island, not of my own power. Her presence gave me hope that helped me end my final test.”
Sora found it surprisingly difficult to imagine Jin and Eyia running around this frozen island, fighting creatures of all kinds. She couldn’t imagine growing up in such a savage environment. Of course, she’d have to find her own food and shelter, while having to stay alert for possible ambushes.
Recalling how Jin first treated her, Sora asked, “From what I know about Jin, she doesn’t like to get between people’s conflicts. Why did she help you?”
Eyia’s grim expression glowed at Jin’s name. “Jin didn’t help me fight, she watched.”
Sora was taken aback. “She didn’t even help you once?”
Eyia didn’t look bitter in the least as she shook her head. “Jin came during the short hours of the day. The chill had come and wet ice fell from the heavens. I was in the midst of a vicious skirmish with Badrovk, he was a Stone Jötunn—a Stone Troll; I danced through the pelting rain with firm steps, keeping my guard intact.
“Stone Trolls are known for their ferocity and wild battle tactics; it nearly penetrated my guard several times. We both fought over a big mouthed seal it had slain. Food is scarce during the short days and I cannot keep fresh food at my shelter, for many creatures can smell such items and target my sanctuary,” Eyia explained.
Eyes lighting up with the telling, Eyia dashed back with light steps and began cycling through forms as she relived the experience. “Badrovk had taken the high ground and began pushing me back. I had sustained a leg injury a week earlier to the Sea-Draugu, Teladur, and its foul trollskap,” noting Sora’s blank face, Eyia said, “like—those undead things in your—videos with magic?”
“Like a zombie with magic?” Sora questioned.
“If that is what they are called—however,” her intensity returned as she danced between attacks, “I had anticipated Badrovk’s tactical advance, and retreated to more solid land while defending against his blows. That was when I noticed Jin watching from the air.”
Smiling wryly Eyia said, “I took her as a new enemy and kept her in sight as I continued the dance with Badrovk and after thirty minutes of battle, I struck its neck with my spear, claiming victory!”
Sora was astonished. “You fought that ferociously with a much larger creature for thirty minutes after Jin showed up to watch?”
Eyia shook her head, apparently confused at her statement. “I was already engaged in the dance with Badrovk an hour before Jin made an appearance. Teladur was much more grand in size than Badrovk; Badrovk was rather small for his kind, only about four Alen—in your measurement—I believe eight feet?” she said with innocence.
Sora bit her lower lip nervously. Just how strong are Jin and Eyia? Fighting someone for an hour and a half, while struggling to keep good ground in snow and they are like eight feet plus. It’s ridiculous!
Eyia continued her story. “I challenged Jin, asking her intentions. Hehe, she said, ‘I’m just here to watch.’ And then, she watched. She watched me eat, she watched me search, and she watched me fight. Ten nights it took for her…”
Sora’s eyes darted around as everything hazed to black and she found her eyelids shut when she knew she had them open. She felt exhausted as she opened her blurry eyes to a fuzzed red blinking ceiling. A screeching sound ringing in her ears as her mind cleared and an oddly familiar scent caught her attention.