Snowdrift

Prologue
The Journey

My toes were so cold they were almost to the point of freezing off. I had not eaten a single morsel for two days. The persistent mountain wind would not stop until it was sure I was dead. So why was I here? Why waste all this time, all this warmth? What was the purpose of this torture? I had been searching these relentless mountains for six of my twenty years of life. And for what?

Articuno.

I had been in these god-forsaken mountains for six years, searching for a creature many thought didn't exist, only in books, on TV, and in legends. The pokémon god of ice.

I had only once in those twenty years seen an Articuno. It was only a little baby, not three weeks old. Its parents had left to hunt for food in the river below, when the mightiest storm I had ever seen came up. The wind had howled and not snow, but cold, hard, pelting hail rained from the grey, evening sky.

The little chick was huddled at the back of its cave, its big eyes filled with terror. A great gust of wind howled up and hauled the baby from its hole, crying as loudly as its little voice would let it. I watched in horror as that poor little bird was whisked from its mountain home, never to be seen again...

I tried to push the awful memory from my mind as I trudged forwards through the light yet chillingly cold breeze of the mountains. I looked back to see my feet leaving tiny indents in the snow of the mountain path. I clenched my eyes shut against the breeze and forged on, knowing I was drawing ever closer to my destination.

Then, around the next bend, I saw it.

I stopped dead in my tracks. There, right in front of me, not twenty meters away, was the most gorgeous bird ever to grace the skies. He was facing out into the valley, gazing down into it with his wise, ruby red, piercing eyes. His brilliant blue wings were folded neatly by his sides and enormously long tail draped out behind, the tip not visible to me inside his cave.

He puffed out his snowy white chest, lifted his tail and gave a soft cooing sound, then spread his huge wings and glided effortlessly down to the tiny, silvery ribbon-like river at least four hundred meters below.

I realised that I had been holding my breath the whole time, and slowly exhaled. Wow! I whispered to myself. The first Articuno I had seen in six years. I crouched, out of his view, and gazed wondrously at the massive blue bird, scouring the river far below, his draping tail glistening in the cold summer sun as it fluttered out behind him.

I saw him land on a rock beside the river and stare, unmoving into the water. Suddenly, a flurry of movement told me an unlucky fish had come to a sticky end and the great bird, his prize grasped proudly in his strong, purple claws, flapped his strong, ice-like wings and glided into his roost once more.

As I watched him eat, I pondered over how I was to introduce myself to this magnificent creature, with all the glamour of the mountains. Me? I was nothing. I was merely two thirds his size. One swipe of those claws, one snap of the beak and I would be no more than the Goldeen that lay at his feet. I felt that, compared to him, I was little more than a Pidgey.

He was eating with his back turned to the mountains, facing inside the cosy, but still cavernous roost he called home. I walked as silently as I could towards this beautiful and deadly animal, with my feet making the slightest clicking sound on the rocky floor.

He must have just heard me. As his head tore back from the Goldeen carcass, he finished his bite and turned his head slowly toward me. He looked me up and down, then back up again, and smiled, as well as a beak can smile.

I smiled nervously myself, but somehow managed to regain what little courage I had built up over the years I had spent in the mountains. I opened my wings, fanned out my tail, spread my crest and let out my own cry. "Cuno!" I called, my voice echoing again and again through the mountains.

He turned his whole body toward me, his meal all but forgotten. He opened his own wings, tail and crest, and echoed my cry.

"You're the first Articuno I've seen since I left my roost," he said softly, once our calls had stopped bouncing back off the rocky mountains. "And I must say, I am more than impressed!"

I blushed under my feathers and turned away. "I've been searching these mountains for six years for you. I haven't seen another of our kind since my baby brother." I stumbled to his outstretched wings, my tears soaking into his icy blue feathers. I could tell that he too, was sobbing with me.

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