Chapter 12 - Fox

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"For two whole fortnights, I travelled across the Plains of Forever Winter, losing three toes in as many nights, until mountains rose and stars brightened up the pitch black sky. I clambered up Highcrag, lowered down the deepest crevice, and there it appeared, hidden from sight—the northernmost cave. The birthplace of magic."

Fox gasped at the precise moment that Storm paused, the noise filling the mouse-still council chamber. The Prince of Ice remained unfazed, yet Fawn, who was sitting next to Fox on the brown woolly carpet, glared at him.

He repressed the urge to stick out his tongue. It wasn't his fault that Storm had stopped his tale. Instead, he shuffled away from her, accidentally touching the laces of the Scorian woman who always occupied the blue chair on the first row because she had poor eyesight. She wiggled her foot; of course, she had seen that.

"And then what... did you find that Summer Dragon of yours?" a light voice uttered.

Fox didn't need to look back to know that it belonged to Master Robin, an Air Magician with a bigger moustache than a brain.

Though Storm kept his calm demeanour, the wrinkles on his face deepened. "The dark cave of abundance only shows itself to the Winter Bear and the Summer Dragon. We mere mortals are but shadows that aim to walk in their footsteps, but can never follow nor surpass them."

"Sounds like a lot of foam to me," grumbled Robin.

"Tell me, Air Magician, have you ever known winter to take orders, to do as mankind pleases?"

"I can tame the winds if I wish—send snow clouds up to seven leagues away."

Yet not make them disappear altogether," Storm reasoned. "You pretend to be a God, yet you are limited but what greater beings allow you to do."

"And by what your Grandmaster forbids you to do," Hawk said from the blue chair next to Katla. She had conveniently squeezed herself in between him and Badger.

"I still wish to reopen that discussion, Grandmaster," Robin insisted. "Let me gather a team of the finest—"

"As I said, I forbid it." She shot an angry look at the man, the kind that beamed poison from her eyes.

"But we could."

"Silence!"

Fox groaned. There were losing precious time talking about winter. It was bad enough that this was the moon of burning and yet he still had had to trudge through muddy slushes to get Moonstone Castle. His wet socks were glued to his frozen feet. Storm had opened the council meeting by saying that the Summer Dragon has arrived, but the battle with the Winter Bear was far from over.

Whatever that meant.

Scratching his throat, the Prince of Ice ran his hand through his ashen hair, rearranging his cowlick to the other side of his face. "So... I won't bore you with the details of how I dangled from a rope for hours, but eventually, after a lot of struggling, I managed to lower myself into the cave. It was dark, my only light that of the flickering flame in my hand. It was a labyrinth of long, narrow tunnels, filled with icicles that tore my clothes to rags. Twice I met a wall of ice and rock, impenetrable. I tried Air... Fire... Water... not a single crack. And then I found it... a purple sea of glistening stars, gemstones the size of conifer cones and bigger. It wasn't easy to convince the cavern to part from its treasure, but I persisted and brought home this..."

As the prince walked away from the stand and to the table, Fox climbed to his knees, towering over Fawn. Storm picked up a shiny black rock, hardly bigger than his fist.

Fox pouted, cocking his head. Was that the big news for which he had come all the way from the North—a stone so ordinary it could have been spat out by one of the twin rivers?

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