Interlude: Snowbound Under the Stars
[BGM: Caught in the Cold]
Dawn shivered as a blast of wind ruffled her cloak. "Cold..."
"But Chairo i-is not far from h-here!" Ash urged, trying all the while to hide the fact that it was cold, and the snow was beginning to pile up around them.
"Just summon Saidas' envoy--we're all cold, and have no desire to brave heavy snow." Kissa grumbled as she shook a layer of snow from her fur.
Ash sighed, took his saefleita, and reluctantly played a mournful melody that was nearly lost in the howling wind. He had been wanting to sleep in a warm bed somewhere, but the snow was accumulating quickly, making the trail to Chairo more and more hazardous.
[BGM: Summon Cycle--Articuno]
Just then, he heard a bird's cry and gasped as a large blue-white bird with a flowing tail landed before him. "You have called, and Articuno and I have come." Saidas assured him as she stepped off of Articuno and molded a safe path through the swirling snow.
Brock was about to thank Saidas when a twang of a broken string got his attention, so Janine offered a pale blue stone to Saidas as he set to work fixing the broken string. "Please accept this icy gem as our thanks for your guidance, O Snow Queen."
"The pleasure's all mine--we would never dream of sitting idly by while mortals were in danger." Saidas replied as she took the gem. "I will go on ahead and clear a path for you--follow Articuno to the place I have prepared.
"We'll meet you there!" Dawn assured Saidas as Articuno took flight into the gray sky.
[BGM: Relaxing under the Stars]
"There now, you'll be safe in here..." Saidas smiled as Articuno led the group to a cave in an alcove not far from the trail to Chairo.
"Beats all that blowing snow by far!" Ash smiled as he began arranging some sticks into a campfire pattern.
"I will do my best to make sure you can pass to Chairo in the morning--but for now, I'm afraid you won't be going any farther." Saidas sighed as everyone groaned. Articuno gave one last chirp before taking off into the snowy night with Saidas aboard her.
"And we came all this way, too..." Janine sighed as the cave entrance rolled closed.
"It's not an inn, but it's better than freezing to death." Dawn mused. "At least in an inn, Brock would perform for meals for all of us..."
"Come to think of it, I vaguely remember seeing Brock perform before..." Ash mused as he charged a ball of red energy. Once the fire roared to life, he continued. "It was the night before Ourania's Grand Market last year...Milina had brought me and a few apprentices there to see it."
"Oh, come to think of it, I remember you!" Brock laughed. "I was there at the inn that night, and I told 'The Tree with Magic Leaves' to begin my performance. You really got into that--you booed the tax collector and got everyone else involved in booing..."
"Not to mention you laughed when I played the role of the tax collector's wife..." Kissa added.
"That, and you requested 'Sorin's Flight'." Brock concluded as he began roasting some meat over the fire.
"Yeah--Milina had to squeeze my hand after I stuck out my tongue at the tax collector." Ash laughed. "That was her signal for me to calm down and behave."
"You must have had plenty of energy to keep your sensei on her toes..." Janine smiled.
"Well..." Ash mused as he glanced up at the small crack in the cave ceiling that exposed a little bit of night sky. "I grew up in Masuliro Town, and was always exploring the woods and plains by my house. So while my dad made weapons and Mom cleaned house, I was climbing trees or running through town having 'adventures' with my friends."
"How did you find out you had magical power?" Dawn asked.
"It was a total accident--I casted Ice without knowing I had done anything untill I noticed that one of my mother's vases was frozen." Ash replied. "You know the song 'The Prayer of the Sword?'"
"The one in which a hero's parents plot to kill him, but the hero discovers the plot after praying to Anima?" Dawn asked.
"That's the one--not an easy one to play, and not easy for a tenor to sing either." Brock interjected. "One verse involves the phrase 'Scatter your chilly sharp blades...'"
"...which is the same incantation to Ice." Ash continued. "I was singing that song, and I froze my mother's vase when I got to that line."
"Were you punished?" Janine was worried now.
"Not really--Mom and Dad took me to the mage's lodge, where I had to cast Ice again in front of the Archmage. When I successfully did it again, the archmage offered me a chance to study magic. I accepted, and with my family's blessing, I became a mage's apprentice." Ash concluded.
"Speaking of songs, I could use one to cheer us all up." Dawn grumbled--she had not counted on being snowbound in the mountains.
"A lot of songs you know seem to involve the Kami..." Janine mused.
"Well, in addition to hymns, we clerics also learn secular songs involving the gods--and I've picked up some from the minstrels that visited the temple." Dawn explained.
"Ooh, sing your call to prayer again!" Ash begged as Brock retrieved his bag and began looking for his instruments.
"Why? What do we need to pray for?" Dawn wondered.
"Pray for....Brock to have some inspiration!" Ash suggested. "A call to the muses, if you will."
"And to bless my instruments so they aren't out of tune." Brock winced as he unearthed his newly repaired harp and began tuning it.
[BGM: Calling on the Goddess of Light
Dawn closed her eyes and began singing the prayer call she had sang in the temple, making the various instrument cases gain a light blue aura.
"Try playing now..." Kissa suggested when Dawn finished. "Your instruments should sound just fine."
"All right...any requests?" Brock asked as he reached for his harp.
Ash thought for a moment. "Play....'The Love of a Priest', please."
BGM: A Heated Arguement
"Why that one?" Dawn protested. "It's much too bawdy for this time of night!"
"Dawn's right--that one's better suited for a tavern than an intimate gathering of friends." Brock agreed. "But if you REALLY want me to play it..."
"If it's about disgracing one of the Kami's priests, I have no desire to hear it." Janine cautioned.
"Ash, I'm surprised you even LIKE bawdy songs like that!" Dawn fumed.
"The version I learned was clean!" Ash protested.
"Relax...there are a few 'clean' versions of that song, but Dawn has a point--the original is not appropriate for times like this." Brock assured the others, dissapating the impending arguement. "Besides, I know many more songs besides that one."
Ash thought some more. "How about 'Braviary's Flight'?"
"Now that I can play." Brock replied before beginning a brisk melody. Soaring through the rising sun, the champion of the skies...
His wings so large, beautiful and strong.... Dawn joined in. The four friends sang the tale about Braviary guiding a knight on a quest and other songs all through the night, their voices harmonizing on the icy wind outside...
To Be Continued...