“We have a problem.”
I glance up from the map I’m browsing, letting my magic feel out places where a magician might be needed. The map is too full for my liking. “This town is under four feet of snow that is refusing to listen to my suggestions that it might consider melting faster and we’re going to have to be very creative to help people from starving to death in their homes soon and you are saying we have a problem.”
“Yes,” Dana says simply.
I’m starting to suspect that the fae are immune to sarcasm. “Explain?”
“You have had dealings with bigfoot before.”
“Not many, but yes. I once hunted one who had gone mad through Yellowstone. As I understand it they mostly keep to themselves.”
“Normally, yes. But this has been a cold winter, with little food. They can change under such conditions.”
“And become mass murderers?”
I wonder if this is how Charlie feels when she is talking to me all the time. “There are fewer Yeti sightings –.”
“There are none; they leave no survivors. A bigfoot can turn into one due to temperature and shortage of other animals for food – in which case it throws caution to the wind and goes after humans, magician.”
I fold the map up properly, a talent owing as much to my magic as anything else. “They kill deer and bear mostly, if I recall correctly. Why should killing humans change their nature?”
“They see humans as almost civilized. It would be like humans being forced to kill their cats, dogs: their pets, and how it would break them psychologically. Most recover, but some never do and convince themselves that humans are the best and only source of food. It never ends well,” the fae says, since she has very much mastered the art of understatement.
I sigh and walk over to the door, giving it a shove; the snow on the other side of the cabin Dana and I are squatting in doesn’t move, doesn’t even want to. Snow listens, as it turns out: global warming means the death of true winter, and it is holding onto this storm for as long as it can. I’d find it funny if it was funny at all, but it does mean I can use magic in other ways. I touch the world and the door becomes a doorway to the world on top of the snow.
Dana follows me silently; she doesn’t sink into the snow at all. I have no idea if that is fae glamour or that nature doesn’t much care for the fae. I don’t because the snow knows if I do sink into the snow I’ll have reason to melt it away with easy magics. Most of the homes the locals know are inhabited at least have doorways freed, crude paths made through the snow that are one-vehicle wide. A lot of people have moved into the local hotel, bringing gas for the generator and food.
It has been two days of deep snows. No one is worried yet, but they are getting there. There is only so much food and no one expects everyone to be rational about this – which, perhaps, is part of the problem. I wrap sunlight on snow about me as a form of invisibility; Dana uses a glamour and is gone from even my senses, so I just settle on walking the edges of the town, turning the anger of people into more heat in fires and furnaces. Helping hold things together as best I can.
The weak howl of a wolf cub pulls me the west end of the town, though not in time to stop the bigfoot from butchering it: head torn off, body ripped open and gutted. The cub had been running, but not fast enough in the end for her to escape. The bigfoot has pale fur: not yet snow-coloured, still with faint traces of brown. The overall result is an eight foot tall monster that looks like a walking pee stain in snow; I decide to keep that observation entirely to myself.
“Magician,” it growls. “This is not your affair.”
“That is true, but you are hardly going to stop at a wolf cub, are you?”
“I am hunger; hunger is primal, and your magic cannot touch that.”
Magic occupies a hazy place between need and want, between desire and force. It does not mean I can’t act, merely that the action will demand a price down the road that I will not be able to avoid paying. And some prices have proved far too dear over the years. I smile, and the bigfoot hesitates at the boundaries of the town over what it sees in my smile.
“How long have you chased the wolf cub when you could have found easier food elsewhere?” I ask, having no need to put power into my words; it is a gift and curse both to be able to speak and compel truth that cannot be ignored.
“Some hours,” it admits. “The cub was practise for other game.”
“She was so tired I barely heard her howl for help, and her spirit has gone from this place as wolves well understand the cycle of being and of eating. But even so, this was not hunger. This was murder, and I am not about to let it stand.”
The bigfoot is on top of the snow in moments, hurling toward me in a blur of teeth and claws.
“Dana?” I don’t move, but the bigfoot slams into snow and sinks deep to my left, having been tricked by glamour.
Dana speaks words I don’t know and the bigfoot shudders at them as she opens a door to some other place. The fae castles, I assume, and judgement.”
“I am busy, magician.”
“How long as it been since it snowed at the castles?”
Dana pauses, then is visible beside me, her smile slow and appreciative. “A long time.”
The bigfoot is pulled through to the other side and we spend two hours after speaking to the storm, which slowly shifts course and power to blow snow somewhere almost outside the universe.
“I did not know you were going to use yourself as bait,” Dana says as we finish sending the snow that would have gone to another place.
“Bigfoot are fast and this one knew too much about magic for my liking. I am glad you realized what I was doing.”
“Who says I did?” But the fae smiles slightly as we head back toward the cabin we’re staying in.
I consider texts I’ve got from Jay and crouch, making a snowball and throwing it. It passes through Dana and hits merely snow; I barely have time to dive to the left as two snowballs sail through the air where I had been standing.
We throw snow with power and skill, dodging and weaving along snowbanks and the rooftops of homes, and I have imagine that the spirit of a wolf cub is bounding along beside us and would have loved to play if the world had not been other than it is.