A note for anyone confused after seeing previous snippets with Elias using he/him pronouns. Elias is genderfluid and a shapeshifter, so she’s presenting very femme in this story. Just a heads up to avoid confusion!
The chill in the air was sharp and solid, each breeze like sandpaper on Elias’ cheeks. She didn’t wander through the perpetually wintery regions so far north very often, and every visit reminded her of why. That cold found a way to seep into her bones and stay there, a slow takeover until the involuntary shivers came like clockwork.
At least she was better prepared for it since the last quest that took her into the tundra. She’d chosen a shape that stood shorter than her usual, stockier. She’d opted for plenty of natural padding – thick curves and plenty of tummy to protect her core. Her hair was longer and darker red than she usually kept it – something to help absorb whatever warmth from the sun she could.
She’d bought some hard-weather clothes from a group of traders that frequented the area, so she knew the gear would last and it would work. She was well insulated in hides lined with downy fur, and boots that had a hardy grip on the frozen ground. They’d even given her a pair of sungoggles for when she eventually reached the snowy areas. The coat had a lovely collar of soft rabbit down that occasionally tickled under her jaw, and similar tufts stuck out of the thick gloves she wore over her hands.
She was an adorable bundle, and it put a certain spring in her step.
Eral, by contrast, was not so cheerful for the climate they’d wandered into. It came as no surprise; he stood only six inches tall, and his little leafy wings were paper thin after all. They’d managed to get a few tiny scraps of hide for him to haphazardly tie to himself, but the traders had nothing to offer that was made for pixie size.
Of course they don’t, Eral had griped. Rare to find people that think of us without being told to.
Elias felt bad. She’d offered a pocket earlier, but Eral had stubbornly shrugged it off. Even now, he flew freely, scouting several feet ahead at a time as they made their way up the gentle slope of the tundra.
Ever since they’d come north, his wings had begun the slow color change from vibrant green to snowy white. The edges blended in well with the stark surroundings, but the rest stood out, especially against the deep green of spruce needles.
He landed on a low branch to wait for her to catch up, swaying faintly in the breeze. Elias wandered closer, eyeing the pixie when he was focused on the path ahead. He had pale skin on a normal day, so it was startlingly easy to see how red his cheeks and the tips of his little pointed ears had become. He cupped his hands and blew into the hollow he formed to try to warm them, and only the tiniest puff of breath escaped him. The poor little guy would freeze himself to death over his pride at this point.
“That’s it,” Elias declared, reaching up and scooping the pixie into her gloved hand. She took care not to pinch a little wing as she claimed him. “You need a break from scouting duty and I need a walking buddy to chat with me or I might literally go mad out here.”
“Elias!” Eral complained, flinching and then squirming in the leather cage she’d effectively made of her glove. “I’m fine! I don’t need to hide in your damn pocket!”
“Oh, buddy, it’s way too late for that. I see you shivering.” With her free hand, Elias pulled forward the fluffy lapel of her coat. Behind it was a thick woolen shirt, a second layer of cold protection. “I know you have all your hangups about cuddling with your very best friend and favorite trickster, but you need to warm up, okay? I don’t want you freezing solid out here before we even find the place we’re looking for.”
She waited for his reply. She didn’t always do that when pulling tricks, and Eral paused in his grumpy squirming as the realization seemed to come to him. Inwardly, Elias was relieved. Outwardly, she bolstered her request with a wide grin and a bat of her eyelashes.
Eral groaned. “Fine. Fine! Just don’t go falling on me!”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Elias confirmed as she opened up her hand and let him crawl into her coat. She settled the lapel gently over him again, though he still shifted around a bit until he found a comfortable spot to rest atop her chest close to her collarbone–
“Gods above your hands are freezing!” she yelped as two miniscule spots of cold touched the skin just above the collar of her sweater.
Eral could be heard snickering under the fluffy collar of rabbit fur. “Hey, this was your idea. And for once it was a good one, I’m gonna steal every drop of warmth I can here.”
Elias shuddered as the cold lingered. Damn tiny pixie hands. “Okay but I’m gonna sing to pass the time now,” she teased. The banter would work better than anything else. Eral still had his pride, so Elias couldn’t rub it in too much that she’d won the argument. “Any requests?”