The cold was numbing at first like a lullaby. As he slowly woke up it grew sharper and sharper until he gasped. Shocked, he began emitting large puffs of mist.
Nuatù coughed, feeling the harsh air sting his lungs. Eyes wide he scanned the world around him. Everything was bright and the wind had calmed. His jaw dropped as he realized that the white stuff blanketing the short, rocky beach was snow — more than he had ever seen in his life. The large, strange pines not far away were covered in it, with some dark green peeking out and catching the winter sun’s rays. The trees curved back from him as though equally shocked at his appearance.
Following their lengths upward, Nuatù interrupted his severely chattering teeth with another gasp — on the other side of the trees stood mountains reaching toward the stark blue sky. He breathed in awe, having never seen mountains so large.
The elf shivered and grunted, his arms shaking from the cold and the effort of holding himself up. Shivering, Nuatù brought his naked legs up and was about to curl in on himself when a foreign voice called. He lifted his head to gaze over the snow. His eyes widened.
The dwarf heading towards him stopped. She had dark blue hair tied up in a short length with two wavy strands framing her face. Her wide amber eyes watched him in shock and confusion, mirroring his expression.
She was pale like beach sand and by her reaction he guessed that she’d never seen someone like him before just as he had never seen someone like her. The dwarves he’d learned about had skin like his, but with larger mouths and sharper teeth than the one in front of him.
Hoping she was kinder than those dwarves, he tried to smile but his body remembered the cold.
He started to shake harder and she frowned and bent her knees, placing her hands on them. She spoke in what Nuatù thought was a concerned tone.
He frowned and shook his head, slowly rising to his knees as the cold stabbed at his legs. He feet were still touching the edge of the water but he barely felt it. He hugged himself and began slowly rubbing his arms.
The dwarf’s brows rose in hope. Making a noise and waving a hand to regain his attention, she spoke while rubbing her arms to imitate him. Then she pulled off her long fur cloak and offered it.
He nodded thankfully and as he reached out she moved forward, wrapping it around his shoulders. She vigorously rubbed his back and arms, then blew on her open palm.
Nuatù jumped when a small flame appeared, hovering over the centre of her hand. His rich, dark brown eyes reflected the fire as he stared in awe and curiosity.
He looked up to her to find she was frowning as she considered his reaction. Dismissing it she shook her head and began tugging the cloak to make sure it would stay where it was before pulling at his hands. He obeyed and Nuatù immediately felt a rush of air sting the place where his arms had been wrapped around his torso.
Brows furrowed in concentration, the dwarf carefully placed the flame into his cupped hands. She waited for moment with her thick hands hovering around his, then backed away.
The elf stared at the flame for a few seconds, remembering the stories he’d heard of the sharp-toothed dwarves also possessing fire magic — though they were often tales of destruction. He smiled, slowly feeling the fire’s warmth on the surface of his hands.
The dwarf spoke again and he looked up. Amused, she turned and nodded toward the way she had come through the trees. Her thick fur and leather boots had made a fresh path in the snow.
Nuatù’s eyes followed the footsteps and after a pause he rose to his feet. Seeing his struggle the dwarf quickly re-joined him, assisting him to his feet. He grunted and nearly fell on her, but he was able to stand upright with her help. He briefly hissed, feeling the cool air on parts of his legs again.
Slowly they headed toward the trees.
Feet frozen, Nuatù barely registered the short walk to the small entrance and the stare he got from the guard there. He jumped however when the dwarf — after arguing with his rescuer — made a larger flame than the one in Nuatù’s hands. The dwarf lit the brazier just beyond the short door and inside the tunnel.
Nuatù nodded. His smooth voice stuttered, “Th-th-th-an-n-nk you.”
The guard frowned, staring up at him for a minute before shaking his head. He said a few more stern words to the other dwarf — who snapped back — then went back to his post.
The elf glanced to them and then returned his attention to the fire. He dropped the small flame into it and huddled up to the roaring mass. He rubbed his hands, breathing into them, and holding them in front of the fire. After a few seconds he hissed and jumped at the sharp and fuzzy pins running along his body and down to his feet where the warmth of the fire was escaping through the brazier.
He heard his rescuer snort in laughter and glanced at her, smiling. She watched him, amused as he continued to rub his body warm. Once he had finished with his feet and was feeling better, he pointed to himself.
“I am called Nuatù.”
Perplexed but still amused, she stared for a second before shrugging. She said something while placing her hands out and shaking her head apologetically.
Rising and holding her cloak closed over his lower half he hesitated. He pointed to himself again and said, “Mmmyyy. Nammme. Is. Nuuu-ahhh-too.” He paused, then more forcefully repeated, “Nuatù. Nuatù.”
Her lips pressed together in frustration like a duck and Nuatù smiled, holding back a laugh. A second later her face lit up. She pointed and spoke a sentence with his name in it, then his name alone.
Nuatù nodded quickly, hoping she had understood what he was trying to say.
She smiled and spread a hand on her chest. “Elsi.”
“Elllssi. Elsi.” He smiled again. “It is very nice.”
Smirking, she raised a brow.
He chuckled and tried his people’s hand language before attempting the version of the humans who lived on the mainland by his home. When her amusement changed to complete confusion, he gently dismissed the idea with a wave of his hands.
The dwarf shook her head. She pointed to him and afterward she rubbed her arms and raised a brow questioningly.
Catching on quickly, he nodded and brought his hands back up to keep the cloak shut. “Yes, I’m better. Thank you.”
She briefly scanned him and returned the nod. She walked passed him, waving. He hesitated, then dipped his head and followed her down the small tunnel, which was dimly lit by a few torches dotting the way.