They lived in the shadow of the mountain—the girl Iliana and her tribe. The mountain was the great Arctic volcano, Shalou. And Iliana's father was the shaman of his people.
Shalou Mountain was clothed in deep, ancient glacial ice. The only creature whose life could be sustained on the mountain was the Arctic Firebird. Born of fire and ice, this giant raptor is wrapped in blue flames and feathers.
There were stories that told of the wrath of Shalou, times when the mountain would spew forth fire and lava. These stories were very disturbing to the shaman, but Iliana did not trouble herself with such things.
Iliana had befriended an Arctic Firebird--a bird with an enchanting voice. Its beautiful songs cheered Iliana every day. No matter how tired or sick or fearful or sorrowful she might be from time to time, the song of the Arctic Firebird could bring a smile to her face. And the Arctic Firebird loved Iliana dearly, for she had once saved his life.
Lately Shalou had been smoking and grumbling, and the shaman feared the worst for his tribe. Day after day he would watch and listen, watch and listen. And the fear inside him grew.
At last the shaman climbed the mountain to the smoking crater and looked down into the abyss. "Why are you threatening my people?” he cried. But there was no answer. He put a rag over his mouth and carefully made his way down into the crater, even though the smoke stung his eyes and waves of heat assaulted him.
“Why are you threatening my people?” he cried. “What will it take to make you stop?”
In a deep growl, the mountain spoke to the shaman. “Bring me your daughter for a sacrifice, and all will be well with your people.”
The words of Shalou cut the very heart of the man.
“My daughter? She is my only child. Please. . .isn’t there anything else we can offer?” But the mountain spoke no more.
Days passed, and the smoke grew thicker, and the rumblings became louder.
At last, in desperation, the shaman journeyed again to the top of the mountain, this time with his daughter, bound hand and foot. The Arctic Firebird followed at a distance. He watched in horror as, with a loud groan, the shaman threw his daughter into the mouth of Shalou.
The Arctic Firebird was heart-broken. Life without his friend would be unbearable. With no thought for himself, he flew into the smoking core of the volcano and offered a trade—his song for the life of the girl.
And then, even with the sulphurous smoke burning his throat, the Arctic Firebird sang his beautiful song for Shalou. He sang about Friendship and Faithfulness and of the beauty of his native land.
As he sang, the rumbling ceased, and Shalou began to weep.
The Arctic Firebird, alas, can never sing again, for his voice was destroyed in the fire of the mountain, but he was given his bright blue plumage as a gift for his courage.
But most importantly, his sacrifice had saved the life of his friend.