The Ice Queen – Jovee Winters

“Come in, Goblin.” The rusted, and ancient sounding voice of the forest witch, Baba Yaga, bade him enter. Wrapping the hunter green cloak tighter around his body, he stepped through the door of a house unlike any other in all of creation. A rickety, dilapidated structure of wood with a pointed roof, a chimney poking through that was full of holes, and moss that seemed to grow from every conceivable nook and cranny. But that wasn’t the strangest part of the house at all. Oh no, that dubious honor belonged to the mammoth sized chicken feet the decrepit building sat upon. He hated coming here. Hated haggling with the three-faced witch. She sat on the floor, a withered frame covered in warts and rags, and tossing sun-bleached chicken bones down by her feet as she murmured excitedly to herself. Baba Yaga was in crone form today. It was said that her moods matched her facade. The Goblin, as he was called by all—his name had been lost to time, even to himself—clenched his jaw. Eyeing the strange house whose walls literally breathed in and out with every step the chicken feet took. Baba had nothing in her home. No curtains to shade the windows.

No table to eat dinner. No kitchen. No rooms. This was nothing more than an empty room the size of his water closet back home. And though he loathed the very thought of haggling with her, there were few quite as powerful as she when it came to the dark arts. “Why have you come, male?” she asked and he shuddered. That screechy tenor of her voice could no doubt break glass. Listening to her talk was like hearing the wailing, echoing song of a ghost at dawn. Opening his mouth, he never got a chance to speak. Because she tossed down her bones again. Cackling softly to herself, she tsked beneath her breath. “Aye, I see. Ye’ve come for a bit of revenge against the woman of ice.” He swallowed, stomach churning with anger. No one ever interrupted him and lived.

But Baba wasn’t just anyone. Her power was far greater than his. Swallowing his pride, he nodded. “Yes.” She tossed her bones down again. Her back still to him, she stared intently at the grayish-white knuckles. “I see no fault in her. You’ve a pettiness to your soul, Goblin. A darkness that festers and boils and will someday be your demise if you let it.” Nostrils flaring, he bunched his fists by his sides. “Whether she agreed with him or not, made no difference. Luminesa had become a thorn in his flesh.” Tossing the bones once again, she cackled. The sound hollow and empty like the rattling of dead leaves over gravel. “She spurned you once.

Ah, the vanity of pride.” “Will you help me?” he snapped, daring to take a step toward her. And still without turning, she snapped her fingers and one of the vines of moss that’d been nothing but a harmless bit of greenery had suddenly snapped down around his throat, banding with the strength of a constrictor. “Mind your manners, boy.” There wasn’t even an inflection to her voice. She didn’t fear him. The Under Goblin rather thought she might fear nothing. “Coin is coin and that’s an end of it,” she said. “Aye, I’ll aid you. But you know my fee if you fail.” The band around his throat lessened so that he could talk. Coughing to clear the grit from it, he nodded. “I know. But I won’t fail.” She laughed.

“We shall see. Come, stand before me, boy.” Hiding the fact that his knees currently shook, the Goblin walked around to the front of her, keeping a wary eye on the moss dangling like rope from the wooden beams above his head. Then he dropped to his knees and turned his gaze on her and wished he hadn’t. Her face looked as though it’d been dipped in wax and lit on fire. Parts of her jaw and cheek had been peeled back, showing exposed tendon and muscle beneath. Lip curling with disgust, he shook his head. By all that was holy and precious she was a terrifying sight. She inhaled deeply, smiling broadly, as though to taunt him. “Your fear tastes sublime.” Swallowing thickly, he shook his head in denial. But there was no fooling the witch of darkness. From beneath her robe slithered the golden body of a snake and it was all the Goblin could do not to jump to his feet and run away. The Golden adder was deadly to any and all inhabitants of Kingdom. It’s magick so dark and noxious that it was said just a single flick of its tongue to flesh would stop the hearts beat.

He gazed on in horror as that ghastly beast wound it way up her arm, before settling itself like a golden choker around her shriveled neck, it’s pearl pink tongue flicking in and out in the Goblin’s direction. Those ruby red eyes trained solely on him, letting him know without a doubt that should he even flinch it would come at him. “Three souls,” she said, holding up three gnarled fingers with nails tipped in black, “a brother, a sister, and a centaur male. A world within a world, built of ice and snow and demons that blow. And from the heavens, a mirror cast from the tears of a fallen angel.” She held out her hand and suddenly there was a mirror on it and the Goblin felt the pulse of its dark magick throb against his flesh. “Take it.” She thrust it out to him. The mirror was nothing but a sheet of silver glass, thin around the edges. He reached for it, and the moment he plucked it from her palm, he felt the slick, oily residue of its darkness cling to him. He curled his lips. “Allow no piece of it to fragment into you. Only once the world has been set, then you shatter it. Choose one from among the three to infect. The mirror will do the rest.

” Pocketing the object with a curl of his lip, he shook his head, wanting to rid himself of the object of power as soon as could be. “Why the centaur?” The Goblin knew very little of the herds of Luminesa’s plains. Centaurs were generally considered to be wise and knowledgeable creatures, and difficult to enchant because they were mostly immune to the effects of magic. Benign magic anyway. Baba Yaga’s magick was as dark as it came and more powerful than even that of the fairy council’s combined. “He is her mate in every way.” Thrusting out his jaw, he couldn’t understand why taking Luminesa her mate was important. But Baba snorted. “Think about it, you fool. With her mate around, and the magic of that bond working powerfully between them, how could she possibly focus on finding the key?” What she said had merit, he’d not thought of it that way. The mate bond was legendary, and primitively powerful in its own right. But what exactly did she mean by the key? “What key?” A little flash of light flared across her palm, and then he saw it. An antique brass key no bigger than the length of her palm. “Look into my eyes Goblin and see the rest.” Leaning forward, he saw the colors roll through her eyes which had turned an opaque white.

The hell Baba had created, the future Luminesa would suffer, and he smiled… “Oh, dear Gods, that is brilliant.” He grinned when it was over, astonished by the witch’s cleverness. “Aren’t I always?” She rubbed a finger across the head of her contented adder. The Goblin made to leave then, having all he needed to put his plan into play. But Baba snatched him by the wrist, her grip surprisingly powerful for someone as frail looking as she. The Golden adder, which had been practically purring with contentment just a second ago, had closed the gap between them, its tiny pink tongue flickering close to the Goblin’s nose as Baba tugged him down to her. “The rules are firm, Goblin. If she accepts her fate, then you must let her be, and payment will be mine,” she said, licking dried and cracked lips. “I won’t lose.” She released him so quickly, that he stumbled backward, and almost fell. “Even the mightiest towers fall.” And with those final parting words, she snatched up her pile of chicken bones and tossed them again. Cackling with delight when they settled. “Oh look, Balthazar,” she crooned to her adder, “more visitors are coming soon and such beauties they are.” Shaking his head at her nonsense, the Goblin ran from there, only able to breathe once he’d put at least a mile of distance between him and her royal craziness.

“There is no way I shall lose.” Finally, after all these years, Luminesa’s downfall was nearly at hand… Chapter 1 Luminesa Luminesa walked barefoot upon a thick patch of pristine snow that glittered like frozen fragments of iridescent mother of pearl. Her silvery gown—made up of snowflakes and ice crystals—trailed in a sweeping undulation behind her. She felt the eyes on her; the owls and the mice hidden within the shadows of skeletal trees watching her movements with hawk-like curiosity. She’d not left her ice palace in years, used as she was to her isolation. But a star had fallen from the sky into her snowy realm and it was a matter that required investigation. Snow bees danced about her shoulders, their gentle buzzing a soothing melody to her curious mind. Just then a sharp cry pierced the air—the call of her only friend, Baatha the Snow Falcon. Luminesa paused and stared up as he circled the bluish-gray tinted sky once, twice, and a third time before he finally lowered toward her and sank his talons upon the shoulder plate of her ice armor. “Baatha,” she said in a voice grown rough and scratchy from long years of disuse. “What news?” The white falcon blinked tawny eyes back at her. Before cocking his head and ruffling his beak along the inside of his foot, at the leather pouch Luminesa had attached there. “What have you there, friend?” She gently shoved his beak away and undid the leather thong. A strange silver shard winked back at her. She was just about to reach for it when a pulsing wave of dark magick breached her palm.

Hissing, she snatched her hand back. Curling her fingers into a fist and hugged it tight to her chest. Threads of steam hissed through the air as the heat of that darkness mixed with the ice of her flesh. Heart racing she turned her gaze toward Baatha’s and quickly retied the thong. Luminesa knew this sort of darkness. She’d beheld it once before. Many moons ago. This level of darkness could only come from the wicked heart of the forest witch—Baba Yaga. But there was a trace on the mirror, in the waves of that magic that tasted faintly of sulfur too. It was that sulfur that led her to the true culprit behind this object of power. “Where did you find this? It bears the stench of the Under Goblin.” With an ear-splitting shriek Baatha took to the air, his powerful wings slicing through the sky, moving slow enough so that she could follow. Luminesa was the Queen of Ice. She could shape her body to be more than mere flesh. If she so chose, she could turn to a pillar of swirling snowflakes.

But the falling star had awoken her from her slumber and for the first time in ages she found her curiosity piqued. Wishing to retain her human form for a while longer, Luminesa followed Baatha’s trail, and as she did so she looked at the landscape she’d crafted when she’d first come to this realm a hundred years past. Then it’d been green and lively. Full of warmth and heat. She’d not set out to turn her surroundings bleak and cold. Though in truth she found none of this bleak or cold, there was beauty in the ice. In the simple flake of a snow. The uniqueness of it. How in all of creation there would only ever be one of its type. All the more beautiful because of its fragility; each flake was a gift and once gone, never to be seen again. But soon another flash of silver intruded in on her musings. Baatha circled the small object, before landing and tucking his wings against his breast, giving her a sharp cry to come. Luminesa studied the stark landscape, looking for any signs of tracks. Anything that could give her a hint as to where the Under Goblin had gone. But the hills and valleys were smooth and clean.

Snow drifted gently on the breeze. It would have taken at least an hour to wipe away any tracks made by an intruder. “Do you smell him, Baatha?” The falcon merely blinked at her. She cocked her head, eyes narrowing as she thought of something else. “Was this the falling star?” The falcon’s stare never wavered. So what she’d seen hadn’t been a star at all. But a fragment of mirror. She stared at the leather pouch tied to Baatha’s foot. Why had a mirror fallen from the heavens? “To me, Baatha.” She held out her arm. Her companion heeded her command, landing swiftly and heavily on her forearm, sinking his thick claws into the ice of her skin. Her form was so frozen though that she felt no pain. Untying the thong from his foot, she hefted the pouch in her palm, testing its weight. If she’d not seen the sliver for herself, or felt the waves of its power, she’d not have thought there to be anything inside. The fragment felt like little more than air.

Baatha grunted. “No. You cannot have it back.” With a twirl of her finger she encased the leather in ice before tucking it into the bodice of her gown. “Have you seen the demon lately?” With a graceful nod the bird took powerfully to the air. He traveled quickly, necessitating her change back to snowy mist. This was her home. She’d made sure when she’d come here a century ago to plant herself in a place isolated and separate from the rest of the world. If he dared, if even anyone dared to try and take her home, there would be death. Chapter 2 Luminesa The place in which Baatha finally stopped was a wild jungle of overgrown vegetation. Vines dangled from sinuously curled tree limbs. The humid air was awash with the scents of hibiscus and plumeria flowers. Body trembling from the violent surge of heat already beginning to drain at her, Luminesa conserved her energy by stepping out of the mist and changing the ice of her body to flesh and bone. She loathed this form. Hated the clunkiness of it.

The foreignness of heated blood sweeping through her veins. It wasn’t that she couldn’t handle the warmth, she could.


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Updated: 18 July 2021 — 15:21

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