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The Ice Witch
The lilac blooms fluttered in the soft wind, occasionally breaking off the branches to float down to the lush land, to form a lavender carpet on the jade blades as though expecting a Queen.
It was viewed through shadowed glass by two vivid azure eyes. Though, behind them, the owner was daydreaming, and scarcely absorbing the movement of the jacaranda. Her face was dimly reflected on the smooth surface, pale skin framed with contrasting raven hair. She was a charcoal drawing that sat amongst the hues of paint.
The girl was contemplating her party plans, for it would be her birthday in a short while and her age would notch up to fourteen.
Celia raised her head, removing it from the cupboard and away from the window sill, sliding onto her bed for a little more comfort.
Her best friend, Eveleen, was flying down to visit her, staying for a few weeks including the day of her birth and when it was celebrated. Celia was excited about this fact; the last time she had seen Eveleen was when Celia was visiting for her friend’s birthday, and that was more than six months before.
Celia continued to muse, oblivious to the fall of Jacaranda blossoms.
Celia heard a clear rap at the door, and grinned to herself.
She ran downstairs to see Eveleen and her father already standing inside, talking to her dad politely.
The diminutive girl was fiddling with the present in her hands, causing the turquoise wrapping paper to crinkle faintly.
She absently turned around and beamed elfishly at the sight of her best friend appearing. Eveleen stepped forward slightly and extended her arms, so Celia could receive the gift. The latter tore open the packaging with quick deftness and mounting excitement, to observe the present beneath.
A sphere radiated moonshine, glowing brightly. For a second it stayed that tone, and then it faded to a cobalt globe, glistening like a jewel in a lost world. It changed hue numerous times shining brilliant greens, scorching reds and melting yellows. After a while it returned to its white stage, and Celia looked up at her companion.
“Thanks, Eve” she whispered.
“I thought you would like it,” Eveleen winked.
Celia’s father handed Celia another parcel.
“I suppose you want you present from me now, too.”
She took the object to unwrap it.
A shimmering blue book lay inside. It seemed there was a power exuding from the pages; an ancient echo of a magical strength.
“It belonged to your mother,” her father explained. “I thought you should have it.”
Celia stared at the item.
Her mother’s? She had never met her mother before. Was this the only recall left? A book filled with pages of faded ivory, now fawned with time? If it was the only thing to evoke reminder, then Celia would treasure it forever.
“It’s great, Dad. Thanks.”
Celia slid off her bed and crept to her cupboard.
She rested a hand on the drawer knob, and hesitated.
She had ignored her father’s gift to her for the whole time Eveleen was staying, but she felt compelled to hold it. It wasn’t because she had never wanted to read it before; it was because she didn’t want to taint her mother’s reminiscences.
Celia eased the drawer open and gazed at the cover intently. She collected the book and perched herself on her covers.
She flipped through the leaves, seeing an ice blue dragon, a witch clad in cold colours wearing a silver necklace with a sapphire ornament, and a tremendous mountain, topped with snow and cloud, its sides sloping steeply.
Celia read the volume well into the night, using her glowing sphere for light as though it was her personal moon in the gloom.
She was a chapter or two away from completing it when her conscious started to ebb. Her eyes grew heavy and soon she fell into a bottomless slumber
When the sky outside her window was a faint gold, Celia was awakened by a vociferous roar. She blinked, thinking she might have dreamt the thundering, but then she glimpsed outside.
Celia let out a piercing scream.
A monstrous eye of bitter ice was staring at her, and then another roar shook the house like an earthquake.
The girl stumbled to her bedroom door, wrenching it open and falling through.
There was a crash as the creature slashed at the house with its mighty claws.
Celia gasped, sprinting downstairs as the creature thrashed at her home, destroying it as though it was poorly made of twigs.
Fragments littered down on her as she raced away, though never going fast enough; sure it was all a nightmare. Just a nightmare.
She staggered from the building as it was torn apart, nothing but debris. She was shattering like her home, and she felt hollow and terrified.
The attacker was revealed. A huge ice dragon clawed at the rubble, screeching madly as though it was being burnt and cut.
The animal nosed the air, hunting for the girl’s scent.
Celia concealed herself behind a tree, covered by the dark foliage.
“Just a dream,” she repeated over and over to herself in a whisper. “Just a dream… All you have to do is wake up.” But it was as though she was trapped in folds of eternal sleep, and nothing to inch her eyes ajar. It was no dream.
The dragon’s nostrils flared and a cold mist floated from them, and it cried. It spread its’ wings and beat them, then knocked the tree down, causing splinters to fly like confused arrows, flinging everywhere.
Celia collapsed, staring up at the creature that was certainly about to kill her. This was her death. Alone with a mythical beast.
Instead, it turned to the side, revealing another being.
The woman wore a magnificent gown with a large variety of blue colouring it; dark as night and as cold as a frozen land. Her skin was pale and lifeless; her hair silvery white and thrashing around as though in a storm, but there was no wind.
Her eyes were bitter and ferocious ice, her thin mouth curled in a biting snarl.
She was crowned with a silver diadem encrusted with jewels of the deep sea, and a necklace hung from her throat adorned with a sapphire pendant in the shape of a teardrop.
Clasped in her skeletal talons, was a staff of frigid wood that held a glowing orb on its’ tip. It was pointed directly at the terrified girl.
The Ice Witch, Celia thought immediately.
She didn’t have much to consider after that, for a bolt of lightning shot from the orb and struck her, leaving her mind black as she delved deeper into the abyss of night.
Celia recalled little of the flight trip; only the freezing wind, the wing beats and the knowledge of being paralyzed and frightened.
She woke fully in a murky stone room where water dripped from the roof and down the walls, chilling as they slid. Celia scrambled to her feet, looking around frantically.
“Where am I?” she breathed to herself.
A rasping voice in the gloom answered:
“In the clutch of the Ice Witch, of course.”
Celia searched for the owner of the sound.
“Who are you?”
“I am me and you are you.”
“Never you mind. Goodnight.”
Celia’s eyes roved as the voice faded.
“Where are you?”
She blinked sluggishly, falling to the floor and rested there, panting.
Her eyes closed and she lay there for a time that she could not fathom, merging and freezing with the stone.
For days or even weeks, Celia stayed in the cell. Some scraps of food were placed by her every time she woke from her sleep.
She tried to remain conscious and to discover the rasping creature but she never succeeded. And every time she failed, a little hope in her died, withering in her darkening heart.
Celia began to feel different. She was filthy and her voice was hoarse but there was something else. Her eyes were adjusting and they seemed to exude a faint light, almost unnoticeable. She had a sense that someone was always surveying her activities, which, of course, were very minimal.
Celia sat in a corner, stroking her hair, tugging at strands that were going grey. They came out easily, and it scared her. It was then that she noticed a scrabbling.
“Who’s there?” she asked, her words scraping her throat.
Two phosphorescent lights appeared suddenly and they edged closer, a face taking form. Celia gasped. The creature had pale green skin, sharp jagged teeth, and slit-like nostrils with a swollen, mottled face. His hair was wisps of silvery white and the eyes were like lamps.
“Why are you here?”
“I was also captured by her,” his voice filled with loathing. “I’m here to feed you and make sure you stay put.”
Celia crawled to the bars, and with an abrupt thought that she didn’t care about the consequences of, she swiftly grasped the throat of the creature. For a flash there was a boy, blonde-haired, green eyed and rid of torment by grief and darkness. A boy with a whole life behind him that was veiled in the mist of the Ice Witch. A boy that held love and wonder, no treachery etching his skin. It was life…
Then it was the disgusting creature again, though shock was on his face for another glance. But he quickly hid it and smirked.
“Help me or I will end you.” Celia whispered, knowing her words were true. She would do it.
“I really wish you could.”
Celia tightened her grip. He started to fade, a smile on his hideous face.
“But I really can’t be killed.”
And he disappeared completely, leaving Celia with an empty grasp, an empty feeling.
Celia rubbed her legs, muttering under her breath incoherently. She heard a faint noise and rose to see two lamplights.
“What are you doing here?” Celia snapped.
The creature glanced around nervously.
“I think you’re the one.”
“What?” Celia’s brow furrowed in confusion.
The creature brandished a rust-coloured key in front of her.
“I’m here to help.”
The girl eyed him suspiciously behind a curtain of thinning hair.
“What do I do?”
Teregal, as she came to know him, told her the scheme. He had studied the witch and had surmised that her power source came from her staff. A theory.
“I’ve heard that without her mighty possession she will be destroyed.”
“Why don’t you steal it?”
“I am bound,” he murmured, a shadow cast upon his face. “And I believe you are the one to bring down the witch, to save us all. When you grasped my throat, I felt my old self rid of evil. Maybe you can do that to her.”
Celia nodded as though this was normal and even possible. How could she do this?
“Goodbye,’’ Teregal murmured. “I can’t go with you to the witch. Good luck.”
And with that, he vanished.
Celia edged around a stone corner up some stairs and travelled forward until turning once more, then down a long hall to an opening door. She snuck along and then slid out. There were hushed voices nearby. She moved around the curved stone of the outside, bitter wind lashing her. Celia glimpsed a woman with the dragon. She was stroking the head of the creature, her blue eyes haunted and her face fair.
“It’s her, Icela, I know it,” the woman murmured. “It is Celia.”
“How can you be certain of her?” Icela asked.
“I can sense it. And who better to break the spell, but my daughter?”
Did she hear correctly? Her mother was this woman; The Ice Witch?
Celia’s mother had been missing for years, and the book had belonged to her. Her head swam, and she felt dizzy.
She stumbled forward and almost fell over. The girl gasped as she regained balance, then realised her mistake.
Both witch and dragon turned round to stare at her.
The woman changed from haunted beauty to vicious fury in an instant. Spell lost;
Celia screamed, spinning swiftly and racing away, her heart pumping.
Her hair swept in her eyes, and she lost her footing, slipping on a stone and plummeting to the frosty ground and her conscious vanished as the witch grabbed at her.
The Ice Witch glared down at the girl, her spiteful features fading slightly in the girl’s presence, at her warmth in her hands.
“It’s her,” crystalline tears pierced her eyes. “For generations we’ve been cursed. Now she’s here to break it.”
Teregal peered out with caution, a look of concern on his face.
The woman gazed at him and he shied away, shrinking.
“Take care of her,” she whispered softly.
The witch removed the necklace from her throat and fastened it to her daughters’.
“It was the necklace,” Teregal muttered to himself.
Already his features were returning to his old self.
“Take Icela, and go with her and Celia,” she said. “Please, before I am taken over.”
Teregal carried Celia onto the reluctant dragon.
“Go, Icela!” the witch cried.
Icela stared at the woman, sorrow in her eyes, then flapped her wings and launched into the air. She was the currents in the ether, a cloud, an apparition. You couldn’t tell if she had ever been there.
The ice-capped mountain felt a wave of fresh warm breeze.
Where the dead cold land lived, blades of green flushed from the ground and flowers sprang up in delight at the alteration.
The mist shrouding the peak floated away, and the sun shone brilliantly in welcome.
There was a change in the atmosphere, a changing of the season.
The Ice Witch stood, gazing joyfully at the picture of a dragon holding two people, seeing them with soft sky eyes. New eyes.
Soldiers, dressed smartly in grey, surrounded their mistress.
One saw her watery lashes and stepped towards her.
“Miss?” he said. “Is everything alright?”
The woman glanced at the man and gave a smile, not seen from her before, and it lit her face like nothing else could.
“Yes. For once everything is alright.”
And she faded into mist on the breeze.