Ethereal Stories: Of Ice and Swords

I found old fantasy books at a flea market and I had a strong desire to write some. I started a notebook with lots of little ideas that I think could make a good story, if one day I take the time to develop it all. In the meantime, here is something to give you a glimpse of a very small part of the universe in question.

Of Ice and Swords

I

Lyra put down her cold beer, sighing in relief. This truce in the fighting was a real happiness. Legs stretched under the small table ravaged by generations of drunks, she leaned on the back of the chair and savored the ambiance of the tavern. She always missed that warm hubbub when she went on a mission.

— Hey babe, would you like a…

The young woman suddenly raised her head and stared at the giant who had dared to disturb her tasting. He swallowed, cut short in his bluster. Behind him, his comrades were exchanging hearty laughs. Deceived by the slenderness of the leather-clad figure, they did not know what was hidden under the loose hood of the warmage, and had thought they could have fun at her expense. A common mistake.
Lyra tilted her head and raised her eyebrows, daring her troublemaker to add a single word. His icy eye sparkled, and the man stepped back, muttering:

— Sorry, I don’t… sorry.

He turned around, his neck stiff and his shoulders tense, then rejoined his comrades with a jerky step, containing his desire to flee as fast as he could to avoid losing face. He was greeted with a string of surprised questions, which he waved aside, before grabbing a glass and downing it.
Lyra allowed herself a small smirk, and went back to tasting her beer. She pouted when she noticed that the liquid had cooled in the meantime. She reached out with her right index finger, brushed the rim of the mug and watched the frost delicately settle there, then tasted again. It was much better.
A new shadow invades his bubble of tranquility. She smelled of rancid sweat.

— I’m sorry, my Lady, but I… A thousand pardons, but we’d be more comfortable if you avoided using magic here.
— I only chilled that donkey piss you sell like beer.

Lyra’s voice, low and steady, made the innkeeper sweat even more. His bald head began to glow.

— I don’t…yes, of course, but you make my customers nervous, and they…
— Good. I am leaving.

The spell was broken anyway.
The forty-year-old nearly fainted with relief. He stepped back hastily when the young woman got up, and returned to the relative shelter of her counter to resume polishing her glasses. Lyra took a few steps toward the door, then spun around sharply, her hand on the hilt of her shortsword, feeling someone tug on her cloak.

II

A little girl was staring at her, her brown braids all tangled, her nose encrusted with snot. She must have been what, five years old? Six, no more.

— Ma’am, can I come with you?

Lyra smiled, slipped her gun back into its sheath, and looked around for the mother. His gaze only caught terrified faces, which annoyed him to no end. Why, she was not going to eat the kid!

— Say, can I come? I too want to become a war mage!
— Really, baby? Do you want to live in the cold and the mud, be constantly hungry and thirsty, see all your friends die?

The girl’s eyes widened; this description must not match the stories she had heard.
Lyra suddenly wanted to please him, perhaps because she was determined to enjoy her few days off. She reached out and molded a tiny fragment of her power. An ice unicorn appeared on his palm. The mage offered it to the kid, whose face lit up, and took the opportunity to remove her cape from the sticky little hands. Her tranquility regained, she crossed the door of the tavern with a light step, and joined her horse tied to the terrace. The animal, immaculately white, snorts when he sees her come out, tinkling all the buckles of his pale blue harness. She freed him and straddled him lightly, immediately galloping him into the night. Now that she had betrayed her identity, she wanted to get away from this town before the rumor of her passing spread. So close to the border, the village must have been home to a veritable nest of spies.

III

The moon found Lyra still on horseback, and flashed armor in front of Raven’s Bridge. The mage tugged at the reins cursingly, stopping her mount in its tracks. She spun around in the saddle, and saw more soldiers spring up behind her. Trapped! They had been damn quick on that one.
She muttered a few bits of ancient language and a shell of ice covered her like a breastplate. Just in time. An arrow bounces off his left shoulder. The men fanned out to surround him. One of them stood in front of her, and held out a skeletal hand, which clothed itself in flames. Lyra grimaced. War Mage versus War Mage. A nice part of pleasure in perspective.

The wizard’s fire coalesced into an incendiary projectile. When he came face to face, Lyra countered the attack with a wave of ice, but could not dodge the simultaneous charge of the soldiers, who threw her to the ground, causing her steed to flee. She fell heavily on the stones of the path, biting her tongue at the same time, and distributed a whole series of spears of ice around her to buy time to get up. She jumped to her feet, and ducked immediately to avoid another incendiary projectile. He crashed into an enemy soldier and turned him into a human torch. Without worrying about the unpleasant smell of tallow, Lyra charged again: she froze the ground under the feet of the foot soldiers, and drew her short sword. She had time to pierce two unbalanced men, before having to dodge a bluish flame, which grilled an additional assailant and warmed the earth. The others took off.

After several passes, Lyra frowned. The incessant attacks prevented him from concentrating, and therefore from casting powerful spells. Even though they got in each other’s way, the alliance of wizard and soldiers was formidable; she couldn’t do both at the same time. She countered several sword thrusts with an ice shield, which the fire mage immediately melted. A blade slashed the sorceress’ forearm, another brushed her cheek. Good ! It was time to step up a gear.

In a few words, Lyra locked herself in a gangue of thick ice, which her enemies immediately began to break up. One second, two, three… the little iceberg exploded, but it had done its job: the young woman had been able to concentrate enough to shape a spell of greater amplitude. An arrow of ice left his palms and shot up into the clear sky. Its bell trajectory avoided the surprised infantrymen, who did not bother to eliminate it. They charged again, forcing Lyra to protect herself with a new shield, which the fire mage began to pound mercilessly. Lyra’s sword danced and bit into flesh, but it wouldn’t last long. There were still far too many of them.

Feeling his prey weaken, the enemy mage redoubled his efforts. With both hands outstretched, he showered Lyra with heavy projectile fire, forcing her to defend, defend again. He smiled and wiped his sleeve on his forehead. He opened his mouth to fashion a new spell… and collapsed face down, eyes bulging. A huge snow tiger, bursting out of the forest like a cataclysm of violence, left his back and finished him off with a well-placed claw. Lyra, taking advantage of the soldiers’ surprise, straightened up and modeled a volley of ice javelins. Now that they were no longer protected, the men were dropping like flies. One of them tried to run away, but in two leaps the beast was on top of him.

Epilogue

The young woman staggered and fell, kneeling in the earth soaked with vital fluids, dropping her sword. Covered in blood, exhausted, she forced her breath back to normal and felt her heart slow down, calm down. She lifted the spell that drained her remaining energy; the snow tiger once again became Yo’lbars, his placid steed, which immediately put its nose in the grass, indifferent to the surrounding scene of carnage.
Lyra surveyed the modest battlefield, and smiled. Eighteen to one. Not so bad for a first day off.

A few miles away, a tiny girl was dreaming of a magical battle and her lips, rustling in her sleep, practiced pronouncing the ancient spells. A tiny unicorn of ice adorned her frost-covered bedside table…

The end

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