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The Ice Crystal
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By Kate Donovan

Icy tendrils of swirling mist stirred as the figure made her way through the frozen Alps of the Negishi ranges to the magnificent ice castle standing upon the highest peak. She stood stationary for a few seconds in front of the ominous doors before stretching out a thin pale hand and knocking softly twice. The doors opened slightly and the small girl was ushered inside. She was lead through the towering palace to a glorious hall, where at the end was an intricately carved throne, with a veiled figure occupying it. The girl came to a stop, kneeled, and spoke. “I have come at last. The journey was a difficult one.”
“I see.” A high cold voice rang out from behind the black veil, and echoed through the chamber. You have kept me waiting. But I am merciful. I have a mission for you.”
The small girl raised her head and gazed at the veiled figure through her blood-red eyes. “Your wish is my command.”
***
The winter leaves whispered as a slight breeze flickered through the village. The girl kept her head down as her hooded coat trailed softly along the ground. She had no business to harm the people. Her mission lay further on in the cold valley of Sheikal where her brother lived, his destiny set to destroy what the Queen lived for- power. She glided through the windswept streets to an inn, the wooden sign swinging creakily as she walked up the cobbled path and rapped on the door. A thin, balding man opened it. His eyes widened as he took in the sight of her.
“A room, innkeeper. I shall not be staying long,” she spoke, careful not to look into his eyes, as she dropped a gold coin into the palm of his hand.
“Of course, of course,” he mumbled, tearing his gaze away from her and fumbling with the ring of keys on his waistband. He handed her the key and pointed down a long narrow hall towards a staircase. She felt his gaze on her back as she swept past him and glided up the old wooden stairs.

That night she chose a small table at the back of the inn, ignoring the raucous laughter coming from the small group of men at the front of the bar. She held a glass of ice cubes in her hands as she gazed silently out the window onto the snow-topped mountains in the distance, thinking of the mileage she had to cover in the coming day. An hour later at eleven p.m the group of men at the bar broke away from each other, many of them stumbling towards the doors, some heading up the stairs to their rooms. The girl rose, preparing to rest for the long days ahead of her, when she was stopped by one of the men from the group.
“Hey mishus, you wanna drink?” He slurred, his stale breath washing over her face and obstructing her sense of smell. She kept her head down as her eyes darkened and she slowly turned around.
“Well?” He demanded, swaying on the spot and waiting for her to put her head up.
He is no interest to you. Your mission lies elsewhere. You were warned not to harm the villagers.
The girl fought against her raging temper. The drunken man grabbed her arm; that was it. She raised her blood-red eyes. The man froze, the laughter still etched upon his face, before falling heavily to the ground. The girl stared down at the lifeless body with disgust, before dragging it under the table. It would be morning before they found him, and by that time she would be long gone. Humans never learnt. Her appearance was a warning, and most people heeded it, but the occasional one pushed the buttons a bit too far on her short temper. It was bothersome having to dispose of the corpses, but necessary. Not giving a second thought to the man under the table, she slowly walked back up the stairs. In her room she wrapped her cloak tighter around her, and went to sit near the cold window. She closed her eyes.
***
In the vast lands of the Ice Kingdom lay a small village; Sheikal. The ice had settled overnight, and the warriors had the task of scraping the weapons clean of residue. Malachi received the cleaned weapons and sharpened them on the two silver rocks that lay at his feet. The atmosphere was tense, but Malachi had no idea why. Why should he? He was merely a farmer’s son, training to be a warrior; he had no place in matters concerning the elders. He was treated like an outsider and that made him feel unwanted and sad. His mother had run off when he was a baby, and his father never talked about her. While he sat there, huddling in his furskin jacket, the large tent on the outside of their village opened and the elders stepped out along with his father and the druid, who were not usually included in the council meetings. Wiping his sandy blonde hair out of his eyes, he watched curiously as they spoke for a minute. His father made his way over to him.
“Son, you’re wanted in the council meeting.” He would not look up to meet Malachi’s eyes. “Don’t ask questions, just come.”
Malachi went over to the tent with his father and stepped inside. He stood nervously on the outside of the circle, rubbing his pale fingers together for warmth.
“Come, sit down, and let’s get straight to the point,” the chief elder spoke. Malachi sat in the place the elder was pointing, and then the druid began.
“Malachi, we have been warned of a great darkness rapidly approaching on our land,” he said, conjuring pictures in a crystal ball as he spoke. “A small demon child is travelling at pace as we speak, with powers of black and evil. She is targeting our village and you are the only one who can stop her.”
Malachi froze. “Me?” He said disbelievingly, his eyes widening. He felt like somebody had dropped a brick inside of him, and rolled it around for good measure. He wasn’t a good fighter, he wasn’t strong. How could he possibly take on a demon that had probably been bred to kill? “But I don’t know how…I didn’t…Why me?” he asked again.
The druid sighed and leaned heavily back in the chair. “When you were younger, everything used to be fair and we lived in peace and harmony. Your mother was the true Ice Princess, and a fair one too, until the crystal containing all her power was stolen and hidden so that no other ruler could completely rule until you found it, or so destiny has it. Your mother became evil without the power of the crystal guiding her and demolished many things in her quest to find it, but by now it was for the wrong reasons. When she couldn’t find it she became enraged. We banished her from the land, but not before she could take your sister with her.”
“My sister?” Malachi asked, confused. “But I only have two sisters.”
“No, you have a third, an older sister, but we do not know where she is now. You have to stop your mother getting the crystal; or she will destroy our tribe with all the powers nature can throw at us.”
Suddenly a battle horn sounded from high up in the hills. Malachi heard the sounds of running feet and shouts of the warriors preparing for battle. The elders leapt from their chairs and ran out of the tent, yelling orders as they went.
Malachi’s father grabbed his arm, his face set in determination. “Hurry, Malachi, hurry, the demon is almost here. We’ll try to hold it back as long as we can.”
“But where do I look?” Malachi asked, feeling helpless under the torrent of new information he had been given.
The druid spoke, but his eyes seemed glazed and his bony frame looked tense as if it was suffering from an onslaught of information. “I have one clue that has been recovered from the depths of the crystal ball. You must run to the cave on the side of Mt Alpine and find the old grave room. Find the skeleton with a gold tooth and you will find the crystal around his neck, but only you can take it as you are the boy with a pure heart and are a direct descendant of our fallen queen. Now run!”
***
Malachi ran like he had never run before, away from the preparations of battle, and through the fresh soft white snow that had fallen the night before. Soon, he was panting up Mt. Alpine to the base of the cave some ten metres above. He ran into the cave and paused at the three tunnels leading in different directions. There was not enough time for him to take the wrong one. Just then, he noticed a dim light shining from down the right tunnel. He turned down that one, pursuing the light which seemed to be getting further and further away from him. He ran for what seemed like eternity, and was about to turn back, cursing himself for taking the wrong tunnel, when he spied an old archway covered with cobwebs. Malachi cautiously went through the arch into a chamber that had hundreds of skeletons piled in corners to the north, south, east and west. He was looking around in despair and wondering if he was ever going to find the crystal before havoc wrecked on his village, when a glint caught his eye. Alone in a shadowy corner at the far end of the chamber sat one skeleton with a gold tooth and a brightly shining crystal around its neck. As Malachi ran to take it, he was relieved that the last obstacle hadn’t been an obstacle at all. He didn’t have to go rifling through all the skeletons to find the ice crystal. He hung the crystal gently around his neck, and as he did so, his skin seemed to start glowing a heavenly blue, and he was filled with goodness.
“Not so fast, Malachi,” said a soft, whispery voice. He turned slowly, no longer afraid. From out of the shadows stepped a small girl, almost porcelain-like with her pale, fragile frame. Malachi knew this must be the one.
“Who are you?” He asked, knowing full well what the answer would be.
“I have been sent to recover the crystal heart, return power to the Ice Princess and to kill you,” she said simply, casually taking a step closer to the stationary form of Malachi.
“I thought you were attacking the village,” Malachi asked, trying to figure her out.
“That was easy,” she said dismissively. “A simple diversion was all it took. A pack of bloodthirsty hellhounds straight from the Negishi ranges was sufficient enough to send your warriors running. I just had to come and wait here, because, of course, you are the only one allowed to touch the crystal.”
“But how did you know where I was going to be?”
“How do you think the druid suddenly found the memory of where the crystal lay?” She asked sarcastically. “I implanted it of course. I have known where it was the entire time. Now, I’m sorry, but it’s time to die.”
Malachi watched bravely as the girls’ eyes seemed to burn up, revealing a brilliant red underneath. Malachi didn’t try to run away. He knew if he died with the crystal, no-one could ever abuse its power again. He stood staring at the stunning colour, but the girl seemed to be expecting something more. Her expression turned from expectant to confused. Malachi took his chance. He lunged at her and they both toppled towards the ground. Malachi heard a sickening crack, and as he got to his knees, he stared down at the girl. Blood was spilling from a long gash on her forehead and her eyes were drifting in and out of focus, but they were no longer red. They were a warm brown, just like his. He recognised her. She started to speak, her voice barely more than a whisper.
“When our mother took me, she turned me into a monster. She fed me potions and taught me how to use the dark talents hidden deep inside of me. But that couldn’t ruin the connection between us. When I looked at you, my eyes didn’t kill you because we were born family.”
The girl was starting to slip away.
“Malachi…..my….brother.” She rasped, before taking a last breath, and then was still.
Malachi held her hand and wept.



Brian Falkner Books