Ice Guardian (A Sacred Journey Short Collection)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Ice Guardian is the first installment of the Sacred Journey Short Collection and countdown number four.

Amaya is the only warrior among the syhien--kind and loving creatures protected by strong guardians. With a love for weapons and fights, the snowy plains of Palacous provides the adventure she needs to prove she doesn't need a guardian to protect her.
However, she encounters more than she bargains for, and soon learns there's more to her journey when she unearths secrets lost beneath the ice.
All she has to do is survive.

Submitted: October 18, 2016

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Submitted: October 18, 2016

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In the midst of sharp edged mountains and fluffy clouds’ shadows, untouched snow covered the ground, the glittering surface masking the smooth stone Amaya knew lay underneath.

An ice wall three times as tall as Amaya’s five foot two frame, blocked her view of what lay ahead and turned the crisp air colder when she neared it.

Her reflection stared back with big silver eyes and eyelashes spotted with snowflakes, pale purple, porcelain skin and grey-purple hair that hung in a large plait over her shoulder. Her delicate and flawless features were marred by tiny cuts and bruises she’d received on this journey, surrounding an old scar that ran from the right side of her forehead to her chin

Her knee-height boots kept her legs warm in the cold, as well as the leggings she’d worn under her skirt. Her sword lay against a wide belt, opposite a small satchel that contained food and water. Her thick cloak, though slightly tattered from her journey, still served its purpose in keeping her long, pointed ears warm from the cold.

She’d been travelling for just under a day to get to the snowy plains of Palacous. It had been dangerous. She’d received a nasty bite from a two-headed Khax, whose sharp beak had torn into her thigh, resulting in a wound that needed to be cauterised, and whispering Dassuhzs that had nearly lured her off the face of a cliff. She’d come to her senses before taking the last step that would have plunged her to her death.

While travelling around the outskirts of Khrella woods, she'd sensed her guardian close by, and believing he was going to step from the shadows surrounding her and insist she forget her task and go home to safety, she'd lost focused and ventured too close to the giant woods. She'd only just managed to dodge the deadly arrows of the murderous Bhyubs who lived within the trees. She hadn't sensed him after that, and thought it had just been a trick of her mind.

Turning away from her reflection, Amaya held her weapon hilt tightly and trudged forward, through a gap within the icy walls with a little less enthusiasm than before. She missed her guardian's warmth, although she'd never admit it to him. Despite having been brought up in this very location by one of the strongest creatures she knew, she hadn't warmed up to the cold, so to speak. When her guardian had made himself known, he'd never let her feel the cold again, so coming back had been a shock to her system. Nerves swarmed inside her stomach upon stepping onto the untouched snow—she had one task to prove herself and failing wasn't an option, not in her eyes. Not in the end.

When the smooth and straight wall became rough and crooked, she slowed her pace and crept through the snow without a whisper of sound, until it opened up into a cavern surrounded by the ice wall.

The reason for her dangerous journey sat in the middle of the cavern. A rock the size of a small mountain, untouched by the snow. Crystalline ice shards covered the jagged surface, which slowly rose and fell with each rumbling breath the rock took.

Amaya crept towards it, leaving a fresh trail of boot prints in the snow, staring at hundreds of interwoven frozen stalactites that curved upwards from the ice wall, almost blocking the sky from above where soft whispers of snowflakes spun gently to the ground through the gaps. She unsheathed her arm-length sword and ducked beneath a low hanging rock with jagged tapered pieces of icicles pointing dangerously, neither blade nor boot broke the silence.

The snow fell thick and the air turned cold, whipping at her cloak harshly, but she wasn’t bothered by the cold that bit into her skin and made her breath rise in front of her face.

When she approached her target, she gripped her weapon tighter and used her free hand to touch the rough surface while her eyes moved over the grey-blue rock that vibrated and expanded with a deep, grinding sound. After craning her neck to map out a route to avoid the pointed surfaces covered in a layer of ice, she reached up and pulled herself up the jagged piece of rock slowly, manoeuvring around as she rose higher. The higher she climbed, the thicker and sharper the shards of ice surrounding the rock became. The surface expanded until she could almost touch the ceiling of ice above her.

When she made it to the highest point, she rose to her feet, balancing carefully as the rock's breath made her rise and fall, and gripped her weapon with both hands. She raised her blade, ready to strike.

Beneath Amaya’s boots, a low rumble vibrated up her legs and when she lost her balance, the rock rose fast towards the ceiling of ice, she jumped sideways to avoid being impaled. Snow blanketing her fall and without missing a beat, she rolled to her feet as the giant crashed into the stalactites, shaking everything in the process. She dodged right when the shards broke and fell and pointed her weapon in front of her.

The formidable giant, with ice blue eyes and frozen spikes forming around his body like armour, opened his large mouth and roared.

Icy wind blasted Amaya, a thousand needles stabbing her skin. She tried to shield her face, but the gust pushed her back a few feet towards a wall of rocky ice. A tornado of snow blinded her, but she had the sense to jump sideways as a large, jagged ball of ice slammed into the ground where she had just been standing.

When the ground shook violently, Amaya staggered and swung her blade through the pieces of stalactites that fell. Before the snowstorm cleared, something slammed into her chest and she flew into the rocky wall behind her with enough force to crack it. Pain flared through her back as she fell to her knees, gasping for breath.

Through the sheet of hair that had loosened from its plait, she saw the ice golem stand to his impressive height, doubling in size and dwarfing any building she’d ever seen.

Run!

She did, ignoring the pain that flared when she moved. There was only a second before the giant swung his massive fist into the wall, crushing it easily. Protecting the back of her head with her arms, she fled through the tunnel of ice and into the open air.

The ground shook, causing her to stagger and turn to see that the great golem had already destroyed the outer walls of his home and was stalking towards her, eyes glowing ice blue.

Steadying her breath, she kept her eyes on him and backed away, but when he raised his large fists and slammed them into the ground, she ran. A tremor ran through the ground and the snow rose like a wave, rolling towards her, gaining height the closer it got. Ahead of her, large shards of ice tore up from the ground, causing her to weave left and right to dodge them. A large shadow loomed over her and she spun, raising her sword. When the wall of snow hit, her weapon glowed brightly. Light pulsed out, bending around her and protected her from the avalanche.

With her heart pounding in her chest and memories of being swept away by a rougher avalanche threatening to rise to the surface, she held strong and thanked Cian for creating a weapon able to act as a shield to protect her from harm, sure she would have been done if she'd been buried under the snow.

Just when she thought she was out of any immediate danger, the ground cracked beneath her and before she had a chance to move, a column of ice shot from beneath the snow and lifted her into the air. Without thinking, she split her sword into twin daggers and stabbed the blades into the thick ice to prevent her from sliding to her death upon spears of ice that littering the ground, pointing skyward. When the ice stopped growing, and everything lay still, Amaya could see past the large pile of rubble that was the ice golems home, and the large, black as night gates that lay in the distance, five times as tall as the golem.

The ice vibrated, and her stomach dropped when she saw the golem charge, shoulder first, into the tower of ice like a boulder. Everything shook and the ice groaned under the pressure, cracked veins tearing through the surface. When the ice tower crumbled into pieces, Amaya plummeted towards the monster who stood in the hailstorm, swatting the glass-like pieces away like flies. Luckily, she slipped through his arms, narrowly avoiding the sharpness of his arm, and landed in the deep snow. Cold darkness surrounded her when the ground cracked and shook violently and the snow slid through it like an hourglass. With nothing to grab hold of, she slid and plunged into the hole. Snow fell thickly around her and when she landed, blanketed her fall.

Shaking the snow from her hair, the entire cavern shook violently as the golem pounded his giant fists against the ground. The small hole cracked around the edges, causing Amaya to jump to her feet. She had to move before the giant managed to create a hole big enough to fit.

Left and right, all she saw was rough rock covered in a layer of shimmering ice. When another violent shake vibrated around her, causing her ears to ring, she ran to her left, weapon held tight and fast in her hand, ready for any danger that might jump out at her. Soon, the sounds became nothing more than a distant sound and the cavern had brightened somewhat.

She saw nothing but ice surrounding her, hanging from the top of the cave, and rising up from the ground like sculptures. Light from tiny cracks above shone onto them, making them sparkle with a rainbow of colours and in the midst, faces stared, frozen in time. Beautiful creatures dressed elegantly and the long table they were seated at, filled with an assortment of foods and drinks, only partially eaten with forks stranded eternally at their parted lips. Stood at the head of the table, dressed in a long sleeved, floor length gown covered with crystals, stood the most beautiful creature Amaya had ever laid eyes on. Atop her crystallised curled hair, a jewelled crown.

The Ice Queen.

Amaya took a step towards the Queen, entranced. She'd stumbled across a myth by complete accident. From how the stories went, the Queen had disappeared thousands of years ago without a word, and was never found. Yet no one had ever lain eyes on her beautiful face before. Apparently her heart was so cold, she could turn you to ice within seconds, all the while eating her breakfast.

Amaya hadn't believed the stories she heard growing up, but staring at the woman now, staring into her eyes , she should have known better. What happened? Did she lose control of her power, and turn everything to ice?

The Queen’s right arm was outstretched, a look of mild surprise etched forever on her beautiful face. Her fingers pointing out, as if to ward off the danger that had crept into her home, but had been too late to stop it.

Following the direction the Queen had gestured in, she saw distant shadows flicker and raised her weapon, ready for a fight. Nothing jumped out at her. Curious, she cautiously headed towards the movement, the Queen forgotten.

Silence hung thick in the air, broken occasionally by echoes of howls in the distance. Despite the part of the cavern she stood in seeming to be abandoned, she knew how fast creatures that dwelled in the snowy plains could move, and kept her weapon out.

After walking around a large ice shard protruding from the ground, she was astonished to see a large black crystal before her, oval in shape and only as tall as she stood, seeming to rest on the ground with fire flickering inside it. Raising a hand, she touched it, surprised at the smooth coolness of the crystal and ran her fingers along it as she moved around it. Mystified.

Silver flashed. Encased in the black crystal and surrounded by the strange fire was a sword with a silver blade that had strange markings on it, and a black hilt. A dragon stood on the top with its wings wrapped around the hilt, an orb of light in the middle.

Bausar’s g’uo,” Amaya breathed. Dragon’s fire.

Dragons had been killed long before she was even born after King Nyx had killed all of his children and subjects in a fit of rage. He burned down his home and perished himself.

Of course, there were rumours of dragons still existing. A deep cave within a large mountain on the other side of Khrella woods had been given the name Drago Cave. Rumour had been going around that the Kings daughter lived there, killing unsuspecting creatures that came across her.

Dragon fire was known for its eternal burn but hadn’t been seen since the dragons were alive. To see it encasing a sword legends only spoke about made Amaya forget all about her task in hand. The sword was said to be made from the scales of dragons infused with poison from a creature cursed, and the dragon on top was said to be guarding the heart of a creature able to destroy dark magic born from lies, deceit, murder and betrayal.

Amaya thought of the Queen, frozen for all eternity. Is it her heart the dragon protects? And who is it protecting it from? She knew of only one creature who could give her the answers she needed. Muzureo, a rare phoenix demon. The fire that burned through her veins was the only thing that could melt away obsidian, and Muzureo was the only one of her kind. I need to speak to her, find out how to get the weapon. Find out what's going on.

A crunching sound disrupted the silence and Amaya spin in time to see a ball covered in scales, roll to a stop in front of her.

Everything else remained still and silent.

With alert eyes, she crept forward. The pale blue-scaled ball remained still. Another step and still, the ball didn’t move. Curiosity getting the better of her, despite the danger it might pose, she took another step towards it, fully alert while the scar on her back tingled from when she had been too careless in the company of a small creature that turned out to be vicious.

Using the tip of her sword, she touched it. It sprang apart, making Amaya jump back with her sword in front of her. Big blue eyes stared curiously. Reaching just below her knees, covered in white fur with a long tail that ended with a tuft, and ears larger than its entire body, Amaya couldn’t help her heart melting at the sight.

The little creature tilted its head to the side and lifted its large ears up before covering its eyes with them.

Amaya’s eyebrows rose in wonder, when one of its ears lifted up and it peaked at her, before covering its eyes again. She smiled and crouched down, moving her sword away and reached out. The creature uncovered both eyes and stared at her hand curiously. It looked down at its own tiny, clawed hand, at Amaya's and then back on its own again.

Amaya smiled, encouraging it, and held her breath when it slowly reached out.

The entire cave shook violently and the creature wrapped its ears around itself and rolled around her, grabbing the backs of her leg with a frightened squeak. Amaya raised her sword when large pieces of the cave fell from above. She spun, scooped up the little creature in her arms and ran as fast as she could without glancing back. zho'unoroam were chasing her.

Resembling jagged pieces of ice with wide mouths, long limbs and sharp teeth and claws, the zho'unoroam were vicious in every sense of the word. Able to camouflage themselves, they preyed on anything and everything, preferring their meals alive rather than dead. When nothing was available, they cannibalise their young and devoured the weakest amongst themselves.

The hairs on the back of Amaya’s neck tingled and she shivered before throwing herself sideways, landing on her injured thigh and stumbling to the ground. Two of the zho'unoroam crashed into each other, sending fractures of ice flying in all directions. The little creature jumped in front of her and spread its ears out wide. The sharp projectiles bounced off the small creatures scales, the force propelling them back towards the zho'unoroam. When the little creature wrapped its ears around itself and rolled away, Amaya didn’t wait to see what happened. She jumped up and ran in the direction of the ball. She could kill them, but with the numbers they had against her, she wasn’t stupid enough to stop and fight them.

One of the zho'unoroam jumped in front her as she weaved through the crystallised ice. She spun with her sword outstretched and winced at the vibration that ran through her hand and up her arm on impact.

The creature emitted a high-pitched scream that shook the ground beneath her feet and cracked the ice surrounding her. Without warning, she was thrown back into one of the protruding rocks and her weapon slipped from her fingers as she crashed to the ground. Pain flared through her back while stars danced before her eyes. Stars danced in front of her unfocused eyes, but when she sensed the zho'unoroam advanced.

With her weapon a few feet away, she knew without a doubt she couldn’t reach it in time.

Each creature opened its mouth wide to taste the air with its lolling tongue, trying to locate her. She knew without a doubt if she didn’t move, they would find her and without a weapon, it would be fatal, yet she wouldn’t reach her weapon in time to defend against their attacks.

A deep tremor cracked the ceiling of the cave before it collapsed and the giant ice golem slammed down on top of the zho'unoroam before she could form a plan. Any who escaped being crushed, couldn’t move in time to escape the golem's huge weapon.

Taking advantage of the distraction, she climbed to her feet and ran towards the golem as he swung his weapon at another group of zho'unoroam. She leapt onto his back and climbed as quickly as she could. The golem reached up to grab her, but she jumped away from his hand and grabbed hold of a piece of the broken ground the golem had entered, and hauled herself up.

With no weapon to defend herself with, she ran.

The snow rumbled and shook, causing her to stagger. A wall of ice tore up from the ground, encasing her in an icy prison. When the golem crashed up from the hole he’d created, and landed in front of her, she knew without a doubt there was no escaping him this time. Weapon-less and without breath, she backed against the wall.

The golem stood at his full, impressive height, casting his dark shadow across her. He raised the deadly ball of sharp, jagged ice at the end of his arm, and brought it down. Moving too fast for her to move, Amaya knew she was done. She'd failed. When she saw her own defeated appearance within the ice, it exploded abruptly. Rock and ice dropped in a pile before her, and she remained unharmed.

After inhaling enough to fill her lungs so she could stand, she turned. “I didn’t need your help.”

Her guardian stood before her, smiling—tall and tanned with tattoos that twisted and wrapped around his muscled body. His eyes burned like molten lava in the pits of a volcano and his large, leathery wings matched the colour of his black hair, which he’d tied at the nape of his neck. At over twenty-five thousand years old, Cian was the strongest guardian alive. His name literally translated ancient. His skin, a map of scars, told of eons of fighting, ages of war. His control over fire and the darkness made him a formidable warrior. And he was her protector.

Really?”

Amaya narrowed her eyes. “I had everything under control, Cian!”

Cian’s smile widened, revealing perfect white teeth with slightly sharpened canines. “It didn’t seem that way.” After a pause, his smile dropped. “I was only protecting you,” he replied.

Amaya sighed as the broken rock and ice behind her began to quiver and roll across the snow. “You knew I was in no danger,” she spoke lightly this time as he stepped up to her and wrapped her in his warm embrace. She inhaled deeply when his aura warmed her entire body.

I know.” His eyes burned. “I respected your wish to take this journey unaccompanied, despite the dangers of that alone.” His eyes lowered to her thigh, where the cauterized wound was.

She shifted guiltily, staring at her boots. She remembered the fire she'd built to keep her warm during the night, expanding like an explosion and scaring the kuav away after it had attacked her. Only now realising Cian had helped her without interfering himself. He'd let her continue her journey, despite his feelings.

He touched her chin and gently lifted her face. “It is in my nature to help, whether you were in danger or not.”

The rumbling grew louder as rocks slammed and twisted into each other.

I know,” she murmured as he pressed his lips against her forehead. She briefly closed her eyes and then turned in his embrace to look at the ice golem, who stood at his full height once more. “Sorry about that, Srak’ou.”

The ice giant was not only as old as the planet itself but immortal. As part of Khrellia, his death would only come if the planet should die. He too was a Guardian, not to a creature, but an object—the gates to Crystal Lake, a beautiful but dangerous place to venture.

Srak'ounot only protected the gates from those trying to venture through but to stop anything coming from the other side. It was how Amaya met him in the first place. He’d brought her up when an avalanche had killed her parents while they tried to get through the gates, their reasons still unknown to this day. He’d felt it his duty to keep her safe when she had no one else to rely on. She’d trained with him as soon as she could hold a sword, and because of Srak’ou, she’d grown stronger. Until Cian arrived and their connection had formed. She hadn’t seen Srak’ou for a while.

Understandable, Princess,” the golem replied in a deep rugged voice. “Master Cian is your guardian. He only did what he thought right.”

Even if he did know I was in no danger from you, I know.”

The ice golem laughed and the sound reverberated through her entire body. “Indeed. I am not angry at all, but very impressed with your strength, Princess. You have grown stronger than I could ever imagine.”

Maybe we might finish the fight without interruption one day when I’m not busy.”

Srak’ou bowed his head. “Maybe.”

Cain turned her. “I hope you’re not thinking about going on another adventure.”

Why not? It’s good to have allies in different places.” She always had her views of Nuare, a warlock who grew more powerful with each passing day and threatened the lives of everyone on planet Khrellia in his desire to stand above all others, while they knelt before him. It would only be a matter of time before he acted.

Amaya wanted to stop him and anyone who stood beside him.

It’s my job to protect you, Amaya,” he responded angrily.

I know, but other guardians aren’t as strong as you—no way near! Yet as strong as you are, you aren’t strong enough to protect us all, which I know you want to do. It’s your nature.” It was the reason she loved him and trusted him without fault. He never put himself before others and she worried constantly because of that. “It would just make it easier when the time comes if others can fight by your side to keep everyone safe. Including you. I can’t live without you.” Her kind—the syhien—were the only creatures with guardians. Despite having a protector as strong as Cian, Amaya had never liked relying on others when it came to her own safety, or that of her kind, especially when it could mean her death. Guardians were powerful enough to survive if their syhien were killed. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for the syhien. If their guardian died, so would they.

Meeting Cian’s molten eyes, she smiled. “Besides, I think you’ll enjoy the next adventure. I’m thinking about going somewhere warmer. I never really enjoyed the cold.”


© Copyright 2017 Erin Maxwell. All rights reserved.