A good story needs characters. Some we like, some we hate, and some that just send a shiver through our sense or decency. These are the literal lifeblood of the story. Readers shouldn't like all of your actors.
Magic won’t solve your dilemma. It will only lend strength to your method.
It was two hours of hard riding later, that the mountain road became clogged with snow. Little roadside piles that had lined the trail in increasing numbers turned into a wall that rose above her head. The crew had cleared a path into the wall for a several hundred feet, creating a steep walled canyon of ice.
They dismounted in a make-shift base camp at the beginning of the cut. A score of men had been working at shoveling the path for a week, and needed someplace to rest between shifts. Their arrival brought a halt to the work as the foreman related the latest report to his prince. Like all the ones so far, it was merely a confirmation that nothing had been found.
Two of the men that had been resting, traded shovels for bows. Aeriona caught the low mumblings from that direction as they tried to act casual about the change. The crisp air carried their voices well as they spit out words like ‘Frost Witch’, and ‘saboteur’. She was unaccustomed to such anger from the people she was trying to help. A chill crept up her back from the glares that matched the chill in the air.
“Maybe I should start clearing this snow, your Prince, uh.. Princeiness.”
Even the prince lacked a smile with the stiff reply. “Just Prince will suffice, and yes, we shouldn’t waste time when men’s lives hang in the balance. Begin.”
“You might want to get those men out of the way.”
With a single word from the prince, the foreman in charge bellowed orders to pull all of the men out of the cut. His words lashed out like whips to hurry their pace, and goad even the couple that had armed themselves, into clearing all the tools from the end of the cut. In ten minutes Aeriona found herself staring at an eight foot tall wall of snow where the shovels had been working, with the onlookers standing several paces behind her.
A little testing would giver her an idea of how to handle this task. She pulled from the pool of flux within her, and wrapped it around runes that were so familiar that it took less than a though to know where they were. The surrounding trees howled briefly as she pulled all of the nearby wind into a single push.
The fist of wind slammed into the snow wall with a mere thud, and knocked some of the top layer free. Undaunted by this meager result, she changed the course of it, and sent the push downward into the top of the wall. The result was even less encouraging as the snow compressed several inches, but failed to give the crack she had hoped for.
This was nothing like sending a constant breeze through the forge of a craftsman. Or nudging a few stray clouds of a parched field. She was going to have to devise a new solution; one to chew through this wall. Of course. Zapyri’s Teeth.
Aeriona murmured softlty. “Zaphyri, my oh so familiar wind god, help me with this.”
The weave was an easy one, that she had learned several years earlier. She let her senses fan out, feeling for the threads of flux that wound through the mountain under her feet. She didn’t have to reach far to find a good one. Two such threads crossed under the Crystal Towers, lending an easy time for young mages still learning to feel for them. Having the power so close at hand would help greatly.
Aeriona pulled some of the magical power up to pool in her belly as she tied the runes she needed, together. Zaphyri’s Teeth was a weave that froze the moisture in the air around her into tiny hailstones. With a wave of her hand the icy pellets flew into the wall of snow before her. Thousands of little puffs marked where each one collided, riddling the wall with holes, but little else.
One of the men standing in a rough circle behind her called out. “Great ya daft witch. Just what we needed was more snow to shovel.”
His comments inspired a few more. “Why don’t ya try hitting it with hot water?
“Or conjure us up a Dragon to breathe fire on it.”
“I told ya she were a frost witch. She ain’t here ta help us.”
Several other comments died as the foreman bellowed out. “Men! The next one I hear gets scout duty for a week.”
The prince spoke his own comment; whether it was meant to encourage or ridicule, Aeriona couldn’t tell. “Alright Mage. You’ve shown us some power, now make it work.”
Redness from embarrassment colored her cheeks; thankfully camouflaged by the redness from the chill in the air. She needed something that could actually carve out the snow. Zaphyri’s Teeth had shown her that. Perhaps the claws would do better. A single thought snapped the tie that had bound those runes together.
Keeping the freezing one in her thoughts, she wound the tie around the blade rune. As the flux was fed into the weave, nearly invisible blades formed. With every swing of her arms the blades carved through snow a dozen feet in front of her. The wall was quickly crumbling to fall in chunks at her feet. She carried this on for thirty feet before the pile was getting so deep that there was no place for the snow to fall to.
She paused for a breath, and to ease the fatigue setting into her arms. At least with the flux thread so large and close she wasn’t tiring from the energy drain, but weaves like Zaphyri’s Claw took its toll on her arms from swinging them. It was silly really, she had learned how to control the blades without her arms, but she liked the way it looked.
A moment’s rest and she was back with the next spell weave. This one pulled the winds down off the mountain tops, and set them to spiraling around her. If ever there was a showy spell for the wind walkers to use, this was it. The winds circling her turned into a grey funnel as they sucked the snow off the ground to throw it a hundred feet into the air.
Aeriona stood safely in the eye of the storm, where the air was like a gentle breeze. A gentle freezing breeze. Controlling this spell was simple, it went where she did. Every step forward sent more snow flying upwards. This also took far more energy, and she had to keep switching back to Zaphyri’s claws to take a small respite from the heavy drain on flux. It took a lot of her personal energy to keep it going. And she could only keep it up for about twenty minutes before feeling her grasp on the power begin to slip.
She fell to her knees as the circling winds died down to a gentle breeze. Every movement brought with it the stinging feel of skin that was near frost bitten. She was only numbly aware of the men coming up behind her, until the heavy weight of a cloak fell on her shoulders. The extra burden threatened to knock her completely over, but she used it as a focus to gather strength once more. Looking up she found the prince standing there with just his heavy shirt for protection.
“Not a bad start my young mage. You may well have earned that title you laid claim to.”
“I j..j..just need a moment or t..t..two of rest. I d..d..didn’t feel the cold creeping up on m..m..me.”
“The men did not sit idly by as you worked. They have the fires going once more, and mead is already warming.”
“I.. I.. b..b.. blew out the f..f..fire?”
He chuckled slightly. “They know how to bank a fire against the winds of these mountains. No, I had them move the camp to keep up with you.”
“Come. You need some mead. The cold seems to have slowed your thinking as well. Didn’t you even pay attention to how far you’d cleared?”
Aeriona looked over her shoulder, and beheld the men still in the process of unloading supplies from a wagon. The depth of the snow walls behind them only reached up about four feet, as though the deepest part had been right at the beginning of the trail. Looking past them. The carved path stretched much further, vanishing from sight around a turn of the trail.
“You cleared more than thrice what it took them a week to accomplish.”
“M..m..maybe I c..c..could have a m..m..mead. W..w..warm you said?”
The prince held his hand out to help her back to her feet. “Your Ice Giant blood isn’t doing much to hold out the cold, is it?”
They were met halfway to the fires, by a soldier bearing two mugs. He knelt before them with the mugs held out to them. “My Prince, and… and I fear I don’t know your name, though I offer apologies for the things that were said.”