Monday, August 26, 2013

Many aspects of the story can affect the dialog, Here I've added some stuttering to account for shivering in her voice. I hope this adds to the flavor of the story.

It took an effort for Aeriona to convince her fingers to curl around the mug he offered. As soon as it felt solid in her grip, she looked at him. A young man, barely as hold as herself. His brown eyes locked onto her own, carrying a message of shame. He didn’t fit the mental picture she’d built up of a soldier.
She had seen men like him tending livestock, or working the fields. He wasn’t much different than the one who tended the melon stand where all the students liked to fondle the produce while staring at him. The girl students at least. Aeriona had spent her share of time pretending to be interested in mint melons.
“I..I..I..d..don’t think I heard any of those.”
“It’s just as well. Some of it wasn’t so nice. Let me get you a spot by the fire.”
He led her over close to the fire, where the other soldiers were milling about. Everyone was trying to get their own share of the heat; a few started to protest her intrusion, until spotting the prince standing close by. The cloak around her shoulders helped trap the heat coming off the fire, taking the chill off her skin. The mead did its share of warming her from the inside.
The soldier that had led her to the fire had been glancing at her a few times before he found the courage to speak up. “What’s your name? I mean, if you don’t mind my asking. I’ve never had the chance to talk to an Ice Giant before. I… I didn’t mean to call you that.”
The warm mead had taken the edge off her shivering.”It’s Aeriona. I come from Colonsky. Have you ever seen one of the Ice Giants?”
“Colonsky? Like in Kanasas?”
“That’s the one. My father has an estate there, but I haven’t seen it since before I was ten.”
“And no, I never saw one. I just heard they were big. They tore up the Griffin farm two years ago; killed the whole family. I joined up to keep that from happening again.”
“They’re big,like eight foot tall or more. I just never thought about why my hair was white.”
“You never had problems with them in Kanasas?”
“I was little. I knew the servants, and some of the kids around town, but nobody tells a kid what’s happening. And none of them were Ice Giants.”
“Do you think they did this?”
“I’ve never heard of one coming to the Crystal Towers. Speaking of it; I need to get back to work.”
She drained the last of the mead in a gulp, and handed him the mug as she turned back toward the wall of ice. Spurred on by the thought of more young soldiers, like the one who’d brought her mead, she lashed out with Zaphyri’s Claws as she stepped close. Chunks of snow went flying, to be sucked up moments later as she shifted to the cyclone.
Twice more she had to pause for warmed mead, though the cloak kept most of the chill from her. The shifting routine cleared the snow rapidly, and kept her from completely draining her energy as the flux funneled through her, guided by the runes. It had become such a steady cycle that she let her mind wander down the path of curiosity concerning the large thread of flux running under the mountain.
Such a thread could easily give even a Journey Mage the strength to call up a storm, though this pile of snow would have taken a few Masters to lay down. Not to mention that the water to make the snow had to come from somewhere. By the end of her third stretch of carving the path, it was getting too dark to tell where the path actually lay.
She walked back the few hundred yard to the latest placement of the camp, where the young soldier was waiting with a bowl of stew in his hand. The smell of it woke the hunger in her belly that she’d shoved aside in the rush to find the missing men. She needed no urging to start spooning the hearty meal in to quell the pangs.
“I nearly ran into that tree a bit ago.”
“I saw that. It looks like a wood cutter tried taking vengeance on it.”
“I can’t tell where the trail is before I clear it.”
“Just go for the widest part between the trees. There aren’t any trees in the middle of the path.”
“I’m not sure I can even see that much. Wish I had a couple orbs. They could mark the trail till I got to them, and then move them further along.”
“There’s some back at the keep, but that would take most the night to get them and return. Wait, I got an idear.”
He ran off, leaving her to finish off a second bowl of the stew. The man made rounds through the waiting soldiers, asking for help. A few turned aside, but most were willing to go along. The eight of them strapped the snow scouting shoes onto their boots, and headed out with torches.
The snow shoes let them walk across the top of the drifts, and soon the first pair stopped about thirty feet ahead. One to each side of the trail. Within a short time there was a torch-lit path heading off through the trees. All she had to do was aim between the lights and she wouldn’t lose the trail again.
As her winds grew close enough to snuff out the first set of torches, they headed further up the path to ignite them once more. This way her clearing could progress as fast as it had under the light of day. Back in the repetitious groove again, her thought wandered back to speculating on the flux thread.
Her passion for studying the Dragons, and their magic, had led her to speculate that Dragons sought out these very threads to make their lairs near. The few Masters that she had mentioned this to, had either scoffed at the idea, or kept their silence. Her line of thoughts shattered as a big brown Dragon poked its head out of the swirling winds of her cyclone. It stared straight into her eyes for a moment, almost touching noses, before the winds flung it away once more.
Aeriona collapsed to her knees with shock. The spiraling winds died to near calm, at odds with her nerves, which were shaking like an autumn leaf. The sight had sent an icy spike up her back that resisted her attempts to shake it off. She stayed on her knees for a few deep breaths as she strove to get the shaking under control.
Over the ragged sound of her gasping, she realized the men were scrambling over the snow to where the thing had landed. The logical part of her mind knew that there was no chance of it being a Dragon, still she wanted to call out a warning. Before that impulse could win out, one of them shouted that he’d found it.
“A horse! Or part of one anyway. That witch’s spells tore it up bad.”
A horse; not a Dragon. Still, the relief of the discovery failed to thaw the chill running down her back that had nothing to do with the frozen landscape in which she knelt. With a bit of mustered will, she gained her feet once more. She wanted a second look at the Dragon that had mocked her from the cyclone.
She feared their claim had been right until she got a closer look. The poor animal had been torn apart by large claws. The tears were rough and jagged, with a triple pattern. Despite the few dissenters still clinging to the claim that she’d killed it, most agreed that was an animal larger than any known to roam these mountains.
The foreman stepped into the escalating argument, and bellowed orders to grab the shovels. To mark his words, he kicked a horse hoof poking out of the cut face of the snow wall. Most likely the other half of the one that had played Dragon to her distracted mind. He turned his glare on Aeriona.
“Your work is done. Now get out of our way so that we can get the bodies out right away.”
“What about survivors?”
“Be grateful it were only a horse ya carved up.”
Without even waiting for her response, he turned back to the task of pointing his finger with shouted orders.

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