I was the last of the Ice Seers. I could see into the Ice.
This was predominantly a male ability in my family.
But my family was dead.
I was officially the only one who could open the vault. I had the Ring of Cren so the Court of Cren ordered I be protected at all costs.
A little unexpected for everyone, but my father intrusted it to me before he went off to die.
Anyone who had the Ring had a veto over everything.
I was a default Queen right now, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I had the blood that allowed the spell to work to get the vault open. The vault itself contained the Cren. It was said to kill any one who stood against my blood.
I don’t know what the spirit looks like or how it does what it does, but everyone has seen the effects of it before, so only those loyal exist – and those disloyal die.
Forced loyalty was still not an ideal, I knew that ruling in fear was short lived. For my family the Cren was the foundation, the bedrock to holding power, but I had to earn the love of the people to make it a rule worthy of my bloodline.
The only problem with being the ruler… is the system in place.
All the females were owned here.
All of them. At least, the ones who were taken by a man.
I was a free woman at 25 with no collar to signify my servitude to a husband.
And to say it was daunting being a free woman and the only ruling entity in place… was a bit of an understatement.
Not that I had time to be scared.
I take my daily walk down the cold runs, a declining cobble path, which led through Cren’s city centre.
Each time I walk through the winter cold, I remember my father doing the same.
It was to show intimate connection with the people.
I’d stop and talk to a few if they asked – but my first walk is met with silence and fear.
Word hadn’t spread that I was wearing the Ring.
My protection are four knights who flank me front and back.
The powerful men don’t talk to me.
Having a top rank in the kingdom, they never talked to women.
Unless it was instructing them.
It was weird – being in control of them.
They were forced to follow my instruction – and they did, whatever I asked. I just noted their stoic silences and stares the past few hours. They’d stare and try to make me look away first. I never did. I always stared back until I’d instruct we were walking again.
They were… different. To say the least.
Damion was walking in front with Axe – not a weapon, it was his brother.
Behind me I’m flanked by Krystoph and Rurx. They were brothers too.
The only reason my best warriors didn’t die on the battlefield is they were ordered to stay behind and defend me – much to their confusion.
Until the news came.
My father and three brothers died fighting the Boned people. While our kingdom believed in containing the four maleficent spirits of the earth – the Boned people wanted them free.
They hadn’t released any but their own. The Ring of Bone was destroyed, and they were all possessed by death.
Without thought, they ceased to talk and only focused on collecting bones. Every dead person they killed was fed to their Bone spirit. So no trace was left. None at all. I would never get to lay my father and brothers to rest.
The Boned army could wipe us out and there would be no memory either.
The Cren was about power.
The Bone was about death.
The Eye was about magic.
The Mal was about evil intention.
The Mal and the Cren kingdoms were allies because we contained out spirits successfully. We were standing in Bone’s way. The Eye wasn’t really a kingdom, but a spirit people. They drifted everywhere as ghosts, passing on ancestral magic. Everyone became a part of the Eye when they died.
My father and brothers visited me in my sleep last night.
That’s how I was given the power to control the fate of Cren.
Right now, I had been rather numb to it all.
I stand cloaked outside a fruit shop, looking at an appetizing pink apple for sale.
“The pink one, Damion,” I tell him, and I see him pay the shop owner and turn to pass me the apple.
They’d been good to me for… 2 hours? Aside from the constant staring.
Now one is about to show me his first sign of disrespect.
Damion domineers me just in height, not to mention his menacing battle prowess. He was a fighter, not a guard. Nor a babysitter. And I guess it’s driving him mad. I can see it in his eys.
The apple slips through his fingers and lands at my feet.
He grumbles a fake apology.
“Damion,” I just say his name and keep staring back. Always staring, like that’ll change anything.
Even if they wanted to kill me, it’d only guarantee the death of everyone here.
Only I could open the vault. Only me.
“Without us protecting you, Anastasia,” Damion’s first real words, finally spoken to me, “They’d all tear you to pieces for wearing that,” he motions to the ring, and I hide my hand in my thick cloak.
“I’m glad you could finally get that off your chest,” I whisper, “Now pick it up.”
Damion glares at the apple at my feet, annoyed I didn’t bend over, but then he seems to realise he is angry at a fruit, and he finally picks it up and shoves it into my open hand.
We continue on along the walk.
I’d lie if I said my ring protecting me, provided me with a full range of confidence.
Everything about me this morning, was bluff – an act.
One meagre sign of weakness and these men who were used to obeying women or not even listening to them – would probably toss me in chains.
I’m surprised none of them thought of that yet. They just needed to protect my body and therefore my blood, not anything else. But I figure that my resolution to keep acting like the empirical point of power, has saved me from experiencing that.
I didn’t want to disappoint my father.
He was kind to me, even when my mother died in childbirth as I was born.
He was kind to me still, even though I was to become nothing but a spinster with old age.
I wasn’t allowed to marry. So as not to allow anyone an opportunity to seize power – let’s use my knights for example – Damion, Axe, Rurx and Krystoph were not going to get anywhere near the throne.
Not a chance. They’re own blood lines were not equipped for it. They were blood thirsty warriors, not levelheaded kings. That calm thinking was in my blood.
“You killed them, you power seeking witch!” I hear a rough scream from my left, and a drunken tubby man is sprinting at me with a sword, after he had been hiding behind a door ajar to the local blacksmith.
I knew this would happen eventually, I didn’t expect it would happen so soon.
Seeing the weapon raised and the passionate fury in his eye causes me to feel completely ridden by terror. I thought I’d be ready for this kind of reaction, but I’m not.
Krystoph and Rurx turn to face any threat at my back, while Axe prepares to use a soul swipe, pulling back his hood. He doesn’t get a chance to look into the man’s eyes, however, because Damion wants a piece.
A minute ago he was taunting me about an apple, now he sees his first chance to kill and I can barely watch as he puts himself in danger. Damion walks into the barrelling man without drawing his own sword. Instead Damion catches the assailant’s wrist, he just breaks it with one twist, then takes his sword – and…
I spin so fast I almost trip.
I’ve turned to Krystoph, and he looks at me briefly to see me shying away from the slaughter that just took place.
Damion cut the guy in half.
What the fuck?
It also scared the living day lights out of me.
What if he wanted to kill me – I doubt he’d spare me a quick mercy. Then I remember the Ring of Cren.
I’m safe. I’m safe. I’m the only Ice Seer now.
They have to protect me.
I hear a deep lulling voice and I don’t even know whose it is, since they never bloody talk to me.
I turn to see it’s Axe now, facing me, through his dark hood which covers his eyes is back in place, so I can’t be hurt by his lethal gaze.
I see Damion facing me as well, he’s tossed the bloody sword aside but he’s veins are pulsing in his head, he’s pissed that I’m standing still and not moving pas it.
“Let’s continue on,” I speak as clearly as I can.
My voice doesn’t waver.
At least I like to think it didn’t.
I walk forward with a straight back.
The sudden rush and smell of blood and guts makes me dizzy.
I try not to show it, as I make it to the petrified tree at the end of the long road, carved into a snake that’s eating a little bird. It was just a decoration piece – there were a lot in our city, a lot of artists and such.
I stare at it for a bit, remembering I need to be the snake and not the bird if I’m to survive this.
I turn around, and I head back to my castle, knowing I have to walk past that corpse again.
As I walk up the path, to my relief his corpse has been removed, and only a large bloody stain in the ice remains.
I don’t know if that’s a consolation.
Did my father or brothers die so barbarically? Did they get chopped in half?
I had not thought of it, but Damion’s brutal killing has now put that thought into my head.
My strength is diminishing. I quicken my pace.
I have to return now.
I can’t shed a tear for them.
It’d be the end of me and my freedom.
I manage to get back in half the time I’d usually take, and I stop by the throne made of crystal quartz. I put my hand on the back of it as I turn to the four knights lined up behind.
“Go eat something,” I murmur to them, “I’m retiring this day to grieve my family. Don’t let anyone in. And if anything is that urgent… well, knock three times. My door will be shut for privacy, but I will hear.”
“Not a chance, princess,” Damion immediately interjects, “We were charged with protecting your body, you can’t be left alone,” he doesn’t look at me when he says it, he looks at the ceiling.
Great, now I’m too beneath him to even be acknowledged with sight and speech at the same time. Such an asshole.
“I appreciated you guarding my room last night, while I couldn’t sleep a wink – but no one can get up there, so don’t worry,” I murmur to all of them.
“Shadows can,” Axe murmurs back.
“Any assassin can, if they’re prepared enough,” Rurx talks for the first time to me, his own profession being just that. An assassin. His voice was a husky whisper.
“I know. One. Of us should go with you,” Krystoph adds eloquently, like a high-born lord – which is what he was, before abruptly turning and walking away.
Rurx looks at me and his friend, and follows Krystoph.
Axe and Damion turn at the same time, but as Axe walks away… I see Damion pause.
He turns back to me, slow.
“I guess it’s me,” Damion says, clearly smirking and sinister at the same time. He lowers his hood finally and I see his black hair frames his face perfectly.
I see his black eyes – he wants to fuck with my composure. He wants to see me cry before I can hide it.
“I didn’t order any of you to leave,” I say, bored, pretending not to care.
“You ordered all of us too,” Damion adds, “But your father’s last wish overbears your own. Your body, ours to protect,” he likes saying that, like he’s implying something else.
I don’t want to cry anymore, I want to scream.
Instead I reach into my coat, take out the apple and take a bite in front of him. I slowly chew, and Damion realises I’m just having my own back, in any way I can.
It’s not like I can fight him.
I could only fight mental battles.
And I feared if I needed to punish them for misbehaving, none would be strong enough to enforce the punishment.
I had no choice but to try and get along with them.
“The future is ours. We can run the Cren together – or die together,” I tell Damion, using my first bold threat.
I swiftly turn before I can see his reaction.
All I know is he immediately follows.