- Roy Loh
Frosty Encounters | Crystal Character Story
In the harsh, frigid lands of the Northern Isles, beneath the towering seracs that stretched along the horizon, a determined voice could be heard through the blistering winds.
“Let’s try this again!”
Crystal flung her arms out, twirling her delicate hands just like Master Templeton had taught her, and recited the ancient spell. A thin shard of ice began to slowly form above her head, growing larger as it drew from the surrounding mana.
Finally! Manifestation! Now I just have t– The shard shattered before she could finish her thought, blanketing her wings in tiny flakes of ice. Shaking the shards off her body, Crystal closed her eyes and focussed once more on the mana around her, eager to attempt the spell again.
Most students at the Academy would have given up at this point – manifestation was an incredibly taxing type of magic and required a great deal of concentration. But Crystal wasn’t like the other students. For starters, she was the only pupil who had agreed to learn Master Templeton’s peculiar spell, a task that would require her to venture up to the Northern Isles. Cold, desolate, and home to many dangerous magical creatures, the Isles were an unpopular locale, even for the senior spellslingers at the Academy.
But Crystal was determined to impress her mentor. Having fallen behind some of the students in her class over the last term, she knew learning this spell was her only hope at being nominated for the upcoming Interschool Spellslinger Tournament. And so, when the winter break finally arrived, she hurriedly packed a few days of supplies and chartered a small vessel north. Her peers, most of whom were headed down to the glamourous capital for their vacation, tried to dissuade her with tales of late night parties and freckled suitors, but she had little interest in these trivial pursuits. Nothing was going to stop her from learning this spell.
With her eyes still shut, Crystal went through the motions of the spell again, paying close attention to the mana flowing below her as she shaped its contours. Though her vision was obscured, she could feel the weight of the ice shard as it began to take form once more and had to quickly stifle her excitement. She steadied her breathing, trying her best to control the flow of mana – the slightest disruption would lead to the immediate cancellation of the spell. She felt the stinging cold on her reddened cheeks slowly fade away, along with the thundering roar of the howling gales, replaced now with the steady, gentle beating of her heart. She began to hear the faint whisper of the universe calling towards her – everything was going smoothly. She just had to utter the final words of the spell now. Opening her eyes, she parted her ice cold lips:
A sudden wave of mana flowed out from within her, freezing every atom it touched. The air around her quickly solidified into a giant block of ice, expanding further as the spell surged forward. The spell was working! But before Crystal had time to properly celebrate, the piercing sound of cracking ice sheets filled the air, interrupting her focus.
Looking around her surroundings for the source of the sudden noise, she spotted three towering black fins surging along the horizon in perfect unison, carving their way through the thick mantle of ice with an unnatural ease. Crystal knew this symmetry of motion could only mean one thing. It was a sight she had seen before, shown to her in an Introduction to Aquatic Monstrosities class many years ago. It had to be a Hydra.
Her sapphire blue eyes spotted something else moving in the distance, just a few hundred meters in front of the three-headed serpent – a white object, too far to clearly discern, darted rapidly across the glacier in a jagged, haphazard motion. Crystal let out a short gasp when she realised the creature was trying to get away from the Hydra. And judging by their current trajectories, Crystal knew the hunter would eventually catch up to its prey. She had to do something.
Tilting her body forward, Crystal placed her arms behind her back and unleashed a jet of cold air from her hands, propelling her towards the Hydra at a blistering speed. Most folks across the continent were now aware of the Hydra’s mythical regenerative abilities; smaller, stunted members of its species were even secretly raised in captivity at the capital, at least according to certain rumours at the Academy. But Crystal knew better than to let her guard down – dwarfing even the largest towers at the capital, and armed with an array of giant venom-coated fangs, a fully-matured Hydra still posed a great danger to even the most seasoned of combatants.
She caught a better look at the fleeing critter as she drew closer to the fray, and was surprised when she didn’t recognise its species; having trawled through most of the tomes in the Academy’s many libraries long ago, it had been a while since she felt this level of bewilderment. It was a feeling she had missed. It was smaller than Crystal, about the length of her forearm, and its fur was almost entirely snow white, save for the tips of its pointed ears and its slender tail, which were tinged a gentle blue. On its back were four little translucent wings, shaped just like her own. Another oddity – was this creature related to the Fae? Crystal knew her questions would have to wait, however. The Hydra had almost caught up to the critter and she knew she had to take action soon.
According to the Academy’s Field Guide, one must use an intense flame to cauterise all wounds inflicted upon the Hydra in order to stunt its regenerative abilities. As a pure ice spellslinger, however, Crystal would have to come up with another strategy.
Hovering up into the air, Crystal formed a diamond shape with her slender fingers and channelled her mana, summoning a glowing portal above the smallest of the three heads.
“Ice Dagger Barrage!”
As soon as the words left her mouth, a volley of razor-sharp icicles rained down from the portal, hurtling towards the Hydra with a frightening velocity. The sound of shattering ice filled the air as the icicles found their target, but their bladed edges failed to leave even a scratch on the Hydra’s protective scales. It did, however, get their attention.
The Hydra reared its heads in rage and turned towards her. She spotted the little critter scuttling away in the corner of her eye – her plan had worked. Now she just had to find a way to subdue the beast.
As it swam towards her, tearing through the glacier, its three heads fanned out, encircling Crystal. Unhinging their jaws in unison, each head let out an unsettling gurgle, readying themselves for their next meal. The one directly behind her leapt first, trying to catch her off guard.
“You’re going to have to try harder than that,” Crystal said as she fluttered out of reach, playfully taunting the Hydra as she whizzed by.
The other two heads lunged at her simultaneously in a fit of rage, baring their fangs as they rushed towards her. Unfazed, Crystal weaved through their attack, quietly laughing as she danced through their desperate attempts to reach her.
“You’d think that having more heads would make you smarter. You’ve fallen for my trap”
Hovering just out of reach of the Hydra, Crystal steadied her breathing once more. The Hydras would need a brief moment to catch their breath, having exhausted themselves at their futile chase. It was time for the ritual. Tracing the motions she had been rehearsing, her nimble body seemed to move on its own accord – the training had proved effective, and the movements had now become muscle memory. With her eyes now shut, she began to beckon to the cosmos, attuning herself to the rhythm of the universe. All she needed to do now was to utter the magic words.
The largest head lunged up towards her, baring its colossal fangs as it surged upwards. But before it could reach her, it found itself encased in a prison of ice. A giant ring of ice had formed around Crystal as the spell unfolded, growing larger with each passing second as her mana continued to expand. The other two heads quickly realised what was happening and tried their best to escape but their intertwined bodies prevented them from leaving their brethren behind. Crystal watched on as her spell continued to creep forward, slowly enveloping the rest of the Hydra.
But before she could fully complete the spell, she noticed something else in the block of ice around her. Expanding out in every direction, Crystal had underestimated the strength of the ancient spell – the critter she was trying to save now stood completely still, frozen in the wake of her spell. Most warm blooded creatures, even those accustomed to the conditions of the north, would perish within a minute of being entirely frozen. But if she didn’t cast this spell, there was no telling what would happen to them all. She knew that in the world outside the Academy she would have to weigh lives over lives, but that didn’t have to start now if she could help it. It wasn’t worth it – there was no way she was going to let the critter suffer too.
Crystal focussed on her flow of mana, and retraced the motion of the spell in reverse. As the ice receded away from the winged critter, its ears fluttered awake in delight. Undoing the effects of a spell as powerful as this before completion was an immensely draining feat, even for a spellslinger as powerful as Crystal. She wouldn’t be able to do much else after this. But knowing the critter had survived made it all worth it.
She turned and faced the Hydra, watching as the icy prison began to dissipate, their heads now thrashing in renewed glee. She no longer had the strength to even fly away. As soon as the Hydra was untethered from the glacier, its three heads shot towards her with newfound bloodlust. Crystal’s mind started racing, and fear started taking over her being. If only I’d practised more, she thought, as tears started to well. At least I spared an innocent life. Crystal closed her eyes, awaiting the height of the Hydra’s fury to consume her. She didn’t regret a thing.
Just as Crystal started to accept her untimely fate, she felt a titanic jet of water sweep her away. What? How was this possible? The next thing she knew, she was swirled around and landed face to face with the critter.
“Thank you for saving me, kind stranger. Now, let me return the favour”
The critter didn’t speak out loud but she could hear its thoughts in her mind. And it was then that she remembered – when she was a little girl, her Grandmother would tell her stories about certain fairy critters that could communicate telepathically. They also possessed a near limitless amount of mana within them, though it required the presence of a true fairy to activate.
“Are you a Meeka?” Crystal asked – it was what her Grandmother used to call them.
The critter turned to her and wagged its tail in confirmation.
“Ah, so you have heard about us. I’ll tell you more after I deal with the Hydra.”
Turning to face the serpent, the Meeka slowly rose up in the air, its wings now functional due to the activation of its mana. The water around them began to rise with the critter, forming multiple gargantuan waves twice as tall as the Hydra. Crystal watched on with amazement – she had trained with many world-renowned spellslingers but she had never witnessed power of this calibre.
As feral as it was, the Hydra knew an impossible battle when it saw one. Diving below the glacier, the serpentine beast quickly fled from the area. Descending back down, the Meeka landed on Crystal’s left shoulder.
“So, what exactly are you? And why can you communicate with me? Are there others like you?” Crystal was still stunned by the display of magic just a moment earlier.
The Meeka turned to look at her, and its words soon found their way into her head again.
“I’m sure you must have a lot of questions. Take me with you to the Academy – I’ll explain everything on the way…we have a lot to get through.”
Crystal let out a curious smile – she loved a good mystery. This journey up to the Northern Isles had certainly proved entertaining. And now, having acquired this powerful spell, she knew she was finally ready for the tournament.
Story by Roy Loh, Jonathan Wong and Laura Laura