Chapter 31: Daughter of Frost
Carina could barely tear her gaze free from the towering mystical beast that loomed before her in the glow of magic runes. She let out a soft fearful gasp and watched the ghost of her breath float out across the chilled air that filled the room and prickled across her arms and down her spine.
“Come, little ice witch. There is no need to fear a dead dragon.”
‘Dead?’ Carina peered closer at the silver scales that covered the dragon’s closed eyes. Not a flicker of movement came from the eyelids or nostrils, nor its entire body, which lay beneath a sheet of glistening frost. ‘And yet—I can feel something alive from it.’
Her attention was pulled away from the legendary creature towards the tiles that glowed brighter as ice-like vines sprouted through tiny cracks in the stone floor. These glittering threads wove and wound together until they formed four chair legs, then its seat, back, and arms.
“Do sit, child, or you’ll hurt your neck, staring up at me like that.”
Carina whipped her head back towards the dragon suspiciously and let out a small nervous laugh. ‘If the dragon is dead, then who is speaking to me?’ She wondered but cautiously approached the chair and took a seat. Ice embraced her with a charge of cold magic that paralyzed Carina for a moment as it coursed through her body.
“To think it would take almost five centuries for the last of Isbrand’s bloodline to walk through those doors. Finally.” The voice rippled with anger as the icy grip on Carina’s body faded, and her muscles relaxed. “And a half-blood mortal at that.”
Carina’s eyebrow twitched at the familiar insult. “And who are you?” she returned curtly as she crossed her arms.
“Hahaha.” The short burst of laughter echoed around the chamber, and for a moment, alarm shot through Carina as she felt something intangible move inside the dragon. “To be sure, your many names are better known than an old god like me. How ironic that one of the Six would hold less space in the minds of mortals than that of a little, half-blood, ice witch girl.”
‘Did-did they just say—they’re a god?’ Carina’s arm tightened around her chest as she fought to keep her expression neutral. “What do you want—from me?”
“What do I want—from you?” The voice echoed back, each word punctuated with a different emotion. Anger, amusement, resentment, and even loneliness. “Poor little ice witch. You have no idea of the threads so tightly wound about you. And yet how magnificently your tainted soul has tangled up all their carefully laid plans.”
Another echo of laughter filled the chamber as Carina swallowed down the lump of unease in her throat. “Who—are they?”
“They are the Six,” the voice answered with a heavy sigh. “Though, more accurately, only Four of the Six who still remain in power.”
“And who—are you?” Carina repeated.
“Who am I?” The glow of magic in the tiles dimmed for a moment, then glared like burning rays of sun upon freshly laid snow as Carina quickly shielded her eyes behind her hands. “I am Viktor, God of Ice and Immortality.” Maniacal laughter filled the chamber as the air grew so frigid it bit against Carina’s skin and stiffened her garments and hair. “Immortal—yet trapped here—abandoned and forgotten—all because of that bitch, Kritanta.”
“Kritanta?” Carina echoed painfully as she clenched her eyes shut against the piercing glare of magic. She blinked tentatively as the glow faded, tears falling from her cheeks as the room returned to its original state of shadowed darkness.
“Are you completely ignorant, ice witch?” the voice whispered with a tone of helpless despair.
“My name is—”
Carina flinched as her true name echoed throughout the chamber. Inside her chest, her frozen heart seemed to explode for a moment with joy. She lowered her hands and glanced cautiously at the sleeping—dead dragon.
‘Does he know because he’s a God? Then the demonic woman in my dream?’
“It seems you are not entirely to blame for your own ignorance,” Victor observed condescendingly. “Your last life has altered your memories; this much is clear. And Veles’s decision to allow you to be raised by those savage mortals prevented most of your early training. Well, I suppose you were safer living as a neglected half-blood than following your foolish father to an early grave.”
‘My—’ “Maura’s father?”
“You may well call him your own father—even if you do possess memories of another world, this body belongs to you now—and our world is better for it.”
His words cut through Carina with the softest, kindest pain. She dropped her gaze to the trembling hands in her lap as she struggled against the warm comfort they had given and her guilt at longing to hear such words.
Once more, her heart flooded with unmistakable joy, and she quickly pressed the palms of her hand against her eyes as tears flooded free. “I—I’m sorry—I don’t know why.”
“It is not your fault. The defect lies not with your heart but your mother’s mortal blood.”
Carina laughed and hastily wiped her cheeks. “I’m not even sure she had a heart—” She stopped and swallowed back the anger and resentment that were not hers alone to feel.
A troubled sigh filled the room as the tiles hummed. Then small glowing blades of white grass formed from the frost-covered floor and filled Carina’s vision with a dazzling field of sparkling flowers and magic.
‘Is this—to make me feel better?’ Carina felt her cheeks burn as she laughed. ‘Do I seem like a child to him?’
“You must be careful of your heart, Carina,” Viktor cautioned grimly. “An Ice Witch is never more vulnerable—than when their heart is broken.”
Instead of joy, this time, her name from his lips filled Carina’s chest with suffocating agony. She doubled over and clenched the Winter Rose as she fought against it.
“It is better to trust no one than to welcome a traitor to your bosom.” The room darkened once more as the pain in Carina’s chest twisted deeper. “I know this from experience, Carina, and you know my words are true. Betrayal is what trapped me here, immortal but forgotten—it is why my heart now beats inside your mortal chest.”
Carina sagged forward as a vice-like grip wrapped itself around her frozen heart and yanked upon it savagely. Her vision blurred as familiar, terrifying white lights burned down from the ceiling above her. A sickening numbness washed over her limbs as the white walls of a hospital filled her vision. ‘No—this—this is how I died!’ Carina closed her eyes and shrank away from the shadows that loomed above her as she fought for breath.
“You were numbed, Carina, when they cut the heart from your chest. But I—felt every—agonizing—moment.” Before her, the field of frozen flowers turned from icy-blue to fiery-red as rage and pain filled the chamber. “I still feel it—and will continue to remember—until I drink my fill of revenge and am finally reborn!”
The glaring red light vanished as Carina dropped to the floor, the chair now withered and fading behind her, and sucked in a painful gasp of air. Her cold tears fell unto the frozen flowers, and she remained where she was until the pain in her chest subsided, and she could breathe normally once more.
“And so, Daughter of Frost, you ask—what do I want from you?”
“Yes?” Carina answered weakly as she leaned against her trembling arms and raised her eyes towards the dragon before her.
“I want you to win, no matter the cost. It is as simple as that—but the game you are playing—” An audible sigh filled the room around her “—Veles controls it, or believes he does. Make no mistake; Veles is the God of trickery and deceit, and all Air Witches who serve him share that trait. The purer their blood, the easier it is for them to twist the hearts of mortals with mere words.”
Carina’s heart thudded as Percy’s name and face flew unbidden to her mind.
“Do not trust any of them,” Viktor growled savagely. “You will not survive your heart breaking a second time, Carina.” His words were filled with such despair that Carina knew he was withholding something from her. “You can rely on them to teach you the basics of their world and the history of witches, but for your future training—I will provide you with the tools you need upon your next return. You must become strong enough to survive the game the Six have placed before you!” He sighed heavily, and for a moment, Carina thought she heard him whisper, “Or we shall perish together.”
“Now go,” Vicktor commanded, his words edged with pure frustration. “Only one of us is trapped here.”
Carina nodded slowly as she gripped her numb knees and rose unsteadily to her feet. “I understand. I will return. But this—game, the Six, how do I win?”
“Become what you were destined to be,” Viktor replied. His words echoed throughout the room that glowed awake once more. It was only when Carina turned away to shield her eyes that she saw the artistic etchings on the wall. A long succession of men and women lined the oval room—each of their figures marked by a snowflake symbol. All of them wore a crown, the same shard-like crown, as their glowing eyes gazed back at her and the room filled with the echo of ghosts.
“Daughter of Frost. Queen of Winter. Ruler of Lafeara.”