I pulled my midnight blue cloak tighter around me, before pulling up my pale blue face mask. The wind whipped around me, making me happy that I braided my long blue-highlighted light blonde hair. The royal blue tunic and leggings kept me warm as I waited for the wind to pass. The wind died down, allowing me to continue to walk through the deserted town.
“Now… Where is it?” I squinted my almost white-blue eyes, trying to find the artifact. I heard movement behind me, forcing me to whip around, and my silver gauntlet covered in ice for claws. I reached for my whip when I saw that it was.
A dog was bounding towards me, not one of the mutts that roamed the highlands, but a pet. I knelt down as the dog got closer, “Hey, there, little one.” It slid to a stop about three feet from me, its big brown eyes hopeful. I cracked off one of my ice claws and set it on the ground between us. “Nice, doggy.”
It grabbed the ice and crunched down on it and I realized it was still a puppy. “Where’s your family, little one?”
“Behind you.” He answered me. I jumped back and hit someone. Looking up, I saw the male behind me towering over me by a couple feet, both tall and broad. I watched as the puppy became a teenaged male, his markings becoming his clothes. Ice regrow on my gauntlet, as I prepared for them. “Relax, Ice Queen. We have a job for you.”
I stepped away from the giant and created a triangle between the three of us. “I’m already on a job.”
The puppy-boy held up a bottle, “This what you’re looking for?”
I saw the sprite inside the bottle hit the inside, begging for freedom. “That would be it. Thank you for finding it for me.” I quickly swung my whip and grabbed the bottle from the boy and tossed it into the air. I launched one of my ice claws and broke the bottle in midair. The sprite flew out of the broken pieces and came to land on my shoulder.
I looked to the puppy-boy, “Now that the job is done, what do you want?”
The giant clapped his hands, “Amazing!” The sound of his voice told me that the giant was missing some pieces of brain, but that did not change that he could easily harm me.
“You see, I represent the local Shifter’s Guild and we have found that one of our people has been selling children Shifters to the Dictator’s men. You see, that’s bad business for us and good business for you to hunt him down.”
“Why don’t you euthanize him?” I asked, curious.
“Again, it’s bad for business. Are you willing?”
“Sounds like fun. Where would I find this slave peddler?”
“Tavern in Sparks.” He stepped forward with a picture in his hand.
I stepped just close enough to grab the photo. I looked at it, “What’s his shift?”
He grinned at me, “He’s a Coyote.”
“I can be there in two days, I just have to grab the money from this last job.”
The puppy-boy waved to the giant, “See you when you kill him. We will be at the guildhall.”
I watched them walk away before I turned to the sprite on my shoulder, “You doing well, milady?” She nodded, her green hair sparkling along with her silvery wings. I moved my hand so she could step onto it. I put her at my eye level, “Your king was worried about you. Let’s get you home.” She flashed a smile as I put her just under my hood and started the long walk back to where I would meet her entourage.
I stepped into the small town of Sparks, the main street being the only street with actual shops and restaurants. It was a booming small town, though. There were people everyone and outdoor stall hawked their wares at the passing people. The wooden buildings created what I saw in an old book an ‘Old Western’ look.
The buildings were connected and squared off, their signs attached to the roofs. There were overhangs and wooden paths to keep people out of the acidic mud when it rains. In the center of it all was the jail, town hall and judicial court facing the rambunctious tavern.
I stepped towards the tavern, checking my face mask along the way. I kept my hood up to keep my hair out of my way and the sun off my face. I felt my body become colder as I descended into the Ice, preparing my magic in case there was a fight. I stepped into the tavern and the wood under my feet started to radiate the cold.
The full tavern looked at me and knew that I was there for a reason. I strongly dislike being around other people unless there was a reward to be had. With everyone’s eyes on me, I called out into the complete silence, “I am looking for the Coyote Shifter.”
The obviously drunk moron stood up, “Tha’s meh.” He was slightly built and average height. His brown hair was greasy and tangled, his eyes the color of feces. His clothes were torn and too big for his slight frame.
I raised my gauntlet to shoot him, but the barkeep stepped up, “What is his crime?”
I looked straight to the barkeep, lowing my gauntlet just enough so he knew I would not shoot him. “He is charged with selling other Shifters, children, to the Dictator’s men.” The barkeep whipped around as the entire tavern backed away from the Coyote Shifter. No one wanted that kind of blood on their hands.
“’O what if I did?” The Coyote called back to me. “Thems kids needed to go and I’s needed the monies.”
I put my hand down and walked up to him. “Where and when’s the next shipment?”
He looked down at me, “’Ou want in, doll?” He tried to touch my face, but the cold that emitted from my body froze the tips of his fingers. “Yer ice ‘old. Wants to warm up?”
I growled under my breath, but kept my voice steady, “Tell me and I will answer.”
He grinned, his teeth destroyed from lack of hygiene. “’Onight at witch’s hour ‘ehind the ‘otel.”
I created the gauntlet’s claws before slamming them into his stomach. He coughed up blood as I snapped the claw off inside of his body. I stepped away as he slid to the ground. “Let this be a warning to everyone. We do not tolerate the slavery that has poisoned our world. Anyone caught selling another person… Your life becomes forfeit. ”
I turned away, as the Coyote grabbed onto my cloak. “’Itch…”
I grabbed him by the scruff of his collar and dragged him outside. I could see everyone backing away from us. They had good reason to, because this execution just became fun for me. I threw him into the middle of the street and saw the people’s faces pressed to the windows of the tavern and the other restaurants and shops. I repeated for the larger crowd, “This is my warning to the fucktards who sell people into slavery!”
I felt the ice expand in my hand, as I shoved it into his wound. I kept adding power to it, the snowball becoming hard as ice as it expanded. I stepped away from the Coyote as he finally understood why I dragged him outside.
“’No! Wai-” He coughed up more blood as he tried to pull the expanding ice from inside of his gut. I heard the bones crack as I walked away. Gurgling followed as the Coyote became the ice that engulfed him.
I turned with the whip in my hand and saw his eyes move towards me, indicating that he still lived. I snapped the whip on the ground and with lightning speed I cracked the whip onto the frozen male. He cracked in half, though no blood spurted from his dying arteries. I left him to thaw out, because as the saying goes, “They aren’t dead until they are warm and dead.” I walked towards the hotel to wait for my next set of prey.
I walked into the hotel and they gave me my choice of rooms. I chose the room farthest away from the rest of the people who were staying in the hotel, as well as on the back of the hotel, overlooking the alley. I opened the door to my room, a small area with a bed, desk, chair and, thankfully, a personal water closet.
I pulled my cloak off and laid it over the chair, along with a messenger bag I always carried with me. I closed the windows and stripped down to wearing only my undergarments. I grabbed the bag before sitting on the bed. I dumped it out onto the mattress and sorted through my life.
I picked up a picture from a book I had read about what caused the mutations. It was a photo from the 1960’s when Russia set off Tsar Bomba. I set it to the side and grabbed my wallet. I pulled out the string of coins from the fabric pouch. I grabbed the other string of coin from off the bed and combined the two, pulling of two coins to pay for the room and breakfast tomorrow.
I looked at the box, book and envelope that was left on the bed. I pulled the key from around my neck, unlocked the box, opened it and the ballerina started to spin to music. I pulled a small vial from my wallet and added it to the box of keepsakes. The Sprites paid me in coin as well as given me a vial to help me live if I ever reach the brink of death. I closed the box and locked it back up.
I looked to the envelope warily before picking it up. I opened it, looking inside at the pieces of blood paper. Each paper was a kill, an execution, a mark on my soul. Tomorrow, I would use a piece of paper to collect the blood from the Coyote. There were more papers in this envelope than I cared to admit to, but each was necessary. At least, that is what I kept telling myself.
I set the enveloped down and grabbed the book and pencil within it. Many of the pages were filled, but each line corresponded to a paper in the envelope. I used the pencil to write down “Coyote Shifter,” leaving a space for his name when I learn it, then “Selling Shifter children to the Dictator.” I flipped to the final page on the final line, which was prefilled out, “Dictator,” with the same space for the name, then “for the enslavement, defilement and death of innocents.” He would be my final kill, and then I could retire and live a normal life.
I closed the book and put everything back into the bag and looked at the old clock on the wall. I opened the window to hear anything happening in the alley, before climbing under the blankets and sheets for a much needed nap.
“Did you hear about Kyle Dugget?” I heard male whispers outside my window.
I quietly put my clothes on while listening. “No, what happened to him?” A second male replied.
“That Ice Bitch killed him!” The first snapped. “All because he sold us a couple of the Shifter Brats.”
“Did he tell her anything?” The second one asked fearfully.
“Not from what I heard. She just executed him and left.”
I opened the window carefully and saw where the two of them were standing. They were on the other side of the wall of the alleyway. I slid out of the window and carefully landed on the ground. “Did you hear that?! It came from the hotel.” The second asked.
“It was probably a cat.”
“Mrrow.” I called out.
“See? Just a dumb animal.” I peeked through knot in the fence and saw a larger man looked at his watch, “They’re late…”
“Maybe they got scared of the Ice Lady killing Kyle.”
“I’m sure that four of them could easily take down an Ice witch.”
I grinned at the challenge, but first, I would have to get rid of these two. I took aim through the knot in the fence and launched an ice needle at the base of the first male’s neck. He moved at that second and I could hear the thunk of the needle hitting the fence behind him.
The male ran up to where the needle was and touched it, “Ice!” He turned to where I had launched the needle from and rammed into the fence. I ran down the alleyway, ducking behind a group of trash receptacles. I could hear him breathing hard, “I know you’re hear Ice wench! You killed Kyle while he was drunk, how about taking myself and my friend here.”
I stayed ducked down as I waited for him to lean over the trash receptacles. I iced up my gauntlet and waited. I could hear their footsteps and breathing get closer. I counted to three and stood up. I caught the second male by surprise and launched one of my ice claws, hitting him in the throat. He gurgled and fell to the ground.
The first male looked at his mate then to me. He rammed through the trash receptacles and pinned me to the fence at the end of the alleyway. “You bitch!” He swung his arm back and, luckily, I ducked at the last second. His fist went through the fence and I used the connection of my back to the fence to freeze the hole.
He tried to pull his arm back but he was stuck. He grabbed me by the throat with his other hand and squeezed hard. “I’ll kill you.” His eyes were red as he spoke.
“You are stronger but are you faster than me?” I asked.
I slammed my ice claws into his stomach three times before the ice released his nerves from numbness. He gasped for air as he dropped me to the ground. I swung my foot around and tripped him. He fell to the ground, his arm still stuck in the fence. I walked around him and slit his throat with the last of my ice claws.
I pulled the envelope out of my bag and found a clean piece of paper. I caught some of his arterial spurt onto the paper before coating it in a layer of ice to protect my bag until I could let it dry. I walked over to the other male and did the same with the blood coming from his throat.
I put the two papers in my bag and walked out into the main alleyway. I reached where they were originally standing just as four males turned the corner of the hotel. One called out, “Who are you? Where’s Kevin and Keith?”
“My name is Kylie and they had other matters to attend to. Do you have the merchandise?” I tried to keep my voice even.
“Of course I do!” He yelled back. The other three parted to reveal five young children and a teenaged female. “You have my reward?”
I grinned, grabbing the hilt of my whip, “Of course. Come over and get it.” I did not stop smiling until he was close enough to see my pale blue eyes. “Here’s what you deserve for you work…” I flicked the whip and caught him around the neck.
I heard the others yelp as they realized what was going on. I heard the children whimper and even though I wanted to shield them from the gore, there was no way for me to protect them. I tightened the whip, sending my ice down its length. “Release the children and I might let you all survive.” I spoke calmly to the three behind the main male.
“You think you can take all four of us out.”
My eyes met the male caught in my whip, “Guess they want to call my bluff. That means you’re the first of this group to die.” I gripped the whip tighter, releasing ice spikes into his neck, decapitating him. “Think I can’t beat the three of you?” I emphasized the number of them left.
“It’s the Ice Queen…” One of them backed away from me, looking at the kids.
“Release them and you won’t have to die like he did.” I spoke to the weakest one of them, the one that feared me.
“Don’t you dare, Keegan!” The second-in-command barked. We all heard chains fall onto the ground as the children were released. They ran away, leaving me with the three slave traders. “Damn it, Keegan!” I watched as the third-in-command become a bear and tore Keegan to shreds.
“You bitch!” the second called out.
“Why don’t you show me your claws and I’ll show you mine…” I held up my ice claws and beckoned him closer.
I watched as wolf ripped out of his human skin and both the wolf and bear raced towards me. I unfastened my cloak and ripped my bag over my head and threw it to the side. The wolf launched himself at my neck and tackled me to the ground. I struggled against his snapping jaws as he tried to rip my throat out. His mouth opened wide and I used my gauntlet to stop him from chomping onto my neck.
I changed the claws into a single pointed knife and broke it off the gauntlet. I saw the bear looking for a place where he could attack, but left the wolf alone in this struggle. I slammed the ice knife where the neck meets the shoulder of the wolf. I expanded the ice and split the shoulder away from the neck. The wolf howled and fell to the side, letting me stand up a little, though exhaustion ran through me.
My tiredness allowed the bear to take advantage of my current iceless state. I tried to ice up the gauntlet, but when the bear slammed into me, pinning me, it was not fully formed. The ice melted from the heat of the giant beast and left me without a weapon.
I heard a small howl as a pack of four wolf pups attacked the legs of the bear. They ripped and tore at his legs and knees. The bear turned his attention from me to the pups. He dropped me onto the ground, going after the pups.
I used this time to quickly ice my claws up. It would not be hard enough to tear through bone, but it was sharp enough to pierce flesh. “Pups, back up!”
The pups ran away and as the bear turned back to me, I slammed the long, sharp, thin ice blade into the bear’s gut. I felt little resistance as I pushed the blade up to where the bear’s heart lie. I felt the blade nick the heart and used pure muscle to pierce it. I broke the ice off as the bear tried to pull the blade out.
He slashed me across the chest as he fell to the earth. I followed him to the ground, but at least he was dead. The wolf pups ran up to me, along with the older female and the last Shifter child.
They yipped and barked happily as they were now free. The older girl knelt down next to me, “How badly are you hurt?”
I looked down and saw the torn tunic and the blood seeping through, “Not as bad as it could be, but the wolf puppies helped a lot.” I watched as they became four children and they all beamed.
“We’ll take you to the Guildhall. There is a healer there.” The teenager helped me stand up.
“You go on ahead. I have to pay for the hotel room and collect my things.”
She smiled, “We will meet you there, Ice Queen.” She gathered up the children and started to walk of the alleyway.
“Eirlys…” I spoke softly.
She turned, “I couldn’t her you. What did you say?”
I smiled, “Nothing, just complaining to myself.” I watched as they left the alleyway completely. “My name is Eirlys… Not Ice Queen, Ice Bitch, Ice Witch or Ice Wench… My name is Eirlys…” I spoke to myself as I collected my bag and cloak. I pulled out the papers and collected the blood from all of the slave traders and made quick notes in my book.
Walking out of the alleyway, I saw the Coyote dead on the ground and collected his blood. I frosted the papers and stuffed them into my bag. People glanced at me as I passed by as I walked towards the Shifters Guildhall, where I was healed, paid and sent on my way to wherever my heart and feet lead me.