BREACHSPACE: Fiendish Profiles, “Secrets and Frostbite” by E.J. Tett
A wind, already full of ice, swept across the ground, lifting the snow and filling the air with it. The Ice Scorpion’s breath froze on his lips and he narrowed his eyes. This was the frozen wastelands of Ragnoras and somewhere here, the snow wyrm had its hunting grounds.
He raised a bony finger and scratched the hard skin of his face. He was snow blind and everywhere he looked a blanket of grey-white filled his vision. If he could just find the wyrm, study it, capture it – kill it if he had to – he could discover its secret. How could it hunt in such a place? How could it see well enough?
The wind whipped against him and ice formed a white film on his body. Crystals collected in nooks in his cryocore harness and he turned and lurched back towards the cave. The dark of the rock was a relief in the sea of white and as he blinked, his vision cleared and he could focus on the small fire burning in the centre of the cave.
It didn’t burn for him. He didn’t feel the cold and he found fire deeply unpleasant – too hot, too bright and the smoke caught in his throat.
His captive, though, would die without it and he didn’t want the man to die just yet. He’d tied the frost mage hand and foot and lashed him to a rock, he’d given him food and water and made sure he was warm.
At 9 feet tall he towered over the mage and the man trembled before him. Ice melted in the man’s beard, glistening in the firelight. The Ice Scorpion grabbed the man’s chin, forcing him to look up.
“You are a mage of the Frozen Amaranth and worshipper of the Winter Eternal?”
The mage spat at him and the spittle froze on the Ice Scorpion’s cheek. “I’ll take that as a yes. What is your name, mage?”
A moment’s hesitation and then, “Halvard.”
“Halvard. Where is the wyrm?”
The mage clenched his jaw and looked away. The Ice Scorpion grinned, baring his teeth, and stretched a finger towards Halvard’s left hand. His fingertip glowed white-blue and a fine trail of ice shot through the air. Halvard screamed and struggled violently as, one by one, the Ice Scorpion froze his fingers, turning them black and dead.
The Ice Scorpion swished his tail in pleasure as the man’s cries sent a little thrill through him. He turned and collected a bone hammer from next to the fire. Halvard’s eyes – red and watery – widened, but the Ice Scorpion didn’t give him time to think about what was to come. He smashed the frozen fingers from the mage’s hand and laughed as blackened flesh bounced off the ground.
“Where is the wyrm, Halvard?” he asked again.
The mage was shaking, hysterical. “I’ll never tell you!” he screeched. “The wyrm is sacred, an avatar of the Winter Eternal. I would rather die than—”
His screams began again as the Ice Scorpion started to freeze the fingers on his other hand. “I can take them all. Is a mage much use if he can’t use his hands to cast his magic?”
He stopped and Halvard drew in a great shuddering breath. The man’s beard was flecked with spit and blood – his lower lip bled from where he’d almost bitten through it.
“Where is the wyrm? Where does it hunt?”
“I will never—”
The Ice Scorpion lashed out with his tail and the stinger struck Halvard in the shoulder. The man’s face contorted in pain and then he sagged in his bonds, head drooped.
“Fool.” The Ice Scorpion turned his back on the mage and went to sit at the cave mouth instead. He gazed out at the snow and ice, stared until all he could see was a grey fuzz.
He had to find that wyrm. Patience. Halvard would crack. They all did in the end.
There came a steady crunch and squeak as footsteps tramped across the snow towards him. The Ice Scorpion rose to his feet and waited until eventually he could make out the shape of a man. It was Mord – the elected voice of the settlers – fur covered and red-cheeked, his too-tight goggles pressed into his face.
“You have answers?”
Inside the cave, the mage stirred. The Ice Scorpion said, “Soon.”
Mord wiped a gloved hand over his goggles. “Work faster. The wyrm continues to threaten us. Find it, kill it and then you will get your money.”
The Ice Scorpion briefly entertained the thought of throwing Mord onto the fire and feeding bits of his charred flesh to the mage. But then he supposed he wouldn’t get paid if he did that and, although he fully intended on finding the wyrm for himself anyway, the money was a nice bonus. He nodded. “I am close to finding it.”
“Good.” Mord peered around him into the cave. “Don’t go easy on him. Frost mages are nasty bastards. Tricky too. Keep an eye on him or—”
The Ice Scorpion blasted Mord with a shot of ice, sending him flying backwards into the snow. He’d be fine. Probably. With a chuckle, the Ice Scorpion turned back into the cave, his steps lurching and corpse-like.
“Halvard,” he said. “You’re awake.”
The mage spat out a curse followed by a mouthful of blood and the Ice Scorpion picked up the bone hammer.
“Where does the wyrm hunt?”
Silence. Until the Ice Scorpion froze another of the mage’s fingers and the man started screaming again.
“Where does the wyrm hunt?”
The screams continued so the Ice Scorpion tapped Halvard’s finger with the bone hammer and the digit dropped to the ground, breaking into pieces.
“Two fingers and a thumb left, Halvard, I can take them too.”
The mage started to beg, tears streamed from his red eyes and snot ran into his beard. The Ice Scorpion raised a finger and moved it towards the man’s left eye.
“Tell me where to find the wyrm or I will take both your eyes.”
Halvard stopped blubbering and sucked air into his lungs. “I can’t.” The Ice Scorpion moved his finger closer and Halvard screwed his eyes shut. “Wait! If I tell you, you’ll let me go?”
Halvard hesitated until the Ice Scorpion moved again and then he shouted out, “The Jokull plains! Please!”
The Ice Scorpion stepped back and extinguished the fire with an ice blast. Then he turned and walked out of the cave, leaving Halvard to scream.
BREACHSPACE: Fiendish Profiles, “Secrets and Frostbite”, written by E.J. Tett, published by XEI is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.